Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Food - Fun-Sized

I'm not a fan of Hallowe'en. Pretty much at all.

Sure, like most people I kind of like the idea of costumes, but I tend to prefer things to be a bit more genteel - not all blood and gore and such. So I'd prefer a masquerade ball over Hallowe'en.

And I'm not a big "go out partying and drinking" kind of person, so the whole big Hallowe'en bash thing also isn't a big deal for me. I'm not a fan of having to drive around on a night when people have been drinking heavily.

But... well... I really like the fun-sized candy. There's something about being able to have just a little candy without having to have a full-sized bar. Just enough to take care of any chocolate/sugar craving, without totally killing a diet. Fun-sized, indeed.

Of course, that works best if you don't eat a handful of them. But where would be the "fun" in that?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Caramel Dappled

The management of the building I work in has this strange habit of passing out food when any holiday comes around. Of course, it's hard to really nail down which holidays to celebrate without offending anyone.

Around Christmas, they usually just give out an "end of the year" thing - maybe tins of popcorn to each office. In the spring, they might wait until before Memorial Day and give out something spring-y (although I don't think they did that one this year.

For the past 3 Hallowe'ens, they've given out caramel apples. Even better, they get them from a place in town that is known for its caramels. So not only are you getting a caramel apple, but you're getting an Abdallah caramel apple. (Yes, the picture below is from their website.)

My question, though, is what to call the confection. Obviously they are not candy apples, because those are usually glazed with something that makes them look scary and red like the one in "Snow White." But are they caramel apples or carameled apples?

I must admit that I usually use the "-ed" version when I talk about them. Possibly because the words slide together so well. But when I'm writing about them (see above), I usually go with just "caramel."

Either way, I brought my caramel-coated apple home with me tonight after work, cut it so that I wouldn't bite into it and have to spend an hour cleaning out my beard, and enjoyed every last morsel of it.

Of course, the whole "caramel vs carameled" thing is even stranger when I admit that I usually spell - and pronounce - the word "carmel." But that's a completely different sticky situation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A New York Monday

I had one of those moments, this morning, that typically only happen in places like New York City. (And, yes, any of my friends out there will laugh at me - not necessarily with me - when they read this.)

As I was driving to work (okay - that would *not* happen in New York), I stopped at an intersection and waited as some guy who seemed just a little out of his element walked across the street. He had the look of someone who is checking his surroundings as he goes - like either a tourist or someone who is prone to getting lost and so he pays close attention as he goes.

It took me a couple of moments before I realized it was Christopher Sieber. Yep. The guy I was raving about from "La Cage" last week. Not sure where they were staying - or where he was going - but I know where he was at about 8:50 this morning.

I drove into the garage, and figured that was that. Until I was walking into my building a few minutes later. I was with someone else from my office, and I pointed across the street and said "Remember how I said I had seen 'La Cage Aux Folles' last week? That's one of the leads." She kind of gasped, and said "You liked him in the show, right? You should go say something."

I'll admit that I contemplated it. But I opted for the fact that someone who might be used to getting mobbed in some parts of the country might actually have been really happy to have some alone time while walking around this morning.

It's weird, though. You know, seeing someone on the street like that. For a moment or two it felt less like Minneapolis and more like New York.

And then I went to work.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Afghan Weather

Having had days in the 80s just a few weeks ago, it was kind of a surprise this week when we actually had "seasonal" weather show up. On the down side, it means that we've gone from the 80s (and summer clothing) to the 40s and 50s (and late fall clothing). We missed the part of the fall when I get to wear my fun mid-weight clothing.

So, no wearing my black leather jacket that is just a little too light for the 40-degree mornings. No wearing a blazer over a light shirt on those 40-degree mornings, either. Instead we've jumped straight to grabbing the heavier coats and digging out scarves and gloves.

On the up side, though - since even when we turn the heat on we tend to keep the house fairly cool - this means that it's time to pull out the afghans when we're sitting and watching TV. We've got one which "lives" on the chair in the living room, and we've got one big one (we're talking 6 feet by 5 feet, maybe?) which is perfect for snuggling on the couch. (If we do it right, Christopher and I can sit perpendicular to each other on the couch and both of us can be mostly covered by it - at least from the torsos down.) (Really... it makes sense... I can draw a diagram of us, the couch, and the coffee table if you need. Just let me know.)

