All the music and the books and shows that are out there I have yet to know of, I think to myself, as I watch Downton Abbey (for the thirtieth time) as I eagerly wait for the film to come out. FYI: I have months to wait still.
I like to think of all the explorers and inventors and everything undiscovered,
going back through history and into the present and the future I have yet to enter myself.
As I am halfway through the first month of 2019 already, I know there’s so much to discover too.
I am an explorer of my year, in my own personal narrative of a life, as I approach turning thirty-five. Sure, I am feeling wary of what might be or might not, but I am ready for the adventure and the exploration of what this year is meant to become.
Yeah, depending on the day and sometimes the hour you ask me in/on, my mood about all this changes. I feel like the start to 2019 is a slow one, but really I can’t complain about that. Life, when much more interesting, isn’t always the better alternative.
I am trying to see what’s next for me and I don’t always look at that as being a positive thing. I know I need to keep hold of the right attitude in this whole self-discovery dance I’m doing. I don’t dance well, but sometimes, you just have to flail around a bit, all four limbs, and not worry so much about what that might look like.
After all, last year at this time, I hadn’t bothered to give Downton a chance yet. How silly thirty-three-year-old me was for that.
I am thankful for no rain on the day of an important picnic/bbq for my cause.
We at the Canadian Federation of the Blind of Ontario were putting on our first ever summer social.
I am thankful for the perfect park where we held the event.
I am thankful I could meet such a diverse group, of old friends and new ones.
Caption: large group shot of some of our guests.
I am thankful for the help from my family. They are always supportive and always present.
I am thankful for friends who offer rides, help fetching supplies, capturing the special moments of the day, and to help us raise a bit of money to begin something more, just by showing up that afternoon.
I am extremely thankful that the day went off without a hitch.
Some days are a snapshot in time, of a beautiful gathering coming together. I sometimes lose my faith, and then something happens to help me find a little more to be getting along with again.
I am thankful for the 31 who attended our event and then the breaking off of smaller groups, from the bigger, that same evening and the next morning (for breakfast at a lovely spot) and the morning after that.
We discussed policies and plans. We discussed dreams and goals yet to reach.
I am thankful my brother and I could get our 13th podcast episode recorded, with likely something like three full hours of discussion, on transformative times gone by and the change we want to see for those who are blind in Canada.
We talk with the one who started the ball rolling on an Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, our good friend and former roommate.
I am thankful for this literary film.
For a major Downton Abbey fan like myself, this one is a treasure.
I’d heard of it, come across the trailer online, and I knew, right away, it would be my kind of film.
It was the perfect way to end one wildly successful weekend.
So much work to do. Sometimes, I need a little time with a good movie on Netflix, a bunch of tears shed – a satisfying few hours spent.
And I am thankful for the first of the freshest apples of the season.
I once loved to pour over photo albums of my mother or grandmother’s. My mom on her wedding day, the photos of my grandparent’s younger selves, or my own photo, smiling wide, in grade eight graduation gown.
Now I see so little that pictures don’t appear to me, not anywhere near clearly, unless they are shifting images I hold onto in my own wandering mind.
There’s a name for it, I believe but am too tired to look it up for this stream of consciousness writing moment, but I still see images in my own head. My mind hasn’t totally forgotten. My brain and those connections still fire off and hope to produce something tangible.
Well, sometimes it is a vague memory, myself as a tiny twelve-year-old, standing in my overalls in front of our side garage wall, full to the top with big cardboard boxes of fluid for home dialysis.
Other times, I see a picture, as if expertly framed, inside my thoughts. It’s an image that comes, without warning, like the one I started to see after binge watching all six seasons of Downtown Abbey in the last few weeks.
The young, naive kitchen helper, assistant cook Daisy. She finally sees what she has, after pining for all the wrong men, and she sees it after cutting all her hair off, to change up her image and to impress the boy.
At first, he laughs, but then they share a tender moment. She meekly looks up at him, her chopped off dark haired head. This one image seems to go along with that moment and its audio track, on a loop inside my mind.
