I'll try again tomorrow to load a few more...
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I'll try again tomorrow to load a few more...
My only real complaint is that it refused to snow here, despite the fact that I played "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby approximately 4000 times in a row, nearly making JP's brain explode....
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Jewelry, clothes, top of the line cookware, even books- take it all right back to the shop and get a refund.
I need nothing- absolutely nothing.
Because I once again have INTERNET SERVICE in the COMFORT of my OWN HOME, I am now perfectly and completely happy and want for nothing in this world.
Monday, November 30, 2009
And so I have, pretty much.
I'm not saying that this is quick or fun, but I'm managing. And it sure beats being out of touch with all my cyber friends! Thanks so much for the messages of sympathy and support. Your comments, as Garrison Keillor says of Powdermilk Biscuits, "give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done". (Replace the word "shy" with "fearful of German keyboards and very slow, elderly computers" and it fits perfectly.)
The main news to report around here is that we have SNOW! It started in the night as the rain pattering on the roof above my bed suddenly went silent. It was 3am and I thought, "It must be snowing." Then I thought "OMG! I forgot to shut off the water to the outside faucet! It's going to freeze and burst!" This dreadful idea was enough to send me rocketing out of my bed and out into the snowy night wearing my pyjamas. I went down into the cellar and got the water turned off. That was the easy part. I still needed to drain out the upper part of the pipe. This involved kneeling in the snow beside the house, pushing over a large cement drain cover and reaching down into the dark, damp depths to open a spigot at the base of the pipe.
In the light of day in fine weather, this is not an impressively difficult task. But at 3am in a snowstorm, it takes on a certain epic grandeur.
In my opinion.
I guess maybe you had to be there....
Sunday, November 29, 2009
WRETCHED ABOUT COVERS IT.
AND why am i CAMPED OUT IN FRONT OF A PALS COMPUTEr, yOU may well ask
Due to a crazy error on the part of Orange (our internet "server") we have had no internet at home for the last nine days and it will not return until December 11! And considering the fact that this computer is driving me mad, I sincerely doubt Ill be posting much>
I will certainly post the recipe, biut not very soon>>
How can German people stand this torture!!!!!?
NOTHING is where it should be
Poor me. Poor blog.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
So, right now it’s autumn in the Haute Savoie and all I can say is: gorgeous.
2. A Way With Words- I want Martha and Grant to come visit me, tell me interesting stuff and be my bestest friends 4ever. Is that creepy? Is it inappropriate to feel so strongly about two public radio hosts that I’ve never met? Probably, but I’m powerless against the charms of their hour-long show that examines all the oddities and foibles of the English language. I laugh and learn something new every week. If you are curious about English slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and just speaking and writing well, this is the go-to program…
3. Burkina-style Peanut Sauce - This is the national dish of Burkina Faso. Cooking it brings my four kids down to the kitchen saying « Smells like Ouagadougou !». It also has the advantage of impressing guests, as most people have never eaten it before- especially not an authentic version. You need: chicken broth, tomato paste, Maggi seasoning cube (but use it appropriately!!) , peanut oil, chicken (thighs work best), vegetables (for sure cabbage, also sweet potatoes and green beans. Eggplant, potatoes, and carrots are also good) You also need a bunch of peanut butter- preferably one made specifically for African dishes. Skippy or Jiff won’t work. Fresh-ground stuff from a health food store would do nicely.
All of this is assembled into a sauce and then usually served with tô. But rice works, too. If this sounds tasty, leave me a note in the comments section and I’ll give details on the recipe so you can make it at home…a bit of Burkina chez vous.
4. Cake Wrecks: Many thanks are owed to Joy and a few other readers that led me to this endlessly fascinating blog that documents the worst in professional cake decorating. Today, for example, it features a birthday cake that is « ornamented » with a pile of dead leaves on top of the icing. Not marzipan foliage, mind you, but actual dead, rotting leaves. Must be seen to be believed, really… Go check it out and consider it your « Cake Tuesday » offering from me.
5. I Gotta Feeling- I don’t usually get popular songs stuck in my head. My strange brain tends to add only oddities to my inner soundtrack. For example, when a pal burned me a cd with a song in on it about trapped miners committing cannibalism, I was humming it for days. And a more recent brain-worm tune for me has been the old hymn « In the Sweet By and By ». So, I’m not generally a Black Eyed Peas-ish kind of person. But when I took the kids to the cinema a few weeks back, I ended up wearing funny glasses, listening to talking guinea pigs wishing I were in the next room over watching Surrogates . But that was only appropriate for my older kids and, so I was keeping the twins company as they enjoyed G-Force. It turned out to be tolerably cute, as I am rather fond of guinea pigs. So, now the song I Gotta Feeling (prominently featured in the film) makes me think of secret agent rodents speeding down the highway in over-sized hamster balls and I smile… Plus, this is the only song that I know the words to that has the phrase "mazel tov" in it.