I grew up in an old house, so afghans were a part of our lives from fall until spring - and sometimes even in warmer weather when we just needed something to curl up in. Right now, in fact, my feet are tucked into an afghan as I'm typing this.

Yeah. I may not be looking forward to winter, but I do enjoy afghan weather.

(Although... really... would it have been so bad if I'd have gotten to wear my early fall clothes more than two days?)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is Karma Enough?

I did one of those things I am usually loathe to do, yesterday. I entered into a discussion of morals and ethics with someone I don't know on an internet social media site.

Typically, I don't do this because... well... you really never know who's on the other end of the conversation. You don't know what point is going to be over the line. You don't know whether they're going to really really really piss you off in a way that you have no recourse.

What was it that got me going? Well, the person we have in common was asking for advice on what to do because he knows someone who has been using the veil of anonymity to voice - what he called - hateful comments. He didn't say what, exactly, her forum was or what she was talking about, but simply said that he knew who she was, and he felt someone needed to speak out.

With the recent focus on bullying and cyber-bullying and hate crimes in the country, I suggested that he might anonymously contact her, stating that he knows she is the one spreading the hate speech and that - if she doesn't stop doing it (or at least didn't start taking responsibility for it), then he will let others know. I said that, in my opinion, if you know someone is spreading hate, and you don't speak up, you become - in essence - an accomplice.

One of the other commenters had suggested - prior to my comment - that our friend stay quiet, and let karma sort it out. She said she felt he should stay out of it and the person would, eventually, get what was coming to her.

My reference to becoming an accomplice apparently didn't go over well with her. She said that "accomplice" would apply if you knew someone was robbing casinos, but not in a situation like this - reiterating that karma should be enough. Which made me ask why bigotry and hate speech, which often lead to hate crimes, were less criminal in her mind than robbery. And I found myself reaffirming that - while karma is great in theory, sometimes in the real world you have to speak up to stop things from happening. Well, she didn't like that. Insisting that I was taking her comments out of context, and that she still believes that karma should be enough.

Which, honestly, has had me thinking for the past couple days. I fully admit that I sometimes open my mouth when I shouldn't. And that sometimes when I close it there's a foot in it. But I also think that I'd rather have to give an apology later than to let something that offends me go by un-contested.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love it if karma came along and solved all of our problems, but if that was the case then there wouldn't need to be anyone in jails, because the courts could simply let karma take care of it. And people who spew rhetoric and bigotry when running for offices would never win.

But, sadly, I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. So, for now, I'm opting for all of us to give karma a helping hand when we can. And if that includes pointing out blatant bigotry or threatening to make public the person using anonymity to spread hatred, maybe that's a good place to start.

Who knows? Doing that kind of good deed might even boost our own karma along the way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

They Are What They Are - La Cage Aux Folles

Just got back from seeing the national tour of "La Cage Aux Folles" at the State Theater. It was a rare event for me - going out "on the town" on a school night - but when you get the chance to live your life a little outside the box, why not do it. Right? (Which, really, is kind of the point of the show - isn't it?)

(poster image borrowed from
Civic Center of Greater Des Moines website)

By now, most people know the basics of the plot of the show, since it's been around for almost 30 years (or, if you don't know the musical, then you probably at least know the movie "The Birdcage"). It's a show about a gay male couple (Georges and Albin) who run a nightclub where one of them is the master of ceremonies and the other is the star attraction - in drag. They've been together for 20 years, and their son (there was a dalliance with a woman 4 years before the two met and Georges got custody) shows up wanting to introduce them to his fiance and her highly conservative parents. Of course, hilarity ensues.

But the thing is that - while in the movie you mainly get the glitz and glam of it all - in the musical you also get the nuances of the non-hilarious moments. The times when the relationships all come to the foreground while the camp fades away. When Jean-Michel (the son) speaks and sings of falling in love with Anne, you believe it. When Georges reminisces with Albin about their time together, you really understand how they feel about each other. The first act, especially, is loaded with emotion which doesn't need to be spangled and glittered because it's beautiful just the way it is. (Hint: That's a good reason to go see the musical.)

