Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie Monday - Blue Valentine

The point of most movie reviews, I realize, is to give some of the plot, talk about the actors, and then tell the reader whether or not to see the movie. Let me cut to the chase this week:

Go see "Blue Valentine."

Just do it. Don't ask any questions. Leave the kids at home. Spring for the popcorn (so you have an excuse to get a few extra napkins). Settle in to watch the movie. Thank me later.

Okay. I'll give you a few points:

It stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Williams is probably best known for "Dawson's Creek" on TV, for playing Heath Ledger's long-suffering wife in "Brokeback Mountain" on the big screen, and for being Heath Ledger's wife in real-life. Gosling was "Young Hercules" on TV, played the young lead in "The Notebook," and - honestly - I know nothing about his personal life except that he's not hard to look at.

The movie focuses on the two of them and their lives - both separate and together.

And they hold the screen - both separately and together.

This is a movie about family and about love, but I would not suggest it as a Valentine's Day movie.

What I would suggest, in case I haven't said it, already, is that you go see it. I'd also suggest doing that with as few preconceptions as possible. Kelly and I went to it last week truly only knowing who was in it, and what time it was playing. We both hate going to movies where we don't know what's going to happen. But, by the time it was under way, we were both really happy that we didn't know anything about it.

So... One last time: Go see "Blue Valentine." It's worth it.

Overall grade: A. (I'd give it an A+, but I don't want you to put your expectations too high.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Good Day

It's probably not great that I have to label a day as "good" when it was really just an ordinary day. But yesterday was, in fact, a good day.

Remember how we were supposed to be having a visit from the Bombast service tech to fix our in-and-out phone service? Well, I had called in to them - during one of our phone's lucid moments on Friday night - to remind them that if they called us to say they were on their way we probably wouldn't be able to answer. The woman I spoke to was, surprisingly, very helpful and understanding.

Christopher and I got up good and early, yesterday, to be ready for the tech to arrive, and got a phonecall about 8:25 from someone in their service department. It seems that, when looking into our issue, they found that the problem was on their end - not ours - so they had gone ahead and fixed it without the on-site visit. No, we weren't thrilled that we'd gotten the run-around, but at least our phone was back.

Of course, this meant that we were up and moving rather earlier than usual for a Saturday. So Christopher and I ran a bunch of errands and - basically - hung out for the morning and afternoon. We don't really get to do that very often these days, but it was one of the things we did when we first started dating. We'd spend weekend days together running errands, just so we could spend time together. We capped off yesterday's errands with a late lunch at McDonald's (I admit it - I love dining at Mickey-D's), and then came home for a while.

In the evening, we were off to a "Burns Night" gathering at a friend's house. The food was relatively Scottish, and there was some discussion of Scottish things, but mainly it was an evening of spending time with friends and getting caught up. We were there for probably 4 hours, just mingling and chatting and enjoying ourselves. We left at that almost-perfect moment when we were both getting a little tired, but before either of us was tired of being there.

Yeah. Yesterday was a good day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


We are, presently, without our home phone.

I started my day, today, with 45 minutes of online chat with the Bombast customer service folks - during which it was rather obvious that the person I was chatting with was paying no attention to me. I know it's hard to really gauge this kind of thing, but about 30 minutes into the "conversation" the person said "Okay. Let me do some research using that information." Yeah... 30 minutes into the conversation. Because, apparently, I was just there for the fun of it during that first half hour.

In the 10 minutes after that, I actually called in to try to get a better response. It went a little more interestingly, at least. I found out, after saying that our phone had gone out, that apparently our service "has been dropping pretty regularly." In fact, that was one of the first things the guy said to me - that he could see we'd been having problems. He was rather surprised we hadn't called in before.

