Happy Bastille Day!

Storming the BastilleStorming the Bastille

Le quatorze juillet is Bastille Day in France.

Bastille Day is the celebration of the storming of the Bastille prison by French revolutionaries in 1789. Because the prison represented that which the Revolution was against, it was torn down, brick by brick, by the French people. Its governor, Bernard-René de Launay, was taken prisoner by the mob and killed, becoming one of the first men beheaded for the Revolution.

The destruction of the Bastille led to the recall of King Louis XVI's ex-finance minister, Jacques Necker, whom the people felt was the only man in power sympathetic to their problems and desires.

So, head on down to the Champs-Élysées (or the Upper East side of Manhattan, if that's closer), look at a nice Monet, grab a generous hunk of bread, and wait for the fireworks on the Eiffel Tower in celebration.

The Baader Meinhof Complex

Covering the early days of the German Red Army Faction (RAF / Rote Armee Fraktion), The Baader Meinhof Complex (also in blu-ray) follows the militant group from student protest days onward to the German Autumn. The movie follows the leaders of the group and while criticized for being centered around them, shows the violence of the group and that period. Trailer is below.

A similar militant group in America, the Weathermen, was also active around the same time. The documentary The Weather Underground follows the the US-based militant group including their bombing of the US capitol.

Your Tudor Tutor

Today would be the 501st anniversary for King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catharine of Aragon. I'm not sure what the correct present is for that specific anniversary, but I don't know that I'd be accepting whatever it would be from Henry.

King Henry VIII has fascinated many people, though, regrettably, mostly because of his six marriages (two of which ended in divorce, and two more in beheading). However, it may interest you that these are not his only...accomplishments.

Some notable books on the Tudor king which do not focus on his matrimonial issues include The Last Divine Office: Henry VIII And The Dissolution Of The Monasteries and Henry VIII: The King And His Court.

However, if you'd like to go the more traditional route, you'll have plenty of choices: The Wives of Henry VIII, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII among them.

Of course, there are also historical fiction books that contain the infamous king. While they are not necessarily as accurate as the non-fiction, they are just as entertaining, if not more so. The oldest of these would be Shakespeare's play, given the regal name Henry VIII. Among the more recent, there is the "autobiography" by Margaret George, as well as the well-known The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Though, my personal favorite is not a book at all, but the Showtime television series The Tudors.

You may even want to take a look at his children. Each one showed off one bit of his overbearing personality. And I can guarantee one of them is probably just as interesting as he was.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 4

Part 4 – Sarah Waters, William Golding, Anne Bronte, Thomas Hardy, Flora Thompson, John Balderston

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Nan Astley, Edmund, Helen Graham, Fancy Day, and Laura Timmins!

Tipping the Velvet is a colorful passionate drama about a lesbian, Nan Astley, and the relationships she finds, including one with her music hall co-star, Kitty. When Kitty decides to marry a man, Nan must find a way to survive the heartbreak of her first love. The book the screenplay was adapted from shares the same title and was written by Sarah Waters.

Based off of William Golding’s unforgettable sea trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth tells the story of a young aristocrat that sets sail to a new governmental post in Australia. However, Edmund soon discovers how naïve and unaware he is hurtling into this adventure.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a miniseries based off of one of the published works of lesser known Bronte sister, Anne Bronte. In this controversial (at the time it was written) story, Helen Graham tries to rescue herself and her son from her husband who has become a lecherous drunk.

Under the Greenwood Tree is a light romance, a bit different that better known works by Thomas Hardy. Fancy Day is a young woman who comes home to take care of her ailing father. She returns home to her small village, to the unexpected advances of three distinct gentlemen.

Developed from Flora Thompson’s trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford, is an ongoing BBC Series that’s in its third season. In this series, Laura Timmins moves from the smaller village of Lark Rise, to the larger town of Candleford, to live with her cousin and find work. Laura finds herself surprised at the vast difference of the pace of life and scandals that occur in Candleford in comparison with Lark Rise.

Berkeley Square tells a story from an early 20th century perspective, more specifically; 1902 (had to throw this in the mix!). Berkeley Square is actually based on a play written by John L. Balderston. In this play and miniseries, three young nannies get jobs with well-to-do London families in this coming-of-age-tale that has been compared with Road to Avonlea.

If you’ve missed previous parts of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Stolen Art!

The Pigeon with PeasThe Pigeon with Peas

According to an article from CNN, five paintings were stolen last night at the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris, France.

CNN also said that officials did not name the paintings stolen, but the press put out their own listing:

"'Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois' (Pigeon with peas) by Picasso
'La Pastorale' (The Pastoral) by Matisse
'L'Olivier pres de l'Estaque' (Olive Tree near the Estaque) by Braque
'La femme a l'eventail' (Woman with Fan) by Modigliani
'Nature morte aux chandeliers' (Still Life with Candlesticks) by Leger."

We have many books here at the library on art theft, including The Rescue Artist : A True Story Of Art, Thieves, And The Hunt For A Missing Masterpiece, which discusses the 1994 theft of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch, The Gardner Heist : The True Story Of The World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, which examines the 1990 heist of $600 million worth of paintings from Boston's Gardner Museum, and Museum Of The Missing : A History Of Art Theft, which discusses art theft throughout history. Though, perhaps the most interesting is the true story of the theft of the "Mona Lisa" in 1911, which you can read about in Vanished Smile : The Mysterious Theft Of Mona Lisa

Perhaps this is a good time to do some brushing up on your art and art thievery knowledge. Who knows, you may find the missing paintings with a little help from some reading.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 3

Part 3 - Charles Dickens

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of two Martin Chuzzlewits, Lady Deadlock, Thomas Gradgrind, and Noddy Boffin.

