Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grey Days to Glimmering

Greetings from what currently seems to be the coldest place on earth, lovely people!  I am sure there are those in Canada that would differ, but my little corner of the U.S. is purty frigid right now.  So naturally it's the perfect time of the year to participate in Kellie's delightful Grey Days to Glimmering blog party!  She has fourteen questions up for grabs on her blog (just click on the picture above) and anyone who wishes to may join the fun and chase away a few of the winter doldrums.  I have a pretty hard time resisting blog parties, and at this time of year a party like this is especially welcome.

On to... the questions!

1) What's your favorite thing to do when you've been feeling uninspired?

Read other people's blogs.  :D I take it we're talking about blogging inspiration here... heehee.  My best inspiration comes from my friends, a fact that is yet another example of Wit and Wisdom From a Refrigerator Magnet.

2) Tell us about a really great movie/show that you've just discovered.

That would have to be BBC's Lark Rise to Candleford.  I've just started watching this enthralling series, and though I'm only a few episodes into it, I'm hooked already!  A review of Season One will be up as soon as I finish watching it (and after I review Henry V, Northanger Abbey, North and South...)
3) What do you like to do to change your mood?

I take it we're talking about changing a bad mood?  Because I don't know about you, but usually when I'm in a good mood I'm not interested in changing it.  So, anyway, when it comes to bad moods, I like to curl up with a book and not have to talk to anyone or be responsible for anything... heehee.  Doesn't always happen, but that's my ideal scenario.

4) Your favorite drink is currently...

Tea.  I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm just not a coffee person.  Tea in all its heated forms owns my heart, and I'm currently loving Celestial Seasonings' Tangerine Orange.

5) When you hear the word exuberant, what's the first word that comes to mind?

Jumping jacks.  Ridiculous, I know, but the word always makes me think of a little girl leaping in the air doing a jumping jack.

6) What made you smile last?

An email from the ever-smileworthy Melody (about five minutes ago).

7) What five songs would make a playlist to describe your week?

Hmmm.  I don't suppose we're talking about the five songs I listened to the most this week?  No?  Pity, because that would be easier.  Okay then, let's see...
~"As the Deer"
~"Nessun Dorma" (so it's in Italian and I understand about four words total... well, it makes me feel Joyful and Passionate and Dramatic and exceedingly Cultured.  Opera has a way of doing that.)
~"Just Around the Riverbend"
~"Do You Hear the People Sing?" (well, all week I've been hearing them sing... okay, all YEAR I've been hearing them sing... okay, so I have a little obsession, is there a problem?)
~"Goosey Goosey Goosey" (that reallllllly annoying song from Jeeves and Wooster that Gussie Fink-Nottle sings... yeah, it's been stuck in my head all week.  Thanks to an obliging sister who sings it whenever she gets a chance.  "How dooooo you feeeeeel when you marry your ideeeeeeal?  Ever so goosey goosey goooooooosey...")

8) What's at the top of your creative 'To-Do' list?

Finish the Civil War dresses I'm making for Anne-girl and myself (pictures will come when the project is completed, but as I'm only halfway through the first dress, it may take a while).

9) The last thing you crossed off the above list was...

Organizing my bulletin board... it looks quite loverly now, if I do say so myself (and I do).

10)  Quickly - the first movie quote from the top of your head, please!

Uhhhhhh... *instantly forgets every movie quote she's ever known*

"Yeah. When pigs fly."

"Actually, I had an uncle who was a pilot."


"Nah, not

(Okay, name it.)

11)  The best thing about January is...

My dad's and brother's birthdays!

12) The worst thing about January is...

The excruciating HEAT. My, isn't it hot? Is it ever hot! Goodness, aren't you just roasting?

13) What's your #1 resolution for 2013?

Scripture memorization. I absolutely stink at memorization. I'm teaching a Bright Lights lesson next week on How to Be Wiser Than Your Enemies (which involves hiding God's Word in your heart) and the irony is not lost on me. I WILL memorize a goodly chunk of Scripture this year.

14)  And lastly, share a quote or verse that you've found especially inspiring lately.

Well, the verse I chose for 2013 has been close to my heart recently... it's Luke 14:28-30. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and coutheth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it? les haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." Yep, that's my inspiration for this year... as the Queen of Not Actually Accomplishing All Those Big Ideas She Set Out to Do.

That was great fun-- a big thank you to Kellie for hosting this!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Les Miserables 2013: Live on Stage

Are you tired rundown and listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? of creams and soaps and all sorts of concoctions that just don't seem to work?  Do you find yourself giving up in despair each night and going to bed with mascara caked between your lashes?  Have you turned your back on commercial products and resorted to using a washcloth and water to get your lipstick off?  Well, sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more! Because I'm here today to tell you about the world's best makeup remover...

Les Miserables, The 25th Anniversary Production!

