Holiday Splurge 2015

The way things have been shaping up in the recent couple of months, the holiday season ending today was most likely my last real reprieve from fairly major (not to say time-consuming and persistent) work-related unpleasantness for the foreseeable future.   This being the case, I naturally decided to make the most of it: I didn’t leave home — I had to work on the three days between Christmas and New Year’s, and anyway, ever since having lived abroad, there’s something about spending Christmas at home that I’ve come to appreciate in particular — but I took a deep plunge into books, movies and music and all the comfort and joy they afford.

Of course, I binge-read and binge-watched my traditional holiday tales —

  • Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (my review of the Patrick Stewart versions is HERE)
  • Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (my review of the TV adaptation is HERE) and The Christmas Pudding
  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Blue Carbuncle
  • Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Nine Tailors

A Christmas Carol - Charles DickensThe Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan DoyleThe Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth GeorgeHercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha ChristieAdventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot) - Agatha Christie


— as well as reading, in the run up to Christmas, Donna Andrews’s Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow, #16),

Duck the Halls: A Meg Langslow Mystery - Donna Andrews


… and watching (again of course) the German New Year’s Eve classic, Dinner for One.


I made some progress, too (albeit not as much as I had hoped) in my current read, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke


Then again, it also came in handy that my mom and my best friend were nice enough to give me books for Christmas —

  • Ian Rankin’s Dark Road
  • Gail Tsukiyama’s The Language of Threads
  • Ulrich Raulff’s Das letzte Jahrhundert der Pferde (The Horses’ Last Century — a nonfiction history of horsemanship and the centuries-old relationship between man and horse)
  • and Das Hatschepsut-Puzzle (an anthology of historical and scientific essays on Pharaoh Hatshepsut and the conjectures associated with her life and death)

— to which I swiftly proceeded to add our own Samantha Wilcoxson’s (Carpe Librum’s) Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, which I’m hoping to make my first “full 2016” read once I’m done with Messrs. Strange and Norell.


In addition, I took advantage of the discounts that the online purveyors of books, DVDs and the like so obligingly tend to offer this time of the year and stocked up on some more comfort watching (mostly) and other favorites:

  • Downton Abbey, Season 6
  • Midsomer Murders, Seasons 24 and 25 (U.S. version)
  • Foyle’s War, Season 8 (U.S. version = Season 7 in Britain)
  • DCI Banks, Aftermath (the prologue) and Season 1
  • Ian McKellen’s Mr. Holmes




— and as soon as the DVD of the BBC’s most recent production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is available, I’ll be adding that to my library as well.


Thanks to Bonn Opera, there was also no shortage (and indeed a great variety) of musical entertainment: We have season tickets, so three productions —

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte,
  • Astor Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires and
  • Hector Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini

were happily provided for that way in the space of less than a month (though since I had initially missed the Berlioz, we had to get tickets for it again, which on the other hand however made for a very nice New Year’s back-to-back experience with Mr. Piazzolla’s “tango operita”).



To these we added a reprise visit to Antonín Dvorák’s Rusalka (the Czech folk tale version of The Little Mermaid set to music), which we’d found perfectly charming already when it first premiered in Bonn in 2011, but which we loved even better this time around.


The grand finale of it all was supposed to be the Michael Fassbender movie adaptation of Macbeth, which we (finally) went to see today — unfortunately that proved rather a disappointment, though luckily the only real disappointment of all my holiday entertainment.

For those who care: It’s yet another case of “Hollywood Does Shakespeare” — or rather, “attempts to do Shakespeare and fails spectacularly” …  A director who either thinks he knows better than the Bard how to tell the story in question or doesn’t trust his audience with the source material as actually written and, consequently, f*cks with it in rather major ways, with everything from

  • adding stuff that has no earthly business being there to begin with (e.g., a fourth, girl-sized witch whom at the beginning of the movie we see being buried as, presumably, Macbeth’s child, and a boy, presumably Macbeth’s son, who gets killed in the battle against the rebels at the beginning of the movie, and who later appears to Macbeth to show him the dagger in the “is this a dagger that I see before me” monologue),
  • to leaving out major plot elements (e.g., the Porter scene … and you certainly wouldn’t know from watching this movie, either, that Lady M. goes mad at the end and commits suicide, and that she is actually sleepwalking during her final monologue),
  • moving around lines at liberty, not to mention changing their context (e.g., having murdered Duncan — which we actually see, incidentally, in all its gory detail, with Duncan waking up and looking at Macbeth before the dagger plunges into his breast [can you say “clliché”?] — Macbeth still stands over the corpse when Malcolm looks in and Macbeth (!!) advises him to flee to England),
  • actually messing with the Bard’s own choice of words (and rhyme, and meter) — eg., the three witches at the very beginning resolve to meet not, as Shakespeare himself wrote (in perfect rhyme and meter, and with a very definite intent) “on the heath” and “when the battle’s lost and won” but … wait for it … “on the battlefield”,
  • paring down the entire play’s lines to a random bare minimum anyway;
  • pretty pictures of Scottish highland scenery (mostly Island of Skye, several 100 miles west of where the play is actually set) with battle scenes straight out of Braveheart, war paint and all (I defer to Troy’s judgment on the fighting scenes and the claymores; to me, the swords at least didn’t look entirely authentic — and yes, I have seen the real thing),
  • architectural anachronisms galore — to top it off, with Bamburgh Castle (Northumberland (!!) and right on the seashore) standing in for what’s presumably supposed to be Glamis, Cawdor and Dunsinane rolled into one (neither of which is on the sea, nor even close to the sea to afford views of it),
  • not a single cinematic cliché even remotely associated with Scotland and / or the Middle Ages left out,
  • nor, on the other hand, a single original idea on display … I mean, even having the witches appear as “wise women” who might just have come from a nearby village and who induce Macbeth’s visions by hallucinogens may have been new and revolutionary in the 1970s RSC / Trevor Nunn / Ian McKellen / Judi Dench production, but that was 40 years ago, for crying out loud, and it’s been done plenty of times on other stages since then …
  • I guess you get the picture.  But, as I said, the only disappointment in a long list of great holiday season entertainment, so it’s all good! 🙂

Macbeth (2015) Poster  Macbeth


Now it’s back into the trenches for my own battle against the Dark Side …

I’ll try to show my face here every so often nevertheless, but I can’t promise it will be with any sort of frequency during the next couple of months.  Well, we’ll see.  In any event, I’ll be thinking of you all regardless, even when I’m not here!