So we moved on to try to schedule an appointment for service. After an hour of my day going to the nice people at Bombast, I was informed that they could set up an appointment for 4-6pm tonight. Or from 8-10am tomorrow. I said I couldn't do either of those because I have to work. He said we could do the weekend, and I said I'd like to do it earlier than that. At which point he got a little... well... snarky and said "Well, we HAVE to send someone out. What would you suggest?" I suggested after 6pm tonight or before 8am tomorrow. Apparently, when he asked for suggestions, he thought he could out-snark me. He was wrong. His sighing response: "But we don't do that."

And... yeah. We've ended up with the Saturday 8am appointment. Luckily the technicians are usually pretty nice. Perhaps they could give the Customer Service staff some pointers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


One of my favorite things about this time of year is the re-appearance of dusk.

I know you all know what it is, and I know that it's around all year, but that strange time between sundown and twilight is amazing in this part of the world this time of year. (I say "this part of the world" because I've been places where the time from sundown to darkness is mere minutes.)

You see, we've been dealing with the sun going down at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and now - finally - it's starting to get later. These days, it's going down around 4:50. Which means that, on my drive home, I'm still seeing light in the sky. In fact, some nights the clouds are still lit with reflected sunshine as I'm driving.

Tonight, though, the sky was cloudless as I was making my way home. But that's not to say that there was nothing to look at.

The sky gradually shifted from light blue, to golden, to shades of ultramarine as I drove. Never really bright, but always still lit.

A month ago, my drive home was in the pitch dark. A month from now, it will be light enough that the sky won't ever get to that vibrant dark blue until I'm home.

But now - just now - I get to drive home at dusk. And that makes at least some of these winter days worthwhile.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Behind on Monday

There is no worse day in the week to feel like you're behind in things than Monday. Being behind on a Monday makes the rest of the week seem like it's simply going to be insurmountable.

It's even worse when you're not behind at work - which you can always brush off when you leave for the evening because, after all, it's work - but you're behind in your personal life.

I am having one of those "behind in your personal life" Mondays.

We have dishes piling in the sink (all, actually, from the past 3 hours). We have snow which simply doesn't want to move from the sidewalks (remember when the snowblower was in the shop? this stuff is packed down from that period - and with the temps we've had it hasn't gone away). I have 2 birthday cards which are going to be late, regardless of when I send them at this point (although I had every intention of sending them this past weekend).

I could try to do things tomorrow night or Wednesday, but I have plans to go to a movie tomorrow (and possibly another on Wednesday). Which means that my next full block of time to work on things will be Thursday.

And, although it's only a quarter past eight, I really want to just go to bed because, if truth be told, I also had one of those Mondays at work, today.

I suspect it's going to be a long week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Evening Slowdown

A lot of weekends Sunday evening is the part of the weekend when everything kind of speeds up as you try to get ready for the new workweek. This weekend, though, Christopher and I have been celebrating his birthday, so this evening is kind of the slow-down point, instead.

But it has been a great - food-filled - weekend. Yesterday we spent part of the afternoon at a work-related event at a bar/restaurant I'd never been to. Even though it was an event for Christopher's work, it was actually really fun. We sat and chatted and joked with some of his co-workers and spent a nice hour.

Last evening, we went out to dinner - as part of a group of 10 - to one of our favorite restaurants (Cave Vin in SW Minneapolis). I had talked to them earlier in the week to let them know we were going to bring along a birthday cake (which I offered to cut and serve), and that we'd probably need multiple checks to keep the confusion down. And it worked out great. Everyone seemed to have a great time. People in the restaurant joined in when our table was singing "Happy Birthday" to Christopher. And the restaurant manager actually came around with ice cream to go with the cake. How cool is that?

This morning, since a certain pup got me up around 7am, anyway, I threw on a coat and drove about five minutes away to Patisserie 46 to pick up a few things for a "breakfast with choices." I mulled over my options, and came home with some sweet croissants (chocolate and almond) and some savory "breakfast" croissants (with egg, gruyere, and bechamel sauce). And I was home by around 8am. (Apparently, if you get there at 7:45 on a frigid January morning, there's no line and lots of service. It was great!)

