Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miscellaneous Mundanity

Just made a bad batch of macarons - they're purple, which makes me happy, but I was in a hurry and not paying attention and undercooked them a bit, so when I tried to take them off the parchment paper, the shells popped right off of the middles. Now I have a bunch of thin purple macaron shells, and I'll try to do something creative with them - fill them with lovely and delicious things between football games today. Pictures upcoming if I meet with success! I also have a couple zucchinis and should make zucchini bread with them today, and I still have egg whites to use up, which means more macs or some other kind of meringue cookies.

Semi-reading Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand - just finished The Bitter Kingdom (<3 a="" and="" baby="" babysit="" basil="" bit="" excess="" for="" get="" hang="" i="" know="" morning.="" my="" next="" of="" one="" out="" p="" pots.="" poured="" rain="" saturday="" then="" to="" today="" water="" with="" you="">
On my list: Record some more, apply for financial assistance at the Long Island City YMCA so I can keep gong to Zumba, get confirmation about some work dates and then book my ticket to the CSJO board meeting in November, read, read, read.

It's really a lovely day out today - gotta go for a walk before football starts!

I actually did have an idea of something interesting to write in this post, but I forgot it amid all the pleasant mundanity.

Oh, and in case you're wondering where else I am online - http://www.pinterest.com/shoshaname/boards/ - http://aclimaxofhope.tumblr.com/
there you go :) A. DDICTED. to tumbling.

Your poem for the day is verse 36 of the Tao:

"That which will be shrunk
Must first be stretched.
That which will be weakened
Must first be strengthened.
That which will be torn down
Must first be raised up.
That which will be taken
Must first be given.

This is called "subtle illumination."

The gentle and soft overcomes the hard and aggressive.

A fish cannot leave the water.

The country's potent weapons
Should not be shown to its people."

Sometime's Lao Tzu's subject changes are a little perplexing to me, but I still enjoy them!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When I Am Rich

I will buy an iPad without agonizing over it for a year.

I will have beautiful nice furniture!

I will have a brand new electric piano.

I will take little weekend trips to the coast!

I will have an Anthropologie kitchen.

I will have a one bedroom apartment!

I will travel abroad and stay in actual hotels.

I will buy fancy cheese MORE OFTEN than once a month.

I will buy very high quality chocolate, and all the ingredients I want!

I will eat at EXTREMELY FANCY restaurants as often as once a month or even once a week!

Faye and Katie and Ian and I were just talking about how it's possible for a single person to make triple digits and not save at all, since we have heard of those people. But I'm pretty sure than even if I did all those things, I would still have some left over to save! I don't know how it's possible to make triple digits and have no one to support but yourself and NOT SAVE. Very perplexing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Packing

Two thirds packed, bathroom clean, one load of laundry done, (kind of expensive) car rental reserved to get from Springs to Denver, two Singin' in the Rain performances left and one melodrama spoof show. Library books to return, kitchen and bedroom to clean, linens to launder.

Listening to -

 and -


Thinking about -

Say what you will, and scratch my heart to find
The roots of last year's roses in my breast;
I am as surely riper in my mind
As if the fruit stood in the stalls confessed.
Laugh at the unshed leaf, say what you will,
Call me in all things what I was before,
A flutterer in the wind, a woman still;
I tell you I am what I was and more.
My branches weigh me down, frost cleans the air,
My sky is black with small birds bearing south;
Say what you will, confuse me with fine care,
Put by my word as but an April truth,–
Autumn is no less on me that a rose
Hugs the brown bough and sighs before it goes.

Because Edna knows everything.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kitchen Reflections

