Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Old Shakespeare is a New Bestseller

When I saw the PBS advertisement for Richard II, I passed right over it. However the ad stayed with me and I got to thinking about Shakespeare as a writer. He died nearly 500 years ago.  Why are we still reading his work?  I'll be honest: the language in his plays throws me.

I recently watched the movie Green for Danger and, while somewhat interesting from an historical viewpoint, it was so stilted, it was laughable - right down to the women who don't know how to do anything but scream. What makes 500-year old stuff better than 50-year old work? I decided to watch PBS and find out.

The language still sounds foreign but with this adaptation it didn't matter. Superb performances and real settings made the play understandable. I was caught up in the palace intrigue, the political jockeying, the emotional and physical struggles of the characters.

I finally saw Shakespeare's incredible craft. In this production, his plotting, his pacing, and his character development could be easily seen. The dialogue was tight; no wasted words. Now I understand why actors work so hard to master these roles. If they can convey Shakespeare successfully, they can do anything; whether that means portraying John of Gaunt or a star ship captain.

Why am I praising this television series so highly? Because it demonstrates that, over the expanse of time, Shakespeare still communicates and he does it extremely well. I watched and understood the struggles of King Richard II and his court. I rooted for Henry and cringed when the bad guys were beheaded. The English language may have changed but the basics of telling a good story have not.

Shakespeare wrote to sell tickets; not to be studied in literature class.  He was popular in his time and remains so in ours because he was so successful in capturing the human condition. We may not like Richard but we understand him. Perhaps we would not actually take poison but we remember how it felt to be young and in love. Shakespeare told stories about being human and his writing is a mirror in which we see ourselves. Few writers have accomplished that so successfully. I have no doubt that were he writing today, we would all happily pay to watch movies made from his screenplays.

I don't expect everyone to become fans of Shakespeare's plays but, if you have a chance, give this series a try. Enjoy the drama and the performances and give the Bard credit. He is one of the best to ever put pen to paper and now I have a better understanding as to why. He is a great communicator.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Disney Second Screen Killing Movie Experience

I blogged about a silly Disney decision back in May. Dumb Disney has done it again. Good grief - don't the suits in Burbank ever think these things through?

In case you missed it, the Disney corporate crazies decided it would be a good thing to fill a theater with kids using tablets and smartphones to augment their movie viewing experience. Doesn't that sound like fun? Imagine being surrounded by hundreds of flashing displays and a cacophony of sounds all competing for your attention. Talk about sensory overload.  No way are we paying $10 per ticket for that. We go to the movie to WATCH the movie. 

What is Disney really saying with this marketing ploy? First, it is telling the world that it doesn't think The Little Mermaid is engaging. Human imagination isn't enough. If it were, the company wouldn't feel the need to add anything to the movie viewing experience. If Disney thinks so little of the film, why re-release it at all? Second, Disney apparently feels that kids' brains don't function without stimulus from some kind of technology; that no child will sit through ninety minutes of animated movie unless they experience additional sensory input. 

Since Mermaid is a fairy tale geared to girls, perhaps the developers of Second Screen (the name given to this fiasco) were exclusively men trying to find a way to sell this film to boys. How else would the Disney suits have decided that tablets in a movie theater is a good idea?

There is a silver lining, I suppose. If kids are holding tablets, they aren't eating or drinking. Perhaps this is Disney's way of addressing the childhood obesity problem. Great idea that should cut down on messy, sticky floors. It will also reduce concession purchases, the primary money-maker for theaters. I wonder how theater owners feel about that. 

I never saw The Little Mermaid in the theater and would have gone to see it because it holds an important spot in the Disney archives as the first film in the company's animation renaissance. I guess the DVD will have to do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

IT Department Phone Scam Hits Home

Business telephone numbers are considered public information. Consequently we get a lot of unwanted telemarketing and robo calls. The cruise ship horn hasn't blasted my eardrums in months.  Google has annoyed me to the point that I Bing everything just to avoid using it. Recently, the media has reported on this trend and why these calls have shifted from individuals to companies.

The other day I received a call that caused real concern. It was more that a mechanized sales pitch. A live person (the first surprise) identified himself as being from the technical services department. Our company is so small that the idea of having a tech department is laughable. I hung up immediately. There is no doubt in my mind that had I continued the call, the "IT specialist" would have asked to  link to my computer to "test" something.  Our system would have been hacked and who knows how much sensitive data might have been compromised.  (Check it out here.)

Because the individual sounded "foreign" and it is commonly accepted that most IT call centers are not in the US, many people will try to be helpful and do as the bad guy requests. Some clever crook has devised a new twist on an old phishing method. This scam was prevalent a couple of years ago with the callers claiming to be Windows support. It is back but without the specific reference to the Microsoft product. The bad guys must hope that we all have bad memories and won't remember them.

The world is truly getting smaller as technology links us. I still marvel that my books reach people in foreign countries. However, with every good thing, there is a dark side. Not all communication is beneficial.  Just as Twitter and Facebook force us to evaluate every news item for accuracy and truth, telephone calls are also subjects for close examination. We cannot assume that those who call us are legitimate.

Bottom line: Communication is good.  Except when it is not.