Category Archives: Reviews

A Review of The Princes in the Tower

I had been meaning to read Alison Weir’s The Princes in the Tower for quite some time, but being a mother slowed me down!  I am usually a fan of her work but not in this case.

Full Disclosure: I am a  member of the Richard III Society.  I acknowledge the likelihood that Richard III murdered his nephews but since there is no “hard” evidence, we should at least examine alternative theories.

In this book, Weir did no such thing.  She decided Richard III was guilty and painted him as Shakespeare’s villain.

It is undisputed that Richard usurped the throne from his nephews and placed them in the Tower of London.  He did this under that claim that Edward IV’s (the princes father) marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid due to a precontract.  Essentially, Edward IV had committed bigamy.

family tree

The above family tree is not my work.  I found it on Pinterest.

Weir presents Richard’s taking of the throne as calculated murder.  If Edward IV committed bigamy, the princes would have been illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne.  Back in these times, that was a very valid reason for Richard III to take the throne.  Being illegitimate was a BIG DEAL.

Richard was a loyal brother to Edward IV and usually did his bidding.  Edward asked Richard to be Lord Protector of the realm until Edward V reached his majority.

If Richard betrayed this, perhaps it was because he felt threatened.  The princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, mistrusted Richard and plotted against him.  Usurping the throne and getting rid of the princes may have been a way for him to protect himself and his young son.

Of course, there is the possibility that Richard did not order the deaths of the princes and someone else did it to undermine his rule.

Another thing that bothered me in this book was the assertion that Richard hastened the death of his queen, Anne Neville through poison and malicious rumors, so he could marry his niece, Elizabeth of York.  I realize there was probably a flirtation or perhaps even an affair, but I just don’t think Richard killed his wife.  Most accounts show a respectful marriage, and it has been written that Richard was grief-stricken at Anne’s death.

Weir also harps on the incestuous nature of Richard III’s relationship with his niece, Elizabeth of York.  First, we don’t even know for sure that they had relations.  If they did, it would be incestuous by our modern definition however, back in these times, the church granted dispensations for these sort of things ALL THE TIME.  It’s gross to a twenty-first century mind, but don’t over-dramatize it.

My final issue with this work is that Weir relies heavily on Thomas More as a source.  More lived in the Tudor Court.  History is written by the victors, and I can’t imagine Henry VII would have enjoyed a favorable account of his predecessor that he killed.  And if the Tudors had something to do with the murders of the princes, even more reason to vilify the last Yorkist king.

Maybe Richard III was a child-killing asshole.  I would have appreciated more evidence from all sides in a work of this magnitude.  I would not fault anyone from concluding that Richard III was involved in the murders, but I think there were deeper reasons than him just being a power-hungry usurper.

 

 

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A Review of Orange Theory Fitness

This is going to sound vapid, but I’ve been worried about my weight for the last little bit.  Not in a super-concerning way but just that I was always worrying about it.  The number on the scale has slowly crept up, and I know it’s not going to get any easier as I age.

Exercise has been a part of my life since college, but what I was doing was no longer effective.  My friend got me set up with a trial class at Orange Theory Fitness (OTF).  I have since signed up for a pack of classes, and it has already made a difference.

I go once per week, twice if I’m lucky.  I have already lost a little weight and a little bit from my waist.  Not that it should matter, but it does help me psychologically.  I can enjoy a hearty meal without worrying about how I’m going to make up for it.

I would highly recommend OTF to someone who needs an upgrade to their fitness routine.  The workouts are about an hour and very intense, but not bad enough to want to quit.  The coaches are very encouraging.  There are people from all walks of life with unique goals, so it is not intimidating.  Plus, it’s really nice to have someone else keep the pace!

You alternate between treadmill, weight room and water rower at the direction of your coach.  I have a treadmill at home and while the rower is great, I am paying the big bucks for the weight room.  It is nice to have different weight workouts and a professional on hand to help with proper form.  You also have a heart-rate monitor and can track your BPMs, heart rate, approximate calories burned, etc. as you work out.  You can visit their website to read exactly how it works!  Basically, if you work out hard enough, you will keep burning extra calories for thirty-six hours!

The only downside is that it’s pricey.  I’m #blessed to be able to work it out and have a husband who is supportive of my fitness goals.  For him, I guess he’d rather we pay the money than have to hear the whining.  As they say, “happy wife, happy life!”

