Monday, January 31, 2011

This entry assumes you have watched Downton Abbey

So these last few weeks, I have been watching "Downton Abbey" on Masterpiece and loving every minute of it. I even love it when the mean characters are being mean, because if everything was perfect at Downton Abbey then it really wouldn't be much of a story, now would it? (Although I was totally cheering when William punched Thomas. He had that one coming and then some.)

This actually was my second viewing of "Downton Abbey", and, because I didn't feel that I needed to give it my undivided attention, I was able to participate in the Twitter party for each episode (#DowntonPBS). "Watching along" with people all over the East coast was great; cheering, laughing and even booing is always more fun in a group, even if it is a virtual group.

One of the things that happens to me a lot when one of these period dramas is on is that friends and family end up asking me (because I watch so much British stuff), "who is that again?" Even though with IMDB you don't really need this, I thought I would write up a little "where have I seen him/her before?" list. It is nice to have it all in one place and with little reminders of which other period drama characters they've played (ie. editorials).

Hugh Bonneville plays Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (the man I wouldn't mind being married to.♥) You have seen him before as the evil Mr. Grandcourt in "Daniel Deronda", the dandified Prince Regent in "Beau Brummel: This Charming Man", and Mr. Claude Bennet in "Lost in Austen". (He also got to smooch Kate Winslet in Iris and was the oblivious friend at dinner who didn't recognize Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.)

Jim Carter plays Charles Carson, the butler. Familiar roles include Charles James Fox in The Madness of King George, Ralph/the Nurse in Shakespeare in Love (which I saw in the theaters 5 times), Mr. Brehgert in "The Way We Live Now" (where Anne Marie Duff jilted him), Lord Faa in The Golden Compass (simply ruined by the studio, but he was perfect), and the beloved Captain Brown in "Cranford" and "Return to Cranford".

Brendan Coyle plays John Bates, Lord Grantham's valet. (Team Bates!♥) Mr. Coyle has made his mark playing working class men with education and strong values. Before appearing in "Downton Abbey", he was Nicholas Higgins in "North and South" (father of Bessie, sob sob) and Robert Timmins (father of "Our Laura") in the first three seasons of "Lark Rise to Candleford".

Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary Crawley ("Mary, Mary, quite contrary", indeed). Michelle Dockery was recently on Masterpiece playing heiress Erminia Whyte (Johnathan Pryce's ward) in "Return to Cranford". She was also Susan/Death's granddaughter in Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" (which isn't a period drama, but I still liked it.) Her clothes on this show are GORGEOUS!

Joanne Froggatt plays head housemaid (and Team Bates! #1 fan) Anna. She played Kate in the third series of "Robin Hood" and Angelique Mahy in "Island at War" (her character falls for German pilot Laurence Fox, despite the fact his Nazi air squadron dropped the bombs on the Channel Islands that killed her dad. Oh, the humanity...but Laurence Fox is lovely, so I can support the falling for him.)

Elizabeth McGovern plays Cora, Countess of Grantham. Ms. McGovern was recently in "Appointment with Death" playing Dame Celia and was Lady Blakeney opposite Richard E. Grant's Sir Percy in "The Scarlet Pimpernel". She first wore Edwardian dresses in The Wings of the Dove and The House of Mirth. (We Yanks know her from John Hughes' She's Having a Baby.)

Dame Maggie Smith plays Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Dame Maggie is known for her roles in A Room with a View, Becoming Jane, Gosford Park, Tea with Mussolini, "David Copperfield" (opposite her Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe), and she played the goddess Thetis in the original Clash of the Titans, where I first discovered her when I was 10. SHE IS AWESOME.

Dan Stevens plays Matthew Crawley, attorney at law and Lord Grantham's heir apparent. Dan was seen on Masterpiece as part of the Jane Austen year, playing Edward Ferrars in "Sense & Sensibility" where he wore a wet, white shirt while chopping wood. He also was in "Dracula" with Marc Warren, but he had syphilis in that and wasn't as handsome as he was dying of syphilis and hanging out with Dracula.

