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Chapstick Song

My brother’s niece, Josie Dunne, who’s embarking on a song writing career, wrote this song.

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Les Misérables

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As a big fan of Victor Hugo’s novel and the musical Les Misérables, I had to get the Criterion Collection version of Raymond Bernard’s epic film, which was made in the 1930s. (Some say 1934, others 1935.)

At 284 minutes, it’s a long film and I’ve been watching it over the course of a couple weeks, but it’s been worth it. (This might be the longest film I’ve ever watched.) For the theaters Bernard succeeded in convincing the studio to release the film in three parts so viewers would watch the film on three different days at their convenience. Quite a wise idea as I had to take breaks.

At first because I’m so tied to the musical with Hugh Jackman, I didn’t connect immediately with Harry Baur as Jean Val Jean. But with his sincerity and vulnerability Baur won me over and became Jean Val Jean as much as any actor.

Since this Les Misérables was made in the 1930s, I expected lower production values. Certainly scenes weren’t as lush, but they were high quality and a lot of money went into the rebellion and costumes and more. The film spent less time with Fantine and didn’t hurt the filmportray her falling into prostitution as graphically as the musical, but I see that as a plus because I know some friends didn’t want their children who’re in middle school to see those scenes with Anne Hathaway. I don’t blame them because they are hard to watch and more so for young viewers. Here if your teen is willing to read subtitles, they won’t be so affected by Fantine’s downfall.

Compared to the musical, Bernard’s film doesn’t sugarcoat the Thenardier’s greed and cruelty. They aren’t made to seem funny or cute. This film also makes it clear that the young boy, Gavroche was the Thenardier’s son.

Even with almost five hours of film time, spread across three films, Bernard edited out some of Hugo’s work, even some parts that are present in the shorter musical. I missed the expected scenes at the end when Marius distances Jean Val Jean from Cosette.

All in all, while it’s a time commitment, this production of Les Misérables is well worth watching if you’re a fan of the story. I will definitely look for more films directed by Raymond Bernard and for films featuring Harry Baur, who was great as Jean Val Jean.

 

Open House Chicago: The Arts Club

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I was delighted to explore Chicago this weekend with my former student Melody at Open House Chicago, a two-day free event where you can go inside over 200 buildings, many of which are usually closed to the public. Both Saturday and Sunday it rained like cats and dogs, but that didn’t deter us. In fact, it seemed like lots of people were intrepid enough to venture out.

We started at The Arts Club, simply because it was centrally located and I’d never heard of it. I learned that The Arts Club began after the 1913 Armory show came to Chicago. For the most part, people panned the art show which featured modern art that was quite shocking and outrageous. They didn’t appreciate Duchamp’s upside down urinal, which he entitled Fountain.

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Yet more progressive art lovers did embrace the modern revolutionary art and they banded together to make sure Chicago did not miss out on the avant garde. That’s how the Arts Club began and it’s continued to bring modern art to the city.

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At the Arts Club, Fall 2017

Today the Arts Club is at 210 E. Ontario Street and Tuesday through Friday they welcome the public to their galleries on the first floor. Only members are allowed upstairs, but for the Open House we were allowed up.

So the hoi poloi could wander around the meeting area and dining room where an eclectic mix of art was on display.

Questions:

  1. What is your opinion of the art shown here?
  2. What is your opinion of modern art?
  3. Who is your favorite modern artist?

Share Your World

Cee has an interesting Blogging Challenge she’s named Share Your World. To participate, you look at her questions for the week posted on her blog and answer them on your blog. I’m going to give this a try.

What do you consider is the most perfect food for you? (It can be your favorite food to something extremely healthy.)

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My perfect food would be chocolate, dark chocolate. It’s not the healthiest, but it does contain magnesium. I do wish it were healthier. I am mindful of not partaking too much, but I love the full taste you get in each bite of dark chocolate.

Are you focused on today or tomorrow?

I have to say tomorrow as I’m job hunting and doing a lot of planning. I do spend a lot of time wondering if I’m doing as much today to move forward and I guess I make myself tense and stressed when something derails my plan for the day.

If you could interview one of your great-great-great grandparents, who would it be (if you know their name) and what would you ask?

I don’t know their names. I suppose I’d interview my the great-great-great grandmother on my father’s side to find out what life was like in Ireland in the 19th century.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

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I appreciated the Open House Chicago event that allowed me to explore buildings in the city that are often closed to the public. A lot of planning and work had to have gone into making this free event succeed. I wish I had gotten to go today as well as tomorrow.

Mr Weinstein, et al

Ahh! Harvey Weinstein has been in the news so much. His behavior towards women appalls me, but I’m not surprised. It’s amazing that it took so long for his misdeeds to come to light, but it was the same with Bill Cosby.

What the news hasn’t said though and I suppose they can’t without proof, is that this is common in the entertainment business, and has been for years. Some famous cases involve Fatty Arbuckle, whose victim died, Errol Flynn, Louis Meyer who lusted after and groped Judy Garland in her teens, studio heads who lusted after Shirley Temple, and countless others whose victims probably never became famous and were too afraid to speak out.

