March 2010

HBO recently showed Ron Howard’s outstanding film Apollo 13, and I was reminded that it was inspired by a book by Jim Lovell, the mission’s commander, and Jeffrey Kluger, an editor and columnist at Discover.   The book, Lost Moon, was published in 1994 (the film came out in 1995) and is Lovell’s account of the 1970 ill-fated Apollo mission to the moon.  So I visited the catalogs of both the Sarasota and Manatee County libraries and found that Sarasota had it.   It’s now in my possession until April 20.

I have vague memories of the of the Gemini program and the Apollo 1 fire, but I absolutely remember seeing Apollo 8 orbiting the moon on Christmas, 1968 and will never forget being allowed to stay up late enough to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon in July, 1969.  And, of course, the almost-tragedy of Apollo 13 is something that almost everyone alive at the time remembers.

Lovell and Kluger give us quite a bit of background on the inner workings of the early days of the space program (not quite like “The Right Stuff”), along with Lovell’s perspective on these people and events.  Based on what I’ve read so far (which is, admittedly, not much because I only got it from the library yesterday afternoon), I am really enjoying it, and can recommend it to anyone who is interested in NASA and the space program, or who wants to know the “story behind the story” of the movie, Apollo 13.

Part I: Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

This afternoon was reserved for S&S95, also known as “the Emma Thompson version.”  The short version of my ‘report’ is that I have two things to say about this movie.  First, that I adore it.  Second, that I don’t adore it.

Let me explain.

I adore it as a movie.  It has characters that I get emotionally involved with, witty dialogue and an engaging plot.  It’s got an all-star cast, all of whom do a wonderful job with what they are given.  It’s beautiful to look at and the music is lovely.  All in all, it is a wonderful movie and I just love it.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it.

But (and this is a very big but) I do not adore it as an adaptation.  I saw it before I read the book and had no idea just how much it differs from the book.   But, then I did go and read the book, and was really shocked at how different Thompson’s script is from Austen’s text.  The actors (except for Kate Winslet, who is absolutely outstanding here) are all too old for their roles and, as someone who knows the book, this can be disconcerting.  Then there’s the story itself.  In her commentary to the DVD, Thompson says that there are only 5 lines of dialogue lifted directly from the novel.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much.  Thompson leaves out Nancy Steele, Mrs. Ferrars and Lady Middleton.  Young Eliza is called “Beth” and her backstory is changed.  The elder Eliza’s story is changed too — in the book she is wealthy and because of that is married off to Brandon’s older brother, but here she is too poor for the Colonel himself to be allowed to marry.  There is no Miss Morton (Mrs. Jennings does refer to a Miss Morton in this film, but she is not the same Miss Morton whom the book’s Mrs. Ferrars wants as a daughter-in-law).  Thompson takes Margaret (who is so obscure in the book that she is left out of S&S71 and S&S81 completely and really isn’t missed) and makes her a prominent character.  She gives us a Mr. Palmer who is more likable than Austen’s.  And, most important of all, she removes the scene at Cleveland where Willoughby explains everything.  This is, as far as I am concerned, the most important change Thompson made, and it is not a good one.  The book’s Willoughby is a very toxic character.  He is arguably Austen’s worst villain.  But Thompson’s script makes him rather sympathetic.  Over the years, I have come across people who have never read the book and who feel sorry for Willoughby.  I did (a little bit) when I saw the movie, but I don’t now, and never will again.

So, in short, if you want to watch a wonderful movie, do yourself a favor and choose S&S95. But if you want a wonderful adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, choose something else.

I am, of course, referring to the hysterically funny book by Bill Bryson.  He tells us about his years as an American living among the English — he makes fun of  their quirks but also lets us know how much he respects and appreciates them.

