Thursday, 18 September 2014

Janeite Tag


I decided to do a tag that Paige from Sunday Best and All the Rest left on her blog for Jane Austen fans to do. Feel free to complete this tag too if you are Jane Austen fan.

The Rules:
~Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
~Tell how you were introduced to Jane Austen and share one fun fact about your Janeite life (this fun fact can be anywhere from "I stayed up all night reading Emma," to "I visited Chawton and met Anna Chancellor.").
~Answer the tagger's questions.
~Write seven questions of your own.
~Tag as few as one or as many as seven other Janeites and let them know you've tagged them.

Jane Austen was a famous author from the 18th century known for writing novels about courtship, class divide and gender differences. Her writing is described to be elegant, clever and witty. Jane Austen’s books include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.
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The first Austen book I read was Pride and Prejudice and I was about fourteen years old. I had no idea what the book was about and I wanted to see why the book had endured to be popular to the present day.  I really enjoyed the book and continued to read more of Jane Austen’s work. Jane Austin’s writing inspired me to read other classic books which is something I still continue today. I like Austen books because the heroines are always brave in their own way. They are assertive and generally motivated to do good for others. The characters also have impeccable manners which make me wish that people were as courteous as they were in the regency period.

 Fun Fact: I love reading and watching all things to do with Jane Austen. I’m happy when there are new movies or series based on Jane Austen’s novels and I also like watching modernized versions too. My favourite modern inspired Jane Austen movies are Bride and Prejudice which is a Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice and I also love Clueless which is inspired by Emma.

Paige’s Questions:

1) What is your favorite Austen book?
My favourite Jane Austen book changes and tends to be the one that I am currently reading. My favourite Austen books are Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. 

2) What is your favorite movie adaptation of an Austen book?
My favourite movie adaption is the 1995 movie of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma. I think she did a great job in capturing Emma’s lively spirit and the film is just filled with eye candy. I love all the houses and costumes.
Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma
3) What is your *least* favorite movie adaptation? 
My least favourite adaption would be the 2007 adaption of Northanger Abbey. I thought they made the main character a little too silly and I didn’t like all the sexual fantasies that she had.

4) Which character in any of the novels do you relate to most?
This is a very good question. I haven’t thought about it before. I think I relate most to Elizabeth Bennet because I think my parents are kinda like her parents.

5) If you could choose a Jane Austen home to live in, where would you live?
There are so many nice houses in Jane Austen’s books. It’s a bit hard to choose…. I suppose I would like Emma’s Hartfield or Mansfield Park or Pemberley. It’s not so much the huge mansions that interest me. I like those houses because of the gardens and features which I think would be fun to stroll down every day. 

6) Who is your favorite Austen hero?
Mr Darcy is my favourite hero because in the course of the book he changes and it’s good to show how you can change for the better.

7) If you were to write a sequel to any of Jane's novels, what would it be about?
I would write a sequel of Pride and Prejudice and we would see how Elizabeth and Jane adapt to their new lives.
Thank you once again to Paige for putting the fun tag on your blog. I don’t actually know any other Jane Austen fans so I invite anyone who is interested to complete the tag.

Here are my questions:
1. What do you think of modernized movie/book adaptions of Jane Austen’s work?
2. Do you read Jane Austen Fanfiction?
3. How has Jane Austen influenced your life?
4. Would you want to live in the regency period?
5. What book would make the best musical?
6. Which villain would you want to redeem?

7. Does any character remind you of someone you know in real life?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Entertainment Monday: Enid ( 15 September 2014)


It is common to see an Enid Blyton books in school libraries and in a children’s bookcases. Enid Bltyon was the author of several successful children’s books such as Noddy, The Enchanted Wood, The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. I think her appeal was that she wrote for children by writing in simple vocabulary and her books have an idyllic quality about them.  I only read one or two Enid Blyton books but I am familiar with Noddy. I use to watch the Noddy cartoon when I was little.
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To be honest, I don’t even like Enid Blyton’s books but I was intrigued when I heard that the BBC had created a movie about Enid Blyton. I wanted to find out what was the inspiration of her writing and the life she lead. I pictured that she was a sweet old lady with a white perm who was charming and beloved. I found out that Enid Blyton was outwardly a delightful woman and in private she was selfish and cruel. It goes to show that sometimes you shouldn't meet your heroes because they will disappoint you.

Helena Bonham Carter as Enid Blyton 
The film starts off by revealing that Enid Blyton had a troubled upbringing. Her father was a womanizer who abandoned her family and her mother was cold woman who preferred her brothers. It was Enid’s upbringing which helped her develop her imagination and passion to be a writer. While her parents fought, Enid told her brothers stories about magical faraway places where no one is ever sad.

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Helena Bonham Carter played Enid Blyton showcasing her from her time as a writer, her marriages and motherhood. Enid is portrayed as an energetic and playful person who escapes anything unpleasant by fantasizing and refusing to listen to anything serious. 

Her aversion to unpleasant things causes strain between her first husband, Hugh Pollock (played by Mattew McFadyen). McFadyen portrays Hugh as a long suffering man who drinks to numb his pain. While I had sympathy for Hugh Pollock, I was frustrated by his lack of persistence to reason with his wife. He always gave up every time Enid refused to talk about anything important.
Mathew Macfadyen and Helena Bonham Carter
Enid is also seen as having a strained relationship with her daughters. Enid loved children but hated being a parent. The movie shows the neglect of Enid’s daughters and her preference for her fans. To the public, Enid is seen as a caring mother who balances her time between writing and motherhood. However, in reality she spent most of her time writing and allotted an hour a day to interacting with her children.   I particularly liked the scenes where Enid pretends to interact with her daughters when the press comes over but stops as soon as the cameras are off. My favourite scene would have to be when her children are listening to a radio interview where Enid says being a mother is the most important thing to her and her children give incredulous looks at the news.


The film also focuses on Enid Blyton’s prolific writing as she wrote a large quantity of books as well as articles and essays for various publications. Enid seemed to have an active mind which never stopped and was the cause of her strained relationships. She always put writing ahead of anything else.
 I can see how this film must have caused some disillusion among Enid Blyton fans. Enid Blyton’s true character has been debated for quite some time as not everyone believes that she was a difficult person.  Enid’s daughter Imogen wrote an autobiography describing her mother as "arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult I pitied her” (Blyton, 1989).
Imogen Smallwood -autobiography of Enid Blyton's daughter
In contrast, her eldest daughter Gillian remembered her as a loving mother in her own way. Although some speculate that the reason why Gillian had fonder memories of her mother is that Gillian was four years older than her sister and spent much of her time in boarding school so she did not have much interaction with her mother.
the real Enid Blyton

Regardless of what the real Enid Blyton was like, I think the film shows her to be a brilliant writer. Enid Bylton’s works continue to be enjoyed by children all over the world. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Father's Day

On Father’s Day my family and I decided to go to an All You Can Eat Restaurant near our home. My dad is a fussy eater so we thought it best to go to a place where he would have variety of things to eat. He’s a miser who hates it when we spend money but he tolerates it on special occasions.

I think that song describes my dad so well. He’s a grumpy man but we never take his grumps too seriously. In fact, we tease him about it all the time and he can laugh at himself too. He hams up his old man act too.

We all enjoyed our time at the restaurant. Dad ate a plate of mussels as well as some seafood. He had a big pile of food and was still eating it when everyone else had moved onto their second or third plate. My food strategy this time was only to take the smallest serving of everything so I could sample everything.
If my dad was a cat, he'd be Grumpy Cat
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At the end of the evening, I decided to fill out one of those comments and suggestion sheets that restaurants sometimes leave out. I gave the restaurant a 5/5 for service, cleanliness and food.  My mum added a cat drawing too, no reason really, she just likes cats. My dad filled out his own sheet but he gave the restaurant 2/5 because he says he had better. He’s one of those people where back in his day, everything was better

Monday, 8 September 2014

Entertainment Monday: Yuja Wang ( 8 September 2014)


* Posted on behalf of Jon Bear who is having some computer issues.

Classical music is probably the music that stirs me emotionally more than any other kind of music.  There are many wonderful composers who I am fond of and while I may focus on a composer or two in the future I wanted this Entertainment Monday to be about a classical performer, Yuja Wang.  

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Yuya Wang is an extremely talented and also very beautiful, 27 year old pianist who has found a bit of controversy in the dresses she wears while performing.  It's not that anything she wears is really outrageous, it's just that some of the classical audience can be a little prude and hold to traditions, so when a beautiful women wears a slinky brightly coloured dress while she performs it can cause a small uproar.  I know I mention this first and could have left it alone, but I just wanted to get it out of the way and indicate how silly I believe the "controversy" surrounding her is.  Like anything though controversy can bring more attention so I'm sure it's something she can use to her advantage, as she seems pretty secure and comfortable in herself and her choices relative to the classical music scene.   

