Friday, June 29, 2007

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening was the latest in my monthly show-with-grandma series. You may be looking at that picture and thinking, hmm, not something I would want to watch with my grandma, but to be honest it's pretty much old hat by now.

And at this moment I feel that I should take a second to point out that as much as I joke about this particular grandmother on my blog, and as much as she drives me nuts at times, she's a pretty cool lady and I do hope that comes across. In addition to the classes she takes and the shows she goes to, in the next year or so she's going to Egypt, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, and China. I certainly hope that I'm as active, and leading as interesting a life as she is.

But anyway, the musical. It just won a whole passel of Tonys, of course, though upon seeing it I wish some more of those had gone to Grey Gardens. I've never been wild about rock musicals. I like my cheesy musical music. And I like the good musical music, like Sondheim, even better. If I want to listen to rock, I can put on a cd. And I just didn't find the music that interesting.

That said, I did think it was a very good musical. Although I prefer it when the music actually moves the story along, I though it did a good job of illuminating the emotional state of the characters while being relatively disconnected from the action of the play. And as you couldn't always understand the lyrics, it's probably for the best that the actual narrative wasn't contained within them. The other thing I though it did really well was capture the confusion and over-the-top emotion of adolescence. Interesting, because there were moments when it evoked a certain feeling of nostalgia, but for the most part it left you with a feeling of, oh thank God I got past that mess. Which is how I generally feel about my middle school and high school years so no surprise there. I mean, I had fun, particularly in high school, but I certainly wouldn't want to live them over again. Such drama.

My problem really stems from the fact that I felt like it started out so well, and filled with promise, only to descend by the end into a typical melodrama with a bit of plot that felt entirely too after school special. Now, the play itself (minus music) was written some hundred years ago, so perhaps it was a bolder ending at the time, but now it just feels a bit boring and predictable. But most people seem to love the musical rather more than I do--although merely liking something should hardly be an insult--so here are some clips from the godsend that is YouTube.

"The Bitch of Living" (with cuts to other bits of the musical):

A bit of "My Junk" (after some introductory stuff) on Breakfast with the Arts:

"Touch Me" on the View:

"The Word of Your Body (reprise)" performed by cast members at the Apple store:

The Tony Award medley (a bit of repetition from "The Bitch of Living" in the middle):

Thursday, June 28, 2007

There are so many reasons this is fabulous...

not the least of which is the boots.

And more:

Swan Lake

My computer has been on a visit to the Apple spa getting its parts replaced, but it's back now (hurrah!) so I'm back to posting.

So, for a couple years now I have been going around telling people that the only version of Swan Lake I had seen was the Matthew Arnold one. And then Wendy would sigh, and nicely say, "Bourne, Meghan, Matthew Bourne." Why I constantly get the choreographer of the gay Swan Lake confused with the British poet who wrote Dover Beach I cannot begin to explain. But I do. Every single time. Beyond the fact that they're both British, and have the same--quite common--first name, I'm not sure what I think they have in common. So I should perhaps be relieved that I have now seen another version of the ballet.

Kir and I went up to see the ballet on Tuesday. I didn't like this one as much as Romeo & Juliet although I certainly like the music better. Apparently this is a shortened version put together some time ago and the parts cut were what I thought were the most enjoyable bits--the big group dances with all the swans. Oh well. The woman dancing the parts of Odette/Odile was the same dancer we saw as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet and it certainly seems to me that she's quite wonderful. Marcelo Gomes was Prince Siegfried. I didn't like him as much as I liked Corella as Romeo. But I think perhaps that has more to do with acting than dancing? Or with style? I can't tell if one dancer is better than the other as they all just seem very impressive to me. Maybe eventually, when I've seen more, I'll be able to judge such things.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

La Vie En Rose

What a fucking depressing movie. And the payoff, such as there is, really isn't worth it, as the movie really isn't particularly good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist the cheesy title. On Monday Wendy, Kir, and I went to see the ABT production of Romeo and Juliet. (Incidentally, I think I've seen more ballet in the last year than in my entire life prior to this year and, much like opera, it seems to be growing on me.) Anyway, Diana Vishneva and Angel Corella danced the lead roles (there are probably technical terms for this, but I don't know them) and were wonderful as far as I could tell. Which is to say that it all looked very pretty.