This is not the first Bryson book I’ve read, and it won’t be the last.  I disagree vehemently with his politics (Margaret Thatcher, a dictator?  Please.), but every single one of his books is witty, entertaining and thought-provoking.  His autobiography, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, shows just how similar Boomer childhoods were — many of the stories he tells remind me of things that happened to me  in 1960s Long Island, even though he is from 1950s Iowa.  In a Sunburned Country made me want to get on the next plane and visit Sydney (not the outback — I don’t have any interest in communing with poisonous animals).

The President, the Vice President, the Cabinet, the members of Congress who crammed the “healthcare reform bill” down the throats of the American people, AND THEIR STAFFS are exempt from its provisions.

Yes, exempt.

Today’s NY Post has an editorial on the subject, as does The Washington Times, but Politico only says that these people “may” be exempt.  According to the Post:

Last fall, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Finance Committee, proposed that any health-care bill apply to all non-civil-service federal employees — from Obama on down — currently covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The Times says:

President Obama declared that the new health care law “is going to be affecting every American family.” Except his own, of course.

The new health care law exempts the president from having to participate in it. Leadership and committee staffers in the House and Senate who wrote the bill are exempted as well. A weasel-worded definition of “staff” includes only the members’ personal staff in the new system; the committee staff that drafted the legislation opted themselves out. Because they were more familiar with the contents of the law than anyone in the country, it says a lot that they carved out their own special loophole. Anyway, the law is intended to affect “ordinary Americans,” according to Vice President Joe Biden (who – being a heartbeat away from the presidency – also is not covered), not Washington insiders.

Of course they’re exempt.  They’re not “ordinary Americans.”  They’re better and smarter and more moral than we are.  And, once again, Democrats show just how far beneath contempt they are.

Well, yes, maybe there are words, but none of them is terribly ladylike so I won’t use them.

I am just so angry that the President and the Democrats in Congress would go off and decide that they know better than we do how we should live our lives.  That they would pass this job-killing, budget-busting legislation despite the fact that the majority of American citizens don’t want it.  Even Gallup, which leans to the Left, has been forced to admit that those in favor of the bill are outnumbered by those who oppose it.  Listening to Democrats bray (hey, I’m not the person who assigned them the donkey mascot) about how the Republicans have nothing to offer is making me positively ill.  The Republicans have plenty of ideas, but the Democrats in government and their cronies, the sycophants in the media, continue to hammer away at the lie that they don’t.  They have always shown themselves to be firm believers in the credo that, if you say something often enough and loudly enough, people will believe it, regardless of how (in)accurate it is.


Al Sharpton came right out and admitted that the President is a Socialist:

‘First of all, then we have to say the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama,” Sharpton said. “Let’s not act as though the president didn’t tell the American people – the president offered the American people health reform when he ran. He was overwhelmingly elected running on that and he has delivered what he promised.”

Some of us knew all along that Obama was a Marxist.  It’s about time one of his friends admitted it publicly.


I just saw this at The Daily Caller:

Top IRS officials have been working with Democrats on Capitol Hill to determine how the agency will enforce President Obama’s new health care law. Republican lawmakers estimate the legislation will require the hiring of many thousands of new (and armed) tax enforcement agents.

While it’s still not known exactly how many will be hired, here’s what’s clear: Under the new law, the IRS is required to fine taxpayers thousands of dollars if they do not purchase health insurance. In order for the government to enforce compliance, tax authorities will need information, for the first time, about people’s health care. Collecting that data will require more IRS personnel.

Yes, you read that right.  IRS agents, ARMED IRS agents, making sure American citizens have medical insurance. Can you say “jackbooted thugs?”  I thought you could.  That sound you hear is our Founding Fathers spinning in their respective graves.

Updated 3/23/10 @ 11:54 a.m.

The story at this link no longer uses the word “armed,” but the way I posted it last night is exactly the way I found it.


I don’t have a lot of money these days (who does?), but I will do my best to send some up to Michigan, in care of Dan Benishek, who is running against that weasel, Bart Stupak.  I honestly hope and pray that the different factions on the Right can come together and take back the House and the Senate and, in 2012, the White House.  This President and the Democrats in Congress are a disgrace and they must be defeated.

