Sunday Sum-Up: April 23, 2023

Last week was a lot. A lot of things are going on (mostly fun ones), but it was also just A LOT. Stressful, in the way that life throws unexpected things at you.

Fortunately, the main stressor will be taken care of on Monday, so I’ll have a lot of background stress taken away from that. Huzzah!

But aside from the curveball life threw at me, I took part in my first bookish livestream. I was a guest host for a discussion of Susan Dennard’s The Luminaries, which I read for a Patreon book club (not mine. I don’t have a Patreon). That was fun, though the streaming service decided to use my computer’s webcam, which would have been fine if I’d set my lighting up for that. But I hadn’t. I’d set the lighting up for my Sony camera, which I’d set up in my computer’s settings as the webcam. So the lighting was way off and too bright on my face, but I didn’t have time to fix it so I looked like a ghost going live from a cave somewhere in the wilderness. Alas. Live and learn, I guess.

Another fun thing was that I went to see The Return of the King (extended edition) in the theater thanks to a twentieth-anniversary event. My friend S and I had planned to go together, but as she started feeling sick about an hour in, she tag-teamed her husband, my friend J, and so he and I watched the rest of it. The three of us saw The Return of the King together on opening day in 2003, so it was a little like “old times”. The theater was a little warm for my taste, but it was great to see it on the big screen again with my friends, even if they couldn’t both be there the whole time. Seeing it like that again makes me realize just how quickly events move in the movies, as, when I watch it at home, I’m usually doing something else at the same time, so my whole attention isn’t on the screen. But when you’re sitting in the dark, staring up at a thirty-foot screen, you notice things. The Return of the King is packed chock-full of things going on all the time, and while I could do with shorter battle sequences, I loved seeing all those wonderful character moments on the big screen, in surround sound one more time.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

This week has been a little cold compared to the week before, so I’ve been wearing my fuzzy bathrobe over my pyjamas in the evenings. There’s something about the bathrobe’s texture that Mina loves. Whenever I pick her up, she immediately starts kneading my arm and purring and is perfectly content to do that for about as long as I can hold her. It’s great, as she’s not much of a cuddler otherwise. So while I wish it was a little bit warmer outside, I’m perfectly happy with the cat cuddles I’m getting.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

  • The Whispering Skull (Lockwood and Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud, audiobook narrated by Katie Lyons
  • The Poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, audiobook narrated by various artists
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, audiobook narrated by Dan Stevens
  • The Quicksilver Court (Rooks and Ruin #2) by Melissa Caruso

In The Whispering Skull, Lockwood and his ghost-hunting companions ended up being more fun than I thought it would be at the 30% mark. It ended up being quite a lot like the Netflix show Lockwood and Co., but also managed to be different enough to be surprising, though I thought there was a bit at the end of George’s story that was a bit of a cheap turn. Still, while I knew the basic strokes of the story it managed to pick up speed and keep me engaged enough to want to keep listening to find out what happened and see what sorts of changes the show had made. I am glad that, by the end, Lockwood had enough sense to see that his way of doing things- and the secrets he kept- was causing problems within the company and that he needed to adjust his behavior. Very intelligent for an older teenager! And it helped me to not be so annoyed at him by the end that I wanted to quit reading the series. On the whole, the plot is a little strange. Lockwood makes a bet with Kipps, the leader of a team from the Fittes Company, a corporate ghost-hunting operation that Lockwood despises. Each team must solve a particular haunting with their own skills and wits, and the loser must post an article in the paper declaring their loss and that the other team is certainly superior. Then they set about investigating the theft of a magical item from a haunted graveyard, and there were parts of the story that seemed a bit convoluted at times, though it was all neatly wrapped up by the end. Of the two books I’ve read in this series so far, the first one was definitely my favorite. I’m partway through book three right now, and so far it’s just okay. We’ll see how it goes from here.

