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01 May 2016 @ 11:23 am
Apparently I thought that it was a good think to watch yesterday afternoon, and indeed was a decent if not inspired film*, and Ralph Fiennes was very good, and Vanessa Redgrave was magnificent, and Gerard Butler showed that he deserves to get better roles**, but ultimately Coriolanus is the tragedy of an arrogant tosser for whom it is exceedingly difficult to feel any sympathy whatsoever. I can sympathise (just about) with Roman patrician who doesn't want to be a politician because it involves not telling the common people they are scum all the time, but mate, if you don't want to be a politician, don't apply for the bloody job!

Possibly I could feel greater engagement with Coriolanus if I had ever seen him played by someone other than Ralph Fiennes, whom I have now seen on both film and live. The sole thing I remember about the theatre version is that a member of the audience had to be discreetly evacuated from the theatre having been taken very ill.

Right, it is sunny and bright outside, and I am going to attempt to go for a gentle walk and talk to myself about plot, and then this afternoon I am going to write.

*Though they cut too much of the text, I think.

**Still not forgiving him for Phantom of the Opera, though.

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I have an unfortunate habit of recording television programmes on serious subjects that I don't feel quite up to / I am busy at the time they are on, and not getting round to watching them. Slowly the DVR fills with serious television. And then on a day when I am off sick and want to watch TV* I look at the options and they are full of such things as:

* Subtitled TV drama (can't be watched without glasses).
* Documentaries on historic atrocities.
* Thing that I didn't watch at the time because actually I don't care.

Which is why in the last two days, as April continues to pretend to be winter and I have a stinking cold, I have turned to elderly videos and to YouTube and watched two films about young women finding new worlds, with bonus music.

Legally Blonde - the Musical

This was broadcast on MTV a few years ago, and some kind person has put it on YouTube, and the equally kind copyright holders haven't taken it down. It's a fairly straight adaptation of the film (a terrific comedy), very pink, and I found it a lot of fun.

Legally Blonde was always a film not only about sex, but about class. Elle is marked not only by her particular style of pink femininity, but by her West-coast-ness, her evidently very new money, her not being a 'natural fit' at ye olde establishment Harvard Law School. The major change** in the adaptation draws on this in its depiction of Emmett, from a posh bloke played by Luke Wilson who is also a partner in Callaghan's firm, to a TA who is himself also an outsider, on grounds of class. The alliance between Elle and explicitly working class characters (and working knowledge) was always one of the interesting parts of the film, and the explicit focus on it in the musical adds narrative heft to the book. Emmett and Elle's shared outsider status gives Emmett clearer motivation for his friendship with Elle beyond the film's "he's a nice person" and allows Elle to mirror the benefits she gains from his insider knowledge of Harvard and law with her insider knowledge of the transformative power of dress (and the money to pay for it).

Musically, it's not particularly interesting. The tunes are light and catchy, it moves with zip, but the music is of the kind that adds entertainment rather than depth. By far the best songs are Callaghan's jazzy Credo-like Blood in the Water and the courtroom Gay or European (2.35 for the song), which together steal not only the best tunes, but the best rhymes. Both, interestingly, are about categorisation, the first about how the (would-be) lawyer sees themself, the latter the challenge posed by the person who defies categorisation - and in its ultimate revelation of its subject as both gay and European heralds the thematic resolution of the show, in which Elle can be herself as well as a successful lawyer.

Beauty and the Beast

The 1991 Disney cartoon version, which has its own musical adaptation that I am now kicking myself for not seeing when it was touring a couple of years ago. This is an old favourite, and having not watched it with nephew in the end, I felt I would see it anyway. I can't remember if I saw it originally at the cinema or when released on video, in any case I thought it was good then and I still do. Watched on video, the age of the animation shows, though I suspect it would look less old with the sharper definition of a DVD (checks YouTube, yes it does), but the visual inventiveness holds up nonetheless. It was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and while I won't claim it should have won*** it is certainly on a level with plenty of Oscar nominees over the years.

Belle is a charming heroine, intelligent, resourceful, a book-lover, and kind, and she and the Beast's cathedral-like library are clearly a match from the start. The Beast himself is a great cinematic creation, an exaggeration of every macho cartoon hero ever, bristling with muscles, hair, and temper, who must go through a process of civilization, but crucially one he achieves for himself. Disney is traditionally good at villains, and Belle's ruthless would-be spouse Gaston is a suitably monstrous contender. With pot-shots at anti-intellectualism, gender roles, fear of the outsider, and the way a charming small community can become stifling and predatory, the witty script is engaging throughout and there's not a dud song in the piece. It has become a cliché to deride the fairy tale prince the Beast turns into compared to his furry start, and it's true that the prince could never live up to him, but he's not bad, just conventional, and that was never going to win over viewers. I suspect that part might work better in the stage version, if played by a sufficiently handsome real human being.

*I have worked out why I for the past couple of years I have been reading for pleasure much less in than I used to: because I find it difficult to read when my eyes hurt. This came to me yesterday as I realised that I had read more in the last month than I have recently, and yet somehow I didn't want to read yesterday. And then I put 2 and 2 together...

**There are a couple of important minor ones as well, in the change in the finale proposal from being made by Emmett to its coming from Elle, and Brooke Wyndham's accidental public revelation of her alibi (is this also necessitated by the greater class focus of the show, given that Brooke is to some extent a snake oil salesman, whose products make her rich, but can't deliver their promise, even for her.)

***The Silence of the Lambs did. I can't remember if I've seen it and forgotten, in only clips.

****Tale as Old as Time may give the ballroom scene, but Gaston is surely the best character song.

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26 April 2016 @ 07:37 pm
I've been following the revelations of the Hillsborough inquest today. As this article puts it, 'It wasn't about football in 1989, it isn't about football now.' It's about vested interests failing in the moment, in the following 26 years (including the inquest in which the South Yorkshire Police kept trying to claim it wasn't their fault), in favour of protecting the incompetence and prejudice of their own against people they considered scum. While prosecutions for events on the day seem distant, I wonder what scope there is for charging with perjury those people now clearly shown to have lied and to have known that they were lying.

On a very different note, Opera North has announced its 2016/17 programme, and I think I might have to move to Leeds. Billy Budd* and Rosenkavalier (production I've already seen) in the autumn, a concert Turandot in the spring, and best of all, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden in the winter. I admit that I want to see The Snow Maiden for Saga of the Exiles-related reasons rather than operatic ones, but I suspect that I shall not be alone in booking a ticket because of that.

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22 April 2016 @ 12:10 pm
Middle sister arrives this afternoon accompanied by eldest nephew (3 and a half). I have made the beds, taped shut various cupboards, purchased Weetabix and apple juice, put up the blackout over the bedroom door fanlights*, found my video of Beauty and the Beast, and purchased a small Lego box for purposes of outright bribery. Exciting aunt status shall be mine!

*Who on earth thought that these were a good idea? Oh, I get the principle, but all it actually means is that a person switching on a light almost anywhere in the house can wake up everyone else.

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20 April 2016 @ 08:31 pm
The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett (Lymond 1)

Finally finished this. It took me some time to get into the story and its cast of often unlikable and/or confusing characters, but I ended up enjoying the last third a lot, and on that basis will read the next one. Though Lymond himself remained an epic woobie to the end*, circumstances made him less annoying and I found myself being interested in other people. I even managed to sort out most of the plot by giving up on the overarching politics and focusing on the characters, which it turns out allows one to follow the overarching politics (mostly) and indeed start having an idea what the characters are going to do. SpoilersCollapse )

He Who Reigns in Strelsau by [personal profile] el_staplador. AU The Prisoner of Zenda that starts from the premise that Rudolf Rassendyll meets Duke Michael's men in a Ruritanian forest, instead.

Various Sue Barton, Nurse books (Helen Dore Boylston), courtesy of [personal profile] antisoppist. Very engagingly written, with lots of fascinating historical detail about nursing in the north-east USA (and briefly New York) in the late 30s to early 50s (the one with no intervening war). Sue's eventual husband is really annoying, but at least the narrative isn't always on his side, and Sue's desire not to give up her profession in order to marry him is presented as an ongoing struggle. It was interesting just how many married women were shown working in the books, especially outside hospital jobs, though I don't think there were any women doctors.

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17 April 2016 @ 09:25 am
Ages ago [personal profile] marginaliana asked if people had favourite folk songs, and I meant to respond, but didn't. So now I am.

No-one else's version of a folk song you first hear sung by your mother can ever be perfect*, but this one is as close as any could get. The photos of Roundhay Park do it no harm in my eyes.

*Especially when you're the sort of person whose head shrieks "IVY tree, not rowan!" at every chorus.

This entry was originally posted at http://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/193140.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
I have already made the mistake of taking a crackfic premise and thinking that it would be fun to explore it properly, it won’t really take too long... Having learned from this, I therefore give you as much as “Bunter and Lord Saint-George unexpectedly find themselves taking care of a mysterious baby” as there is ever likely to be.