Martin Chuzzlewit described as an “opulent narrative feast” is the story of two Martin Chuzzlewits, one a elderly wealthy gentleman that despises his scheming relatives that hope to win his fortune, the other; his grandson, a well-meaning egoistic youth that has fallen in love with his Grandfather’s ward.

Bleak House is said to be one of Dickens best adaptations, following the life of Lady Deadlock, a faithful and dutiful wife whose secret is about to be discovered which leads to blackmail, murder, and a tragic death.

Thomas Gradgrind, father of Louisa and Tom, teaches them to live with reason and practicality instead of emotion and imagination, which in turn makes Louisa cold and distant yet yearn for love and Tom a drunk and a gambler. Will Thomas realize that what he preaches to his children may eventually lead them to their downfall? This is the story of Hard Times.

Our Mutual Friend is a dark and involved yet romantic portrayal of how lives are affected and transformed after the heir to a large garbage made fortune drowns.

AADL also owns several miniseries based off of better known works of Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, Old Curiosity Shop, and of course A Tale of Two Cities.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is one Dickens series we have on DVD that was not made by BBC.

A few Dickens novels turned miniseries that we do not have on DVD, but do have in print are: Pickwick Papers, Dombey and Son and Barnaby Rudge

If you’ve missed previous parts of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2.

The Long Goodbye: Ernie Harwell January 25, 1918 — May 4, 2010

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For the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the song of the birds has come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Opening day, every day, he embodied the best of the best game in the world.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 2

Part 2 – George Eliot

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Daniel Deronda, Dr. Tertius Lydgate, Adam Bede, Silas Marner and Maggie Tulliver. The following five programs are based off of works from George Eliot. George Eliot is in fact Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under a male pen name so that her work would be taken seriously.

Daniel Deronda is a film concerned with two strong-willed young people whose self-determination is under attack by legal constraints on their rights to an inheritance, the noble yet illegitimate Daniel and also the fiery vivacious Gwendolyn.

Middlemarch is the widely acclaimed mini-series featuring a talented and engaging cast. When an idealistic gentleman, Dr. Tertius Lydgate moves to Middlemarch with the expectation of running a charity hospital, he is surprised to find that not all of the town supports his modern medical practices.
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By all accounts, Adam Bede is a very headstrong man with a very black and white view of the world, like a fair percentage of men of that period. Once he learns that the beautiful farm girl Hetty is undeniably attached to his wealthy friend Arthur, he believes their relationship is based on falsehood and begins to plot to gain the Hetty’s affections for himself.

Silas Marner is perhaps Eliot’s best known work and is the story of a man who is wrongly accused of theft in a very religious community and is forced to move elsewhere. Marner (played beautifully by Ben Kingsley), closes himself off to society until he takes in a baby girl and starts to raise her as his own.

The Mill on the Floss tells the tale of Maggie Tulliver and her up-tight ambitious brother Tom and their cousin Lucy, who is more often than not, the peacemaker between the two. When she becomes older, Maggie’s interest in her neighbor Phillip Wakem is unwelcome according to her brother, who is enemies with a Phillip’s relative.

If you’ve missed part one of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find it here: Part 1.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #208

Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, Miguel Syjuco's impressive debut Ilustrado*** (see definition) is most worthy of the buzz.

The panel of judges proclaimed it "brilliantly conceived and stylishly executed, ...ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humor".

It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River. Gone is the controversial lion of Philippine literature as well as is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families.

Miguel, his student and only friend, embarks on a literary archeological dig - through Crispin's poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The result is a rich and dramatic family saga, tracing 150 years of history of The Philippines. To our great surprise, the story bring us full circle to young Miguel.

"Exuberant and wise, wildly funny and deeply moving, Ilustrado explores the hidden truths that haunt every family. It is a daring and inventive debut by a new writer of astonishing talent."

Born in 1976 in Makati, Miguel Syjuco lived in many cities of the world since his undergraduate days at Ateneo de Manila University. With a master’s at Columbia University, PhD at the University of Adelaide (Australia), he currently lives in Montreal. He had worked in many jobs, from editor of a dotcom, bartender, apartment painter to powerseller of ladies’ designer handbags on eBay until February 2009 when he focused full time on his writing.

Readalike: Homecoming* by Bernhard Schlink - another epistolary novel about history, identity, deception, and discovery.

*** = starred reviews

My New Favorite Podcast

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This isn't really about anything specifically related to AADL, but I've been so taken with a new podcast from the BBC: A History of the World in 100 Objects. Each episode is a 15 minute or so contemplation of an object from the British Museum in which they explore a particular moment of world history.

It is oh so British. If you love BBCish things, you'll probably like this series. But what's nice is that the very very British sounding narrator talks to a variety of people like Amartya Sen, Wangari Maathai, and even Michael Palin from Monty Python. The creators of the podcast seem to be striving for a truly global, humanistic approach to these objects... telling a story that includes everyone.

What's even nicer about the series is that its corresponding "explorer" website is quite nifty. The way that they have visualized the timeline of objects is engaging and thoughtful (I can't really describe it), and you can filter your search for the objects by the usual categories of time period and geographical region, but you can also search by color, size, material, and culture. It's a very creative way to think about these objects across time.

If you're already a fan of BBC or PBS style documentaries or know someone who loves history, take a look at this podcast.

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