28 October 2011

My New Book

Since there hasn't been any chatter about what books ya'll would like to read together, I think I'm going to pick out a pair of how-to book to work with for a while. I've been wanting to improve my sewing for a while, so I'm going to work on that.

The first book is Stitch-by-Stitch. I already have a copy of this one, and most of the projects are pretty easy. What I'm looking for with this is to make sure that my basic sewing skills are solid. Plus, most of the projects are cute. Maulbeere and I have plans to do one of them - a cute bag with an owl appliqued on it - together.

The second book I want to study is Shirtmaking, about making men's shirts. I checked it out of the library years ago and wanted it for my personal library, but couldn't find a copy then. By the time I realized that Amazon has it, it was way down the priority list. However, I was recently reminded that Andy pretty much never has shirts that fit, and I'd like to do something about that. So this is the second book I'll be getting. In the mean time, I can brush up on my skills with the other.

Wish me luck - and feel free to play along with either these books or a how-to of your choosing!

22 September 2011

Another Book?

Even if we don't finish posting about the books we read, I feel like having a place to talk about the books we're reading - together or independently - is useful. To that end, I'm sharing a great list of historical and historical fiction authors that I came across this evening. Anything look interesting to you girls?

09 August 2011

400th Anniversary of the Bible

Hey, girls, check out this cool Timeline of the English Bible I found. This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, and I'm putting this cool little book into my Book of Centuries. I've been thinking I need to learn more about the events that brought us the Bible for a while now. This is the first article of a 7-part series that was in the Ensign, about how we got the Bible, that I've been meaning to read for quite some time now. Thought I'd pass along the link in case anyone else was interested.

24 July 2011

A Bit More

I read a bit more of Enchanted this afternoon. It's still an interesting story, though not as captivating as the WWII portion was. After I'd done some reading I hopped onto YouTube to see if there were any clips of Sabrina, since that's the section I'd just finished, and there are.

A couple of things jumped out at me. It's odd to read about how Hepburn and Bogart were getting along... and he spits... and the first clip I pulled up was the two of them dancing and him almost proposing to her. What a strange thing it must be to be an actor in a situation like this, and work with someone that despises you, yet have to pretend to be in love with him. My other thought was surprise at what she'd said about her voice:

"When I first came here, I had no voice at all. It was terribly monotonous, shrill and inflexible -- all of which it still is, only a little less so." (page 107)

I think that her assessment of her voice is more than a little harsh. But that seems to be very like her: always inclined to downplay her successes. I wonder if this is a product of the upbringing described on page 11:

A Victorian baroness to her fingertips, [Audrey's mother]  was now more than ever restrained, having lost the spontaneity and gaiety of her youth. She was a serious mother who always had her daughter's best interests at heart, but the warmth in that heart was cooled by her conviction that dignity forestalled cuddling, and that anything more effusive than a perfunctory good-night kiss was indecorus.

In any case, this suspicion of her own achievement seems to have served Audrey very well.

12 April 2011

Next Installment - Enchantment

Whew! Ok, I've actually had this segment read for a while it's just a matter of articulating thoughts and then posting them up here.

Chapter 4
I love how the beginning of Audrey Hepburn's career was so fairytale-like; it's all about being in the right place at the right time and doing her best at each point. In fact, it all happened with such "fanciful" and "serendipitous whimsy" that Ms. Hepburn, herself, thought it was too good to be true, but she faced the challenge head on. After being cast as Gigi, she said, "I tried to explain to all of them that I wasn't ready to do a lead, but they didn't agree -- and I was not going to try to change their minds (pg. 63)."

I enjoyed reading a little of the background with Roman Holiday. I agree that this is a tale which could easily be a terribly silly story, but it's done so skillfully and delicately that, somehow, it just works! (It's one of my favorite B&W films) Having read about the grueling and intense reputation of the director, William Wyler, it's kind of surprising that Ms. Hepburn's inexperience worked so well with his demanding style, but it seems another testament of her charm and winning disposition.

I think it also helped that Ms. Hepburn was very different from all the current leading ladies (e.g. Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe) both in image she wished to portray and in her approach. The author describes what made her special: "[It] was not something that came from a conniving, manipulative or seductive instinct; it simply betokened the determination of a young woman both vulnerable and strong who, despite her ignorance of the fine points of acting, was resolved to achieve the best she could (pg. 66)."