I love it here, and the weather is great - lots of warm summer days (actually, I could stand a few more and a few hotter - it's no California, but it's 8 million times better than New York), interspersed with surprise mountain storms. I just went for a run in the rain! That's two days in a row of going for a run, although they're only 10-15 minute runs of probably less than a mile, because those hills are DESTROYERS OF LIFE, plus the altitude. And I just got a letter from Katie, and the shows are going great, and my coworkers are delightful, and I'm living in a nice house with a large and functional kitchen (I made sour cream coffee cake last night - new recipe - yummy!) (the 9,500 ft. baking conditions aren't even that difficult to work around, either - extra flour, an extra egg, underestimate the sugar, turn up the oven 15 degrees, and you're solid :p), and now I have a nice cup of tea to take with me into my bath in my claw foot tub! I miss my ice cream maker, though, and I miss sitting outside in the sun on my sidewalk in Queens wearing a floppy straw hat and having a homemade milkshake in a teacup. You know, miscellaneous moments and habits are what make a place home, maybe. Actually, about the only two things I miss about Irvine are driving with friends to the beach (not even the beach part as much as the driving with friends toward the beach part!) and sitting outside on the enormous sidewalk in the sun wearing my floppy straw hat and having neighbors lean down from their balconies and offer me tacos. So I guess I just like food and sun. I can get that here! Vestiges of homesickness, gone!

I still miss the ice cream maker, though.

Here's the new Millay poem I just memorized:

"The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sometimes I think Millay knows everything about me!

Actually, that poem reminds me of another one of hers that I love:


"Not in this chamber only at my birth--
When the long hours of that mysterious night
Were over, and the morning was in sight--
I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firth
I have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;
And never shall one room contain me quite
Who in so many rooms first saw the light,
Child of all mothers, native of the earth.
So is no warmth for me at any fire
To-day, when the world's fire has burned so low;
I kneel, spending my breath in vain desire,
At that cold hearth which one time roared so strong,
And straighten back in weariness, and long
To gather up my little gods and go."

Home everywhere - but nowhere so much home that I'm not missing somewhere else.

And I kind of love it.

Anyway, I guess this was a pretty miscellaneous post, and after a substantial hiatus. It's not as if I haven't been doing actual things out here for the last few months - sushi in Colorado Springs, a familial visit including the tram up to Pikes Peak, karoake at the bar, the '20s-themed birthday party of a coworker, a latke-vodka party last week, the super rad farmers' market in Woodland Park, time in the sun on the porch with Hazel my wonderful stage manager and housemate, free Zumba classes 2-3x/week, picking up shifts at the coffee shop across the street (I started out as a regular - like, she knows my order and gives me discounts and I hang around - and all of a sudden today I was employed!), Impi bars with peanut butter chips, brownies, Italian chocolate-almond torte, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, coffee chocolate chip cookies, tons of great science fiction/romance/classic reading, and I just started watching Girl Code on Youtube (I'm degenerating with this list here! But seriously, one episode in, and Girl Code already rocks. I still have some Psych to get through, too!). And it's not as if there's not tons more stuff I want to do here, that I probably won't even have time for - the mine tour, more time in Manitou Springs, shopping with a couple coworkers, the museum at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, hiking....

But I'm not going to try to cover all of that.*

Instead, I'll leave you with one more poem. She's still on the travel theme here, but not too melancholy - just saucy!

"How shall I know, unless I go
  To Cairo and Cathay,
Whether or not this blessed spot
  Is blest in every way?

Now it may be, the flower for me
  Is this beneath my nose;
How shall I tell, unless I smell
  The Carthaginian rose?

The fabric of my faithful love
  No power shall dim or ravel
Whilst I stay here,–but oh, my dear
  If I should ever travel!"

*Praeterition = my third favorite literary device! Partly because of its fun name, and partly because sometimes it's like winking at a person (although sometimes it's like stepping up in their face to challenge them and then stepping back passively as if you've been friends all along, which is also sort of my style, unfortunately).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hand Crafted Candy Casserole

So I got the very exciting Hand-Crafted Candy Bars from the library, and I am psyched! Immediately I was ready to make faux-Snickers bars (not that the careful authors identify them as such, but obvs you can kind of tell).

First, Alex and I made the nougat. We were to whip egg whites to stiff peaks while slowly pouring in hot sugar syrup. I had heard horror stories about attempting this technique, but particularly with four hands (mine and Alex’s) it went fairly smoothly. Two minutes or so away from stiff peaks, however, my electric mixer broke. Ok, stiff enough, we decided. We chilled it and then stirred in the peanut butter as directed.
Next up: Caramel. I already know how to make caramel, so the process wasn’t bad, although I’m not used to making wet caramel and didn’t realize how fast it was going to go. It came out a little darker and bitterer than ideal, but still pretty good, especially once the peanut butter was swirled in there too. So we chilled that too.