Simply attend one show (evening or matinee) of this fabulous musical while wearing your favorite makeup and emerge from the theater fresh-faced and shining, washed clean of foreign substances by your own lachrymal glands.  Instant results!  Satisfaction guaranteed! *Tissues not included.

photo by me
In all seriousness, I bawled like a baby throughout pretty much the whole show.  Why is there no surprised feeling.  I barely have words to describe how amazing this play was.  I still can't get my mind around the fact that I've seen it.  Live.  The whole story played out before me on stage in the grand and glorious Academy of Music, with a full orchestra and a fabulously talented cast (except for Fantine, who was underwhelming, but I'll get to that) and an overwhelming, sweeping epicness that no other musical can ever attain.  I know "epicness" is a cop-out word.  But when it comes to Les Mis, I cop out. I can't find the right words to describe how supremely incredible it is.  

But I'm going to try.  {Note: this thing is RIDICULOUSLY long.  Proceed at your own risk.}

A few days before we went to see Les Mis, I provided my mom with a four-page recap of the entire plot, complete with Helpful Hints as to who was who (Valjean will be in green and then black, Eponine has a flat cap and trench coat, Enjolras is the guy in the Red Vest of Power and Awesomeness).  If you don't know the story of Les Mis, contact me and I'd be happy to provide you with a copy.  But if you don't want to bother with such a long read, here's Les Mis in a nutshell:

A guy steals a loaf of bread.  Another guy with a nightstick chases him.  Still another guy wears a Red Vest of Power and Awesomeness.  People shoot guns.  Everyone dies.  The End.

Now that you are all thoroughly acquainted with the plot, let us begin.  With the characters, of course.

Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean

Hmmm... what can I say that doesn't begin and end with WOW.  Looking at the picture in the playbill, I didn't think he looked old enough to play a convincing Valjean, but boy was I wrong.  He was convincing in everything-- and had an incredible voice to boot! Except for Bring Him Home... I hate to say it, but I was a wee bit disappointed.  Of course no one can sing that song like Valjean himself--erm, I mean Colm Wilkinson-- but Peter Lockyer's high notes left much to be desired and he just sounded kind of... quivery.  But all in all he did an excellent job throughout the whole thing.  He played Marius on Broadway in 1997 (see here) and that pleases me muchly, because I am a firm believer in Actors Who Have Played One Role in a Musical and Go On to Play Another In Later Life.  Cough, cough, MichaelBallshouldhavebeenValjeaninthemovie, cough, cough.

Andrew Varela as Javert

My reaction to Varela's Javert in the Prologue- "Hmmm, good voice.  Not Philip Quast, but still good.  Oooh, that 'no' was superb! This guy's pretty good."
My reaction to Stars - "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ASDKJASDJFOIWEUUWOERIUHJ!"

Impressed doesn't even BEGIN to cover it.  (I have a vague memory of punching Anne-girl repeatedly on the arm and staring at her (and Javert) with my mouth hanging open.  Thank goodness we were up in the dark amphitheatre where no one could see... I do believe I looked like more of an idiot than usual.)   The amount of power and control in his voice was... well, flabbergasting.  He came THIS CLOSE to becoming my favorite Javert... and that's saying a lot.  I mean, on a scale of Russell Crowe to Philip Quast (with Quast being 100) I'd say Andrew Varela gets a 99.8.  You could feel his voice making the seats tremble way up where we were sitting.  I could have sworn the chandelier shook when he did that last note in Stars.  And the Suicide?  I have no words.  No. Words.  (But I'll get to that.)

Genevieve Leclerc as Fantine

I couldn't find a picture of Fantine from this production, so just take my word for it that she's blonde and wears a blue dress.  I was, well, disappointed in Leclerc's Fantine.  She sang everything in what wasn't really a monotone but was... dangerously close to it.  I didn't have any complaints about her actual voice, but there was no passion in what she sang.  I Dreamed a Dream is one of the most stunning pieces of music in the entire play, and she sang it without a whole lot of... well, ooomph.  At the end she did put some anger and bitterness into it, but personally I prefer Lea Salonga and Anne Hathaway's versions-- they're far more heartbreaking.  Come to Me/Fantine's Death wasn't awful, but neither was it impressive. Valjean played up the tragic element very well, I thought (I never truly realized before how much guilt he must have been feeling when Fantine died) but Fantine herself just kind of... plopped.  Meh.

Devin Ilaw as Marius

Devin Ilaw only recently replaced Max Quinlan in the touring cast, and as yet there seem to be no pictures of him in costume on Google Images.  Sigh.  Just picture a dark-haired guy in a black suit with reasonably good-looking hair.  Fabulous hair is a prerequisite for all Marii [plural of Marius, you know].  No matter how rotten their singing may be, they must have good hair.  Thankfully Ilaw's Marius didn't need fabulous hair to make up for his singing-- because the singing was fantastic.  Still not Michael Ball, of course, but then who is?  He sang much more softly than what I'm accustomed to, but it was a good kind of soft-- you got the sense that he had perfect control over his voice, especially in A Heart Full of Love (which was SO. CUTE.).  Then along came Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and WHAM, it was like, "Here is Marius' stellar tenor which has been kept under wraps for most of the play just so we can WOW you in this final song."  He put so much emotion into that song... it was wonderful.  (I'm absolutely swimming in superlatives today.  Deal with it.)