In Chapters 5 and 6, I was entertained to read about the differences between movie stars then to movie stars today. For example, as big a star as she was becoming, the press couldn't always keep track of her. She kept her private life private. "That part of her life was off limits, she insisted. Newsmen did not know that Audrey traveled by airplane to visit James in Toronto every Sunday morning when weather permitted, returning just in time for her Monday evening performance (pg. 77)." Ah, the days before the internet!

Also, there was the the "morals clause", where stars could have their careers destroyed if "public decency was offended by an actor's private life (pg. 109)", a bit different from the current state of things.

Another thing that I noted with amusement through these chapters, was the gentle way the author points out the coloring of truth as told by certain individuals.

On page 61, we read about how the theatrical adaptation of the book, Gigi, came about. Also, how producer Gilbert Miller always maintained that "he had been zealously committed to producing a play of Gigi since its publication as a book." Yet, our author carefully points out that the "reality was not quite as Miller recorded." He then spends the next paragraph explaining the differences.

And again, on page 85, regarding Gregory Peck's recorded recollections of how Ms. Hepburn's name came to be listed along with his. While carefully acknowledging the generosity and considerateness of Mr. Peck, the author delicately states that "his memory was imprecise."

It made me smile.

05 March 2011

Audrey in the War

I've learned about World War II in the past, and read The Diary of Anne Frank, though it's been a while, but somehow the brutality of it all never ceases to catch me off guard. It was the same way with reading about Audrey Hepburn's war experiences.

It's been a while since I looked at the sequence of events, so I pulled up a WWII timeline site and added a few dates to my Book of Centuries. It's been a long while since I added anything, and it feels good to be putting another couple dates in there.

Here's a sampling:

OK, so if I continue to wait for time to put this in I'll never get my thoughts posted. I was going to post a cool WWII/Audrey mix timeline, but I'm sure you girls can imagine it.


"That autumn and winter, many people saw not much cause for concern, despite the situations in Czechoslovakia and Poland, which had already dome under Nazi hegemony. War had been declared, but it was called a phony war. Thus, at the beginning of 1940 very few Dutch people feared for their future -- until the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9." (Page 19)

The author goes on to talk about how everyone is sort of in denial; Audrey and her family attended the ballet that evening. This makes me wonder if there is something about human nature that makes it hard to accept that something bad is happening. I wonder how often this sort of thing happens, and what kind of strategic advantage it gave to the Nazis then, and other aggressors in other places if it really is a human nature thing. The calm before the storm. Of course, the storm didn't wait long to really break.

Nazi troops and artillery then tore through Arnhem, exploiting local facilities and despoiling where they could to support the German war machine. "I saw German trucks coming in, and in five days Holland fell," Audrey remembered. "The occupation -- that's such a small word to cover the eternity of every day after the Germans came to our country, looted it, and stayed on to make slaves of us." (page 20)

Normal life soon becomes a thing of the past, and the Dutch citizens become slaves to the Nazi regime. But it's not all darkness. Though they were caught unprepared and their situation is dismal on the good days,

"The Dutch have a gift of shrewd perspicacity which no propaganda can obliterate, [and] outward resignation should not be taken for inward submission..."

I have to applaud the Baroness's ability to find bits of normal to give her daughter - an invaluable gift under this sort of circumstances. And with the ballet lessons came opportunities to help the Dutch Resistance. With the Germans rounding up all sorts of people on a variety of pretexts, or for no reason at all, this must have taken some courage!

I recently came across this, from other reading I was doing, and I think for the Baroness and her family it was much more than an academic thought:

"The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind." -New Hampshire Bill of Rights.

03 February 2011

Audrey's Films

I wasn't actually sure if I'd seen any of Audrey Hepburn's films, so I hought I'd make a list of her big ones. Here it is, courtesy of Wikipedia's entry on her:

Roman Holiday
War and Peace
Funny Face
Paris When It Sizzles
Love in the Afternoon
Green Mansions
The Unforgiven
The Children's Hour
Breakfast at Tiffany's
My Fair Lady (ah, there's one I've seen! Apparently the role nearly went to Julie Andrews)
How to Steal a Million
Robin and Marian (with Sean Connery; gonna have to see if the library's got this)
The Nun's Story
Two for the Road
Wait Until Dark
They All Laughed

30 January 2011

Starting out

I can never think of a clever way to lead in to posting my thoughts on these things, so I'll just jump right to it.