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Reign Update

I watched the series finale of Reign the other night.  Wow!  They moved fast!  No sooner had Lord Darnley been killed did John Knox and his cronies march in there and arrest Mary.  A minute later, we were in 1587 at Mary’s execution.  So much for Mary’s marriage to Bothwell, captivity and the Babington Plot!  The series got seventy-eight episodes total, and I wish they could have had a couple shows to adequately portray Mary’s demise.  So instead, Elizabeth becomes the super-villain!

Mary leaves her infant son, now King James to be raised by his uncle, the Earl of Moray.  On this show, the earl is a noble figure, Mary’s right-hand man.  In history, the Earl of Moray is the main source of Mary’s problem.  He is very much like the John Knox character on the show and forces Mary’s abdication and flight into England.  But the show had to go the simple route of a hot good guy and Elizabeth being evil!

The scene with grown up King James meeting with Elizabeth, pleading for his mother’s life, is the one that really got me.  Elizabeth gives King James the choice – his mother’s life or the English throne when Elizabeth dies.  Said meeting never took place.  Additionally, Elizabeth didn’t name her successor until her deathbed.  She was a smart lady and naming her successor would have compromised her.  The idea that she gave the King of Scotland a choice like this is preposterous.  James then chastises Elizabeth for being weak and afraid of Mary.  Who cares?  Elizabeth lives and fosters the Golden Age of England.

Unfortunately, the show didn’t address the Babington Plot.  Although Mary was set up, there was a letter in her own hand authorizing her supporters to assassinate Elizabeth.  Again, Elizabeth had no choice.  She had to execute her rival, but the show didn’t acknowledge it since it didn’t fit into the “heroine Mary” narrative.

Twitter was a dream on Friday night.  People were tweeting, “Elizabeth, you b****!”  Elizabeth probably was that for many ones, but don’t attack her for protecting her realm.

Historical shows/films, due to time constraints or whatever, often change history but not to the point where they change a person’s character.  The only other one I can think of is Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl.  Don’t even get me started on that one.  Even The Tudors and Braveheart, riddled with historical inaccuracies, didn’t change the characterization of the subjects.  They may have changed some of the surrounding details but not the actual person.

We live in a world where people think Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States and chocolate milk comes from brown cows.  Unfortunately, people think what they see on a historical show is fairly accurate, and this show really missed the mark on one of history’s strongest women.  Like it or not, Mary, Queen of Scots had it coming to her and much of it was her fault.

P.S. Mary, Queen of Scot’s execution was a signal to Catholic Europe to attack England aka the Spanish Armada.  Therefore, Elizabeth’s England defeated the Armada in 1588, not before Mary’s death as portrayed on the show.  I had to let that out.

P.S.S. If you want a good movie on Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth, please see Mary, Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth.  Although there are some inaccuracies, such as scenes where the two queens meet, they don’t change the story.

 

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RIP to Reign

When my husband is working late at night and Baby Munchkin is sound asleep, I sometimes tune into a show called Reign on The CW.  It is a show very loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.  The series finale is this Friday, June 16th.

I don’t know why I watch it.  I am fascinated by that era in history, but the historical flaws really infuriate me.  The actress who plays Mary, although beautiful, looks nothing like Mary.  I could live with that if that were the only thing.  They have changed the characterization of some key historical figures, particularly her first husband Francis II of France and her half-brother James Stuart, Earl of Moray.  There is also this really weird storyline about the supernatural (The CW already has a ton of vampire shows).  These are a just a couple of the really obvious ones.

Whenever history goes Hollywood, inaccuracies can be expected.  Braveheart is one of the most historically inaccurate films ever.  The real William Wallace was 6’6″ while Mel Gibson was a foot shorter.  Princess Isabella, who Wallace is shown to have an affair, didn’t even come to England until 1308, almost three years after Wallace’s execution.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers on The Tudors, although a magnificent actor, was the worst Henry VIII ever.  Henry was known for being red-haired and larger than life, not 5’7″ and moody.  All this aside, the thing that really irks me about Reign is its portrayal of Mary vs. her cousin and rival, Elizabeth I.

Full Disclosure: I am and always will be team Elizabeth.

On this show, Mary is all things good, and Elizabeth is the evil aggressor who executes Mary’s bff (also fake).  The writers try to justify Mary’s claim to the English throne.  In my opinion, Mary is the aggressor here, not Elizabeth.  But if your only experience with this era of history is this show, you would think “poor Mary, bad Elizabeth.”

