Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Releases Roundup: For the Week of Thursday June 26

New in Movie Theaters * from yahoo
Wanted - Stars James McAvoy.

New in DVDs * from blockbuster
In Bruges (2008) - Action comedy starring Ralph Fiennes with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and directed by Martin McDonagh.
Guantanamero (2006) - Drama starring the renowned Derek Jacobi and Rupert Evans.
War Crimes (2005) - Drama about six British friends who travel to Bosnia in 1992, where they witness atrocities and therefore must race against odds to get out of the country safely.
Telling Lies (2006) - Mystery suspense film with Jason Flemyng and Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice of the Spice Girls.
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969) - Live-action science fiction fantasy starring Patrick Wymark and Ian Hendry, and produced by Gerry Anderson, producer of Thunderbirds.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) - Charming film adapted from a beloved children's book fantasy series stars Freddie Highmore and David Strathairn, with a touching appearance by Joan Plowright.
Ruth Rendell Mysteries Set 3 [3 Discs] - Starring George Baker, Louie Ramsay and Christopher Ravenscroft.

New in Music * from billboard
The Wombats - "A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation" Roadrunner label
The Kinks - "A Soap Opera", "Everybody's in Show-Biz", "Give the People What They Want", "Low Budget", "Misfits", "Muswell Hillbillies", "One for the Road", "Preservation: Act 1", "Preservation: Act 2", "Schoolboys in Disgrace", "Sleepwalker", "State of Confusion", "Word of Mouth" JVC Japan label
Alison Moyet - "Alf/Raindancing" Sony BMG Europe label
The Subways - "All or Nothing" WEA Int'l label
The Subways - "All or Nothing" WEA Japan label
The Subways - "All or Nothing" WEA label
The Beatles - "All Together Now [DVD]" Capitol label
The Beatles - "The First U.S. Visit [Emd Asia]" EMD Int'l label
Paul Weller - "As Is Now [UK LP]" V2 Int'l label
The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Automatic", "Darklands", "Honey's Dead", "Psychocandy", "Stoned & Dethroned" WEA Japan label
Roxy Music - "Avalon", "Country Life", "Flesh + Blood", "For Your Pleasure", "Heart Still Beating", "Manifesto", "Roxy Music", "Siren", "Stranded", "Viva!" CRC label
Roxy Music - "Avalon", "Country Life", "Flesh + Blood", "For Your Pleasure", "Heart Still Beating", "Manifesto", "Roxy Music", "Siren", "Stranded", "Viva!" Caroline label
The Macc Lads - "Beer & Sex& Chips N Gravy/Bitter, Fit Crack" Anagram Punk UK label
Flowers and Frolics - "Bees on Horseback" Free Reed label
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - "Brain Salad Surgery", "Emerson, Lake & Palmer", "In Concert", "Ladies & Gentlemen (Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends)", "Love Beach", "Pictures at an Exhibition [Japan]", "Tarkus", "Trilogy", "Works, Vol.1", "Works, Vol. 2" JVC Japan label
Culture Club - "Colour by Numbers", "Kissing to Be Clever", "Waking Up with the House on Fire" EMI Japan label
Culture Club - "Colour by Numbers", "Kissing to Be Clever", "Waking Up with the House on Fire" Virgin label
Culture Club - "Platinum" EMD Int'l label
Electric Light Orchestra - "Discovery/Time", "Eldorado/Secret Messages" Sony BMG Europe label
The Pretty Things - "Emotions", "Get the Picture?", "Parachute", "Pretty Things [Japan]", "S.F. Sorrow" JVC Japan label
Bonnie Tyler - "Faster Than the Speed of Night/Secret Dreams & Forbidden Fire" Sony BMG Europe label
Fleetwood Mac - "Fleetwood Mac/Mr. Wonderful" Sony BMG Europe label
Foghat - "Foghat", "Foghat (Rock and Roll)", "Foghat Live", "Foghat [Japan]", "Night Shift", "Rock & Roll Outlaws" JVC Japan label
Prefab Sprout - "From Langley Park to Memphis/Jordan: The Comeback" Sony BMG Europe label
Go West - "Futurenow" Borough Music label
Billy Idol - "Idolize Yourself", "Idolize Yourself [CD/DVD]", "The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself", "The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself [CD/DVD]" Capitol label
Billy Idol - "Sight and Sound: Storytellers [CD/DVD]" WEA Int'l label
Yes - "Live at Montreaux 2003" Universal Japan label
New Order - "Live in Glasgow" Rhino label
David Bowie - "Live in Santa Monica '72" EMI label
David Bowie - "Outside/Heathen" Sony BMG Europe label
The Clash - "London Calling/Combat Rock", "The Clash/Give 'Em Enough Rope" Sony BMG Europe label
Simon Wickham-Smith & Richard Youngs - "Love and Lamentation" TBC label
The Who - "My Generation [Box Sex]" Universal Japan label
Simply Red - "New Flame [CD/DVD] [Collector's Edition]" WEA Int'l label
Paul Young - "No Parlez" Sony/BMG label
Judas Priest - "Nostradamus" Columbia Europe label
Kim Wilde - "Platinum" EMD Int'l label
Asia - "Quadra" Mischief Music label
Radiohead - "The Best of Radiohead [DVD]" EMD Int'l label
Chumbawamba - The Boy Bands Have Won" Trade Root Music label
Deep Purple - "The Very Best of Deep Purple [EMI Single Disc]" EMD Int'l label
Petula Clark - "Then and Now: The Very Best of Petulla Clark" Universal TV UK label
ABC - "Traffic"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tea Time Tangents: Is It Just Semantics?

