Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix ... the Movie

With the on-going Potter mania and my recent reviews of Book 6 and Book 7 respectively, I guess it won't feel right if I skipped the review of the movie - 5th in the heptalogy

I watched this last Wed (cheap movie night ) with Peen, and though the effects were good, I felt as if everything was in fast-forwarded motion in order to cramped the underlying plot into a 2 hour 15 minutes show. One moment, we were at Privet Drive with appearance of Dementors, and next we were at Grimmauld Place (HQ for the Order), then back to Hogwarts where Umbridge took over as headmistress, DA (short for Dumbledore's Army) formed secretly to learn Defence against the Dark Arts, Harry-Cho's kiss (rather forgettable if you ask me), Harry's visions through the connection to Voldemort's mind, Occlumency lessons with Snape as well as Thestrals, a giant and centaurs thrown in along the way ...yup, we sorta "jumped" from one scene to the other, like snapshots taken randomly from the book.

Before you know it, we had arrived at the Ministry of Magic. This was the highlight of the movie as finally the speed slowed down just nice, and we learned about the prophecy between Harry & Voldemort ("either must die by the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survive",) arrival of Death Eaters bend on snatching the glowing crystal ball that contained the prophecy (notably Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange), a fierce battle ensued with awesome effects put to good use (shelves of prophecies collapsing, curses in the form of colored lights flying everywhere,) and we thought all was lost as Harry's friends were captured in the Death Chamber and Lucius threatened to kill them unless Harry handed the crystal ball over. Our hearts leaped with joy when Sirius (Harry's Godfather) and other members of the Order arrived to save the day (or night) and battle continued. Just when we thought victory was within grasp (Harry stunned a Death Eater while Sirius knocked Lucius into a wall) Bellatrix appeared and "Avada Kedavra", the killing curse, hit Sirius who fell into an archway in the middle of the chamber, disappearing forever...

See what I mean when I said fast-forwarded mode with perfect pace, enjoyable & exciting mode?? If you had not read the book before watching the show, or if you had not been following Harry Potter since the very beginning, this movie will most likely cause scratching of heads, raising of eyebrows, questions marks or worse, heavy eyelids (seriously, one of my colleague experienced that.) Of course there are people who enjoyed the show just as much, with some even experiencing near "heart-attack" moments (you know who you are LOL.) For 6 bucks, yeah, I guess it's worth it..

(Oh, and "disappearing forever" is not the end just yet. To find out what happened, read the book or watch the movie LOL. I recommend both to get the best of both worlds - complete events & detailed descriptions with the former, great audio visuals with the latter )

My rating: (compared to the book)

Victorian Week - Final

All right, here's the final installment since we're entering a new week, LOL. This time, let's learn stuff about Christmas, famous buildings/structures, and Victorian fashion ;)

Note: Words in italic will link you to sites with more information, if you are interested.

Did you know...?

1) Decorated Christmas trees were a tradition brought to England by Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert from his native Germany.

2) In German tradition, Christmas gifts are said to be brought by the "Christkind," the Christ child. In pageants, the Christkind appears in the tradisional outfit as seen from the image. In some regions, it is spelled "Christkindl," from which we get our "Kris Kringle."

3) Preparation of the Christmas pudding began with "Stir-up Sunday," with each family member making a wish as they stirred the mixture. The pudding was a porridge typically composed of fruit, raisins, sugar, spices, and breadcrumbs. It was shaped into a ball, wrapped in a cloth, and then steamed in the largest pot available. Finally the pudding was doused with liquor and set ablaze, then served topped with a holly sprig. The placing of charms in the Christmas pudding is an English custom with pagan origins. The charms have various meanings; the ring symbolized love, a boot foretold travel, and the little pig denoted the glutton at the table.

4) The custom of sending Christmas cards began in Victorian England, thanks to the inexpensive "Penny Post" postal services and the advent of the railroad.

5) "Big Ben" is not actually the name of the clock, nor the tower, but the name of the largest bell in the tower.

6) St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1673. Amazingly, it survived the Blitz with little or no damage, partly through the devoted efforts of a crew of live-in firefighters.

7) The lower sections of Tower Bridge were raised to allow passage of ships, while the upper section was a walkway for pedestrian traffic.

8) Street market like New Cut and Covent Garden were where the lower class went to do their shopping.

9) Designed in 1811 by John Nash, Regent Street was a residential quarter for an increasing number of affluent Londoners.

10) Hyde Park Corner, the grand entrance to Hyde Park, is an impressive triple arch and colonnade over 100 feet long.