We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.

‘I’m telling you, it isn’t mine!’

Bunter looked from the naked infant currently occupying the Chesterfield to his employer’s eldest nephew and raised a sceptical eyebrow.

‘Honestly,’ protested Lord Saint-George. ‘I know it’s not completely implausible, and its hair is the right sort, but I have got a sense of self-preservation. Besides, I’m no expert, but this one looks pretty new to me. It’s very small, and what is that?’

‘I believe it is the cord stump, my lord.’

‘Well, nine months ago – and ten months ago and eight months ago - I was in America. It can’t possibly be mine. Come to that where were you nine months ago?’

‘In France,’ said Bunter chillingly, ‘with his lordship and her ladyship.’

‘Hmm. So that rules him out, too. Good thing really, it’d be a bit tough on Aunt Harriet, all things considered. Spare me the affronted look, it’s not like he hasn’t been around a bit in his time though I wouldn’t expect him to be careless. Let’s have a look at the letter again.’

Bunter produced a neatly folded letter and envelope.

Dear sir, Please take care of my baby. Her name is Margaret. I know that I have not been a good girl and deserve my shame, but your lordship was not to know, and I leave her with you knowing as how a gentleman like you will think of your obligations and not hold the poor mite’s mother against her, and will raise her decent and not put her in one of them horrible homes. May God bless your kindness.

‘Was that all that was with it?’

‘Yes, my lord. It was on tucked into the blanket containing the infant when I made the discovery.’

‘It sounds to me like she’s been reading too many cheap novels. Does anyone really talk like that these days – all Thomas Hardy shame and mites and things? I’ve never heard it.’

Bunter looked thoughtfully at the note.

‘Nor I, my lord. Moreover, I venture that any young person whose literary inclinations did lie in such a direction would not be likely to write them on paper costing 10 shillings for a dozen sheets.’

‘She might be a servant and have pinched it.’

‘It would have required some forethought. A servant would have been dismissed some months ago.’

‘True enough. But look here, isn’t that the sort of dent left by a cuff-link? It looks like my letters to Mother when I’ve had to stop and think about a tactful bit in the middle.’

‘It is indeed my lord.’

‘A compliment about detective genius running in the family wouldn’t go amiss, you know. So in sum we have a baby of unknown origin and a bloke – possibly – trying to get rid of it. Maybe it’s an embarrassment to him, or perhaps it was available and he thought he could use it to embarrass Uncle Peter. I don’t think Aunt Harriet would refuse to believe him if he denied responsibility even if he hadn’t been in France, but the bloke isn’t to know that.’

‘It is an intriguing hypothesis, my lord.’

‘Isn’t it? We’ve got six hours before Uncle Peter gets back. It’s not quite how I’d planned to spend them, but it would be a coup to solve his case for him. He might even forgive that last solicitor’s letter.’

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12 April 2016 @ 06:35 pm
Scene: Nineveh_uk is in PC World to pick up a cheap USB stick so that she will finally create the factory reinstall disc for her 10 month old 'new' laptop. She is there because it is clear that she is not going to get round to ordering one more cheaply online.

Nineveh_uk: Oh! Look at those dinky tablet+keyboard/netbook things! They are small and light and the ones that are not meant to completely replace your computer (nor made by Apple) are really cheap! Just imagine, you could take one and holiday and get some writing done, typing on its real keyboard!

Reality: Really? Let us consider how much you ever write on a holiday, even with computer access. Is there any chance that you would actually do this on a real holiday, as opposed to a fantasy holiday enjoyed by your millionaire self in which you e.g. spent a month in Norway skiing every morning and writing in the afternoons?

Nineveh_uk: When you put it like that... Ends resolution to go and look at dinky netbook things in Which?

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09 April 2016 @ 03:05 pm
Courtesy of [personal profile] lilliburlero

Fic Work-In-Progress Guessing Game

Comment with a word, any word. If it’s in my WIP document(s) I’ll answer your comment with the sentence that it appears in.

This entry was originally posted at http://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/192331.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: ,
07 April 2016 @ 11:35 am
Last night I dreamt that Japanese teenagers engaged in a form of divination that involved using Hula Hoops (the crisps) in a sort of table-top quoits. It was basically a variant on ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ with more complicated rules and although it could be done using no more than a packet of Hula Hoops, naturally little special kits were available including pastel-coloured plastic Hula Hoop-like rings and cutesie instructions. I don't think I've eaten Hula Hoops in 25 years, but apparently my brain still has them to hand for being weird with.

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