Television: Nirvana in Fire

TL:DR It's brilliant, watch it!

One of the highlights of the past couple of months has been Chinese 'historical' costume drama Nirvana in Fire. I saw this mentioned online a year or so ago and thought that one day I should get round to it, and occasionally saw it again, and when I reached the end of season 3 of Black Sails and had re-watched the 2015 and 2017 cross-country skiing world championships from the sofa and still there was no end in sight to lockdown or coronavirus, I thought it was time to give probably cheesy, certainly gorgeously-costumed Chinese drama a try.

I am so, so glad I did. One, occasionally two, episodes a day has been my mainstay over the past month. I'm 30 eps in now, with a glorious 24 to go, and I love it. Who would have thought that people sitting opposite one another having conversations, which is a good 80% of the scenes, could be so riveting. And yet it is. Every single episode I sit there going "no, you're not going to are you? You are! Oh you cunning bastard!" about a whole range of characters.

NB I've kept this basically spoiler-free other than the basic premise as revealed in the first episode. No spoilers, please! This is one I need to watch to the end unspoiled (except for the rather silly thing I am aware of.)

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It is fair to say that NiF, with zero nudity*, zero swearing, far fewer scenes set on ships or in brothels, and very limited blood, is in many ways the polar opposite of Black Sails. Except that for all the differences, both lead characters and the plot are driven by an obsessive quest for revenge against a great power. And if that means that they, or the innocent, get hurt, well that’s just what happens. Admittedly the protagonist of NiF tries quite a lot harder than Captain Flint not to hurt other people, but he doesn't hesitate to do it if he has to, and when he does, he is brutal.

Tune in now for cunning plotting, amazing costumes with truly ridiculous hair ornaments, fighting, and people exchanging a wide variety of Significant Glances** indicating various cunning plotting***, nefarious plans, suspicion, stoicism, ruthlessness, guilt, and of course doomed love.

Here is the trailer. Click on the closed captions box for English subtitles.

I've been watching it largely on YouTube (there are a couple of different English subbed versions, this one has the Viki subtitles), but there are a few episodes missing, so those I watched on Viki, which is official but has really annoying adverts, presumably unless you subscribe. I should probably look up which is the version with the best subtitles, but this one is perfectly adequate and I like the footnotes as to what various honorifics mean.

ETA Oh God, I am halfway through ep 33 and it is encapsulating the agony of viewing! The Emperor is unsure, Consort Jing is so clever, and her son really, really needs to acquire a political brain fast. So much is said so calmly, but it is devastating underneath. This is why I love it.

ETA 2 Finished ep. "Xiao-Jingyan, why do you not have a brain?" I could have died. It is so good.

* There is a shocking rolled-up sleeve moment.

**There is a lot of what Joey Tribbiani would call "smell the fart" acting, except that the acting in this is top notch and the Significant Glances representing what cannot be said matter desperately. A huge amount is done with a the slightest movement of the expression.

***Actually cunning plotting, revelations unfold one after another in beautiful order. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/295786.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Some truths are eternal

I have come to the conclusion that even if I won Euromillions and bought a giant mansion including a room dedicated to filing, nay, even if I were God and dwelt in a mansion of infinite rooms, I will never be a person who isn't constantly leaving bits of paper on every flat surface and then getting annoyed when I have to clear it off because I want to use a flat surface.

I don't need a hobby room, I need a hobby room with six separate tables for separate purposes and a giant flat table in the middle I can just shove stuff on as and when. And a secretary. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/295516.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Amazingly, being nice to patients is helpful

This little BBC article on the importance of an empathetic approach by doctors amused me after my consultation of this morning, which was indeed very cheering and empathetic.

OK, I'm not entirely sure that GPs are supposed to make sarcastic comments about Boris Johnson, but it was very funny and entirely in the context of mutual commiseration about having mild cases that go on for ever. Obviously one doesn't always want the GP to be telling you about their own health, but in some circumstances it is really nice to talk to someone who knows exactly what you are experiencing and the frustrations and the wondering of "is this a symptom?" Also, I now have a prescription for antibiotics so that if the sinus symptoms are bacterial, at least I can stop having to fight that at the same time. My boss lives locally and will be dropping it off this evening.

The GP also urged me to download the app if I hadn't done so, noting that they want data from people at any stage, so I will remind you of it, too! https://covid.joinzoe.com/. As an incentive, if you report symptoms having previously reported not having them, you might get a test! This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/295071.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Hollow laughter at this one

From the Guardian: Lingering and painful: the long and unclear road to coronavirus recovery

This morning's mistake was folding the laundry. Not doing it, mind you, just folding it to get it out of the way, and then washing up. Not the sort of thing that generally has one breaking out in chills and fatigue. Arrgh.

In better news, I have nearly finished the jigsaw, and discovered that the one in the bottom of my wardrobe bought in a charity shop because it was of Knaresborough with the vague thought that I could do it when I got a cold, is also 1000 pieces. So at least I have things to keep me occupied! This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/294866.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Musicals: Love Never Dies

Never let it be said that I am unjust. I have to admit that Love Never Dies is not as bad as I expected, although my expectations were subterranean. I'm not saying that it wasn't absolutely awful, mind you. Just that watching it was not quite as bad as it might be, and it did have potential. Wasted potential. Still, I'm glad that I have seen it and can now be critical from a position of greater knowledge.

So in brief:

* Some of the music is really good, if you like that sort of ALW music, which I do.

* The broadcast was of the Australian version, which reworked the London production to an extent and remembered that the Phantom is in fact a baddie. It thus works better in parts, while still terribly in others, the problem being the fundamental premise.

* The child actor was very good indeed, especially given the significant demands of his role.

* The staging is excellent, and the filming was much better than you see in a lot of musicals.

* The ending goes on forever, features the Phantom as the world's worst hostage negotiator, and fully earns the Paint Never Dries sobriquet.


* Beneath A Moonless Sky (The One In Which They Remember the Sex) was exactly as excruciating as I expected, I was watching from behind the metaphorical sofa. It would probably have been helped if there had been any chemistry whatsoever between the leads.

* The real moral of the story is that if you lend/give somebody money you should ensure you have a proper contract that entitles you to a large share of the ownership of an profits from the assets of you theme park. Especially if that someone is a multiple murderer obsessed with someone who is not you.

*Ultimately, if one accepts the basic premise that The Phantom of the Opera is a musical in need of a sequel (which, as you can tell, I don't) then the music showed genuine potential at times. There was stuff here that could have been worked with. But it failed not simply because of the premise, but because the execution of an already flawed premise was so self-indulgent. It needed someone to take a long-hard look at what would work not for the creators, but for the majority audience with this story.

Today's viewing is the National Theatre Twelfth Night, which I expect to be rather better. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/293945.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The Phantom of the Opera, or, Don't make a public proposal unless you've discussed it beforehand

I thoroughly enjoyed last Friday's Phantom broadcast, and also got to stop feeling foolish that I hadn't gone to see the production live, because although I still remember the advert from the Observer I had forgotten that it was only on for three performances, and I never knew that the tickets sold out within hours anyway.

Some thoughts:

* The orchestra is enormous. I love seeing a live productions with a really big band and cast. Admittedly on the music front this is rather more impressive in the theatre than streamed via YouTube.

* @antisoppist and I appear to be diametrically opposed in what we consider the best bits. I like the Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night sequence and Past the Point of No Return to the end. She likes the mystery "what is going on in the theatre" plot.

* Notwithstanding that I like Past the Point of No Return, I have to ask, what the hell was the Phantom's plan there? I assume it is that the scene is a set up whereby he gets to exit the stage with Christine once not!Leporello arrives, and thus is able to kidnap her at a time of his own choosing. But probably he should have thought of a better fall-back option than "propose on stage to woman who is in on a plot to kill you".

* Likewise the sharpshooters really needed more guidance on when to shoot. Still, Raoul is young and no-one else seems to be very inclined to come up with a plan as opposed to flap about in panic.

* I felt the production had been romanticised a bit since I saw it in the mid-90s, though it could be my memory. I want it to make me feel a certain sympathy for the Phantom, but he is also a self-obsessed killer, there's only so far sympathy can go. I feel it should be "he might have been a decent person, but unfortunately he is both completely mad and kills a lot of people" not "poor woobie", and this did tip slightly over my preferred line. But even so, it was eminently clear that in the end the Phantom is his own worst enemy, Christine running off with Raoul is definitely the best option, and there is no set up for Love Never Dies (see below). There is a poor quality video on YouTube of the the final scene from the original production with Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, and Steve Barton and I really liked it. Crawford's Phantom is dangerous, deranged and pitiable. I must explore what else is on there.

* ETA One flaw of the filming, like a lot of filmed staged productions, they do too many close ups of individual actors or pairs, not enough that take in the the wider stage. But unlike film or TV, the design is for an audience expected to be taking in the whole scene.

Obviously I am now wandering around the house singing bits, if croakily, and digging out the piano music.

Unfortunately, no good things last forever, and this Friday's musical is the terrible PotO sequel Love Never Dies. I've given my opinion on this before. As a friend put it, it is one of ALW's better scores, but the worst book.

I can therefore only recommend that if come Friday evening you want to watch a musical about a nineteenth-century woman in a pre-Raphaelite wig who is the object of the creepy obsession of a weirdo who lacks key social skills and who when the woman rejects him turns to manipulate her through her young son instead, and whose husband doesn't understand her - watch Elisabeth das Musical instead. It's a lot better. That said, I'm going to be watching LND, though probably on Saturday over the ironing so I can look away, because it is an opportunity to gaze on the horror for free.

Elisabeth DVD version with English subtitles here.
Original cast here (no subtitles).

This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/293519.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The Phaaaaaaantom of the opera is here, inside my house

PSA: The ALW musicals streaming offer for this weekend is Phantom of the Opera, available from 6:30pm BST for 24 hours in the UK only, 48 elsewhere (rights issues, apparently...). It is here. It's the Albert Hall stage production, not the film, so hopefully the leads will be able to sing. I am shattered after returning to work this week. Yesterday I found I was rather enjoying myself, and did 4 1/2 hours, which was too much, and then today I started with an hour long meeting with someone, followed by a second meeting for 30 mins, and then I had to get a draft agenda out and now my head is exploding. Thank goodness it is the weekend! I have a date with the sofa and a jigsaw. And an Ocado delivery. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/293146.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Further adventures in linocut printing

This year I've been enjoying a return to art as something I am able to pursue when I'm not feeling great. It's something that can be picked up, put down, done according to the strength available at the time, and crucially does not require looking at a screen. So over the past few weeks in between lying on the sofa, sitting in the garden, and keeping abreast of the washing up, I dedicated some time to carving my next linocut print, a second skier, and over the weekend I printed it. I am very pleased with the way it turned out, with a good sense of movement. It's a design I might well return to for a multi-coloured print in future, although first, it being mid-April, I think I shall do something less snowy. As I put things away yesterday I reflected on how very much I had enjoyed it, it's definitely a medium that works for me.

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This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/292654.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

You've got to pity the neighbours

The Opera North orchestra performs a social distance version of Thus Spake Zarathustra, in concet dress, naturally. Imagine being the people who live next door to the timpani. It's also quite fun to spot the Ikea furniture.

In local news, I am in some dire need of new piano music, so any suggestions welcome (about grade 5 ABRSM, not too hard. What I'd really like would be 'songs from the shows' that sit between the too easy and the too difficult).

I am also starting to feel much better once again, with fever symptoms having vanished, though I could do without the morning congestion that inevitably kicks in when I have something vaguely respiratory for a while. The Guardian has what seems a good article on how to look after yourself. I really wish that the NHS website had more on this, particularly on the need for rest. I spend so much time with colds etc. that I don't rest solidly through them, and it would have been handy to know from day 1, which was several days before I stopped work, that you need to down tools early. But that would be against the national spirit. But really I continue to have got off lightly.

Now for my regularly scheduled post-lunch sitting in the garden. It is so sunny that I have even put on a hat. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/292540.html. Please comment there using OpenID.