11) When Eleanor finally got over the anullment of her engagement to William, the first thing she asked was for something sweet (she hadn't eaten in days), and one of the dish brought to her was the "Canary Pudding." However, no worries, no canaries were harmed in the making of the pudding. This old English dessert is named for its predominantly yellow color from lemon rinds, one of the main ingredients.

12) A fashionable Victorian era waist size was 18 to 20 inches. The corset, with its stiffening steel or whalebone, was the means of achieving that. The invention of metal eyelets enabled corset to be tightened more without damaging the fabric, which led to excesses - people were known to swoon from shortness of breath. The practice of "tightlacing," in which severely tightened corsets were worn for extended periods of time, gradually fell out of favor towards the end of the Victorian period. (Phew..that must surely had been a relief LOL)

That's it! Hope you're more knowledgable now than before =þ

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

I interrupt the on-going Victorian trivias just to say that I have COMPLETED book 7, the last and final book in the Harry Potter series!! ^_^

You can read the review on the left side of the page under "Afterthought's reviews from librarything" section or here.

My rating:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Victorian Week - Part2

More interesting trivias ...

Did you know...?

1) Heating coal in the absence of air produces coal gas, used for lighting, and coke, which was used for heating homes. Coke, almost entirely composed of carbon, burns with little smoke but gives out a steady, intense heat.

2) London's air was notoriously bad, as the soot from the countless coal fires blackened exterior walls and discolored the shawls of women who ventured outside. With severe cases of smog during the 19th century (also nicknamed as "pea-soupers",) it is not suprising that one's health can be affected to the extend of moving to the countryside for cleaner air. This was the reason William's father gave to his wife so that she would moved to the countryside though in actual, there was a more egoistic reason behind the permanent move.

3) "Bathing machines, " windowless huts which were wheeled into the sea, allowed one to change in privacy and enter immediately into the water, to conform to Victorian standards of modesty. The bathing machines are identical rental units, differentiated by numbers on the top of the entrance.

4) Men and women were segregated into separate swimming areas, so William would not have gotten a glimpse of Eleanor in any event. However, she was still glad that William was not able to join that particular outing because she was embarrased for him to see her in her bathing clothes. LOL..check out the so-called bathing clothes which looked suitable for any casual events but swimming! Imagine if the trend stayed till this day - gals will be in summer dresses, while guys will mostly likely be in suits!

5) England's aristocrats resented the "pavernu," people who suddenly came into great wealth due to the industrial revolution, as these "upstarts" began showing up at their social functions. The Jones family were "upstarts" which was why they wanted the union of the Jones & Campbell family so much to finally have the one thing they most craved - acceptance. Viscount Campbell clearly was not keen on the union but only agreed as it would definitely solved the financial issues the family was facing.

6) India was ruled by the British from 1858 to 1947, as part of the British Empire. Queen Victoria was given the title of "Empress of India" by an act of Parliament, and by 1890 there were 20,000 Britons living in India. However, they resolutely kept to Victorian dress code, despite the hot climate, determined not to adopt "primitive" Indian ways. The spirited Monica, Elanor's sister, on the other hand, had "gone native" when she got to know Hakim, an Indian prince staying at the Jones estate, and who mode of transport around the city was atop an elephant, accompanied by 4 Indian lady escorts. Hakim too had a thing for Emma once ;) (in the First Act of Emma) but he was also the one who encouraged William to not give up Emma.

To be continued... =þ

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Victorian Week - Part1 got it right, my addiction with all things Victorian had not quite subsided. Thus, it's a self-declared Victorian week, and I'll be posting interesting Victorian trivias here. All thanx to the folks who did the subtitles for the anime - they were the ones who provided some info at the end of each episode ;)

Did you know...?

1) Three-fifth of all maids in Victorian England were "maid of all works." Large households were usually attended to by many maids (definitely a 2-digit number) which were segregated into different household areas, such as kitchen maids, laundry maids, etc. However, smaller household tend to have lesser number, sometimes only a sole maid who did... well, just about everything! Emma was the sole maid when she was staying with Kelly Stowner, and during her stint with the Molders family, her tasks were mainly maitaining the cleanliness of the place.

2) A "lady's maid" attended to the mistress of the house, and was usually better educated and younger than maids doing the hard work of the house. So obviously, it was a coveted position. Emma soon took over the tasks of attending to the mistress (even accompanying her on trips,) when the previous lady's maid confessed to stealing a fan belonging to the mistress, though she was never officially named as a "lady's maid."