Isn't wikipedia wonderful? For this post, I wanted to write about high tea, which is what my sister and I had the luxury of experiencing during our trip to London ten years ago. At least I mistakenly thought what we were having was high tea. But I was set straight on that commonly misused terminology and learned that what many Americans call "high tea" is in actuality "afternoon tea".

High tea always sounds so much grander, and I suppose that's why I latched on to that label. Considering what you get to eat during what we Americans think of as snack time, English afternoon tea takes the cake! teehee Apparently though, the "afternoon tea" as we know it to be - consisting of [loose tea] tea, scones with my favorite clotted cream, little pastries and cakes, and tea sandwiches like cucumber, egg and fish paste [yum! - and I am serious about this] - is more of a feast that the English, or whoever else wants to take part, indulge in at quality hotels or tea shops. These delights often arrive at the table in a lovely 3-tiered pedestal accompanied by the tea, in a beautiful or charming teapot with a little strainer alongside. This is the service we mistakenly refer to as high tea.

Nowadays, when the English are in their own homes, tea is a simpler and more casual affair where tea is taken with a bit of cake or other nibbly delight. One of the things that I admire most about the English is their seemingly unshakable hold on traditions, tea time being one of them. I suppose it is similar to the Spanish siesta in that both offer daily opportunities to recharge the body and mind by slowing down quite a bit - especially with siestas as they are quite simply... naps. I look at afternoon teas and such as a joyeous and enviable part of the fascinating cultures across the big pond. To be able to enjoy life and celebrate it with relatively small but effective routines that are thoroughly enjoyable, such as taking tea or taking a nap during the afternoon, is pure genius.

There are lots of avenues I want to pursue and tons of information I want to glean with regard to tea time, but there is plenty of time and space on future posts to devote to that. My mind is literally buzzing with half-formed ideas of recipes, china patterns and the history of English tea, etc. etc. One of those ideas for future posts is a further discussion on "low" tea [i.e. afternoon tea] and learning more about high tea - just what is it? I did find out briefly that high tea is more of a meal if you can imagine that, [as if afternoon tea offered mere scraps!] and is referred to as "meat tea". Another future post I'm already looking forward to is one that is all about the tea sandwiches - with the crusts cut off perhaps? Boy am I getting hungry...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Playing Dress-Up: Summer Safari Trend

Out of Africa...The Flame Trees of Thika...Khakis...Ethnic jewelry...Safaris...A big trend in fashion at the moment is the safari look, and I couldn't be happier. Granted I am not all that big on fashion in terms of wearing it - I'm most comfortable in clothes that are comfortable, which for me includes drawstring shorts or pants (no waist constriction for me please), loose billowy dresses (fitted? no way, jose), and comfy shirts in soft natural fabrics. My "style", if it's considered style, never follows trends, well...except perhaps where dress patterns are concerned.