I don’t know what that’s about. It isn’t real, didn’t happen that way (or at least I never saw it), but it feels so impossibly true to me.
My older brother is a photographer. I am proud of this, I admire him for many things, this included. He takes still images, mostly, and preserves a moment.
That’s all I try to do with my own writing, even if my own brain works against me, not giving me more than a moment’s peace, showing me a constant reel of images like I can still see them with my eyes.
It can be exhausting, sometimes preoccupying all of me, zapping my energy, as strange as that may sound.
He’s making science news today, here in Canada and the north, in a big, expansive way.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day: green beer, green rivers even. Everything is turned the colour green. Over the skies in Alberta, I believe, it is purple dancing in the night though, not the usual green of Northern Lights, ones I won’t likely ever see, like the colour green I miss and still try to hold onto inside my head.
I don’t care for all the revelry of this day, the kind that makes people let loose and get out of control even, arrests made, but it’s a celebration and I don’t fight that. I do believe some people don’t need much of an excuse to act ridiculous. I may be no wildly outgoing partier, but I love Ireland and I’d celebrate its existence any old time.
The colours seen in the sky are named Steve and I find that curious. Steve sounds like an Irish name to me.
My favourite character in Downton Abbey is Irish, the chauffeur Tom Branson. He is one of the best in that series.
I am away from all the noise today, no drinking for me, but I can practically hear the laughter from here, of a day where people let it all out. It’s green and I like green, green Ireland. What could be better?
Whether it’s the early 20th century, in the UK or in Canada, it couldn’t have been so easy to speak out about women’s rights. For Lucy Maud Montgomery, she had a lot up against her and yet she created a totally feminist character in Anne Shirley and in dozens of other strong female characters throughout her career as an author is a testament to who she was.
I’m also thankful, then, for female writers and scholars in today’s world, those who have written extensively on the women of history, here in Canada and beyond.
I’m thankful for a Canadian female from the country’s history books (or should be and now will be) appearing on the $10 bill.
I am lucky to be a woman in 2018 I realize. I am lucky to have one working kidney, rather than my two old damaged-beyond-repair kidneys.
Women have come so far since the 1920s. My kidney transplant is working, still after nearly 21 years, so far so good.
I realize all this, as I’m watching Downton Abbey for the first time. I found the series with descriptive track, which I first needed to keep up with all the characters, but now I like for facial expressions and such.
These aren’t available on Netflix with any audio track, though a couple shows (mostly Netflix originals) do have that.
These are recorded right from British television, one episode even with the commercials left in.
We’re coming to a time when audio description, on TV and in movies, isn’t quite so rare as it once would have been. Still, it isn’t common enough.
I want to demand audio description for movie theatres and for television, but it all takes time. People turn on TV and suddenly hear some odd extra voice chirping at them and are taken aback at first. It isn’t nearly common enough.
I recently began to see a new commercial for Diet Coke and wondered why they were choosing to show a new ad. Why now?
Some actress saying how if she wants to have a Diet Coke, she will. I admire that attitude, but what was I missing?
The answer is, I was missing the fact that it isn’t only the regular Diet Coke they are advertising. Apparently, they have four new flavours. I was told this by sighted family. Otherwise, I never would have known and they never would have caught my attention Coke.
I know, if most movies and shows still don’t have audio description, commercials won’t be any more likely to have it, though I have heard of a few. Either way, without specifically speaking about the fact that it isn’t just the usual Diet Coke they have to offer, someone without sight won’t know. I am a small minority of Coca Cola’s customer base, I realize, but I think I deserve to know these things, as insignificant as it might sound.
I totally thought about phoning Coke’s 1-800 number and complaining, letting them know this is discrimination and all they need do is verbally mention the new product they’re offering, but really I hold down a little on the growing activist part of me that is sick of living with things as they are. I am sure I’d only get one of those automated messages and be told to press 1 for…and 2 for…
I might still. I would also complain. I don’t recommend the Cherry, which is flavoured with something that tastes like pepper, a heated after taste that makes it undrinkable.
And so, your hard drive space is low, is the message my laptop keeps repeating to me. I get a notification of lack of space on my phone regularly, but this one is new. I am no good at clearing out my computer/phone. I let apps and files build up.
Wow, this post was supposed to be about one thing and it went a totally different direction. And so it goes.
I don’t know, then, why this latest retelling of Cinderella caught my attention the way that it did.
Actually, I have a hunch and it wasn’t the most solid reason to assume I’d like this new live-action production, directed by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh.
He is a multi-talented man and I felt he would pick the best actors to fill the roles and would present the story in a new and fresh way, just enough that I might come to love the story and see it in a whole new light.
**There’s the fact that not one, but two of the actors in this film can be seen on the beloved nighttime soap Downton Abbey.
**There’s the fact that Kenneth cast the wildly talented Cate Blanchett (most notably of Lord of the Rings and Elfin fame to me) to play the wicked step-mother.
**There’s the fact that the special effects and costumes were/are supposed to be phenomenal.
Everybody loves the story of Cinderella. As I have stated above, me not so much, but I was soon turned around on the matter, a fair bit at least.
The first good sign was the fact that I went to see this film with DS (descriptive service) and it worked. I had the worst luck with that lately, but as happy as I was when I first heard that voice coming through my wireless headphones, that is not what sealed the deal for me.
It was not one of those times when the basic storyline was taken and changed around, to fit a certain theme or time period.
(Ella Enchanted or Ever After.)
This film sticks extremely close to the well-known story, loved by so many generations.
These most recent of retellings often give background, such as with my favourite Maleficent, and this particular Cinderella was no different.
She is a young woman who suffers a lot of loss, very early on, but she is clearly loved by her parents and has been taught some really really excellent lessons and values from both of them.
It’s hard for any child when a step-parent and step-siblings are introduced into the picture. Cinderella is no exception there, but she attempts, at least, to make the best of her circumstances.
When her father is no longer there to protect her, her home life becomes unbearable, if not for the mice who become her friends.
Banished to the attic and made to wait on her remaining horrible step-family hand-and-foot would be dreadful without the strength her parents instilled in her and her creature companions.
Now I was unaware enough not to have realized, until watching this time, that Cinderella got her name not by any accident.
There’s a really well-done scene where Ella is caught having slept by the fire to keep warm. Her step-sisters call her Cinder-Ella, after cinders from the hearth.
After suffering an extended period of torment and ridicule from the only “family” she’s got left, she retreats into the forrest, on a horse, to get away for a little while.
She comes across a stranger in the woods, teaches him about the value and respect for all living things, and an instant connection is formed between her and this mysterious Kit the so-called Apprentice.
She leaves a lasting impression. They both disguise their true identities, for different reasons.
Will they ever meet again? Of course they will.
There are procedures to follow as a prince when searching for one’s future bride, but Kit isn’t about to let that get in the way, stop him from seeing the captivating girl on the horse, from the woods again.
A royal ball is announced and Ella’s hopes are soon dashed, when her step-mother forbids her from going and posing any competition for her own two daughters, in the hopes that one of them might be chosen by a prince, for a life of luxury and wealth.
All this time, an all-knowing narrator has been explaining what we’ve been watching on screen and I like this element, also used in last year’s Maleficent.
I loved the British feel of this film and it’s splendid acting from all the cast.
I must say that my favourite of them all is Helena Bonham Carter, who is both narrator and Fairy Godmother. She brings a feeling of magic and wonder to this film that I couldn’t get enough of.
After myself only seeing her as the supremely evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series of films, it was sweet to see her as the ultimate embodiment of goodness and generosity here.
The continual theme throughout this movie is what Ella’s mother taught her before she died and Ella never stops honouring her mother’s memory by finding the good in people and making the best of her bad situations.
The Fairy Godmother appears on the scene, just as Ella is at her lowest point, believing the ball is going on somewhere and she is missing her one chance for true love.