I did though, dislike the beginning, where there is a brawl of sorts in which the Lords Montague and Capulet fight and people are killed. Somehow, the smallness of the initial fight in Shakespeare's play, and the fact that no one dies until later when the shit hits the fan, feel important. And when, during the first intermission, Wendy mentioned missing the words, I knew exactly what she was talking about. It's beautiful, but at the same time there's kind of an empty space because you know the lines and are frequently aware of their absense.

In other news, because I know you all will be just fascinated by this, Corella is totally on my grandmother's Hot List (along with the previously mentioned Dmitri Hvorostovsky) and she told us all about how attractive he is before we went to the show. Although in this case I will agree with her. He's a very nice looking man. Of course we were sitting so far back ("up in heaven" my grandmother likes to say) that he could have the face of a troll doll and I probably wouldn't have known without my opera glasses. And even with them you couldn't really tell what he looked like. So it goes, when one can only afford the cheap seats.

In other news, Wendy just left to go take a class out of town for 6 weeks. It will be the longest period of time I've lived alone by about 5 weeks and I'm really not looking forward to it. Everyone should get out their tiny violins and commence playing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Idan Raichel Project

My sister was in town Sunday with her boyfriend for the Idan Raichel Project concert at SummerStage. They're an Israeli group and I had not only never heard of them, I am also completely incapable of pronouncing the name. And of course, I can't understand what they're saying either. No matter though, I got a chance to talk to my sister (who I don't see very often) and that was lovely as was the concert, really.

The music is great sounding and also, I think, perfect for summer with its Ethiopian and Middle Eastern influences. I couldn't stay the whole time because I had to go meet people for dinner, and in some ways I wasn't sorry to go because it was blazing hot, but I was sorry to leave my sister early and to miss out on the music. Anyway, here are a couple of songs:


Siyaishaya Ingoma

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


So Saturday, after several not-so-successful attempts at finding the trailhead (I parked in three different places and then we had to get directions from the parking lot to the trail) we started our hike at around 10:30. People kept asking where we were going and then saying, "Oh, that's quite a hike." Which had me a bit nervous, but as it turns out "quite a hike" just meant "very pretty long walk with occasional hikey bits." You begin and end the hike on a carriageway, and in between do quite a bit of trail hiking, and hiking along exposed rock. The woods was full of small flowers that I think must be some kind of rhododendron based on their shrubiness and the shape of the leaves. Fields of rhododendrons almost in some places.In other places we were out walking on the exposed rock, which was hot, but provided nice views of the other hills and such. There are steep cliffs and deep (and sometimes fairly wide) crevices in the rocks. It's like the Adirondacks in the sense that you can really feel how old the landscape is. There were quite a few hawks flying about and then, as we hiked along the rocks, we could hear thunder and see a summer storm beginning to roll in. Occasionally we would see a sharp streak of lightning.As we went back into the woods and rhododendrons we could feel the storm approaching, with the wind beginning to pick up. It actually felt nice because the day was quite hot. We put our rainjackets on when we felt the storm was about to break, and a few minutes later heard a loud crack of thunder and it began to hail. Which was so totally not what we were expecting. They were actually large enough bits of ice, and falling from a great enough height, that they rather stung, particularly when they hit our heads or hands. The hail fell for about five minutes, and then it rained for another five. And then it was sunny again, although cooler than it had been before.
At some point we had passed Gertrude's Nose (whatever it was) although I had failed to notice. We then went up over the top of Millbrook Mountain. It's strange: althought the views are pretty, the hike isn't difficult enough, and the peak not high enough, to give you the almost euphoric feeling of accomplishment that you get when you reach the top of a mountain in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks or in the Rockies. Of course, the view is also quite civilized looking.From the mountain we were really closer to done than not. There was a sustained period of upward hiking (the only one on the hike) and a pretty stream full of moss-covered stones, along with the rhododendrons.
We got to the car just as it started to rain again and headed back to the city. Hopefully this is something we'll be able to do again in the fall. I don't know of anywhere that has better foliage than the Catskills and it's been years since I've seen it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