6. Glee- I’d seen it mentioned a few times on the web by bloggers I like, so I downloaded the first episode of the series. Then, I settled down with my three daughters to watch it. It’s kind of like High School Musical, right?
It’s clever, scorchingly mean, amazingly funny and SO not for 11 year olds. So, the twins don’t get to watch, but Tya and I are enjoying it. As someone who was in the school music scene back in high school, I find it particularly enjoyable. I think Tya likes it because the world of a US high school looks so exotic to her…there’s no cheerleaders or swing choirs in French lycées- not ever. Quelle idée!
7. Asphalt- Maybe it smells a bit dreadful, but it is still my favorite paving material for the month of November. As I write this, a team of eight men is outside my house, putting the finishing touches on our newly-paved driveway and parking area! It’s actually fascinating to watch (to me, anyway…but then, I don’t get out much) and I just spent an hour leaning out of Tya’s bedroom window, watching them work. JP was teasing me, saying that only old men like to stand around and watch construction projects. I begged to differ. Small boys like to, as well.
By Friday, it will all be cooled, hardened, and ready to drive on. Yippee!
8. The Nation- a brilliant magazine that keeps me in touch with US politics and helps me not be (too much of) an idiot.
9. The Annemasse Conservatory of Music- It’s a small school run by the city of Annemasse, just about a 20 minute drive from my house. In September, I joined the choral group there and am really enjoying it. It’s not just the singing itself and the nice new friends I‘ve made- it’s the whole ambiance of the place. It’s heavenly to be in a building full of nothing but musicians who are busy learning and improving. Very inspiring.
10. Top 10 Lists- They are so very appealing. Make one and you automatically feel organized and authoritative. The only problem is that, while 10 is a nice, round number, it can be hard to come up with that many good items….
Monday, November 16, 2009
"There's hardly any Dreamies left, mom! What happened to them?"
I set the timer and started to answer "I don't know, Mallory. I didn't ..."
I was interrupted in mid-phrase as JP joined us in the kitchen and announced in an injured voice:
" Those new snacks you bought really don't taste very good, you know!"
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This is all very exciting, from my point of view, but let's move on. It is Tuesday, after all, and that means...
This one was NOT made by me. It was made by four adorable little girls. I had the twins and two of their pals bake a cake one day recently and then let them loose with my decorating equipment. I gave them a few helpful hints when asked, but mostly just sat back and let them go at it. It's a bit odd, but awfully cute...and certainly eye-catching. it is, in fact, just exactly the kind of cake a bunch of 10 and 11 year old girls would like, don't you think?
Below is the cake I ended up making for my friend last weekend. It may seem like a strange design choice, but allow me to explain: Monica just got a degree in geology and her thesis won a prize. I wanted to make her a congratulatory cake, but not a boring one. No flower sprays or fondant "diploma", please.
As her research involved measuring thousands of cave bear teeth, I made her a silly "cave bear" cake. She loved it and had a good laugh.I can't post anymore cakes today, as I misplaced my cake album.
Hope i find it before next Tuesday...
Friday, November 06, 2009
Here's the deal: On Tuesday morning, a rep from the company we hired (last spring) to pave our driveway suddenly called and said the crew was ready to get started right away. In fact, if we were amenable, the guys would get going on it that very morning.
Were we ever amenable.
We were amenable with bells on, baby!
We'd pretty well resigned ourselves to a second winter of parking the car down by the road. Which is really no fun. Not only is it a long slog up to the house with groceries and such in hand, but the passing snowplows always manage to create a "Find the buried car" treasure hunt for us. So we were very excited that the job was finally going to get done.
When the crew arrived, I asked one of them how long it would take.
"All day today and maybe a bit tomorrow morning", I was told.
"Amazing!" I thought. And here's where we get to the crazy optimism part: I quickly took several "before" photos and planned to take "after" photos on Wednesday afternoon. Then I'd write a blogpost about the progress on our home renovation project and post the photos as well.
This was my plan-maybe not an exciting one to you, but it was mine.
