My YouTube Adventures!

As you may have noticed, I’ve been getting interested in YouTube lately. I’ve mostly been catching up with documentaries I’ve missed, along with old television shows and clips from favourite movies.

I’ve also subscribed to a few channels catering to my various and sundry passions – sci-fi, books, film and so on – and have noticed that many of them are run by talented and enthusiastic but not very well-known people. Some are, of course, but in a fairly narrow, and wonderfully geeky, niche. I’ve been particularly inspired by the channels of Felicia Day and David Hewlett.

The penny finally dropped. You don’t have to be a megastar to have your own channel on YouTube! The barrier to entry is really quite low. All you need is a camera. (And a personality – I’m working on that.)

So, have camera, will video! Or, in my case, will slideshow.

I have a lot of photographs from my travels – in this digital age, it’s easy to get carried away – so I thought I would start off with slideshows, complete with music. YouTube has a range of copyright-free music you can use. The whole copyright issue looks to be a minefield, so best to steer clear.

The slideshows have been fun to put together, mostly through a process of trial and error. I know a lot more about imovie now than I did last month!

Here’s  an example, about the gorgeous Miramare Castle in Italy, to give you an idea.

I then got a little ambitious, and added a voice-over to one of my slideshows, which leads me to revise just what you need to make a successful video. Namely, a camera AND a proper microphone. The internal microphones on most consumer dslr cameras are not up to the task, to be honest. This realisation led to much surfing the web in search of information about recording sound.

After wincing at the price of much of the equipment I came across, I then remembered I have a digital recorder I bought in China. It took a bit of fiddling about, as I hadn’t used it in ages and the instructions were in Chinese, but I finally got it to work, and the quality was much better. All I had to do was upload the file to my computer, and move it across to imovie. Voila!

So, now I’ve got slideshows sorted, more or less, I’ve been toying with the ideas of moving pictures, and maybe doing pieces to camera about history, travel, and books (or anything that takes my fancy, if I’m going to follow David Hewlett’s example, although I doubt I could talk as fast as him).

So, if you’d like to follow my first tentative steps in the world of YouTube, head on over to my channel (I do like typing that!) and subscribe. It would be great to have you!

You Tube Slideshows

It occurred to me, a little belatedly I know, that I really should do more with my abundance of photographs. To that end, I’ve been getting to grips with iMovie and You Tube – there’s a bit of a learning curve, here – and putting together a series of slideshows of pictures from my travels. I’ve added a couple below, and you can see more over at my channel on You Tube.

Yes, I have my own channel, and how cool (strange) is that? It’s very much a work-in-progress, but it you’d like to see how it develops, please subscribe.

No, really. Please subscribe!

The Mosaics of Aquileia – slideshow

I wrote a blog post a while back about the extraordinary mosaics of Aquileia, but then I wondered what to do with the abundance of photos I took during my visit. Putting them all in would have made a very long blog post indeed!

I opted to do a slide show, then got a bit carried away and added some music and a voice-over. I’m still not sure what came over me. Anyway, here it is. (I don’t think Bettany Hughes need worry.)

Word Wednesday – Groundling



My current Shakespeare obsession has rekindled my fascination with words and where they come from. Which seems appropriate, given that a good number of them come from Shakespeare.

He wrote at a time when the English language was in a dizzying state of growth, leaping on new words with abandon and giving old words new meanings. Shakespeare made the first recorded use of over 2000 words, so I can only imagine he looked on this state of affairs with some glee. He invented new words and turned old ones on their heads throughout his career (Hamlet alone gave audiences around 600 words they had never heard before).

Some 800 of Shakespeare’s new words survive today – everything from antipathy to well-read, critical to zany, assassination to vast. He had a particular genius as a phrase-maker. Where would the language be today if we were not able to play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, budge an inch or beggar all description?

I think I’m going to have plenty of material for my Word Wednesdays!

I will start with the word ‘groundling’.

O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise.

Hamlet 3.2.8-13


The word first appeared in English in a 1601 translation of Pliny’s Natural History, at roughly the same time as Hamlet was written. Groundling here meant a small fish that lived in mud at the bottom of the water.

We first hear the word groundling in a theatrical sense in Hamlet, where it refers to those who paid a penny to stand in the yard in front of the stage. There they stood, like so many fish gaping up at the actors.

Hamlet is not very complimentary, but his words could be taken in a variety of ways – a nod to the well-off in the galleries who could reassure themselves they weren’t groundlings, a satire on aristocratic pretensions, an invitation to banter.