Original post:


Comments on BookLikes:

Books, hockey, and a bucketful of snark
Macbeth sounds dreadful, and I saw the 1980s Peter O’Toole version which was unbelievably bad. A shame because I’m a big fan of Mr Fassbender.

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
He is one of the better things in the movie, though he mostly either mumbles or grunts his lines (no doubt at the director’s behest), which I found rather annoying — especially since Macduff and Banquo speak perfectly clearly (and, for that matter, with a more convincing Scottish accent, at least to my ears), so the difference rather stands out. Anyway, I suspect he did with the role what he could under the circumstances …

Hehe. You didn’t like Macbeth either? Lol. I nearly walked out.

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
I’m not surprised. They pretty much lost me in frame 1 (Macbeth and li’l daughter being buried) — yes, “frame”, not “scene” — but I quickly decided the whole thing wasn’t worth the bother to get too worked up about. Good thing, too, otherwise I’d have sat there screaming pretty much nonstop. As it was, I was able to limit myself to an exasperated groan whenever things just got too “out there” … ;~

(Walking out was, alas, not an option, as I wasn’t alone, nor had I paid for the ticket.)

Pity — yet another chance of a good movie adaptation wasted.

Rachel the Book Harlot
Wonderful post, Themis. I especially loved your review of Macbeth. I haven’t watched the film yet. I’ll probably give it a go when it becomes available on the internet. And I really need to catch up on Downton Abbey. I still haven’t watched season 5.

PS I don’t know if it’s my computer, but some of the images you posted are not appearing. You might want to check the links just in case.

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
They’re all showing fine for me, but it’s a post with a lot of images, and I’ve noticed that sometimes you need to clean out you cache to make all images appear on BL posts. Could that be it on your end?

Same with Downton Abbey season 5 for me, incidentally. I’ve decided to wait until I receive season 6, then do a marathon on both seasons back to back.

And, thank you! 🙂

Murder by Death
I am having the same problem with some of the images, but it happens to me not infrequently – I figure it’s one of the anti-tracking plug-ins I use.

Carpe Librum
Now that’s a fine looking set of books there! 😀

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
The one at the top? Definitely! And that’s why I’ve placed it there, too! 🙂

Murder by Death
Great post! We’ll miss you but wish you luck in the coming months. Look forward to seeing you back whenever you can make it. 🙂

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
Thank you. I’ll try to stay in touch — we’ll see how that’ll go …

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
Thank you!

I learned from the booklet for our opera’s production of “Rusalka” that Dvorák turned to opera when he felt he was done with symphonic compositions (though even in opera, and “Rusalka” more than anywhere else obviously, he incorporated elements of folk music). I love “Rusalka”, to the point that it’s now one of my all-time favorite operas. And, wow, seeing it with Renée Fleming must have been quite an experience!

Totally agree on “Foyle’s War” and “Midsomer Murders”. I’m glad they decided to continue “Foyle’s War” after all (and Michael Kitchen could be talked into returning). I think the segue into Cold War works very well. — “Midsomer Murders” isn’t *quite* what it used to be at the beginning, but it’s still one of the most enjoyable things coming out of British TV, and I’ll be watching it until they officially call it quits, which hopefully won’t be for a long time yet.

And, yes, I, too find it difficult to stay with “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell” for more than, say, 1 or 2 hours at a time, and not each day every day, either. Which isn’t exactly a great recipe for making progress with an 800 page brick of a book! 🙂

“I quickly decided the whole thing wasn’t worth the bother to get too worked up about. Good thing, too, otherwise I’d have sat there screaming pretty much nonstop. As it was, I was able to limit myself to an exasperated groan whenever things just got too “out there” … “Exactly. It was a rigmarole from beginning to end…This review slipped through the cracks…


Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
Because it was less a review than a staccato rant at the end of a very long post … 🙂

I love end of the year posts, and this one definitely slipped through the cracks…I know you always write of those. I should have looked it up. My bad…

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
Do I? I could have sworn this was my first one, but then, I’m having trouble remembering the names of people I spoke to five minutes ago, these days …

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
On yours: “whatever part an actor plays … he or she has to take his or her tiny self and make it big to match the character” … < that. Yes. Though to me, that wasn’t even the worst part about the movie. IMHO, the messing with the play’s actual language and construction and the addition of the two child characters was even worse.

I also feel bad about recommending “Mr. Norrell” to you…

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
Don’t. It ended up being a 4-star read; it just took forever to get there … or, well, it actually started promising with the opening scenes in York, just got bogged down in the middle without really advancing the story or adding much to the setup we needed to know to understand either her world-building or the book’s end, and I could also have done with a decidedly shorter section in Spain. But I have to give her kudos for her world-building, I like her writing style, and once the story had started to pick up speed again I found myself reading longer passages at a time again. So in the end it’s all good!

Uf! I’m off the hook…

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books

You never were on the hook … talking about the books we like is what we’re all here for, isn’t?

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