In a great unfortunate juxtaposition that vegging out sometimes brings, while packing for Ann Arbor last week, I watched the episode of 30 Rock where Alec Baldwin applies Harry and the Hendersons to everybody's life ... right before watching Mrs. Brown.
I barely recognized Billy Connolly or Gerard Butler, though that was possibly the point. Dame Judi Dench was, of course and as always, superb. Her reclusive Queen Victoria was a poignant portrait of a widow latching on to someone (Connolly's Brown) as a comforting tie to her late husband.
More unexplained, however, was that of Mr. Brown -- aside from a general "God save the Queen" reasoning, viewers don't really get a sense of why the heck he's such a devoted servant and subject.
It was awful, not being able to get Harry and the Hendersons out of my head. I saw the whole thing through the lens of taking a creature out of its element: Brown is just a wild Scot who belongs in the Highlands, where he learned plain talk and loyalty and to never doubt his instincts. To illustrate this, there's a scene where Brown and his brother run naked into the freezing ocean, another where he alone notices (and charges at) a potential assassin, several where he shows how dutiful he is by not gossiping with or like all the other servants, and many more where he helps the queen get out of her state of mourning just by treatin' her like other folk and makin' her have some real no-frills fun. Unlike Harry, Brown doesn't get to go home after showing the aristos how enjoyable life can be if you're unpretentious and direct; (spoiler alert!) he dies in captivity.
Gaaaaaack! Damn 30 Rock! I haven't even seen Harry and the Hendersons in decades!
Thankfully, I had the next book in my addictive medieval murder series to erase Alec Baldwin's Harry lectures from my mind.
To Wear the White Cloak brought the LeVendeur family back home to Paris, amidst more antisemitic riots and crusading knights. Unlike the previous books, this one had a comedic ring to it: bumbling clergy employ bumbling country servants to spy on our heroine and her family, who are entertaining bumbling country gentry and pretentious merchant socialites alike. It was one of the biggest comedies of error I've seen in a mystery series. Enjoyable, of course -- just a marked contrast to the tone of the first books.
The flight to Ann Arbor was uneventful, and the Pingüinita has been taking up most of my time. The new neffy is cute as all heck, and I need to figure out a nickname for him. He's a rather chill baby; all he does is sleep. The Pingüinita has been a diva ever since birth; and now that she's both getting her toddler molars and encountering a baby rival for adult attention, she's determined to command even more presence.
So far, we've been to playgroup, a toddler dance party at the community center, and several A2 parks and playgrounds. What strikes me most since I saw her last (over Thanksgiving) is how much she repeats sounds and can talk. The one that never ceases to crack me up: "eyes" are "ass" (or, more accurately, "assssss.")