It's been a rather busy week, unusually for me, where I've been out and about doing stuff instead of having any free time. Tomorrow should be the first quiet day I've had in awhile with nothing special going on either during or after work. Today work was a bit crazy, but all I did in the evening was go out to dinner. Now it's just a quiet night at home. Pyramus has taken up residence on my lap and a bit of a summer storm has just started. When I was a little girl, my father used to take us outside to sit on the porch during storms and watch the lightning. It was one of my favorite things about summer. So basically, it's the perfect summer night tonight.

Anyway, my week. Wendy and I had been planning a hiking trip for awhile now, but it presented several logistical problems. Primarily that neither of us own a tent or a car. So it took some time to plan everything out. Wendy managed to borrow a tent, I arranged to borrow my grandmother's rarely used car, and we were off to the races. The very slow races. We figured it would be a good idea to take a cab to my grandmothers because we were running late and had a lot of stuff. We probably could have carried all our stuff and still walked faster than the cab drove so this was probably a mistake. We finally got there after getting driving directions to my grandmother's from my mother and obtained the car. After that things went smoothly, thanks in large part to my mother's truly excellent directions Upstate. She is clearly a woman who has come to terms with the fact that her eldest daughter has no sense of direction whatsoever, and needs excessively clear directions.

So we got up to New Paltz, and then to Rosendale, where our campground was located, with little difficulty. I actually lived just outside Kingston, NY until I was 9, in Saugerties and then West Hurley, so I'm very vaguely familiar with the area. We stopped at a Stewart's for ice cream which was exciting because they totally make the best gas station/convenience store ice cream but there aren't any in either NYC or Buffalo.

We arrived at Creekview Campsites a little after 6. The owner promptly emerged from his camper and laughed at us, asking if we'd rented the car because, "even its wheels are clean." In the four years that my grandmother has owned the car she's put a grand total of 6000 miles on it, so this is indeed true. The owner of the campsite was jokingly condescending but very friendly, coming over to chat and give firestarting advice, and lending us a pot when we realized that in our rush to leave the apartment we'd failed to bring one. And though our first choice of campsite had to be abandoned due to a robin nesting under the picnic table (Wendy didn't want to disturb her) our campsite was still quite nice.

We "cooked" a dinner that we just had to add hot water to and had a nice fire with the free firewood provided and made s'mores and had a very nice time. Also, it has to be said, the other campsites in the area cost a lot more than the $20 we paid.

Our campsite:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More on About Grace

It's 11 o'clock and I've got heavyweight boxing on the television on mute while I listen to the Beatles. Waiting for the NHL awards show to come on. Yes, that's right I'm subjecting myself to fucking boxing to watch an awards show that is not only not live, but truly terrible. Seriously, the NHL awards aren't at all interesting. And I already know the results. I think there's something wrong with this picture. And, as of 11:14 it has begun. Anyway...

I read About Grace fairly recently and it's a beautifully written book. Not a book I would recommend. Not a book I enjoyed all that much. I'd even go so far as to say I found it boring at times. But a beautifully written and evocative book.
Dust shifting and floating above the bed, ten thousand infinitesimal threads, red and blue, like floating atoms. Brush it off your shelves, sweep it off your baseboards. Sandy dragged sheets of tin across the basement floor. Winkler cleaned the house, fought back disorder in all its forms, the untuned engine, the unraked lawn. All the chaos of the world hovering just outside their backyard fence, creeping through the knotholes; the Chagrin River flashing by back there, behind the trees. Wipe your feet, wash your clothes, pay your bills. Watch the sky; watch the news. Make your forecasts. His life might have continued like this.

