September 2010


We’re going to take a slight detour from our regularly scheduled Austen posts to talk about a different kind of Austen adaptation.

Wishbone” is the name of a children’s television series produced by the US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) which starred a Jack Russell dog named Soccer as “a  little dog with a big imagination.” A fan site may be found here.

The series started in 1995, and ran for 51 episodes over 4 seasons.  The show entertained children and adults alike.  Every episode started the same way — Wishbone or one of his human companions found themselves in a particular situation that would remind Wishbone of something similar that happened in a literary classic, and then he and the human cast would act out scenes from the work.  Using this technique, children were introduced to some of the great classics of literature: Don Quixote, The Count of Monte Cristo, Frankenstein, Great Expectations, The Odyssey and Henry IV, Part I, among others.

Two novels by Jane Austen are also featured in the series: Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.  Unfortunately, while some Wishbone episodes are available on DVD, these two are not.  I own them on VHS (yes, in storage), but someone has posted them on YouTube and PBS has not yet had them removed.  So, here for your viewing pleasure are Furst Impressions (P&P) and Pup Fiction (Northanger Abbey). I recommend watching them soon, before YouTube removes them.  I have to say that Soccer/Wishbone is quite dashing as both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney. He’s quite a versatile actor. 😉

I finished the audio book of The Forgotten Man and it was outstanding.  I highly recommend it.

This week’s non-fiction book is a variation on that same theme: FDR: New Deal or Raw Deal (review from the Ludwig von Mises Institute; review from the Reason Foundation), by Burton Folsom, Jr., a professor of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan.  It’s not as much of a social history as TFM is, but it’s still very interesting.  Unfortunately, it’s not an audio book, so I can’t stitch while reading it, but I am working at breaking my day into compartments and making time for the important things, namely job-searching, reading and stitching.

This week’s novel from the library is Ladies of the Lake, by Haywood Smith, who also wrote the highly entertaining The Red Hat Club and its sequel, The Red Hat Club Rides Again.

I really enjoy my volunteer work at the library.  I’m there on Fridays for 2 hours and it’s one of the few aspects of life as an unemployed person that I’ll really miss.  They like having a former librarian in the ranks of volunteers, and they’ve decided that my “job” is to maintain the music collection.  The CDs are catalogued differently than the rest of the library’s materials, and it generally does take my entire 2-hour shift to get it straightened out.  I don’t just re-shelve the discs that have been returned from patrons — I go through the entire collection every week and put it to rights. I just plug in my iPod and alphabetize the several hundred CDs in the fixture.  Some weeks are easier than others and, believe it or not, I find it to be very relaxing.  It’s not mindless work — because I really do have to pay attention — and it is very satisfying to know that anyone who wants to borrow these discs will be able to find what they want relatively quickly because everything is where it’s supposed to be. If only the rest of my life could be that organized!  

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on the waiting list for Michael Lewis’s latest, The Big Short (I’m up to #7 now), and I’m #1 on the list for PJ O’Rourke’s latest, Don’t Vote – It Just Encourages the Bastards.

As for Emma, I am cruising through the audio book; I had an interview with a recruiter up in St. Pete on Monday, and used the opportunity to listen to a few chapters.  I listened to a couple more during the week while stitching, and will listen again today while I head up to Clearwater for the local JASNA chapter meeting.  I’ll probably make a pit stop at Silk Road Needle Arts on Central Avenue in St. Pete. Obviously I don’t have a lot of cash, but I can’t be so close and not visit.  I’d wanted to on Monday when I was up there to meet the recruiter, but Silk Road is closed on Mondays, so there went that idea.

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I’ve made a lot of progress with the “Fine China” project.  Here’s what I’ve accomplished since I first posted about it last Saturday:

As you can see, it’s got a ton of back stitching, as well as some Rhodes stitches, some Rice stitches and a bunch more Spider Webs.  I think it looks good so far, and I’m really enjoying the work.  I can hardly believe how quickly it’s going!

JETS

JETS

JETS!

Game 2 was a vastly more satisfying experience than Game 1, especially in the second half.  Rex must have read them the riot act during halftime because they came out armed for bear in the 3rd quarter and played the way they’ve been telling us they’re capable of playing.  They did it without Revis for much of the game (and he isn’t going to play against the Dolphins next week either), and to win so convincingly against Bellicheat, Brady and the Patriots made the victory even sweeter.  No surprise, Brady is whining, and Randy Moss is throwing the rest of his team under the bus.  All this trouble in paradise is simply Schadenfreudelicious.