I’m not sure how I stumbled across the poetry selection in my Libby app, as it never really occurred to me to look for it, but find it I did, and I realized that I often prefer to hear poetry rather than just sitting down and reading it. The performance gives it a texture and nuance that I often don’t find when reading it to myself, especially when I’m dealing with nineteenth-century poems. One of the parts of the show Penny Dreadful that I love is how much- and how beautifully- poetry is recited. I decided to download a selection of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s work, as I’ve never really gotten into it. Thanks to a collection of narrators, I’ve found a greater appreciation for his poetry, particularly the Arthurian poems that were read, though I’m very familiar with his ‘Lady of Shalott’ thanks to Loreena McKennit’s song of the same name. But even the shorter works were lovely, and I will definitely be listening to more Romantic-era poetry. Perhaps I’ll finally enjoy more of Keats’s poetry this way!

I decided to download Letters to a Young Poet after listening to Tennyson’s poetry because I love this little book, and it was narrated by Dan Stevens, and who doesn’t like his voice? He did a wonderful job of narrating Rilke’s beautiful letters to Franz Xaver Kappus when he was a young poet struggling to find his voice. Rilke’s letters to Kappus are full of inspiration about becoming a writer, observing the world around you, and surviving the world as a sensitive soul. And because Rilke was a brilliant poet, these letters are so beautifully written it’s a treat just to read (or hear) the words and sentences themselves. Stevens’ narration makes me wish my library had more books- especially poetry books- narrated by him.

I finally finished The Quicksilver Court. This was the book I’d been taking to work to read over my lunch hour for the past two and a half weeks or so, but I’d made very little headway until this week. Somehow, even though we haven’t been terribly busy at work this month, my lunch hours have not been the peaceful breaks I hope for. But I finally got to the end of the books last night, and it was quite the ride. In this second installment of Caruso’s Rooks and Ruin trilogy, Ryxander and her friends from the Rookery are tasked with finding and recovering a terrible weapon that could extinguish all life in an entire kingdom. Of course, things are never so easy as finding and dealing with the maguffin, and as soon as Ryx and the Rooks arrive at the court of a neighboring kingdom, they realize that the weapon might be the least of their concerns. Old secrets come to light for everyone involved- secrets that would end friendships and bring about ruin and tragedy for everyone in the world. Like I said last week, this is not the best trilogy in the world. The pacing is a little strange, and there have been many points where I’ve raised an eyebrow at a plot twist and asked, “You decided to do that?”, but I’m having fun with this story and the characters, so the flaws haven’t bothered me too much. I’m hoping to get to the third and final book sometime soon.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Hollow Boy (Lockwood and Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud, audiobook narrated by Emily Bevan (15%)

In the third installment of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series, we find the gang dealing with a spate of hauntings. For some reason, especially in Chelsea, the number of hauntings has spiked around London, leaving the many ghost-hunting companies overworked and looking for more psychically-gifted teens to help them out. All the stress hasn’t really gotten to Lucy yet, as she’s found a home and friends with Lockwood and Co, and now that she’s more familiar and comfortable with her powerful psychic gifts, she’s feeling better than ever. This is why she’s so upset when Lockwood brings home an annoyingly perky new assistant, Holly Munro. But increased hauntings and the new girl aren’t Lockwood and Co.’s only problems: they have assassins and even more personal problems to deal with. I’m only fifteen percent of the way through this book so far, so I have no real opinions on the matter yet, except Lucy has said something that always makes me roll my eyes when I come across its ilk in books: “If we’d only known then what we know now”. I don’t know why phrases like this irritate me so. It’s not like it’s a spoiler, and even if it was I don’t care about spoilers. But this phrase always bugs me, and it showed up here, and I’m annoyed by it.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

  • Slumdog Millionaire, original film score by A.R. Rahman

Once again, I meant to give this its own post, and once again the time got away from me. One day, I’ll get back to giving these scores their due…

In the meantime, my response to Rahman’s score for Slumdog Millionaire is a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up. I’ve never seen the movie, and I’m not familiar enough with Indian musical traditions and trends to be able to say, “Ah yes, Rahman’s use of this vocal mode indicates A and B in regard to the film’s main story and theme”. All I can really say is “I enjoyed listening to this music. It has music that is catchy at times, and with occasional ominous overtones that don’t sound like they’re trying to be all Edgelord about it”. There are singing methods that I’m sure are unique to India and add layers of meaning to the music, but once again, I’m not familiar with those methods to be able to comment upon them except by saying, “This is good music!”.