We had planned to go out to dinner tonight at a place that is known for serving huge amounts of meat. But... well... we kind of decided that we weren't hungry enough for it. So we capped off our day going out for pizza at Davanni's (a local chain which - although it has changed names along the way - is one of Christopher's favorite pizza places from back when he was a little kid).

And, thus, we come to tonight. We have a couple of high-end pastries to consider, and we also have leftover cake from last night. (Have I mentioned that it was a Devil's food cake with Chocolate Buttercream frosting and a Bavarian cream filling? We got it at Kowalski's, if you want one...)

I suspect dieting will be on the "to-do" list starting tomorrow. But not tonight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Food - Pizzeria Lola

Do you ever go to an event that has had tons of hype and find yourself wondering "What was that all about?" It doesn't even have to be a real "event" event. It can happen at a movie. Or while reading a book. Or, unfortunately, while at a restaurant.

Christopher and I met a friend of his for dinner at Pizzeria Lola this week. We saw it go in next to one of our favorite restaurants (a French-bistro-y place called Cave Vin), and we wondered what it would be like. Then we saw a few absolutely rave reviews. And we thought we should really go check it out.

It's not your average neighborhood pizza joint - there's no "extra cheese, double pepperoni" pizzas on the menu. There's no garlic toast with dipping sauce. And, you know, that's not a bad thing.

They've got a huge wood-fired oven in the middle of the place, an intriguing menu with things like an actual dish composed of Brussels sprouts and a pizza with potato on it. And, you know, we really wanted to love them.

But the pizza crust - though thin and obviously wood-fired with the little bits of char on it - were kind of soggy in the middle. And the fact that you can't simply get a basic pepperoni pizza (or even a modified one, really), left me wanting it - even though I hadn't been craving it when I sat down.

The staff were great. The restaurant is very attractive (the pizza oven is in the middle of the dining room, wrapped in gleaming copper). And the price was... well... wasn't bad.

We figure that we might or might not go back. It's great to have a "different" pizza option that's fairly close to home (only about 5 minutes away), but I just kind of wish that it had a little more focus on "crowd-pleasing" and a little less on "different."

Overall score: B-. What they do, they seem to do fairly well. Just not quite well enough for me to understand what all the raves were about.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Year of the Trees

On my calendar, today, I found "New Year of the Trees" listed. Not having ever heard of that holiday, I pulled up the internet to see what it was about.

The "New Year of the Trees," or Tu B'Shevat (which has multiple spellings), is a Jewish holiday which is celebrated in late January or early February every year. And it is, truly, the New Year of the Trees.

You see, according to tradition, you are not allowed to harvest from a tree until its third year. To make sure that everyone had a date to go off of, this is the date which is used to count the passing of the year for a tree. It falls in this time of year, because this is when the earliest trees (typically almond trees) start to show off their delicate pink and white blooms in the orchards in Israel.

Apparently, there are a couple different ways to celebrate the day. You could plant a tree (kinda hard in Minnesota in January), or feast on nuts and dried fruits.

Isn't it nice, in the middle of winter, to think that somewhere in the world there's a whole celebration for the rebirth of the trees going on?

I think I may have to make sure this is on my calendar every year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Travel Photos Found

Have you ever gotten from a trip and realized that you've misplaced a roll of film (or a memory card)? Did you wish that someone had found them and given them back to you?

Well, what would you do if you found some photos someone had obviously lost? Would you just leave them where you found them? Would you try to find the person?

Or, if the possibility arose, would you put them out into the world in the hopes that the photographer and the photos could be reconnected?

Well, a friend of mine forwarded this youtube video called "Found: Lost Pictures of New York Blizzard" to me, today. Please take a few moments to look at it (it's pretty cool), and maybe even forward it on to someone else.

Wouldn't it be cool if these photos could actually find their photographer?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Seem to be Missing a Holiday

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting at work. On a holiday.

I realize that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day isn't celebrated everywhere equally, but it *is* a Federal holiday. So why are so many of us at work? Aren't we part of the country, too?

