Sunday, June 14, 2015

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Episode 1

The BBC's 6 part adaptation of Susanna Clarke's epic novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, began it's US run Saturday night. I am a huge fan of this book and eagerly followed the progress of the production, and made my children sit down and watch the first episode with me.

I am not a stickler for complete faithfulness to the source material when adapting written work for the screen. Indeed, with it's many footnotes and meanderings, Jonathan Strange would take many more than 6 hours to execute with faithfulness. No, my rule of thumb for adaptations is: do the characters behave as they ought? Baz Luhrman's modern Romeo + Juliet works as it ought because the characters behaved. Joe Wright's Regency eye candy in Pride and Prejudice was undercut by Lizzy kissing Darcy on the moors. Uh no. Lizzy and Jane are defined by being all that is correct in their manners in direct contrast to their here and there-ian sister Lydia.

Circling back around to Jonathan Strange, the characters were almost exactly right: Jonathan is impetuous, Childermass is cynically knowing, Norrell is fussy and abrupt, Vinculus is manic and sly, The Gentleman is calmly sinister. Yet there is something wanting about the first hour and I think I know what it is: it doesn't let you rest for a minute.

Jonathan Strange, stripped of the footnotes and excursions into mythic past, has a huge amount of story to tell.  It is the story not of two, but three magicians: Strange, Norrell, and John Uskglass, the Raven King.  With the exception of Strange's courtship of his wife Arabella, it jumps from one plot marker to the next without letting the impact fall on the viewer. The stakes, the otherness of magic, the far off storm cloud of the Raven King, need to be built to a fine tension wherein you are longing and dreading for the hammer fall.

Three particular scenes could have been employed to better use establishing that otherness. First: in the York cathedral Norrell establishes his practical bonafides by making all the statues speak. In the book it begins with the face on the corbel decrying the murder of the girl with ivy leaves in her hair. The corbel face is the first and last statue to speak. It underscores the notion that all your secret sins are not hidden from magic and even the stones will cry out for justice. In the show, you are barely able to discern the delight, sadness, and captivation of the theoretical magicians as the behold the first practical magic in hundreds of years

Second: Of all the scenes, save the raising of Lady Pole from the dead, the most important is Vinculus meeting Norrell and Strange and his prophesying for them. Because Uskglass is the Once and Future King, and has not yet returned to England it is important that his proxy be given the space to give you his exposition. Whether or not Vinculus will be able to speak the prophesy to the third person it most impacts on the show I anticipate greatly. He mumbles some of it to be sure, but the poetic obscurity of the prophesy is best contrasted with the plain clarity of the prophesy in action.

Third: Childermass and Vinculus confront each other and it is revealed they are both more than they appear. Childermass tells Vinculus' fortune with Marseilles cards, revealing his own ability with magic. This suggests that both Strange and Norrell are not so isolated in profession as they believe. Further, Vinculus tells Norrell's fortune transforming Childermass's cards each into the likeness of the Raven King. It calls for a slower reveal at the beginning, picking up the pace as Childermass begins to understand that Vinculus is more than a scoundrel and a pick pocket - and that John Uskglass is not done with England.

I have hopes that the rapid pace of the first episode can be attributed to a need to establish a lot of things in the outset and will allow the eerie inevitablity that infuses fairy tales to infuse the show.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

For all K Addicts

I am going to begin reviewing 2 dramas weekly. Bachelor's Vegetable Stand and Kimchi Family.  Check back every Wednesday for new drama content.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Exercise of High Emotion

No Jogging Here.

I was standing in my Room of Mediation, washing my hair, when I had an epiphany.  I was the weird kid. (Some of you are saying, she's only getting this just now?)  I was thinking about my own kids and the particular sturm und drang of my eldest daughter.  She is ALL DRAMA all the time, where as my youngest is mostly easy going.  Volunteering in their classes you see the panoply of kids that inhabit the classrooms.  I am happy to say that my kids are not on the edges of the behavioral bell curve.  Parenting Success! Level up!

Some kids though are just weird.  There is the smart weird:  these kids are off in their own worlds and finish their work through snatches of focus.  There is weird weird: the kid who thinks nothing of trying to fit 5 pencil top erasers up his nose, just to see if it can be done.

I am pretty sure I was smart weird, but not 100% sure.  I tried fitting a whole sleeve of saltines in my mouth once just to see if I could whistle with a mouthful.  I regularly poured glue all over my hands to make them look wrinkled like old ladies' hands.  I didn't play Dungeons and Dragons, I played the knock off Christian version, DragonRaid, and I liked it.  I contemplated learning the base clarinet because I thought it might be my ticket to "coolness".  Who thinks like that?

In 9th grade we had those "career guidance" tests?  Amid the cops, physical therapists and engineers, mine said "philosopher".  That should have pegged the weird meter.  Now that I am an adult and my weirdness is charmingly quirky.  It's part sf nerd, part book nerd, part self deprecation  but I have got to think that at some point a teacher or helper looked at me and thought, "Man, that is one weird kid."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A New 5 K

We have begun running with the Kiddos and training for Race the Reserve.  It is humbling to go running with the under 12 set.  They have taken to running with a enthusiasm that makes me wonder how they sprang from my loins.  The Littlest is Mutant Running Child, running behind her is like watching the Road Runner run past you.  I expect to her her say "Beep Beep" and run into a tunnel that turns into a cliff face for me.

The Boy Runs along like a human, a good pace - exerting himself but bopping along easily.  Eldest Girl also bops along but she is not exerting herself - she doesn't flush or breath hard.  I know she'd be up there with her siblings but is content to trot next to me, running is the new social experience.