Let’s think a moment about who Elizabeth was.  Her mother was executed at age three.  She saw another stepmother executed.  Her place at court depended on the mood of her father, Henry VIII.  A scandal in her stepmother’s home almost brought about her ruin at age thirteen.  Her brother disinherited her.  Her sister, Mary Tudor (different person), imprisoned her in the Tower of London and was thisclose to signing Elizabeth’s death warrant. Additionally, Catholic Europe, especially Spain was gunning for her.  The fact that she was a woman didn’t get her any points either.

She could have run away or given up but she survived and THRIVED!  What an inspiration she was and could be to a new generation learning to love history.

Elizabeth survived her perilous beginning and her own reign with her intelligence and non-committal attitude.  She never knew security, so when Mary attempted to claim the English throne, I can understand why Elizabeth reacted the way she did.  I get that it’s “not nice” that Elizabeth ultimately imprisoned and executed Mary.  In fact, she didn’t want to do it and was haunted by Mary until her own death in 1603. Understanding Elizabeth’s time period and own upbringing, you can see that she had no choice.

It would have been better to not have Elizabeth on the show at all than to have these superficial plot points involving her.  She was much more effective as a mysterious figure in season two.  Since Elizabeth and Mary never met in real life, it would have worked!

I know it’s just a show, but I wish they would have focused on the wily queen who would have no master.  The girl who survived a terrible childhood to achieve her destiny.  The woman who defeated the invincible Armada.  The queen who wanted to rule absolutely but was progressive enough to “not make windows into men’s souls.”  Maybe she’s not the good guy, but she’s certainly not the antagonist.

Mary followed her heart.  Elizabeth honored her duty above all else and learned from her mistakes/past.  There is something to be said for that.

 

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Sheldon

I am so excited for THE BIG BANG THEORY’s return to television tonight. It is probably my favorite showSheldon on TV, but I do feel it is ridiculous that the three lead actors are getting paid $1 million/episode, especially Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco.  While their characters are entertaining and have a big role on a show, they do not hold a candle to my buddy, Dr. Sheldon Cooper as portrayed by Jim Parsons.

Dr. Cooper is a theoretical physicist at Caltech (in this fictional show).  I love that Sheldon  has a genius level IQ but is extremely socially inept.  This guy isn’t just a nerd.  He is narcissistic and extremely inflexible.  My sister and I have always talked about how we would rather have common sense than book smarts, and this is exactly why.  It makes for great TV though.

One of my favorite things about Sheldon (besides that he is hilarious) is that he feels bound by a social contract.  While he takes this to an extreme with his “Roommate Agreement” with Leonard and relationship contract with Amy Farrah Fowler, I do believe in a certain protocol for dealing with people.  For example, Sheldon dislikes gifts because he feels he owes the gift-giver a debt.  While I enjoy gifts, I do understand his point.

I honestly don’t think this show could exist without Jim Parsons.  Perhaps the other two leads, but not him.  Not only has he won four Emmy awards for his portrayal, but the show’s plot centers around his awkward interactions.

This is incredibly nerdy, but I do own a “Bazinga!” t-shirt I wear in honor of my favorite geek.  I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested!

Other Favorite Sheldon Quotes:

(knock x 3) Penny! (knock x 3) Penny! (kn0ck x 3) Penny!

There’s no reason to cry.  One cries because one is sad.  For example, I cry because others are stupid, and it makes me sad.

On the contrary.  I found the Grinch to be a relatable, engaging character, and I was really with him right up to the point that he succumbed to social convention and returned the presents and saved Christmas.  What a buzz kill that was!

 

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Was that really necessary?

As I have shamefully admitted in the past, I watch The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. This season has been very lame, but the episode airing last Monday evening (July 7th), really took it over the top.

As anyone who has watched this season knows that one of the contestants, Eric Hill, was tragically killed in a paragliding accident. Hill was eliminated from the show early in the season after having some choice words with Andi. He called her a “television actress” and indicated that she was fake. She wasn’t happy about that and eliminated him on the spot. I found Eric’s demeanor to be pretty classy (why was he on this show again?), and in my view, he was extremely accurate in his assessment of Andi.

The July 7th episode chronicled the hometown dates of the remaining four contestants. Then, the four suitors and Andi were called over to Chris Harrison’s home. Chris then passed along the news of Eric’s death to the five of them. Obviously, everybody was very upset. The loss of life is always tragic, especially in someone so young. Unfortunately, the show’s handling of Eric’s death was nothing short of exploitative.