And back to the NHL awards, where we've now moved on to the world's-worst-jokes section. I'll leave you to contemplate just how not funny those are.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kushiel's Justice

So awhile back I wrote about the Kushiel books and my issues, shall we say, with the cover art. The weird lines of the face, the clothing that looks like it's carved out of stone, the boringness of it. Well, the new book has cover art by someone else. And sadly, it's not an improvement. I mean, yes, the fabric looks more like fabric and whatever weird thing was going on with the faces on Palencar's women isn't going on here, but it looks cheaper somehow. The red curtain doesn't look great, the blend of colors seems less than subtle, and it just generally looks less appealing. But all this misses the central issue. That being, what the fuck is wrong with her right thumb? Because seriously, (and you can click on that picture for a bigger view) it looks like the artist got a bit Picasso at the end of that. Not cool.

In other things-that-annoyed-me-today news, while crankily riding the 6 home from work today I was reading the ads, as one does. Delta has an ad that says, "There's also more kiosks for smoother check-in." I'm sorry, but if a company can't even be bothered to follow basic grammatical rules in an ad that's going to be plastered all over the subway, do I really want to fly in a plane they're operating?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I'm Having My Day at the Beach, Damnit.

I get out of work at one on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day so Wendy and I figured we would go to the beach yesterday as the weather report claimed it would be 90 degrees and sunny. Well we got out to Brooklyn (Aquarium stop on the F line) only to discover that 90 and sunny was not so much the case. There was fog rolling in off the water and hiding the top of the ferris wheel and tower at Astroland (and how bizarre to think of that place closing, although the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel are landmarked and will stay open).

We toyed briefly with the idea of going to the Aquarium but Wendy declared that she was going to have her day at the beach even if we did have to use our towels as blankets (which we did) so we were going to sit there on the sand and look out at the 10 feet of ocean we could see (it was actually a bit more than that). And that is just what we did. And let me just say that lying at the beach under a towel and fully clothed, chatting about the fact that the funny-looking bird you saw last year at the beach was indeed a cormorant and how the squacco heron has returned to London after 150 years gone lacks a certain beachy zip. What a waste of sunscreen.

My mother's in town so we went out to eat at Dos Caminos yesterday. I figured she would like it and after abortive attempts to go there on her last couple visits we did go this time. And she did like it, so hurrah for my restaurant choosing skillz. Today we went to Jekyll & Hyde with my little brother and grandmother (he's having a weekend with grandma). It's an over-priced tourist trap with fairly shitty food but my brother loved it so it's all good.

The afternoon I had to myself while my mother went to a quilting store and Cody and my grandmother went to see the Mythological Creatures exhibit at the Museum of Natural History so I wandered around Central Park for a bit and then went and hung out at home.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sleeping Beauty

So I know that it's only Wednesday but damn has this been a shitty week. Work has just been utterly frustrating. Is there something about deadlines that makes people think they might be optional. Because I can even deal with people missing their deadlines by, say, a week. But when you're three weeks past your deadline you are damn well on my bad list. Of course, I'm only an assistant and no one gives a crap about my bad list so it's all just an exercise in frustration for me.

Anyway though, Sleeping Beauty. Wendy's student ID, unlike mine, is still valid so she went up to Lincoln Center fairly early in the day and got student tickets in the orchestra. We left maybe five minutes later than we ought to have, but under normal circumstances we would still have made it to the place in plenty of time. Unfortunately it was not to be as there was Police Action. We just barely missed the 1 and as we were going down the steps, policemen rushed past us and began peering in the windows of the stopped 2 train. While trying to rubberneck from the wooden benches in a ladylike fashion we realized that the ballet was starting in ten minutes. And when we heard some kind of angered screaming from the other end of the station we realized that we were just going to have to deal with being late. Seeing an angry man frogmarched out of the subway station with half his ass exposed did add a certain modicum of interest to our day.

Anyway, long story short, we ended up taking the 2 up to 72nd Street and running down Lincoln Center. The ballet was already starting so we were ushered to a small downstairs theater with a big screen we could watch on until a set change. I've never actually been late to a show of any kind and it's rather awkward feeling. Although it really wasn't our fault and there were other people there who were late for the same reason.

