2014 Autumn Bucket List

Because my Summer Bucket List turned out so incredibly well (and I will post about all the amazing things I did, I swear; as well as my promised Cleveland Ice Cream Guide) I decided to continue the practice for at least a year. Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Having a list of things to do over the summer (all of which I completed by the way) truly made me get out and do things while the weather was nice. Cleveland really shines in the summer, when the lake glimmers and festivals pop up every which way, but there is a lot to love about this little overlooked city in other months too. So here it is; a smaller list of everything I am going to do this fall.

- Eat a delicious apple fritter the size of my head and pick a few apples at Patterson Fruit Farm.

IMG_20130928_141942

There are plenty of fruit farms scattered around the country but non quite so beloved to me as Patterson’s. A Cleveland area institution this Chesterland farm is just far enough into the country to feel like another world without being an excessive drive. Plus you can’t beat the aforementioned apple fritter (I have never had one better) and their amazing Dutch apple pie. Their nearby orchards are perfect for picking. 

- Complete the as yet untitled Cleveland Coffee Tour. 

After the Cool as Ice (Cream) Tour ended all three of us Shillelagh’s were pretty sad about it and decided we needed to come up with something else to do during the fall. Coffee was the logical choice. So we came up with a list and when we’re done I’ll tell you all about it. 

- See the exhibit The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War at the Kent State University Museum. 

great war

I wasn’t aware that there was a Kent State University Museum, but when I saw an advertisement for this particular exhibit I knew that I needed to make a visit. I love old fashioned clothes and I love the early twentieth century so this is sort of a no brainer. 

- Go to one other museum in the surrounding area that I have never been to. 

I know they exist, but I never go to them. There are plenty to choose from.

- Go on my yearly trip to the Berkshires with bonus Hudson Valley. 

IMG_20140225_154414

Usually around this time I am getting ready to go to the Fall Family Festival, a mini-reunion, at camp. And on the way I stop in western Massachusetts to check out some of the gorgeous views but mostly to visit some of the grand old mansions that were built in the area and are now open to tour. But since this year was the full blown reunion and I’m not going to camp my mom decided to accompany me. Two days in Berkshire County and then down the Hudson Valley to check out some of those houses as well. Some of them I have already seen, but I am always happy to see them again, and some I haven’t. There’s nothing better than small idyllic towns in the fall. 

- Go to Ingenuity Fest and the Voix de Ville Tent’s Boffo Show. 

voix de ville

Ingenuity Fest is one of those things that just keeps getting better. It was always a great idea, a celebration of art and technology in generally unused Cleveland spaces, but it wasn’t until last year that I thought it’s potential was starting to be realized. Now located in two warehouses at the Port of Cleveland, right on the water, there is more art, performance, discussion, and technological advances than you can shake a stick at. And last year the experience was only enhanced by by the introduction of the Voix de Ville Tent. Run by my favorites, Pinch and Squeal, a vaudeville duo known for songs on accordion and banjolele, terrible magic tricks, and more than a few laughs, the Voix de Ville tent showcases music, curiosities, magic, and cabaret. Sounds like my kind of night.

- Take a walk on the Blue Ridge Parkway when the Shillelagh’s take their yearly sojourn to Virgnia.

IMG_20131103_155529

Every year the other Shillelaghs and I go to K’s family’s property in Virginia. This year all three of us are attempted to get a little more fit and so we thought a walk would be in order. There are some gorgeous trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, naturally, so that seems like the best place to go, especially since we drive up there to gaze at the views every year anyway. 

- Read Turn of the Screw by Henry James and at least one of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories. 

turn of the screw

I’ve been meaning to read both of these things for ages and since it’s the Halloween season and putting reading goals on my Summer Bucket List worked pretty well I am doing it again. Plans to see Edith Wharton’s mansion, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts probably will help.

- Explore the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

cultural gardens

Located in Rockefeller Park along Martin Luther King Drive Cleveland has a series of gorgeous cultural gardens. I have driven through them many many many times, but I have never gotten out of the car to explore them. Of course, this probably has something to do with the fact that there’s not really any parking around the area and that it will probably be kind of a hike to get to, not to mention the chain of them is a bit of a walk too. But, it’s definitely time for me to give these gardens a look and now’s the right time when it’s still crisp and warm enough to spend some time outside. 

