Friendly Elevenses

When you visit little bears and they say, “Hallo, Pooh, you’re just in time for a little smackarel of something”, and you are, then it’s what I call a Friendly Day.

This looks like bouncy elevenses!

We’re having a bowl of cherries kind of day 🙂

Today is our favourite day!

What I like doing best is Nothing. It’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, “What are you going to do?” and you say, “Oh, Nothing”, and then you go and do it. Doing Nothing means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

Well, what I like best… Pooh stopped to think. Because although Eating Honey Cake is a very good thing to do, there is a moment just before you begin to eat it which is better than when you are…

Bond. James Bond.

Little bears are very excited, Daniel Craig is coming back as James Bond in 2019.

Eon Productions, the London-based company that oversees all things 007, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which holds rights to the franchise, said on Monday that the next installment would arrive in theaters in North America in November 2019. Eon and MGM also said that the script would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have teamed up on the screenplays for the last six Bond installments, starting with The World Is Not Enough in 1999. The next Bond movie — the 25th in the series, if you include Never Say Never Again from 1983, which was made by an outside production company — will be produced by Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale (2006)

When he was cast as Bond, filling the position most recently vacated by Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig did not seem like an obvious choice. He was an actor’s actor known for his intensity of focus and his wide range of challenging, counterintuitive roles. He has played, among other things, a sharp-lapeled pornography baron from Manchester in the BBC mini-series Our Friends in the North; a college professor pursued by a male stalker in Enduring Love; a builder sleeping with his girlfriend’s sexagenarian mother in The Mother; a drug-dealing businessman in Layer Cake; a killer full of murderous rage and heartbreaking tenderness in Infamous; the poet Ted Hughes in Sylvia and the physicist Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen.

Traditionalists were appalled. The British tabloids sniped that he was too short, too blond, too actory, too potentially Lazenbyesque; they spread the rumor that he didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, let alone one attached to an Aston Martin.

But from the first scene in Casino Royale (2006), in which Bond brutally kills a man with his bare hands and then coolly shoots and kills his own corrupt boss, Daniel Craig proved to be a rare combination of plausibility, physicality and charisma. He got rave reviews, and not just from little bears 🙂

Even the meanest-spirited, most Sean Connery-nostalgic critics in Britain seem to have been charmed out of their bad attitudes by Daniel Craig’s performance as a gritty, steely James Bond. Contrary to their predictions, they say, Daniel Craig is not too blond, too wimpy, too dough-faced or too lightweight for the part.

Skyfall (2012) – Filming at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar was only allowed on Sundays when it was closed to prevent any harm to the 400,000 daily visitors.

The release of the dazzling Skyfall coincided with the 50th anniversary of the series, which began with Dr. No in 1962. It earned over $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Bond film ever. The film won two BAFTA awards (Outstanding British Film and Best Original Music), two Academy Awards (Best Original Song for Adele’s Skyfall and Best Sound Editing), two Grammys (Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media for Adele’s Skyfall), a Golden Globe (Best Original Song for Adele’s Skyfall) and a SAG (Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture). The last Bond film to pick up an Academy Award was Thunderball, winning in the sound effects category in 1965.

Skyfall (2012) – Production worked during the National Portrait Gallery’s closing hours at night to film the meeting between Bond and Q, aka Paddington Bear 🙂

Even the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, offered no fewer than five glowing articles about Skyfall! It declared Skyfall one of the best instalments in the Bond film franchise. The paper raved that the film makes its protagonist more human, real and emotional. While still surrounded by beautiful Bond girls 🙂 and drinking the essential vodka martini.

There are a few James Bond anniversaries this year: You Only Live Twice (Sean Connery, 1967); The Spy Who Loved Me (Roger Moore, 1977); The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton, 1987); Tomorrow Never Dies (Pierce Brosnan, 1997).

Little bears will watch none of them, their preferred Bond is now Daniel Craig. They think he looks quite good! For a human 🙂

Bond. Ionic Bond.

Two chemists go into a bar. The first one says “I think I’ll have an H2O.” The second one says “I think I’ll have an H2O too” — and he died.

Q: Did you hear oxygen went on a date with potassium?
A: It went OK.

The optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The chemist sees the glass completely full, half with liquid and half with gas.

Q: Why can you never trust atoms?
A: They make up everything!

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.

Q: Why are chemists great for solving problems?
A: They have all the solutions.

A photon checks into a hotel and is asked if he needs any help with his luggage. He says, “No, I’m travelling light.”

Organic chemistry is difficult. Those who study it have alkynes of trouble.

