Monthly Archives: July 2013

Happy Birthday, My Turn to Talk!

Oh my goodness, can you believe it’s actually been a year since I started this blog? I certainly can’t…and I certainly didn’t think it would last this long. I was convinced I’d run out of ideas for posts! But I’ve had lots of fun writing here, from my comparisons to different versions of The Phantom of the Opera to my ultimate Les Miserables movie review after being so excited about the movie for months on end. And who could forget my forays into Catholicism and Les Miserables song comparisons or my open letter to the Disney company after seeing the Lone Ranger trailer for the first time (which sounds even worse than I feared) or all of my posts for Tolkien week? And let’s not forget my ultimate triumph of National Blog Post Writing Month.

I also want to thank my fellow bloggers who took the time to like my posts and follow my blog–it’s nice to know I’m not just blabbing to open air. I look forward to continuing to write on this blog in the months and years to come, and I hope you’ll continue to read.

I’ll finish this post by coming full circle: I’m posting “One Day More” from Les Miserables just as I did for that very first post twelve long months ago.

Here’s to the next year!

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What Defines Us

Matthias and Martin the Warrior on the Redwall tapestry.

Matthias and Martin the Warrior on the Redwall tapestry.

With tomorrow being the one year anniversary of the founding of my blog, I decided to do a looking-back post of a different sort. I decided to look all the way back to my childhood and talk about something that changed my life and influenced how I live it.

For the first few years of my childhood, I was a pretty average girl, liking to play princess and things like that. I wasn’t very tough and was easily scared (but I was young, so grant me some leniency). Then one day I watched an episode of Redwall, an animated series on PBS that was inspired by Brian Jacques’ novel of the same name…and it was the most amazing show I had ever seen at that point. There was mystery; there was adventure; there were puzzles and riddles and treasure hunts–but what made the biggest impression on me was that the hero was a mouse. Mice are generally small and unintimidating, but Matthias didn’t let that stand in his way. He wanted to be a great warrior like the abbey’s founder Martin, and he wanted to defend Redwall from the maniacal tyranny of Cluny the Scourge, and he was prepared to do whatever it took to accomplish just that. And when I saw the hero that he became by the end of season 1, I decided that I wanted to be like that. There was very little waiting for princes after that show; I decided it was more fun to go out and slay the dragons myself!

Although I was very young when I first watched Redwall and hadn’t seen it for many years (until fortuitously re-discovering it on YouTube), it was my first introduction to the fact that I didn’t have to be a tall, strong knight to be brave, just, or heroic (I still wanted to be a knight, though), and the courage and fortitude I admired in Matthias and sought to emulate in my own life have proven useful as I have faced various difficulties over the years that would have been much tougher had I not been exposed to those values in Redwall. But not just in Redwall, either–my early exposure to that influenced my choice of reading material as I grew up reading stories by C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Stephen R. Lawhead. If ever I explored Narnia with the Pevensies, if ever I joined the Fellowship of the Ring on their trek through Middle-Earth, if ever I rode in the army of the Pendragon, it was all because I first defended Redwall Abbey alongside Matthias, Basil, Constance, and Cornflower.

Matthias is dressed in the armor of Martin the Warrior and holds out his sword, ready to battle Cluny.

If I would give anything for the chance to wield Anduril for a day, it’s because I first watched Matthias wield Ratdeath.

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What Happened to Books?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been volunteering my time at one of my local libraries, and most of the time I’m in charge of re-shelving books. Although I don’t really have time to sit down and peruse the books I’m re-shelving, I can usually get a good idea of what they’re about by looking at the titles and covers. And after looking at those, I’m forced to ask what the heck happened to books!? Most of the modern fiction seems little better than drivel, and most of it is aimed at women. Why are authors assuming that all that women want to read is drivel that is a direct insult to their intelligence? Why aren’t they writing books that are more gender-neutral, books that challenge the imagination and force one to think, books that don’t necessarily throw a romance into the middle of the action? Sure, some of the old literature isn’t perfect (case in point: 98% of the cast of Victor Hugo’s novels are dead by the end of the story), but at least it told engaging stories! At least it wasn’t patronizing!

Something else I wanted to bring up: I mentioned it would be nice to see a few books that didn’t necessarily throw a romance into the middle of the story, but if there must be some mush involved somehow, would it kill authors to show marriage and family in a happy light? So many stories seem to feature women who are disillusioned with their husbands and children and leave both to be with the handsome stranger and live happily ever after (and strangers are never that handsome in real life), and frankly I’m sick of how women are often portrayed in modern literature. They’re either wishy-washy mush machines or flaming feminazis, and I, for one, don’t want to be associated with either camp.

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You HAVE to Hear These People!

I have recently come across a singing group known as Gregorian, a collection of singers who take pop and rock songs and turn them into Gregorian Chant. It sounds like a completely insane concept, but it works really well–amazingly well, actually. Just listen to their rendition of “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings:

It appears they have released some traditional chant albums as well–mostly for Christmas–but they’re better known for their contemporary chant arrangements. And I must say I think Gregorian is one of the most talented groups I’ve ever heard…certainly better than a lot of mainstream acts.

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Book Review: “Notre Dame de Paris” (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) by Victor Hugo

I was curious to read this book because my only previous exposure to it had been through the Disney movie (and I still don’t understand what made them decide to make an animated musical film out of a Victor Hugo novel). I knew it would be different, but I wasn’t sure by how much–but I also expected it to be astounding since this was written by the same author who penned one of my favorite novels, Les Miserables.

