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New Address: The World Is Quiet Here 101 Thursday, August 13, 2009

Posted by j128 in News & Updates.
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The World Is Quiet Here has moved.
Please visit the new blog, The World Is Quiet Here 101, at: http://theworldisquiethere101.wordpress.com/ or click here.

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Star Ratings Saturday, July 4, 2009

Posted by j128 in News & Updates.
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Dear readers,

A new feature has been enabled on this blog: you can now rate, out of five stars, all posts and pages on The World Is Quiet Here. Ratings go from “very poor” (1 star) to “excellent” (5 stars). Stars will appear above every individual post, once you’ve clicked the permalink for it (the title of the post, which will direct you to the main link, or permalink) as shown in the example below:

Post permalink

Post permalink

Hover over the stars to select your rating for individual posts or pages

Hover over the stars to select your rating for individual posts or pages

Jeeves and Wooster: “The Mating Season” Friday, June 26, 2009

Posted by j128 in Comedy, Jeeves & Wooster.
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The Mating Season The Mating Season is the first full-length story featured in one of the Jeeves and Wooster omnibus by P.G. Wodehouse with a foreword by Hugh Laurie, published in 2001. The Mating Season was first published in 1949.

Summary

Bertie Wooster finds himself in turmoil on all sides. A friend of his, Claude “Catsmeat” Cattermole Pirbright, has profuse love for a young lady by the name of Gertrude Winkworth, but is seemingly unable to acquire her as there are two things blocking his way: Gertrude’s mother and her four aunts and a particular young man Esmond Haddock, the son of the owner of a “widely advertised patent remedy known as Haddock’s Headache Hokies.” Allegedly, Esmond Haddock is in love with Gertrude and he intends to marry her.

Then there is Augustus “Gussie” Fink-Nottle engaged to Madeline Bassett. He is low-spirited as he has to face visiting the five aunts of Esmond Haddock, one of which is Gertrude’s mother, and he expected Madeline to accompany him on this visit; however, Madeline altered her arrangements at the last moment to cheer up an old schoolfriend who is suffering from romantic depression. Gussie later comes to meet another character, whom we describe below, Corky.

Meanwhile, Catsmeat’s sister Cora “Corky” Pirbright leaves her newly-acquired dog Sam Goldwyn in Bertie’s care as the vicar, her Uncle Sidney, is not strongly approving of dogs. Corky is also known by her stage name, Cora Starr, and she is in Hollywood.

Bertie is also caring for his Aunt Agatha’s son Thomas, who is a fanatic with celebrities and will go to exremities to get their autograph. When he learns that Corky is Cora Starr, he acquires fifty of her autographs and plans to sell them for six quid apiece. In later developments in the story, Thomas becomes more acquinted with Corky and is even let into her plans.

The ball begins rolling when Catsmeat, under suggestion of Bertie, gives Gussie dinner, as both chaps are low-spirited. Afterwards, at five o’clock in the morning, Gussie wades into the Trafalger Square fountain in search of newts. (Did I mention Gussie is a newt fancier?) Catsmeat had persuaded Gussie to wade and look for newts otherwise he’d bean Gussie (in other words, hit him on the head with something hard). It is not long when a constable arrests Gussie and the magistrate holds Gussie – thus suspending Gussie for a period of time and it is not possible for him to visit Deverill Hall.

It is up to Bertie to go to Deverill Hall impersonating Gussie Fink-Nottle, which will be somewhat easy as the Winkworths have never set eyes upon Gussie. Catsmeat also journeys to Deverill under the alias as Meadowes, Bertie’s valet, as Jeeves is Gussie’s valet since Gussie finally arrives at Deverill as Bertie. Love is in the air, “the mating season”, and it is up yet again to Jeeves to smooth out the tangles and give everyone a happy ending.

Arthur: The Seeing Stone Thursday, June 25, 2009

Posted by j128 in Literature.
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First paperback edition of Arthur: The Seeing Stone is the first book in an Arthurian trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland, retelling the Arthur legends in a first-person view by the protagonist named Arthur de Caldicot, who lives in England/Wales Middle Marches during the Middle Ages, around 1199 just before the Fourth Crusade.

The chapters are in varying length, sometimes only one page, and total in one hundred chapters. For those who have not seen the book’s size and are overwhelmed with the idea of so many chapters, rest assured: it is nowhere near as thick as, for example, The Count of Monte Cristo and, the paperback version, is only three hundred sixty-six pages long. It is probably around the size of the paperback version of Jonathan Stroud’s Buried Fire. (Another book that I will also be writing a review on sometime in the future.)

During the course of the story, there are two plots that overlap each other: that of the world of our protagonist Arthur de Caldicot and within the Seeing Stone in which Arthur watches the eventual rise of King Arthur.

Summary

Arthur de Caldicot, our protagonist, is thirteen years old at the start of the story and wants to be a knight, but first he must become a squire and this want of his is put at stake as it is hinted at that his father, Sir John, might wish to make him a scribe as his reading and writing are very good.

His parents are Sir John de Caldicot and Lady Helen de Caldicot of Camelot and his siblings are his sixteen-year-old brother Serle whose disposition towards his younger brother aren’t always kind and his younger sister, Sein, who’s only eight.

One day Arthur helps his friend, a girl named Gatty whose only a year younger than him, pen the two bulls who accidentally escaped and are now in the same field. He and Gatty get into trouble: he, for helping her as it was not his place, and she is severely whipped by her father as she had torn his best coat to put the bulls back in their proper pens. Arthur is also punished in accordance to his actions.

One of the reasons why he wishes to become a squire and then a knight is because as he is not the firstborn of Sir John and his wife, he isn’t applicable to inheritance of his father’s land and must get his own. There are obstacles to be faced, nevertheless, especially as he is left-handed and due to the times back then, has to practice with his right hand in skills such as jousting and sword-play, which makes him not particularly good at them. The other obstacle, as already mentioned, is the possible prospect of Sir John making him a scribe.

His uncle, Sir William de Gortanore, is a rough and tough old man and he is the father of Arthur’s cousins Tom and Grace, whom he is to betrothed to, and the two like each other very much and await the day they should be united. Another important figure in Arthur’s life, who lives with Sir William, is Lady Alice and she is described as being beautiful with almond eyes.

Early on in the story, Arthur is given a magical stone, which is obsidian, by Merlin, who is Sir John’s friend and also becomes Arthur’s guide throughout the story. Only Arthur is to know about the Stone and no one else is to see it or else the Stone’s power will cease. When Arthur looks into it, he is able to watch the legendary King Arthur’s rise to power. Our protagonist Arthur comes to believe that this could be himself in the near future and indeed often times the Stone’s plot is parallel to the boy Arthur’s world.

The Stone’s plot begins with the birth of King Arthur, who is taken away by the wizard Merlin to foster parents and is raised to believe that his foster parents are his birth parents until the truth is revealed to him and he succeeds to become the King of England.

This part of the plot, in particular, mirrors Arthur de Caldicot and his discovery of truth: all anxiety of becoming a scribe is dissolved when, on his fourteenth birthday, Sir John reveals that Sir William is actually Arthur’s true father and this creates a growing subplot about the fate of Arthur’s true mother as it is said that Sir William killed his mother’s husband due to jealousy.

While Arthur is happy to know that he will inherit land, he is also sad because that is the death of his and Grace’s formerly marital future as she is his half-sister. The book ends as Arthur accepts being a squire, in service to Lord Stephen de Holt: the lord of the Middle Marches.

Sequels

The story continues in the following sequels: Arthur: At the Crossing Places and Arthur: King of the Middle Marches. In 2006, Kevin Crossley-Holland published a follow-up to the trilogy, titled Gatty’s Tale, a story about Gatty joining a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Links

Kevin Crossley-Holland’s personal website

All Creatures Great and Small (TV series) Thursday, June 25, 2009

Posted by j128 in TV & Movies.
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All Creatures Great and Small was a British television show based upon the books by James Herriot. It ran seven series from 1978-1990 with a break in 1980 when the characters were drawn into World War II so two specials were made in 1983 and 1985. In 1988 the series was revived and continued.