The Adoptees - Soul Sister's children with us for a week - are taking to the run with good grace.  Her Son is a cub scout buddy with my Boy, they lope along together. Her Girl is accepting enough or the situation but is looking forward to The End.  I know the feeling.  After every run segment she asks, "Is it The End yet?"

At last I can stop telling her no and say, 'Nothing but walking now!"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Masakatsu Agatsu

True winning is winning against yourself:  so says my mom's favorite Japanese adage.  Well I won.  Dear Husband and I ran our 5K today - the South Whidbey Chum Run.  It has come at the end of a crazy busy week so it was a marathon just getting there.

We got to the check in and were immediate immersed in a sea of swarming fit people.  Alarmingly fit people, who were all smiling and walked by with bounces in their steps and the songs in their hearts practically pouring from their ears.

Dear Husband and I received our numbers and being a race newbie I ripped off the perforated tag on the bottom.  Noticing that every one of the other bouncy people still had their on their race numbers I shrugged and compounded my error by throwing the tag away.

Everyone lined up and some cheerful young kid from the local track team made everyone do a pre-race dance.  The horror. The horror.   I just wanted to get this going already.  I saw athletic friends who run it every year and grimaced at them.  At last we began and I started my run mix so I could catch my pace.  Holey Moley! we were running across the grass.  It was so bouncy and soft that I could barely run on it.  I just want to run on sweet sweet asphalt.  I fell to the back of the pack right away.

Into the woods we went and immediately started up a hill.  The story of my life.  Still, we were off turf and that was a blessing untold.  Hills oh the hills we kept climbing!  I kept my pace and was beginning to feel the first on set of whinyness.  This is the true runner's wall.  Your neck aches, your side gets a stitch, your mouth goes dry and the inner critic begins.  "Well just like school you're dead last - there goes the chubby girl running."  I remind myself that this is a "fun" run and the point is to finish.  Then the three year old passes me.

I remember the three year old.  He has been looping his mother in long parabolic arcs and then demands to be picked up.  His mother picks him up and manages to run a few steps and then sets him back down and he begins his orbit again.  Yeah - that's passing me.

Keep on trucking.  Look at the tree roots spray painted so you will not trip over them.  Keep running.  Ignore the friction on your inner thighs because you forgot your running tights.  Try to block the mental picture of your blinding white legs shown in all their glory.  Up hill around the tree.  Keep going.  Then the grandmas pass me.

Two grandmas, half running half speed walking, pass me on an incline.  They haven't broke a sweat and are chatting as I labor on.  Onward I go - all that matters is finishing.

I pass grandmas as they walk.  I pass three year old and mom.  I pass frisbee golfers.  Wait - What!?  The run is headed back down towards the park and I cross a party of frisbee golfers irritated that a slow fat (although not as fat as before I began this exercise thing) woman is running into the flight path of hole 6.

I am dressed all in blue and have a mental picture of Violet Beauregard being rolled away by Oompa Loompas.  Focus! Focus!   I see my mom and sister waving.  I am lapped by athletic people on their second loop and headed for the finish line.  1, 2, 3 they thunder past me as I keep at it.  7,8,9  there go some more.  I have not yet been lapped by anyone I know.  This is good.  I turn the corner and a large sign says finish ----> and a larger one says lap 2 --------> . I am cheered until I hit the lap two lane.

Us stragglers need extra cheering.  I think if you are in the last 10 runners in anything you should get your own personal cheering section.  Back to the turf.  Yikes!  Back to the trail.  I am still way far behind but I pass a few people who have not paced themselves and are doing a lot of walking now.

I have a feel for the trail now and am repeating on my running mix.  When I hit the sign that tells me I am 2/3 through I am so happy.  I feel alarmingly flushed but I still have plenty of wind.  The last 1/3 of the race seems to go by quickly.  I enter the finish corridor and run for everything I am worth.  48:32

The race ladies at the very end want me tag and don't even seem flummoxed that I have ripped it off and thrown it away.  I suck down water, and feel good that the three year old and the grannies didn't beat me.  Hooray I did it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Now if Only I Can Kick the Birthday Cake Habit

According to the Dear Husband door to door was 4K, third fastest time.  Well, third fastest time for him, I think it overall must have been second fastest for me.  I was closer to him in the run than I usually am for longer than I usually am.

It is Sunny and Warm today edging on 70 degrees.  If this is what running in 70 degree weather is like, give me 65 and misting slightly.  I am a creature of dim libraries and early morning doughnuts, running in the warm sunshine is an acquired taste.  Down Jacobs to Rhodie Trail where we transitioned from shade to sun.  The Sun was at out backs and I was just about to the shady dip at the top of the Terry hill when Dear Husband turned around. I cast a longing glance at the shady trees when I turned and face to the sun had to run back the way I came.

Dear Husband and Soul Sister both can run wearing sunglasses, but I need every inch of my skin to sweat freely so I squinted into the glare and ran for the shade as fast as I could.  Sadly, I ran for the shade in my only slightly faster than normal stride.  Once I got out of the sun and felt my cave white flesh bathing in the shade ecstatically, I looked down Jacobs.  It seemed a lot longer going home than running up it.

Expecting my salsa music to carry me along, I instead got Long and Winding Road.

Wait . . wha happen?  Stupid Beatles cover. Long winding road that will never disappear? check.  The bitter tears I am crying? check.  Being left behind by my lover? check. Stupid Song.  Next Song:  Huey Lewis singing Oh Darlin'.  OK, still bitter tears but upbeat music and a nice guitar riff.  Why yes, you can still air guitar when you run, thanks for asking!

Saturday, May 5, 2012