After roasting the peanuts, mixing those into the caramel too, and chilling everything for an hour while we made (a very successful) dinner (which I will tell about later), we were ready to assemble the insides of the candy bars! The nougat gets made into logs, the caramel gets poured on top, and it all gets refrigerated for ten minutes before getting dipped in tempered chocolate.

Unfortunately, as we discovered twenty minutes of refrigeration later, “stiff enough” nougat is… not stiff enough.

There was no way these could be dipped in chocolate – they couldn’t even be lifted off the pan. Refusing to be demoralized, we scooped the mush with a spoon into an 8x8, for Snickers casserole!

The remains of the "bars"... 

...made into casserole! ahahahaha.

Although tempering the chocolate was looking less necessary, since the plan now was just to pour it over the top, I wanted to try anyway, since it’s a stressful process – the temperature has to be so precise, and my first try several months ago didn’t work at all. (That is probably, however, because I’d halved the recipe, and it’s just too hard, particularly with my cheapo only-semi-instant digital thermometer, to temper chocolate in tiny batches because its temperature will fluctuate faster.) But this time it worked! Brilliant success! I used 72% dark chocolate from TJ’s pound plus bar, plus some leftover regular dark and some Callebaut I didn’t like very much, to add to the volume of chocolate and not waste it but not be the dominant flavor. Anyway, as soon as it hit 60 degrees (after bringing it up to 115, throwing in another handful of chocolate, and then down to 82 with the aid of an ice bath), I poured it all over the casserole and stuck it in the fridge.


And, ten minutes later, we discovered it to be delicious!

Hooray Snickasserole!

Next time, maybe I’ll make actual candy bars (with my BRAND NEW electric mixer, the price of which I am ashamed to relate). Don’t worry, I’ll keep ya updated right here :)

 Oh my god, I am obsessed. I am in love! I am so happy!

I finally have a dough hook!!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tomorrow

So I actually have a different post written and lined up for whenever I have time to get the relevant photos off the camera and upload them (tomorrow? heh). In the meantime, here's a poem that I love despite its explicit call to Jesus. Longfellow's translation is clear, forthright, yet beautiful - to me, this is his voice when he's at his best - you know, how all great poets have a particular voice even though it usually only comes through now and then. And actually, I don't think the moral of the poem is "come to Jesus"; I think it's, "don't procrastinate." But, obviously, in a less prosaic, shallow-sounding way.

Ugh, this is why talking about poetry is so hard; poems have already condensed, crystallized, cut to the core, so expounding on them always sounds banal. It's finding extra words for something that is currently pithy and effective.

The point is, I like this poem, and the last two lines particularly are what still ring with me, and what make my mind return to it regularly.


Tomorrow

Lord, what am I, that with unceasing care
    Thou did'st seek after me, that Thou did'st wait
    Wet with unhealthy dews before my gate,
And pass the gloomy nights of winter there?
Oh, strange delusion, that I did not greet
    Thy blest approach, and oh, to heaven how lost
    If my ingratitude's unkindly frost
Has chilled the bleeding wounds upon Thy feet.
How oft my guardian angel gently cried,
    “Soul, from thy casement look, and thou shalt see
    How He persists to knock and wait for thee!”
    And oh, how often to that Voice of sorrow,
“Tomorrow we will open,” I replied,
    And when the morrow came I answered still “Tomorrow.”

Lope de Vega; H.W. Longfellow (translator)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Once Matilda

I saw two shows recently!

With Andy, Faye, Ian, Katie, Lara, Alyssa, and Alex I saw Once, which we rushed last week. Even the rushing part was pretty fun, since it was a nice day and there was so much company!

Here's your soundtrack for my review (skip ahead to about 1:30 - he talks a lot at the beginning):



The show was lovely. It opened - well, pre-opened - with an Irish folk jam session, most of it while audience members were onstage milling and drinking. So that was awesome. I mean, really, based on my response to Million Dollar Quartet and to One Man Two Guv’nors, I don’t really want to see musicals at all, I just want to see rockin’ concerts. Which is in keeping with my generally negative attitude toward musical theatre, so, you know, no surprise there.