The crew brought in a backhoe and steamroller and fussed around all day Tuesday, scraping gravel here, adding more there, then smooshing it all down with the steamroller. The house shook from cellar to attic all day long.
On Wednesday morning, I had my camera ready, waiting to see a truck full of asphalt pull up. Instead, at about 11am, the guys gave the house a final shake with the steamroller, packed up their stuff and came to say "au revoir".
That means "goodbye"", as in "we're leaving right now and you will never see us again, ever".
It turns out that these guys were just the preparation crew. They were merely the scrapers and smooshers of driveway gravel. The actual paving team is a whole different group of guys...a bunch of people too busy, I guessed, to come to my house anytime soon.
I sighed and asked when I could hope to hear from the second team.
"Soon," said the crew chief as he started to climb into his Peugot truck.
Maybe he saw the glitter of tears in my eyes or maybe his heart had been softened by the nice cup of coffee JP had brought out to him the day before, but he stepped back down to reassure me:
"Really soon. They don't like to leave too much of a lag time between the preparation and the actual paving."
"But how soon exactly?" I couldn't help but ask.
"Like this" he said, holding out his right thumb and index to indicate a space about two inches long.
Hmm.... I know France uses the metric system, but centimeters don't measure time, do they? Or did I miss something? I wondered as he climbed into the white truck and drove off.
So, here I am, my driveway blocked off by a rope so nobody tries to drive up it and spoil all the hard work of the prep crew. I have no idea when this will be finished. And there's still the carport and a whole freaking room to build...
In all the "excitement" of Tuesday, I forgot to post my usual cake pics. I was reminded of this today as I searched the internet for cake ideas for tomorrow. I want to make a cake for a friend and, though I usually use my own designs, I felt the need of a bit of inspiration this time.
In my search, I came across a site that promises to show "cakes you can bake" and features pictures submitted by proud bakers.
I'd venture to say that just about anybody could make this cake:
I just don't know if you'd want to.
The baker even shares this helpful hint: if you slightly warm the Tootsie Roll candies, you can more easily stretch them into more realistic, poo-like forms.
Needless to say, I've given up my internet search for cake ideas today(too scary!) and will just go ahead like usual and design my own...
Sunday, November 01, 2009
So, I had 10 pretty wound up children and teens on my hands. I finally got everyone to settle down by 2am and then went to bed myself. But I was rudely awoken at 4:30.
You know how the laughter of children is supposed to be musical and enchanting? Well, at 4:30 am, after only two and a half hours of sleep, it is so NOT.
So, I'm kind of low-energy today. But I feel motivated to share a few fun photos of the great party we had.
At the head of this post is the rather cute jack-o-lantern cake I made. I used a hexagon cake tin and then trimmed it to shape. I'm sort of proud of the stem.
For the interior, I used a boxed mix from the USA: Red Velvet. It created quite a sensation when we cut the cake, as French people aren't used to seeing dark red cakes.
Below we have a creation of Mallory's- the ever-popular candy spider-web, complete with giant spider:
The kids and I made all the food and then Valentine had fun making funny labels for all the dishes. The tiny, croissant-wrapped hotdogs were labeled: Steamed Baby Mummies. tIf you look closely, you can see their tiny, mustard-dot eyes:( As you can see on the sign, she wrote in French. I'm giving translations.) We also ate: Mashed Grasshoppers, Bat Paté Sandwiches, Baboon Brains, Roasted Witch Fingers, Griffin's Eyeballs, and Mini-kebabs of African Tiger Meat.
(That last one was a reference to the number of times people have said to Tya "OOH! You lived in Africa! Did you see many tigers?")
Tya even took the labels off all the drinks bottles and gave them names like "Human Blood: type AB" and " Artificially Flavored Toxic Snake Venom" . Nom!
The kids all thought the labels were brilliant.
Everyone was disguised, of course. Sev was a Goth Boy:
I hope you all had a great Halloween (where applicable, of course).
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
And that's just fine.
I am perfectly happy for Halloween to be an American specialty and I'm very glad that I have this fun cultural tradition to share with my kids.
We've been planning a party this week-not a huge one, but plenty big.
We got our jack-o-lanterns carved yesterday:
On Sunday, we made a simple, but reasonably cute, Halloween "tree" with painted branches:
The kids made all the little treat bags and had fun decorating each one differently:
I've also been downloading stuff off the internet. One site had some really nifty retro Halloween artwork that I just loved- for example:
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
In fact, what she said was "Let them see cake" The doomed queen hoped that viewing attractively decorated confectionary treats would soothe the violently rebellious spirits of the thousands of unhappy peasants milling around the palace.