Chapter 1
I loved how the author started the book off, talking about Ella, the Baroness van Heemstra. In the first two paragraphs, we begin to gain a little more understanding of this woman who was Audrey Hepburn's mother:
"Thanks to the composure of the Dutch baroness, her eight- and four-year-old sons could face the heavy weather cheerfully. But if she did not hold their hands tightly, the wind might easily sweep the children overboard. Better to take them inside for hot chocolate (pg. 1)."
What an interesting first glimpes into the Baroness! We learn she was well traveled, she had two sons. She had great composure and a calm head, but an awareness of the world around her. And while it seems she might not mind this storm (mild in comparison with others she has weathered) it's clear that she cares for her children so, without alarming them, she takes them inside for hot chocolate. It's not until page 5 that the "newborn daughter" arrives on the scene and we don't get her name until page 10 that we get her name: Audrey Kathleen Ruston.

While I was reading that first segment, I found myself a little impatient to start hearing about Audrey Hepburn.. However, in retrospect, I think that this was a great beginning! This is the scene building that is important necessary for understanding the relationship that Audrey and her mother would have.

So much information is smashed into these first few pages. Pages explaining the sad relationships that the Baroness had with her two husbands, culminating in the second abandonment (pg. 14) where one day Joseph Ruston, the Baroness's second husband, just walked away.

Chapter 2
Here we read about the effects of ever heating politics had on Audrey's family. In 1939, as things between England and Germany heated up, Ella and Audrey sought refuge in neutral Holland. And, while war had officially been declared, few Dutch people worried, that is until April 1940 when Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway.

Then, May 1940, Holland fell and the German occupation was more than just a distant sort-of threat. "Over the next ten months, the van Heemstra bank accounts, securities and personal jewelry were confiscated. Secure in their wealth for centuries, they now saw almost everything taken away (pg. 21)." With anti-English bias growing, to protect Audrey - a British, English speaking citizen, Ella had Audrey become fluent in Dutch and enrolled her in school under the name of Edda van Heemstra.

During the years, 1940 to 1945, living in Holland became a nightmare. Threats were broadcast daily, German attacks were common-place. Everything was rationed. Audrey saw first-hand the atrocities of the Nazi occupants.
"Families with babies, little children being hauled into meat wagons, wooden vans with just a slat at the top, and all those faces staring out at you," Audrey recalled later, listing snapshot-memories of those deported from Holland to concentration camps. "I knew the cold clutch of human terror all through my early teens: I saw it, felt it, heard it -- and it never goes away. You see, it wasn't just a nightmare: I was there, and it all happened (pg. 23)."
As winter came, things only got worse. As food and fuel became more and more scarce, "the Nazis calmly watched the Dutch people starve to daeth as all available food was diverted to German soldiers (pg. 30)."

But the spirit of the Dutch was unconquerable. There were had "black performances", to cheer the Dutch people. Audrey loved to dance and choreographed her own, amateur routines. She, and other performers, took messages and money to and for the Dutch Underground. It's chilling to read about the bravery of these people, taking such chances in hopes of working toward a better future.

I thought the author did a great job not throwing any negative slant on the Baroness's reticence. It was simply part of who she was, a result of her upbringing and life experiences. Yet, from her actions we can clearly see that she loved Audrey greatly. They survived the Nazi occupation and went on to volunteer as staffers for the homes of wounded veterans. By 1946, things in Holland were returning to some semblance of normalcy and Audrey's love of dance brought her out of the depression she'd fallen into. The Baroness supported her daughter in her dream. She took a job cleaning floors so that Audrey could attend dancing school.

Chapter 3
Audrey threw herself into dancing, but 17yrs is too old to begin training for professional dance and the malnutrition during her formative years was too much to overcome. Yet, she didn't give up on it completely. Instead, she opted for theater gigs that allowed her to dance. This opened up opportunities to get noticed, and (as we all know) she was!

15 January 2011

New Book!

Woo! Today I'll start reading my book :) Looking forward to the discussions!