The name’s Bond. Ionic Bond. Taken, not shared.

I had to make these bad chemistry jokes because all the good ones Argon 🙂

Help with explanations on Business Insider.

Fun at the Opera

Beautiful Hanna’s late husband has left her a very rich woman. In fact, she’s so rich that the economy of her homeland depends on her marrying a local — so the ambassador springs into action with the help of his wife (a former cancan girl) to find Hanna the right husband. But it’s a tricky affair because the wily widow already has someone in mind: Count Danilo, an old flame, who has no intention of giving up bachelorhood. He’s got a bevy of beauties delighted to keep him happy with no strings attached.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow is one of the greatest operettas ever written. It’s a masterpiece, brimming over with wonderful melodies and a delightfully sentimental story. Oohhh…. And Hanna Glawari is operetta’s most irresistible heroine.

The world of operetta introduces us to an enormous variety of female protagonists. Gilbert and Sullivan present everyone from a clever milkmaid to a regal princess and a demure Japanese maiden, while Offenbach’s most famous women range from an impoverished street-singer and a man-hungry duchess to mythology’s Eurydice and Helen of Troy. As for the Viennese operetta repertoire, it gives us commoners and noblewomen, servants and seductresses of every ilk.

Of all these ladies, it may well be die lustige Witwe – the merry widow herself, Hanna Glawari – who exudes the greatest appeal. It helps that her music is surely the most captivating that the incomparable Franz Lehár ever created for any of his sopranos. Hanna’s alluring entrance song, as well as her achingly beautiful Vilja, her rollicking military-style duet with Count Danilo, and their justly celebrated waltz – these numbers are all integral to making Hanna the charmer she is. But besides her memorable music, she offers so much else that can draw audiences to her and hold them in her thrall. She’s smart, glamorous, witty – the mistress of any situation. Most important is that although she’s worth 20 million francs, she’s a woman for whom love rather than wealth is everything. That makes her unfailingly sympathetic, from her arrival at the Pontevedrian Embassy in Act One right to that heart warming moment toward the end of The Merry Widow when Danilo finally takes her in his arms and utters those three little words Hanna has been longing to hear.

As a pair, Hanna and Danilo stand apart from just about any other love relationship in operetta. These are two people who have been around the block a few times. They’re confident in themselves, yet vulnerable, too. Consequently, their interactions are emphatically adult in their complexity, their gradations of emotion, their subtle give-and-take.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari and Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Together with her beloved Danilo, Hanna stands at the centre of a work that is actually quite topical today. Its look into how the upper crust lives still fascinates people to a degree matching the love affair with the world of Lord and Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. The phenomenally successful six-season TV series might have ended but it will live on — for a few years at least — in Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, presented by NBCUniversal International Studios and by Imagine Exhibitions. The multiyear, worldwide tour began at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on June 17.

Hanna started as a commoner who was compelled to marry early in life. Danilo’s family had considered Hanna not good enough for him.
So her only choice had been a materially lavish existence with an older man she didn’t love. The rich man she married died on their wedding night, leaving Hanna has so much money that if she moves her wealth to Paris, the entire economy of her native Pontevedro will crash.

He’s left her not simply a millionaire, but so wealthy that whoever she marries next must be a fellow Pontevedrian. That’s the crux of The Merry Widow’s plot. It’s what so terrifies Pontevedro’s ambassador, Baron Zeta; if Hanna marries a man who isn’t a compatriot, then Pontevedro has a catastrophe on its hands! Zeta is only worried about saving his country – he has no real concern for the feelings of Hanna herself.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Hanna totally understands her situation at this point in her life. In other words, she actually recognizes that for any of her various suitors, she’s basically a meal ticket. Yes, she’s respected and adored, but when men look at her, it’s 20 million francs that they see. Her awareness of this comes through in no uncertain terms at her very first appearance onstage; despite protestations to the contrary from all the bachelors kneeling at her feet, she makes clear to them that she knows exactly what accounts for their interest in her.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari, Sam Roberts-Smith as Count Nicolas Cascada, Jonathan Brain as Raoul de St Brioche in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Hanna is not bitter; she endures the gossip, the objectification, which she carries with grace, aplomb, humor, and with confidence in her own power. This crucial element of Hanna’s character has much to do with her appeal, and with making The Merry Widow such an irresistible piece in performance.

Hanna is an utterly independent woman, who could have anyone in Paris, but follows her heart. Count Danilo may be nobility, but he’s still a middle-tier bureaucrat. However, were she never to get together with Danilo, she’d do just fine in life, thank you very much.