While I'm at it, I'd like to ask why so many people have to work on any Federal holiday? Whatever happened to holidays being the days when everyone got to have the day off? No one used to work on Christmas. Or the Fourth of July. Or Thanksgiving.

Now it seems that all of those days are simply days when companies have bigger sales to get people in.

You hear the people who say that grocery stores or convenience stores "have" to be open on holidays so that people who are celebrating can get last-minute supplies. But didn't we all survive for years by doing our "last-minute" shopping on the day before?

And I completely appreciate restaurants and movie theaters being open on holidays (and especially gas stations for those of us who drive long distances on holidays), but I also think we could survive pretty well if they were closed. In fact, I remember really enjoying those days when I was a kid and the entire family was simply home - together - on holidays.

As it stands, it seems that a "Federal" holiday really only guarantees that the Federal government is closed.

Since I can't see myself with a government job in the near future, I'd really like to at least have my holidays back.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tiz List #7 - The Workplace Edition

Okay. I realize that I complain about my job from time to time. Or, well, maybe a lot.

But there are, in fact, things that I like about my job. And, since the point of a "Tiz List" is to give up info that you probably don't know about me, the topic of "positive things about my job" seems like a good focal point for today.

Let's see what I can dredge up:

1) I work at a company which produces - among other things - books. Actual, physical, honest-to-goodness books. That's cool.

2) I have a comfy chair.

3) There is no dress code where I work - so I can go to work in jeans and tennis shoes and - frankly - sometimes look more dressed up than 80% of the office. The fact that I comb my hair every day puts me ahead of at least 2 people in the office all by itself.

4) Many days the office conversations are not boring. In fact, last week we had a day where people were discussing "rolfing" and "fluffing." (If you don't know what those are, let me just say that one can be discussed in polite company, the other cannot.)

5) My phone has a whole lot of buttons which I get to push when I transfer people.

6) If you open the window behind our head graphic designer's desk, you can walk out onto the roof - which is a great place for Friday afternoon happy hours in nice weather.

7) Parking - while not free - is pretty darned cheap AND indoors. (And, in winter, is heated.)

8) I get to order the stamps I use for mailings, and I get to choose whatever styles I want.

9) Internet usage is not limited while at work, assuming you're getting your work done. Although, frankly, I don't know that anyone monitors whether the people who are spending all day watching YouTube and Netflix and Hulu are getting their work done. (Unfortunately, I don't have a job which allows me enough freeplay to do that.)

10) We're upstairs from a decent restaurant.

11) There's a good liquor store just around the corner.

12) There's a vending machine area one floor up from the office.

13) Contrary to what some of you may seem to think, I don't dislike everyone in the office. And, in fact, I can co-exist in a day-to-day office fashion pretty well with pretty much everyone.

14) My company is on the forefront of the whole ePublishing wave that is happening at the moment. That may mean that we won't be making as many actual books, but it's still kind of cool.

15) Although some are rather insane, some of the clients I work with are actually kind of cool.

16) This year I'll get 10 vacation days. (I know that, to many of you, that doesn't seem like much, but in 2010, I only got 5.)

17) If I do any freelance work through work, the taxes are taken out automatically from my paycheck (not the norm for freelance work).

18) Most of the delivery people who come in are nice, conversational, relatively interesting, and don't smell too much like stale cigarettes.

19) Our office has a kitchen with a fridge and not one, but two, microwaves.

And, possibly the best thing of all:

20) Our office has a kitchen with a toaster that actually has a Pop-tarts setting.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Food - Blackbird Cafe

It's not often when you get to go back to eat at a restaurant that has burned down. But Christopher and I did just that this week. Well, sort of.

The original Blackbird Cafe was a tiny place with antlers all over the walls, and a menu that was both rare and well-done. Vegetarian dishes side-by-side with meats. Sandwiches next to pastas. A little of everything, all done with style.

And then there was a fire that took down the Cafe, another restaurant, and at least one shop. And we thought we had said good-bye to Blackbird. (You thought I was going to say "Bye Bye, Blackbird," didn't you?)

