30 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 80

There's something about the closing post of a readalong/listenalong which makes me feel like a speech is in order, and I'm not that great at public speaking, as it is. But I'm not going to let that stop me from thanking everyone who contributed his thoughts to this short series: Angie, Brandon, Bob, Darwin and Mrs. Darwin, LTG, Sheila, and the mysterious Star Crunch, who stumbled into lurkerville as suddenly as he (or she?) stumbled out of it. My first foray into Old Time Radio wouldn't have been half as wonderful without you!

Our last play isn't going to be a Horror story, although its fitness for the Horror genre remains open to debate. I chose it because I've been curious about it for years, and I figured there was no better time to enjoy it at last. If you haven't heard it yet, here is your last chance before our discussion . . .

28 November 2013


Reading Diary: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Women readers know what I mean when I say you're either a Sara or a Mary. That is, you had a definite preference between A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. As for my male readers, perhaps "some calls them Sara, some calls them Mary," but will any of them also get that allusion? =P

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Sara, and A Little Princess served as "training wheels" for me before I was finally ready for what was to become my favourite novel of all time, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. But now that I've revisited The Secret Garden, I realise that if I hadn't waited until I was twenty years old to read it for the first time, I could have easily said the same thing about it.

"I suppose you might as well be told something--to prepare you. You are going to a queer place."

Mary said nothing at all . . . [but] had begun to listen in spite of herself. It all sounded so unlike India . . . like something in a book and it did not make Mary feel cheerful. A house with a hundred rooms, nearly all shut up and with their doors locked--a house on the edge of a moor--whatsoever a moor was--sounded dreary. A man with a crooked back who shut himself up also! She stared out of the window with her lips pinched together, and it seemed quite natural that the rain should have begun to pour down in gray slanting lines and splash and stream down the window-panes. If the pretty wife had been alive she might have made things cheerful by being something like her own mother and by running in and out and going to parties as she had done in frocks "full of lace." But she was not there any more . . .

This time around, there was no way I could deny that Misselthwaite Manor was like a children's version of Thornfield Hall, with Mary Lennox as a cross between Jane and her charge Adele! And I found myself enjoying the first half, in which she explores both the mysterious house and its equally mysterious gardens, more than I ever had before.

But then I got to the part when all the children are finally in the garden and felt Burnett once more beaming her spiritualist agenda all over my face . . .

22 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 79

As you can see, I have managed to pry myself away from my Latin dance mix long enough to write a post on our penultimate Horror radio play. It is a third which features an actor who also left his mark on Hollywood: Peter Lorre.

I'm not crazy about the use of images in the following recording, but you can always close your eyes when you listen, as I did . . .

20 November 2013


Back-in-Body Experiences

Many years ago, I read a creative writing manual which tried to drive home the importance of sensory details in a text by asking the reader to go over a week's worth of journal entries (which the reader, being the sort to read a creative writing manual, presumably already had) and to see how many of them could only have been written because the reader had had a physical body. And I remember this because my answer was: none of them.

All my entries were about the things I was thinking and imagining rather than the things I was experiencing. Even the books I read and the movies I watched didn't require eyes and ears in the sense that a gorgeous sunset and a wild thunderstorm do: the first two could have been uploaded directly into my disembodied brain, and I wouldn't have known the difference. (By the way, that last sentence reflects all the ambivalence I feel about media these days.)

Lately, however, I've been finding it hard to focus on anything that is too disembodied. That's one reason why blogging has slowed down a bit around here. Of course, I'm still going to close the latest "Two or Three" Book Club "listenalong" before the end of the month, and I have at least one more post I want to write about a Frances Hodgson Burnett book, but these projects are currently paling next to other, more sensual distractions in my life.

3 Things
Keeping Me from Blogging These Days

17 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 78

Today we are back in the golden arms of the Golden Age. As soon as all the vintage sounds came rushing at me through the speakers, I settled back and felt at home. So at home that I didn't even mind that this episode turned out to be not technically Horror, but Mystery. I hope everyone else is okay with that, too.

15 November 2013


Reading Diary: The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Is it easier to explain why a book has stayed in print for decades or to explain why it has faded into obscurity? Until this month, I had thought that all of Frances Hodgson Burnett's books had become children's classics. It was a huge surprise to learn that she had several more that no one ever hears of any longer. I decided to read one of them and to see for myself why it so swiftly fell out of favour.

"He might be anywhere," [The Rat] said, his small fierce face glowing. "That's what I like to think about. He might be passing in the street outside there; he might be up in one of those houses," jerking his head over his shoulder toward the backs of the inclosing dwellings. "Perhaps he knows he's a king, and perhaps he doesn't . . ."

"Yes, he'd know," put in Marco.

"Well, it'd be finer if he did," went on The Rat. "However poor and shabby he was, he'd know the secret all the time. And if people sneered at him, he'd sneer at them and laugh to himself. I dare say he'd walk tremendously straight and hold his head up. If I was him, I'd like to make people suspect a bit that I wasn't like the common lot o' them." He put out his hand and pushed Marco excitedly. "Let's work out plots for him!" he said. "That'd be a splendid game! Let's pretend we're the Secret Party!"