The world premiere of The Merry Widow took place in 1905 in Habsburg-ruled Vienna. At the time the story of a commoner who dared to love a nobleman and, more importantly, a nobleman who was ready to defy his family to marry a commoner, was still something of an eye-opener, as was the notion that the two of them could end up happy together and acclaimed by all.

What makes this operetta quite contemporary is that the conflict here is essentially about romantic love. It’s love and nothing else that we find at the heart of all the Hanna-Danilo interplay. In the stratum inhabited by these two, marriages generally had everything to do with money and power; they were alliances. (Of course, Hanna and Danilo could simply have had an affair, because that’s what one did in that era!) Danilo is nobility and Hanna is not – she’s just money. You can imagine Maggie Smith as Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess deploring such a match (“It just wouldn’t do!”). It is our modern sensibility that a match should turn on romantic love, rather than money or pedigree, and it would have seemed mighty strange to folks sitting in the boxes of Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1905, attending the premiere of The Merry Widow.

To a certain extent, Hanna and Danilo have become, if not exactly cynical, then certainly worldly-wise, ever since that moment back in Pontevedro years before, when each thought their true love had left them. That’s why Danilo became the playboy who’s seemingly allergic to attachments – because he believed he had no chance of ever winning Hanna. He thought she loved him for himself, but now he thinks she married for money, making him doubt that she ever really loved him. For her part, after being given thumbs-down by his family, she’d begun to assume that he never loved her. So, since all men were going to be like that, why not marry a rich old coot? Why not lose faith in all men?

Yet Hanna exudes irrepressible joie de vivre, self-confidence, and an ability to laugh at the irony of her situation.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

When Danilo is asked to pursue Hanna on behalf of Pontevedro, he doesn’t want to carry out the assignment; he’s willing to defy his country’s wishes, and is ready to let Pontevedro fall rather than marry Hanna for her money. Neither duty, wealth, nor pedigree enters his mind. What finally makes the difference in his decision to marry Hanna is the realization that, in spite of being driven away by his family, she really loved him all along. She aligned herself with an extravagantly wealthy husband out of desperation. And she still loves Danilo; even when all the young and most eligible Parisian gentlemen are begging for her hand, she really does just want him. She finally understands that back in Pontevedro, Danilo was defying his family and really did love her. After Hanna married, Danilo, in all his playboy dalliances, found women who were surely little more than passing amusements compared with Hanna and his true feelings for her. Now, at their moment of truth in Paris, he cares not one bit for her millions.

The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Michael Scott-Mitchell’s lavish set, Justin Fleming’s new streamlined English translation and Jennifer Irwin’s dazzling costumes were the backdrop for a dance-infused show where every act was a party fizzing with romance and comedy. They swapped Belle Epoque for Art Deco Paris.

Detail bronze latticework, The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Immense bronze latticework set the scene for the Embassy Ball, with sequined dresses and the gilded braiding of 1920’s Parisian high society shimmering under Damien Cooper’s creamy lights. The breathtaking Monet garden setting for Act Two’s Pontevedrian party drew spontaneous applause as the curtain lifted on a waterlilies backdrop, pastel frocks and dreamy lighting. Lehár’s Love Unspoken wafted through this setting like an evening breeze and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna and Alexander Lewis as Danilo delivered a heart-melting waltz.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

But it was not enough to break Danilo’s scruples about money and Hanna becomes embroiled in the fledgling affair between the Baron’s wife Valencienne and a young Frenchman Camille.

John Longmuir as Camille de Rosillon and Emma Pettemerides as Valencienne in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

It was not until the Act 3 nightclub party where Hanna joined the ‘Grisette’ girls that this high-kicking heroine revealed the details of her inheritance and stole back Danilo’s heart. Hanna’s third act Marlene Dietrich turn with the sexy Gristettes is a stand-out in more ways than one, her fine account of the famous Vilja Song in the second act notwithstanding.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari and the Grisettes in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

The Grisettes in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Actor Michael Loney proved he could also sing and dance in a show-stealing camp rendition of Quite Parisian.

Michael Loney as Njegus in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Baritone Andrew Foote’s comic excellence was put to good use as the foolish Baron Zeta while Sam Roberts-Smith and Jonathon Brain were quite ridiculous in their rivalry for Hanna’s fortune.

Mark Antoni Hurst, Mark Alderson, Jonathan Brain, Alexander Lewis, Sam Roberts-Smith, Thomas Friberg and Andrew Foote in The Merry Widow, WA Opera