Briana Carlson-Goodman as Eponine

I have mixed emotions about this Eponine.  After seeing Lea Salonga and Samantha Barks in the role (both of whom are beyond fabulous) I have really, really high expectations for any and every Eponine.  (Not that I've seen very many other Eponines outside of YouTube... "but Margaret, that is NOT the POINT.")  She seemed a bit whiny at the beginning, which is not something I appreciate in Eponine (cough, FrancesRuffelleandKahoShimada, cough) but her acting skills in In My Life and Attack on the Rue Plumet made up for that.  During the Attack, she didn't just stand there and whimper-- she was doing her best to bar the door and you could clearly see the turmoil in her mind at that point.  The Scream, I'm afraid, left much to be desired, but Lea Salonga pretty much owns The Scream so that's understandable.  On My Own left me feeling a bit let down (again, too whiny and just not... memorable enough) but A Little Fall of Rain was heart-rending.  I'm going to address my favorite songs after this, so more on that later.

Jason Forbach as Enjolras

I expect a lot of any guy who plays Enjolras--and with Jason Forbach I was about as far from disappointed as anyone could be.  I mean, living up to the precedent Ramin Karimloo has set is a huge responsibility, but even though Forbach didn't quite own the RVofP&A the way Karimloo does, his voice made up for it.  If we take "made up for it" to mean "I desperately wanted Red and Black to come with instant replay so I could listen to it over and over and over and over again."  I've heard wimpy Enjolrases on YouTube, and I was the tiniest bit afraid that this one might be like them.  But wherefore didst I doubt? As soon as he came on stage, all my misgivings took wing and flew away.  The "barricades of freedooooooom" in One Day More (an exceedingly important and sadly underrated line) was as close to perfection as anything can be that isn't from the mouth of The Best Enjo That Ever Was, and the barricade scenes... well, let's just say my sister and I did our part in manning the waterworks.

I'm also of the opinion that Jason Forbach looks (and rather sounds) like a younger version of James Barbour... is anyone in agreement?

Lauren Wiley as Cosette
*blows nose* "Adorable!"

Eh... she was all right.  Nothing stupendous.  I'm really looking forward to Amanda Seyfried's portrayal of the character in the movie, because from what I've seen she seems the most like Cosette of the book, but Cosette has never been my favorite character.  Lauren Wiley's voice struck me as being too screechy in some parts and too weak in others.  She's gorgeous as far as appearance goes, don't get me wrong, but what this fandom really needs is a Cosette who can look like Amanda Seyfriend and sound like Judy Kuhn.  (And not the other way 'round.)

Hayden Wall as Gavroche 

I am a fan of pretty much every Gavroche that has ever been.  He was my favorite character when I read the book, and I still kind of consider him "mine."  And all that aside, nine-year-old Hayden Wall was fantastic.  (He alternates with Joshua Colley in the part, so if you saw the same cast as I did you might not have seen the same Gavroche.)  The first thing that struck me when he swaggered onstage in Look Down was that he sounded so different from all the other Gavroches I'd heard... what was it, what was it?  Then it hit me that almost all the Les Mis recordings I've heard have featured a British Gavroche, and what I was missing was the Cockney accent. :P  So it was "nothing pahsh" instead of "nuffing pawsh" in Look Down, and what little there was of Little People (ERRMMMMM) sounded distinctly different from what I'm used to, but all in all he left nothing to be desired.  It was refreshing to see a truly little Gavroche-- just reminds you of how he really was way too young to be living out on his own and getting involved in revolutions.  Robert Madge was fabulous in the 25th concert, but he was just too old.

Timothy Gulan and Shawna M. Hamic as the Thenardiers

I didn't watch a whole lot of the scenes the Thenardiers were in, preferring instead to study the intricate patterns in the woodwork, but there were a few funny bits-- particularly the Waltz of Treachery ("let's not haggle for darling Colette--Cosette...") and the Robbery ("in the absence of a victim, dear Inspector... mayIgo?").  Timothy Gulan's singing struck me as the best I've ever heard as far as Thenardier is concerned.  Not in Master of the House per se (ewwwww) but in Dog Eats Dog (which is also ewwww when you think about it, but not in the same way as MOTH).  I honestly think he should try out for Valjean-- he had a lot of power in his voice.  Shawna Hamic as Madame was... well, frankly, the Madames are all alike in my book: carbon copies of Jenny Galloway.  The End.

Other characters... the Bishop had a great voice, Grantaire was not Hadley Fraser but still excellent (HILARIOUS at times and rip-your-heart-out at others), Little Cosette was adorable, Thenardier's gang of robbers were appropriately slimy and the students at the barricade were really hard to tell apart. I could recite all the students' names (and character descriptions) in my sleep (thanks to Victor Hugo's long-drawn-out biography of each and every one of them in The Brick) but they all moved around so fast and were dressed so alike in the play that I couldn't have distinguished Courfeyrac (my favorite) from Jean Prouvaire.

As far as the songs, I was mesmerized the whole time.  Look Down began with a projected image of crashing waves on the backscreen (isn't that what it's called? can someone more knowledgeable help me out,  please?) and the convicts were shown actually rowing in the galleys instead of merely digging ditches.  It got the whole thing off to a smashing start-- you could sense the despair and cold seawater as if you were there.

