Thursday, January 24, 2019

Projects and end of an era

Well, on Tuesday I went back to school. College is not my favorite, but I've had a long, lovely break. In the past five glorious weeks I've been...

Researching. Since watching Vaxxed in 2016, I have been researching vaccine safety and efficacy. Someday I will be able to sit down and write a post about this issue. At the moment, I have so many thoughts and pieces of research wanting to burst out of me that I'm not even sure where to begin. All I can do is to implore you to research this topic, whether you're old, young, liberal, conservative, a parent or a monk. Googling "vaccine safety" is insufficient. There are excellent studies out there, but unfortunately you can't trust other people to find them for you. I suggest starting with The HPV Vaccine on Trial, a thoroughly well researched book which puts the information in your own hands.


Enjoying. Unusual amounts of snow, plant sojourners in my room, and Jane Austen's letters. (I pretend she is writing just to me.)

Reading. As mentioned two years ago, Christmas puts me in the mood for old-fashioned British mysteries. This year, it was Georgette Heyer's A Christmas Party (appropriate) and No Wind of Blame. I also worked on (and continue to work on!) Les Miserables in audiobook form and Hard Times, my first Dickens book to read in print. In the nonfiction department, I loved Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin and The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine.



Hanging. Since writing this post, I've had to expand to a larger bookshelf (it happens to the best of us. You can never have too many books). And since that changed the look of that wall, I eventually (18 months later) decided, with advice from my home design consultant (AKA my mother), to rearrange/update my paintings. Gertrude, the disapproving white peacock, will now preside over the bed. To make room for her, The Tempest will be sold. Two silhouettes (Anonymous Gentleman and my dear Miss Austen) will now keep watch over the bookshelf wall.

Exercising. Somehow this exercise-hating girl turned into an exercise junkie. Almost. In mid-2018 I started using Fitness Blender and over the summer discovered strength training. Being able to follow Kelly via video really helps me to stay motivated through a 30- or 40-minute workout; plus the calendar feature satisfies my list-loving, box-checking nature. I have started adding in HIIT workouts once a week (or per month, if I'm really honest). I still feel like something the cat dragged in afterwards, but I hate it slightly less than regular cardio. (Strength training, though... don't get me started. I love it, man.)

Listening. My most important musical discovery in the last month was Michael BublĂ©'s Christmas album. Some of my favorites + a person whose voice is like butter... but why try to tell you about it? Have a listen yourself. 

As always, I really enjoyed playing and listening to traditional Christmas carols, especially featuring the violin. (Interestingly, in the 2016 post I mentioned this same genre and linked to a beeaautttiful I Saw Three Ships version.) I've also rediscovered my love for folk songs, most recently 'Land o' the Leal' and 'Buffalo Gals.'



Knitting. In the past month, I've made two baby hats and started one blanket. No, no one in my life is expecting. I just find baby things easier to complete and more fun. Tomorrow I'm going to drop off this adorable panda hat and mitten set. The mittens were done within 40 minutes (not counting the duplicate stitch to add the paw detail). I enjoyed this project especially because it was simple and quick, but forced me to learn three new skills: casting on in the middle of a project, picking up stitches, and duplicate stitching. The hat pattern can be found here, but I applied the paw idea onto some thumbless baby mitts for a newborn.


Mending. Working 30 hours a week in the summer + a busy fall semester worked together to create a large mending pile. From socks to jeans to a lunch bag, I was finally able to finish some sorely needed mending.

Gluing. Hot glue has been a constant in my life since mid November, when my mom, middle sister and I created a Harry Potter themed tree for a fundraiser. I had great fun making wands by creating hot glue shapes on wooden skewers, then painting and mod-podging. My greatest triumph (which, alas, I do not have a good photo of) was The Monster Book of Monsters. First, I made a small box out of cardboard (thank you once again hot glue), covered it with a piece of fake fur, and painted the sides to look like book pages. A set of fake teeth, cut to fit, were added, as were fake eyes. A title sticker (only one of many pieces that my printer father did for us) and a braided leather strap completed the creation.


After the tree was donated, I decided I wanted to finally finish another project which has languished in my closet: a gourd fairy house. Being an avid Tolkienite, I felt that it ought to resemble a hobbit house. Which, naturally, entailed painting the front door emerald green and installing a gold doorknob.

A view through the front door.

It is a very small and simple house, consisting of a front room/study/kitchen, a tiny dining room/parlor, and a loft. The furnishings are for the most part natural — a mushroom serves as a built-in stool, the dishes are made from acorns, and a leaf comprises the pillow.