I think, unfortunately, that's a little bit of where the production lost me - when the second act rolls in and the camp (of the "farce") takes over from the beauty of songs like "Song on the Sand" or even "The Best of Times."

Don't get me wrong - I *love* the show. I think the songs are incredible. And the romances - young and old - truly do tug at your heart. And - holy crap - the "Cagelles" have got to be six of the most athletic dancers you'll ever see. But there comes a time when the camp factor can get to be just a little too much.

Here's the thing: Christopher Sieber is absolutely show-stoppingly blow-you-out-of-the-theater amazing as Albin and his alter-ego Zaza (the larger-than-life performer who has to try to hide who he is for the sake of his son). When you see him on stage - whether in drag or as "himself" (for lack of a better phrase) - you are drawn to him. From his first number ("A Little More Mascara") you want to hear him sing more. You want to see him do more. You want the spotlight to stay on him (as does he in one funny little throw-away moment in the second act). And, yep, you really come to care about him and all his eccentricities. When he belts out "I Am What I Am" at the end of Act I, you can't help cheering and applauding.

On the other hand, George Hamilton... well... he's George Hamilton. He's tan. He's distinguished looking. He's not the best singer, and he seemed to lose a few lines along the way. He was great in scenes where he was truly acting with someone else, but on his own... well... I wasn't blown away. And the "maid," Jacob, was played so broadly that I couldn't figure out whether the director was trying to cover all of the bases of every possible aspect of gay life, or whether he threw in an extra over-the-top stereotype so that the homophobes in the audience (who most likely got dragged there by their wives) could walk away from the show saying "See? I told you so."

Even so, the production made for a great night out. Beautiful sets. Beautiful people. Beautiful music. And, yes, aspects of both darkness (any nightclub called "The Cage of the Crazies" has to have a dark side), and light (after all, it's an old-fashioned Broadway musical, so there has to be a happy ending, right?). A heck of a lot better than an evening in frong of the TV.

So... Where does that leave us? Let's tally it up: for Christopher Sieber - A+; for un-needed Campiness - C; for a great supporting cast (especially Billy Harrigan Tighe and Allison Blair McDowell as the young lovers; and, again, those Cagelles) - A; for relying on George Hamilton just a bit too much in promotion and on stage - C-.

Overall score, then: B+, although if you want to go to it simply to see George Hamilton in all his tan-ness, then I'd probably bump it up to an A-.

Would I recommend you go see it? Definitely. (Although I'd leave any youngsters at home.) Christopher Sieber alone is worth it, but I suspect that you'll find plenty of other good reasons to like it. And, heck, it's going to be a chilly week in Minnesota - so why not get in a little warm-up before the weather really turns?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Monday - Ides of March

I'd like to start by saying that I really hope Ryan Gosling gets a good light-hearted comedy, or even a light-hearted action movie, or something just not quite so intense, sometime soon.

Remember how I said that I thought "Drive" was a really good movie in large part because of him? (I said it here, in September.) And remember how I said that "Blue Valentine" was just heart-wrenchingly emotional, again because of him? (That was back in January, here.) Well, I'm about to say the same thing about "Ides of March."

The movie, overall, isn't really a political thriller. And it's not espionage, because there aren't any real spies. It is kind of a suspense movie, because you're never quite sure what's going on. But, mainly, it's a movie about the public and not-so-public sides of running a major political campaign.

The candidate whose campaign Gosling's character is on is played by George Clooney, in some of his most charming and creepy style. There are opposing - yet equally slimy - campaign managers played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti (two actors I genuinely don't enjoy watching on screen - and didn't care to watch in this, either). And, there is Marisa Tomei as a veteran political reporter who, frankly, is looking as stunning as ever - even though her character isn't really supposed to be "pretty."

I wish I had more to say about the plot. But... well... the movie is so much about the characters that there isn't really any reason to get into much of it. It's about the machinations of trying to win a presidential election. That's really about it. And, in the same way that "Contagion" would freak out any germophobe, "Ides of March" will set off warning signs with anyone who feels that politics is a corrupt business.