It didn't work.
But I'll show you my cakes anyway.
Now, here's Santa. He's a bit square, but cute enough...
Here's another character cake from a cartoon. The film "Spirit" was a favorite of Valentine's at the time, so I made this:
This next one is also my own design. By the time I made it, I'd already done quite a few horse cakes. So, when one of the twins asked for a horse, I talked her into a seahorse- which she loved.
(I I love the expression on his little face.)
This is probably the most difficult character cake that I ever made. SpongeBob may be a big yellow rectangle, but he's a complicated big yellow rectangle. I'm pretty proud of him, as these cakes can go very, very wrong.
Friday, October 23, 2009
It was all fun to daydream about, at any rate...
But as the time for the move back to France drew nearer and our family grew older, we began to realise that at least a few of our idle daydreams would have to become a reality if all six of us were to fit comfortably in our moderately-sized, old-fashioned home in the Alps.
The first big project would be to take off the existing sad little hovel serving as a back entry hall:
It would have closets to store all the coats and shoes. Plus, the space would make getting ready to go out in the winter SO much less painful. Having four big kids in the kitchen, struggling in and out of their ski gear is very claustrophobia-inducing, as well as messy.
But getting from the first photo to the second one is not proving to be easy. Right away when I arrived back in France in July of 2008, I began trying to contact people about getting work done on the house. Wheels began to turn, but with glacial slowness.
It's now October 2009- 15 months from the day I started trying to get this project going and it's only this week that the real action finally started up.
On Tuesday, a team of men arrived, tore down the old shack (which is SO not missed) and began digging the foundation.
So, there's plenty of action around here lately and not just outside the house. There have been people constantly in and out of the house. On Wednesday, when my second group of English students left, I was sure to follow them out the door and say loudly "Good English lesson! See you next week for another English lesson!". I was afraid that the guys working outside were starting to suspect that I have a home meth lab and am dealing from my living room.
Or maybe not. Do they even have meth labs in the French Alps?
That day there were over twenty people in and out of the house (students, friends, family). I don't know why, but I'd thought that my life would contract when I moved to France. It's far from the case (and I think that's awfully nice). However, the fact that my home seems to be a central traffic point is becoming an issue, as our entrances and exits become increasingly blocked by the work. This morning, for example, the back door was sealed with plastic sheets from the outside and the path from the front door was completely blocked by the backhoe. Mallory was afraid of missing her bus and crawled out a window on the north side of the house.
When I got home this morning (I had to take JP to Geneva), the guys were pouring cement in the pouring rain. I had to squeeze between some drippy shrubs and scramble up a muddy incline to get to a door. But when the cement is all poured, they've promised to build us a little bridge across the wet cement. And that's very good, as I really don't want to be crawling in and out the window all weekend...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Ok...maybe not all the time- but at least for the next three Tuesdays, I'll be sharing my past Adventures in Cake Decorating with you.
One day in Burkina Faso, I was seized by a sudden urge to make fancy cakes. My first effort was a 3-D train for Severin's third birthday. Mercifully, there is no surviving picture of it.
With that failure under my belt, I was ready to move on (and up, so I hoped). I borrowed a cake pan from a crafty US expat neighbor and managed to make this for Alexa's birthday:
Tya's best friend needed a cake soon after. I felt brave and drew this pony for her- no fancy pan or any instructions. Just me and the icing.
This next one is one from 2001. The kids at the party thought it was a bit alarming. It's definitely one of the scarier cakes ever made in Burkina, I'm thinking. It's not an original design, though- I got the idea out of a cake decorating magazine. It was baked in a teddy-bear cake pan. Looking back, I maybe just should have made a teddy bear...
When Valentine was deep into her Harry Potter phase, I made her this Hedwig cake. It's my own design and I think it turned out pretty spiffy.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
That would have been a very unlikely outcome. Even if he'd gone beyond telling me that "Americans sound dreadful" and ventured into "your momma wears army boots" territory, I wouldn't have offered him physical violence.
I'm from the "stern glare and sharp retort" school of martial arts.
And any stray temptation to resort to administering a good old American knuckle sandwich would certainly have been crushed by the possibility of getting six months in prison. That's the new penalty under French law for assaulting a teacher.
I know about this because our houseguest this weekend is a recently retired collége (junior high) teacher and he keeps up with the latest news. Apparently, France has crazy nutjob parents (or 'parents fous de noix de travail' which makes absolutely NO sense in French, btw), just like the USA and a few French teachers have been punched out in the playground. No wonder people are so freaked out about "Americanisation"...