But Blackbird didn't say good-bye to Minneapolis. Instead, after months of hard work, they re-opened, recently, in a new - larger - location. They've got more seating, more windows, a larger bar, and metal chairs which are unsurprisingly chilly in January.

Christopher and I met a couple of friends there on Wednesday night. The same friends we had met on our first visit to the original Blackbird. And, like that first night, we had good food and great conversation. Good wines and beers were had. And our waiter was just the right amount of attentive.

The menu remains eclectic (at various times our table had tomato soup, chicken giblet salad, roasted cauliflower - as a main course, a shredded beef sandwich, and gnocchi), and, yes, there are still antlers on the walls.

There's a slight downturn in the ambiance (the metal chairs may not have been the most Minnesota-friendly choice, and the large open space is a little noisy), but overall Blackbird is definitely back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shipping 500 Books

After about six months of having 500 copies of a book in boxes along the wall behind my desk, today I actually got clearance to ship them out.

They'd been destined for shipping the entire time, but the author they belonged to hadn't been able to pay for the shipping costs. So they stayed in their boxes behind my desk.

I had gradually come to use them as a shelf. I had other books stacked on them. I put my coat on them when I came into the office in the morning. I had come to assume they would never be leaving.

And then the author actually got in touch and gave me a credit card number - which declined - and then a new one, with a different billing address, which actually went through.

So I spent this afternoon re-packaging 500 books and labelling the boxes for shipping. A courier picked up 250 of them at about 3:30. UPS picked up the other 250 just before 5.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow when I get in and don't have anywhere to put my coat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Slickfest

When Christopher and I went out to run a few errands last night after work, I turned to him as he was driving and asked whether the roads seemed slicker than they ought to be.

I asked that because, on my way home from work, I kept feeling myself sliding, just a bit - even with my All-Wheel-Drive car. But this was happening in the same places where there seemed to be pavement visible. It's not like we had 4 or 8 inches of snow - we'd been getting little flurries off and on all day (through tonight we've probably gotten 4 inches or so, but it's been very slow to come). The roads just looked "normal" and, yet, I was sliding. So, with Christopher driving, I thought I'd ask what it was like for him.

He agreed that it seemed a lot more slippery than it should have. Especially since, as we were talking about it, we fishtailed just a hair while coming around a corner.

This morning, while I was on my way to work, I watched two people on a major downtown street slide while turning. One of them had just sped past me changing lanes, only to do a sideways slide as she tried to go around the corner. (She stopped sliding when she bumped the snow ridge at the edge of the road - luckily, there was no one else at the corner at the time.) The other did a full 180-degree spin - which the people behind her saw happening so they could avoid.

And, of course, since it's been such a "small" snow, the plows have been a little slower to get out, so there are some areas which are beginning to look a little worse for wear.

Almost makes me wish for another big all-at-once snow.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

You've Gotta Love Debbie Reynolds

There are those people who are parts of pop culture who simply have to be loved. Betty White is one of those people. Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews are both those people. And, yes, Debbie Reynolds is one of those people.

And, today, Christopher and I saw her in concert with The Minnesota Orchestra.

Christopher wasn't sure what to expect, and I suggested that he look at the excursion as an anthropological study into where Carrie Fisher came from. That seemed like the best way to keep his expectations low, since I really don't know that he's ever seen a Debbie Reynolds movie, he didn't know that she played Grace's mom on "Will & Grace," and he has never watched a Disney Channel "Halloweentown" movie. Me, I went with expectations. I'm not sure whether that was a good or bad thing.