Through the right window to the parlor, set for tea.
Looking in the left window to see the sink. 
Other details you might notice are the lace curtains, the sink made of a shell, the letter box with party RSVPS, and There and Back Again lying on the desk. (Not pictured: a cuckoo clock by the door and a painting from a bottle in the dining room.) Though spending time on a fairy house with no practical purpose felt a little childish, I enjoyed the quiet detail work and look forward to displaying it in my children's nursery (which will be literary-themed, of course).

Cutting. My hair! I was eight years old the last time I cut my hair. I went home and cried in my parent's bathroom, and regretted it so much that for eleven and a half years I only got trims. Until January 2, 2019, when I cut sixteen inches off.  There was definitely some mourning the day before, but I am pleased to announce there were no tears after the fact this time.

Baking. Dozens of muffins, luscious peppermint brownies, delectable gingerbread biscotti, spicy pfeffernusse, and scones of various varieties, all accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of tea.



Watching. Besides the old Christmas favorites, over break we watched three movies which were new to me: The Man Who Invented Christmas, Castaway, and Saving Mr. Banks. All three movies were very different and very delightful. (Not quite as well-liked was The Remains of the Day. I did not feel the ending had resolution. The addition of one line would have reformed it for me.) Emma Thompson is just an amazing actress, and it was fun to see Tom Hanks in some different roles as well.



After such a wonderful break, it's hard to go back to the constant busyness of school. It is so easy to step into a mindset of complaint when I think about college. There have been some very real frustrations, and I do legitimately feel that I learned more when I was homeschooled (I certainly enjoyed it more). I enjoy being around people, but it is exhausting to be so often gone from my home or too busy to see my family.

But I also have much to be thankful for. When I received a scholarship to this college in spring 2017, I praised the Lord over and over for His provision. I have a great job cleaning an office — in addition to working a few hours a week at a preschool, with 50 people under the age of six who constitute my best friends on campus — which allows me to graduate debt free.

In addition, I feel closer to the Lord than I ever have before. My first year of college was hard. I don't mean academically. I mean being in a secular environment five days a week which constantly whispered, implicitly if not explicitly, There is no God who cares for you. I quickly realized that without the Body of Christ, living in a God-cursing world is very, very difficult. Even once I was able to get into a Bible study at my church, I struggled with feeling alone or unheard by God. I am so thankful the semester ended when it did. I wasn't thinking suicidally or considering leaving the church; but I was in need of a detox from the foolish rhetoric preached day in and day out at school. Over the summer, I had the necessary time to examine my heart, pour over the Bible, and remember the One who cares for me, who is nearer than a brother, who has a husband's heart for me.

The fall semester had difficult moments as some of my classes examined issues of homosexuality and I had to be in very dark places. But it was different than my first year. In all the hard times I knew that the Lord is unchanging, that He gives us laws only to bring freedom, and that He is present and loving.

When I constantly complain about this season of life — which in reality, is really very short anyway — I dishonor the One who regulates time, who provided this scholarship, and who made my life. Besides the fact that it doesn't bring me much joy, either. It may be a stretch to say I'll ever love my university or that, at this point, I want to love my university. But I am tired of living in a state of dissatisfaction that dishonors God, when I could live by gratitude. I have made this resolution before — to be thankful and stop complaining about college. Now, I nervously post this to the Internet, because even if only two people read this, saying it "aloud" gives me a measure of accountability.

It's good to be writing again, dear readers. I would love to hear how you spent your holidays.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Unto Us a Child is Born

I have a weird habit. (Some would say I have a problem). Though I am not pregnant and it is almost impossible that I will be for several years to come, I really love reading birth stories. Particularly the birth center and home birth stories, since ideally I'd like to have my five or nine children at home. I get a strange pleasure out of hearing all the gory details about a complete stranger's childbirth experience. The best birth story is several pages long, describes each stage of dilation, the noises made during contractions, who was present, etc.

Contrastingly, the most boring birth story I read was about two paragraphs and went like this: "I went in for my 40 week appointment and I was already dilated. So I got some lunch and drove leisurely to the hospital. I didn't want to feel anything so I immediately got an epidural, so then I barely felt it when I had to push for 40 minutes, and had the baby a few hours after entering the hospital." Umm... No condemnation if you had a baby with an epidural. Pain in childbirth is a brutal thing. But, I'm sorry, that was the most boring birth story I've ever read.