The name has stuck, as the groundlings continue to gather in front of the stage. A standing ticket at Shakespeare’s Globe in London costs £5, and there are no lack of takers.

I have to admit, I prefer a seat.






The Chandos Portrait – Probably Shakespeare

chandos portrait shakespeare

The Chandos Portrait, thought to be painted by John Taylor, is the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted from life. Probably.

There is something marvellously enigmatic about William Shakespeare. His words continue to enthral after more than 400 years, yet the man himself remains in the shadows. Perhaps that is the way it should be – if anyone should let his words do the talking, it is Shakespeare.

Nowhere is this elusiveness more apparent than in the topic of Shakespeare’s portrait. There are a number of paintings which may represent him, but none of them enjoy watertight confirmation.

I visited the National Portrait Gallery in London to see the painting which is the most likely candidate to have been painted from life, the Chandos Portrait. The Gallery’s very first painting, donated in 1856, it hangs at the beginning of the Jacobean gallery, next to a portrait of Ben Jonson, and I have to say, I’m convinced.

The man depicted is thoughtful, slightly dishevelled and he is wearing an ear-ring. A poet, indeed. There is something of both the poet and the canny businessman in his expression. This was a man, you can’t help but feel, who knew what he was doing.

The face resembles the most famous depiction of Shakespeare, the etching by Martin Droeshout the Younger that forms the frontispiece of the Folio of 1623. That etching looks a little strange, with various elements out of proportion, as though the artist did not deploy an experienced hand. It was however authenticated a true likeness by Ben Jonson, so was likely to have been taken from an earlier portrait painted during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

The Chandos Portrait has an interesting provenance. It was, said the 18th century antiquarian George Vertue, painted by John Taylor, actor and painter. It belonged to Sir William Davenant, godson and possibly the biological son of Shakespeare (according to the gossipy John Aubrey), before being sold to the actor Thomas Betterton. It then entered the collection of the Dukes of Chandos, hence the name.

Barring the discovery of an explicit reference to the painting dating to Shakespeare’s lifetime, we’ll doubtless never know for sure whether the painting depicts him. But that’s all right – the mystery just adds to his legend.


Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon-style

William Shakespeare and Joss Whedon? Of course!

I finally caught up with Joss Whedon’s film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing this week, and what a charming romp it was. I have fond memories of the Kenneth Branagh version, and I really can’t say which is better. They are certainly very different, the one taking place in sunny, medieval Tuscany and the other in black and white twenty-first century California, which merely underlines the extraordinary adaptability and resonance of Shakespeare’s work.

A home movie with a difference

After months of toiling on one of the biggest films ever – Marvel’s The Avengers – director Joss Whedon had a short break, which he decided to fill by filming a Shakespearean comedy, in his home. As you do.

Filmed in black and white, in modern dress, the film has a distinct film noir look about it, tinged with a touch of nineteen-thirties screwball comedy. Amy Acker’s Beatrice and Alexis Denisof’s Benedick bring to mind Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, with their crisp repartee and elegant physical presence. With their ‘merry war’, Beatrice and Benedick have always been the scene-stealers of Much Ado, and that doesn’t change here.

The plot concerning Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz), their love undermined by the machinations of the treacherous Don John (Sean Maher), is a darker tale. Maher, it has to be said, makes a far more convincing ‘plain-dealing villain’ than Keanu Reeves, bless him. It was Maher’s first time playing a villain, a fact that prompts Whedon to observe incredulously on the DVD commentary: “He is far too handsome to be a good person.”

Joss Whedon always gives good commentary.

The film grew out of the long-standing Shakespeare readings that took place at Whedon’s home over the years, attended by many of the actors who have come to be associated with him, a sizeable number of whom are in the film. An added treat for Whedon fans is recognising their favourites from Whedon’s various shows. Look, there’s Fred and Wesley from Angel, and yes, the bumbling Constable really is Captain Mal.

Ah, Nathan Fillion.

They all show a natural flair and fluency with the Elizabethan language, reinforcing a long-held belief that Shakespeare is easy to understand when performed by actors who really ‘get it’.

Everyone is good, but the standouts for me were Amy Acker’s Beatrice and Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry. Yes, Captain Tightpants steals the show as the idiotic constable who thinks he’s brilliant.

Now, I think I need to re-watch Firefly. Again.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 513 other followers

%d bloggers like this: