Saturday, July 13, 2013

"He's like Gordon Ramsay on downers with a PhD in History..."

A Rococo dessert from Day's website
That's how my husband described British food historian/chef Ivan Day when we watched the BBC special "Having A Ball" in which the Netherfield Ball from Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" was recreated at the Chawton Library (Austen fans will know what I'm talking about; if you aren't an Austen aficionado, you're already out of the loop, so stop reading now!). Day was brought in as a food consultant for the goodies consumed/imbibed at such early 19th century dances. There were dance historians, social historians and dress historians to refer to, but perhaps with the exception of the dancing, the reproduction of the food - using the same kind of cooking equipment that a cook from, say, 1798 would have been using - was really what I found most fascinating.

My hubby was actually paying Day a compliment, by the way!

Now, lo and behold I just stumbled onto Day's food history blog. I've added it to my "I have to check this daily" list.

There is a plethora of photos and lots of expert explanation from Day. Even if you simply have a general interest in cooking or 18th/19th century social customs, you should take a look at it. Historic food is a side interest that I'm beginning to delve into a bit more,  now that I'll soon be having a much larger kitchen than the one I currently own. Yup, we're moving next week! We'll set up shop in a new house across town and we're really looking forward to it. Photos and the like shall follow later in the month!

For now, feast your eyes on Mr. Day's creations. Just make sure you eat first. The rule of restraining from grocery shopping on an empty stomach should also apply to his website. ;-)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What did I tell ya?

Read this:

I'm not the only one comparing Gatsby to the Great Recession.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I gave in and saw "Gatsby"

I cried once (not at the luxurious shirts, but the right background music at the right time). Laughed about three times (thanks, Toby). I reveled in the clear-air-&-sunshine-after-a-spring-rain incandescence of the cinematography, as if Luhrmann were trying to show us what the atmosphere looked like before pollution. *That* was worth the price of admission. However, as with all of Luhrmann's tilt-a-whirl films, you have about 3 seconds to visually take in the texture of a scene that should require about 10 at least. Most of the  story is squished into 2 hours and portions of the plot that would have been sumptuous to watch are simply told in a brief flashback. You don't really get a great deal of visual detail to linger on when it matters. For instance, Nick and Jordan are supposedly having tea in one scene...but we never see what's on the plates or where the cups are. The camera focuses on their faces. And the scene lasts all of about 30 seconds. Again: Gatsby recalls his youth growing up poor in the midwest and in another ubiquitous flashback we see another 3 second shot of a wagon/hovel in the middle of the plains - then it's gone and fades into something else entirely. More detail...please? I'm even having a difficult time remembering what I saw because it sped by so quickly.

Going along with my "death of American culture" kick from last time, this swift way of story telling felt as if it were mirroring an Internet/texting culture. Disposable bytes of data that are not necessarily saved. It'sherethenit'sgone. One saves letters, birthday cards, love notes -  like we did in the early 90's, remember? But one doesn't save texts. Or emails (in print form, anyway). Maybe I'm an old fogey before my time, but I like digesting films like I do a good meal - slowly, one piece at a time.

It was all quite a triumph to observe, even if most of it was computer-generated. The acting was fair, that was all. In sum, I found it quite easy to become emotionally involved in what was transpiring, even if it did flash by. That, my friends, is good movie-making.

The 3 second shot.

Friday, May 10, 2013

...What Gatsby?

West Egg - This one still from the film sums it all up.
I read Fitzgerald's novel many years ago, as an undergrad. I remember little of it, I admit. I leaned towards the Romantics and 19th century Victorian literature in college (and now) more than 20th century American, so the fictional world of West Egg deteriorated in my memory rapidly after I set down the book. The Art Deco aesthetics of the 1920's are a particular favorite of mine and I truly adore the jazz artists of that decade than perhaps any other, but little else can grab my attention about that era. I have always perceived those ten years as a dizzying, frenetic high speed train oblivious to its future wreck.

So in that spirit (ha!), here are my ideas on Baz Luhrmann's film, which I may or may not see this coming week:

  • The Soundtrack: Music plays a big part of my life, both in the classical and modern vein. I drive to music, write to music, and I rely on it for so many daydreams and ideas. I detest and despise most Top 40 songs, save for a very select few, mostly for moral and artistic reasons. So I wasn't too thrilled with the music for this adaptation, as much as I knew what my reaction would be. Luhrmann doesn't exactly specialize in period accuracy (or does he? See below). It's mostly filled with a lot of (c)rap artists and chicks like Lana Del Ray, with whom I have a love-hate relationship (long story short: I like her retro style, not her music). Her song "Young and Beautiful" is tear-inducing, until she starts adding in lyrics that make absolutely no sense: "channeling angels in the new age now..." Huh? Jack White's "Love is Blindness" has a hypnotic killer opening that effuses cool and slow-motion visuals in the mind's eye...until he starts screaming into the mic. Once I realized that this was probably a song about suicide, I turned it off. However! We do have Emeli Sande singing Beyonce's"Crazy in Love" set to a 1920's jazz sound that immediately caught my attention as a delicious fusion between 2003 and 1923. I learned how to dance the original Charleston last year; wiggling and shimming around to this was good fun, but it lasted all of 3 or 4 minutes. I admit changing the lyric from "Got me hoping you'll page me" to "Got me hoping you'll phone me right now" would have helped if you wanted to give it an historically correct retro flair, but one can't have everything.
  •  The Product Placement: Go to the Gatsby film website and click on "Guide To Style". Not only did the art directors and costume designers delve into the Brooks Brothers' 1920's archives for creating the mens' costumes for the film, but they also used Tiffany & Co. original designs for jewelry, et al. Now you can buy the same Daisy Buchanan jewels and Nick Carraway sweaters at both establishments. It seems The Plaza hotel in New York is also jumping on the band wagon with extravagant 20's-inspired food, drinks, rooms, menus, desserts and on and on.
  •  In Sum: I could wax poetic on how I see the film's popularity as analogous to our current Great Depression Part Deux: nothing teaches you more about the present than a bit of history. Fitzgerald's fictional concoction of drunken desolation sans morality is glamorous to look at. It's excessive, expensive, chic and cool. But I also think it's like looking at an early 20th century version of our current generation. 
I have little hope for today's youth (I am 29 years old saying this). They drink themselves into alcoholism by their 18th year and are inundated by a post-modern nihilism that saturates the media (music, film, television, the Internet), which they constantly engage in; it is a philosophy that is so bereft of purpose and joy that the current rate of suicides in people of high school and college age comes as little surprise to me. I see it in the "who gives a ___?" attitudes of the young people I encounter on a daily basis, which truly saddens me.

I think this is reflected well in Luhrmann's film especially. Part of this is his choice of gutter music from the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, (sorry, dude, your name is William) to capture the youth demographic, which is one thing I really dislike. This is because with that one exception I spoke of above, setting modern day rap music to a film set in the 20's is ridiculous. This was the era of musical giants of the Jazz age. They were *real* musicians. It's a slap in the face to not at least include some period pieces of music in the film to give a nod to authenticity.

The decade of the 20's was the calm before the storm that hit in the 30's. In 2013, we are already in our own financial tempest. It all comes together in one way or another.

I'll enjoy the costumes and other visuals if I see the film (and the acting, naturally), but that's about it. Let's hope for the best! Maybe Luhrmann will be smart enough to thrown in some Bix Biederbecke or Jelly Roll Morton to the soundtrack.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Shakespeare and Science

O Gentle Readers,

I've been gone a month, but oh what a busy one it was. Blogging had to get tossed on the back burner for a while as hubby Dave and I were busy remembering lines and stage blocking for the Abbey Players' production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It". It was marvelous good fun and a gorgeous production! We'll definitely be back on track to be in more plays now that Grad school is out of the way and our schedules are cemented, more or less. The female members of our troupe went ga-ga over our costumes, which were either spot-on Elizabethan or whimsical and fairy-like. We owe it all to AnnaMarie Gatto, our multi-talented Belmont Abbey seamstress. See below. ;-)

"Am an attendant Lady, one that will do to swell a progress, start a scene or two, advise the Prince." - With apologies to T.S. Eliot. ;)

The set, which is a based on the stage at the Globe Theater in London. This is will be our permanent set for all future Abbey Player Shakespeare productions. Dig it.

However, aside from flitting around and curtsying in pretty dresses, I was also working with my fine editorial team to get out the early Winter 2013 issue of BAC's Crossroads Magazine, our alumni publication. I'm the Interim Editor for this academic year, which I was (and am) most happy to take on! I had missed flexing my professional writing muscles, with nary a cramp in my fingers. Here's the online issue if you wish to take a look! Our main feature for this season is on the science departments (Math, Chemistry, etc.) at the college, along with highlights of the last year.

So there you have it! Lots more happening this summer, but it should prove to be peaceful at best. Another post shall come soon enough, so stay tuned, as always! :-)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's been a here's part of Season 1, Episode 3 of "How to be Britsh at Home"

So sorry! I'll be back on my regular blogging schedule very shortly. For now, here's the latest Anglophile news:

1. Many kudos to Anglotopia for posting a major listing of all British-themed stores in the US. I found one selling UK food about 30 minutes from my house. Bless you, Jonathan Thomas!

2. New London neighborhood-themed chocolate bars. I never visited any of these parts of London when I visited there back in 2011, mostly because of a lack of time, but I wish I had! Perhaps next time.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

I'll cut to the chase. I've listed all the ways I keep happy in America whilst yearning and lusting after England. Here's some more ways to pacify oneself!

1. Learn to dance the in old English style. Try Contra Dancing: this is a hybrid of English Country Dancing (think Austen) and country American Square Dancing. Maybe a bit of Irish thrown in for good measure. This is particularly popular in the South East United States and it keeps you fit and trim along with keeping a smile plastered to your face while you dance. ;-) Look up your own chapter/Contra dance community in your area. Mine is here.

2. When all else fails, revert back to your 5 year old self and play pretend. This will be easier if you live somewhere that has a countryside that, in the right kind of weather/lighting, can look like Britain.. I live in North Carolina, which has plenty of forests, farms and rolling foothills to stand in as a backdrop to one's flights of fancy about the Isles. Find a nice spot on a back road somewhere, breathe in, play some Celtic tunes in your car. Live in your imagination for a while and stay there until you're ready to come out. No, I'm not insane. I'm a writer. Our breed must utilize our imaginations in order to keep our craft fresh...and to stay, well, sane. ;-)

So there you have it. I'll post some more silliness and somber sayings later on. Cheers for now!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

My hubby on the Tely!

My husband, who teaches Catholic Theology, was on our local news program this morning talking about the Pope's resignation. I'm proud of him, of course! :-) Give it a looksie!