That being said, I do like to look at fashion mags or websites from time to time, and do a little seasonal trendspotting especially in reference to dresses, colors, and overall themes. I love to find out what colors are "in" - don't really know why. This spring and summer, one of the fashion trends is the colonial safari look. Like this...

and this...
I loved this style during the part of my early years when the Australian outback was all the rage, and Banana Republic used to sell clothes in only one color - tan, most likely inspired by the epic Out of Africa, the 1980's The English Patient. I used to try and replicate the safari look by buying and wearing those crisp khaki shirts (but I had one in fuschia?) and beaded necklaces and bracelets, which could have been made out of ivory...but weren't.

My fascination with the safari look truly began I think when I watched The Flame Trees of Thika with Hayley Mills, Ben Cross, and little Holly Aird. It was a magical series which impressed itself heavily upon its young viewers in the vein of The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, and more recently The Spiderwick Chronicles, although The Flame Trees of Thika was set in the real world, and not a fantastical one.

The costumes played a crucial role in creating the ambiance of the story, while the setting played another. I remember the breathtaking scenery in that series, filmed in Kenya, quite vividly - from those heavenly sunsets to the inspired photographic framing of the trees...oh those beautiful flame trees. I wish I could find one of those screenshots to show you.

(Photo at top is from Neiman Marcus, at middle is from HubPages, and at bottom is from The Book Shelf)

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's Time for Symmetry and Order, Precisement...Exercise Your Little Grey Cells!

I was wondering what one of my favorite actors David Suchet was up to, and more to the point, when new episodes of Agatha Christie: Poirot would be aired. Suchet has publicly stated that he wants to film all of the Hercule Poirot stories that Christie wrote, and boy was that music to my ears. Critics worldwide as well as I am sure thousands if not millions of viewers agree that he is the epitome of the grey cell-spinning Belgian sleuth. Add to Suchet and his trusty group of co-stars' stellar (and oftentimes humorous and quirky) performances the visually awesome period Art Deco costumes and sets, you have a fabulously cozy television viewing experience right there. Something to be treasured indeed.

Although I don't mind in the least renting past episodes over and over again (I really could watch them forever and never get tired of them), it would be enjoyable to see some new ones. Well, trolling through the 'net I go and am happy to report that new episodes have been/will be filmed this year. IMDB reports that 5 episodes will have been aired by the close of 2008. The first is "Appointment with Death". This was supposedly aired back in January but I'm not sure on which channel, or whether it was aired in the UK only. In the US, I'm assuming it was or will be aired on PBS. "Appointment with Death" co-stars Elizabeth McGovern (always think of Ragtime when I hear her name) and John Hannah.

The second episode out is "Mrs. McGinty's Dead" featuring Zoe Wanamaker as Poirot's apple-devouring author friend Ariadne Oliver and Sian Phillips, the frightening bald-headed Reverand Mother from the 1984 film Dune. Again, this episode is listed as having aired in January - darning it, missed that one too. The third episode "Cat Among the Pigeons" (which is a story I especially like) was set to air in April, and has among its cast Katie Leung, who portrays Cho Chang in the Harry Potter film series. Also in the cast is Harriet Walter, who may be familiar to fans of the 1980s adaptations of Lord Peter Whimsey - she played his love interest Harriet Vane. The fourth episode "Hallowe'en Party" is set to air on....yes, Halloween on October 31st and the fifth is "Third Girl", which is supposedly scheduled to air on New Year's Eve on December 31st. Zoe Wanamaker again reprises her role as Ariadne Oliver.

Sadly it looks like Suchet won't be able to share any screentime with Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings), Pauline Moran (Miss Lemon), or Philip Jackson (Inspector Japp) in these particular storylines, which is a shame because it seemed like there was a genuine and mutual affection between all of these cast members that permeated the older Poirot episodes and gave them such light-heartedness. But what can you do if the characters aren't written in the original plots to begin with? At least we hopefully will see Hugh Fraser reprise his role again if and when they film "Curtain".