Unlike the two previous films, the TV series was able to have more character development as there was so much time available. James Herriot was played by then-unknown Welsh actor Christopher Timothy, well-known actor Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge in two of the Harry Potter movies) was Siegfriend Farnon, and his ne’er-do-well brother Tristan Farnon was played by Peter Davison. Helen Alderson, later James Herriot’s wife, was played by Carol Drinkwater (series 1-3 and specials) and Lynda Bellingham (series 4-7, as Carol Drinkwater became unavailable). Mary Hignett was Skeldale House’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hall, who is replaced by a new houskeeper Mrs. Greenlaw (Judy Wilson) in the revived series as Mary Hignett died shortly afterwards at the end of the first three series.

The series is very enjoyable to watch and it is quite easy to become glued to it, wondering what happens in the next episode, etc., etc. It’s available on VHS and DVD, some of the DVD special features include “Who’s Who”, a list of the actors and their filmography.

All of the episodes I have seen so far are immensely enjoyable and there are always the moments of wit and humour. The episodes are at least an hour in length.

The role of Tristan was increased during the first series as Christopher Timothy suffered a car accident and broke his leg (in one episode he is walking with difficulty, the made excuse is that he hurt his ankle) so the script and filming locations were redone (Christopher Timothy was subsequently restricted to studio shooting) for Peter Davison.

As far as I know, series 1-6 are available on region 1 DVD (plus the specials). See the article All Creatures Great and Small on Answers.com for more information and a list of the episodes according to the series.

Links

All Creatures Great and Small on Answers.com – the article mentioned above concerning the TV series and two films previous to the series.

My Neighbour Totoro Thursday, June 25, 2009

Posted by j128 in Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli.
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Disney version; avail. on DVD My Neighbour Totoro is a 1988 film directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and the title “Tototo” is the Studio Ghibli mascot, which features in the opening titles of all their anime films. This was one of my first Studio Ghibli films that I saw, the other being Kiki’s Delivery Service, and both are heartwarming and enjoyable children/family films. Saying that, it is important to note that unlike many Western children/family films, Studio Ghibli films are unique in that despite being animated, they are enjoyed by audiences of all ages and can be seen again and again without the usual feeling of resentment or that “not again!” feeling that can happen from a too-much-viewed film.

History of My Neighbour Totoro

Totoro was released in North America alongside Hayao Miyazaki’s mentor Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, a strategy that is believed that was done for two reasons: 1) Totoro, at the time, wasn’t believed to be successful, and 2) while I haven’t seen it, many who have seen Grave of the Fireflies say it is an extremely depressing and tearful film, and so Totoro would act as a lighter film that would balance out Fireflies.

On that second note, some reviews that I have read have made a distinctive parallel between Totoro and Fireflies, being that these two films star two young siblings who have a bond with each other, but at the same time their relationships are ironic in that one is a happy, bright relationship, while the other is miserable and tragic relationship.

Originally, Mr. Miyazaki had planned on the story centering on an only child and her childhood wonderland, but later this only child diverged into two sisters, being Satsuki and Mei, their names both translating as “May”, being the fifth month of the Gregorian calendar. Their names stem from the said fact of the original only child. This is the reason why there are promotional posters with a single girl and Totoro, having been released before the character change.

For more information about the film, I’d recommend reading The Art of My Neighbour Totoro, it contains tons of original art, character development and design, etc. It can be found at Amazon.com.

Summary

Set in the 1950’s, in the Japan countryside, the protagonists Satsuki and her sister Mei have moved into an old house with their father. They moved to the countryside so as to be nearer to the hospital their mother is recovering in from tuberculosis (confirmed by Mr. Miyazaki, whose mother suffered from this disease when he was a boy). Within the short opening of the story, they meet some of the locals, including an old lady known as Nanny and a young boy named Kanta, who develops an ambivalent relationship with Satsuki, and she with him. The sisters also discover mysterious black, puffball-shaped creatures variously translated into English as “dust bunnies”, “soot sprites”, etc.