Monday, October 12, 2009
I burst out laughing, even though I knew he hadn’t meant to be funny. I had to. My choices at that point were: «laugh uproariously» or «slap him silly» and if I ended up in prison on assault charges, I wouldn’t be able to write in my blog, right?
It’s pretty amazing that I kept so cool. When I’d walked into the classroom, one of the first things I’d said was «I’m an American» and now he was telling me that I (and my girls!) sounded «dreadful»?
What on earth was the man thinking?
All I could do was laugh at him. And he looked totally surprised. Completely shocked.
I ventured a mild «Perhaps you sometimes find the accent a bit harsh to your ears?»
«No, I mean it sounds really dreadful.» he insisted.
It was really getting old.
The conversation had started out reasonably well. When I arrived, I’d immediately started speaking English, though he kept answering in French. but after a while, he finally switched to English. He spoke it reasonably well-not like a native speaker, but quite correctly- with a very British accent. I'd expected worse.
I introduced myself and explained that our family speaks English at home- I didn’t begin with any of my own concerns about the class. Instead, I asked how he thought the girls were doing. He complained that Mallory often ignores the lesson at hand and skips ahead in the textbook. He also said she didn’t talk much in class.
I pointed out that spending a week learning how to say «Hello. My name is Mallory» was probably pretty dull for a child who reads huge novels in English. I also mentioned that she probably didn’t feel a need to «practice» her English, as she already speaks it perfectly.
I asked about the accent issue and he said it wasn’t one.
«They‘re perfect . The girls sound just like the language tapes we use.»
It was a bit of a WTF moment for me. I began to wonder if the twins were using a British accent when they spoke at school. But I didn’t think so. Not really.
And then he came up with his «Americans sound dreadful» remark.
None of it added up. He didn’t seem like a horrible person. Astoundingly dim, perhaps, but not horrible. Why would he sit there and tell me to my face that I sound dreadful?
And why did he think the twins sounded fine?
First, I pointed out that, with 300 million people using it, an American accent is not only acceptable, it is by far the most common.
He answered ( for the third time!!) «But it’s dreadful!»
I’d really had enough.
«You’re sitting there and telling me that I sound dreadful?» I accompanied this with what my kids call my «Eyes of Doom». (If the "Eyes of Doom" came equipped with a deadly brain-melting ray, I SO would have used it on him.)
«No! of course not!» he looked quite shocked. «You speak perfectly normally, as do your daughters. Until now, I’d actually thought they were British…»
«An American accent IS normal. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! And don’t you hear mine? Can’t you tell the difference between the way you are speaking and the way I am? The differences in pronunciation? Can‘t you hear it?»
No, he couldn’t.
Here’s the deal- besides being a dope, the guy apparently has NO ear for language. He literally couldn’t hear the difference between my slightly internationalized, but still recognizable Midwestern English from Nebraska and his own very British English. It hardly seems possible that a language teacher could be so clueless, but there you go.
As he was such a dope, there was no use in being subtle. I finally said «The reason I came here was to make sure you didn’t think that the twins had a «dreadful», incorrect accent and hold it against them. But as you can’t hear it, I guess it’s not an issue…»
We talked some more, but it seemed kind of hopeless. The whole exchange was so nonsensical.
The only good that came of it was that I was able to make it clear that the girls know more English than he does and that it’s not surprising that the lessons often can’t hold their interest. And now he knows that he’d better be on his toes, or I’ll come back for another nice chat.
And here’s a question for you: Is the average American accent really any worse-sounding than a Liverpool or Birmingham accent?
I don’t think so.
Not that it matters to me, as I am apparently now speaking the Queen’s English…
Thursday, October 08, 2009
1. My cold/flu has gotten worse. The constant, wracking cough is quite the deal, let me tell you.
2. I now have 7 (count 'em: SEVEN) English students now and may even be getting an 8th one this month. I've had to add a second class on Wednesday mornings. Furthermore, the father of one of my students might be up for private lessons, as well. I haven't advertised or anything- it's just been word of mouth- and I'm astounded at how well it's going!
3. The meeting with the anti-AmE English teacher at the twins' school has been set! I'll be seeing him at 11:45 this coming Monday. It will be my unenviable task to point out to him that there are over 250 MILLION people living in the USA and that, contrary to his belief, they are not all speaking English wrong.
Good luck to me.