In the meantime, I will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of old Poirot DVDs in my mailbox. Actually no matter how many times I watch an episode, something new that I had never noticed before, oh about the actors and other such details, always seem to catch my eye. And oftentimes, such facts and tidbits still continue to elude me. For instance, I had no idea that the 9th Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston had a prominent role in "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" until I read just now that he was in a Poirot episode. I thought to myself, which one could he have been in, then I thought, was he that young guy in the dentist story (which I had just seen last week)? Yes, he was! Adding more trivia (useless) knowledge to my already crowded brain makes me very happy, AND very useful in certain family-favorite boardgames!

(Photo at top is from TV Scoop)
(Photo at bottom is from All About Agatha Christie)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Releases Roundup: For the Week of Thursday June 19

New in Movie Theaters * from yahoo
Brick Lane - Opens June 20th in limited release. This is a story about a young woman from Bangladesh who journeys to 1980s East London to live with her new middle-aged husband (from an arranged marriage), and has to come to terms with her new life.

New in DVDs * from blockbuster
Joy Division (2007) - About the legendary Manchester band. Includes director Grant Gee's interviews with surviving Joy Division bandmates Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, and Peter Hook.
Love and Other Disasters (2006) - Comedy about an American (Brittany Murphy) living in London. Co-stars Matthew Rhys, new Doctor Who companion Catherine Tate, and Dawn French. Also has appearances by Orlando Bloom and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The Nude Bomb (1980) - Directed by Clive Donner, this comedy features Don Adams reprising his television character, Maxwell Smart - Agent 86.
Meerkat Manor: Season 03

New in Music * from billboard
Brian Eno - "After the Heat" 4 Men With Beards label
The Subways - "All of Nothing" Warner label
Deep Purple - "Around the World Live" Eagle Rock label
Deep Purple - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Ringo Starr - "Beaucoups of Blues", "Goodnight Vienna", "Ringo", "Sentimental Journey" EMI Japan label
Timebox - "Beggin': The Sound of London's Mod Club Scene" RPM UK label
The Legacy - "Beyond Hurt Beyond Hell" Visible Noise label
The Adverts - "Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts" Airmail Japan label
The Moody Blues - "Days of Future Passed", "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour", "In Search of the Lost Chord", "On the Threshold of a Dream", "Question of Balance", "Seventh Sojourn", "To Our Children's Children's Children" Decca Pop label
The Cure - "Faith", "Pornography", "Seventeen Seconds" Elektra label
Cream - "Fresh Cream", "Goodbye" Polydor label
Cream - "Wheels of Fire [Live]", "Wheels of Fire [Studio]" Vinyl Lovers label
Genesis - "From Genesis to Revelation", "From Genesis to Revelation [Varese Sarabande]" Varese Fontana label
Go West - "Futurenow" Borough Music label
Thom Yorke - "Harrowdown Hill/The Clock [Cymbal Remix]" XL label
Judas Priest - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Judas Priest - "Nostradamus", "Nostradamus [2 CD/3LP]", "Nostradamus [Deluxe]" Columbia label
Judas Priest - "Nostradamus", "Nostradamus [Deluxe]" Epic label
Fleetwood Mac - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Paul Young - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Bonnie Tyler - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Sweet - "Hit Collection" Sony/BMG label
Joy Division - "In the Studio with Martin Hannett" Interstate label
The Pogues - "Just Look Them Straight in the Eye and Say...Pogue Mahone [Box Set]" WEA Int'l label
Roxy Music - "Live at the Apollo" WEA Int'l label
Paul Weller - "Live at the Royal Albert Hall [CD/DVD]" WEA Int'l label
David Bowie - "Live in Santa Monica '72" EMD Int'l label
Simon Wickham-Smith & Richard Youngs - "Love and Lamentation" TBC label
Billy Bragg - "Mr. Love & Justice" Anti label
Asia - "Quadra" Mischief Music label
The Stupids - "Peruvian Vacation [Bonus Tracks]", "Peruvian Vacation [Limited Edition]", "Retarded Picnic", "Retarded Picnic [Bonus Tracks]", "Violent Nun [Bonus Tracks]" Boss Tuneage label
PJ Harvey - "Rid of Me" Plain label
Kids in Glass Houses - "Smart Casual" Roadrunner Japan label
Kids in Glass Houses - "Smart Casual [CD/DVD]" Roadrunner label
The Music - "Strength in Numbers", "Strength in Numbers [Single]", "Strength in Numbers [Special Edition]" Polydor label
The Real Tuesday Weld - "The End of the World" Six Degrees label
The Who - "The Who Sell Out" Classic label
Ian Brown - "The World Is Yours" Polydor label
Ian Brown - "The World Is Yours" Polydor UK label
Simple Minds - "Themes, Vol.5", "Themes, Vols. 1-5" EMD Int'l label
Mick Hucknall - "Tribute to Bobby" label
Mick Hucknall - "Tribute to Bobby [CD/DVD]" Rhino label
Yazoo - "Upstairs at Eric's", "You and Me Both" EMD Int'l label
Coldplay - "Viva la Vida" Parlophone label
Coldplay - "Viva la Vida" Cap label
Coldplay - "Viva la Vida" Capitol label

