Friday, February 13, 2009

How to train your cat to talk

It's an occupational hazard of being a stay-at-home mom/writer, I suppose, but I spend a lot of time talking to my cats. Lately, Boy has been objecting very strongly anytime he catches me saying anything to them, even if it's something accurate, like "you're such a silly kitty." Here's how these conversations typically go:

ME (to cat, while scritching her ears): Calli, you're such a sweet kitty.

BOY: Intervention! Mom, you're turning into a crazy cat lady.

ME: I am not. Why can't I talk to the cat?

BOY: She's not going to talk back, you know.

ME: She could someday. After all, I talked to you when you were a baby and you couldn't talk back. And look at you now! You talk back to me all the time.

BOY: Grrrrr!

Here I must confess that I not only talk to my cats, I often sing to them. Worse, I make up lyrics and sing them to the tune of something else. So Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" becomes: "Monnnn-ster kitty! Monnnn-ster kitty! Monster kitty! Monster kitty! Mon-ster-er kitty!" The French folk tune "Alouette" turns into: "Calliope*, silly Calliope, Calliope, she's my precious cat!" Even TV theme songs provide fodder for my nonsense, as the "Spongebob Squarepants" theme transforms into: "Whoooooo lived in a hidey-hole under the deck? GIGI Round-eyes! If you try to pet her then she'll give you heck! GIGI Round-eyes!"

Surveying this list of songs, I think I have discovered my error in singing to my cats: I'm using the wrong kind of music. After all, when Boy was a baby, I often sang to him while I changed his diaper, and he eventually learned to talk. It must have been due to the power of DISCO!

Original version (Wild Cherry):My version:
Play that funky music white boyChange that dirty diaper, mama
Play that funky music rightChange that dirty diaper right!
Play that funky music white boyChange that dirty diaper, mama
Lay down the boogie Lay me down and change me,
And play that funky music till you dieOh, change that dirty diaper till I'm dry
Till you die!Till I'm dry!
Original version (Rick James):My version:
She's a very kinky girlHe's a very poopy boy
The kind you don't take home to motherAnd I should know cause I'm his mother!
She will never let your spirits downYou can never keep his diaper clean
Once you get her off the streetThat boy is super poopy
She's a very special girlHe's a very special boy
From her head down to her toenailsFrom his head down to his toenails
?????**I'm going to change his diaper now
?????That boy is super poopy
She's a super freak, super freakHe's a super poop! super poop!
She's super-freaky, yowHe's super-poopy, yow!

Okay, I'll admit maybe I need an intervention.

*Remember, my Calliope is pronounced like the Greek goddess, "Cal-ee-OH-pee."
**I never paid that much attention to the verses.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Janespotting: Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)

I was curious what I would see in this first film adaptation of Austen's classic. Two things piqued my interest: Laurence Olivier starring as Mr. Darcy, and a screenplay co-written by Aldous Huxley, author of the classic dystopia Brave New World. On the other hand, it was produced in 1940 by MGM, home of big technicolor spectacles and noted for their star system. They had originally wanted Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh to rekindle their magic from Gone with the Wind, but Gable turned down the part because he felt he wasn't suited to it. When Olivier stepped in, MGM replaced Leigh with Greer Garson, feeling that the married Olivier's affair with Leigh might produce bad publicity for the film (although they later divorced others to marry each other). So, two future Oscar-winners as Lizzy and Darcy, and an iconoclastic intellectual as co-screenwriter. Might this be a good film adaptation?

After viewing the film, my answer has to be: yes and no. Is it a good film? Well, the acting is well done. The story is has a quick pace. The set direction won an Oscar, and the music is charming. The costumes—well, it was a little bit of a shock to see Civil War-style hoop gowns and huge hats, but MGM was being economical by reusing frocks from Gone with the Wind. Greer Garson brings wit and charm to her Lizzy, and Olivier is brooding and handsome enough as Darcy. The supporting players are passable, and if you wanted a lighthearted romantic romp, this might do very nicely.