4. For the last few weeks I have been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my girls at bedtime. They are 11 and 16 years old, but still like to cuddle up on my bed and be read to. It's the best time of the whole day... Tonight we're starting "By the Shores of Silver Lake". Great stuff, written in solid American English.
5. We have a houseguest arriving tomorrow for the weekend. C. is an old friend of JP's. He's from a little town in the Vosges mountains that is famous for linens- sheets, towels, tablecloths, dishcloths, etc. I guess he couldn't take the excitement anymore and decided to come for a nice rest ches nous. Our village is very soothing, containing no shops of any kind - it features a church, a tiny school and many, many, many cows.
He'll stay until Monday. C. is a nice guy and low-maintenence, which is good.
That's it for now. I really need to get some sleep and try to shake this cold. It's completely ruining my enjoyment of the gorgeous fall weather we've been having...
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Luckily, I have plenty of pictures to share.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked home in the rain. It wasn't miserable at all. in fact, I thought it was rather nice and was inspired to take a few photos. Here's a shot that highlights some local characteristics. For example, there's a couple of billboards on the side of the barn -a common way to pick up a few euros. And under the billboards, you can see the wood stacked up for the winter. People are serious about their wood around here.
This is why our little corner of France is called "The Green Valley":
When I pass by this house, I always peek in and say "bonjour" to their "goat". It's really well-done, isn't it? I just might get inspired to make my own trompe l'oeil one of these days...
So, as you can see, we really are out in the country. We have a few neighbors, but they're pretty scattered. But despite the sometimes sparse socialization, we keep busy.
I particularly enjoy cooking and am constantly experimenting with new recipes. Here's a raspberry chocolate tiramisu that I recently concocted with some berries from our garden.
Our garden is almost all over and done now. There are about seven cabbages left, a few beets and a single pumpkin that I'm fattening up for Halloween.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
How about having the flu AND having about a quarter of your maxillary 2nd premolar break off?
That's some fun.
I wasn't even doing anything- just chewing on a lightly toasted and marmite-covered bit of bread.
To top it off, the dentists around here are booked up like you wouldn't believe. I called several offices and most could only offer me an appointment around mid-October. When I finally contacted a place that would give me a slot for Monday afternoon, I was pathetically grateful.
But now it's starting to hurt more and I'm thinking that the next five days might get pretty grim...
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Maybe it was a trick.
So, I looked up the dvd of "Lost in Austen" on Amazon.com and read the reviews there. They were nearly 100% raving positive. Adjectives like "delighful", "light-hearted" and "fun" showed up often. And I was was repeatedly promised that any true Austen fan would simply adore this British TV mini-series.
Reassured, I carefully downloaded the original, full version and then settled down to watch it with my children.
And guess what?
I didn't like it.
It was badly-written, vulgar and had plot holes big enough for a particularly large apatosaurus to walk through. And how I wished one would have done so and mercilessly trampled the people responsible for the script. But I digress...
First of all, here's the Amazon blurb describing the plot :
"Amanda Price is sick of the modern world. She yearns for the romance and elegance found in the books by her favorite author, Jane Austen. But she's about to get a rude awakening as one fateful evening, she is propelled into the scheming 19th century world of Pride and Prejudice while that book's Elizabeth Bennet is hurled into hers. As the book's familiar plot unfolds, Amanda triggers new romantic twists and turns within the Bennet family circle as she clumsily tries to help the sisters nab husbands and even captivates the tantalizing Mr. Darcy herself. But what about Elizabeth...and what will become of one of the world's greatest love stories"
Not that it's accurate-from the moment the heroine steps through the magical bathroom wall-door, nothing goes according to the plot of the novel. And it's strange that this supposed "fan" of Austen, who has read 'Pride and Prejudice' a hundred times, doesn't even blink an eye when a major character shows up immediately, long before he's supposed to.
The problems with the plot are too numerous to go through one by one. But here's an example: Amanda prances around the Bennet household for a day wearing her 21st century pants and top. Nobody seems the least bit surprised or shocked. And when one of the sisters finally remarks on her "unusual" clothing, she tells them it's her "otter-hunting kit". Right.
The really horrible moments, though, arise from Amanda's 21st century vulgarity. While she's supposedly someone whose always dreamed of living in the elegant civility of the past, she seems to have a LOT of trouble curbing her mouth and her behavior. She gets drunk at a ball, insults people (even when not drunk) with charming epithets such as "bumface" ('buttface' to you Americans out there) and just basically wreaks havoc. So much for making an effort at fitting in.