Hopefully, Gang Green will go to Miami and dominate…

I’ve been unemployed more times than I care to think about, and I am very familiar with all the issues an unemployed person needs to deal with.  Of course, the most obvious issues deal with the process of finding a new job.  The shortest period of unemployment I’ve had was 3 months back in the mid-1990s.  The longest was the 10 months following my move from New York to Florida.  I’ve applied to more than a dozen jobs in the month since I have been unemployed, but it’s very tough out there.  Florida’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the state.  In short, I am potentially looking at a long jobless stretch.

So, how do I keep busy and (relatively) sane when I’m not applying for jobs? Reading and stitching, that’s how.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I spent the first couple of weeks with my comfort reads, but I’ve finally decided it’s time to get around to other books.  I’ve owned The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes since it first came out, but figured that this would be as good a time as any to really try an audio book.  So I borrowed the CD set of the book from the library and can now multi-task — I’m stitching while someone reads to me.  So far, so good.

The Forgotten Man is an excellent book.  Shlaes, who is a well-known financial writer for such publications as the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and now Bloomberg, has written a fascinating history of the Great Depression from a completely different perspective than that which we are used to reading.  She debunks the notion that FDR and his New Deal saved the US from the Depression and, unfortunately, many of his machinations are familiar to those of us around today.  Our government is trying some of the same policies today and with the same effect — Europe is recovering from the recent recession and we are facing a double-dip.  Europe is realizing that their womb-to-tomb social policies cannot be sustained, while our government is trying to implement those same social policies here.  Shlaes’ book is riveting, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Now, on to the fun stuff.  Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.

I’ve made progress on the “Bright Spots Sampler” I’ve had for around 5 years (since there are dozens of small designs in the one chart, I’ll work on one or two at a time and feel as if I’ve accomplished something):

I’m about 3/4 done — all that’s left to do is the upper right-hand corner.

I’ve also finally finished the “12 Days of Christmas” piece from Hinzeit that I’ve mentioned before:

And, now that I’ve got the time, I’ve finally decided to start a piece that I’ve had in stash for ages.  I was still new at counted needlework when I bought the chart and, since it’s absolutely not a piece that a newbie should even contemplate doing, I put it away for whenever I felt I was capable of doing it.  As I’ve mentioned, I have plenty of stash in the storage unit but, as luck would have it, “Fine China” from Indigo Rose was in a box in the house so I decided it was time to get started on it.  Here is what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done:

Isn’t it gorgeous?  I think it’s easily one of the most beautiful pieces in my collection.

And here is what I did this afternoon:

As you can see, I’ve finished the entire inner ring, which is comprised mostly of spider webs and 2 different fern stitches.  The chart calls for a variety of silk flosses, and the colors are very rich.

Several stitchers of my acquaintance feel comfortable starting at the top of a chart and working their way down, but I am simply not capable of doing that.  Every chart I’ve ever seen says that you should start in the middle of the fabric, and that’s the way I feel most comfortable.  And, with this chart, I can’t even contemplate starting at the top.  To me, it makes sense to work on the inner ring first, and work my way out to the 4th ring.  If mine comes out even half as nice as the professionally stitched piece, I’ll be happy.

Oh, and here is a piece I finished last summer — “Blue Boats” from Lanarte (this is a stock photo — mine is not yet framed):

If I can get a job, I’ll be able to afford to frame all of these projects.  But, until then, I’ll just continue to stitch them.  I downloaded an audiobook of Emma, so I’ll be able to “read” that while I get some more stitching done.

STINK, STANK, STUNK

A 10-9 loss was not the way the Jets faithful wanted to begin the season.  But, based on the way Gang Green played, it did, however, seem to be the way the team wanted to begin the season.  I listened to some of it on the radio on my way home from a professional association dinner and was appalled at all the penalties — and that was just in the first half.

But you don’t want to hear me rant.  NJ.com’s Steve Politi says it much better than I can:

At least we know what to call the sequel to Hard Knocks. Coming this fall on HBO … Hard to Watch!

Except there is no film editor in the world who can polish this turd. All that talking. All that hype. All those promises and proclamations and chest pounding for the past eight months.

For this?

The Jets offense was not just a little bit bad in this humbling 10-9 loss to Baltimore last night. It was bring-in-Brooks-Bollinger bad. It was get-nine-yards-on-fourth-and-10 bad.

It was forget-the-playoffs-much-less-the-Super-Bowl bad.

And, to add injury to insult, Kris Jenkins is out for the season.

To quote Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “I am most seriously displeased.”  

I’m stealing a post I made elsewhere that’s appropriate for this day:

I’m watching coverage of the memorial events because, while the programming keeps bringing back all my memories of that day, I can’t help but think that it’s a good thing. I don’t want to ever forget what happened that day.

