Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts on the royal wedding

Today my friend Peg wrote on my Facebook wall, "Why oh why have we not seen more from you on the royal wedding? Are you not buying into the hype? Too busy? Will you be watching LIVE at 5 AM?"

I've been thinking about this a lot. The truth is, I'm just not into it. But why? You'd think that a rabid Anglophile such as myself would be all in a tither over this -- the fanfare, the pageantry as only the British can do, the sense of history being made, the fashions, and whether or not William and Kate/Catherine will smooch on the Buckingham Palace balcony as his parents so famously did in 1981? -- but I'm not. And this week I finally figured out why.

You see, I was 16 when Charles and Diana got engaged and married and thought it was all so romantic. Diana was just a couple years older than I was, and seemed so innocent and yes, very princess-like in that there was a lot of talk about her excellent bloodline (because back then you had to be an aristocrat to marry a prince) and whether or not she was a - gasp! - virgin. And we all know how that marriage worked out. Thirty years later, the world has changed. William led a very different life from his father and his courtship of Kate was thoroughly modern. They lived together in college, have lived together after college and during their engagement, and while there's some snarky talk about Kate's humble origins, there's no talk about her "purity" (or his, sheesh). They're just a young couple, like many others, who seem well suited to each other.

When I was 16 and watching Charles and Diana marry, I was starry-eyed about men and marriage. Today, I know that marriage is a lot of work, even for royals. (Men, too, are a lot of work. Many are a piece of work, but I digress.) This week will be all pomp and ceremony, but the real road is ahead of them. I'll be more interested in how they relate to the public in the coming years, given that anti-monarchy sentiment is high. Will they continue to live a normal-ish existence in the coming years? How will the monarchy change as a result? Those, to me, are the interesting questions ... not who's designing Kate's wedding dress.

So will I be up at the crack of dawn on Friday to watch the festivities? Probably not. Instead I'm going to sleep in (my son has the day off from school) and I'll come down and watch all the videos posted online at the BBC, CNN, and more. I'll be in my jammies, drinking chai, and no Philip Treacy millinery in sight.

What about you? How do you feel about the wedding? Do you plan to watch it live or will you catch the highlights when it suits your schedule?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Still on the needles

I've done quite a bit of work on my Owls sweater, but still haven't finished it:

Here's a closeup of the cute little owls:

There's a bit more knitting to finish off their ears, then the neck shaping, and then I just have to graft the underarm stitches and figure out how to fix the giant holes that are going to appear whenever I move my arms as this sweater has a bit of negative ease. I tried it on last week and was a bit disappointed to see how snug it is, and I also wish I knitted the body a bit longer -- I forget how long-waisted I am and I loathe having my lower back on display to the world when I bend over. Ah, but that's what tight-fitting t-shirts are for, right?

The other project on the needles is this scarf, my first real lace project:

It's a pattern I fell in love with this winter, Anne Hanson's Aria Delicato. I'm knitting this with Handmaiden Sea Silk in the Topaz colorway. The silk is stunning, an oceanic blue that simply glows. Blue typically isn''t one of "my" colors, but this one stirred my soul. Here's a better shot of the silk:

I was planning to knit this for a special friend, but I don't know -- it's so pretty I may keep it myself. Geez, what a rotten friend I am. ;-) Looking forward to blocking this because I've a feeling it's going to be a stunner -- and I found this great tutorial this a.m. that has me more confident about blocking and shaping lace.

A couple other projects are waiting in the wings. We live just a couple miles from Classic Elite Yarns/Hub Mills Store (lucky me!), so the other day I picked up a few skeins of CEY Portland Tweed in Black Forest and Amaranth (purple) for cabled handwarmers, along with some Silky Alpaca Lace for my next lace project. I really want to knit Jared Flood's Cinder scarf in the suggested CEY Ariosa yarn (cashmere blend), but right now my bank account can't take the burden. This means I have to stop by Hub Mills and pet the yarn every couple weeks or so.