Ah, but is it a good adaptation? Sadly, I have to report the answer is, "Hell, no." Now, I'm no purist; I'm not one to complain just because a scene or character has been cut. And quite a bit of material is cut in this version of P&P, mainly Darcy's letter explaining his behavior and the whole section where Lizzy visits Darcy's estate and begins to fall in love with him. In this version, Darcy proposes while Lizzy is visiting the Collinses; she refuses him; and immediately upon her return home, she discovers her sister Lydia's disgrace. Only then does Darcy reveal his true association with Lydia's seducer Wickham to Lizzy, and immediately after he leaves, Lizzy decides, "Oh! I was actually in love with him all along!"

Urg. As I mentioned in my analysis of the original book, for me the appeal of P&P lies in the way the lead characters (especially Mr. Darcy) grow and change. Through Darcy's letter, Lizzy realizes her prejudice has led her astray, and her rejection of Darcy leads him to amend his proud ways. In this film, though, we don't see Lizzy agonize over her mistake, and we don't see Darcy try to make amends for his earlier behavior. Worst of all is what they do with Lady Catherine's character. In the book, she is against the relationship between her nephew and Lizzy, and threatens to stop it. In this film, she only pretends to object, in order to assess Lizzy's true feelings, and in fact brings them together, telling Darcy "she is the kind of woman you need." Oh, and she does this at the same moment that disgraced Lydia and her new shotgun husband arrive at Longbourn, in the kind of full-cast drawing-room scene that demonstrates this version's genesis in a stage adaptation.

After that, it's all downhill. We see Mary and Kitty with their own suitors, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet happily assessing the marital prospects of their brood. It's all very cheerful and neat and completely lacking in interesting emotional complexity. In other words, a typical romance film of the time. If I had seen this and thought it represented Austen's work, I could have been excused for thinking I didn't need to read any further.

Happily, though, I have other adaptations to consider. And next week, I shall go with the pinnacle, the epitome, the ultimate of all Austen adaptations: the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who's in first? I'm in third.

I've had a slow start this morning; it could be because it's laundry day, or because the combination of fog and sun outside is entrancing, or because I've added at least half an hour of exercise (and subsequent bathtime) to my daily routine.

...Or it could be because I'm wasting time on Facebook. I never mean to spend a lot of time there, but it's such a fun way to keep in touch with people. Through Facebook, I've gotten in touch with friends from England I haven't heard from in six or seven years. Through Facebook, I've heard from high school friends I haven't contacted since graduation twent, *cough, mumblemumble* years ago. Through Facebook, I get to share current photos from friends and relatives that I might not normally get a chance to see. Then there's the sometimes-annoying/sometimes-fun applications, where you can waste time playing word games or demonstrating football trivia knowledge or growing fake plants to save the rainforest.

My favorite part of Facebook, though, has to be the little "status updates" that everyone contributes when they check in. You know, the one-line descriptions: "Joe is feeling sick today." "Mary is battling ennui." "Jim-Bob is sure he saw the Loch Ness Monster in a pothole this afternoon." It's a good writing exercise, trying to encapsulate my mood or describe some news in just a sentence or two.*

After playing with Facebook status updates, though, I'm developing a bad habit of thinking about myself in the third person:

"Diane Telgen is thinking about making brownies today."
"Diane Telgen is still seeking serendipity."
"Diane Telgen is ready for her closeup."
"Diane Telgen is queen of the universe! All shall love her and despair!"

Whoops. I guess it's a good thing I come back to Blogger to remember I'm just a simple first-person narrator, like everyone else.

*And yes, I know Twitter is like all-status-updates, all-the-time, but if I got on there I'd never get anything done.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Photo of the Week--2/2/09

It's amazing, the variety of landscapes that water can create. This photo is of the Needles, a series of chalk outcroppings at the westernmost point of the Isle of Wight. It has a great park where we could hike around, although we weren't as adventurous as the climber you can see atop the chalk shelf attached to the mainland.