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Design Deliberations: Laura Ashley Dorothy Cushion

When Judy and I were teenagers, we bought (or rather our parents bought for us) Laura Ashley dresses. At the time, I thought they were so cool because they represented a part of the English way of life for us. I guess I supposed that every woman in England glided around in long pastel floral, or pink pinstriped, Laura Ashley dresses with white lace collars. My, how naive and unobservant I was. It's also pretty funny because those dresses were not me at all, and looking back, I looked pretty awful in them. I remember feeling uncomfortable and awkward in them too. Live and learn.

I was a late bloomer in regards to personal style, and now in my mid-thirties, I think I may have stumbled upon it finally. So I can, with zen like wisdom, state that I appreciate the appeal of many types of fashion garments, style accessories, and home furnishings while at the same time, vow never to wear said garment or place said decoration in my home - and mean it!

Lo and behold, Laura Ashley makes more than just dresses now, and have been for quite awhile. They have quite a line of home furnishings including this darling little cushion I happened across (its picture is above). It is categorized as a novelty cushion, and although I haven't a clue how they came up with the name, it is a whimsical piece with a handcrafted charm (although I am almost positive these cushions are not handcrafted). The little tea cups in various fabric patterns remind me of a quilt, wherein lies it's real appeal. Perfect for tea aficionados, quilters, or cottage decorators - it's a find that I would gladly welcome onto my sofa. How about you?

Here is another charming Laura Ashley novelty cushion.

This is something called a Scotty Dog Draught Excluder, perhaps to place under outer doors to prevent cold drafts from seeping in. So I deduce that draught is the English way of saying draft, or that draft is the American way of saying draught.

Now Back to the Original Program

I have missed blogging these past few days, but there were some fairly compelling reasons for my absence (and not just my sheer laziness). Noo, I'm not lazy, at least not most of the time. Please read about our misadventures here. I'll hopefully get a post up this afternoon or evening. Until then, keep cool!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Releases Roundup: For the Week of Thursday June 12

New in Movie Theaters * from yahoo
I can't seem to find any opening this weekend ~ did anyone have better luck?

New in DVDs * from blockbuster
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) - Stars Alec Guinness, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this film. It also won Best Picture and Best Director for British film legend David Lean.
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) - Although this film stars 2 American actresses sporting English accents, the subject matter does revolve around British historical figures Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. The film co-stars the lovely Kristin Scott Thomas and Jim Sturgess. The young Sturgess also starred in films such as Across the Universe and 21 (I was surprised to learn he was English as he spoke with a solid American accent).
Eric Clapton: Masterpieces (2007) - Documents Clapton's long and illustrious career.
A Harlot's Progress (2006) - Televised starring Toby Jones, Philip Martin Brown, and Zoe Tapper.
Waiting for God: Series 03 (1992) - Stars Stephanie Cole and Graham Crowden. Haven't seen this in what seems like ages, but this is one of my favorites. Interesting bit of trivia about Cole - she was only 48 years old in real life (but was playing a character in her 60s or 70s) when this series began.