- Go on a hayride. 

When I was little my mom and her friends always organized a big hayride. We would picnic and take a ride and this was one of the funnest things that I remember from my childhood. I’ve wanted to do another one for a long time but I don’t have a group of friends big enough. But this year I found hayrides that you can join at the Chalet Metroparks. Sounds good to me!

- See a play. 

I used to see live theatre all the time but in recent year I have tappered this a bit. Mostly for financial reasons. But that needs to change because there is nothing better than seeing a play. There are quite a few that I want to see coming up and there are always ways of finding cheap tickets so onto the list it goes. 

- Go on walks!

cvnp

 

As I said earlier, in attempts to get a little more fit I am trying to go walking a lot more. There are plenty of places in the area that would be perfect for some gorgeous walks and I’m including three of them on my list. 

1) The Shaker Lakes

Probably Lower Lake as it was always the lake I went to in my youth, but Horseshoe is lovely as well (I might even do both). Here in the Heights we’re pretty lucky that those crazy ass Shakers decided to dam Doan brook to power their mills and in the process carved out a few lakes, cause they sure are beautiful. The Nature Center is located in the marsh between the two aforementioned lakes, which also include Marshall and Green Lake. 

2) The Cleveland Metroparks

There are so many to choose from in our emerald necklace! And plenty of trails. I mentioned in my Summer Bucket List that I wanted to take a picnic in one of them but this time I want to get out and explore the surrounding woodlands. 

3) Cuyahoga National Park

How lucky am I to live as close as I do to a National Park? Sadly, I haven’t spent much time exploring it. Oh, I have been to Hale Farm and Village, located in the park, and I have traveled on the railway that cuts through, listened to tales of the petitions that made the park, but I have never walked in it. This needs to be remedied. I would also like to make Brandywine Falls a stop. 

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fleur-de-Lis Camp 85th Reunion and Three Shillelaghs: Cape Crusaders

ABM_1406404740

 

This year was my camp’s 85th anniversary, so as we are apt to do a good portion of alumni gathered together to celebrate all things Fleur-de-Lis. This was one of my summer bucket list things to do. I’ve always had a difficult time explaining how important camp is to me to non-camp people, so we can just leave that at that. However, we did have a very splendid time over the weekend. We had regular camp activities we could participate in, like archery, swimming, sailing, and riflery (though I couldn’t actually participate since I was volunteering and in the store the majority of the afternoon). We had a regular camp meal with the campers, we took down the Fleur-de-Lis and American flag at the end of the day, and then to cap the night off we had a party in town at the Fitzwilliam Inn. The next morning we had a nice brunch, a service where everyone and anyone could read or sing about camp, and then capped off the day with the silent auction and raffle. I swam in the lake three times, won a piece of stained glass made at camp, and wished I could stay the whole summer.

But then, of course, there was vacation. My camp is in New Hampshire, about a ten hour drive from home so it’s a little bit of a drive for one night. So, I always pair my camp visits with a little vacation and this year K and J decided they would join me. We headed south towards the beaches of Cape Cod and Islands.

ABM_1405629476

I’d been to Nantucket before a few times (and love it immensely) but I had never been to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket’s neighboring island. K had spent some time there as a child, due to the fact that her uncle lives there, so we were on our way.

We had a wonderful host in K’s Uncle Ned who fed us delicious food, gave us a place to stay, and steered us towards some great things to do. We went to the beach both days, saw some awesome cliffs, and danced on the porch. It was a great time.

0715141503

(Gay Head Clay Cliffs [Okay, so there is some debate on the name here. The town has since changed back to it's original name of Aquinnah from the, um... suggestive sounding Gay Head. Online the cliffs are alternately called Gay Head Clay Cliff or Aquinnah Clay Cliff. However, the sign at the actual clay cliffs said Gay Head so I am sticking with Gay Head. Get over it.])

IMG_20140716_094658

(Gay Head Light [same issue] is the number 11 most endangered historical location. It needs to be moved before it falls into the ocean.)

IMG_20140715_141406

(Menemsha has a pleasant beach and an adorable little fishing village lined with lobster and clam shacks.)

IMG_20140715_141951

(I had some fried clams at The Bite.)

IMG_20140714_113109It rained on the day we left (so this is from when we came in on the ferry) but we were still sad to leave on the ferry back to Woods Hole where we were all set to drive to Provincetown out on the Cape.

IMG_20140716_172551

Where women are the minority and they love their bears. The first day it was raining and a little bit miserable since we were camping. There wasn’t much to do and we ended up reading in the car for a rather long time. But the second day was gorgeous and we spent practically the whole time at Herring Point Beach.

IMG_20140717_161711

I ate three lobster rolls, which was also on my bucket list.

IMG_20140713_214955

(This is from Spanky’s Clam Shack in Hyannis Port, which we had before we went to the Vineyard. It was probably in the top three lobster rolls I’ve ever had. Yum.)

IMG_20140719_091714

The final night we ate at Pepe’s Wharf, which was fine as far as food goes and aces as far as view go.

A great trip was had by all. Too many laughs, too many instagrammed pictures, and too many bottles of Seltzer later and it felt like we were gone for a month when it was only a week. A good way for a vacation to go.

Posted in camp, fleur de lis, Travels | Leave a comment

Book Review – “The Garden of Dead Dreams” by Abby Quillen

22589240

(four of five stars)

      Sometimes I find myself thinking about writing review while wearing two hats. The hat that sat through oh so many creative writing workshop courses in college and the hat (I imagine a sort of court jester’s cap here) that just wants to be entertained. This book was wildly entertaining. I am a sucker for a good literary mystery, bonus points if it also deals with literary people (as it does here), and this was one hell of a good literary mystery.

Nestled in the trees of Oregon is an institute founded by Vincent Buchanan, one of the nation’s famous sons. An author so brilliant that his novel, The Western Defense, propelled the nation into victory over Japan at the end of the second World War. Etta Lawrence arrives at the academy seventy years after the publication of that famous book. Searching to redefine herself at the prestigious school Etta plans on writing a story so good it will win her the Buchanan prize, and another year (sans fee) before returning to the real world where she will undoubtedly have to build a whole new life for herself. But Etta soon realizes that winning the prize is the least of her problems. When her roommate starts displaying some erratic behavior and then disappears completely, Etta starts searching for some truths. But when reputations are at stake truths are not always forthcoming. Soon Etta is embroiled in a conspiracy that has been buried for almost a century and the question becomes not if she can find the truth but rather if she can survive it.

I will be honest. This book was not on my radar until the author found me on Goodreads because of my love of several like stories. I was happy to write a review, of course, because I’m both vain enough to imagine someone would want my opinion and desperate enough for those old college days when it was part of a grade. However, I was a little nervous. I mean, what if I didn’t like the book? And here the author was nice enough to look at my blog and find a reference to mention that would actually prove she read the blog. I knew I would be honest. If the book stunk up the place I was going to say so, in an honest review, but I knew that I would feel pretty bad about it. Luckily, that didn’t happen and I am pleased to report that The Garden of Dead Dreams was a fantastic read (despite a title that’s a tad over dramatic for my liking).

There were a few things, of course, that detracted from my love. Etta, for example, is harboring a secret that is referred to repeatedly throughout the first part of the book and then when the reveal comes it’s…. just not that big of a deal. Also, towards the end a stand off takes place but then the action moves elsewhere and I was left wondering how exactly that got resolved for the rest of the cast once the lead had exited stage right. And I felt like plot lines regarding some of the characters were left dangling. Though, of course, there were a lot of characters. There’s also the problem that happens when a novel is written about others writing novels. Or poetry, play, et cetera, where the author then has to create the work of several different people of varying talents. It rang true about eighty percent of the time here, but the other twenty pulled me out of the story a little. Especially with the poetry, which I do not like and can never figure out what is good or not. Though I am almost certain Robert North was intended to be pedantic and completely up himself with his verse.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. The setting was very fun, the scenery rich, and the characters great. I especially loved Reed. Poppy was pretty good too. Artists are a strange group of people, especially en mass. And I think writers may be the strangest of all. Get a bunch of them in the same room and you never know what might happen. If Quillen has anything to say about it, they may just solve a mystery or two.

Posted in books, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

2014 Summer Bucket List

Coming off a horrifyingly awful winter, I have never been more determined to make the most of the best season Cleveland has to offer. So, to propel me into getting off my ass and doing stuff I decided to go about making a 2014 Summer Bucket List. All the things I plan to do with myself (not including the things that would happen anyway, like going to the beach and eating meals outside) this year before the temperature turns cold again. Not that we’re even thinking about that right now.