Despite only being eleven, Satsuki is shown being quite able of making her family breakfast and bento lunches (obento). While she’s in school, their father studies (he’s a professor of archeology and anthropology), and Mei plays outside where she comes across a small white creature, and she follows it into a brier-like thicket – reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland – and falls through a hole onto a larger version of the strange creature, which Mei learns is a “totoro”, or a kind of troll. (See the Wikipedia link for more details.) Mei soundly falls asleep on top Totoro and is found by Satsuki and their father in the thicket when she wakes up. Mei tells them about Totoro and they go to the Camphor Tree, where Totoro lives, and they make a prayer, full of gratitude and thankfulness.

One day Satsuki, Mei, and their father travel by bicycle to the hospital. They arrive and the girls are naturally happy to see their mother, as their mother also is to see her daughters. They tell her excitedly about the dust bunnies and the big Totoro and the little totoros. On the way back home, they discuss the anticipated visit from their mother when she is able and well enough to go.

The rest of the movie follows the girls’ course of adventures with Totoro, including the bus stop episode where Totoro gladly takes their father’s umbrella, after Satsuki offered it to him, and in return he gave them a small leaf-wrapped package of magic nuts and seeds, which seem to grow into a huge forest overnight and the girls fly over the countryside holding onto the giant Totoro.

While their father is at the university, Satsuki and Mei are looked after by Nanny, and after harvesting some vegetables, Kanta comes running with a telegram from the doctor. Satsuki uses Kanta’s family’s telephone to contact her father and tell him. Later Satsuki and Mei find out that their mother can’t come yet as she caught a cold, and will come next week. Mei and Satsuki have a terrible argument, leaving Mei crying.

Satsuki and Mei are sensitive girls who care for their mother, and Satsuki also breaks down – both are scared and don’t want their mother to die. Mei overhears Satsuki and runs off. Later, it is apparent that Mei ran away and Satsuki is insightful enough to realize that Mei has gone to the hospital! A search begins for Mei and Satsuki runs all over the countryside to find her sister.

As a last resort, Satsuki calls for the help of Totoro and she takes a ride on the Catbus and they find Mei. Soon after the sisters’ happy reunion, they go to the hospital where their mother is, and while they don’t visit her, they see their father visiting their mother in the hospital and before they go back home, Mei leaves the ear of corn on the window sill, with the following inscribed: “For mother.” It is possible that their mother saw Satsuki and Mei in the trees.

As the credits roll, Satsuki and Mei are taken home, and the Catbus disappears into the night sky. Nanny and Kanta soon meet them and they walk home. Their mother comes home, has baths with them, and reads stories to them in bed while Totoro and the small totoros are in the background, until they aren’t even noticed by the girls. As indicated through the closing song, Totoro can only be seen in childhood.

My Neigbhour Totoro opening

I couldn’t find a Totoro trailer that satisfied me, so I chose the opening from the Fox Video version and the Japanese version with English subtitles. Both the opening and closing songs are sweet and they are very sing-along songs. The English and Japanese versions slightly differ from each other in translation.

English opening (Fox Video)

Japanese opening, with English subtitles

Recommended Editions of Totoro and Recommended Reading

The Art of My Neighbour Totoro (published by Studio Ghibli), available on Amazon.com and other stores, online and walk-in stores.

As with all foreign films, watching them in their original language is best and with subtitles. This goes for anime, too, and I wholeheartedly recommend watching Totoro in Japanese, with English subtitles, a thing made possible for viewing in North America thanks to Disney.

But of course, some may wish to view this film in English, so I would recommend watching the Fox Video version because in my opinion it’s a better dubbing than Disney – many people praise the Fanning sisters (Dakota and Ella) with their dubbing but personally I think that Disney overdoes dubbing of little kids in Studio Ghibli films – Satsuki and Mei sounded way too high-pitched and simplified for my liking. I know they’re just little girls (Mei and Satsuki) but in the Japanese version and even in the Fox Video version, they have more dimension in their characters than their Disney counterparts. Anyway, that’s enough from me, how about I just let people go watch this movie and see which version they like better? I’ll make one final note, however: the Fox Video and Disney versions are not the same – the opening and closing songs are the same but it was sung by someone else and the tune was not favourable for my liking (I prefer the Fox Video version) and the scripts are somewhat different.

Links

My Neighbour Totoro at Wikipedia, see note about the word “totoro”

The Camphor Tree – A fan’s website dedicated to My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro at IMDB