What’s In a Name? The Elsinore Gets New Moniker Just Days Before Opening

As reported here and elsewhere, I am designing The Elsinore at 17 Stanton Street  -but is this true? Alas, I must say no. In a daring move to correct a glaring problem, the players-to-be-named-later at 17 Stanton are dropping the name and opting to go with a new one. Named after the castle Elsinore from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the name didn’t get the desired traction, and hours before opening, the change has been made. I am sworn to secrecy about the new brand, but personally like it a lot more. I thought The Elsinore was an awful name and found few who liked it. On three separate occasions, people heard it and declared "they’ll call it El Snore". At BINGO the other night, a nightlife operator said it was "the worst name he had ever heard." I got all defensive but a thousand "I knows" would not have lessened the feeling of emptiness I felt that something I was building would be saddled with "Elsinore".

William Shakespeare, who I will refer to here as Billy, Willy, Will, the Common Bard, or the Bard of Avon said it best with his "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I double-checked the spelling of Billy’s last name and got this:
"During Shakespeare’s career as actor and dramatist, variations seemed to have had decreased considerably, and on many documents concerning Shakespeare’s land deals and theatrical company patents, the name is spelled Shakespere, although Shakspeare, Shakspere, Shackspeare, and Shakespeare also appear, often with multiple spellings occurring within the same document."
The 17 Stanton Street space, which is all blue and beautiful, will soon be known by its new name. The Elsinore will soon be forgotten, the sun, the stars, and the moon will rise and set, and the beautiful people will come and drink and be merry and embrace the change as they embrace all change. If they get a little confused or have to think about it too much, they’ll just pop another bottle. The castle Elsinore still stands in Denmark where it always has and will surely remain oblivious to the usurpers and their flock at 17 Stanton.
 
That movie Anonymous, and a whole lot of sharp people (not just internet conspiracy nuts), think Willy may not have written these plays at all. They think this dude Lord Edward de Vere may have been the real author.
 
The new name of 17 Stanton will be revealed today or tomorrow. As the Common Bard once said (maybe): "Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t." Before you go quoting Will at me with stuff like "Lord, what fools these mortals be!’ I’ll sling some Bard of Avon at you: "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me." I agree, for "therin lies the rub" (attribute to Bill or Lord de Vere, your call). 
 
Will the new name have time to catch on as the joint opens in just a few days? Mr Shackspeare might have said "Boldness be my friend!" This is a bold move by experienced players. I heard their misgivings about the name The Elsinore and quoted Billy Bard at them: "For my part, it was Greek to me." Although something in the back of mind whispered Danish. I continued with another Williamism: "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." When asked what the hell that meant, I replied, "I’m never really sure with The Bard of Avon." I dug deep into Bill and spat out, "I am not bound to please thee with my answer." And doubled-up with "Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness"… to confuse them.
 
Someone sent for some CliffsNotes and slung these Bard bows and arrows at me: "The golden age is before us, not behind us," followed by, "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottage princes’ palaces." I googled Will and offered "No legacy is so rich as honesty," and then quickly, "I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one." I could have taken some words of Willy and offered them in The Elsinore’s defense: "Tis better to bear the ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of." I could have tried to make them pause, delay them from this deed with some Common Bard stuff like, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I did not. I agreed with the change. I was sad to say goodbye to "The Elsinore" on some weird nostalgic level, but agree it was just a bad name. I believe that the place and the players will come out of this smelling sweeter than roses without that moniker.
 
The players weighed living with a name they didn’t love but losing some marketing steam or going with something new and grabbing some publicity (like this) to offset that. There is a lot more to this story, but my designer hat is stifling my writer hat.  I have read, indeed, my Shakspere and offer "the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing." I whipped up my Hamlet CliffsNotes and heeded the words from Act V, Scene ii: "The rest is silence."
 
Alas, poor The Elsinore – I knew him. I close with some predictable words from Lord Edward or William Shakespeare… "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

Say ‘Hej’ to the Happiest Country in the World

The UN has released their 2013 Happiness Report, the second of its kind, surveying 156 nations. And the world’s happiest country is…

…Denmark! The tiny country of 5.6 million people (less than three quarters the size of New York CIty) snagged the top title for the second year in a row. And as 60 Minutes‘ Morley Safer reported several years ago, the nation has for the past three decades "in survey after survey…consistently beat the rest of the world in the happiness stakes."

Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden round out the Top 5. The United States comes in at 17, behind Mexico and Panama, but beating the United Kingdom by five spots. And coming in last place is Togo.

According to the "Official Website of Denmark": "Back in 1973, the European Commission decided to set up a ‘Eurobarometer’ to find out about issues affecting its citizens. Since then member states have been surveyed about well-being and happiness. Amazingly Denmark has topped the table every year since 1973."

How do they do it? Why are the Danes so darn happy? Is it because they grow up on a steady diet of herring and Hans Christian Andersen? It’s not constantly making whoopie—they’re not in the Top 10 Sexually Satisfied Countries in the World.

Maybe there’s a clue in the welcome message on Denmark’s official site: "Explore the universe of Denmark.dk. The fast track to facts, articles and news about the Danish society." One of the main images in rotation on the site is a picture of people partying in the streets of Copenhagen. One crazy Dane is even bodysurfing.

The description for USA.gov, the official site of the United States, is downright depressing in comparison:

"Official web portal contains comprehensive information on government resources, services and forms for citizens, businesses and government." And it looks like an out-of-the-box site created in 1992.

Could the difference boil down to how elected officials perceive their own country? Or maybe Danes elect happy people and Americans elect…government agents. The Danish site zeroes in on "exploration" and "society," while the American site focuses on "forms" and "government." One is social and exploratory, offering a "universe." The other invites you to wait in line at the DMV.

But making it a beauty contest of websites is exactly something a dumb American like me would do. From Miss America to American Idol to Judge Judy, we are a society that puts an undo emphasis on evaluating others, while rarely taking a long hard look in the mirror. It’s a supremely anti-social and anti-exploratory attitude—the exact opposite of the one our exploratory and socially-inclined Danish friends have. Perhaps that’s where a lot of American discontent is brewed: the grass is always greener, keeping up with the Joneses and all that concern with everyone else’s reality. Not so in Denmark.

“The great thing about Danish society is that it doesn’t judge other people’s lives," says Christian Bjørnskov, an economic professor at Aarhus Business School and expert on the topic of happiness. "It allows them to choose the kind of life they want to live, which is sometimes not always possible in other countries, so this helps add to the overall satisfaction of people living here."

What he neglected to mention was that it’s also about choosing the kind of beer they want to drink. And the primary social lubricant is the perfectly balanced and complex pale gold lager, Carlsberg, which has been the nation’s most popular beer since it was first brewed in 1847. Germany, Belgium and England may be known for their world-class brews, but it was Danish mycologist Emil Christian Hansen who originally described the yeast that is used to produce lagers. And since he was working for the Carlsberg brewery at the time, the yeast was named Saccharomyces carlsbergensis. I experienced first Carlsberg in Copenhagen, and it immediately became one of my favorite beers. It’s also a common sight in bars and cafes across France, where it first arrived in 1945.

But before you book a ticket to the fabled City of Spires so you can wash down some fresh herring with a cold one (sitting by the statue of the Little Mermaid, of course), keep in mind that while you will likely get a dopamine boost as a traveler to Denmark, a good part of Danish happiness comes from the fact that Danes enjoy free college education, free emergency hospitalization and free basic healthcare. It’s the kind of satisfying policy that makes some Americans green with envy.

Sure, Denmark may be pretty swell these days. But it wasn’t always so. After all, Hamlet was a Dane.

