Heading into the weekend, let’s flash back to 1965, when the Rolling Stones consented to appear on the American music program Shindig (created and hosted by Jack Good, who was English). This sort of prime time Bandstand show wasn’t really the Stones’ kind of thing, but they consented to appear only on condition that Howlin’ Wolf be their special guest.
So here’s the Wolf, singing one of his early hits, “How Many More Years,” with the Rolling Stones sitting worshipfully at his feet. (Quick: try to think of the Stones being worshipful of anyone else, ever.)
Aside from his growling voice, Howlin’ Wolf’s trademark was a distinct aura of menace. He was 6’3″ and 275 pounds, an ex-horse cavalryman, and it was claimed that he was the only blues artist who could both rock the house and terrify the audience all at the same time.
Although he could clearly take care of himself, I don’t think he was actually any kind of menace. Though he came from a neglected/abused background, I haven’t heard of him abusing anyone.
He was one of the few blues artists who made money and kept it. (Maybe it was that aura of menace.) Though he was functionally illiterate until his forties (when he got his GED), he clearly knew how to add up a column of figures, and when he emigrated from the South to Chicago, it was in his own car and with $4000 in his pocket.
One of the benefits of having money was that he was able to afford the best sidemen around, and even pay their health insurance. So he always had great musicians backing him, and he got some of his best songs from writer/producer/arranger/bass player Willie Dixon, who pretty well created the Chicago sound on his own. It was a fruitful collaboration.
So here’s the guy the Stones worshiped, playing on a kind of show in which neither was completely comfortable. Though I thoroughly appreciate Brian Jones telling the announcer to shut up and let the Wolf play.
Congratulations to Taos Toolbox veteran Fran Wilde, whose Updraft won the Andre Norton Award for young adult fiction, and also the Compton Crook award for best science fiction, horror, or fantasy novel (no age mentioned).
Updraft was workshopped at Toolbox, and despite being perhaps the most altitude-impaired student ever at Toolbox, Fran seems to have paid some attention.
Congratulations also to Toolbox grad Lawrence Schoen, who was nominated for the Nebula for Barsk, but ended up coming home with the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Award for Service to SFWA.
I’ve never put Hardwired on sale because it’s always sold so well at the ordinary price. But then I reflected that more of my readers started with Hardwired than anything else. It’s always been a sort of gateway drug into my other fiction. So I should probably open the gateway by putting it on sale, and a hope a lot of people enter to view my other works.
So . . . ready for your first taste? It’s not exactly free, but it’s the next best thing.
The original title of this Dutch film is Michiel de Ruyter, but as this title means nothing to audiences outside the United Provinces, the American release is retitled Admiral. (Thus prompting confusion with the Korean film Admiral, about the naval hero Yi Sun-sin, or Admiral, the Russian film about the naval hero Alexander Kolchak. This particular Admiral is about a Dutch naval hero so revered in his own country that he is probably the only person in history to be awarded the rank of Lieutenant-Admiral-General.)
In the States we are accustomed to the English view of naval history, and Pepys’ view of the Anglo-Dutch Wars in particular, so this biography of Michiel de Ruyter provides some valued perspective.
The film points out that the Netherlands was the only republic in Europe, surrounded by hostile monarchs who wanted to crush it lest their own commons be inspired to rebellion. (To be fair to the monarchs, they mostly wanted to conquer the Netherland not for ideological reasons, but because the Dutch were rich, and they wanted to loot the wealth of the country. They hadn’t worked out that the Dutch weren’t rich by accident, but because of religious and political tolerance, and also this thing called capitalism, all of which the Dutch had just invented. Had Louis XIV conquered the place and imposed autocracy and the Catholic Church, he would have found the place soggy, uninspiring, and so poor it wouldn’t have been worth the conquest.)
Not only were the Dutch surrounded by enemies, but they were disunited, being divided between republicans and monarchists who wanted to install Willem III, Prince of Orange, at the head of the government.