First of all, the Orchestra did their standard thing of starting with a 30-minute "first half" where they tried to play music that coordinated with the artist. We've been there when they've done this in the past. It's not a great thing. The conductor (MN Orch Associate Conductor Courtney Lewis) introduced the pieces as "from the Broadway tradition" - and then proceeded to play the overture from Candide (an opera, although it did play on Broadway), two pieces from Rodeo (ballet, not Broadway), and the original Bernstein On the Town (again, ballet... which became Broadway... and then a movie... but the orchestral pieces were from the ballet). Don't get me wrong. All of the pieces were fun, they just weren't Broadway and didn't really tie in to Debbie Reynolds. For the record, though, Lewis was really fun to watch conduct - very expressive, and the back of his jacket moved and flexed with him adding a whole new level of visual fun to the performance.

After intermission, Debbie Reynolds came out - with her own pianist/conductor, and small ensemble who all set up in front of the orchestra proper. The next hour and a half was a whole lot of patter - about Hollywood, about marriage (and divorce), about her wigs, about the slit in her dress (it went all the way up to there - and as she was leaving she commented that the next time she came, she show us her other leg).

She talked about her friendship with Judy Garland, and how - after meeting Ethel Merman - she decided that Musical Comedy seemed like the most fun way to go at MGM. She did impressions of Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart and even did a wig-change for a bit all about Barbra Streisand.

And, yes, she sang.

She did some of the things she's known for (like the theme song for "Tammy," a song from "The Singing Nun," and something from "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"), and - yes - she did a little from "Singing in the Rain." And... well... the singing wasn't perfect. But it was so earnest, and everything she did around the songs was so much fun, that it really didn't matter. I'm more than willing to attribute any bum notes to the weather. Or jetlag. Or the overly-loud orchestra behind her.

Instead, what I know I'll remember from the concert Debbie Reynolds onstage - smiling, and laughing, and playing with the audience. I'll hold the memories of laughing at her innuendo and having one of those great happy tear-y moments when she would sing a song that struck all the right chords in my emotional ear - which is really the ear that matters at concerts like this.

I plan to spend tonight adding Debbie Reynolds movies to my Netflix queue. And I've decided I'm definitely going to have to see the movie she has coming out this year. And I think that, if I invite Carrie Fisher to my fantasy dinner party, I'll be sure that she brings Debbie. I think that would be one hell of a night.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Snippets

My mind hasn't been doing great in full-length stories, lately, so tonight you're getting some one- (or two-) liners, instead:

- If you're a guy who has a slightly-ample backside, wearing skinny jeans is probably not a great idea. Also true, quite frankly, if you're a woman with a slightly-ample backside.

- I work down the hallway from a marketing company whose staff seem to consider themselves to be the hippest of the hipsters as they walk back and forth down the common hallway with their laptops in their very-expensive clothes and haircuts and fashionable (sometimes skinny) jeans. For the record: the combination of "hip," "very-expensive," and "fashionable" do not, often, result in styles that anyone should actually wear.

- I have, as promised earlier this year, thrown out an old pair of tennis shoes.

- I have also decided to keep the new shoes I bought (along with the new underwear you already knew I was keeping). I wore the shoes out of the house for the first time, tonight, even.

- Sometimes it takes leaving the house to make things real.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Theatrical Thursday - Billy Elliot

(I almost feel like I should call this post "Swan Lake Week, part deux.")

After hemming and hawing (how, exactly, does one "haw"?) for a couple of months, and then vacillating for the past couple of weeks, I finally - with a gentle nudge from Christopher - got off my butt and went to see "Billy Elliot" last night.

It's a touring production, due to leave on Sunday, and so this is the final week. I had almost convinced myself to just not go, but then we were with friends last weekend who had seen it and were raving about it. And then it came up in conversation this week and - as I've mentioned - Christopher said I really ought to just go. So I did.

If you don't know about the show (the musical was taken from the movie), it's about an 11-year-old kid (who happens to be named Billy Elliot - lucky for the writers of the show, hunh?) from a poor mining community in Northern England. It's a town where all the boys grow up to be miners, and the economy is driving everyone into the ground (literally and figuratively). One day, Billy stumbles into a ballet class after his boxing lesson, and somehow finds himself caught up in it. And, as he realizes he'd rather dance than box, he keeps coming back. Eventually, his teacher decides that he should go to audition for the Royal Ballet (school), and... well... that doesn't go over so well with his family. Drama ensues - or continues to ensue, at least.

