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  1. I'd nominate The Marriage of Figaro for an entry into opera. The libretto is based on the work of a cynical French playwright (Pierre Beaumarchais, amazing biography) and is much stronger than most opera librettos, if also equally bananas. I liked the David McVicar staging with Erwin Schrott in the title role (2015); it was filmed and is sure to be floating around online somewhere. If you can overlook the obscurity of the composer, it's really worth checking out. As for Wagner I liked Patrice Chéreau's Ring Cycle, which was also filmed though to an eighties TV standard, and had Gwyneth Jones as Brunhilde. Have yet to see any Wagner live. Find the composer's views deeply repellent and the work sometimes irritating and soporific, but undeniably he was gifted.
  2. Was just thinking how much nicer it is to go to the theatre/opera with a good friend than with a stranger or near stranger who has their own agenda. Have been trying to twist the arms of my limited number of contacts here into going to the theatre with me but to no avail.
  3. Fun blog entry about Doctor Who fans at Chengdu. Sadly their musical introduction to the panel doesn't seem to have been recorded.
  4. Caught up to the end of episode three by watching in twenty minute instalments. Contrary to general sentiment, I prefer Majors's performance as Timely – it feels more reactive and connected – though his stammer-avoidance pattern seems to be a bit off. I can't work out which sound is meant to be causing him trouble. If it turns out the stammer is an affectation, then that's some seriously good work from Majors, but I don't think it is. As He Who Remains, he seemed to be doing a piece of theatre acting -- the sprawling over the table, for example. Plus his meeting with the Lokis seemed to go on forever and involved lots of him speechifying/delivering exposition.
  5. I just found out that the informal word for bumblebee in Welsh is 'buzz shit-dog' cachgi bwm. So quaint and folkloric. I love my sort-of second language.
  6. So you wouldn't recommend it, then?
  7. My mother's a confirmed Ricardian, loyaultie me lie and all that. I'm actually quite fond of Henry VII in so far as I am of any late medieval/early modern ruler (and am now going to hide). The biography of him by Thomas Penn The Winter King was a very enjoyable read, though it almost certainly overemphasised his sympathetic qualities. Anyway, I read Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins back in 2021 and enjoyed it. It was dense, psychologically acute and had a great snobbish and sinister Oxford that was interesting to think of in comparison to Philip Pullman's (somewhat) cosier version. I picked up Windmill Hill, her next book, when I saw it in the library; in part because of my memories of her earlier work and in part because it promised eccentric old ladies and miniature dachshunds. And bloody hell, it definitely delivered on the second half of that sentence. When I read the acknowledgements at the end, it wasn't a huge surprise to learn that Atkins has a dachshund of her own; some of the most vivid writing in the book is about them and the feeling of loving them: Astrid is a former actress, now 82, having once been the more successful half of a theatrical couple. Her career ended and his took off, following a Stewart of McKellen-like trajectory, and in murky circumstances, the details of which the author holds out as bait for the reader to keep them going through a lot of less plot-driven material. As the main point-of-view character, Astrid is scatty, interested in humans, and generally sympathetic. Much of the novel's present is set in an airport and her background is told entirely through her reminiscences, and sometimes through memories within memories. Each chapter begins with a letter, either from a nineteen twenties bohemian who once inhabited the titular windmill or from someone angry with her for being a nineteen twenties bohemian living in a windmill. Many are funny: Despite all the good things, of which there are many, the book rambles much like its main character does. At times, it was a little hard to believe that the same novelist produces both this and the intense Magpie Lane, and made me wonder if she'd changed her editor. The main villain, a working class mobster, isn't very convincing – very cardboard. He even gives a short 'and that's why I'm an evil bastard' speech. I think Lucy Atkins may have even less experience of the rougher side of life than me. Also, the end is rather too pat – Victorian, almost, in its neatness and in its slightly heavy-handed symbolism. I don't think it's a disaster: I'm still asking myself – "Was this a romantic novel, or was it an anti-romantic novel? Or a mixture of both? What was it saying?" with the sense that it was saying something more complicated than: I’ll put no trust in men, not in my own brother so maids if you would love, love one another It also left me wanting to watch documentaries about windmills and to visit the Jack windmill in Sussex, the inspiration for the one here. However, it does need a stricter editor.
  8. Patsy the sheepdog sheepdogs through two feet of water
  9. Yes, surprised fan ingenuity didn't produce an informal one ahead of the awards. The Chinese text was apparently provided in a Word document in the voter packet.
  10. Two old women in 1970 reminiscence about their teenage years. Rational dress, a difficult headmistress and bicycling inappropriately. ETA: Names are Effy Jones and Berta Ruck.
  11. Isn't it the only MCU show you can look forward to seeing each week? Unless I've lost my grasp on the Marvel release schedule, which is very possible. My mother used to regularly tell me that I was the favourite of her offspring. (She didn't have a huge number to choose from).
  12. I wouldn't say I feel sympathy for the priest in question, who is an arsehole and a fossil one to boot; however, I do regret the way supermarkets and big chains in the UK have united behind American TV and Film's Halloween, while other traditions have mostly gone -- guising and souling, for example.* And of course, it's become yet another excuse for selling random plastic crap. And for the disgusting pumpkin spice latte to appear in coffee shops. What's wrong with a decent, old-fashioned shot of rum, ffs? I know some people here hate bonfire night for good reason, but I love it since some of my happiest memories from childhood are from November 5th with bonfires, sparklers and truly hazardous tooth-breaking treacle toffee; I'll be sad if it gets replaced by plastic pumpkins. * Whatever happens on the 31st inevitably seems to involve kids walking round nagging people into giving them stuff. Possibly the original purpose of the festival was as a contraceptive. Record sign-ups to novitiates in monasteries and nunneries followed on November 1st...
  13. Czech priest stomps on a display of children's pumpkins (twice) Also a clue as to why the Czechs tend so much towards atheism/agnosticism. (Though I guess there's an off-colour joke to be had there about how British vicars and priests have treated children. If only they'd stuck to smashing pumpkins, really).
  14. Jerol recommended it in my winter reads thread, but I think I may have seen it mentioned before then -- maybe on a dreamwidth blog.
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