3) The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibitions of 1851. There were over 13,000 exhibits around the world, and clearly demonstrated Great Britain's innovation in the midst of the Industrial revolution. After the exhibition closed, the Cystal Palace was recontructed in South London, the location we see in the anime. The entire building was made of glass - hence, the term 'crystal' - and some of the exhibits that could be found were the botanical garden, the sphinx, Rome exhibits, stained glass exhibits, an outdoor dinosaur exhibits area, and many more. While the dinosaur exhibits still exist to this day, sadly, the Crystal Palace itself burned down in 1936. When he heard that the Crystal Palace had burned down, Sir Winston Churchill observed, "This is the end of an age."

4) The most common coin of the Victorian era was the penny, also known as the "Penny Britannica," because of the figure of Britannia (the embodiment of Britain) shown on one side. The other side featured Queen Victoria's potrait. The coin seen in the anime is from 1891 - until 1895, there was a lighthouse to Britannia's left, and a ship to her right. The penny was worth a twelfth of a shilling, or around 10% of a day's wages for a kitchen maid.

5) The meaning of the lyrics of "Banbury Cross," now a nursery rhyme, are lost to antiquity. Does "cock horse" refer to lead horse in a team of horses, or a child's hobby horse? Was the "fine lady" of the rhyme Lady Godiva, the Queen, or a local nobleman's daughter? There are even differing stories as to which "cross" is referred to. There were three, all pulled down by Puritans but the title may not refer to a cross at all! The town of Banbury Cross might be so named because it lay at a crossroad. (A search on Google revealed more information on the origins & history of the rhyme and can be found here & here.) Banbury Cross was sang by one of the maids during a lavish party the Molders family gave their maids as a way to thank them for their hard work.

6) Japan's self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world ended in the mid-1800s. Soon, Japanese art styles came to the attention of the Western world for the first time. British artisans were fascinated by these new styles and began assimilating them, and aristocrats collectors of the Victorian era became frantic for anything from the Orient. Mrs Trollope aka William's mother were one of these avid collectors. Her home in the country side was filled with oriental ornaments, and she even had a oriental-looking pet monkey!

To be continued...

P/S: No ratings required =þ

Monday, July 23, 2007

Emma - A Victorian Romance: Second Act

Sometime in Dec 2006, I wrote a review of Emma - A Victorian Romance after finishing the first season. If you need a recap, read it here.

So this time around, it's the 2nd season of Emma, also known as Second Act. I literally spent all the free time slots that I could squeezed out from my weekend just to complete this 12-episode anime and I am absolutely glad I did. Any status other that "completed" and my mind would most definitely be filled with the longing to head home asap to pick up wherever I'd left off. Yup, I was THAT hooked!

Act II picks up a month after we saw Emma boarded a train and left London and William behind. Emma is now a maid with the German Molders family in the countryside, and is sort of "under probation" as she was hired without any recommendation letter. Right at the beginning, we are already drawn to this soft-spoken lady, who would even take the blame of stealing in silence rather than pointing finger at the main culprit. Lucky for her, it is sorted out (thanx to Hans, a footman for the household, whom later fell for Emma as well) and she is soon well-liked by the mistress of the house. The mistress took her along a trip to visit a Mrs Trollope (who turns out to be William's mother and who's own sad story we will come to know later in the show), as well as a trip to London, which Emma did not wished to follow at the extend that she was tempted to break a vase so that she could be punished. Well, the vase did broke but it was not Emma who broke it LOL..

Back in London, we see a sad William who could not contained his tears when he looked at a full moon one night, and all memories of the time he and Emma were both accidentally locked-in in the Crystal Palace, just came flooding back. Throughout, Eleanor Campbell, the girl his family wanted him to marry in order to bring the Jones' family to the status they always craved, was still very much in love with him and was expressing herself every chance she could, hoping he could one day return her feelings. Finally, out of loneliness, and also perhaps touched by her sincerity, William agreed to see her, and even agreed to an engagemet after Eleanor's sister sort of made a fuss one night, saying he did not deserved Eleanor for he did not loved Eleanor as much as she loved him..

In a twist of fate, Emma and William met at the night of the engagement itself. What ensued were painful choices yet again - engagement anulled, Jones' finacial crisis as a revenge from Eleanor's father (a Viscount), two marriage proposals!, a fire - but with so much more at stake this time around. Will love triumph? Or will family honor prevail?

After an excellent First Act, the Second Act is a perfect closure to the saga. However, there is a "futher tales" manga, also known as Victorian Romance Emma Bangaihen, that focuses on characters beyond Emma & William, which among other things tells of Eleanor finally finding her own happiness - we do get a glimpse of what's in store for Eleanor at the epilogue of Second Act, and the dashing guy involved ;)

Again the Victorian era is well potrayed, the drawings are simply beautiful, and with a touching storyline to go with ... so much so till we almost forgot they are all just 2D images =P. Definitely a two-thumbs up!

My rating: