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Dickensian [DVD] [2015]
Dickensian [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Stephen Rea
Price: £12.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't hit some of the social notes correctly, but overall excellent, 11 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dickensian [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
I'm a Dickens fan. I've seen criticisms that this series is "soapy," but Dickens himself is sentimental, melodramatic, and given to involving his characters in extreme situations. I think this series is genuinely Dickensian, and that it has real emotional power.

The only thing the series really misses is the social nuances, which were extremely important to the Victorians. Honoria Barbary (the future Lady Deadlock) would not have worked in a shop before marriage. She is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and would have been helping her sister to keep house and going out to parties to attract suitors. Even though Mr. Barbary's business is in trouble, the family would be (in fact is, in the series) desperate to keep up appearances in the hope of getting help from members of their social set. Mrs. Cratchit would not have worked as a pastry cook and barmaid. She is the wife of a clerk. Although clerks were on a low rung of the middle class, they were determined to stay in the middle class and move up if at all possible. Indeed clerkship was the first step on the career ladder in a firm for many, not that one can imagine Scrooge handing out promotions. The middle-class Mrs. Bumble, so transported by the ambition of having a maid in the series, would in fact already have had at least one servant (a maid of all work), and quite possibly more.

Also strange is the situation around Frances Barbary's broken engagement to kindly Lord Deadlock. Honorable men, quite simply, did not break engagements. They had promised a woman financial support for the rest of her life. They were not only morally but legally obligated to fulfill that promise. They could even be sued for breaking it. And then, it seems Frances's sister Honoria did not even know her sister had been engaged? The whole family and all their social set would have known.

The plot continuously holds interest. The mashup of characters works well if you aren't a purist about chronology. The acting is superb. The costumes and hair are a little strange, wandering back and forth from the 1840s (or even earlier) into the 1860s. Otherwise, the production values are excellent.


Ladies in Charge - The Complete Series [DVD]
Ladies in Charge - The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Carol Royle
Offered by NextDayEntertainment
Price: £13.49

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defintely lacks the feminist view it initially seems to claim, 15 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ladies in Charge was filmed in the mid 1980s, when economic pressures (even more than feminism) were inducing many middle-class women to enter the workforce rather than being housewives. This sitcom is certainly designed to be viewed in that then-modern climate. My question is, by whom? By middle-class women whose husbands still earned enough to enable them to stay at home comfortably watching TV? By working-class women who had done it all along so didn't see what the fuss about working women was all about? Because this series certainly is not well targeted to middle-class working women of the 1980s. Of course maybe that's why it failed after only seven episodes, so abruptly that there is no attempt to resolve the personal story arcs of the three main characters (chiefly, who will they marry?).

The "ladies in charge" consist of Diana, the daughter of a prosperous lawyer and widow of a war hero; Babs, an unmarried wealthy socialite; and Vicky, an unmarried daughter of a tradesman (technically barely a lady, and her parents would like her to work in their business instead). They became friends when acting as ambulance drivers during World War 1. With the war recently ended, they are bored, and feel their civilian lives are no longer meaningful. They thus start a business called "Ladies in Charge," with the fuzzy aim of somehow "helping people."

An apparently feminist note is struck at the beginning when the ladies' fathers and suitors all refuse to provide startup funds, claiming the ladies are all dilettantes. (The ladies don't even consider approaching banks, knowing a loan would be refused.) However, Frank, the loyal former batman of Diana's deceased husband, does provide a seedy but free rental office above his greengrocer's shop. It's unclear where the money for office expenses comes from, though since the ladies are all living with their parents they don't need incomes in addition.

And a good thing too, because the ladies are both dilettantes and incredibly amateurish. They don't come in to the office on time. They can't type or keep track of office papers. They don't ensure their clients can or will pay (no contracts ever, despite Diana's legal connections) and therefore, most clients slide out of paying. They provide lots of free services out of the goodness of their hearts. It's no wonder that the best they can ever claim is that they're almost breaking even.

Added to this is a constant anti-feminist message. One example: A charming but highly deceptive music-hall performer asks Babs to get his professional and romantic partner Elsie back. Elsie now has an act with a lesbian male impersonator. She tells Babs that her former partner was incredibly domineering, to the extent of telling her what to eat and when to go to bed, whereas her current partner respects her right to make decisions. The man insists that Babs fill in Elsie's place in the act, when Babs discovers she just loves having him order her about in a loud voice and rudely ignore her opinions. Then Elsie returns, having made the same discovery.