Fairy Godmother pops up and brings her own sprinkling of magic by waving her signature magic wand.
A pumpkin becomes a coach. Mice, a goose, and two lizards are transformed into the driver and horses. Ella’s mother’s dress, now in tatters but of which means so much to her, is altered into the most beautiful gown in all the land.
Of course she is presented with her famous glass slippers (almost as famous as the ruby ones from another famous tale) and off she goes, left with a warning to return by the stroke of midnight when the spell will be broken.
These elements of the story are at the core of what Cinderella is supposed to be about.
I’m simply putting it out there that Helena is the best thing about this film. She’s charming and witty and the mother figure Ella so badly missed and needs.
She is the kindness that shows up at just the right moment. This, going to show Ella that such kindnesses do still exist.
Of course I missed out on the stunning visual effects of orange vegetables and animals turned into royal transportation. I don’t see the visual beauty of the costumes.
And yet, I still lapped up every last feeling of magic and goodness that I could find.
The prince resists all advances from the many royal females and dolled-up girls, including wicked step-sister number one and number two, never losing hope that his dream girl would show herself.
They present her, in style, just her alone making her grand entrance into the ballroom.
Prince Kit and and Ella have their long awaited first dance. Jealousy boils up between all the other girls. Of course the step-sisters and mother have no idea who this mystery usurper is, not as of yet.
The prince and Ella sneak away and have a special evening, before the clock chimes twelve and she rushes off, losing one of her glass slippers in the process.
I followed along with the plot and story arc of course, but I knew what to expect with both. Any predictability, the bore I’ve thought this tale to be in the past, and all feelings of the poor damsel in distress and having to always wait to be rescued by a man were pushed to the back of my mind while watching.
It was the wonderful casting of characters and the themes of jealousy, cruelty, resentment, all balanced out by Ella’s never-ending compassion that drew me in.
Kenneth takes his time to present all of this and I didn’t mind. I followed along, loving the intermittent narration and the morality at the heart of the tale.
Things like status don’t matter. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
These are the truths at the centre of Cinderella, in the year 2015.
This was no Brothers Grimm ending, bloody and hacked off heels or gouged out eyes, in spite of the horrible way Cinderella is treated for most of the story.
Without spoiling the ending (come on though because you should already know this) and without giving away a whole lot more unnecessary details, I leave off my review right here.
Happy endings and all that jazz. It was heart warming to see that this is a film for all ages.
I must admit that at times I grew slightly irritated by the amount of people in the theatre, both children and adults, making noise and filling up the seats.
It was March Break after all. What was I expecting?
There are so many lessons for all ages to be found in this film. The themes of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I readily admit.
The star of this film, I will say again was not Cinderella herself (Lily James), at least not in my humble view. She was good and all, the perfect essence of all that is good and kind.
It’s the Fairy Godmother who steals the show and none of it would have been possible without her.
If I had to say, I would have to rate this film as being Four Stars.
In spite of an overly sappy line here or there, I was pleasantly surprised. Even as I entered the theatre with hope that I might just might like this version more than any other that has come before it, I wasn’t so sure at first.
Go see it for Helena’s performance alone, along with the other excellent actors that make up the other roles as simply an added bonus.
Go see it if you enjoy visual effects, or so I hear.
Go see a classic story, retold by a genius like Branagh and let the magic, enchantment, and spells draw you in and hold you there for a little while at least, even if only until the clock strikes midnight and the spell is broken.
I just happened to be watching the news the other night when I heard something that immediately caught my attention…
Stratford, Ontario is a short drive from me and known as a lovely quaint tourist town, the claim to its fame being Stratford Festival. There they are known for their elaborate and brilliant performances of some of Shakespeare’s best-known and well-loved plays.
Celebrating the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, The Stratford Festival arranged to display something of great value in honour of the occasion. This item was so valuable that it was only at the museum for two days. It only arrived as people lined up to see it Saturday morning and, according to the museum employee at the entrance to the exhibit, would be leaving not at five, but at ten minutes to five.