I’m pretty much unavailable through the upcoming weekend, but wanted to make sure I told you all how much I enjoyed Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  The paperback edition is due out on April 13.  It’s a very entertaining read, and it goes very quickly.  Two thumbs up.

Part I: Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

Tonight I finished watching S&S81, starring Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne.  Irene Richard will be familiar to fans of P&P80 because she plays Charlotte Lucas in that adaptation.  I’d said the other day that I preferred Ciaran Madden to Tracey Childs.  I may have said that because it’s been years since I’d last seen this adaptation, and had seen S&S71 twice since that last time, but I am more than happy to say that I have changed my mind.  Unlike Madden, Childs is the right age for the part (she was born in 1963 so she was around 17 when S&S81 was made), she’s very pretty and she does not get quite as hysterical as Madden.  Watching her say good-bye to the trees and grass at Norland is always entertaining, but it’s not as out-and-out bizarre as watching Madden say good-bye to the curtains.

If certain scenes from S&S81 sound familiar, it’s because they are.  This adaptation was written in part by Denis Constanduros — who wrote S&S71 and was also affiliated with Emma72 — and he seems to have copied-and-pasted entire pages of dialogue from one script to the other.  And, just as there were scenes in S&S71 that made me scratch my head, there are scenes here that do too.  One such scene in this miniseries is when Sir John Middleton tells the Dashwoods in Edward’s presence that the Miss Steeles are arriving for a visit at Barton Park.  There is another “huh?!?!” moment later on, when Lucy comes to visit Elinor in London the day after the dinner party at John and Fanny’s and Edward shows up.  In this adaptation, Elinor leaves the room to fetch Marianne, and we see Lucy and Edward alone.  I found this scene to be very awkward, and it certainly does not happen in the book.  The ending is very abrupt, and I was not impressed with Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne are practically rolling on the floor laughing when Edward tells them that Lucy and Robert have gone off and married.  And, for any P&P95 fangirls who are reading this, I am sure they will be most displeased to know that Colonel Brandon comes to Marianne’s bedroom during her recovery and they are left alone with the door closed.  I hope you don’t need any vinaigrette for those vapors that are likely afflicting you.  😉

Once again, I liked this adaptation more than I had in the past.  I thought Richard and Childs and Robert Swann (as Brandon) gave fine performances, and the secondary characters are also rather well done (Fanny Dashwood’s hysterics when she learns of Lucy and Edward’s engagement are particularly hilarious).  But this Edward (played by a man with the unfortunate name of Bosco Hogan) didn’t make much of an impression me.  Maybe that’s because I am less than a week removed from seeing Robin Ellis in the role and I just loved his performance.  I had problems with Willoughby in part because he looked like he was wearing eyeliner.  Call me superficial, but I just found that way too distracting.

So, to wrap up this review, I recommend S&S81 to anyone who loves the book and is willing to overlook the sorry production values.

Part I: Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

I just finished Colonel Brandon’s Diary and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the most recent of Amanda Grange’s “Men of Austen” (my title, not hers) Diary series, and I have read all of them. The only one missing is Edward Ferrars, and I really hope she writes that one soon.  Ms. Grange seems to have a similar take on Austen’s heroes to mine (either that, or I just see my own prejudices in her stories) and I have liked all of the books.  Some more than others, of course, but I have found something to appreciate in every one.

Brandon has always been a rather enigmatic character — Austen doesn’t even give him a Christian name — and it seems to me that we know less about him than we do about Austen’s other heroes.  Grange does give the Colonel a Christian name (James), and provides us with a backstory for him that works.  We get to meet his father and brother (both of whom are positively dreadful) and, most importantly, we get to meet Eliza, the woman James has loved since he was a boy.  Eliza is beautiful and fun and lively and is a good complement for the quiet, more introspective, James.  We get to share his pain when he learns she’s been forced to marry his brother and also when he finds her in the debtor’s prison, suffering from consumption.  We see his love for her little daughter, also named Eliza.  Sir John Middleton and his family are also featured and I liked seeing the initial meeting of the Colonel and the Dashwood family from the Colonel’s perspective.  All in all, it was an entertaining read that will go on the keeper shelf (when I get one, that is).