- Complete the Cool as Ice (Cream) Tour. 

Twelve local, and delicious, ice cream shops in twelve weeks. The three shillelaghs will accomplish this remarkable feat! And then I will write the definitive guide to Cleveland ice cream. 

- Take a trip to Geneva on the Lake.

geneva

Located an hour from Cleveland lives one of the kitschy-est time capsules of a lake side town that has ever existed. With Eddie’s Grill, a throw back of a hamburger joint, delicious donuts at Madsen’s, mini golf, and more Arcades than you can shake a stick at, Geneva on the Lake is always a good time. I didn’t make it last year so this year it’s definitely on the list. 

- Eat a lobster roll on the Cape.

lobster roll

- Attend Fleur-de-Lis Camp’s 85 Reunion.

CIMG0189

My life is measured out in summers at Fleur-de-Lis and it’s turning 85 this year so I will be there, with vast other numbers of alumni, to celebrate. I’ve started writing about camp on many occasions and haven’t ever managed because the most important things can never really be talked about too much, can they? 

- Take a trip to Put-in-Bay. 

shot_1375560160001

One of the best things about living in Northeast Ohio is the rather large body of water to the north. Lake Erie has great beaches, great recreation, and (best of all) islands. South Bass is probably the most famous and definitely the most fun. It’s been called the Key West of Lake Erie. Not that there’s much competition, but with a strip of bars serving delicious girly drinks I can see where the comparison comes from. There’s nothing more fun than tooling around in a golf cart or going to the top of the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial to check out the view. Last year I got K and J to go with me and they had as much fun as I did so now it’s a yearly tradition.

- Go to the Holden Arboretum. 

One of the largest arboretums in the country the Holden Arboretum boasts more than 3,600 acres of nature and gardens. I haven’t been there in years. I haven’t been there in so long that I don’t even remember the last time I was there.  So when LivingSocial had a half off entry fee deal I decided to add this to the list.

- Tour the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

garfieldI’m a big fan of touring historic homes. I’ve traveled all over the country touring historic homes. So, it’s a little ridiculous that I haven’t been to one of the historic homes that’s in my general vicinity. President James A. Garfield’s house was built in 1876 and saw his successful front porch campaign. It was his home until his death in 1881. Now it’s run by the National Park Service.

- FINALLY attend Parade the Circle.

Parade the Circle is a pretty big deal. The enormously creative parade around University Circle goes off every year the second Saturday of June. Unfortunately, in the past, I have always been working the second Saturday of June. I have never seen Parade the Circle. Which is especially ridiculous since my best friend is usually IN the parade. This year though, this year, I am not working. I will be there! With bells on. 

- Go to the Terminal Tower observation deck.

term tow

I’ve wanted to do this forever. Often in the summer the observation deck is opened up on weekends at the Terminal Tower, Cleveland’s pretty little building, which was the tallest in the country when it was completed in 1928. I’m terrified of heights, but I will do this or bust. This year. 

- Have a picnic in the Metroparks.

I don’t care which one, I don’t care when. But before the summer is over I am having at least one picnic in Cleveland’s wonderful “Emerald Necklace” (I’ve always thought that term was super weird, for any city). 

- Go to the Botanical Gardens.

We have a lovely Botanical Garden in Wade Oval and I don’t even remember what they look like.

- Go to a Wade Oval Wednesday.

wade oval

During the summer they do this thing called Wade Oval Wednesday, which conveniently anagrams to WOW! They have free concerts, movies, performances of all sorts all in the grassy oval situated in the middle of the majority of the city’s museums. I have never been to one of these, which is ridiculous. So, this is the year.

- Attend the Tremont Art Walk.

The summer before last I went to a couple Tremont Art Walks, which take place the second Friday of every month. I’ve found that the best way to approach this event is to just stroll around the neighborhood rather than work too hard at finding art. 

- Have a meal at Walnut Wednesday and/or Food Truck Monday at Legacy Village.

While Food Truck Monday is new this year the food trucks about town have been gathering downtown, on Walnut, for a couple years now. They block off the short street and everyone can chow down. It’s nice knowing where the trucks will be, since they are often one of the best meals in town.

