January 2010


A (ladylike) rant.

I watched episodes 1 and 2 of the BBC’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” via my local PBS station last Sunday night, despite the fact that I have all four episodes stored on my hard drive (thanks to a dear friend who, in turn, has friends in all the right places).  It wasn’t until after the closing credits rolled that I remembered PBS’s penchant for slicing and dicing programs to fit into their predetermined blocks of time.  So, in anticipation of tomorrow’s airing of episodes 3 and 4, I watched those episodes on my laptop.  I hope that I won’t notice any scenes missing but, if I do, I’ll be ahead of my countrymen because I’ll know what actually is missing.

A funny thing happened in early 2008 when PBS aired ITV’s adaptation of Austen’s “Persuasion.”  I watched a bootlegged copy of ITV’s original film (obtained via another friend who has friends in high places) and then received an invitation through JASNA to watch the film on the big screen at an auditorium at Cooper Union in New York.  I sat with other friends who had watched the bootlegged copy with me and we were, frankly, shocked to see that several scenes had been cut from ITV’s original.   After the film ended, there was a Q&A with a JASNA representative, a representative from Penguin books (which had published new editions of the novels to go along with “Austen Season”) and a representative from WGBH in Boston.  I stood up and asked the woman from WGBH why the scenes were cut.  She spouted some nonsense that I cannot remember and that did not answer the question.  This upset the assembled greatly and led to a lot of mumbling and grumbling among audience members.  To be honest, the audience was upset already because, let’s face it, this particular adaptation of Persuasion is positively dreadful, but the revelation of the edits did not help matters.

This admittedly long and rather round-about story leads to a warning to anyone out there who relies on PBS to help feed their British drama addiction – PBS EDITS THESE PRODUCTIONS AND DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW IT.  Please excuse the shouting (because I did promise to be ladylike), but this is important and I believe it is my duty to tell as many people as possible.  PBS won’t stop doing it, but hopefully having the masses know about it will encourage them to put back what they took out when it comes to the DVDs they sell afterwards.  As of now, they don’t.  Yes, it’s confusing, but please bear with me a few minutes longer.

Back in 2007, ITV produced new versions of “Persuasion,” “Mansfield Park” and “Northanger Abbey.”  Each of them was edited for airing on PBS.  And this is where it gets confusing – the DVDs for “Persuasion” were distributed by the BBC.  The Region 1 (North American) DVDs are intact; anyone who buys one gets the same film as do buyers in Region 2 (UK and most of continental Europe).  But the DVDs for “Mansfield Park” and “Northanger Abbey” were distributed by WGBH and are identical to what was shown on PBS.  In other words, we here in North America get a shorter movie than do the people in Region 2.  The moral of the story?   Know that you have options.

These options include:

  • You can buy a multi-region DVD player;
  • You can visit this site to see about the possibility of hacking your current one;
  • You can install a VLC Media Player onto your computer that will allow you to watch DVDs from anywhere in the world without adjusting the region code on your computer; or
  • You can watch a lot of  these films on YouTube.

And, while we’re on the subject of the BBC, PBS and “Masterpiece,” I just want to say that I loved this latest production of “Emma.”  Unfortunately, however, Romola Garai wasn’t quite what I’d hoped in the title role, but I loved the production itself.  Alas,  a full review is a subject for another post.

My plan for 2010 was to re-read all six of Jane Austen’s  novels, in order of publication.  I have multiple copies of each novel in storage (most of my life is in storage *sigh*), but with an Amazon gift certificate I  bought a set of Signet Classics  of Austen’s novels, with introductions by Margaret Drabble and afterwords by current popular authors (Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, to name but two).  First up is Sense & Sensibility, published in 1811 (afterword is by Mary Balogh).  But the question is, when do I read?

One major difference between here and New York is the lack of public transportation.   Both Sarasota and Manatee Counties have bus lines, but none of them is terribly extensive and, while my office is along one of the bus routes that goes through Downtown Sarasota, I’ve never seen more than a handful of people on any given bus.

When I lived in New York, my commute allowed me to get in 30-45 uninterrupted minutes of reading, twice a day.  But I drive to work now, so I figured it was time to try audio books.  My brother, who lives in Los Angeles, loves them, so I did try one recently based on his enthusiasm for them.  I’d already bought an audio copy of Georgette Heyer’s “Sylvester” (the hard copy is a favorite of mine anyway, and this particular audio edition is read by the incomparable Richard Armitage), but I lost interest rather quickly because it’s abridged and I knew which parts were missing.   I could take others out of the library, load them onto my iPod and listen to them in the car, but that’s just a hassle, particularly if the book takes up 15 or more discs.   Even if my car had a CD player (which it doesn’t), going the library route wouldn’t work because you only get the discs for a week at a time.  My commute is  about 30 minutes in each direction — at that rate, how much can I possibly listen to in a week?

It doesn’t hurt that I’m in school (yet again) and am stuck reading about estates/trusts, contracts and torts and just don’t want to read anything else that requires thought.   Trying to come up with enough material to create a coherent blog is tough enough!  I’m just going to have to give up playing around on the computer when I finish my schoolwork.

All right.  It’s time to stop whining and go immerse myself in the lives of the Dashwood sisters.

Updated 1/30/10:  Speaking of Sense & Sensibility, here is a Wall Street Journal review of a new modernization of the novel.  This one’s called “The Three Weissmanns of Westport” and, according to the review, it’s “a fitfully appealing, rather too literal retelling” of Austen’s story.  Based on this review, I won’t bother buying it.  I’ll see if any of the local libraries has it…maybe.

The differences between New York and Sarasota are more than skin deep.

But here is an example of just how deep the skin is – my New York office building:

The Lincoln Building near Grand Central Terminal

And this is Sarasota’s Main Street, facing West.  The adobe-colored building with the red roof in the rear on the right is the main courthouse:

Main Street, Sarasota

I do the same kind of work in Sarasota (OK, different type of law, but it’s still litigation) that I did in New York, but in the big New York office building the work followed me home every night and I had no choice but to obsess about it.  In the quaint Sarasota building (not pictured here), I leave work at work and go home with a clear conscience.  At this stage of my life, I’ll take the latter.