The workbag:

I told you a few weeks ago that I was working on Hinzeit’s “12 Days of Christmas” and that it was slow going because I can’t see very well.  So, going on the sage advice of my friend Tawny, the owner of my favorite cross stitch shop in the world (Where Victoria’s Angels Stitch, in Clifton, NJ), I went out and bought some very strange-looking magnifying glasses.  They clip onto my own glasses and make everything large enough that I can (finally!!!) see to stitch.

When I first posted that I was working on this project, I’d gotten very little done but, thanks to these magnifying glasses, I am positively cruising along:

12 Days of...

Since I took this picture (sorry for the quality — I’m still figuring out how to use  my brand-spanking-new Droid), I’ve added the C and part of the H in Christmas, so I’m at least 1/3 of the way done on the project.  Next I’ll take advantage of the magnifiers and get some work done on Thea Gouverneur’s New York kit.  Here’s what I’ve managed so far — just a little bit of the Empire State Building.  The fabric is 35-count linen, so the magnifiers will really come in handy. I could hardly see anything when I stitched this, and it took me a lot longer than it should have:

Empire State Building

It’s a very complicated piece, with a lot of colors and a lot of detail, but I just love it.  You can click on the pictures to make them bigger and, hopefully, see more detail.

The bookbag:

This week we have 2 impulse purchases: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, and On the Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World) by P.J. O’Rourke.

Janzen’s book is a memoir about moving back in with her devout Mennonite parents after her life fell apart.  It’s gotten decent reviews and I figured it would be nice to laugh along (and commiserate) with someone else who’s middle-aged and living with their parents due (at least in part) to circumstances beyond their control.

P.J. O’Rourke is one of the funniest men alive, and I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of this book.  I’ve read pretty much every other book he’s written (Parliament of Whores is a masterpiece) and simply had to have this one.  I read Wealth of Nations in college, and can hardly wait to see what PJ makes of this very important work.

Part I: Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

S&S71 stars Joanna David as Elinor, Ciaran Madden as Marianne, Robin Ellis as Edward, Clive Francis as Willoughby and Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings.  Due to the presence of Robin Ellis and Clive Francis, some fans refer to this as the “Poldark S&S.” 😉

I’d seen it once before, and it’s more different from the book than I’d remembered from the previous viewing. One difference that really struck me is that, in this adaptation, Brandon knows all about Willoughby and Eliza from the beginning and Willoughby knows that Brandon knows.  The story is quite rushed, too.  For example, Willoughby tells Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor that he’s leaving Devonshire after everyone’s returned from Delaford (which is where they’d gathered for the Whitwell excursion — yes, they combined the two outings into one event) and it just makes no sense.

Despite the typically bad 1970s production values and the differences from the book, I like this adaptation.  I think that Robin Ellis does quite a good job as Edward and he and Joanna David are very cute together.  Ciaran Madden is not my favorite Marianne (she says good-bye to the curtains at Norland!), but I still prefer her to Tracy Childs in S&S81 (not that this is hard).  I also like Michael Aldridge as Sir John and I positively adore Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings.  I’m not quite as fond of Richard Owens as Colonel Brandon, but he did grow on me somewhat as the story progressed.  Which reminds me — in this film, Eliza is Brandon’s niece instead of his cousin’s illegitimate daughter (making her, of course, his first cousin once removed), and we are told that she’s 18 instead of 16 as in the book.  But none of that matters.  I understand that a lot of people (particularly younger people) may have trouble getting past the antiquated production values but, for those who can, I think they’ll find plenty to appreciate about this adaptation.

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