newmoonstar: (Doctor Who: Victoria)
Been reading Emma by Jane Austen. My impressions of it here )

In my Classic Doctor Who Watch-athon, I've finished 'Delta & the Bannermen'. All I can say is that I now take back what I said about 'Paradise Towers' being weird- it was perfectly normal compared to 'Delta & the Bannermen'! Poor old Seven just gets the weirdest stories. (And that's really saying something, considering this is Doctor Who...) Rambly Whovian musings here )
newmoonstar: (icon by marble_feet)
Wow, it's been a while since I've had time for LJ! It's been a pretty awful couple of months, but outside of the horribleness of car repairs draggging on for months (and still not fixed!!) and having to help my mum clear her stuff out of the basement, I've actually had a chance to do a little reading. (Gasp!)

I haven't read an actual novel in about 2 years, but I eventually picked up Trilby by George Du Maurier. Victorian sensationalism it may be, but I've always been rather curious about it. In it's day it was wildly popular enough for Trilby hats to be named for her (though she doesn't wear one!), and Svengali is now a dictionary term everyone knows, and so it's interesting to go back to the source and see what created such a stir. I'm about halfway through, just before Trilby actually appears to sing under Svengali's power, and even though the authorial voice can be rather Victorian in the negative sense (condescending toward Jews and imperious toward women, and generally very sure of the insightfulness of his observations), nevertheless, it's also a cracking good read thus far. I haven't been bored yet. The beginning, with bohemian artists in fin-de-siecle Paris, is colorful and fun, and the characters actually are quite believable. Trilby herself is a great character, except for the fact that she's got to fill the typical, annoying, 19th-century tragic heroine plot. But even with the melodramatic stuff, I'm invested in the characters and interested to see how they all end up.

Also made an attempt to watch the Metropolitan Opera's complete Ring Cycle when it aired on TV, but really I just think the human body wasn't meant to sit for that long! Gotterdamerung alone is like five hours long! I had to turn it off every now and then and go do other stuff throughout most of them, just to keep the circulation in my legs going! Also I always find it a bit of a slog to watch anything with subtitles, no matter how good it is. And all the talk about the sets was just hoopla, it didn't look that different or exciting (at least the parts I saw; I missed Siegfried forging the sword and slaying Fafner, and I would have liked to see their dragon! But I saw all the finales, which were pretty cool. The Ride of the Valkeries, on the other hand, was singularly lame. It just looked ridiculous, like they were little kids sitting on giant seesaws on a playground. When you've got such epic music, you just gotta have a more striking visual to live up to it). But it was still a fabulous production, thanks to the fact that the Niebelungenlied is just an awesome story for an opera (and would have made a much better series of movies than it's better known rip-off by Tolkien! Just sayin'.) and the great cast, who were all really wonderful. Deborah Voigt in particular, was an amazing Brunhilde. (The image of Brunhilde as a stodgy fat lady in a horned helmet is forever put to rest by her, I think!) She was just radiant. She really managed to bring out every side of the character, from the commanding yet vivacious goddess, to the conflicted daughter, to the beautiful, sexy paramour, to the wronged, but still noble, human being. You couldn't ask for more. And she and Jay Hunter Morris (who was also amazing! Where does he get that boundless energy??) as Siegfried had really great chemistry too, which I find is rarer to come by in opera, where they obviously have to cast roles based on voice before all other considerations. So that was a lucky strike. The whole cycle is on DVD, and I think I might actually have to go back and watch all the parts I missed someday. It was that good!

And I've listened to a ton of cast albums, so reviews will be forthcoming when I get more time!
newmoonstar: (icon by marble_feet)
Been doing lots of interesting research lately. Just finished an amazing book A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights by Sherry Penney and James Livingston. It's a biography of one of the founding leaders of the women's rights movement in the 19th century, and so inspiring and eye-opening. Martha Coffin Wright (sister of Lucretia Mott) was one of the organizers of the first Woman's Rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, was present at the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in the 1830s, and served on in it's business commitee, her home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, she attended or presided at all of the annual National Woman's Rights conventions and many regional ones from 1850 to 1861, she was part of a party of women who went to Washington to speak before the Senate in support of women's rights, she collected signatures for the National Women's Loyal League petition during the Civil War, which helped to end slavery, after the war when the Women's Rights movement split, she sided with the more radical NWSA, attending their annual conventions and becoming a president in the 1870s, but continued to advocate for reconciliation with the more moderate AWSA, who were also friends and colleauges. Over the years she wrote numerous letters and articles championing women's rights and abolition for various publications, and counted Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison,and William Henry Seward, among others, as personal friends or reforming colleauges.

I always thought I knew quite a bit about the history of the women's rights movement in America, and I probably did know a bit more than most people. But Seneca Falls, Stanton and Anthony, and Suffragettes are just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much interesting stuff, so many more brave people, so many important events, and so many untold stories that are worth discovering, and I'm really excited to go find out more now. :)
newmoonstar: (georges barbier (m_icons))
Omigod people, I just won six months of free ice cream from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream! There are scarcely words to describe how awesome this is, since they make literally the best ice cream on the planet. I actually used to hate ice cream before I tried theirs. One taste of Coconut Almond Bliss will convert anyone!

In more omigod! news, a girl I went to kindergarten with and have known for years is having a baby. That is so freaky when the first of your peers has a kid! We're both 22, but that feels so young to me! Suddenly I'm entirely glad that I'm a geek with no social life; I would never exchange reading history books for changing diapers! Yikes! But I'm happy for her, anyway.(As long as she never asks me to baby-sit!)

Finished reading Agnes Grey. A really wonderful novel. I can't believe it's never been adapted for the screen yet! It reminds me a lot of Jane Austen, actually, and since she's so hot right now, you'd think similar stories would ride the wave. Plus, Agnes Grey has the added interest of being a candid expose of governessing, which is a great glimpse into 19th century social history from a woman's point of view, but much more pleasant to read than a history book, because it has a happy ending and it's all told with the wit and skill of a very talented novelist. Anne Bronte has a style all her own, and I don't know why she's always considered 'the other Bronte'. Just because Charlotte and Emily are her sisters, there's no reason to measure them up up against one another, as if they must all be somehow the same, or one must be better than the others. That's just silly. I admit I jointly dismissed all the Brontes together before I'd actually read any of their books, but once you do, you'd have to be blind not to see that they were very different, but equally talented.
newmoonstar: (waterhouse (icons_by_jenn))
Ever have a sewing day where everything went so horribly wrong that you felt like you wanted to give up sewing forever? That was me a few days ago. I haven't touched the 1820's doll dress since then because the bodice is just not fitting, and I ripped out a side back seam I probably shouldn't have, and... well, let's not go into it! I have no idea how to fix it, but I'm trying to pluck up the courage to try again. Which I will do, because I've made up my mind that once I'm finished I'm going to take apart this old pseudo-Victorian dress I made for myself many a year ago. It doesn't fit and only looks vaguely historical, but the fabric is SO perfect for circa 1780-1800, so I'm going to see if I can remake it into:
a) a 1780's robe a l'anglaise
or b) a 1790's round gown
or c) an 1800 open robe.
I'll have to figure it out once I know how much fabric I've got to work with.

Also started reading Agnes Grey. It's just freaky how people are exactly the same no matter what time or place they're in, even down to the things they say. I really do think I've baby-sat for the same families Miss Grey has been a governess in!
newmoonstar: (little dorrit (spaceyplum))
Well, I didn't go to the Renaissance Faire, ironically, because it was too cold! There were gale force winds and I could barely keep my coat on. But today it's 85 degrees and I could keel over from the heat. Going from 50 to 85 degrees in the space of four days is just wrong. Darn global warming!

Finished reading Wuthering Heights. Believe it or not, it's not as bad as I thought. )

And now I have to find a new book to read. How will I procrastinate with my sewing if I don't have a book to read? *teehee*
newmoonstar: (man in chair (everyfivesecond))
The Broadway Odyssey continues; I've fallen in love with The Secret Garden in a big way. A gorgeous score, rich and atmospheric, a wonderful cast, a magical story, the whole nine yards. I hadn't actually read the novel before, so I rushed out and got it after I listened to the show, and I really love it. The show does diverge from the book in a lot of ways; even before I read the book I thought the numbers with the adults going on about their past and how they all loved Lily were unnecessary and dull, and distracted too much from the main story, and after reading the novel, and finding out that there was nothing of the sort in the source material, I think so even more. Also reading the musical's libretto and finding they wasted a whole book scene on an invented sub-plot about sending Mary to a boarding school, is a bit distracting as well. But I can put up with all that, because of all the good stuff that's there. The music really captured the feeling of magic the novel has. And the cast was wonderful; usually child stage actors are way too hammy, but Daisy Eagan was very natural as Mary; John Cameron Mitchell was great as Dickon, despite the fact that they made the character older, he still had the right sort of elfin charm to make it work; even Mandy Patinkin, (who is the last person who could ever believably play an Englishman) played the role much more low-key than I've ever seen him in anything, thankfully! In fact the whole cast found just the right tone for it, and the ones who had to have Yorkshire accents accomplished them splendidly. The whole thing was a great treat, well-done from start to finish.

I wish I could say the same for the cast recording of the 2001 London revival, though! I was intrigued by the fact that it was supposed to be a 'steamlined' version, but instead of cutting just the extraneous material, they cut some of the best songs too! The did cut the "Quartet" for the adult characters, which was the weakest number, but they also cut "Show Me The Key", which was one of the best! It was also a very important plot point, when the robin shows Mary the key to the secret garden, and it was the most ingeniously integrated piece of musical adaptation in the whole show. But in a way I'm almost glad they did, because the London cast was terrible. Mary and Dickon were the best in the Broadway cast, but the worst in London. Their Mary was one of those stagey hammy children you always find, and their Dickon was... I don't know what that was! He was very strange and even a little bit creepy, because he's really crazily excited about whatever he's singing about, and it was just strange. They really ruined "Wick", and I fear what they would have done to "Show Me the Key". And his accent was terrible! It was something akin to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, I kid you not. You would think an English actor (I assume he's English, anyhow) could do Yorkshire at least as well as an American, but no. Happily, they did cut most of the ghosts and their rather repetitive commentary (Yes, people, it's a concept musical! There are singing ghosts!) but they added a whole chorus of singing, dancing servants and gardeners! WTF??? How can it be a Secret Garden if there are twenty servants regularly invading it to sing and dance?? At least the 7 or 8 ghosts aren't actually 'there'. And Colin's mother being there as a ghost makes sense, because it was her garden. But dancing servants! Oy. And the guy who played Ben Weatherstaff was a comic or something, I think, and screwed up "It's a Maze" by trying to make it a more comedic number. The one thing I liked in the show was how they extended "Come Spirit, Come Charm" to include more of the Hindustani chant and swirling Indian music, but that's literally the only good thing in it that they didn't screw up. That was the big problem here, the tone was all wrong. They tried to make it cute or silly or jolly, when it's supposed to be beautiful and solemn and joyous. I suppose that's a weird combination that's hard to get right. But the Broadway production did it. I think I'll have to make some room for it on my list of favorite musicals. In the top 5 even. It's that good!
newmoonstar: (icon by marble_feet)
Been reading Irene Castle's autobiography. Hugely fascinating. I knew about as much about the Castles as any self-respecting history geek, and I always thought they were terribly glamorous, since you always see pictures of her in books on historical fashion, and of course there was the movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but I never imagined just how huge of celebrities Vernon and Irene Castle were. Their life was even more rich with glamor and adventure than any fiction story you could find. They knew practically every famous name you can think of from the early twentieth century, and their dancing career encompassed theater, nightclubs, teaching, vaudeville, movies, society parties and benefits. It's just amazing. I'm so amazed no one else has ever thought to make a movie out of their story, since the reality was so much more exciting than what 1930's Hollywood decided to change it into. I've got to dig up more stuff about them. I'd absolutely kill to see the silent movie they made; I wonder if it still exists somewhere! Further research is definitely called for. :)

Also broke down and am reading Wuthering Heights. There's no danger of my falling in love with it, but I have to say there is a sort of train wreck quality to the whole saga. You sit there thinking "God, these people are awful!" but then it's like, "Well, I gotta see what wild and crazy thing they'll do next!" It may not be nice, but it's never boring. It really is the ultimate guilty pleasure read. I'm convinced that if Emily Bronte lived today, she could have a fabulous career writing for soap operas! ;-D

Considering how many books I'm currently reading (and there's several more besides those!), Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is unfortunatley going to have to wait a while. But I actually got as far as checking it out from the library! I really will read it this time, really!
newmoonstar: (icon by marble_feet)
Eeeeee! I just met Patricia Polacco! She was at the local library today! For those of you whose childhoods didn't include her books (and who I'm very sorry for!), she's the author and illustrater of many lovely and touching picture books, like Rechenka's Eggs, Chicken Sunday, The Keeping Quilt, Mrs. Katz and Tush and many others. I first learned about pysanky eggs in her books! I still get a tear in my eye when I read Chicken Sunday! She actually showed us the real Keeping Quilt! She couldn't read until she was 14, and now she makes her living as a writer. How amazing is that? There is so much negative stuff out there teaching children all kinds of hateful things these days, and it's so great that she makes books for children that teach them tolerance, to celebrate family in all it's forms, to understand different backgrounds and celebrate what's special instead of to divide because of differences. And she signed a couple of my books! And gave me some publishing advice! All in all, a very good day!

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