When the Bible tells of the birth of Jesus, even less details are given. It merely says in Luke 2:6-7 that "[T]he time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son." We aren't told how many hours Mary was in labor, whether anyone was present to encourage her, or what weight the baby was.

I don't know about you, but this little sentence seems inadequate to describe the struggle and miracle that is childbirth. Yet, perhaps the very lack of detail serves to highlight the fact that, no matter the experience, the important part of the story is always the baby. C-section or home birth, if there's a baby at the end it doesn't really matter what came before. Particularly so with Jesus.

The Bible doesn't tell us the gory details of Mary's birth experience, but it does tell us the good news: Unto US a child is born! Not just unto Mary or Mary's family. First prophesied by Isaiah, and then repeated by an angel to the shepherds, that a child, a Son, is born to us, Lord and Messiah at his very birth. The most spectacular birth story can't compare to the majesty of who this Baby is.



Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Little Women (2017) Mini Series Review

It's always when I'm the most busy that I have the most ideas for posts. I have had a weekend at home (yay! traveling for conferences is fun but east, west, home's best) but plenty of stuff to fill it with. So this shall be a very brief review of the new BBC Little Women (variously dated as 2017 or 2018). Apologies in advance for the picture overload.


Casting

To be honest, I didn't think any of the sisters were amazing actresses.  Amy was the worst — she seemed an annoying brat throughout the whole movie, rather than merely a slightly vain silly little girl who grows up into a young lady with a liking for elegance.


For instance, when she burns Jo's manuscript she has neither fear nor regret; instead she says brazenly "I said I'd make you pay." Now, I'm definitely biased in favor of the 1994 version (because I grew up with it, adore the music, and etc), but I think it portrayed this scene muuuch better. Amy denies having been the one to do the deed, is afraid of Jo's rage and also seems regretful, if not penitent. Jo's anger is also more realistically portrayed.

Super jealous of Beth and Jo's freckles.
Jo, Beth, and Meg had good moments and bad moments. For instance, Beth was pretty good in general, but during her scene of telling Jo she was dying (sorry, spoiler) she didn't seem to have any emotion whatsoever. Yes, she has been processing and experiencing her own decline for months, but still. One might expect a tear leaking out, a trembling lip, or at least a faltering voice...? Nope. She might have been informing Jo that she'd decided against purchasing a new hat.


I liked Meg in general, but in the "Aunt March abuses Rook" scene, she didn't seem all that believable. Buuut I got teared up in the ensuing minutes when the said Rook — er, Brooke — departs to serve in the war and the sisters are singing "Land of the Leale," so she can't have been too bad. :P


Jo also improved over the course of the three episodes. I think part of the reason her acting felt unnatural was the dialogue. Normally I'm a big fan of quoting directly from the book, but in the context of this movie (which had a generally modern rather than period drama feel, in my opinion), the old-fashioned phrases felt stilted and awkward.


Of course Marmee and Aunt March — Emily Watson and Angela Lansbury, respectively, were amazing. Father was fine. I'd like to dislike Mr. Laurence on principle (he's played by Michael Gambon) but he was fine as well.



Mr. Bhaer was much better than the 1994 actor. He seemed younger and livelier, and it seems less confusing that Jo would be attracted to him.

We cannot forget Laurie, of course. He was simply adorable - his dimple! — and fun.



Script

This leads me to the dialogue. In many parts they quoted directly from the book, but either the context or delivery made it feel very awkward. The miniseries felt both more old-fashioned and more contemporary than the 1994 version.

However, with the additional hour they were able to include Camp Laurence, Beth and Jo's trip to the seaside, more snapshots of Meg's family life, and a brief "epilogue" type scene at Plumfield.

In summary, more accurate to the book, but in some ways not as well delivered as the 1994 version.


Sound

Part of old-modern disconnect was from the soundtrack. It utilized a banjo and violin which occasionally sounded like authentic late 18th c. old West music but more often did not fit the mood of the scene at all. At some points where the mood was supposed to be uplifting, it was very dramatic/somber. At other points it was so bouncy and modern it felt like I was watching a Youtube tutorial for DIY wrapping paper.

AH! This scene!
This may be because I love the 1994 (sorry, I can't help comparing) soundtrack so much. I think it captures the themes of Little Women — the passing of time, growing up, sorrows and joys, family life — so well.


Visuals

The costumes and hair were in general very visually appealing. I'm not an 1860s expert by any means, but there seemed to be a lot more loose hair on Jo's part than would be acceptable.


Jo and Meg had several simple, but pretty, costumes that I would definitely wear in real life if it was socially acceptable. Haha.