- See the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center.

blossom

I wanted to do this a couple years ago, and even picked out the particular concert I wanted to see. But when the day came my mother, who was accompanying me, declared it was too hot. I haven’t attempted it again. But this year I picked out the concert and I’ve already purchased the ticket. No backing out now! This outdoor music venue can be found, in small variations, in pretty much every city. But there is a reason for that. 

- Go to the zoo.

I think this is fairly self explanatory. I get to go on a nice walk, see animals, and visit my favorite elephant, Moshi. Plus, it’s free on Mondays. No excuses here. 

- Attend a Demolition Derby.

Sometimes you just want to get down and dirty and enjoy ridiculous crap like this. There are two county fair demo derbies to choose from so I am pretty sure I can swing one of them. It can be fun to watch a bunch of stuff get smashed. 

- Go on the Stan Hywet Hall Nooks and Crannies Tour.

IMG_20140511_195732

Stan Hywet Hall was the home of the Seiberling family who owned Goodyear rubber. The aforementioned penchant I have for touring homes basically means that I’ve been to Stan Hywet, in Akron, plenty of times. However, I have never been on the Nooks and Crannies tour, which shows extra bits of the house and servant areas. 

- Read one Edith Wharton and one Evelyn Waugh book.

 

I love them both and seem to have amassed a large collection of both their books. It’s time to start reading.

- Visit Amish Country.

DSCF0330

The best cheese around? Yep. Delicious pies and baked goods? Yep. Beautiful views? Yep. There is plenty to love about Ohio’s Amish country even if you’re not into eight million woven baskets or antiquing. It’s always worth a trip down to Holmes County. 

- Attend the Civil War Reenactment at Hale Farm and Village.

hale farm

For the sesquicentennial of the Civil War Hale Farm and Village has been doing a reenactment battle in August. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get there for any of them. Being 2014 I figure this is pretty close to my last chance. 

***

With all these goals, it’s sure to be a good (and busy) summer. What’s on your list?

Posted in Lists, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Mix for a Much Needed Spring.

Well, that was a terrible winter. Five months of sub zero wind chills and piles of snow. It seemed like it would never end. But, now the temperatures are in the fifties and I was flying kites two days ago. At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Which is why I gave my lovely Spring Mix (download here) this name:

Spring Mix

1. Team – Lorde

2. Bela Lugosi’s Dead – CHVRCHES

3. In Better Hands – Fefe Dobson

4. Air Balloon – Lily Allen

5. Waves – Sleeper Agent

6. Somebody Loves You – Betty Who

7. Before I Ever Met You – BANKS

8. No Strings – Chlöe Howl

9. All Too Well – Taylor Swift

10. How Long Will I Love You – Ellie Goulding

11. I Could’ve Been Your Girl – She & Him

12. Completely Not Me – Jenny Lewis

13. Let Go for Tonight – Foxes

14. Be Okay – Oh Honey

15. Millions – Hannah Georgas

16. Shut the Fuck Up – Kari Kimmel

17. Behind Closed Doors – Lana del Rey

18. Crazy – Au Revoir Simone

19. Empire – Shakira

20. The Crooked Kind – Radical Face

21. Burning Gold – Christina Perri

Posted in Mix Tape | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – ‘The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls’ by Anton DiSclafani

yrcfgthree of five stars

This was sort of a difficult book to give stars to. There were parts that were wonderful and parts that were simply not. I will admit, I initially picked this up because of the word “camp” in the title. And though I was pretty much one hundred percent sure that the experiences of a character at 1930s riding camp would have little in common with my experiences at summer camp, anyone who has ever been to camp will know this is a singular experience you want to talk about. Constantly and rather irritatingly to your friends from home. So, camp was why I picked up this book, but not the reason I stayed.

Theodora “Thea” Atwell arrives at the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls after a family tragedy, sent away because of the part she played in it. There, high in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, Thea meets girls of her own age for the first time. A world away from the isolated, country life she enjoyed with her parents and twin brother in Florida. But soon past mistakes start repeating themselves and the question is not whether she can return to her old life, but rather if she can keep her new one.