Who Am I? was very, very pleasing to me.  I used to get confused while watching the concert because I didn't understand why Valjean was singing all by himself and then suddenly addressing his remarks to Javert. In the play, the backdrop opens behind Valjean to reveal the courtroom at Champmathieu's trial, where Valjean shows the brand to the judge and declares himself to be 24601-- and then the whole place erupts in chaos and he gets out in the pandemonium.  You don't get to see that in the concerts (and please bear in mind that I adore both concert versions and don't mean to degrade them in any way-- but the fact remains that they are concerts and this is the Real Thing).

Then there was the Confrontation... and oh. my. word.  SO incredible.  The two men singing in counterpoint with their voices getting louder and softer (you could actually understand everything! Yay!), the menacing circling around the stage, Peter Lockyer's screaming of "my race is not yet run!", the actual FIGHT at the end.  Again, something you don't see in the concerts.  My mom pointed out later that the part where Valjean throws Javert to the floor is a bit amusing because Javert is, like, twice the size of Valjean... but hey, suspended disbelief and all that.  :D

Red and Black just bowled me over.  I loved the fact that they had a little nod to the book in the "Cafe Musain" sign, how the students were shown actually sitting at the chairs and tables... you do realize that in the concerts when Marius sings of empty chairs and empty tables, there actually never WERE any tables or chairs onstage.  Heehee.  Oh, and when Grantaire was singing about having never heard Marius ooh and ahh, he hopped into Marius' lap and put his arms around his neck-- it was HILARIOUS.  And the amount of charisma Enjo had in that song was amazing.  You could definitely understand why all the others followed him implicitly-- I mean, I was this close to hopping out of my seat and down onto the stage so I could wave a flag and sing Do You Hear the People Sing?, too!

In My Life and A Heart Full of Love were cuteness personified.  When Marius sang "And I soar through a world that is new, that is free!" he scooped up Eponine and swung her around and I was caught between the conflicting emotions of Oh, That Is Just Too Sweet and Marius, I Want To Punch You In The Face.  Then A Heart Full of Love came along and they absolutely nailed the timid aspect of the song.  The one teeny, weeny, baby problem I have with Michael Ball and Judy Kuhn's version is that they both sound so sure of themselves (for the most part, anyway).  Not so with Devin Ilaw and Lauren Wiley-- at one point she actually retreated back into the house and slammed the door.  And when they kissed at the end it was just cute (I know, I keep using that word...)-- there was no Compulsion to Cover My Revolted Eyes on my part like there is in a certain concert I could name (a certain concert which isn't the TAC).

One Day More-- I have yet to see a version of this song that isn't sweepingly mind-blowing.  Though I have to say I didn't pay much attention to the majority of the cast.  I was perched on the edge of my seat straining my eyes for the first glimpse of a certain person who bursts onstage waving a musket over his head-- and when he appeared, I didn't take my eyes off him until the end.  But I'm sure the other characters were excellent too.  Heehee.

A Little Fall of Rain just about broke my heart.  It's always a sad song, of course.  I was expecting THAT.  But of course I knew it couldn't come close to the TAC version, and after what I'd seen of Briana Carlson-Goodman I was afraid she might belt the song and ruin it.  Well, as it turns out... "I would much rather be [sobbing] than right."  That number may have been the best in the show.  There was no measly hand-holding nor were there strained looks of indigestion.  No one was standing before a microphone (sorry, TAC).  They were down on the floor surrounded by the insurgents (who one by one realized what was happening and before long they were all frozen in place), and Eponine actually looked (and sounded) like she was dying.  And when she finally did die, it was like Marius couldn't believe it.  Some of the students came and carried Eponine's body away and Marius was left alone to... well, basically curl up in the corner and bawl.  I did the same thing, minus the corner.

The barricades... oh, the barricades.  The new staging for the 25th Anniversary tour doesn't include revolving barricades as the original staging did, but it didn't matter that we could only see one side.  When we first walked into the theater, there was a little sign posted on the door that said, "Warning: this show will feature live gunshots" and you better believe it did.  I feel like a horrible person for saying this, but those scenes were so cool.  Smoky haze filled the air, lights were flashing all over the place... it was incredible.  We finally got to see Valjean save Enjolras from the sniper (that doesn't appear in the concerts) and we saw Marius get hit right there at the beginning and Valjean running to get him out of the way.  And we did not see Gavroche die.

At first I was perturbed that The Second Attack/Death of Gavroche wasn't actually shown, but after some thought I realized that I probably wouldn't have been able to handle it anyway.  As it was, we saw Gavroche climb the barricade and saw Grantaire lunging after him (the Grantaire/Gavroche relationship was almost like a father/son one-- SO adorable).  We heard him land on the other side and begin his cocky little reprise of Little People, and saw the students all standing like statues, because they all knew what was going to happen.  He got halfway through the song and then the gun went off--he kept singing--the gun fired again-- and the song was cut abruptly as Grantaire threw himself down on his knees and screamed, pounding the floor with his fist...

...yeah, that was when I totally and completely lost it.

After that I don't think I fully stopped crying until the play was over.  The students were cut down one by one-- and we didn't see Enjo's legendary slow-motion-backwards-fall.  Instead, he went plunging over the front of the barricade and I nearly stood up in my seat.  NO, NO, THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING.  And when the chaos had ended, the barricades parted and slid back into the wings and Javert came out with his torch to search for Valjean among the bodies.  And, well, as Petie said... "I would like to personally thank the directors of this production for throwing in that little bit where it shows the dead bodies of Gavroche and Enjolras just flung into a cart and rolled away. Thank you for that. Truly. It just made my [afternoon]."  For me, that was probably more heartbreaking than seeing Enjolras' body draped over the barricade with blood all over his face--seeing him and Gavroche carted off to be dumped in some mass grave just struck me all over again with the tragedy of the whole thing.  [insert tears here]

Turning and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables were just beautiful.  Heart-wrenchingly beautiful.  The women of Turning lit candles and left them on the stage for Empty Chairs, and when Marius came on and lifted up his voice (at which time my jaw dropped) he also lifted up a candle, and that little touch set me off again.  Not half as badly as when the ghosts of the students surrounded him, though.  Grantaire with his hands on Gavroche's shoulders and Enjolras' face completely in shadow... yep, tear my heart out and stomp on it, why dontcha.

The Epilogue was all that could be desired.  I appreciated the fact that we were able to see the exact moment when Valjean died-- in the concerts, that's a little vague.  But in the play it's quite obvious that it happens when he stands up from his chair--leaving Marius and Cosette huddled together in tears--to join Fantine and Eponine and remind us of a truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.  It was perfect.

And since this post is clearly not long enough already, some random little things that stood out to me...

~The way the whole thing began sent icy chills down my spine.  They didn't bother with lowering the lights, oh no.  At the dot of two o'clock the orchestra burst into the opening notes of the prologue, and the people who were still finding seats completely froze... I just hope no one had a heart attack.  :P  Then, and only then, did the lights go down and the show began.

~The acoustics in the Academy of Music are beyond fabulous.  Marius' microphone went out briefly during the Epilogue, but even from where we were sitting we could still hear his "It's you who must forgive a thoughtless fool" line.

~In the playbill, there are four or five pages devoted to short bios of all the cast and crew members, as well as the production bigwigs.  I was much amused to see this on page 20: "CAMERON MACKINTOSH (Producer) produces musicals."  And that was it.  Now, if this had been POTO, we would have had a four-page spread on The Life and Career of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I'm just sayin'.

~Several of the songs aren't given their proper names in my playbill.  Look Down is called "Paris," Do You Hear the People Sing? is termed "The People's Song," (?) and Javert's Suicide is called only "Soliloquy"-- I suppose because they didn't want to spoil that part for people who didn't know the story (though the whole thing is recapped in the synopsis a page later...).  Oh, and Confrontation isn't there at all--the list skips right from Fantine's Death to Castle on a Cloud. *assumes Marguerite voice* "How bizarre."

~As we left the theater, the notes of Castle on a Cloud were hovering in the air, bewildering me for a moment--wasn't the show over?  However, the music came not from the now-empty theater but from a street musician, playing his clarinet on the corner.  So I did something I'd never done before--I put money in the man's tip box.   It was one of those things you just have to do. 

Back to the actual show...

I was standing up to applaud before the chorus was finished with their bows.  I whooped and hollered for Gavroche, screamed when Enjolras appeared, screamed louder when Javert came out.  Who cared?  I wasn't the only one.  Every single member of that 3,000-strong audience was cheering his heart out, because that's just what you do for Les Mis.  It's mind-blowing, utterly mind-blowing, and the only response that comes near to expressing what you feel is to cheer until your throat hurts and clap until your palms burn.

And that, my friends, was my Les Mis experience.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jerry!

You in 2005
Moi in 1995
Dear Brother of Mine,

Today we celebrate the fact that you are eight years old (even though your real birthday was Wednesday).  Today, we will have cake and presents and ice cream.  As I type this, you (having no idea that I'm writing a blog post about you) are thundering around the family room playing hide-and-seek with our sister Laura.  Hmm... maybe I should stop narrating everything that happens and just live in the moment.  Miss Dashwood and her not-so-little-anymore brother Jerry are living in the moment!

To say I'm having a hard time believing that you're eight now would be an understatement.  Great Gatsby, this is your ninth year! This is the big leagues! And I guess this means I can't call you Teeny any more. Oh, you don't like that, do you? It hurts your feelings?  Sorry.  But at any rate, today on your birthday (or the day we're calling your birthday) I'm going to embarrass you by publicly telling the world just how glad I am that you're my brother.  I wanna get to the story of our relationship, the evolution of mere siblings to friends.  It's gonna make you cry... so listen up, lunch box.

On the day you were born, I was in complete shock.  Because, hello.  A BROTHER?  In a family formerly composed of four girls, a mommy and a daddy?  What on earth would we do with a boy?  (Don't get me wrong: I was thrilled to hold you for the first time, little guy.  But I still couldn't believe you weren't a fifth sister.)  The question, as I began to discover later on, was not what we would do with you, but what you would do with us.

Over the last eight years, you've made your presence known in this family. And we're a kajillion times the better for it.  You're our firecracker, the one who runs instead of walking, shouts instead of talking, tried to be born three months too early (I'm so thankful we didn't lose you!), the one who's so adorable that sometimes we can't take you seriously.  You've got moxie, kid.