As for the body of the show, everyone agreed that the music was beautiful. While we saw four understudies that night, one of them – the weakest – in for the lead “Guy,” overall the cast vocals and instrumentals (the cast is the orchestra, which I loved – definitely a better solution to the don’t-have-money-for-band problem than just replacing all the musicians with synths, anyway, and conceptually perfect for this show) were powerful, locked in together, and very moving. The “Guy” understudy was a little noncommittal both vocally and emotionally (of course, the two go hand in hand), particularly in the first act, but in the second act when he was featured in quieter songs and ditched the I’m-trying-but-can’t-quite-wail-like-Glen-Hansard thing, he shined a lot more. [Note: I wrote “shone” instead of “shined” there first, and it took me a while to figure out why it was wrong! No wonder non-native speakers have trouble, if we natives can’t even remember which tense patterns go where.]

Particularly, incredibly beautiful was the a cappella reprise of “Gold” in the second act, with all cast members standing simply singing on stage. It was breathtaking, and it was perfectly together, which is astonishing for a large-group a cappella number with no conductor (I looked and looked for their monitor), no formal music director (listed in the program are a cast music captain, a la the more standard dance captain, and a music supervisor, but no music director – I would love to have a peek into those rehearsals!), and no one even looking at each other on stage. Also brilliant was the more-instruments-than-in-the-movie rendition of “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” the song they record in the recording studio (which is in 5, which I find both distracting and wonderful – talk to me about “alternative” meters sometime).

As for the non-musical elements of the show, I’m afraid I disagreed with everyone I went with. They thought the script was weak, telling rather than showing, that the production didn’t add anything new and better to the story told in the movie, and that the result was on the whole less dramatic than the movie.

I, on the other hand, really liked the new choices they made with the script. I think in a play you have to tell more than you do in a movie, because you don’t get close-ups of faces, and I liked the way they wrote through the dramatic moments rather than letting the actors fall intensely silent (again, something that works a lot better in a movie than on stage; after all, that’s one of the things Alex and I both hated about Billy Elliot, was the laziness of the librettist in substituting dramatic pauses for difficult dialogue). I do think the emotional moments didn’t carry as well as they should have, but to me that was the result of the lack of 100% commitment on the part of the “Guy” understudy, which meant the chemistry between him and the “Girl” wasn’t quite there.  Any script is going to look weak if the actors aren’t pulling it off. I would love to see the show again with the regular “Guy” – although listening to the recording of him, he has the same vocal problem as the understudy, which is that he’s a musical theatre singer trying to sound raw, resulting in a vibrato-free but not particularly emotional belt.

And, you know, whatever they say about the storytelling in the production, I definitely heard some uneven breathing and saw some reddened eyes from the members of my party round about the last number of the show.

The other show I saw recently was Matilda, which I’ve been excited for for a year! While I didn’t utterly love it the way I’ve loved some recent shows,* I really enjoyed it. I’ll start with the flaws, so I can end with the strengths, which carried the show enough to make it easily worth your time and money.
Meanwhile, here’s your Matilda soundtrack!:



Flaws – Uneven pacing. Most of the time I was absorbed, but there were several five or ten minute chunks where I was bored.  The dialogue was a little prosaic and not very strong. Not all the songs flowed seamlessly from the script to heighten emotional moments or to allow characters to communicate openly – they were mostly fairly internal, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Miss Honey’s song in particular, “Good Enough for Me,” was almost beautiful but ended up not working at all for me. Some of the adults were a little weak – I think maybe they were focusing on their accents harder than on actually being clear. Miss Honey was the weakest I’ve ever seen her, and I wanted her to have more agency. Matilda’s relationship with the librarian was played for laughs without being actually very funny, and without successfully establishing Matilda’s internalized role as a parental figure in a way that justified her later relationship with Miss Honey, as it should have based. And while I respected that they made a strong choice with Trunchbull – casting a man in her role – and followed through on that choice fully, making use of the physical and vocal, and internalized-character-development implications of cross-dressing-man rather than big-strong-woman, I didn’t like the choice to begin with, which I’ll talk about more later.