I read a lot of complaints about this book because it dealt with wealthy girls and that the protagonist’s ostensible camp punishment, going to a luxe camp with maids and daily riding lessons isn’t exactly much of a punishment. Valid, perhaps, but this was the South in the 30s. What exactly did these readers think would be the punishment of a Southern Belle? She was not being punished; really, she was being removed from a situation. This is what happens in the face of impropriety that you don’t want anyone else to know about. Real punishment begets some real questions from the neighbors. So is Thea’s fate bad? Certainly not. In fact, this is probably the best thing that ever happened to her. A sentiment she seems to reflect by the end of the book (not really a spoiler). Wealthy characters seem to have fallen out of favor lately, but I still find them entertaining. First world problems are still problems if they make you unhappy.

This book was certainly not without fault, however. As mentioned above, I went to camp. I was molded at camp and was spit out after two months every year with a coat of dirt on my skin (and caked in my feet) but with a much deeper understanding of the important things in life. Camp can’t be explained to people who did not go, because it’s just not something that can be understood. Stories are stories but what camp leaves you with is feeling. Cheesy but true. This was present in this book. A little. In my opinion the opportunity was lost. This is not a book about camp. So, please, if that is your only reason for picking up this novel, set it down again. It’s not for you. Instead this is a coming of age story about a girl who picks very bad bedfellows. Her internal struggle is recognizable, but many of her actions are not. There are two romances in this novel, both are inappropriate. The first was, perhaps, necessary, but the second was not. It added less than nothing to this story. In reminded me, a bit, of this film ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ starring Julia Roberts and Kirsten Dunst and took place in 1960s Wellesley College. I couldn’t help but think that movie would have been better without Julia Roberts. Girls can teach each other far more than a misguided authority figure that often bogs down the story. The adults in this novel did the same thing. Tidbits are necessary, of course, one can not live in a world without adults, but this would have fared much better had Thea’s journey been about the girls she met at Yonahlossee and not the adults she ignored them for.

Overall, I liked this book. I would give it three and a half stars, truly. Worth a read and half filled with great stuff. The other half, however, pulled down the narrative and I couldn’t throw it an extra half when I had to choose between three or four stars.

Posted in books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

For a Reign-y Day

I would make a new weekly thing; guilty pleasure Sunday (I have enough of them), but I know I wont write one every week. This particular guilty pleasure I have been taking notes on, intending to write about since it premiered in the fall. But, well, you know how it goes.

Today I am here to talk about the CW television show Reign.

reign
I don’t particularly know why I was looking forward to this show. It was on the CW after all. It was bound to be stupid at best and completely historically inaccurate. Perhaps I just desperately wanted something to do with Mary, Queen of Scots (a long favorite monarch of mine, and yes I have favorite monarchs [I also have favorite founding fathers]) or perhaps I was just looking forward to a historical fiction show that had no pretenses about what it was. This is fluffy, history lite, and for once doesn’t try to be anything else.

 
One would think that, being a history buff, it would drive me crazy to watch something historically inaccurate. But, I have never been that way. I am able to read the difference between what really happened, what I read in history books, and the fictional accounts I am presented with one television, movies, or often in historical fiction books (I’ve read far too many about Anne Boleyn). I enjoyed The Tudors (immensely for the first two seasons and then diligently through the final two) despite knowing things were often not the way depicted. And I was slightly (read: completely) addicted to The Borgias, even though things really did not go down that way. At all. Spartacus was a favorite (after I got myself used to the ridiculous 300 stylization) even though, again, it deviated from history. These changes are made for a reason. History is fabulous, interesting, and often entertaining, but it doesn’t always follow a coherent storyline that will keep audiences watching. And how often has a great show gone down because it couldn’t keep butts in the seats? Historical fiction is just that, fiction inspired by history. Some people get very uppity about it, I am not one of those people. Still, I can certainly see how someone would be turned off of Reign because of it’s complete and utter lack of historical accuracy. It basically said; hey here is this queen who is pretty rad, she married this guy, let’s throw them together with a bunch of other, fictional, characters and see what stews. Perhaps it would have been better to just make this fiction completely, with a fictional queen and her fictional consort, but there is something to be said for name recognition.