Many of the plot problems stem from the fact that the scriptwriters apparently never read the original book. For example, when Amanda arrives, Mr. Bennet offers her Lizzie's bed. Anybody who has read the book even once knows that Jane and Lizzie share both a bedroom and a bed. But Amanda goes upstairs to the room and it's all hers alone, with a single bed. And then she wakes up, surprised and shocked to find Lydia in bed beside her. She accuses her of looking for "girl on girl action" and then, in the biggest gross-out moment of the film, she flashes her "pubes" at poor Lydia and talks about her "landing strip".
It's such a shame, as the idea was cute and there were a few good moments in the film. Not many- but a few.
Frankly, I don't know what to make of all these self-described "Austen fans" who "love 'Pride and Prejudice' saying that this is a great show and that it does Austen proud.
Monday, September 21, 2009
It all seems quite well-organised. There is a large, well-equipped rehearsal space in the basement of a defunct post office and teachers that seem very competant and well-liked by the students. They even have the year's schedule worked out already and we've been informed that the first concert will be held in mid-December. The theme this year is... Pink Floyd.
Not that I have any kind of grudge against the music of Pink Floyd.
It's just so...old.
And even worse , the theme last year was....wait for it....The Beatles. It was a great choice- can't go wrong-something for everbody, etc... But why did they have to choose another group from the exact same time period for this year's show?
While I'll admit that the 60's and early 70's were very important (crucial, vital, etc) in the development of modern rock music, time did not stop in 1975.
The middle aged guys behind this local conspiracy would probably argue "It's classic! It's Rock Canon!" But I'm not sure that's the best criterion. For example, I love listening to Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole. Heart-on-the-sleeve women songwriters like these owe lots to Joni Mitchell. Thanks very much, Joni. She's "canon" and "classic" and all that good stuff. But do I really want to listen to her? Not so much. In fact, I cannot stand listening to old Joni Mitchell stuff. "Both Sides Now" actually makes me throw up a little.
I feel the same way about Pink Floyd. Thanks for influencing groups like Genesis and Nine Inch Nails. Now let's move on, m'kay?
I don't really feel that I can burst in on their little male, past-worshipping enclave and give my opinion, though. Though the fact that I'm US-born probably gives me a certain amount of musical cred, it will only take me so far. Which is not very. So, I'm thinking that I'll have to at least wait until next year to give my input. Certainly if they come up with Cream or The Who, Something Will Have to Be Done. It's fine stuff all, but it's just more of the same.
Have these people never heard of U2? REM? The Police? And how about newer groups like Green Day and Muse? I have to think this would be more fun for the kids than ressurecting the same dusty old zombies year after year...
Saturday, September 19, 2009
This early crowd is full of old, only slightly seeding-looking, white Frenchmen. These are the brocantes- the guys that own antique/secondhand/junk shops. They make their living by getting in early and snapping up all the good stuff befor anyone else can buy it. Then it goes into their shops to be sold at a huge markup.
To be fair, the competition (aka the rest of the clientele), for the most part, is not looking for charming antiques that have been unwisely thrown out by people who didn't realise their value. Most of the folks are minority families -folks that probably weren't doing that great even before the current economic crise. They are quite often North Africans with quite a few kids in tow and looking for a sturdy bunk bed or a working stove.
There are only a few families that look like they might be a bit more like my own- relatively privileged, but still trying to keep within a sensible budget.
I was mainly looking for books. I'm a bit of a book addict and if I bought only new ones to feed my habit, we'd be broke in a few months. Luckily, my parents are great about sending books and I also have some friends in the village to exchange books with.
Then there's the "Livres en Anglais" shelves at the Emmaus.
Today I found a recent biography of Jane Austen by Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields. It was marked at 2 euros and the guy sold it to me for 1!
I also bought an AC/DC songbook that the kids wanted for their fledgling rock band. It's from the US and marked at $ 24.99 . But the Emmaus had it priced at 3 euros.... and sold it for 1. Another epic win!
We picked up a few other things, but those were the highlights.
After lunch, we walked up to the village (about a mile away) for Saint Maurice's Fair, which is held there every September. There were stands selling candy, clothes, baskets, chairs and just about anything else you can think of. There were also plenty of cattle being shown off in the competitions, sporting wide, heavily decorated leather collars and huge bells. Mallory was worried that they must be too heavy for the cows' necks. I, on the other hand, thought they looked rather proud of their fancy gear...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I was searching for reviews of my new album on Google today and came across your blog post which placed my song Beth in your top 5 "in" things. I've no idea how you found it, since I didn't promote that album at all, but I'm glad you did, and thankful for the mention and your patronage.