What this really is about is her talent and performance ability which is tremendous.  Long before and long since I ever saw a picture of Yuja Wang I enjoyed listening to her piano performances.   Few people can make the big time in whatever they do professionally without special talent.  As an amateur musician for 14 or so years performing in school and in college I have a small insight into the dedication and time that performers must put into their music learning.   I hold an incredible level of respect for anyone who takes the time to learn an instrument and especially for those who try to make a living in music.  Not everyone can be a star and not everyone can be a soloist, but anyone who performs instrumental music does so first and foremost for the love of music.  Not everyone can be a child prodigy either as Yuja Wang was so she had that working for her which most people do not right from the get go I suppose.  I'm particularly a fan of piano compositions and that is how I was first introduced to Yuja Wang.

I used to search for piano pieces I love on I tunes and later on you tube and audiolizer and often times some of the pieces I enjoy most were performed by Yuja Wang.  Having thoroughly enjoyed many of her performances I became a fan.  One of the challenges to posting links to classical music is that you tube versions of classical performances that are over 10 minutes long often skip.  I've never looked into why this is and if it has to do with copy write laws or not, but those disjointed performances don't really do justice to the music so whenever I post a classical link it will be to a piece that is under 10 minutes long.  That means that I am a bit limited in the performances I can post and some of my favorites must be excluded.  I know not everyone wishes to spend a good chunk of time listening to one piece of music either, so the shorter clips may help some of our readers in that respect. 

A figure that there are several people might be familiar with the Flight of the Bumblebee, so here's a clip of Yuja Wang performing the whimsical piece by Rimsky-Korsikov ...


One of my favorite musical pieces which is a particularly challenging piano piece even for professionals to perform is the Erlkonig (the Erlking) originally written by Franz Schubert and adapted to a piano performance later by the composer Franz Liszt. 


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The Erlkonig is an evil fairy king from German folklore known for stealing children from their parents. The famous German Poet Goethe wrote a poem about the Erlkonig which was where Franz Shubert found the inspiration for his piece.  In Schubert's piece the song tells the tale of a father who's son has visions of the Erlkonig.  The son fears for his life and reveals his fears to his father telling him about his dream like visions.  The father tries to assure his son that there is nothing to be afraid of.  The visions continue though and the father begins to fear for his son, and tries to rush him to the safety of their home.  Before the father can race home with his son the Erlkonig takes the sons life during one of these nightmarish visions ( think Freddie Kruger loooonggg before Nightmare on Elm Street ever existed)  and the piece ends dramatically with the father lamenting the death of his son at the hands of the Erlkonig.  

Here is Yuja Wang's amazing virtuoso performance...



and here is a link to a more eloquent explanation of the Erlkonig:  http://www.classicalconnect.com/Piano_Music/Schubert/Erlkonig/2233 which includes another version (although incomplete) of the piano performance by pianist Daniil Trifonov.  

I hope that classical fans will enjoy listening to Yuja Wang and for those who may not have known about her, perhaps her performances will bring some new fans to the amazing world of classical music and piano performance. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

My life in August


Work

August has been a bumper of a month for me. At the start of the month, I experienced working in a childcare centre for the first time. I’m a newly qualified teacher and a friend of mine offered me a shift at her childcare centre. There are many childcare jobs available and I wanted to see if it is a field that I should explore.

I worked as a floater at the childcare centre, taking over for people so they could go on their lunch break. I looked after babies, toddlers and pre-school aged children. I fed them, played with them and changed them.

At first I felt overwhelmed with learning the routines but afterwards I got use to the pace. I wouldn’t mind working in childcare as a mean time job but I wouldn’t take it as a career. I’m not really into childrearing; I’m more interested in teaching. Maybe I could work in childcare during the school holidays. It would provide an extra income for me as I am a relief (substitute) teacher and don’t get paid during holiday periods.
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I also worked as a relief teacher in August. I mostly worked at two schools filling in for when teachers got sick or were away. I’ve had all kinds of experiences at both schools. I’ve had bad days where children would misbehave just because I was a relief teacher. They would refuse to follow instructions, back chat, run around the room and try to do as they pleased. I’ve also had really good days where the children were really friendly and polite. I had one perfect class where the children did as they were told, were very welcoming and helpful.