New in Books * from publishers weekly
Jane Green - "The Beach House" - Doesn't this title just scream summer reading? The author is a British expat living in the United States.

New in Music - * from billboard
Bauhaus - "In the Flat Field" Vinyl 180 label
Blur - "13", "Great Escape [Japan Bonus Tracks]", "Leisure", "Modern Life is Rubbish", Think Tank" Toshiba Emi label
David Bowie - "Aladdin Sane", "Black Tie White Noise", "Diamond Dogs [Japan Reissue]", "Heroes", "Hunky Dory", "Let's Dance", "Lodger", "Never Let Me Down", "Pin Ups", "Space Oddity", "Station to Station", "The Man Who Sold the World", "Tonight", "Young Americans" Toshiba Emi label
Deep Purple - "Platinum Collection" EMI Australia label
Def Leppard - "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge [Bonus DVD]" Universal Int'l label
Edgar Broughton - "Edgar Broughton Band", "Inside Out", "Keep Them Freaks a Rollin': Live at Abbey Road", "Oora", "Sing Brother Sing", "Wasa Wasa" CRC label
Edgar Broughton - "Edgar Broughton Band [Bonus Tracks]", "Keep Them Freaks a Rollin': Live at Abbey Road" Caroline label
Eric Clapton - "Masterpieces" Classic Rock Legends label
Fairport Convention - "Best of the BBC Recordings" Island UK label
Gavin Rossdale - "Wanderlust" Interscope label
Genesis - "When in Rome 2007 [DVD]" Rhino label
Genesis - "When in Rome 2007 [DVD]" WSM label
Gerry Mitchell - "The Ragged Garden" Fire UK label
Jethro Tull - "This Was [Expanded]" EMI label
Led Zeppelin - "The Document Unauthorized" Chrome label
Madness - "One Step Beyond..." Rhino Encore label
Paul Weller - "22 Dreams", "22 Dreams [Bonus DVD Sized Harcover Book]" Island UK label
Steve Winwood - "Nine Lives [Bonus DVD] [Limited Edition]" Sony/BMG label
The Alarm - "Absolute Reality" Great American label
The Beatles - "The Beatles: Behind the Music" Peace Arch Trinity label
The Charlatans UK - "You Cross My Path [Deluxe Edition]" Cooking Vinyl label
The Cure - "Freakshow: Mix 13/All Kinds of Stuff" Geffen label
The Kinks - "Village Green Preservation Society [2 Discs]" Universal Int'l label
The Lords of the New Church - "Killer Lords" CRC label
The Lords of the New Church - "Killer Lords" Caroline label
The Mighty Lemon Drops - "Laughter [Bonus Tracks]", "Ricochet [Bonus Tracks]", "Sound [Bonus Tracks]", World Without End [Bonus Tracks]" Wounded Bird label
The Pretenders - "Packed!" Rhino label
The Smiths - "Queen is Dead: Album Under Review [DVD]" Sexy Intellectual label
Thomas Dolby - "The Sole Inhabitant [CD/DVD]" Invisible Hands label
Thunder - "Backstreet Symphony", "Behind Closed Doors", "Laughing on Judgement Day", "Rare, the Raw & the Rest", "Their Finest Hour (And a Bit)" CRC label
Yazoo - "Upstairs at Eric's", "You and Me Both" Mute label

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Comedy Corner: Blackadder, Helloooooo?