Like Les Miserables, Notre Dame was sixteen different kinds of awesome. I was interested to note, though, that the original French title seemed to fit the story better than the English title because the latter implies that the central character of the story is Quasimodo the hunchback (who, in this version, is so named because he was found on Quasimodo Sunday, not because Frollo was making a cruel pun). Although he is an important part of the story, the book is just as much about Captain Phoebus, Esmeralda, Pierre Gringoire (who sadly did not make it into the movie), Claude Frollo, and Claude’s brother Jehan (another interesting character who didn’t make it into the movie) as it is about Quasimodo. As different as their lives are, they all seem to intersect at the grand cathedral of Notre Dame.

It was also interesting to see, although this didn’t surprise me, was how some of the characters were different from their movie versions. For example, in the book Esmeralda was younger and less self-confident than they portrayed her in the movie, and Phoebus was a little bit more of a jerk. But the most radical character change was that of Frollo. The movie had him as being just plain eeeviillll, adopting Quasimodo only out of a sense of guilt and certainly never loving him. However, in the book he actually started out as a decent person, albeit with a few screws loose. He had taken on the responsibility of raising Jehan when their parents died and held a great love for his little brother, and his motivation for adopting Quasimodo was that no one else wanted him. He considered Quasimodo his son and loved him every bit as much as he loved Jehan. Unfortunately he eventually went off the deep end and started living in the Twilight Zone–that’s the only way I can think of to describe his madness.

Notre Dame is not as much of a character study as Les Miserables, but the characters are still fascinating to observe, from Esmeralda’s determination to find her birth mother to Pierre Gringoire’s cynical yet optimistic outlook on life. It can seem to take forever to finish it, but I definitely recommend trying, anyway–the story is unlike anything you’ve read before, and it will stay with you for a very long time.

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Independence Day 2013

Today marks the 237th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  and a lot has changed in those 237 years. Sometimes it’s easy to think that our country is rapidly losing sight of the principles on which it was founded. But not everyone has lost his mind–if you look hard enough, you’ll find people who still believe in what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights stand for. And that’s why I believe that things will improve if we give them time…because some of us haven’t forgotten.

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The Disappearing “Les Miserables” Videos

In my previous post, I mentioned in passing that the Les Mis 25th anniversary videos have slowly been disappearing from YouTube; you may have noticed this if you have tried to watch any of the ones I’ve posted on my blog but got a notification saying they had been blocked. Well, there’s actually a video that explains a little bit of what has happened.

I’m also providing the text in the video (with some improved punctuation, of course).

Since November 2010, despite the copyright infringement, NBC Universal has allowed fans of the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert to post on YouTube not only video clips but full versions of the show ripped from the DVD. These videos had thousands of views; one full concert had almost three million views. Who knows how many DVDs were sold because of these videos and how many people became fans, not only of the musical but fans of the performers. Even fans who had purchased the DVD enjoyed the videos, in no small part due to the comments. The compliments, criticisms, and comparisons to earlier productions were freely allowed by Universal.

In the weeks leading up the US premiere of Tom Hooper’s film, the number of views soared as people unfamiliar with the story of Les Miserables but curious about the film viewed the videos. The case can be made that the videos actually excited people and sold tickets to the movie. Last December, after the film was released in the US, the comparisons naturally turned to the cast and production versus the 25th anniversary concert. Some of the views expressed about the film and the cast were not complimentary. Nothing happened until Saturday, January 12, 2013 when the videos, suddenly and without warning, began to be blocked by NBC Universal. In their place, this notice appeared:

“This video contains content from NBC Universal, who has blocked it on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.”

When the purge began, the first video taken down featured Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home”. Then the rest started coming down, including Samantha Barks’s version of “On My Own”. (A note to NBC Universal…you do know that Sam’s in the movie, right?) Ironically, Alfie Boe, who played Valjean, was signed by Decca Records, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, after his performance in the concert. Not only did NBC Universal block Alfie’s concert footage, they even deleted the video of his contract signing.

Now remember, these videos had been on YouTube for months. Does anyone really believe they were taken down for copyright reasons? Of course they weren’t. So if they weren’t taken down because of copyright violations, then what could the reason be?

  1. A fear that YouTube is running out of space?
  2. A fear that the Oscar producers will ask Alfie Boe to sing “Suddenly”?
  3. Because YouTube has banned all videos of bearded performers?

Naw, it can’t be anything like that. A look at the timing of NBC Universal’s removal of these videos gives a possible explanation for such a draconian move.

The Bafta nominations were announced on January 9th; on the 10th the Oscar nominations were announced. The 11th saw the premiere in the UK. The videos began to come down on the 12th, and the Golden Globes were broadcast on the 13th. What interesting timing for this to happen!

So the question is, did NBC Universal want to “erase” from YouTube the ability to directly compare the cast of the film with the cast of the 25th anniversary concert? Is NBC Universal really so insecure about their film’s cast that they think allowing the 25th anniversary videos could possibly affect the chances of winning awards? NBC Universal, Tom Hooper, and Working Title signed this cast for better or worse. The ability of that cast along with the creative decisions of the director will determine what accolades the film earns, not the comparisons to other Les Miserables productions or performers.

This video will not change NBC Universal’s mind; the corporation is, after all, an inanimate object run by soulless bean counters. At least NBC Universal can’t touch the 10th anniversary videos…

This might seem a bit conspiracy theorist to some people, but after watching the Les Miserables film, I can understand why NBC Universal might not want people to have the ability to compare it to the 25th anniversary concert.

 

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