You've taught me that you simply can't make pizza without blaring Disney music as loud as possible (and singing along... also as loud as possible.  LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS TO DEFEAT THE HUNS!). You've taught me the fun of spontaneity, the importance of taking little moments here and there (okay, everywhere) to just be crazy.  After all, you and I live in the United States of Don't Touch That Thing Right There In Front of You.  Which means we're Americans, and we don't plan.  We DO.

You've taught me more than I ever wanted to know about cars and trains, about Legos and Tonka trucks.  You've reminded me time and again to not be afraid to be amused by things, to throw back your head and laugh even when no one else thinks anything's funny.  You've taught me that everyone has different strengths and talents, that some people learn to ride two-wheelers at the age of four and still struggle with memorizing a single line for a play when they're older.  You've taught me that no matter how often you see your favorite movie, it's just as special the eightieth time around, when everyone around you is falling asleep and you're still avidly watching and laughing your head off.  You've taught me that somebody's gotta pay--pay for what?--I don't know, just PAY! It's Manifest Destiny!

You've taught me that a little boy is so much more than just "a noise with dirt on it," as people like to say.  You've taught me that gentleness and compassion come in all shapes and sizes, that being the world's greatest rough-houser only increases the strength of your hugs. You may be small, snack shack, but your heart is large... metaphorically speaking.  You've taught me that no two people can ever be exactly alike, but that despite a gap of ten years and many differing interests, you and I can be absolutely awesome friends.  You've taught me that the key to happiness is found not in physical exercise, but in love.

Some other folks might be a little bit smarter than I am 
Bigger and stronger too, maybe
But nobody's ever gonna love you the way I do
Just me and you, boy
And as the years go by our friendship will never die
You'll see it's our destiny
'Cause you've got a friend in me.

Oh, and one more thing before I close... you may be a Snackyvore that eats snacks and treats, but MOM SAID NO SNACKS.  It's a FACT.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Miss Bates' Twelve Days of Christmas

I have seen Les Mis.  Live and in person.  I am still fumbling and collecting my thoughts and doing my best to compose an account of the experience THAT IS NOT ENTIRELY WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!! so it may be a while before you hear very much about it.

Suffice to say that it was very nice indeed.  (And I do not refer to the binding of the book.)
Oh, very well, splendiferofantabulous, if you prefer a more expressive word.

Anyways, I have a little piece of randomness to share with you today-- a scrap of verse composed back in October and tucked away in a notebook "for my blog at Christmastime."  Heh. Well, I forgot all about it at Christmastime, and Christmas is most decidedly over now, but I can't make myself wait until December rolls around again, so here is a Regency Christmas carol at the wrong time of year.  Deal with it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Hetty Bates of Jane Austen's Emma has been so kind as to submit her version of The Twelve Days of Christmas for your perusal.  She was interrupted midway through, which is a mercy which means the carol only includes days one through five, but I think you will get the idea.  Do bear in mind that attention to meter and to the main idea are not her strong points, please... but with those things remembered, I think you may enjoy this.

On the first day of Christmas, Mr. Knightley sent to me (not to me only, but to Mother and also Jane--how pleasant it is that Jane could come for Christmas!) a barrel of apples from his very own tree.  (And lovely apples they were, too-- LOVELY, MOTHER-- and so kind of Mr. Knightley to consider Jane's health! Apples are so beneficial to the health, you know.)

On the second day of Christmas, Mr. Knightley sent to me (and to Mother and Jane, of course) two horses (and a carriage, how very generous!) to take us to the Coles' party.  (And what a splendid time we had there, to be sure, and Jane was so admired!*)

On the third day of Christmas, Mr. Knightley sent to us (dear me, it does not seem to rhyme quite so well when I alter it for accuracy.  It is a pity Jane has gone to the post office, for she would know how to put it right!) three quarters of pork (PORK, Mother!) and a servant to put them in the pantry.  (Naturally the servant was not a part of the gift-- oh, no, he returned to Donwell Abbey after performing his duties-- but he was so courteous and obliging while he was here, and such beautiful hindquarters of pork!)

On the fourth day of Christmas, Mr. Knightley sent to me (dear me, I do believe I had better leave it as it was originally, though it is not so correct as it might be) four invitations to Donwell Abbey (to go strawberrying, you know-- and though there are but three of us, it was so thoughtful of him to consider that we might wish to bring a guest! I have suggested to Jane that she might wish to invite one of her friends from Ireland-- perhaps the gentleman Mr. Dixon who so heroically saved her life, but she seems disinclined to do so.)

On the fifth day of Christmas, Mr. Knightley sent to me (ah, I have remembered! Today is Thursday and Miss Woodhouse will call and perhaps she can give me an answer regarding this puzzling dilemma betwixt fact and rhyme!) five golden pears (picked from his own orchards, too, think of that-- ORCHARDS, MOTHER!)!  Four invitations (so thoughtful) three quarters of pork (so kind), two horses and carriage (really he is quite an angel-- ANGEL, MOTHER!), a barrel of fine apples-- and here comes Mr. Knightley! (Do excuse me, I must go and thank him straightaway, and here is Miss Woodhouse too, what a very merry party we shall be...)