There's lots more of this kind of thing. On reflection, I think the series was made for middle-class housewives who wanted a good chuckle at all those silly, inept "working women" who scrambled all over the place for clients but never actually made money.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2014 5:50 AM GMT


Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing: Ace Your Wedding Dance and Keep Cool on a Cruise, at a Formal, and in Dance Classes
Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing: Ace Your Wedding Dance and Keep Cool on a Cruise, at a Formal, and in Dance Classes
by James Joseph
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not my kind of book and here's why, 18 Jan. 2010
I was asked to review Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing, but I'm not its target audience. First, I'm a woman; and my husband is a highly experienced dancer, so he doesn't need me to give him an introductory manual. Second, I'm not a beginner. I have over 20 years of experience in various forms of folk dance, historic dance, and vintage dance. I've been a paid teacher and a paid performer. Third, although I've had my brushes with ballroom dance, I dislike the social atmosphere that pervades it.

Here's what I think of this book. Let's start with the back cover, which is headlined, "Satisfy a Woman on the Dance Floor." This, and all the other innuendo-laden language that pervades this book, exemplifies one reason I dislike ballroom dance. Our culture does not value dance highly. Most people receive no childhood exposure to it--unless you count those square-dance classes in gym, which have turned countless people off dance forever. Anybody who gets other dance exposure is likely to be female, because our culture considers dance more appropriate for females. Ballroom dance studios want to sell long series of classes, and they need male students as well as females. So, their marketing language implies that every dance class and event is a chance to meet, and make close physical contact with, potential sexual partners. That may be fine for some single (and heterosexual) people, but married ones are repelled by the constant pickup attempts that ensue.

In reality, most benefits of dance have nothing to do with sex. Dance is fun. It builds muscle and burns calories. It can be intellectually challenging. You listen to lots of good music. You make friends of both genders, and there is no need to pick any of them up.

The introduction, "10 Tips to Fred Astairedom," begins by reassuring readers. I found beginning male students to be consistently more nervous than the females. They'd seen enough ballroom dance marketing to be convinced that in all couple dances, the male is solely responsible for success or failure. This book fosters that idea rather than otherwise. Nervousness invariably inhibits learning, and this can become a self-defeating spiral. So let me reassure you guys: The "leader/follower" rhetoric, and all the exhortations to "please your partner" are just part of the studios' outdated-gender-role-laden marketing innuendo. In reality, the female has to go to as many classes, memorize just as much, practice just as hard, and sweat just as much. She is fully fifty percent responsible for the success of what you do together on the dance floor. If you're smart you won't reject your partner's help, or deny her ability or participation. This isn't the 1930s, no matter what music you're dancing to.

Chapters 1-3 focuses on "Music" and Chapters 4-6 on "Rhythm." I've been told personally that one of this book's main purposes is to help the rhythm challenged. My sole musical training consists of a few beginning piano lessons, when I was six. My piano teacher made me clap out 3/4 time, 4/4 time, and so on and explained how they worked. I enjoyed it, but not playing the piano per se, so I quit taking lessons soon afterward. Maybe this early instruction explains why I've never been rhythm challenged; although, when I was doing Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk dance, I danced to much more unusual rhythms without having a clue how they worked mathematically.

However, were I rhythm challenged, this book would not help. It goes on for 44 pages with explanations like, "Disco often sounds more `thump thump' than `thump tap.'" I haven't the foggiest what Chapters 1-6 mean. Just explain it to me as, "There's 3/4 time, it goes ONE-two-three, with an emphasis on the first beat, and the dance done to it is the waltz." (Or the mazurka, the hambo, or a number of other dances, but this book focuses solely on ballroom dance.) That's a much simpler and shorter way to explain rhythms. I successfully taught students to understand 5/4 waltz time just by having them clap it out for awhile. You can always ask your teacher to have the class clap out a rhythm, or to call it out while you do the steps, until you understand it physically.

Which brings me to another point: Reading a book will not teach you to dance. Learning dance is largely physical--not mental--memorization. Intelligence helps; but you can have a complicated sequence down cold mentally and still be unable to carry it out physically. If you are a beginner, get to a live class ASAP. This book does not pretend to substitute for a class; it's designed to give you the confidence to start going to class, by reassuring you and by giving you a leg up on some foundation material that will be repeated in class.