What's amazing about the show is that no matter what the rest of the cast is like - whether it be the girls in the ballet school, or Billy's family, or even Billy's friend Michael (who likes dressing in his mother's clothing because it's what his dad does, too) - the entire show comes down to Billy.

There are some amazing dance numbers in the show, and they all come down to focusing on the one pre-teen kid who has to sing, dance, and act his heart out to make them work. And, you know what? He does.

Unfortunately, since they rotate Billy's throughout the run of the show, I don't even know for sure which kid was playing him last night. I just know that he had incredible balletic form. When he was paired onstage with his "grown-up" self, they matched each other perfectly. It was... to use the word again... incredible.

And, for me, there was one other very cool thing about last night's show. I was reading through the program before the lights went down, and one name caught my eye: Faith Prince. I realize you may not know who she is, but if you know about theater (or a number of TV shows), you'd know her if you saw or heard her. She's a redhead with devastating comic timing, a Broadway belting voice, and - I gotta say - quite the legs.

Prince played Billy's dance teacher - which means she got a couple of great scenes onstage, as well as a couple of songs. And me - sitting at the back of the orchestra floor - I felt like I got an extra little bonus Christmas gift.

Overall rating: A. I gotta admit that a few of the accents came and went throughout the show - and sometimes when they "came" they were so strong that you couldn't understand what was going on. But, aside from that, the show was all it promised to be.

And, thankfully, although the music of "Swan Lake" was used throughout the show, no one lost any toenails on stage last night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Movie Monday - Black Swan

Okay. Yes. I know that it's Tuesday. But I just got home from seeing "Black Swan" and I have to say something about it.

The problem is, I'm not totally sure what to say.

If you haven't seen anything about it, "Black Swan" stars Natalie Portman as a ballerina getting her shot at the lead role in "Swan Lake." But, more importantly, it's about the price you pay in the search for perfection.

And, on that second note, it's not just her character that's on the way to loonyville. She's surrounded by an overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), a possibly back-stabbing "friend" (Mila Kunis), a director who is a little too hands-on (Vincent Cassel), and a former lead dancer with some serious issues (Winona Ryder).

This is not a movie for the faint of heart. It's got some beautiful dancing in it, and the music is incredible throughout, but... well... there's some blood - which isn't as bad as some of the things that happen to cause the bleeding - and, frankly, I'm expecting to have at least one or two nightmares over the next few nights from it. (Or at least really really vivid dreams.)

Of course, those same reasons that I'd caution some people to go to it are the reasons that the movie is so good. It's intense on so many levels. It's not easy to sit through, but you don't want to look away (although I had to a few times). I also found myself trying to get into the fetal position in my seat a couple of times. But I also laughed once or twice, and... wow... the dance sequences are kind of amazing.

Is it worthy of all of the Oscar buzz? Maybe, but not necessarily for Natalie Portman. Some of the rest of the cast with smaller roles had larger impact, really. But should it win some of the "ensemble" awards from groups like the Golden Globes? Definitely.

Overall rating: A-. I've got to say that it was *so* close to a solid A, but missed it by just one or two slightly-unexplained moments.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How Do You Say "2011"?

I have written my first check with "2011" in the date.

Yes. I still write checks.

But I haven't decided how I want to pronounce it, yet. And it's hard to write things when you can't pronounce them. (Or maybe that's just me and I need to blame a college linguistics class for that.)

So I was writing out the check and filling in the date and - in my head - I wrote "January two comma two thousand eleven" and then I stopped and mentally crossed that out and tried again with "January two comma twenty eleven."

"Two thousand eleven"

"Twenty eleven"

I finally just wrote "January two comma two zero one one."

Honestly, I'm just kind of glad it isn't 2010 any more.

Which, of course, was "Two thousand ten."

Or was it "Twenty ten"?

Suddenly I miss the 1900s.