The thing that made me upset was that is wasn’t about Eric; it was about Andi and the rest of the show’s cast and crew. I feel like Eric’s passing had already been addressed in a previous episode (and it was kind of obnoxious there, too). I realize they need drama on for a show that’s been pretty unremarkable this season, but to capitalize on a young man’s death? Does anybody on that show care about making his family have to relive the worst news of their lives on national TV?

Doing “nothing” would have been better than the way it was handled. If they felt like they needed to address it in “real-time,” I feel like a tribute montage with some information about the Live Like Eric Foundation would have been more appropriate.

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All These Years, They’ve Been Looking for a Baby

Growing up, most kids my age probably idolized Big Bird or Kermit the Frog – something cute and nice.  When we got older, it was probably Ariel from The Little Mermaid or Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Not me.

ImageWhen I was three, my mom said she would let me watch Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty but warned me that the witch was scary.  I watched what I consider the most beautiful animated classic of all time, and it turns out Maleficent didn’t frighten me at all.  She is easily my favorite Disney character.  I had her on birthday cakes, dressed up like her for Halloween, and was her in my 5th grade play.  To this day, I admire her cool elegance and calculating behavior – she isn’t a hothead like Cruella De Vil and certainly has more depth than the Evil Queen.  I also find her subtly hilarious and gorgeous. She is the master of the sideways glance, just like yours truly. I often feel as if I am surrounded by fools, too. While Maleficent is super-evil, she is also very polite, which is something I can appreciate. She’s a classy broad. Like the Mistress of All Evil, I also didn’t get invited to the coolest parties, although I guess I got over it a little better than she did. To top it off, she has a pet raven named Diablo. That is freaking awesome!

ImageI was super excited for the movie, Maleficent, to come out last Friday.  Like Star Wars nerds do, I wore my Maleficent t-shirt and hot pink leggings.  My dad says I was one step away from Comic-Con.

Angelina Jolie was the perfect choice for the role, if anybody could do her justice on screen.  Funny side note:  When Eric I were in London in 2012, we actually ran into Angelina and Brad at the National Portrait Gallery right before filming for this movie commenced.  We stood right next to them.

As for the film, I was entertained but ultimately disappointed. My whole issue is that I don’t think we needed a film on why Maleficent “became evil.” To be honest, the whole back-story is kind of weak. I was always down with the idea that she is just an evil lady and you better not screw with her. Like in society, we need to stop trying to rationalize evil and just accept that there are some bad people in the world. Ultimately, I should have known better.

First, the positive: Angelina was great within the confines of the role. Nobody could look the part quite like her, and she did a great job with the speech pattern. I loved her evil smile and brilliant white teeth. The shape-shifting raven character was interesting and added something to the film as well.

Now, onto the letdown. The screenwriters strayed far away from the original Sleeping Beauty story. This was a revisionist account that ultimately has Maleficent as the “hero.” Huh? Her name is Maleficent – look it up in the dictionary. First, I did not need the “young Maleficent” scenes. It would have been more satisfying to me if Satan had sent her up from Hell to wreak havoc on the world. Early in the film, there is a pointless Lord of the Rings-style battle sequence – don’t waste my time.

The actor playing King Stefan, the film’s main villain (ironic), is horribly miscast. I can’t beat around the bush; he’s horrendous. The three fairies charged with protecting Princess Aurora from Maleficent’s evil curse are complete nitwits. Seriously, there were the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a film (including Jar Jar Binks), and I don’t know why Disney let this happen. They made Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather look like they’re in Mensa. I wish Maleficent had zapped them with her staff. The 1959 character would have done so. Because of the fairies ineptitued, Maleficent assumes a “mother” role to young Aurora and grows to love her. She even tries to undo the curse.

As expected, Aurora succumbs to the curse but is in “deathlike sleep” for five minutes, tops. I cannot believe how easily this whole situation gets resolved. Prince Phillip only has a cameo at this point, and it’s not his kiss that awakens Aurora. The ending is just tied up too neatly. Without giving anything away, let’s just say everybody has a happy ending.

To add to my suffering, I hate Lana Del Ray’s droning, unmelodious rendition of Once Upon A Dream. The original version was the theme song at our wedding six years ago (I guess Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz, if you want to get technical).

Bottom line: This is not the “now you shall deal with me, oh prince, and all the powers of Hell” Maleficent from 1959. Only in the christening scene is she the Maleficent I know and love. People who love Maleficent don’t want to see a movie where she is soft almost the entire time. On the other hand, people who do not know Maleficent in the way I do (like she’s a real person), might enjoy the story.

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