Watch a TED Talk in which sociologist Emilia van Hauen asks and answers these questions: Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? What could other countries teach us about happiness? And why is the happy life not the same as the perfect life?

image: Denmark.dk

Ethan Hawke Returns to Shakespeare & Michael Almereyda for ‘Cymbeline’

Aside from playing the role of Jesse in Richard Linklater’s three-part transcontinental love stories—Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight—and his loveable slacker Troy Dyer in Reality Bites, one of Ethan Hawke’s finest performances was as the quintessential role for any actor, Hamlet in Hamlet. As a man of the stage and screen, Hawke brought the titular role to life in Michael Almereyda’s film of 2000—which also featured a brilliant cast of corn-rowed Julia Stiles, Kyle MacLachlan, Bill Murray, and Sam Shepard. And as Hamlet was the director’s finest worth thus far, naturally he’s returned to his leading man for his next Shakespearean endeavor, Cymbeline

For the modern spin on the classic tale, the film will focus on “an epic battle between dirty cops and a drug-dealing biker gang”—not quite a direct adaptation of the original text by any means, but perhaps the shake-up needed to kick this lesser praised work into cinematic drive. And with the success of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, perhaps even those who aren’t fans of the Bard will be thriving with excitement for the prospective feature. Set to be shot in New York starting next month, the film has finally found it’s backing and although the rest of the cast has yet to be announced, more on that should be rolling in shortly. 
 
In the meantime, let’s watch some key moments from 2000’s Hamlet and fantasize about what might be.
 

 

 

 

Baz Luhrmann Wants to Remake ‘Hamlet’ With Leonardo DiCaprio

Whether your preference lies in Kenneth Brannaugh, Ethan Hawke, or Mel Gibosn, it’s evident than modern adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet are of a vast variety. But when it comes to those modern variations on Billy Shakes’ text, what’s important is to breathe fresh life into the work—even if the film may not be everyone’s precise cup of tea, the filmmaker must do what’s possible to bring the words to life in a way that we couldn’t simply gain from the words on the page. And although Brannaugh’s myriad Shakespearean revivals have been wonderful, the personal to really revitalize the genre was Mr. Baz Luhrmann himself, who gave us 1996’s masterpiece Romeo + Juliet.

Juxtaposing modernity with the antiquated text, Baz brought Radiohead and Garbage to Verona and crafted a fierce take on the classic tragedy that was as aesthetically stunning as it was emotionally potent. So with his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby waltzing into theaters this week, Baz has revealed to THR that he would like to next tackle his own version of Hamlet—starring his Romeo, his Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio. Be still my heart.

"To me, Gatsby is the American Hamlet. What else could we possibly do as a follow-up?" said Baz, although "i’s just a dream at this point." But as we all know, Leo’s performance as Romeo was one of the best he’s ever delivered—the third act of that film worthy of a closet full of Oscars alone. So with all hope this is a film that will actually come about. In the meantime, let’s watch some behind-the-scenes footage from Romeo + Juliet.

 

 

A Look Back at the Wonderfully Strange Career of Kyle MacLachlan on His 54th Birthday

Let’s be real: who doesn’t love Kyle Maclachlan? No one? Correct. The bizarre and dashing actor has been gracing both our television and film screens for over 30 years now, and like the fine wine he so enjoys, only gets better with age. As a fresh-faced young weirdo, we saw him emboy the leading roles in two of David Lynch’s most iconic films as Blue Velvet‘s amateur detective Jeffrey Beaumont and Twin Peaks’ Special Agent Dale Cooper—whom you could look at as simply an extension of young Jeffrey. We later saw Kyle in a series of female-driven television hits as an impotent and/or sociopathic husbands that you could not help but love in absrudity. And now he’s back on televison and oh no, we’re not complaining. So, as today is his 54th birthday, let’s take a look back on some his most wonderous and strange roles. Enjoy.

Dune, Paul Atreides

 

Blue Velvet, Jeffrey Beaumont

 

Twin Peaks, Dale Cooper

 

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Dale Cooper

 

Sex and the City, Trey McDougal

 

Desperate Housewives, Orson Hodge

 

Hamlet, Claudis

Portlandia, Mayor

Gene Kelly and Ten Other Dead Dudes We’d Totally Sleep With

My eyes were a little cloudy and heavy this morning when I got into the office, and I knew exactly what would perk me up: Google Image Searching Gene Kelly. Sure, some people would pick coffee, but some people would pick Gene Kelly. Right? That’s a thing that people do? Well, you should, because Gene Kelly was a handsome bro. I think even those who weren’t into dudes who hopped around on his toes and danced the nights away would be into him, because he basically looked like a linebacker who could also plié. And it got the gears in my brain a-movin’ and a-turnin’, and I started wondering: wouldn’t it be great if time travel were real and I could go back in time to have sex with Gene Kelly?