One extra bonus in the movie (aside from the fact that it was pretty darned good): the campaigning is centered around Cincinnati. And they filmed on a bunch of college campuses in Ohio. So you kind of get a virtual campus tour of Miami University, Kent State, and Xavier, as well as some interesting (read "not so pleasant") views of Cincy, itself.

Overall rating: A. I think it pretty much delivered what it promised and, although it didn't leave me feeling good about myself, I did leave feeling good about the choice of movie we'd gone to.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Productive, with Reservations

It was a really productive day for me, today. Without really meaning to I actually got a bunch of stuff done. And I'm kind of surprised, really.

You see, after being exhausted at work all day, yesterday, I went out to dinner last night for a friend's birthday. I didn't have any wine with dinner, because I figured I was already too tired. Which, of course, means that when I got home I was way too wide awake to go to bed.

I finally headed for bed around 12:30 - and the pup (who is missing Christopher this weekend) (not that I'm not missing him, but I know he's coming back tomorrow, and it's hard to convince her of that) decided to snuggle way up next to me on the bed. Well, not actually next to me. Instead, she plopped down right between my knees, so that she could stay warm. (The house temp has changed a lot in the past week, and she's not used to it, yet.)

I tried to sleep with her right... there... but couldn't get really comfortable. And she didn't move - which means that I didn't move - until about 6 this morning. Of course, since it was 6 (about her normal mealtime), I ended up letting her out and feeding her. By which time I was once again wide awake. So I found myself watching an action movie from Netflix at 6:30 in the morning.

That wrapped up at around 8, and I did the basic Saturday morning thing for the next 3 hours: Absolutely nothing. I watched TV (which I don't remember), and ate some definitely not good for me breakfast. And then finally got moving.

But, once I did get moving... wow. Post office, bank, flower shop (the house now has mums outside), Target (yes, I stuck to my list), Barnes & Noble (coupon!), Crate & Barrel (another coupon), and a cross between lunch and dinner at McDonald's on the way home at 3:30.

I then made the mistake of thinking I'd just put out the mums (not even re-potting them - just setting them out) and be done. But the peonies needed to be cut back. And the tomatoes that were left needed to be brought in to ripen inside (where I know they won't freeze). And... well... I got a lot done in about 90 minutes (including rubbing up against one of the ornamental grasses which I'm allergic to and getting a small rash), then took the pup for a walk and came back in to tackle some in-the-house tasks. The last of those was finished about 25 minutes ago.

I've been watching the dog sleep for most of the evening. I think that running around the yard trying to make sure she approved of what I was doing really tired her out. I suspect I'll sleep well, tonight, too.

I hope so. Because tomorrow I actually need to do the stuff I was *supposed* to do today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weather Wednesday

It seems to be raining out, today. This is worth mentioning, because it has been a really long time since we've had a rainy day. Apparently September in the Twin Cities was the driest on record - and those records go back into the 1800s.

Which kind of brings me to a soapbox.

I understand how some people don't really believe in "Global Warming," pointing to the fact that some of our winters have been more brutal than in the past. Of course, in so doing, they ignore the fact that - worldwide - the overall temperatures have gone up over the past few years.

But - assuming this is an argument of semantics - I don't understand how people can disagree that "Global Climate Change" is occurring. After all, along with the lack of rain, we had temps in the 80s for more than a week of October. In Minneapolis. In October. I realize I just said that twice, but it seems to be important to stress it. I'm all for a little Indian Summer - but that usually means a two- or three-day stretch of 60- or 70-degree days when we're supposed to be in the 50s and 60s. Not 80s for eight days.

And it's obviously not just us. If you look at weather maps globally (or even just nationally), it's kind of blatant that things are changing. Decades-long droughts in areas of the world which used to be thriving. Hurricanes that cause more damage in New England than the Southeastern states. There are even trees dying in the northern tier of the U.S. because the bugs which used to be killed by cold winters aren't dying any more.

Yet there are people who say that nothing's changing and we're just in a strange spell which will right itself at any moment? Really?

Okay... Of the soapbox...

