Bits and Bobs

I feel like writing a post tonight but I know that I don’t have the mental stamina to do any one topic much justice. So I am going to do the blog equivalent of a flashback episode on [insert name of your favorite TV sitcom].

This week on Masterpiece Theatre they aired Return to Cranford. When they showed the first Cranford series on PBS, I watched them all back-to-back one Saturday afternoon. On Wednesday night I ended up watching part of RTC, but decided to save the rest for sometime this weekend. Something didn’t feel right about watching it at night. There is something about this kind of show that I much prefer watching in the afternoon. Maybe because I think weekend afternoons are the coziest time of the week.

What I did see so far in RTC was delightful. All the wonderful actresses are back and in top form. I think the thing I like most about this adaptation is how wonderfully formal the language is. I haven’t read any of the books, so I don’t have that to compare it to, but the language seems so much more precise and over-the-top antiquated that it makes Jane Austen’s dialogue sound contemporary. Or is it just me?

More of Lessing
Before I embarked upon 1,358 pages of War and Peace, I was about 200 pages into Doris Lessing’s 628-page magnum opus The Golden Notebook. It had been so long since I last picked up the Lessing that I forgot that I was reading it and have finished four other books since W&P. The long gap in reading The Golden Notebook made it a little difficult to pick up again  But with just under 200 pages left, I find the book fascinating for so many reasons. I have been plastering the book with stickies so I remember all of the things I want to comment on when I get around to writing the review.

Sawdust Smorgasbord
You may remember the giant tree we had taken out of our front yard. Well, it left behind a giant stump that is too close to the house to be chipped out by a stump chipper. So I bought this product that is supposed to help speed the decomposition of the stump. But in order to use it, you are supposed to drill holes in the stump. I actually had a lot of fun drilling the holes, and was amazed at the different shades of sawdust produced by the stump of this now departed tulip poplar.

Making a Molehill out of Mahler
Gustav Mahler’s 8th Symphony is nicknamed the Symphony of a Thousand for good reason. While most performances don’t come near to having 1,000 performers, the fact that it calls for a very large orchestra, two large adult choruses, a children’s chorus, and 8 soloists means that there are usually a lot of folks practically falling off the stage.

The work is monumental to say the least and this review should be talking about the mountains of Mahler I heard this week. But alas, in this week’s performance of the work at the Kennedy Center by the Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev conducting, there just weren’t enough singers on stage. With only about 120 adult singers on stage they could have used about 100 more. I am glad I went, but it was underwhelming to say the least. Check out this clip of the truly monumental forces gathered at the Proms this year who really gave the piece a work out. This is just the first part of the first part. If it is new to you, just imagine hearing it in person. Talk about a wall of sound.

9 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs

  1. Elise October 23, 2010 / 2:01 am

    Return to Cranford was just divine!! I agree, I love the old language, and how polite and formal everyone was!! I really must watch that again!


  2. Audrey October 23, 2010 / 9:53 am

    Oh,definitely read Cranford. Very, very cozy, and funny with it.


  3. agoodstoppingpoint October 23, 2010 / 12:31 pm

    I just read Cranford this year and as Audrey said, it's very cozy. I quite enjoyed it. I haven't seen the miniseries yet but plan on it.

    I had not heard of the Mahler piece but I like what I heard on the clip – that would be amazing to experience in person. I'll have to seek out a clip that features the children's choir. I think I saw them in blue sitting down in this clip but I don't think they sang. The one soloist's black dress is quite formidable.

    – Christy


  4. Frances October 23, 2010 / 2:23 pm

    I have no Cranford experience either on screen or in print but I want to have that experience. But I do know what you mean about watching those period pieces during the day. When I did a re-watch of Brideshead Revisited (old PBS version of course), it was also an afternoon affair too.

    The sawdust on stump gives the effect of a color palette. Maybe your new house is speaking to you about colors it likes?


  5. Carolyn October 23, 2010 / 11:00 pm

    Cranfordilicious, that's perfect! I just read Cranford this year and so far it's my favourite of all of Gaskell's novels, the old ladies are too adorable. It's well worth reading, although the mini-series is based on a few of Gaskell's other novellas, as well as Cranford. I'm sort of saving Return to Cranford for more Christmasy weather though.

    I tried reading The Golden Notebook this year, but found the boundaries between fact and fiction a little confusing as Anna keeps reworking her life into different stories. I'll be interested in reading your review of it.


  6. Thomas at My Porch October 24, 2010 / 9:32 am

    Elise: I think this afternoon may be the day for Cranford.

    Audrey: I have North and South on my TBR pile but no other Gaskell.

    Christy: I think there are multiple clips from that same performance one of which is bound to have the children's chorus. The kids in the performance I heard last week were quite good.

    Frances: I actually think that my preference for Masterpiece Theatre in the afternoon stems from the first time I saw Brideshead back in the 1980s. I watched it on successive Sunday afternoons at my next door neighbors (who could be considered my cozy mentors). As I wrote this blurb about Cranford in the afternoon, I had those old Brideshead viewings in my mind.

    Carolyn: I understand your troubles with The Golden Notebook. I have had similar thoughts as I read.


  7. LifetimeReader October 25, 2010 / 10:23 am

    How funny! After finishing the new Forsyte Saga episodes, my family was desperate for a new BBC series. We started Cranford (first series) last night and loved it!


  8. Thomas at My Porch October 25, 2010 / 12:49 pm

    Sandy: It is a big one alright.

    Lifetime Reader: I have never watched (or read) The Forsyte Saga. Something to look forward to.


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