So much stands between me and my knitting these days -- dealing with health issues, a move, a book project that needs wrapping up, teaching my students, writing articles -- that the only time I can hit the needles is when I'm watching one of my planned tv programs or when I'm in a doctor's waiting room. Sigh.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music for a Royal Wedding Giveaway

Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple weeks. I have some health issues that have been taking up precious time, and when I do sit at the computer, I need to play catch-up with my paying work.

A couple weeks ago, the folks at Silva Screen Records contacted me with news about a CD they were releasing -- Music for a Royal Wedding -- and asked if I'd be interested in a copy. If you've got an upcoming wedding, or you're simply looking to get in the mood for the upcoming royal wedding, this is the CD for you. It includes 16 selections of music, including Pachelbel's Canon, Princess Diana's personal favorite, I Vow to Thee My Country, and, of course, God Save the Queen.

I have three copies of this CD to give away to Hail Britannia readers. All you have to do to enter is tell me below a. what was your favorite piece of music played at your wedding or b. if you're not married, what would be the music you'd pick for your big day? Oh okay and c. if you never plan to marry, what do you think Kate and William should play at their wedding next week? I'll pick winners with my super-duper random number generator on Friday, April 22, 2011.

As for music at my wedding, my favorite piece was Scotland the Brave, played by a bagpiper who led us down through the estate where we had our reception. Our guests didn't know where we were until they heard the strains of the bagpipes drifting across the lawns and they spotted us. Quite the entrance we made that day, and my dad was thrilled -- he's of Scottish ancestry, loves bagpipes, and we managed to get a smile out of him. (He's kind of cranky. Damn Scots!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two countries divided by the same films

Here's something I've been thinking about for the past few months. What films out there portray Anglo/American relations? The U.S. and the U.K. get along fairly well okay as political allies, but in films, directors and writers like to examine our cultural divide, often with amusing results. Here, the list I've come up with. Do you have any films to add?

1. The Patriot - I watched this film with my youngest brother when he was 10 or so and remember explaining to him that we once hated the British, going so far to bring him over to the Old North Bridge in nearby Concord to give him a little learnin'. I love The Patriot because there are so very few films that explore this time in American history. Bonus: it's also the late Heath Ledger's breakout film.

2. Bridget Jones's Diary - Much furor arose over an American movie star (Renee Zellweger) playing a beloved British book character. But I think, as do a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic, she killed the part. Score one for the U.S.! Bonus: Hugh Grant finally breaks out of character and plays a sleazebag.

3. Notting Hill - British bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) falls in love with an American movie star (Julia Roberts). Hilarity ensues. Truth be told, I didn't enjoy this film when it came out. Maybe I should give it another try because it ends up on a lot of favorite rom/com lists. I guess I should also add Four Weddings and a Funeral here as Hugh Grant, yet again, ends up with an American, played by the wooden Andi McDowell.

4. A Fish Called Wanda - My husband and I firmly disagree on this film. I think it's one of the funniest movies ever -- brilliant even -- and I watch it whenever I need a good laugh. He had to leave the room at the fish scene and it has caused him to distrust my taste in movies ever since. There's lots of good stuff in this film about what it means to be British and it pokes fun at the stereotypical ugly (stupid) American. Kevin Kline steals the show. Best lines:

Archie: I used to box for Oxford.

Otto: Oh yeah? I used to the kill for the CIA.

5. An American Werewolf in London -- I never get sick of this film and watch it every couple of years. Although it's 30 years old, the makeup and special effects are still awesome. Great shots of the Moors and London's Underground -- you'll never want to travel the Tube at night after seeing this movie. Beyond being gross, it's funny and charming: "A naked American man stole my balloons." And a confession: I used to have a major crush on David Naughton. Anyone remember him in the Dr. Pepper ads of the 70s?

6. The Ghost Writer -- I don't admire Roman Polanski as a man, but he's a fantastic director. The Ghost Writer was one of my favorite films released last year. There was a nearly palpable anti-American feeling to this film -- from the stony, cold exterior shots* to the portrayal of nearly every American character in the story.

*Since Polanski runs the risk of arrest should he set foot on American soil,  scenes that portray Martha's Vineyard and suburban Boston (Newton) were shot in northern Germany.