In the meantime, the watering of our yard last weekend while it was so warm out has paid off this week. The yard has greened up and looks great - at least where we can see it under the multi-colored leaves which have fallen. Here's hoping today's rain helps that, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie Monday - What's Your Number?

There are times when you just need to go to a fluffy movie. Something that is funny, maybe a little raunchy in places, has attractive people, and never gets too serious.

I was having one of those weeks last week, so when we were debating between movies and had to choose between the spy thriller, the cancer comedy, or the fluffy “chick flick,” well… I voted for the chick flick: “What’s Your Number?”

The premise of the movie is pretty basic: A woman who reads the advice columns in magazines to make decisions about her life comes across one that says that women aren’t supposed to have more than 20 partners in their lifetimes. Since she’s recently become unemployed, and since her across-the-hall neighbor just happens to be the son of a police detective, she decides to stop right where she is and go back through her reject pile to see if she can find anyone she should take a second look at.

Okay. Wow. That sounds like either a really boring, really contrived, or really flat-out bad movie. But, I swear, it kind of worked.

You’ve got Anna Faris as the unemployed sister of a bride-to-be, and Chris Evans (known for being a comic book superhero in “Captain America” and the Fantastic Four movies) as the slutty – and, yes, hunky – neighbor with the heart of gold. Throw in Blythe Danner as the mother who wants perfect grandkids, and you’ve actually got an interesting movie.

Better yet, since a whole section of the movie revolves around the main character going back and finding (or reliving) moments with her exes, it’s kind of like a series of short films. They’ve got their own time periods. They’ve got their own stories. They’ve got their own accents (yes, accents). And, as such, they also have a great supporting cast.

So, yes, the plot is kind of obvious. And you sort of know what is probably going to happen for much of the movie. But, well, sometimes when a movie does just what you want it to, it’s a good thing. And there are unexpected moments, too, when you find out layers of each of the characters that you didn’t know would be there in a movie like this.

Overall rating: A. I was going to go with an A-, but the movie gets a few extra points for the fact that it didn’t waste any funny scenes in the Trailers. In fact, one of the prominent scenes in most of the trailers isn’t even in the movie. Love that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Counting Down

Having asked around, I've been told that the average incubation time for this year's flu is between one and four days.

Since the flu made itself known in the house on Friday evening, I figure that we should be in full bloom by Tuesday.

Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Home Sick

There is something kind of comforting about being home when you're sick. Being able to just curl up on the bed... or the couch... or the floor, if that's the kind of day it is... to hunker down and hope for the sick to go away.

One of us in the house (we won't say who) came down with what we are "best guessing" is the flu. After a few days of not feeling at peak - and with a boss whose kids have apparently been sick - yesterday was a turning point. In the wrong direction.

For about 3 hours last night after dinner, life was... icky.

Today, life has been on the couch. With tea and saltines. And apple juice and green Jell-o in the fridge as back-up.

Well, truly, the back-up in situations like this for me is my parents. Which I guess means that being home sick also kind of indicates that I might be slightly homesick.

You see, my dad is a retired pharmacist (he officially retired this year by not renewing his license for the first time since he graduated from college), and he tends to be my first call whenever I've got health questions. So last night was a question about this year's flu symptoms. No surprise, they were exactly what we were seeing, here.

So we've been working with that, today. Hoping that the flu is a fickle visitor and leaves soon - preferably without any plans for a return visit.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hand Signals

Almost every day after work I drive through downtown Minneapolis on my way home. I've started to notice some of the same people walking down the streets past me, which makes sense since we probably all leave our jobs at pretty much the same time each day.

There's this one guy who sort of seems to be missing an upper lip (not, like, due to a horrible accident or anything - I think he just kind of bites his upper lip while he's walking), and I usually pass him in about the same block every day. Except today, because I got out of the garage a couple minutes early, so I passed him farther down the street than usual.

But, anyway, that's the kind of thing you notice while you're sitting in traffic, going either low speeds or being stopped at lights. Or at least it's the kind of thing I notice.

Today, though, I noticed something different. An older couple were walking along the street at a pretty brisk pace. At first, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary as they were passing my car, but then I noticed that people coming toward them were stepping out of the way.