Strengths – The lyrics! The lyrics were brilliant. The lyrics were clever and on point; the rhymes were smart, the phrasing was repetitive in a way that clarified and emphasized, the lyric content phrased over the meter (one of my favorite songwriting devices and one that I have yet to master) – basically, it was how I wish I wrote lyrics. Also, the set – equally clever and creative. The floor was in miscellaneously-sized squares that raised horizontally up and down to form platforms and desks or rose vertically to form 2-D facades; the alphabet/reading them was prevalent but unobtrusive; the whole concept was well-synced with the show concept and very well executed. The choreography! Basically, the trifecta of extremely clever, well-synced creativity in this show was the lyrics, the set, and the choreo. The choreography was detailed, precise, and new; well-tuned to the songs; and developed over the course of the show. Loved it! The addition and development of the acrobat/escapologist storyline worked really well – my trust in where they were going with it, when it initially looked tacked-in, was warranted.

Performer-wise, Miss Honey had a lovely soprano although her character was a big nothing aside from her first (great) song (“Knock on the Door”); the Wormwoods were effective and creative; the Latin number, “Loud,” with Mrs. Wormwood and her salsa partner was hysterical; Matilda was great, great, great, carried the show exactly the way she needed to despite being exhaustingly onstage almost nonstop and having a substantial amount of singing to do. But, more important, the children – oh my god, the kids were incredible. The kid choreography was specific, high-energy, and extremely extensive, and they nailed it, better than I’ve ever seen kids on Broadway before and better than a lot of adult dance choruses on Broadway. Plus, their British accents were so good that I assumed the kids were imported before I checked out the program and found them to home-grown! Seriously, if the lyrics/set/choreo don’t convince you, go see this show just for the children’s chorus.

[I was going to insert the link to "Miracle," the opening number, here, but it's giving me trouble, so you should just click through! - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF5y84mTBjA]

Cross-gender casting – I am all for cross-gender casting. But what bothers me is that the cross-gender casting trend on Broadway applies only to casting men in the roles of large or powerful or scary or over-the-top women. To me, it suggests that largeness/power/scariness/over-the-top-iness (haha) are traits that belong to men, that women who have them are therefore manly – are not like women. While I don’t want to accidentally reinforce the “strong but feminine” trope (which Katie and I got into extensively one night in a bar, and which I will happily talk about with you in person) with that last sentence, what I’m trying to say is that this kind of cross-gender casting actually reinforces the gender binary, by saying that some traits are womanly and some are manly, and that a woman with certain traits is appropriately played a man, particularly when other incidences of cross-gender casting are almost completely nonexistent on a professional stage. If we saw more women playing men, or men playing more “feminine” women; if we saw more gender-play in general; even better (in my feminist utopia), if we saw gender as not relevant to characters, such that we took ability to perform the role vocally and in terms of personality/acting ability as the only precursors for being cast in a role, not taking gender into account at all, I would be way more down with the cross-gender casting!

Back to this specific case, I actually thought that casting an man as Trunchbull and emphasizing effeminate gestures and mincing around actually make the character into a parody of womanhood, made her funny because she is someone who is trying to perform femininity and not doing it well rather than because she is just over-the-top scary, made her less actually scary-due-to-being-intimidating and made her more unstable/“crazy,” only scary because we’re told she’s scary through narrative, lights, music, etc. I don’t want to fall into comparing the musical to the movie – particularly since they’re both based on a book and a spectacular one at that – but the Trunchbull in the movie is perfect, and is also a great role for a woman who doesn’t look like the usual women who get cast, and while I liked a lot of the different approaches the musical took, they should have just left that one alone.

I guess those sound like pretty mixed reviews, but the point is, I liked these two shows a lot, and you should go see them!

*Peter and the Starcatcher is the most absolutely beautiful show I’ve seen in the last two years (topped only by Scottsboro Boys, which I saw neither off-Broadway nor on Broadway but managed to catch during its brief San Francisco run, but I was also head over heels for Newsies, Book of Mormon, Venus in Fur, One Man Two Guv’nors, and Million Dollar Quartet; in the quite-liked category are American Idiot, Finian’s Rainbowl, Memphis, and the silly but delightful Lysistrata Jones, in the meh category is Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Everyday Rapture, and in the wasted-my-money-and-my-time category are Anything Goes and Billy Elliot, and there you have every Broadway show I can remember seeing since I moved to New York, and now I feel like I haven’t been taking advantage of my city of residence nearly enough.

If you're feeling like being transported... here's the "Gold" reprise:

video