I don’t want to forget how I felt when I heard that this wasn’t an accident.
I don’t want to forget looking out the office window with my colleagues and seeing Tower 1 fall.
I don’t want to forget that cell phones were incapacitated and people were lining up at pay phones to call friends and relatives.
I don’t want to forget being worried about friends who worked in or near the WTC.
I don’t want to forget walking home with thousands of my closest friends; we took up almost every inch of 3rd Avenue as we headed north.
I don’t want to forget the horrible smell that permeated everything.
I don’t want to forget the eerie silence, punctuated only by fighter jets circling overhead.
I don’t want to forget seeing President Bush standing on the rubble telling people that everyone was going to hear us.
I don’t want to forget seeing people line up to donate blood.
I don’t want to forget buying supplies for the first responders, including the rescue dogs.
I don’t want to forget finding out that people I knew and liked were dead.
I don’t want to forget how hard it was to get the news to my father that my mom and I were OK.

I don’t want to forget that, there but for the grace of God, I’d be one of those names being read right now.

Part IV: Emma

I haven’t read Emma in a very long time and, for some bizarre reason, I’m having a hard time getting into it with this re-read.

Jane Austen once wrote that she didn’t expect people to like Emma and, to be honest, I’m finding that I don’t.  I don’t like the way she treats Harriet, and she has a lot of nerve getting angry with Mr. Knightley when he calls her on it.  But the characters who really jump out at me during this reading are Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley.  I find them both to be rather annoying, particularly Isabella.  During her conversations with her father, the two of them seem to be playing “can you top this” vis à vis their respective apothecaries, and I just want to reach into the novel, give her a smack upside the head and then tell her to shut up.  I can understand such behavior in a crotchety old man, but in a young woman it’s just annoying. As for Mr. John Knightley, you’d think that the fact that he and Emma aren’t the best of friends would be a point in his favor, but I am not finding him to be very likable either.

I really need to speed up the process — I want to be done with all things Emma by the end of this month.

After my return from Orlando, I went online to see if my local library had any copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows available. Luckily, a couple of copies were checked in, and I placed an order for one of them to be delivered to my local branch. I brought it home on Wednesday and was finished reading it by Thursday afternoon.  I’d read it when it first came out, and with the movie coming out in November, I decided that it was time for a re-read.  I’ve liked all of the Harry Potter movies, but I like the books much, much better.

My preference is to read books before seeing the movies they are based on. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I do try. That’s why I recently read Never Let Me Go (discussed here), why I am watching adaptations for the Jane Austen Odyssey and why I just re-read Deathly Hallows.  It’s my contention that, as a rule, books are better than the movies that are based on them.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and that’s where the controversy begins.  People have different tastes, which is a good thing, because the world would be a very dull place if we all agreed on everything.  For example, there are those who prefer MP99 to the book. They don’t like Fanny Price in the first place, so it doesn’t bother them in the slightest that Patricia Rozema gave Fanny a personality transplant.  In fact, they prefer the “new-and-improved” Fanny to the one Austen created.  That’s OK. I disagree with them vehemently, but nothing I say will change their mind, so there’s really no point insulting their intelligence.

The exceptions I can think of off the top of my head include Flambards, North & South, and pretty much anything by Charles Dickens.

Flambards is based on the first 3 books of a series were written by British author K.M. Peyton in the 1960s.  The series was released in the UK in 1979 and was shown on PBS in the US afterwards.  Later, Peyton wrote another book about the same characters, but it was not published until after the adaptation was released and this book has never been adapted.  In my not-so-humble opinion, the books are fine, but the series is better. Flambards stars nobody you’ve ever heard of, and tells the story of a young orphan named Christina Parsons who is sent to live with her uncle in the years before World War I.  Christina will inherit a fortune when she turns 21 and Uncle Russell intends that she will marry his son, Mark.  But we all know about the plans of mice and men, and Christina has a mind that is very much her own.  The series may have been intended to be for young adults, but this is one middle-aged adult who still loves it.

North & South is based on a novel by the same name written by Victorian authoress Elizabeth Gaskell, who also wrote Cranford and Wives and Daughters.  I am acquainted with a slew of people who adore the book, but it left me cold.  I can safely say that I don’t think I’ll ever read it again.  The series, on the other hand, is engrossing.  Sandy Welch wrote the script, and she really brought the characters to life.   Richard Armitage brings more nuance to John Thornton than I ever saw in the book, and Daniela Denby-Ashe made me like Margaret far more than I did in the book.

Charles Dickens may have written more classics than most authors, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like them.  I liked his A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, but that’s about it.  I’ve also read David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, and have to say that I much preferred the adaptations to the books.  So when I saw the 1998 adaptation of Our Mutual Friend (starring Keeley Hawes, Anna Friel, Paul McGann and David Morrissey), I loved it but had absolutely no desire to read the book. And I am proud to say that I don’t feel guilty in the slightest.

So, what adaptations, if any, do you prefer to the books on which they’re based?