The man was walking while holding a white cane out in front of him in his right hand, obviously checking to make sure he wasn't going to run into anything. And, with his left hand, he was reaching out and touching the woman's arm. All-in-all, it seemed pretty normal for the situation - someone with low vision being guided by someone else.

Then I noticed that, instead of holding her by the elbow, or the shoulder (as you often see in these situations), he was reaching out with his left hand and she was holding it in her right. It was a light touch - they weren't clasping each other tightly, his hand was merely resting in her palm - but it was enough for the two of them to speed past me on the sidewalk, then turn and cross the street in front of me all before the light changed.

As they stopped on the other side of the street to cross the next side of the intersection, I noticed that the woman took the moment to slide a little closer and take a slightly more firm grip of the man's hand. Then, after a quick glance was exchanged, she checked the traffic and they were off again - his hand resting ever-so-gently in her palm.

I get kind of excited when I see people walking hand-in-hand down the street. I love that visible, tactile representation of a connection, a relationship, a kinship of some kind. I fully admit that I get a little mushy when Christopher and I are walking together and he takes my hand - and I can still remember the exact first time he ever did it. That moment of "We're in this together" is pretty cool.

But what I saw today was kind of incredible. The gentle way that the two of them connected without grasping or clinging, and yet being so obviously connected. There was something in it that made it clear that they had been together for many years, and that they would be together for many more. It was both "I'm here" and "I'm not going anywhere without you."

Yeah. Sometimes you see pretty cool stuff while driving through downtown on the way home after work.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Movie Monday - Contagion

Looking for a catchy movie? Something that you'll take with you and pass on to others? Maybe a movie with an almost-infectious appeal? Or, maybe... Umm... Yeah... I'm out of metaphors that tie into the movie title.

But here's the thing: Each time I talk to someone about "Contagion," the people who have seen it are interested in talking about it.

We're not all talking about it like a great horror movie. We're not talking about it like the newest zombie flick. We are talking about the fact that they kill of Gwyneth Paltrow in the first few minutes of the movie. (That's not a spoiler - it's in some of the previews.)

And we're also talking about the fact that part of it was set - and filmed - in Minneapolis. Which, I have to admit, when it's a movie about a world-wide pandemic is kind of... well... creepy. Had I known it was set here I might have been less inclined to go - in the same way that I wouldn't watch Baltimore get blown off the map when I was out there. (It was in a Ben Affleck movie, although I couldn't tell you what it was at the moment.)

So... The point of "Contagion" doesn't seem to be a "What if...?" movie. Instead, it's a very kind of straight-forward drama. There are families in it. And politics. And emotions, even. And a cast that kept surprising me. It's kind of a hybrid of fluff and flu.

Is it a great movie? No. Is it a good movie? Yes. Is it a movie that any germ phobic person should ever go to? GOD no - people prone to that state of mind would never leave their houses again.

Overall score: B+. There were a few things I felt could have been better explained, but it has definitely stuck with me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Start of Something Big

On this day in 1950, the very first Peanuts comic strip was published, all because (according to some stories) Charles M. Schulz was told by his kindergarten teacher that he had quite a knack for drawing.

(copyright - United Feature Syndicate, Inc)

What an amazing legacy from that one teacher's encouragement.

I mean... really... there are multiple generations of kids who celebrate Christmas, and Easter, and Halloween, and Thanksgiving around Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

Who doesn't know the theme song when they hear it? (It's called Linus and Lucy, in case you were wondering.) And who doesn't know how to "dance like a Peanuts character" when they hear it?

Who doesn't know exactly what is meant by a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree"?

And, really, how many of us are happier all because of the drawings of one man?

So here's to the Great Pumpkin and the Easter Beagle; Miss Othmar and the Little Red-haired girl; Woodstock and Spike; Lucy and Linus and Sally and Pigpen and Peppermint Patty and Marcie and Schroeder and Frieda (who I always thought was named Rita) and Shermy; Rerun and Franklin and Violet; the Kite-eating Tree and Lila; and, of course, Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Thanks, Mr. Schulz - and your kindergarten teacher - wherever you are.