Life

My dad had a heart attack near the start of the year and is still being rehabilitated over it. During August, he had another health scare where he had to go to hospital again. He’s fine now and life has returned to normal. I felt a bit sad about it and it left me in a bit of funk during that month. It just made me contemplate what life would be without him.
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Another stressful moment I had was when I was accused of hitting a car while I was working at a school. I got a call from a person who worked at the school telling me that they had seen me reverse into their car. The person said that they had photos and a witness. I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had done because I didn’t remember hitting a car and there wasn’t a dent in my car. Fortunately, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The other driver was looking for a driver of a red car and I own a white one so I'm off the hook. 


Monday, 1 September 2014

Entertainment Monday: Nicki Minaj (1 September 2014)


I confess, I only know about five of Nicki Minaj’s songs. I don’t really follow music but I listen to new songs on YouTube when they come up. My favourite Nicki Minaj song is Super Bass because of the catchy lyrics and quirky and cute video clip. I have so many favourite covers of the song too. 


I recently found a Japanese version of Super Bass by Cream. Cream are a Japanese duo who wrote a lot of songs for JPop artists but are now branching out to do their own music. They have translated a few other western songs as well such as Taylor Swift’s ‘We are never getting back together’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘ The Way’.


I also like a cover sung by Youtuber uuuuuuuukewithme whose ukulele version of Super Bass is sweet and gentle makes Super Bass sound like a breezy song. (However, she does include the swear words into the song)


 Another cover that I like is from band Karmin. It’s really simple with just a piano accompaniment.

Finally, the last cover I want to feature is by Tyler Ward & Crew (Alex G & Eppic) which is laid back and they cleaned up the lyrics.



Another song Nicki Minaj song that I am crazy about is Pills and Potions. I love it because Nicki is a bit more toned down in her costuming and the focus is on the emotion of the song. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer- Review by Carlyn

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I now have a better understanding about Team Edward and Team Jacob after reading New Moon. The second installment of the Twilight series introduces a rival for Bella’s affection. Edward breaks up with Bella when an accident almost caused her to become a vampire’s dinner. He reasons that it’s too dangerous for her to be associated with vampires and he vanishes from her life. Bella is heartbroken to the point that her father fears that he has to hospitalize her. It is only when her father suggests that Bella live with her mother that Bella starts to begin to participate in life again. She cannot bear to leave Forks, the place where her romance with Edward started.
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Bella’s father insists that she spend time with friends and forget about Edward. Bella goes through the motions of everyday life to please her father but remains apathetic for the most part.  A dangerous situation sparks a hallucination of Edward which compels Bella to seek more risky situations just so that she can see Edward again.
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Bella motivated by her desire to see Edward again (at least in her mind), decides to fix up some motorbikes, hoping that a thrilling ride might bring about the hallucinations. She asks an acquaintance, Jacob Black to help her restore the bikes and during their time together their relationship grows. Jacob falls in love with Bella but Bella can’t forget Edward. To further complicate matters, Jacob discovers he is a werewolf and as such is a sworn enemy of vampires.


I liked New Moon as I learnt more about the Twilight universe. I liked reading the first few chapters that detailed Bella’s grief as I know what it’s like to be in funk. I admired how Bella knew that Edward was her true love and couldn't forget him even though six months or so had past. She reminded me of damsels in fairy-tales and myths who weep all day for their lost love.  Although, there were times where I thought Bella needed to pull herself together because she frequently needed to be comforted. I also liked Jacob who was very different from Edward. Jacob was a warm and upbeat person who could joke around with Bella., Jacob and Bella didn't have to be as careful around each other as Bella had to be with Edward. Edward had to try hard to resist Bella’s blood and Jacob didn't have a blood-lust for humans.
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What I really liked about New Moon was learning more about Jacob. Personally, I would have liked Bella to end up with Jacob because the love between Bella and Edward is too intense. Remember this is a guy who before they were dating, would sneak into Bella’s bedroom without her permission to watch her sleep. Edward is very protective of Bella which leads to them always having some inane argument. The argument always ends with Edward trying to persuade Bella with a loving glance and murmur which is enough to set Bella’s heart racing and lose her focus.
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I can see that Bella would have been happy with either of the boys. They both are smitten with her and would do anything for her.  There’s always fan fiction if I ever want to see more of Jacob Black. I wonder how I would react if I were in a love triangle. I’ve always found the situation when I have seen in books or movies to be an unfair situation especially when the person that everyone else is fighting over takes too long to decide. Although, I know that soap operas are meant to draw out the most drama. It’s a pity that because of the hype of the movies, I know the gist of what happens in the Twilight books. I think it would have been very thrilling to find out that Jacob was a werewolf.