*Yes, yes, yes.  This is a Mrs. Bennet quote from P&P95.  I am well aware of that.  But it just fit so nicely that I simply could not resist.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bits and pieces...

I've been bouncing about the house all day today alternately singing and humming this...


ONE DAY MORE until my sister and I see it LIVE! I can still hardly believe it. Really, it's quite incredible. Excited doesn't even begin to cover my feelings right now-- I can only imagine what my emotional level will be when we actually get inside the theater. Heehee.

Some of you have asked when I plan to see the movie, and when I plan to review it.  I'm going to wait to see it until it comes out on DVD, and it looks like that's going to happen in April.  So... we shall see.

Also... forgot to wish y'all a happy New Year yesterday. Ooops. Happy New Year, everybody! There are a ton of "goodbye, 2012" posts flying about the blogosphere right now, and to be honest I don't really have the time or inclination to add anything thoughtful to the mix-- I'd just end up bursting into "Do You Hear the People Sing?" at the end of every sentence. So I'll save my Year in Review post for my next blog-o-versary.

One more thing before I close-- the lovely Jessica was interviewed here a couple of weeks ago, and is giving away a copy of her captivating novel Annabeth's War.  (I'm almost finished with it, and boy is it ever good!) The winner of the giveaway, as announced on December 21st, was Padmé Arya Éowyn Istalrí Skywalker.  However, I still have not heard from her.  Padme, if you're reading this, please send me an email to missdashwood95[at]gmail[dot]com by Monday, January 7th.  If I haven't heard from you by then, I will need to pick another winner.

Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store! One more dawn, one more day, one day moooooooore!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Christmas Carol (1984) Review

I really need to think of a better title for this post, because the one you see before you is not really accurate.  You'll be reading about the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol (hereinafter referred to as ACC because your editrix is a lazy typist), yes, but what you'll be reading isn't technically a review.  I do like writing blog posts about movies, but my posts tend to be Rambling Mishmashes of My Thoughts and General Impressions When Watching This Movie.  Which is a rather long and drawn-out way of describing this type of post.  Which is why I just use the handy-dandy word "review."  However, if you really want movie reviews, Yet Another Period Drama Blog isn't the best place to go.   But if you want a great deal of nonsense and rambling mishmashes... set a spell and take your shoes off.

Anyways.  Moving on.

I've read ACC almost every Christmas since I was about eight years old-- I think it was Christmas 2002 that my mom read it out loud to our family in the evenings and I was mesmerized by the story.  It was scary in parts, but it was such a good kind of scary, and by the time the next Christmas rolled around I wanted to read it on my own.  I didn't get around to it this year, with so many other things going on, but I did get to see an extremely faithful (and delightful) screen adaptation of the book, which was almost as good.

Before this movie, I'd never seen a "straight" adaptation of ACC-- only the Muppets version, which is wonderful on its own, but not quite as faithful to the book as it might be.  Heehee. Melody has been recommending this version of ACC to me for a full year now, and so when I discovered that my library had a copy, I put it on hold and my family sat down together to watch it on a Friday evening in mid-December.  And I LOVED IT.  Shall I give you a rundown?  I shall indeed.

George C. Scott is one of those actors who is supposedly very famous and I'm supposed to recognize, but to be honest I'd never heard of him before this movie.  And at first, I wasn't too thrilled.  My mental image of Scrooge is that of the original book illustrations: the tall, thin guy with the pointy nightcap.  I blush to admit it, but the computer-animated Disney version of Scrooge comes closest to the Scrooge of my imagination.  I didn't like George C. Scott's looks at all... at first.  Which just goes to show that I can't be trusted when it comes to liking/not liking certain actors and actresses.  "[Miss Dashwood], I fear, is not very constant."  At any rate, despite what he may have lacked in physical appearance, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge-- he was just the right kind of squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner that Scrooge is supposed to be.  And his transformation at the end was truly believable-- I was quite pleased.  (My mom and I did have to wonder, however, if all that somersaulting about on the bed at the end was filmed in just one take... heh.  He does seem a bit old to be cavorting about like a little kid in a bouncy castle.)

Jacob Marley, played by some guy whose name I do not know (and am not in the mood to search for on IMDb) was excellent.  Marley always scared me more than any of the other ghosts when I was little, and his appearance in this film sent delightful chills down my spine (yes, I'm easily scared... get over it).  The Marley brothers in the Muppet version are, of course, hilarious, but sometimes one wants just a little more... hmm... accuracy.  I do hope the picture above does not scare any of my younger readers-- but hey, they'll be fine.  It's culture.  (Okay, it's horrid of me to review ramble about one version of ACC while quoting lines from another one, but if I am a wild Beast I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.)

Bob and Mrs. Cratchit were delightful-- I haven't seen the version of Jane Eyre in which they played Mr. Rochester and Jane, but I'd like to.  Bob Cratchit was just as I'd pictured him when reading the book (sorry, Kermit, you're not quite the thing) and though Mrs. Cratchit wasn't quite as I'd imagined her, she was still good.  I liked the interaction between the two of them, and the little mistletoe scene was especially cute.  :D The Cratchit kids were good too-- the whole atmosphere in the Cratchit household was one of fun and affection.  It felt like a real family, another of those touches that made this movie so... oh, I don't know... I don't like to use the word "delightful" all the time because it seems like a cop-out but it keeps coming to mind.