My new album, "The End of Suffering", comes out on November 3 on Incurable Eclectic Records and will be available on iTunes, Amazon et al. Hopefully you'll find something to hum along with on this album as well!
(* he later sent a second email, apologising for misspelling my 'nom de blog')
When I was a kid, I never wrote to my favorite stars. One of my friends wrote to Donny Osmond. Twice. And never even got an autographed picture (with which she was hoping to torment the rest of us into fits of terrible jealousy, so that probably worked out for the best).
At any rate, this early experience, indirect as it was, put to rest any vague thoughts of fangirldom.
And that's good.
Otherwise, after listening to the song "Beth" obsessively every day for a month, I might have written to Ken Flagg. And he would have thought I was a pathetic, yet creepy, stalker.
But instead of that, he wrote to me! How cool is that?
I thought it was very gracious of him to thank me for my very brief mention of his work in my previous blog post. He seems like a nice (as well as obviously talented) guy. In fact, he seems so nice and talented that I've taken the trouble to track down a few of the songs off his unreleased album, give them a listen and review them here on my blog.
So, here it is- the first ever music review by BurkinaMom!
"The End of Suffering" is very different from Flagg's first album. This time around, he seems determined to show what he can do - and that seems to be just about everything. He slides between genres with ease and grace, always adding his own quirky signature to everything he touches.
"Pieces" is a heartfelt ballad that showcases the sweetly intellectual side of him, which is what first hooked me on his music. It's definitely one of my favorites.
In direct contrast is "Mountain Girl", a determined rock anthem, complete with screaming guitar solo. He does indeed "rock the hell" (as one reviewer wrote) out of the song. I won't go into the lyrics here ("your peaks sublime", etc), but I think (fervently hope) he means them as a parody of silly rock songs.
"When the Sun Sets in the Eastern Sky" is Brazilian on the surface, but delightfully geeky to the core. Flagg admits in his bio to being a geek. Hey- who else would rhyme "myriad dreams and hopes" with "barren field of isotopes"?
"Candyman" has an infectious alt-rocker energy and sounds like something my teenagers will want to load on their iPods.
I haven't heard full versions of every song, but I really get the impression that this is a strong album. The variety of musical styles could have led to a very disjointed feel. But Flagg's musical vision is very keen and he keeps everything on target. The songs are all very different, but all very "Flagg".
I wish him the best of luck and healthy sales figures!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Well, on Saturday night, I needed what happened in the Rialto Cinema in Geneva to stay in the Rialto Cinema in Geneva.
The film ended and the lights came up. People started standing up and filing out.
I just sat there a while. Some kind of PSTD, I think.
Finally, I gathered my strength, turned to the four teenagers sitting beside me and said "We will never speak of this again. Ever. And for God's sake DON'T tell your parents about it."
It seemed like a good idea at the time is my only defense, and it's a pretty feeble one, I know. Anybody else in her right mind would probably know better than to take four teenagers (two of them not her own) to an American-made film called "The Hangover". Just from the title you know you're in for irresponsible drinking behavior modelling, at minimum.
I normally stay far away from "crazy bachelor party films". It seems like the absolutely laziest concept for a comedy, ever. But the preview I'd seen for this one made it look so...cute. It prominently featured the following: a fluffy white chicken, a Bengal tiger and an adorable baby wearing funky aviator sunglasses. What's not to love??
Well, a lot, it turns out- especially if you have a couple of 13 year old boys with you.
I actually don't go to many films. When I do, they tend to be kid/family films. I like nice films where you get to the end and the dialogue has not once included the word f**k.
Yes, I sure do.
This film, on the other hand, had that word and many other words, too. And also body parts. And one of the characters pretended to molest the tiger.
Looking back, I clearly see that we should have left. But the thing is, it was actually an ok film in some ways. The idea was clever and the story really drew you in, if you didn't think about it too hard. The main characters were likable and you really wanted to know if they'd find the baby's mom, get the tiger back to Mike Tyson, return the police car and get back home in time for the wedding.
And after each event/word/body part display that gave me qualms, I'd think Well, that's probably the worst of it. It will be fine now. But it never was.
And so it was that I found myself ordering the kids not to go into details when telling their families about our nice evening at the movies.
The film has been getting lots of love in the press. But some hate, too. My favorite, most scathing review is this one. And it's where I learned to be SO glad we didn't stay through the credits!!!