I quite like Meg and Marmee's dresses here (incidentally I wore a dress very similar to Meg's when I played Jo in a play.)

The wedding clothes were the best. The garlands!
Only complaint was that Jo had a few really homely hats. I could only find a screen capture of one, but as you can see, it is simply strange. (Nice scene though. I loved that Jo couldn't stop smiling.)


In summary, I'd probably give it a 4 out of 5. The soundtrack was definitely a huge drawback, and the acting at some times felt awkward with the dialogue, but in general it was believable, beautiful, and fun.
Well, readers? Have you seen any Little Women adaptions? Do you support Jo/Bhaer and Laurie/Amy, or are you holding out for Jo and Laurie yet? Would you wear any 1860s ensembles?

Awdur


Friday, October 5, 2018

"My idea of good company is... clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation"


"You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company; that is the best."
- Chapter 16 of Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Ahhh.... One week ago today I departed from my house to go to the Jane Austen Society's Annual General Meeting. Readers, it was completely delightful. (Minus the parts where I locked my keys in the car, got kissed on the forehead by a complete stranger, and lost the pictures of my ball attire. But those were negligible.)

During the day, probably 10-20% of the ladies* were dressed in some form of Regency garb. Even though this put me in the minority, as it was completely acceptable to be wearing a full-length gown, I felt elegant rather than uncomfortable. It was especially fun, when outside the hotel conference rooms and wandering around buying food, to see women in gowns and spencers (with normal shoppers carefully not looking at them). I loved seeing all the variety in colors, fabrics, hats, turbans, and hair styles. Everyone looked so lovely.

The bandeau kept wanting to slip off my head, but a few pins did the trick.

I attended the three large lectures as well as four small seminars. One large lecture concerned the economy in 1814-1816. We learned about the economic crash that followed the Battle of Waterloo, during which Jane wrote Persuasion, as well as the financial failures of Jane's banking brothers. I found all of this quite interesting as it was all new information for me. The speaker also explained why Mr. Elliot *spoiler* refrains from assisting Mrs. Smith. As a lawyer and executer of her will, he was actually receiving a retainer's fee. Additionally, he owed Mr. Smith money. So if he were to settle her property, he would lose a source of income and have to repay his debts. *end spoiler*

Another of the large lectures was on "Self-delusion in Persuasion," given by a very witty British professor ("We all know the purpose of an umbrella, of course — to hold over a lady."). He pointed out that the word "self-delusion" is only used in Persuasion, but that all of Jane's novels deal with the topic. Persuasion has the least dialogue percentage of all six novels; rather, the book is full of listening and internalising. Even the narration of events is usually Anne's supposition rather than an objective narrator, and we cannot accept that Anne is unbiased. For instance, when Jane Austen writes, "Anne understood: ..." we should read "Anne persuaded herself that..." (Such as when Anne tells herself she is happy to know without doubt that Captain Wentworth no longer cares for her, as she will no longer have to wonder. Snort.)

My favourite seminar was called "Louisa Musgrove and Captain Benwick: Shipwreck or Love Boat?" The speaker started by playing a Persuasion trailer, made with the Love Boat theme (it's fun to be with adults vs. college students because we share more cultural references, haha). She presented opposing views on whether or not Louisa and Benwick would make a successful match. Have they truly grown alike? Or is Louisa only beginning to recover (and will soon realize that her liveliness is unsuited to him) and Benwick an "emotional parasite" who will attach himself to anyone willing to listen to him? 

The end of the seminar was spent in discussion. I have always been skeptical of their match, though not against second attachments in general. Though Jane might censure the speed in which he forgot Fanny Harville, she clearly would not have advocated for the kind of emotional wallowing to which Benwick (and Marianne Dashwood) is prone. In time, it is more healthy to move on from a loss than to hold onto it forever. Additionally, one attendee made a point which completely changed my view on Louisa and Benwick: though their love seems completely circumstantial, a great portion of the novel is about circumstances happening in a particular way. Even about Anne and Captain Wentworth it is said that, "Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly anybody to love." Described this way, the two couples are actually not that different.

I basically never take selfies so when I do I end up looking uncomfortable/mad.**
Of course the conversation was excellent. There was a spectrum of familiarity with Jane and the Regency era, from twenty-year Janeites to those who had only been recently introduced. I suppose I was a little intimidated by attending the AGM and was expecting everyone would be highbrow scholars who sewed their own [100% period accurate] clothing, so it was nice to realize there weren't any high expectations and it was just fun. 