Chapters 7-11 discuss "Posture and Dance Frame," "Positions," "Movement and Timing," "Lead and Follow," and "Step Patterns." Here the book conveys some solid and comprehensible material about ballroom dance, specifically. (If you can get past tacky innuendos like, "Finally, the time has come for you to touch your partner!") There's some excellent advice; for example, "The leader does not use his caveman muscles to move his partner around the floor." Aside from the fact that you can't actually "lead" a partner into a step sequence she does not already know, let me tell you about the dancer I know who had to get knee surgery because a partner "led" her into a deep tango dip this way. Chapters 7-11 are all about style. Illustrations would help--there are none--but the real problem is, most students are not willing to learn style until after they learn step patterns. If they come to class to learn the foxtrot, they want foxtrot patterns immediately. If you spend much time first explaining posture, frame, style . . . they look bored, and then they go to the restroom and never come back. So what this book really needs is to teach some specific step patterns for specific dances, which it doesn't. The step patterns are all generalities.

Another facet of social dance is, you go to class, where the floor is seldom crowded. You move around it doing the same choreography as all the other students. They are at about the same dance level as you. You have it down!

Then you get onto a packed social dance floor, where everyone is doing something different and it's like a freeway with no lanes. If this is a fast dance, such as a Victorian polka, it's not unusual for beginners to panic. All this means, however, is that you have not memorized the dance physically. Do some more physical drill and eventually, no matter how panicked you are, your body will do the right thing. You'll be able to focus more on other things such as improvisation--not to mention looking where you are going. However, I assure you it is not obligatory to "flirt with your partner," or even converse. Dance is more fun when you're not trying to do entirely different things simultaneously.

Chapter 12, however, is not about fast dancing. It's about slow dancing. And the problem with slow dancing is what this book calls the "getting in close, the sensual embrace." Here the author admits that there are people you might actually not want to be glued to (for example, your mother-in-law), and that there are some who might not want to be glued to you. There's even a box tip for females, "Do not accept a `crotch lead' from a leader if it offends you." If ballroom dance weren't hyped as largely a way to pick up females, they wouldn't have to worry about this.

Chapter 13 gets to "survival dancing," which is actually a good concept. It contains detailed sections on things like how to fake a waltz. This book hasn't told you how to do a waltz to begin with; still, information on how to fake any kind of dance is helpful. Like, when you get stage fright in the middle of a performance, you have to get through the rest somehow. Believe me, I know. But, unlike the author, I don't advise getting onto the social dance floor and pretending to "lead" a dance you don't actually know and even "sweep a lady off her feet" with it. Find a partner who does know the dance, and ask her to teach you through it on the floor. The social dance floor is not the best place to learn, but it can be done. If your ego can't bear dancing with a partner who knows more than you do, stay off the floor during that dance and learn it later in class.

Chapter 14 is all about "Surviving the Wedding Dance." The wedding dance is a form of performance, and see my earlier advice on physical drill. The information on having a manageable choreography is spot on, as is the information on scoping out the size and shape of the dance floor beforehand. In addition, practice your choreography on it if at all possible.

Chapter 15 consists of "16 Tips for Surviving a Dance." Early on it tells you to wear the right clothes. That's important, but it's even more important to wear the right shoes. If you do any form of dance in running shoes, hiking boots, high heels, or any of the other unmanageable shoes I've seen students wear, you will inevitably look slow and clumsy no matter how diligently you drill. (You may even injure yourself--soles with traction can do your knees a lot of damage.) I can't tell you how many students have exhibited a 50% improvement in style between one class and the next, just because they went to a dance store and bought real dance shoes. If you don't know which shoes are appropriate for the dance form you plan to embark on, the clerk will help you.

Another tip tells you to choose the right partner. Be aware that avoiding certain partners in class sabotages the class, and most teachers won't allow it. One purpose of a class is to enable people to improve by dancing with a variety of partners. As for social dancing--another thing I really dislike about ballroom dancing is that the studios foster competition for medals so they can, you guessed it, sell more classes. This turns most serious ballroom dancers into snobs. They go around the social dance floor asking, "Are you a silver or are you a bronze?" and walk away from every prospective partner who gives the wrong answer.

I think we've established that I personally am never going to take up ballroom dancing. As for Every Man's Survival Guide: If you really need 148 pages of reassurance and somewhat confused information without ever learning any dances, go for it. Otherwise, just go to class. Instead of a ballroom studio chain, try an adult school, a community college, or independently taught evening or weekend classes. They're just as good and they're cheaper.


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