Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Becoming Jane

Pride and Prejudice is a great (if rather girly) book, and deservedly a classic; and Austen's books were unquestionably trendsetters. So when I found out there was a movie on Austen's life, I was quite excited.

Becoming Jane was a huge disappointment.

Here are the facts: Jane Austen had five brothers and a sister, Cassandra, whose fiancé died of yellow fever. At 21, Austen had a brief flirtation with Tom LeFroy. Six years later, a Mr Bigg-Wither proposed to her; she accepted him, only to change her mind and retract her acceptance the next day. In the end, she never married.

Becoming Jane is a romance. Surely, its makers say, Jane Austen must have had some spectacular romance, to write so well? And so they've set out to create a romance based on Jane's brief flirtation with Tom LeFroy.

Austen was an advocate of sense and propriety. She extolled love in marriage; but as books like Persuasion show, any woman who marries without security is a fool, and the world not well lost. But I doubt Becoming Jane's makers had read any Austen other than Pride and Prejudice.

What is shown in Becoming Jane is as follows: Cassandra's fiancé dies of yellow fever (true). Jane Austen has a passionate love affair with Tom LeFroy at the same time as she's being pursued by Mr Bigg-Wither (whose name is changed to Mr Wisley); Austen and LeFroy elope to Gretna Green; Austen changes her mind halfway through and returns home; and Bigg-Wither/Wisley kindly dumps her (untrue).

The overt sexuality in the movie is completely out of period. One scene in the library is almost laughably impossible — Austen would never have stood for such lewd talking, and LeFroy would not have attempted it. This is a modern movie putting a modern character in Georgian England; not a depiction of Jane Austen, a Georgian woman, as she really was.

The movie trailer says it wants to show Jane as a woman in love with life and all its possibilities. Instead, it diminishes the facts of Austen's life, magnifying her flirtation with LeFroy out of any reasonable proportion and bearing little comparison to Austen's real character.

It's a shame that, instead of a biography, Becoming Jane is a trite, unrealistic romance. The film-makers looked at her life, and found it dull. They've fabricated a much more Hollywood story, and told that one instead. But if you're not going to stick to the bare facts, don't pose as biographical. Jane Austen deserved a better tribute than this.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

#55: Belly-dancing

My hips hurt from belly-dancing last night... Angela helpfully pointed out that when doing hip arches, my feet were too wide apart... so I put them closer together and now my hips hurt! It was quite uncomfortable having my feet close together, but apparently it looks better. Ang said it's uncomfortable for her as well, so it must be right. Gelinda (our teacher) seems to do it, no problem; I guess it's just one of those things that takes practice till it stops causing pain. Probably makes my hips more flexible, they seem to have difficulty twisting and bending at the moment... at least in the ways that Gelinda seems to think they should!

I have really enjoyed the belly-dancing class. It's weird to focus on moving one part of your body while keeping the rest of it still... last night, in one particular leg movement, Gelinda warned us to make sure our heads and bodies weren't moving, only our legs and hips... I looked around curiously, and the entire class was just bobbing up and down, completely out of time with each other.

A few mornings-after, my hips have felt a bit sore; but it's encouraging that everything's getting easier, except for those damned shoulder shimmies... I think a more appropriate description would be shoulder twitches, as Gelinda described it last night.

I love the fact that some days I've started unthinkingly belly-dancing around the place, just at home... when I'm cooking in the kitchen, I'll do hip arches or hip circles around the kitchen; when I'm sitting at the computer, I'll do rib circles and attempt (and still fail) shoulder shimmies; and so on. I don't know that this impromptu practice actually helps my belly-dancing at all, but it amuses me.

Yesterday's belly-dancing class fell on the same day as Dan's and my three-year anniversary! In the end I did go to class, and Dan and I met up afterwards. Until yesterday afternoon, I hadn't even realised that this meant I would have completed another task on my list; I have to complete about one task every ten days, so it was a good feeling to get my second task completed on Day 26. Now to complete another task within 4 days... hmm. Script Frenzy?

Monday, 18 June 2007

Three years today

Exams are over. My first was good, second was OK, third was forgettable. But they're over — and a good reason to study harder next semester!

The third exam — history — went badly enough that instead of the post-exam relief I was expecting, I just felt worried. I made the unprecedented mistake of looking up stuff I'd talked about in the exam, and thus found out what a huge number of mistakes I'd made — misnaming a king, saying something happened in Spain which was actually in Italy, and so on... maybe I need to resign myself to just not doing well in history. It's interesting, but it's by no means my forte.

The morning after my last exam, I started stressing about all the stuff I've been putting off until "after exams". I have to complete Script Frenzy and a short story for the BNZ short story competition; I have to write letters to my sponsored child and my grandparents; and I have to, importantly, get a job. I have to get Dan a birthday present, visit Wellington, catch up with friends, take Kylie's car for a warrant..!

Script Frenzy and the short story are my biggest worries, since they have the strictest time limit. I almost wish I hadn't signed up for Script Frenzy. It's just a big waste of time. I don't want to write a screenplay, I never have, I probably never will; the only reason I signed up is because they needed an ML and now, as ML, I have a responsibility to complete it — otherwise I'll let my silent, unenthusiastic team down. I've tried getting them talking, but — nothing. Kinda given up on that now. It's just silly, posting messages and trying to rouse some (any) enthusiasm, when there's little or no response.

At least now I have an idea for my screenplay, thanks to Dan.

On the subject of Dan, today's our three-year anniversary... I'm so happy. I honestly thought, a while ago, that I would never find a guy who would put up with me even for one year (not to mention vice versa). I guess I've changed since then, though. Grown up a little bit.