About 30 minutes in we were directed to our seats. Now, I know fuck all about ballet. The entire extent of my dance experience is a year of jazz. I was dressed as a Wonka bar and had a little silver hat and sunglasses and y'know in the movies where one kid is going the wrong way while everyone else goes the right way? I was that kid and my parents have the videotape to prove it. So anyway, I don't have the qualifications to tell you anything about the dancing. What I can tell you, is that I felt the prince was somewhat lacking. While my sensibilities have been honed by Disney, I don't demand white steeds and the fighting of dragons. I'm easier to please than that. But he's got to do something. The fairy just does all the work while he swans about after her. As Wendy said, she might as well have just have thrown him over her shoulder and carried him to the princess for all the rescue work he did. Other than that it was enjoyable, but that put a damper on the thing for me. Well that and the lack of exciting fighting through to the princess dance scene with the preponderance of dancing at the wedding scenes. I know it's a ballet and that's to be expected but it still made me a touch sad. Well, I suppose that's why I'm not a huge ballet fan except in occasional doses.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

BookExpo America

So BEA was in New York this year and although it's in no way directly related to my job, my boss got us passes. I've never been before so I figured it would be interesting to see it. Also, I was told that there's lots of free stuff, and I'm always a fan of getting free stuff. Unfortunately I'm always rather nervous about taking free stuff. What if I pick something up and it's not actually being given away? What if I look greedy? Etc. Etc. I was also trying to limit myself to what I might actually read or use. I ended up with:
  • 1 14 oz. Nalgene bottle (microsoft provided it seems)
  • 5 postcards from National Geographic (advertising Journey's of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips)
  • 3 madeleines in a package (advertising Proust was a Neuroscientist)
  • 1 box matches (the box says, "Dare to be a Heretic")
  • 1 catalog (Princeton University Press--I liked the whale on the front of the catalog)
  • 1 free sampler (It's All About the FOOD!"--took it for the recipes)
  • 1 Excerpt booklet (for Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier)
  • 3 ARCs (Epic Rivalry: The Inside Story of the Soviet and American Space Race, Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region, and The Uncommon Reader which is a novella by Alan Bennett)

So really quite reasonable. Particularly as there were people walking around with bags and bags of stuff. Although they probably have jobs that are more closely related to the expo. After all, that's why they're there. Still, it was pretty neat to see.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids

Wendy and I had been planning to go to beach today but the weather prediction was rain, so we went to the Museum of Natural History with Kir and Joe instead. As it turned out, it was an absolutely beautiful day, but we had a nice time at the museum so it's all good.

The admission is suggested at the museum although unlike at the Met they don't actually tell you that when you're purchasing--let that be a lesson for anyone who doesn't read the small print on the signs. Unlike the Met, they do charge for all the special exhibits and they charge quite a bit. Which is bullshit. I mean, it's fine if you're a tourist I suppose, but if you're going somewhat regularly, you certainly don't want to pay it. As if the annoyance of paying $16 to see one exhibit in a museum wasn't enough, we were stuck behind that particular breed of annoying tourist that really annoys me. They don't decide what they're going to actually buy tickets to until they get up to the front of the line and then they want to know things like, "so the imax show is forty-two minutes?"

We went to the Hall of Human Evolution and saw what we hadn't seen last time around. I can only imagine how many little creationist heads have exploded due to this exhibit. While the first section is about the physical evolution of Homo Sapiens, the second section of the hall is about brain development. It talks about the development of language and music, the use of tools, etc. They did a really nice job of the whole exhibit I think.

Anyway, we wandered around, got something to eat, and then headed up to the Mythic Creatures exhibit at about 4:15 (our ticket time was 4:30). The exhibit opens with a little turn around the corner and suddenly there's a dragon. I would have loved that when I was a kid. Wendy and I aren't quick museum people to begin with, but given that we had to pay, we figured we'd read every damn word in the exhibit. We didn't actually get to do that because the museum was closing and we had to rush through the end of the earth section and the air section, but we still got to see an awful lot of stuff.