Blackadder will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its debut on BBC2 this year- my goodness, has it been that long? Rumors are afloat about a possible reunion of the show's brilliant cast members including Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson, and Jeeves and Bertie Wooster - aka Stephen Fry and the ever busy Hugh Laurie, aka (a second time) House. The most exciting aspect of this rumored Blackadder reunion is that it may very well spark a meeting of the minds over a potential Blackadder season 5. Please let it be so. However if they do decide to don their wigs and costumes for another go, we may not be able to get a peek until 2010. Patience is a virtue, no? Oh and another thing, I think it would be the icing on the cake if Colin Firth was invited back to the series for another guest spot, wouldn't you say?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rose Garden Ramblings: An English Garden and Beyond

What makes an English garden an "English Garden"? For me, I think it has to be the overabundance of fragrant, multi-hued flowers and foliage growing with restrained abandon. That's what I love about them. I hear that English gardeners are one of the most dedicated and hard-working gardeners as a group around (unfortunately I don't know any of them). So the overgrown look of an English garden isn't from neglect or laziness - I see it rather as the effects of nurturing and tending natural elements towards their natural states. I so prefer their relaxed unadulterated beauty compared to the more formal, orderliness of French gardens, for instance. Not to say that French gardens aren't beautiful in their own right and that English gardens aren't meticulously planned.

When I think of an English garden, I envision a compact spot of land where a floral wonderland of blooming buds, herbs, shrubberies and trailing vines create secret nooks and crannies. These secret gardens full of fantasy and whimsy are where children (and adults) can imagine, dream and play, as free as birds wafting through honeysuckle-scented air.

On a similar note, when I was still a girl, I went through a long phase where I would decorate my bedroom in the style of Brideshead Revisited, with lots of knick knacks, scarves, jewelry (costume of course) and books clustered on top of all my surfaces - night table, desk, and bookshelves. I loved the look of it, the fancy clutter and the artfulness of the carefully organized disorganization. Sadly (and my fault it was entirely), the dust which naturally accumulated on all of the aforementioned knick knacks, stacks of books etc. became too overpowering. I was then, and remain to this day, a poor duster however I think the sheer number of "things" to dust put me off the whole idea of dusting after a few weeks. Thus began a new phase of interior design - the stark Japanese Zen look.

Photo #1 came from Chelsea Pensioners Garden
Photo #2 came from the Royal Horticultural Society

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Releases Roundup: For the Week of Thursday June 5

New in Movie Theaters *from yahoo
When Did You Last See Your Father - Opens June 6th in limited release, and produced in the UK with a stellar cast including Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson, and Gina McKee.

New in DVDs *from blockbuster
Flawless (2007) - Stars Michael Caine and set in 1960s-era London. Costars Demi Moore.
Control (2007) - Based on the life of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis. Stars Samantha Morton as Curtis' wife and is directed by Anton Corbijn.
Doctor Who: Ep. 98 - The Ribos Operation (Special Edition)
Doctor Who: Episode 62 - The Sea Devils
Doctor Who: Episode 52 - The Silurians
Doctor Who: Episode 131 - Warriors of the Deep
Time For Murder (1985) - A series of 6 shows/stories where each was written by a different mystery author and starred different actors, some of whom you may have heard of including Jane Asher, Joanna David, Sylvia Syms, Ian Ogilvy, Charles Dance, Claire Bloom, and my favorite Joan Hickson.

New in Books *from publishers weekly
Lee Child - "Nothing to Lose" - This English author has had a cool career in British television working on shows such as Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. I have not read any of his books, but I may give them a go. "Nothing to Lose" looks like it is his 12th novel so looks like I have lots of reading to do. Time to go to the library!

New in Music *from billboard
Big Country - "Why the Long Face" Castle Music UK label
Elvis Costello - "Momofuku" Lost Highway label
English Dogs - "Where Legend Began" Candlelight label
Gavin Rossdale - "Wanderlust" Interscope label
Radiohead - "The Best Of" Capitol label
The Chameleons UK - "Script of the Bridge: 25th Anniversary Edition" Blue Apple label
The Pretenders - "The Singles" Rhino label
The Stone Roses - "Garage Flower", "Remixes", "Turns Into Stone" BMG Japan label
Yazoo - "Upstairs at Eric's", "You and Me Both" Mute label
Sarah Brightman - "Symphony" EMD label