Not helpful, I realize, but my musical foundations are Western, and I didn’t even have a chance to start listening to other musical traditions until later in life, and I haven’t explored many of the many, many musical types and traditions the world has to offer. It’s part of why I embarked on this little project in the first place.

So does Rahman’s music do what I expect most film scores to do and tell the film’s story in music? I’d say so, just not with the same kinds of leitmotifs and themes I would expect from someone like John Williams. And that’s okay. There are layers and layers to Rahman’s music that can hold meaning for me, even if I don’t understand the traditions and modes underscoring them. It’s okay to approach musical traditions outside of your experience. That’s how you broaden your horizons. And it’s okay if you don’t understand exactly what’s going on in the music right away. Just by listening in the first place, you’re laying a foundation of sounds that you can build on, and if you keep looking for artists in that new-to-you tradition, then you’ll start to understand it and have a better ear for what the artists are doing.

In other words, I recommend that you listen to A.R. Rahman’s score for Slumdog Millionaire. It’s fantastic music that brings together Indian instrumentation and vocals and synthetic and electronic sounds to create a work that is compelling and builds an environment for a story that would feel much emptier without it.

Next week: Michael Giacchino’s 2009 Academy Award-winning score for Up.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: April 23, 2023

  1. Seeing any part of LotR in the theater again sounds awesome. It’s been a very long time since I watched anything in the theater. Even before covid I seemed to lose interest. But you just can’t beat the large screen and focused experience.

    Your listening to poetry has me considering doing the same. I’ve not tried much audio poetry yet. I remember reading ‘Lady of Shalott’ at some point. I think I discovered that through John William Waterhouse’s painting during a phase when I was immensely interested in anything Arthurian.

    Slumdog Millionaire was a good movie, though for me it did feel very different from most of the other Indian movies I’ve seen, both story-wise and musically. It’s possible that’s because my viewing has been fairly narrowly focus so far. I’ve more often watched comedic films than dramas.

  2. Second attempt at leaving a comment so apologies if you get two from me. I just hate wordpress. Just wanted to say that although I don’t recall much about the music from Slumdog, I certainly remember Dev Patel dancing down the station platform at the end of the film. It rather broke my heart that he didn’t dance very much in his other films.

  3. That sounds like a great scene. I’ve never seen Dev Patel dancing in anything I’ve ever seen him in, which isn’t saying much, really, as I don’t watch all that many movies. Makes me wonder why I have such a thing for film scores when I don’t have a thing for movies.

  4. Yeah, I’ve never been much of a movie person, either. At least in the theater. I’m much more likely to watch a movie at home where I can fidget and move around if I need to. But some films are special enough that I want to see them on the big screen, and any of the Lord of the Rings films are special like that.

    I used to photograph a lot of poetry slams, so I got used to a performances like that. And then, like with Penny Dreadful, it’s great to see professional actors put their spin on poetry. It really makes the old words come to life.

  5. Ah, now I want to see the LOTR movies in a theater again! I’ve seen them many times over the years at home, but they’re so spectacular on a big screen in a darkened theater (and with a proper sound system). A friend keeps pushing me to try the Netflix Lockwood series, and I may (eventually), but it sounds like the books are worth checking out too. Wishing you a great week!

  6. It was fantastic to hear it all in surround sound! There were so many little sounds that just get lost on my TV’s little speaker. It was like that with Dune, too. The Voice of the Bene Gesserit hits a lot differently when you hear it in the theater as opposed to at home.

    The Lockwood and Co TV show was a lot of fun! I watched most of it in a single day. I’ve actually decided to DNF book 3 for now, but that’s just because I’m craving a bunch of medieval works, and Lockwood and Co is not that. I will probably come back to it later on, when I’m in a different reading mood.

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