Look, let’s not get weird about this. You would, too. And you know what? I bet there’s a whole bunch of other now-dead people who were pretty attractive when they were alive. Here’s my list, and feel free to comment below with your own!

1. The Searchers-era Jeffrey Hunter

Sorry that the Comanche killed your parents, Martin, but you’re still hot so it’ll be OK!
 

2. A Streetcar Named Desire-era Marlon Brando

Goddamn those arms. I mean, bless those arms, but also goddamn those arms.

3. Rock Hudson in everything

You know? He might actually be game for this.

4. A Place in the Sun-era Montgomery Clift

This guy would probably be a handful, but there’s something really romantic about having to save someone, right?

5. Paul Newman in everything

THOSE EYES.
 

6. Hamlet-era Laurence Olivier

This one is kind of a wild card, but there’s something creepily sexy about that Aryan dye-job.
 

7. John Cazale in everything

Speaking of creepy! But Meryl Streep slept with him, and that’s a big endorsement as far as I’m concerned.

8. Midnight Express-era Brad Davis

Despite the history of sexual abuse, the drug use, the alcoholism, this guy was kind of a catch!

9. River Phoenix in everything

Duh.

10. Bullitt-era Steve McQueen

Don’t you think he’d treat you like total shit? Sign me up.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

A Supposedly Brief Chronology of “The Simpsons” Literary References

In its multi-decade, 500+-episode run, The Simpsons has sported all sorts of popular culture references, from the Immortal Bard (a Hamlet parody still shown in high schools all across America by English teachers who want to get hip with the young people) to Spider-Pig (does whatever a spider-pig does).

Last night, The Simpsons aired a surprising homage to David Foster Wallace, titled “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again,” which borrows its title — and plot — from DFW’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The episode, in which Bart assumes the role of Wallace on his disdain-inducing luxury cruise, also includes musical snippets from Hot Chip (“Boy From School”) and Animal Collective (“Winter’s Love”).

With a television run as long as the one Matt Groening’s iconic series has had, there have been a whole lot of other surprising, notable and overall funny salutes to important literary tomes, from Hemingway to Stephen King to the Bible. Here’s a look back at just a few of the other key Simpsons moments that went by the book.

Edgar Allen Poe has been a rather popular source of inspiration, particularly with the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes. One of the first Halloween shorts was a direct take on "The Fall of the House of Usher;" in “Lisa’s Rival,” she replaces perfect Allison Taylor’s diorama of "The Tell-Tale Heart" with an actual beef heart, with the real diorama torturing her from the floorboards. But this early Treehouse of Horror installment, a retelling of “The Raven” featuring Marge as Lenore and Bart as the titular bird, is the best of these.

Lisa meets a group of college students in her gymnastics class and pretends to be one of them in order to belong to a group of her intellectual equals. One of her new friends is re-reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (one of a few Pynchon references that have appeared on the show), but more importantly, the episode includes one of The Simpsons’ best lit. moments. Lisa attends a reading from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (as himself), who gets some support from a group of frat dudes with “BASHO” painted on their stomachs. It did make us wonder about the possibility of a world where poetry slams sported SEC football-caliber tailgates.

Harry Potter has had a few nods as well, including a pretty-okay Treehouse of Horror installment. But it was Lisa’s encounter with the real J.K. Rowling that included the words all fans wanted to hear. When she asks the author what happens to Harry at the end of the series, she responds, “He grows up and marries you. Is that what you want to hear?”

And finally, the Hamlet episode, inspiring curricula since its airing. Although it’s certainly difficult to condense a five-act play into a digestible TV mini-sode, The Simpsons did it as only they could. The episode is notable for its expert use of Ralph Wiggum (“I’m gonna go kill Hamlet! Here’s my mad face.”), “Rosencarl and Guildenlenny,” Lisa’s brief cameo as Ophelia and Bart’s one-sentence review of the play, which sums up the feelings of so many: “How could a play with so much violence in it be so boring?”