Three years!

That's cool.

Monday, 11 June 2007


I will be fine. I have revised thoroughly. I am going to give myself a mock exam before the real one. I will pass — but I don't know what grade I'll get.

I'm so worried I won't get a really good grade. Today I have my English Studies exam — almost a guaranteed pass (I need to get less than 2%).

I'm reassured by the fact that I got an A+ for my big assignment on Atonement. Woohoo! That's my first A+ for that paper... I'm really happy. But to be fair, we had to hand in a draft for that assignment, which was critiqued and then given back to us; so without my tutor's comments on my draft I probably wouldn't have got that grade. But an A+ for an assignment worth 30% of our final grade — that's fantastic.

If I'm going to get an A- or higher in any paper, this'll be it. But 40% of the exam is based on The Tempest. I hate Shakespeare. I think plays should be acted out and watched, rather than studied in reading. I loathe having to learn language four centuries old, language that I have to reread twice before I even understand it. And 40% of my exam mark is based on my ability to discuss literary-critical approaches to a text that I don't fully understand the face-value speech of, let alone the literary intricacies!

And I'm worried about the rest of the exam. I've been feeling more and more nauseous when I think about exams, over the last week and a half. I'm so much more nervous about my upcoming exams than usual. I think it might be because I've prepared so much more — I know I'll pass, but I'm so worried my hard work won't pay off in a good grade.

I feel if I don't get good marks, I'll have let down my parents, Dan, myself....

And today's exam is the easy one. I always do badly in history exams, which is going to pull down those lovely two A+s that I got for my medieval England paper; and my classic novels paper I didn't even get good marks in to begin with (well, B+); the exam won't help anything there, either.

And I really haven't revised for either of those exams as much as I should have (much more than usual, but still much less than I should have!). I'm going to have to rely on knowledge accumulated over the semester — something I've never been able to do before.

On the radio they're extolling the virtues of last-minute cramming. I've summarised notes to look over again before the exam, but I'm not cramming. I just hope steady work pays off as well....

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

#28: Diaryland entries

Wow. That took longer than I expected, and now I feel sadder than I'd have thought. I'd hoped to get my first task completed sooner; but hopefully I'll be able to start getting through them faster when exams are over.

It was interesting sorting through old entries. At the beginning it was cool: sorting through old memories, laughing at old jokes, remembering old friends, shaking my head at old scenes I'd blocked out.

But as I sorted through older and older entries, dating back to 2002, it got almost painful... certainly embarrassing. I was so juvenile, so self-conscious, so desperate to assert my happiness even when I was clearly miserable, so entirely boy-focussed, and most of all just so... young. Punctuation is overused horribly, and there are a few spelling errors. So many of the entries just display my teenage self-consciousness, a desperation to please, for everyone to approve, and utter dejection whenever anyone dares to say anything negative.

But in amongst the trash, there was a lot worth keeping — more recent stuff than old. In a lot of the old entries, I seem to be trying to test how many boundaries I can break and how much painful internal monologue I can dissect, while still desperately trying to appear somehow happy, Christian but "cool", popular with guys but not a slut. Ugh.

But disregarding aforementioned trash, I think I might create a blog of selected archives... there are a lot of entries which contain valid opinions and arguments that, while poorly-constructed and poorly-thought-out, are passionate and do have some valid points.

Of course, I can now label all of them, which makes it so much easier to sort through... most of the ones worth keeping are in pretty definitive categories. God, writing, internal monologues... I don't think there's much else worth keeping, but oh my god I repeated the God problem a lot! There are almost two years' worth of entries solely on the God conundrum; I don't know how I managed to stay sane through that.

I may post some of these less trash-worthy entries in a separate "Selected Archives" blog at some stage. If so... I'll let you know.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


So, it turns out I may not need to worry about Dad going to South Korea. He's been offered a job somewhere slightly more appealing: Kuwait.

At least South Korea's a Christian nation, with people Dad gets on with and in a country he likes. Kuwait is, to be fair, one of the less radical Muslim countries, but it's still illegal to proselytise Muslims, so not quite as liberal as, say, New Zealand. Or, for that matter, South Korea.

Kuwait are offering him a financially better deal than South Korea. It would be uncovered territory for Dad: something new and interesting to do, somewhere new and interesting to be. And as he commented to me, he speaks Arabic every bit as well as he speaks Korean.

I'm not as upset as I was when I found out Dad might be moving to South Korea, but that's probably because I'm now used to the idea that my father may be leaving New Zealand to go to the other side of the world, alone, for a year. But Kuwait as opposed to South Korea is still a shock.

Mum and Dad laughed away my fears of a wartorn country (I know nothing about Kuwait). Dad told me, reassuringly, that the woman from the recruitment agency said she's been there three years and not yet seen a soldier in uniform. Well, if the recruitment agency say that, it must be true.

I suspect it's similar to Kyrgyzstan; basically a second-world country — what might seem third-world to many Kiwis and others who've never seen true poverty. I have no doubt that Dad will be able to cope with living again in a second-world country again.

My concern is for Dad, and for Mum and Sasha, rather than me. I don't think it will affect me that much. (I've told Mum to make sure his life insurance is up-to-date. She says it is.)

There are positives and negatives each way. Kuwait would is better financially and it's a new, unexplored country to Dad. He'd still have phone access and probably internet access as well, so he wouldn't be cutting himself off from the rest of the world.

And, to be honest, a year's not a long period of time.

We'll see.