The Lost Prince could only be a Burnett children's book: it has all the markers. You may have recognised Sara Crewe's princess fantasy in The Rat's musings about a prince whom everyone takes for a commoner--not to mention in his game of working out royalist plots, which hold his friends totally spellbound. But the magic of the imagination is only as good as the impact it can leave on the everyday world. While The Rat can think up "the primest games" in which he himself plays the role of general and can get the neighbourhood boys to be his army, he knows that his crippled legs will mean that he will never be a soldier in real life.

And then he meets Marco, who is this Burnett book's requisite "noble child." When it is Marco's turn to tell a story, it is not part of a game. Or to be more accurate, it is part of The Game, which is part of the Big Thought--something Marco believes in with religious fervour.

12 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 77

Has anyone else thought, like ABS in 1964, CBS in 1974 and Shredded Cheddar in 2013, about whether radio dramas could be successfully revived? It's probably too late now, partly because listeners who'd be nostalgic for the original series are no longer a big enough demographic . . . but mostly because someone discovering them anew today could spend his life going through all the archived material and feel as if he may never run out. Ironically, ABS's and CBS's joint contribution of over 1,500 "new" shows to the pot was probably the last nail in the coffin. Listen to two a day, and it will still take you about two years. Even if you start right now, with this one . . . 

10 November 2013


Twelve Things about So Undercover 

12. Miley Cyrus may seem really lost these days, but there was one shining B-movie moment in 2012 when she clearly knew her way. Although her most famous role may always be Disney's pop princess Hannah Montana, I think that her portrayal of street-smart-tough-girl-turned-undercover-agent Molly marks the best acting she has ever done.

11. So Undercover is one of the latest entries in a long line of Cinderella adaptations--one which understands that modern girls don't change their lives at balls, but at colleges. And if you never saw why the stepmother's barring Cinderella's way to the ball was an act not just of cruelty but also of socioeconomic sabotage, then surely you do now.

And while you have Cinderella on your mind, I'd like to announce that I have a pair of shoes almost exactly the ones Miley is wearing in that poster. I'm also really cute in them. Like, totally. I mean, like totes.

10. While a faerie godmother may be relied upon to provide a dress, shoes and transport, it seems to take a faerie godfather to cover college tuition. (I'm not surprised. Are you?) Indeed, it is a man who swoops in out of nowhere to tell a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that she has a shot at no less than Tulane University. But being an FBI agent, he is not just giving her a break, but also giving her a mission. As it involves infiltrating a sorority of pretty girly girls, Molly will also need a makeover. Does this all sound familiar yet? ;-)

05 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 76

So far, the stories we've been listening to have been full of monsters and supernatural forces. In stark contrast, the threat in this play comes from something in nature--that is, something "rational" people can believe in. That doesn't necessarily make it scarier, but it does give it a special kind of charm.

04 November 2013


Reading Diary: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

It began with earls: his grandpapa, whom he had never seen, was an earl; and his eldest uncle, if he had not been killed by a fall from his horse, would have been an earl, too, in time; and after his death, his other uncle would have been an earl, if he had not died suddenly, in Rome, of a fever. After that, his own papa, if he had lived, would have been an earl, but, since they all had died and only Cedric was left, it appeared that he was to be an earl after his grandpapa's death--and for the present he was Lord Fauntleroy.

He turned quite pale when he was first told of it.

"Oh! Dearest!" he said, "I should rather not be an earl. None of the boys are earls. Can't I
not be one?"

But it seemed to be unavoidable . . .

I have a friend who guessed, way back in 1999, that a hot new children's author marketed as "J.K. Rowling" was a woman, simply because the character of Harry Potter was such a girl. =P That friend would have a field day with Cedric Errol.

Long before Frances Hodgson Burnett, who now has her own tag on Shredded Cheddar, wrote about a girl who pretended to be a princess, she had a story about a boy who discovered that he was a lord. Having finally read the earlier novel, I see that I missed nothing. Sara Crewe was a vast improvement on her creator's first effort--and not just because I am certain that if I met Cedric in real life, I'd be tempted to dropkick him.

Perhaps that's why I never got into his anime series, although I watched Sara's whenever I could catch it.

03 November 2013


First Weekend Eggs

A couple of weeks ago, Geeklady tweeted about a dish called "Eggs in Purgatory". Intrigued, I found a simple online recipe, pulled together the necessary ingredients (or the approximates that happened to be at hand), and started whipping myself up a midnight snack.

Pictured: The Objective

Only when the onions, garlic and tomatoes were sizzling in the pan did I peep into the pantry and notice that the tomato sauce I had thought we still had an entire pouch of was all gone. What to do?

I glanced at where four eggs were looking up at me, the desire for the purifying fires of purgatory rich in their eyeless gaze. And I knew I couldn't let them down. So I went to the refrigerator and brought out my last cup of . . . coconut milk.

02 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 75

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the werewolf? Not lately, I'm sure, so it may be a bit of a surprise to anyone who started reading this blog after 2010. But it remains my favourite monster--which, as Bob has recently reminded me, means warning, from the Latin "monstrare."

The warning in the movie Bad Moon (See my Thirteen Things!) was easy enough to figure out. What about the warning in this meeting's scheduled radio play?