The only Cratchit I did NOT care for was Tiny Tim... I have to wonder if the auditions held for that role included a casting call for Absolute Ugliest Child in the British Isles.  Okay, so there was probably makeup involved to make him look sickly... but still.  And the way he talked irritated me no end.  "Mewwy Cwishmas, Meestah Scwooooooooooge."  Please.  Give me a wide-eyed green baby frog any day, thankyouverymuch.

The person whom I always refer to as "Nephew Fred" (though supposedly in this movie his name is Fred Holywell) was probably the most likable character in the whole shebang.  He's pleasant, cheerful without being annoying, forgiving and fun.  And he kinda-sorta looks like Edmund Sparkler.  I'm not the only one who thinks that-- my dad first pointed it out in one of his early scenes and we spent the rest of the movie exclaiming over his resemblance to Sparkler-be-quiet.  It isn't his facial features so much as his facial expressions and way of talking that remind us of Sparkler.  Of course he doesn't go around calling people "mater" and expressing his approval of those who have no nonsense about them, but he did make us think of Sparkler.

Mrs. Nephew Fred (okay, so technically she's Mrs. Holywell, but I like silly names) was sweet, just as she's supposed to be.  The simile game played at the Holywells' Christmas party, though not in the book *scowls and taps foot* was great fun to watch, and though she seemed a bit slow on the uptake when it came to the phrase "tight as," she seemed quite a likable character.

I absolutely adore movie connections, and when I watch a film for the first time and spot a familiar face, you can usually hear me from here to Halifax.  (My family saw White Christmas for the first time on Christmas night, and when I spotted George Chakiris as a random uncredited dancer in one scene, I squealed "BERNARDO!" in a most unladylike manner of which I am much ashamed.  But not too ashamed to put it on my blog for the whole world to see... cough.)  Anyway, do you recognize the chap on the right?  He's one of the solicitors who comes to Scrooge near the beginning of the film, a rather insignificant character, but he also happens to be Ponceau from... (all together now, Leaguettes)... THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL!

The Ghost of Christmas Past was not exactly awful, but I must say I didn't much like her.  The Ghost is supposed to be a child, or at least a being with the appearance of a child, and though she was better than a creepily-animated little girl sporting toilet paper streamers (yep, I'm dragging in the Muppets again), she reminded me rather eerily of a makeup-free Dolly Parton, which was not the kind of impression I wanted to have of the Ghost of Christmas Past. (Apologies to Dolly Parton fans everywhere.  Erm... well... on second thought...)

The Ghost of Christmas Present was much like Mary Poppins-- he flew, pulled things out of nowhere and was practically perfect in every way.  Just exactly the way I pictured him in the book (yes, I know you're getting tired of hearing that) and the most accurate portrayal of this spirit that I've seen yet.  He had just the right blend of jollity and sternness-- the Muppet spirit has only the jollity.  I will confess to being a wee bit freaked out during the Want and Ignorance scene (it was abrupt and unexpected, to say the least) but that doesn't mean it wasn't good.  That part is supposed to freak you out a little.

That being said, I'm not sure if I would recommend this movie for children under six.  The Ghost of the Christmas Yet to Come scared my seven-year-old brother more than he cared to admit, but since he's not at all accustomed to movies scarier than Up, he might not be the best standard to go by.  At any rate, the Ghost of Christmas Future was not very spooky, but he was frightening enough.  I did think that section of the movie was exceedingly well done-- the music especially was very exciting.

Have I really gotten this far and said so little about the music?  With the exception of traditional English carols (which were grand, by the way) all the music in this film was composed and conducted by none other than Nick Bicat, who composed the TSP music that we know and love.  (Not to mention Clive Donner directed the whole thing... and Ponceau makes an appearance... sheesh, all we need is a visit to Blakeney Manor and ACC could become TSP's companion movie!  Purchase both today in a handsomely bound box set!)  The entire soundtrack had a deliciously old-fashioned feel to it: suspenseful at the right moments, warm at cheery at others.

The costumes, too, pleased me mightily. (They were garments, you know.  Garments were invented by the human race as a protection against the cold.  Once purchased, they may be used indefinitely for the purpose for which they are intended.  Unlike coal, you know, which is momentary and costly...) I tend to be quite picky about costume accuracy in movies, and the piddling fact that I'm no expert doesn't keep me from turning up my nose at a dress that doesn't fit the time period.  The costumes in this film looked like they came smack out of Victorian London, and the dress in the picture above was one of my favorites.  Can't say I thought much of many of the hairstyles (though the lady in that picture is sporting a nice one) but then, it was the era of side ringlets, and what can you do about that?  Not much.

Overall, I highly recommend this delightful (there, said it again) Christmassy film.  It's family-friendly (minus the scary elements mentioned earlier), old-fashioned (always a plus), a reasonable length (100 minutes) without being too rushed, and the music is swellissimus.  My rating?  Nine stars out of ten... excellent.

I do hope you've enjoyed reading this... and now, please get back to work before I am forced to conclude that your services are no longer required.*

*Mr. Scrooge said it first. I am only quoting.