The exhibit is divided into three sections: water, earth, and air. Each one talks about the mythological creatures supposedly found there, the different variations found in different locations and over time, and where these myths might have originated. It's actually fascinating stuff. They cover everything from the Kappa, who can be defeated by bowing, to a kind of bigfoot-type creature in China who faints with happiness when he catches a human--then wakes up and eats him. I love a monster that faints. Also, upon reading this, Wendy told me about the Fainting Goat (seriously, it actually exists) and anything that leads to my learning about fainting animals is pretty much awesome.

The whole exhibit does a good job creating a sort of magical feeling. Whenever the museum created new halls or exhibits they do a good job of putting in tactile and interactive stuff, which I don't remember them having when I was little. There were little images of bones you could move around with a magnet, transforming a mammoth skeleton into a giant, and you could make your own dragons, and giant squid tentacles around the water part of the exhibit (not giant whale cool but still pretty neat).

I almost wish they'd covered still more mythological creatures. Yes, that's right, I wanted the exhibit to be longer. I also recommend showing bits of so-terrible-they're-good movies involving mythological creatures. For example, you could show parts of Clash of the Titans near the statue of Pegasus or in the part of the exhibit about the Kraken. You simply cannot tell me that Clash of the Titans would not make any museum exhibit fabulous. The museum should totally hire me. I'm full of good ideas. I bet my high school Latin teacher who used to plug in her curling iron and curl her hair during class would dig that one.

Despite the lack of cheesy movies based on Greek myths it was a great exhibit that we all enjoyed. So yay for Kir deciding to go and inviting Wendy and I along.

Friday, June 01, 2007

110 in the Shade

Haven't been up to much. I went to the Bronx Zoo on Memorial Day which was fun. We got really good pizza at an Italian place near the zoo before going in and, after leaving, picked up 75 cent ices on the way to the subway. Just try to find that in Manhattan.

Yesterday I went to see 110 in the Shade with my grandmother. We had dinner at Iguana and I got to hear about how she had to go to the opthamologist soon and it made her very nervous so she was rather wishing she had marijauna. Then we moved on to how she had had seen Dmitri Hvorostovsky sing at a Metropolitan Opera Guild thing and stood not two feet away from him in the elevator. Hvorostovsky is totally my grandma's celebrity crush. Personally I don't see it, but according to La Scena Musicale, "Hvorostovsky is one of nature's physical aristocrats. Those sardonically sensual lips, that trademark mane of silver hair and those hooded Slavic eyes suggesting cruel Tartar ancestry - the man is totally hot and, paradoxically, cold."

Setting aside the fact that the writer should perhaps moonlight as a sub par romance novelist, I just don't get it. Personally, I'm not filled with the sudden desire to tear off that black turtleneck but if it works for some--grandma included--then ok. My grandmother is also charmed by the fact that he sings a song her grandmother used to sing years ago. Ochi Chernye (Dark Eyes), in case anyone was overwhelmed with curiosity. Of course, I suspect my great-great-grandmother sounded just a bit different when singing it.

Then, as she always does, she requested her dessert without the calories. This would be funnier if she wasn't a small thin woman who obviously can afford to eat her molten chocolate cake.

So, anyway, on we went to the musical. And lets be honest, it's a good musical, but everyone's there for Audra McDonald. She didn't win those Tony Awards for nothing. The most interesting thing about this particular production is the colorblind casting. John Cullum played her father (my grandmother happily noted that she saw his Tony-award-winning performance in On the Twentieth Century forty years ago) and because musicals require such a suspension of disbelief anyway, and they're so good, you really don't question it. My only moment of real disbelief came when McDonald's character was told she was plain and I thought, Audra McDonald is so not plain, you twit. The musical itself is good but not great. It's her performance that makes it such a delight.

And of course, because I cry at the drop of a hat, I was sitting there, just before intermission, wiping away tears and wishing I had tissues. Give me songs with lyrics like, "Oh, God, don't let me live and die alone," and I'm an instant mess.

I still say Ebersole should get the Tony this time around though, for her act of ventriloquism in bringing Little Edie back from the dead.