Monday, June 2, 2008

London Calling

Growing up, my DS Judy and I adored England and everything English. I still remain so enamored while Judy has moved on to other cultures. Be that as it may, ten years ago she and I were lucky enough to journey to London for about two weeks (?) to take one of our finest summer vacations ever. I, being the Anglo-fan that I am and was, remained in a perpetual state of awe and wonder over every little thing. Case in point, I found the climate to be fabulous. Being used to stifling heat and oppressive humidity during the summer months (as well as during parts of the spring and autumn), I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover crisp, even cold, early mornings which required the use of a jacket! At times, it did get alittle warm during the day but it was a mild, sunny warmth. Nothing to get into a sweat about - at least as far as I remember. Sadly, my memory is getting worse and worse every year so it is good that I am getting all of this down, while I am still able. Anyway, back to the topic of weather, I think I always carried a jacket and had to wear it often throughout each day. Sometimes I even had to wear long-sleeves under the jacket and long pants as well. Can you imagine CHOOSING to wear long sleeves and long pants in the Texas summer heat? No way!

We ended up switching lodgings the first day we arrived (long story which I won't bore you with). The next day we checked in at our new bed and breakfast, called I think Victoria Inn (I am almost positive about the place but it was ten years ago!). We loved it and were so glad we found it. It was charming and, most importantly, their full English breakfasts were scrumptious!!! Every morning we would dash downstairs to sit in their breakfast room, and dig into the fried bread, tomatoes, sausages, bacon, and probably loads of other good stuff. We always started our days with full tummies and that's a treat AND a real money saver during a vacation. Breakfasts were included.

The rest of the food that we ate during our vacation was pretty gosh darn good too. The first few days we were in London, we still didn't have our currency situation figured out yet. So we had to keep eating at places near our b&b that took traveler's checks. After a few days, we came across a small place within a few minutes walk of our home away from home which cashed travelers checks. Hooray! We had English cash in our pockets, and could eat anywhere we wanted. That was a huge milestone for us that made the remaining days of our stay in London much more flexible, and gave us so many more options. The highlights of our culinary adventures included eating at this Japanese noodle bar called Wagamama (I believe - I MAY have a picture). I think it was quite new and hip at the time where service was pretty quick and you waited in line for your turn, then sat down with others on long tables. Yummy. We had lots of fish and chips of course. We also had high tea at (I think) Brown's Hotel in London. It was a joyous experience and quite the splurge, where we gorged on tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and delicate pastry desserts with really good tea. That was the first time I drank tea with loose leaves so I was quite perplexed about the strainer. But we managed. Ah, I hope to find a tea place here in McKinney, just for their tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries alone. If and when I do, you can be sure I will post about it here.

In terms of the sights and sounds, we covered alot of ground on foot and accrued lots of mileage on those tubes, trains, and buses. Just a sampling of what we saw included the touristy stuff around London like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, and Kensington Palace. We also paid a visit to Tate Gallery and the British Museum. We spent lots of time people watching around the various squares in London, and saw different street performers and bands playing for the crowds. We saw Miss Saigon in the Theatre District. We also took some day trips to the gorgeously lush Kew Gardens and stoic Cambridge, and ambled around the grounds as well as surrounding village streets. I also remember touring a BBC museum of sorts, where you could help make sound effects and all that good stuff. I can't remember whether we journeyed to the East End or not but I'm sure we must have tried, as we were very into watching EastEnders at the time. I think we also went inside Harvey Nichols (its mention in Absolutely Fabulous drew us to it) while we were touring around the West End.

I am positive I left out parts of our transatlantic adventure, but really, I am amazed at how much we saw and did just from my memories alone. When I try to think some more of our all-too-brief stay in London, (besides memories of the above) I will also think of Haribo candy, suit-wearing young men hanging out in pubs or restaurant balconies at 4 pm, riding a double decker bus all the way to the end of its line, the different British accents, the energy of the city, and the welcomed idleness of the country. I long for the day when Chad, Judy, and I can walk down those same cobblestone streets and vibrantly green grass together, melding our memories with a new perspective as seen from Chad's eyes and our own, more than a decade later.

I hope to post more photographs of our trip later, if I can muster the energy to scan them in first. I know, I can be so lazy! But here is one that has already been scanned - a photo of an area around Cambridge.