31 January 2008

Adapt This

So I've been watching all the recent Jane Austen TV adaptations on PBS's "Masterpiece" (they took Theatre out of the title and you don't see the hall of books anymore; I kind of miss that.) I have mixed thoughts on the first three offerings.

I would have to say that so far Persuasion is the most disappointing. To me, Persuasion is in the top three of my favorite Austen novels, along with Pride and Prejudice (P & P) and Sense and Sensibility (S & S). For years I've been satisfied with the Ciaran Hinds/Amanda Root version from the BBC, but I thought I'd watch the new version just in case. Truly, it was butchered. Literally. They chopped up scenes, dialogues, and characters completely. Anne Elliott had a terrible habit of looking sadly at the camera, like some sort of Regency-era Emo. The ending was terribly rushed - Anne is running through the streets of Bath with people popping up out of nowhere to deliver lines that should have been drawn out and appreciated. Seriously, people. My sisters and I had plenty of sugared and caffeinated items in a few hours' time during our day trip to Bath. It was our only day to be there and, I can tell you, there was no running involved. Why would the mature Anne Elliot make such a scene of herself? Though Captain Wentworth was okay, the kiss at the end was probably the most unromantic, gagworthy thing I've ever seen. Please skip this one.

Northanger Abbey is the best so far. Mind you, I haven't read the novel since 1996 and the only other adaptation I've seen was horrendous. The 80s Catherine Morland was bucktoothed and beyond goofy. I suppose anyone would be delightful in comparison. Well, the new Catherine is pretty but a little eager-looking: just enough but not painfully so. Otherwise, it was fun to see her wild imagination, gleaned from the Gothic "horrid" novels, lead her into rather silly assumptions. This one was also rushed, and some explanations left out, but I would recommend this one above the rest.

Mansfield Park - well, I'd put this one somewhere in the middle. It was certainly better and more accurate than the 1999 version, but too many characters were toned down (Mrs. Norris was practically invisible, which made no sense), and Fanny's return to Portsmouth was completely left out. What gives? Former pop singer Billie Piper was too modern-looking and lively to be a true Fanny Price - I'd see her more as S & S's Marianne maybe. I'd watch this one over the other two I've seen (the old BBC version was almost verbatim of the novel but that's a bit of overload.)

I'm looking forward to Sunday's 'Miss Austen Regrets.' It could be awful, but no more than the dry heave that is the new Persuasion. As for the new S & S: well, I shudder to think of it, but I must watch it anyway.

DVR rocks!

10 January 2008

Zen Burger

On Monday Bonnie and I tried a new fast food restaurant near our office. It's called Zen Burger, and I believe it's related to the Zen Palate restaurant. The idea of Zen Burger is that it's completely vegetarian, affordable, and quick. Well, so far they've got two out of three.

I ordered the chicken sandwich meal, which upon trying made me say the oft-quoted opinion "tastes like chicken!". It really was pretty close, and the prices were comparable to any other fast food restaurant. The only problem was that it wasn't really fast. They take your order right away, and then you wait fifteen minutes for the food. Though there is ample seating, the area around the counter is so crowded with people waiting for their order to arrive, you begin to feel anything but "zen". Remember that the placed is located a stone's throw away from Grand Central Station, one of the busiest office areas of the city. Time is money, as they say.

Of course, it's only just opened. Perhaps they just need to iron out their system. I'll give it another go in a few weeks, because I do like to encourage affordable, healthy vegetarian food. Plus I noticed through the crowd of office workers waiting that there was Revolution iced tea. I'd like to see if that's any good.

As for today, I'm home sick. I thought I'd avoid whatever is going around, but I'd have to have an amazing immune system to pull that off. Well, any excuse to sit around drinking tea and sleeping all day.

07 January 2008


It's the 300th Post!!!!!!!!!! Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!
I just wanted to say that.

02 January 2008

Books in Retrospect

I read 63 books last year. That's extremely close to my record, set in 2001 (64). Shall we aim for 70 this year?

By the way, 15 of the 63 books are in my own home library. For me, that's a pretty good ratio.

Here's a brief recap of some books I enjoyed in 2007:

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff: I mentioned this one back in January, but it's worth a shout-out once again. I just loved the sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road, and could feel myself almost accompanying Hanff on her first visit to England (a few years before I was born, so physically impossible.) I've actually read this one twice this year - it's not long.

Katherine, by Anya Seton: Historical novel based on the life of Katherine Swynford, who later married John of Gaunt and ancestress of a number of Kings and Queens of England. Sometimes I found it a tad melodramatic, but still a fun display of the 14th Century.

Liquid Jade, by Beatrice Hohenegger: One of those tea-is-wonderful-but-we-got-it-at-the-price-of-millions-of-suffering-people-in-the-past themed tomes. Though I felt guilty in intervals, it also helped me to really appreciate what it takes for me to have a good cup of tea, and I aim to truly savor it.

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down, by Nicey and Wifey: An in-depth study of tea break enjoyment, down to the mug/cup and biscuits. Probably the most fitting title of a book I've seen.

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland: A novel based on the making of a Renoir painting? Fabulous! Perfect early summer reading.

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde: Once again, a real highlight of the summer. It's truly the only reason I look forward to July anymore. It was a little strange to read about Thursday Next's adventures in this decade, but still something I shall return to again and again without getting tired of it.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell: You have to be in the mood to read about poverty and the hobo life to get into this. Still, it's my first Orwell since Animal Farm in High School - it seems I forgot how well he writes. Maybe I'll make a move on his essays.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran: I've never really been into Egypt and its history, beyond Exodus and that Cleopatra novel I read a few years back. Nefertiti actually moved me to visit the Egyptian section of the Met. I never knew about the upheavals of religion during this particular time period (just before Tutankhamen): it seems Nefetiti's husband wanted to introduce a monotheistic belief system. Nefertiti's sister is the narrator in this novel, who is portrayed as an herbal expert who just wants to live a simple, non-ambitious life but can't quite get there.

Tipperary by Frank Delaney: I read Ireland by the same author over a year ago, and I liked his storytelling, so I picked up this one as soon as I could get a hold of it. For some reason the story reminded me a little of Forrest Gump - a guy who is a bit simple in some ways who meets well-known people of his time pretty much by accident each instance, and retains a rather frustrated love for a woman for a long, long time. Still, I love learning about recent Irish history through the magic of fiction! It's also cool how the narrator changes -from Charles O'Brien near the turn of the last century, to the historian who finds the story and realizes as it goes on that he's somehow connected to it.

There's other very good ones, but I'm really interested in getting on with 2008.