De Ruyter, who was born Machgyel Adriensoon, was of humble origins, and worked his way to riches as a merchant, though along the way he acquired the nickname “de Ruyter,” which means something like “the Raider.” (In those days, capitalist freebooters took the freebooting part of their job very seriously indeed.)
The first thing you notice on viewing the hero is that Frank Lammers, who plays de Ruyter, is not anything like a Hollywood star. Europeans still dare to have movie stars that look like ordinary people. Middle-aged, plain-featured, and beefy, Lammers comes roaring into action waving a cutlass and swinging from one ship to another on the end of a rope. (Which is the sort of thing that never happened, but is expected in this kind of movie.)
As a commoner raised to great prominence, de Ruyter is opposed to the monarchy, and allied with the brothers de Witt, the republicans who ran the state for twenty years. The film condenses those twenty years’ worth of history into a couple hours of screen time— de Ruyter’s children do not age during the course of the movie— and the result is political maneuverings that can be a little sudden and bewildering.
Not confusing is the grim scene in which Willem III’s henchmen lynch the de Witts, which features explicit scenes of human butchery and Orangists dancing about with bits of human intestine. It’s about as explicit a lynching scene as I ever care to view, thank you.
Though Willem’s future career is outside the scope of the film, Admiral nevertheless hints at his political realism, sacrificing his boyfriend Bentinck for marriage to Mary Stuart, all of which eventually lead to Willem III of Orange becoming King William III of the United Kingdom.
Charles II is played by the ever-professional Charles Dance, Tywin Lannister himself. The film does a good job of showing the Merrie Monarch as the whore and stooge that he was, happy to sacrifice English soldiers and sailors in exchange for the French subsidy that made all that Merrie-making possible. (Plus the occasional bout of fellatio from the slinky French spy Louise de Kerouaille, from whose fertile womb was descended Princess Diana, Sarah Duchess of York, and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall— still sleeping with royalty after all these years!)
This movie is, first of all, spectacular, and features shots of literally hundreds of warships maneuvering and shooting and burning and blowing up, all in the same frame at once. This, and not space combat, is what CGI was made for. As what Mr. Churchill might have called a Former Nautical Person, I found all this stuff right in my wheelhouse.
I’m not sure what the film has to offer anyone who isn’t interested in naval history and the political maneuvers of the mid-17th Century. De Ruyter is kept so busy running from battle to crisis and back again that his character never actually becomes clear, and the action is so condensed that the audience never gets a breather.
If the subject matter is of interest to you, you’ll want to see this movie; and if it isn’t, the film will be meaningless, so don’t bother. I’ll rate it three and a half cutlasses, and it’s currently streaming on Netflix.
Once again I have a book available as part of a StoryBundle. The last one sold like hotcakes on a winter’s morning, and this one should as well, because StoryBundle is an amazing freaking good deal. Basically, you pay whatever you want for the first three books, which are Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand, Lewis […]
Via ace mathematician Michael Wester, we have ace correspondent John Oliver ranting about the media’s demand for cute pop science. After viewing this video, you will be able to answer the following true/false questions correctly. 1. Does champagne make rats live longer? 2. Are babies made of chocolate? 3. What will keep the doctor away— […]
EPSON scanner image It’s Mother’s Day here in the States, so I thought I’d post a photo of my mom dating from her period as a lingerie model. I vaguely remember this photo being taken. We were on vacation in a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota, where I spent the day on or in the […]
Since we’re heading into the weekend, I thought I’d program a bit of entertainment for you folks. Live from the Hi Ball Lounge, it’s Miss Lavay Smith and Her Red-Hot Skillet Lickers. Put on a smoking jacket, pour yourself a gin gimlet, and give it a listen.
I’ve just hatched a new theory. Which is a callow, trembling thing just out of the chrysalis, but I may be onto something, so bear with me. My theorizing was spurred by this last weekend at the Paradise Lost workshop, for which I read some of the stuff that is called “urban fantasy,” which is […]