William Shakespeare’s First Folio is the first book of his plays, published by his friends and fellow members of The Chamberlain’s Men: John Heminge and Henry Condell. It was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death; before that it was common to find fraudulent versions in circulation.
What’s a folio you ask…well I will tell you because I honestly didn’t know myself, until recently: Folio is Latin for leaf:
“Usually means a leaf in a manuscript. But in printers’ jargon it had another sense: it referred to page size more than one page was printed at the same time on a single large sheet of paper, which was then folded into pages. When the sheet was folded once to form two leaves, making four pages, the page and book size was described as folio. A folio page is usually about 38 centimetres (15 inches) tall.”
Driving into the parking lot of the museum – a police security presence was obvious. This was serious stuff, not that they had any fear of me attempting a theft of such an artifact. I am not that gutsy, but imagine if I had pulled that off? Sounds like a good idea for a story, just fiction of course.
We arrived at a good time, a lull in the lineup. Only ten people were being permitted in the room at one time. I was glad to hear that cameras were allowed inside, but no flash was permitted. Any direct bright light could damage this centuries old document. Anything to be done to prevent fading of the writing of this special piece of literature was being done.
On entering I heard the hushed conversations of the other people and a humming of what turned out to be a dehumidifier. This book needed to be in just the right environment, which included temperature and lighting. It couldn’t be too humid and any lights were not aimed directly at or on it.
I tried to take in my surroundings then. I knew it could turn out to be rather pointless, me here to see some old book hidden in a case. What was I going to get out of this anyway?
A few old photos and the dresses worn in past performances of Shakespeare’s plays were on display in the room.
My knowledge of actress Maggie Smith is fairly recent, with her starring roles in the Harry Potter films and more recently still in Downton Abbey. This photo didn’t even look like her, according to my sister, but it was from her performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1977 and that was almost thirty years ago.
The drawers in the cabinet held the separate pages of the folio. It was hard for me to comprehend and my sister read some of it to me, a lot made difficult by the old English writing. I felt like I was in a jewelry store, with the glass cabinets holding precious jewels. This time I was looking in at something so much more precious to me: words.
An introduction by fellow playwright, poet, and literary critic Ben Jonson. This was all taking me back to a time I can not possibly grasp. It’s hard to even imagine what it was like back in the seventeenth century, of which Shakespeare himself was only alive to see the first sixteen years. His plays were mostly written and performed in the final years of the 1500s, at the open-air playhouse The Globe Theatre, on the south bank of The thames.
Also in the room was a photo, included in the folio, of William Shakespeare himself. Recently, with the 450th anniversary, there has been a lot of debate about this likeness. Is it truly him?
The artist responsible was only fifteen when Shakespeare died so it is unlikely he knew the man, but more likely he knew people who did and must have seen a photograph from the time or had someone describe what Shakespeare looked like in life.
I find it almost impossible, even in the face of some of the most proven methods, to truly believe that any of this has survived or is the truth. That is the part of history that both baffles and enthrals me. I would love to own something as precious as a book from so long ago. Even hearing it explained how something made of paper with ink imprinted on the pages lasts centuries I can’t quite fathom how. The diaries I own of my grandmother are only barely fifty years old and already some of them are so worn and delicate. How does anything make it this far through time?
Luck must play a big part in this, but you simply can not discount the care someone must have taken over the years. On our way out I hear a voice speaking with authority, or with something like it. This voice sounds young, but unmistakably informed. I pause to listen and speak to her.
She is only a summer student here and she reiterates that she is no expert: “Just someone who enjoyed researching all this.”
Through something called Young Canada Works
she was given this opportunity for the summer, and she had clearly already done the sort of research I was relieved of having to do myself.
Her knowledge as a student, receiving her Masters and her interest in rare old books was evident. I could feel her passion for the subject matter and I could see why. It was something like that which drew me to this museum to see this famous piece of English literature. Within hours it would be back to its home at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.
Finally, on my last post for this week I will speak about my trip upstairs in the museum to check out the World War exhibit.