Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In which Silly Women are Managed by Men: Florence Foster Jenkins (the Movie)

Errata: Named people of color in the movie: 0
Bechdel test: all three levels passed.

Florence Foster Jenkins is my second favorite opera singer of all time ever (beaten by Juilie D'aubigny) because she is a tribute to that which may be accomplished with money, connections, and a complete lack of self-awareness. Of course I went to the movie based on her life, because I always patronize biopics of people I adore.  I am always disappointed.  I have learned nothing.

I wanted this movie to be a paean to a fascinating woman who went from being an America's Sweetheart sort of child prodigy pianist performing at the White House, to the extremely adored Worst Singer in the World.  Florence Foster Jenkins was known for such complete confidence in her vocal abilities that after she was in a taxi accident, she claimed that her vocal range had been increased by the crash and paid the taxi driver.

What this movie turned out to be was paean to men (like High Grant!) who manage and protect silly women with their silly ambitions while cheating on them and living off their incomes.  I tried to like the movie.  I did. It started well enough, with various fun yet silly tableaux being put on by Madame Florence's Verdi Club, followed by a cameo about the amazing Lily Pons. So far, this is guaranteed to please fans of opera. Then we move to Madame Florence's interviews for a pianist to help her reboot her singing career.  Here we learn that she collects chairs in which notable people have died, and which are not for practical use ( a more delightful eccentric foible is difficult to imagine) and then we are introduce to her pianist Mr. McMoon.  I think we are supposed to make fun of him for being short and stereotypically nerdy with ambitions of bodybuilding, which I am not terribly pleased about.    

I do love Mr. McMoon though, and at least he transfers to loving Florence rather than mocking her.  Speaking of, Hugh Grant, as Florence's husband, works hard to discourage her singing career.  He does carefully arrange some concerts for people who he trusts and makes it clear that he is managing her public experiences and shelters her from the reality of her talents. As, however,  it develops that Florence is dying of syphilis (she actually died of a heart attack, though she had syphilis) he decides that he will more fully support her dream.  To the extant that, after the movie has him away for a weekend of golf with his mistress, he comes back and announces that Carnegie Hall is her dream, and he will give it to him.  What a big strong men, taking credit for the Carnegie Hall concert that she arranged for herself with her money and connections, while he was cheating on her while supporting himself on her money!

The writers could have explored why we are as fascinated by terrible performances as by good (as noted in the credits, our heroine's Carnegie Hall concert is their most requested recording), or explored classism by introducing an amazingly talented singer without our heroine's money or connections. Instead, we get a tired and trope-y tale of a dying heroine attempting against all odds to go out with a magnificent concert while her husband takes credit for her struggle against all odds.

The Carnegie Hall Concert scene was excellent, I will say that.  The movie displayed many of the ridiculous costumes that the actual Florence Foster Jenkins was famous for, and Meryl Streep did an excellent job of singing like the real Florence.

Then, of course, we cut back to the inevitable teary bed scene after Florence finds out from newspaper reviews that she is the Worst Singer in the World.  I could not bring myself to care about her husband's tears at this point.  I was just so disgusted that at a movie about a woman ended up being about her husband treating that woman like a silly child.

I enjoyed the credits. They included actual audio clips and pictures of Florence Foster Jenkins.  That was fun.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Mini-Project

We have some large blocks of foam that are good for pillows.  Scaramouche also likes them.  He especially likes to rip nips of foam off the blocks (fortunately he doesn't actually eat them).  I'm making large pillowcases out of used saris, both for aesthetic and for anti-cat-nibbling purposes.  I used two saris: a blue with leaf-ish designs and a matte purple with bright orange border.

The blue:
I love blue.  So did my Grandmama.  The exact right shade of blue thread for this sari is from her stash.
Scaramouche will happily sit on the foam, even if he can't nibble.

The purple-and-orange, still to be turned into covers:

I love the purple-and-orange sari, too.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Caturday Post: Feline Graffiti

Charming cat graffiti from New Zealand, courtesy of my new favorite blogger, the amazing, informative, superlatively talented, and beautiful Dreamstress:

http://thedreamstress.com/2009/07/happy-graffiti/

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Yuna's Sleeves

Back to where I left off in June: I am attempting to make a Yuna costume suitable for aerial performance.

Yuna:

My recreation of her sleeves, version 1.0:

These were made in heavy white polyester satin (leftover from Princess Zelda's dress, which I still haven't written about), and I attempted to give them a gradient dye job with a fabric marker.  I gave up about 2/3 of the way through, because my marker was starting to run low, and I didn't want to have to buy another whole set to get that shade of pink in a reasonably broad point.  Also the satin did not take marker well, and it was much more difficult than I anticipated to get a good gradient.

So I took to the internet to see if dyeing sleeves might be a possibility.  I was terrified of dying fabric.  In every by-the-way description of historical dying methods I've read it involves a terrific amount of work and substances that are either really gross or that humans shouldn't be around (for instance Memories of Silk and Straw by Junichi Saga has a chapter about a dyer).  But the good people of the internet provided youtube tutorials and assured me that thanks to modern technology, I can buy small packets of fabric dye in every color of the rainbow and handle it without more precautions than gloves and ordinary ventilation. 

version 2.0
Lightweight white cotton sateen, unlined, dyed in the kitchen sink: 
I can dye fabric!  Eureka!  QED!  The world of white fabric is my oyster!  

The light is a bit too bright to see well, but I got a lovely gradient on both sleeves, with far less work than I was anticipating.  The better sleeve had the hotter water: next time I have a dye job small enough to fit in a pot I'll do it on the stove, so as to better maintain the temperature of the dye bath. 

I made version 2.0 with square margins as shown in Yuna's illustrations, discarding trying to round the back corners of the bottom hem (it's a female/male distinction with probably as much worth as buttons on the left or right for western shirts).  The purple cord is for show: I basted the sleeves to a long-sleeved nude leotard to make sure they'll actually stay on during performance.  They are a royal pain to work with in aerial fabrics, but they make all my sweeping gestures look lovely.  Dance adapts to look beautiful in the style of clothing it is danced in, and in turn influences the clothing worn to dance.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Fabulosity: Theoretical Muffin Topology

from the ever wonderful webcomic Questionable Content: http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=3284

I would say that muffin topology is my new career goal, but actually I found algebraic topology straightforward but boring until we got to homology, at which point I became totally lost.  Fortunately that was at the very end of the introductory course, or I would not have passed that preliminary exam.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recycling My Un-listened-to, Unwatched CDs and DVDs

They've accumulated, but local recycling facilities almost never take them.  If I can't find a recycling source, they'll have to go back in a box, taking up storage space that I could be filling up with more anime and baroque concerti.  Internet to the rescue:

http://cdrecyclingcenter.org/recycle-now/index

I'll need to sort them out from cases and inserts, box them up, and mail them off. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Scaramouche, Kitten of Disaster

Scaramouche has found that his new home has many high up places, helpfully decorated with fake greenery that he can disarrange, and access to a very high up ledge filled with things he might like to eat.He is a disaster.