Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Lefty's Lament

I'll bet you didn't know I was part of a repressed minority. I have had to struggle my entire life, living in a world designed for the other 90% of people, and facing constant reminders that I was different. It's true: I am left-handed.

Now, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time (the 1970s) when teachers didn't try to force me to write with my right hand, and since I come from a long line of lefties, my mom made me practice writing so I didn't develop that typical cramped lefty "curl." Still, I realized early on that the world wasn't exactly accommodating for us southpaws:
  • I'm in elementary school, cutting out construction paper with the rest of the class, and even if I can manage to find the single pair of "left-handed" scissors* in the class bucket, the edges have invariably been ruined by someone using them right-handed, and they don't work. By the time I'm a teenager, I cut things out right-handed. (And I still do.)
  • I'm eleven or twelve, experiencing the brave new world of LED digital technology, and my grandma gives me a really groovy gift for Christmas: a nice shiny metal pen with a digital clock at the tip. Of course, using it in my left hand means the clock reads upside down, so it's only accurate when it's 10:01 or 9:06 or 5:12.
  • I'm forty-*coughcough* and TSU gets us a new iron. It has a really nice retractable cord to keep it neat, but there's a little problem: the cord exits out the right-hand side. Which is fine, if you like to iron right-handed:
See? Very convenient: the cord stays away from the iron, and you can tuck it away when you're done so there's less chance it hangs out and someone trips on it or the cat bats at it and the iron goes flying and bashes their little kitty heads or it sets the carpet on fire. Great engineering!






So this is what happens:
The cord comes out the right side and doubles back on itself. Whenever I lift the iron, I have to reach my right hand over my left and pick up the cord so it doesn't get trapped under the hot metal plate. Since I most often iron large pieces of fabric, or long seams, that's a lot of lifting and resetting. Now sure, if I ironed from the other side of the board it wouldn't be a problem (except I'd be trapped between the board and the wall with no room to move), but that's not the point. The point is that once again, whoever designed this household item had no idea that placing the cord on one side could pose a problem to anyone. Everybody irons with the same hand, don't they? Just like everybody signs with the right hand so we'll attach the pen on the right side.... Grrr.

Don't worry too much about my oppressed self, though. Studies show that lefties have an advantage when it comes to physical combat, so expect to find my left foot in your face if you try to attack me.

*if you don't understand what a major difference there is between left- and right-handed scissors, this video explains it's not just in the shape of the grip.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Janespotting: Northanger Abbey, 2007 tv-film

After the psychedelic experience that was the 1987 adaptation of Northanger Abbey, I had high hopes for the 2007 version, especially when I saw it was written by Andrew Davies, the same person who penned the essential 1995 Pride & Prejudice (as well as the 1996 Kate Beckinsale Emma and the recent miniseries of Sense & Sensibility, as well as the sublime Bridget Jones's Diary). As this 2007 tv-film is only the second adaptation of NA, it didn't have a very high bar to clear to be the best ever, and I'm pleased to report it vaulted over that standard with no trouble at all.

My main problem with the previous version was in the tone—it was less a satire of the Gothic novel than a tribute to it—so I was extremely pleased when this version of NA began with Austen's own words in voiceover: "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine." The film follows the plot very closely, and although it condenses a bit, we get the same progression as the book: an early acquaintance with Henry Tilney that happens almost by chance at the Pump Room; the growing friendship with Isabella and the growing interference of her brother; the friendship with Eleanor Tilney and the invitation to Northanger Abbey. This version brings in Gothic elements in ways that are clearly satirical: the characters read from the books, or talk about them, and occasionally we get an imagined scene that is exaggerated. It all remains true to the essential heart of the novel: Catherine is a true innocent, uncognizant of the real plots and intrigues that swirl around her even as she imagines Gothic ones that nearly cost her her chance at happiness.

Although the script is a big reason for the faithfulness of this version, much credit must be given to the casting and acting. Felicity Jones is perfect as Catherine; with her big eyes showing every emotion that crosses her face, she is innocent, open, and appealing. JJ Feild strikes the right note as Henry Tilney: playful, intrigued by Catherine's purity of spirit, and serious when he must go against his father's wishes. Just as good is recent Golden Globe-nominee Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe, for she makes her a complex character who is sweet and sympathetic when Catherine first meets her, and only gradually reveals her flaws. The rest of the cast, as well as the costumes and settings, bring the rest of the novel to life just as you might envision it.

Altogether, this is a superb example of how an adaptation should be done, and this would be a great introduction to Northanger Abbey (or Austen) if you don't have time to read the book.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Photo of the Week--2/1/10

No pigeons at the British seaside, only gulls, so we didn't do much running around Deal Castle during our visit to Kent, England. Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII and is most notable for its shape: six bastions surrounding a central keep, in the shape of a perfect Tudor rose. Of course, during our visit Boy found the pebble-filled beach more interesting. Here he and TSU search for the perfect stones for skipping, since the meanies at the castle wouldn't let us fire the cannons.