As distasteful as this news story is, it’s good that it’s come to light again. From working in Hollywood, though never directly experiencing sexual harassment, I did routinely hear of horrid behavior. Most television writers’ rooms are despicable, i.e. very much like what was presented on The Comeback. Churlish writers will spew all kinds of disgusting talk like jokes about how many abortions they think a particular performer has had. Some secretaries, who had to work amidst profanity and vicious talk, sued Friends because it was a hostile work environment, but lost because the judge figured that kind of talk was necessary for creativity. (I disagree.)

I remember being asked in an interview for an assistant position if I would mind if the producers swore a lot or swore at me. Why would they have to? Note – the producers were women. I remember temping at a studio and hearing violent threats and horrible profanity spewing from more than one executive. When I was working in the human resources office, I remember a secretary calling in fear. She had run out of her office when her boss started throwing staplers and ash trays at her. He frequently used cocaine at work.

I’ve been told that secretaries in some offices are expected to schedule prostitutes for their bosses.

This problem goes way beyond one man. It’s the work culture and civil behavior is the exception.

I hope more people come forward and the business cleans up its act. This behavior should not be tolerated. Is it any wonder how much swearing, violence and salacious sexual relationships feature so much in today’s films and shows? I realize this dates back to the 1920s, when films were innocent by comparison, but do we need brutes deciding what films are made and what aren’t?

I think Harvey won’t be back in the States till whatever statute of limitations passes. His seeking help seems insincere and I hope he’s extradited if charges are made.

I do hope this emboldens women to speak up. I understand how hard that is, but if a man knows what he does will become public, perhaps he’ll act more civilly. Let’s stop this harassment.

Silent Sunday

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Send a Beloved Child on a Journey

When I lived in Japan, I’d see very young children, some looking no more than 5 riding the train alone. It seemed like they were going to cram school or to a lesson. I admit I thought this was too young for children to be out alone, but after watching the video above and learning about the rationale, that the Japanese want to impart a sense of independence in their children and that after WWII parents couldn’t chauffeur their children to school, to rebuild quickly everyone had to work and pitch in. The kids pitched in by taking on the responsibility of getting themselves to school or accomplishing tasks outside the home.

Sepia Saturday

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When I saw this darling girl interrupted from her writing, I knew I wanted to find some good photos of people at their writing desk. It’s crucial to have a good place to think and write. Here’s what I found on Flickr Commons.

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Constantin Dumba, 1910, Library of Congress

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Miss Young, 1926 from Musée McCord

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G. Polacco, 1915, Library of Congress

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“Hygiene of the Schoolroom,” 1910 The Internet Archive

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“Hygiene of the School House,” 1910, Internet Archive

Civilized City Competition

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Jinan and other Chinese cities cleaned up their acts to compete for a title of Civilized City. Posters were placed everywhere. Intersections were manned with sometimes as many as 12 traffic guards to make sure that no one went before the light was green and that everyone, even the infernal e-bike  riders, stopped when the light went red.

The street food vendors were sent packing, which I think was wrong headed. What’s uncivil about street food? I know they’re messy and probably don’t pay taxes, but just monitor them better and hold them to standards. Don’t eliminate them.

 

All night markets were forbidden. There used to be night markets where when the sunset you could haggle for anything from gadgets to linens to designer bags. Poof! Gone! They ain’t civilized.

This makes me wonder what constitutes a civilized city. I think following rules is great, but I’m sad to see the vendors disappear. Why aren’t they civilized?

Well, according to historian and Sinophile Jeremiah Jenne, China’s looking to modernize, to show the world that they’re as good as say Singapore or Taiwan. They don’t want to simply follow the West, but they don’t have a particular goal of their own. So they’re equating modernization with civilization.

It was sad to see how suddenly they got rid of hundreds of entrepreneurs. I wonder what happened to these people whose families depend on the money from these small businesses. I hope they were compensated, but I doubt it.

I’m not sure how a city benefits from this competition. I figured eventually the sweet potato vendors and even my favorite chicken salad business would be replaced by KFC or a fancy salad restaurant. I thought they’d fade away, but this is more of a hatchet job.

We’ve Come a Long Way

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At a presentation on writing Historical Fiction at my library, the speaker talked about Scold’s Bridles. In the 16th and 17th centuries women who were guilty of nagging their husbands, spreading malicious gossip and challenging the clergy could be punished by having to wear a scold’s bridle. The idea was to humiliate. Some bridles had little spokes that actually cut into the face or head. These were popular in Scotland.

Note: There were also humiliating punishments for men who were cuckolded. While both punishments seem cruel and unusual, punishing a man who’s wife had an affair seems even more unjust. The thinking seems to have been that scolds and cuckolds were unnatural.

For more see: Lancaster Castle, Scold’s Bridle

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