Penelope Wilton plays Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mom. (Penelope played Simon Pegg's mom in Shaun of the Dead, but that isn't a period drama.) Ms. Wilton was recently seen as Mrs. Gardiner in Pride & Prejudice (2005), Mrs. Hamley in "Wives & Daughters", and the Duchess of Kent in "Victoria & Albert". (She also was Harriet Jones, Prime Minister on "Doctor Who", which also isn't a period drama, but, as it is my favorite TV show, I don't care.)

So, hopefully now, having read all that, it will help you connect the dots ("oh yeahhhhh") between some of the period dramas you have seen, and if there are some mentioned about that you haven't seen yet, like "North & South" or "Wives & Daughters", I highly recommend checking them out. (The only one I don't recommend is "Dracula". It wasn't scary or sexy, which is the whole point of Dracula.)

"The score is genius. It just comes from a totally different place. It's like... I can't even... Just promise me you'll rent it and listen to it. "*

I am a huge movie watcher/fan/buff, and one of the things I absolutely love about film is the score. Scores have the ability to enhance the story in some of the most basic and powerful ways. They make intimate moments between characters more romantic or passionate. They turn suspenseful moments into "I'm covering my eyes; tell me when it's over" moments. They can turn a choreographed fight scene into a battle of life and death. They can turn a camera's pan over a landscape into a broad sweeping vista of hope and possibilities.

There are movies that I find it hard to think of without thinking of the music that is featured in them: Star Wars, Titanic, The English Patient, Out of Africa, The Godfather, The Last of the Mohicans, Amelie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Glory, and ET. The music is such an integral part of the storytelling in each of these films. I think to try to tell these stories without the score would lesson each of them significantly.

I think that greatest portion of my music collection would fall into the category of film score/soundtrack. It really is what most of my new purchases seems to be. I also have a bunch of film score play lists for my iPod: "Romantic Film Scores", "A Truth Universally Acknowledged" (music from Jane Austen adaptations), "Dario's Scores", "John Hughes Movies", "Wizarding World of Harry Potter", "Pirates!!", "LOTR Selected", "Queen Elizabeth", and "John Barry Scores".

John Barry is definitely one of my favorite film composers. He has a significant body of work, having written the music for the James Bond movies, Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, Somewhere in Time, Enigma, and The Lion in Winter. He died today at the age of 77. There is a great tribute video up on YouTube highlighting the best of his work. Chances are, even if you don't know the man's name, you are going to recognize his work. (I always associate flowing strings with brass and piano as John Barry's MO.)

*from The Holiday

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"All I wanna do is to thank you even though I don't know who you are You let me change lanes while I was driving in my car"*

Driving to work this morning after last night's snow storm, I briefly got stuck in a snow bank at the end of the alley leading out from the lot where I park. I put the car in reverse a couple times and then would try to move forward with no success. Then I remembered the tried and true rule that I learned in high school- when driving up a hill in snow, put the car in 1st and constantly accelerate- which did the trick. Soon I was on the road with the rest of the people driving to work.

I learned how to drive in a 1980-something Buick Electra Estate station wagon (very similar to the one pictured here.) My friends in high school referred to this car as "the boat". This moniker was accurate; the car was huge. We could fit two parents, four kids, luggage for six, and a collie pretty comfortably in it on family trips.

The great thing about the car, in retrospect, was that I learned how to drive in a car that was bigger than any car my friends had or I had subsequently. My dad made sure I could parallel park that car in downtown traffic and do a three-point (K) turn in it too. I drove it on the highway and in snow and ice. Having learned on that car, really made doing any of that stuff in a smaller car a piece of cake. One time in high school, a friend's little Honda Civic was blocked in on three sides in the student parking lot, and she asked me if there was anyway to get it out. With a little manipulation, I was able to extract it for her; it was easy for me because I was used to dealing with a monster car.

Driving in a big city like Boston has its challenges (traffic, construction, one-way streets), especially in bad weather, but the skills my dad taught me in that tank masquerading as a station wagon have held up over the years, and I am glad that I learned them when I did. (Doesn't make driving in the snow any less stressful, but certainly can help in bad moments.)

*lyrics from "Whoever You Are" by Geggy Tah

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clink, clink

One of the cool things about traveling abroad is foreign money. When I was young, my Aunties used to give the leftover change from their foreign travels to my siblings and I. I have a collection of random change from all over Europe: Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Greece, and Turkey, among others (all pre-Euro;the German money is actually West German from 1950).

I happened to be going through my leftover sterling from my last trip to England and wanted to document one of the things I love about British currancy. The current monarch is stamped on all the coins so, unlike most American money, the portraits on the the coins change. Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne so long, they have actually aged her on the coins.
ERII coins: tuppence and pounds
It is certainly a unique way of tracing one's life, aging on the coinage of the realm.

In among my foreign coin collection, I found a George V penny.
George V penny
It is so worn that I can't read the date on the back of the coin, but as he ruled from 1910-36, this coin is not quite 100 years old. I like the idea that it was rattling around in someone's pocket during the first half of the last century and marvel at the fact that it is now at my house in an EU of old change in a jar.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful"*

Walking over the Mass Ave bridge this morning was something akin to Rhett Butler walking into foggy nothing at the end of Gone with the Wind.

Visability looking across the Charles to Cambridge
(It's like the Nothing from The Neverending Story ate MIT.)

I looked a gift horse in the mouth this morning and have been regretting it ever since. I took the T into work because of the snow storm, and, after being in an overheated B line train for longer than I could handle, I made the decision that I would walk from Hynes to work. As I was leaving the station, having "refilled" my Charlie Card, I found in front of me a nearly empty #1 bus, just sitting at the corner of Mass Ave. and Newbury St. Instead of getting on it, I popped my headphones in my ears and trudged over the Mass Ave bridge to Cambridge.

Walking through the city during a snowstorm is one thing. When you are crossing an open bridge with nothing to block the wind, that is a whole other kettle of fish. Snow pelted me in the face, and my glasses completely fogged up. By the time I got to work, my exposed hair was soaked and frozen; it took me two and a half hours before I warmed up properly again.

I have learned my lesson. Tonight, I am taking the bus back into Boston.

*I wish that I had a delightful fire right about now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011

Sometimes there is nothing more beautiful than a sunny day after a snow storm. I took this photo yesterday morning shortly after I woke up.

After the blizzard

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year's Goals - FAIL!

A couple of years ago, I decided to give up on making New Year's resolutions. It seemed to me that it was all too arbitrary and forced, and I never ended up keeping the resolutions anyhow.

At the start of last year, I decided I was going to set some goals for the new year: I was going to try more new things (eating oysters was a big one - yum!), not allow myself to go into hermit mode (making plans with friends for Saturdays), and blog more (in an attempt to get readership up and make some online connections). End of the year review of set goals:

Trying new things - check
Anti-hermit mode - check
Blog more - check

The goals made were actually accomplished! And I was pleased.

So I set myself a new round of goals for 2011. The first two were the same, trying new things and doing more things with friends (albeit this year I want to do more in downtown Boston, in particular). The new third goal was to be more healthy in both diet and behavior so that stupid little colds didn't turn into walking pneumonia and the like. I started the new year by going over RECK's house for NYE. Then on New Year's Day, I went for a 45 minute walk outside in the fresh air and made plans with JR to go to the movies the next day. Checks all around.

Then the second of January, I woke up with a stuffy head, sore throat, and a cough. All of which, eight days later, I still have. (I finally called the doctor today.) And because of this cold, I had to cancel my plans with JR to go to the movies, AND my "Twelfth Night" plans for this past weekend, and stayed home from work a couple of days last week.

So basically, I have turned into a hermit with a cold that has turned into a big hullabaloo, and I haven't even blogged yet this year. This is the opposite of the New Year's goals!

I hope this is just a temporary set-back, and, by next weekend, I will be back in good form and will be able to tackle my goals as intended. As I keep trying to remind myself, that start date of January 1 is completely arbitrary; every day has the potential to be the start date for positive life goals.


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