 
But, to be honest, I am not sure I would have watched this show in the first place (oh who am I kidding, it’s still a costume drama) if it weren’t for the involvement of Megan Follows as Queen Catherine, the primary antagonist of the show. Yes, that Megan Follows who’s picture has graced my blog several times while gushing madly about Anne of Green Gables. Because those Kevin Sullivan movies that came out in 1985 and 1987 and then again (less fantastically) in 2000. That was her. And everyone who knows me knows that I tend to be fiercely loyal to those I once liked. Even if they disappeared from my view for fourteen years. Yes, Anne Shirley is back and she makes a fantastic slightly bitchy regent.

 
The pilot of Reign was not terribly strong. It gave me enough to check back the next week but it was clear that if the show continued on the way it was going it was going to get old very fast. Thankfully at episode three the show seemed to find its footing. The palace intrigued has stepped up to be unrealistically entertaining. There are no bored royals lying around eating bonbons here. Instead there is murder, treachery, backstabbing, random hook-ups, and Nostradamus (I don’t even care to check if this is historically accurate or not. I once read a book about Anne Boleyn during her years in France and she was a close personal friend of Leonardo Da Vinci and was able to roll with it.) Mary’s gaggle of giggling ladies in waiting have mostly been flushed out to actual people at this point (though one is called Kenna and I can’t imagine that name was terribly popular in the Renaissance). Meanwhile, Mary shows the beginnings of becoming the monarch we know; using what she has for the benefit of her country. Mary is a queen first and a teenager second. She’s become, for me, pretty likable. But what impresses me, really, is the sheer audacity of this show. It doesn’t seem afraid to just “go there” wherever there may be that day. Characters are killed at the drop of a hat, others dispatched when we know they must not be ultimately. Often I find myself wondering how the hell the writers are going to get thing round to the way they eventually must go. Mary’s engagement, for example, has been broken several times, to a character we know she marries in the end. It may be history lite, but it’s damned entertaining. And there are a few surprisingly strong performances, most notably by the aforementioned Follows and Adelaide Kane as Mary.

 
People, of course, love to complain. Apart from the historical inaccuracies I have already mentioned there are two other things that deserve a mention. The first is the music. It’s mostly modern. I don’t have a problem with this. Assigning modern music to period pieces is nothing new. People were all up in arms when Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby was released with a soundtrack including Jay-Z and Lana del Rey last year but the tactic was also used in A Knight’s Tale starring Heath Ledger, which I loved in another guilty pleasure sort of way, and in the same year for Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge, which I love in a legit way (no apologies), and then perhaps most notably in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2006. The CW’s relationship with music is not slight, so it only seems natural to me that they would go with music they can attempt to sell. The idea, I believe, is to make a story that took place many years ago relatable to modern audiences. And this is on a channel geared towards teenagers. I don’t really get why this is a problem.

 
The other problem, and it’s real, is the costumes. People, okay women and gay men, are drawn to costume dramas for one very large reason; all the pretty historical costumes. Sadly, this is not the show for that. The costumes are horrid. They’re certainly pretty, and every so often there’s a frock that vaguely resembles something time appropriate, but for the most party they are frustratingly anachronistic. I’m not sure who decided it was okay to make Renaissance dresses that omit sleeves. Whoever designed the covers of the Luxe book series by Anna Godbersen, I suppose. But there is far more to a historical dress than a long skirt. Sadly, these dresses look like the costumers raided the Nordstrom teen department circa the time I was getting ready for my Junior Prom. Not to mention the choice to have all the girls wear their hair down, waved and tucked like the cast of The O.C. Observe:

ladies
As opposed to:

mary I

Sarah Bolger as Mary I (who was on the English throne at the time Reign takes place) in The Tudors

But, this is not HBO, Showtime, or even occasionally Starz. The production value is clearly not as high. It was never going to be and I knew that, as everyone should have, going in. I think people often watch shows and forget what channel they’re airing on. A Lifetime movie is never going to be as good as an HBO Original, even if you really, really want it to be. This is the CW. The channel that rides along the coattails of a show that’s gotten as terrible as The Vampire Diaries. It might be admirable that they’re branching out, but it’s still a channel that caters to primarily teenagers. So sure, this is CW history, but it turns out CW history is pretty fun!

 
The best way to look at this show is not by judging it against what you wanted it to be or what it could have been. Too many have been fowled by their own expectations. Look on this as what it is; slightly trashy amusement and you might just have a good time watching it.

Posted in TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment