I recorded the first episode of Camelot last night, and caught a few minutes of it - a scene with Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, spelling out a few of the tawdry details of how Arthur came to be. Having played Merlin myself (albeit as a teenager), I'm partial to the wizard in particular and Arthurian lore in general, and I'll admit that I'm keen to see what Fiennes is going to be doing with it. (A taste of the show, which is airing in Canada on CBC on Tuesdays, and started airing in the U.K. last month on Channel 4, can be seen in the teaser above ... featuring, um, a version of Run To You by Bryan Adams. Hmmm.)
Back to Fiennes. Nothing Dumbledore about his performance, it appears.
Indeed, in the promo interview below with the cast, Fiennes says he sees Merlin as an ambiguous character, a bit of a player, and "a cross between Donald Rumsfield and Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, is getting plenty of attention about his new novel, Freedom. How do we know he's important? There's a parody Twitter feed - Emperor Franzen - that's pretty hilarious.
Dave Sullivan is one-fourth of the Dance Party of Newfoundland, and more recently has switched to a different sort of career: teaching. To help teach Antigone, that staple of high school literature courses, to his students on Bell Island, Dave created Inside the Greek Actors' Studio, with Sophocles explaining his play to an inquisitive James Lipton. It's terrific.
I took our son to Downtown Comics yesterday, and while he browsing the rack, I found this book nearby. He's still a few years away from enjoying it, but I ripped through it last night. It's a Drawn and Quarterly compilation by R. Sikoryak that plucks items from the literary canon, and marries them to specific comic strips. The first is the story of Adam and Eve, but drawn in the style of Blondie (hence, Blonde Eve). Voltaire's Candide mashes with Ziggy, of all things, for Candiggy, while Dante's Inferno is redone a la Bazooka Joe (complete with the accurate fonts and sizes on the bubblegum wrappers) in Inferno Joe.
The one that made me laugh out loud (something I was trying to avoid, as my wife was asleep) was Mac Worth, the tale of Macbeth redone with Mary Worth as Lady Macbeth. Then, in place of Action Comics, it's Superman in Action Camus, with all the angst of The Stranger. Remarkably, the entire plot is summarized through covers of the non-existent comic book.
What makes all of this work so well is that R. Sikoryak (who draws widely, from the New Yorker to The Daily Show) is respectful of not only the original literary source but the particular comic strip or book. Thus, The Crypt of Brontë accurately covers the plot of Wuthering Heights, but also (from a bit of a distance, anyway) looks just like an issue of Tales From The Crypt.
Masterpiece Comics was published last summer, and quickly went through two press runs. A third came out just before Christmas. It's worth the cash.
I have no empirical evidence to back this up, but my guess is that Christmas Day tops the other days of the year, in terms of number of photographs snapped. Pictures are hard to resist: the surprises of Christmas morning, the glee on children’s faces, the joy of families brought together.
Our first stop in this week’s web tour is a video that makes great use of family pictures, in a musical kind of way.
Christa Borden: O Holy Night Borden’s newly released version of the hymn is splendid, and she has the voice to pull it off: only the brave and/or talented, for instance, will want to try those famous notes at the end. For the accompanying video, Borden reached out to the community, and asked friends and fans to send her some of their Christmas pictures. Here’s the resulting video, which was posted a week ago to YouTube. It’s sentimental and sweet … and a bit of a pleasure amid the seasonal bombardment.
Elsewhere this week
Mailing dates Still have some cards and things to put into the mail? It may not be too late, depending on what it is and where it’s going. Here’s a link to Canada Post’s guide to deadlines for delivery.
Christmas Mah Jong Mah Jong games, in which you click on matching tiles to eliminate them, have been an online staple for years. Here’s a variation with a Christmas theme, featuring images of Santa, gingerbread, and so on. It was the first game of its kind my son played, so it took a while to get the hang of it; if you’ll recall, only tiles with one border free can be clicked and released. A fine diversion for with the holidays coming.
Tee Fury I had never heard of Tee Fury until a couple of weeks ago, when I randomly came across a hilarious T-shirt design, featuring a scene from the Hoth battle sequence of The Empire Strikes Back, redone with a Christmas touch. (Maybe you need to see it to believe me.) I’m glad I read the small print, as the shirt was available for that day only. That’s how it works on Tee Fury: cool designs, cheap prices (US $9), and a big catch. The limited edition shirts are on sale for just 24 hours, so it pays to check regularly.
Give It A Ponder Hats off, or beards off, rather, to James Lipton of Inside The Actors Studio for mocking his own image in a clever and really funny series of commercials for communications giant LG, all about the hazards of texting. The message: think before you blurt. Lipton deflates his stuffy image with ads that any tween, teen or older should see.
Whether or not you’ve bought any of the Waldo books, chances are good you would recognize the lanky dude in the striped shirt. (If you’re British, you may know him better by his original name, Wally.) This online game follows the books: your mission is to find not only Waldo, but his friends, marking them as you go. Look for the “game widget” when you load this page. You can also create your own avatar, and shutterbugs can have fun with a Flickr-powered photo challenge.
Riddle Fence The sprightly St. John’s literary journal has just finished its fourth issue; you can’t read them online, but you can get a taste of what it’s about, plus directions on how you can contribute to upcoming editions.
John Gushue is a writer in St. John's, and is currently on leave from his job with CBC News in St. John's. John is on Twitter right here.
Our son was being outfitted just now for the costume he'll wear for Halloween. He's going as the Grim Reaper, and was holding up an almost weightless plastic skull, which was part of a lawn decoration we bought last year. I couldn't resist, and got him to repeat, "Alas, poor Yorick" .... and I misfed him the line "I knew him well," which I should have known instantly is not what Hamlet said next. (That would be, "I knew him, Horatio.") (And the words after that spawned one of the better novels of my generation.)
Thus was our son Nick's introduction to Hamlet. "What's with the Shakespeare stuff?" he asked. Good question. And I'm sure he'll have decades to think about how rich that answer can be.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.