It was delightful to be able to take up with a stranger and find he or she was a kindred spirit, and not have to explain references to books, quotes, etc. Or when in the lectures the speaker would reference another classic, like Dickens, and everybody nodded and laughed at the right places. Or telling someone I'm a charwoman for an office and not having to define that occupation. I don't like that this analogy sounds like I'm a pathetic friendless soul, but I would say I it was like living all your life in a foreign country and then finding a place where they speak your language. (This is no reflection on people who do not enjoy or read Dickens, Austen, etc. 19th c. reading may not be for everyone, but I adore it, and I've never been in company with people who agree.)

The Emporium was great fun and I consider myself to have been very self-disciplined to have only bought one $4 book that was on my list anyway, a pack of stationery (I'm always going through that), and taken a business card from another shop. (I also bought a little thing of Welsh cakes, but that was because I'd forgotten to bring a snack, so it doesn't really count. Shush.) Though that was all I bought, I found myself coming back between every session to roam among the books — and there, entered into multiple conversations, including an exchange with a girl originally from Kansas City, whose parents [I realized] I have danced with at multiple dances but never met. In a group of nine hundred people it was quite a coincidence. In addition to many books by and about Jane Austen, one could purchase British food, Regency attire, antique jewelry, tea towels from Jane Austen's House Museum, even a Japanese translation of Pride and Prejudice.


The period concert opera was gorgeous. I was really tired and sort of wanted to sleep towards the end, but then a lady started singing Italian opera and it was absolutely beautiful.

And of course, the ball and banquet were the highlight of the weekend —  I've never in so large a company of dancers, let alone a group that is 90% costumed and competent dancers. I sat with my chapter for the banquet, so I got to meet more members whom I've never seen before.


All in all, it was a delightful weekend, and I think Anne Elliot would agree we were in very good company.

Well, readers, would you attend the AGM? Do you think Louisa and Benwick will be a happy couple? 



Your Servant,



*I refer only to "ladies" because of the 900 people attending the conference, the majority of course were women over 40 (one of the men's rooms was re-labeled "women's" in intelligent anticipation of this ratio!). There were younger ladies and some gentlemen, however.
** Also decided there's no real reason not to post face-revealing pictures on this blog. So there you go.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A very exciting news article

(No, I'm not engaged. Sadly.)

My posts per year have decreased from an average of 35 to 17 to 6. When I do post, it's an isolated tag or random, unasked-for movie review. When I address my "readers" I wonder if they're actually in the plural. More and more this internet spot reminds me of the many blogs whose authors regularly post over 4-5 years, slowly slacken off, promise to be more consistent, and then never post again.

I recently saw another blogger post "I'm going on hiatus for the summer." This rather made me laugh. Not at the lady, you understand, but because I'm either always on hiatus or never on hiatus. The sentimental side of me finds it sad that I don't really keep up this blog anymore, but the cynical side of me just thinks it's silly to think of "updating my readers" since my audience is basically non-existent.


But I refrain from deleting it for two reasons: 1) It is a time capsule. I'm no longer the same young girl who created this blog, but, well, I was then, and I may want to visit and remember those days.

2) I sometimes have news, ideas, or creative endeavors that I must share, and since I don't participate in social media, this is my outlet. I like putting my thoughts into words and recording milestones in my life, so I'm not going to "officially stop" blogging. Nor am I going to apologize for doing so infrequently, because that's just how life is. Although I'm didn't take summer classes, I worked about 30 hours a week at a preschool (if I haven't mentioned it, I dote upon kidlets, though while I'm in certain classrooms I never think of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence). Now I'm back to being a full-time student, so when I'm not at work, in class, or doing homework, I'm taking much needed breaks with friends, family, or the Lord.


And this is one of those cases where I simply must share some news. GUYS I'M GOING TO THE AGM NEXT WEEK AND I CAN'T CONTAIN MYSELF.

Sorry, didn't mean to shout. I shall begin again. The Jane Austen Society of North America (hereafter referred to as "JASNA"), of which I am a member, is having its annual conference (known as the Annual General Meeting, or AGM) in a city close to mine. And I'm GOING. In twelve days, I shall be mingling with kindred spirits, learning about the economic background in Persuasion, examining Captain Benwick and Louisa Musgrove's relationship, and dancing the night away at the closing banquet. Plus wearing Regency attire for 48 hours.

At the moment, I'm in the middle of writing a semi-fictional paper on cultural change in the Rashidun period. But I had to take a quick break to share the the countdown to two days spent with Janeites. So now back to the Arabs.
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