Sunday, August 31, 2008
Well, today I vowed not to go to bed till the final original For Better or For Worse strip was posted online. And now that it has, I can post the link for you, and I can go to bed.
For some background information, go to the main For Better or For Worse website here. The story of Lynn Johnston's retirement, and un-retirement, can get quite complicated, so it's better that you get your information from there.
And you can find the last strip here. I won't spoil it for you by telling you what happens, but I will say this: not since Charles Schultz passed away the day that his final original Peanuts strip was printed has a comic strip moved me to tears. As I'm writing this I'm getting a lump in my throat.
I hope you all enjoy it. Lynn Johnston, I doubt you'll ever read this, but I wanted to thank you for all of the years of laughter and happiness that your comic strip has given me. I followed the story of the Pattersons as if they were members of my own family. I can't wait till the final anthology comes out; I'll be one of the first to buy it!
Enjoy the links, Kittens. I've got a long cat nap to take.
Hope you like this one as much as the last one.
1. "Knowing Me, Knowing You," ABBA
2. "Take a Chance on Me," ABBA
3. "SOS," ABBA
4. "Thank You for the Music," ABBA
5. "Waterloo," ABBA
6. "California," Phantom Planet (You didn't think this was going to be ABBA's greatest hits, did you?)
7. "Come and Get Your Love," Redbone
8. "Stuck in the Middle With You," Stealers Wheel
9. "Build Me Up Buttercup," The Foundations
10. "Mambo No. 5," Lou Bega
11. "Can't Get You Out of My Head," Kylie Minogue
12. "I Should Be So Lucky," Kylie Minogue
Now that I look at it again, I realize it's not one of my best efforts, but it still has some pretty good tunes.
Still, I'm not about to become a DJ any time soon...
I'm loading it on my iPod tomorrow.
1. "The Best of Times," Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording
2. "I'm In a Philly Mood," Daryl Hall
3. "L.O.V.E.," Ashlee Simpson
4. "Barbie Girl," Aqua
5. "Devil With the Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly," Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
6. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," the Righteous Brothers
7. "Gimme Some Lovin'," Spencer Davis Group
8. "Black Velvet," Alannah Myles
9. "Back in My Arms Again," the Supremes
10. "I Think We're Alone Now," Tiffany
11. "Closer to Fine," Indigo Girls
12. "Least Complicated," Indigo Girls
13. "Power of Two," Indigo Girls
14. "Cherish," the Association
15. "Toy Soldiers," Martika
16. "Sara," Starship
17. "Cool," Gwen Stefani
18. "I'm the Only One," Melissa Etheridge
19. "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," Green Day
20. "I Alone," Live
21. "Zombie," the Cranberries
22. "Theme from 'A Summer Place,'" Percy Sledge and His Orchestra
Part one was posted last week. In this clip, George Gobel gives a gentle, yet funny routine about buying new furniture on credit. Even though this is a routine from 1961, the part about credit resonates today.
Three commercial parodies follow. In the third one, Carol Burnett plays a housewife who furnishes her home with coupons she sees on the back of packs of cigarettes. I found the last clip to be very sad and tragically ironic because she lost one of her daughters to lung cancer. What do you think?
Saturday, August 30, 2008
"What is The Matchmaker?" I asked.
"It's a play by Thornton Wilder. It's part of the Elm Shakespeare Company's summer series in New Haven."
Shakespeare in the park?
Need you ask me to come? I'm already there!
Now this play, The Matchmaker, was originally written by Thornton Wilder in 1938 under the title The Merchant of Yonkers. It was a grand, great, big flop on Broadway. How big? Twenty-eight performances big (though there have been bigger flops; I'm not sure how many are bigger, ask SarahB.) Anyhoo, here is a summary of the play, taken directly from the program, which took it from the footnote that you'll see at the end of this post:
"Thornton Wilder's play The Matchmaker is a farce in the old-fashioned sense. It uses such time-honored conventions as characters hidden under tables and in closets, men disguised as women, a complex conspiracy to bring young lovers together, and a happy ending in which three couples are united with plans to marry. The traditional aspects of the play should come as no surprise: Wilder himself was the first to acknowledge the sources that it was based upon. The character of Dolly Levi came from French playwright Moliere's comedy L'avare, or The Miser, from which Wilder lifted some scenes directly. A closer influence was Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich Machen, performed in Vienna in 1842. Wilder referred to his play as a "free adaptation" of Nestroy's, which itself was adapted from British playwright John Oxenham's 1835 comedy A Day Well Spent. Wilder's first adaptation was called The Merchant of Yonkers, which failed on Broadway in 1938, running for only twenty-eight performances. The Matchmaker was itself adapted as Hello, Dolly!, which began in 1963 and ran for years, ranking as one of Broadway's longest-running musicals."**
So here's how Wilder's version goes: Horace Vandergelder is a penny-pinching store owner living in Yonkers with his only relative, his whiny niece Ermengarde. Ermengarde is in love with a poor artist, Ambrose Kemper, and wants to marry him. Uncle Horace won't let this pair of star-crossed lovers take their vows, for he believes that Ambrose does not have the funds to "take care of her and support her." So he has his housekeeper, Gertrude, pack up a steamer trunk for Ermengarde and sends his niece to live in New York City with Miss Flora Van Huysen, a very old spinster. Ermengarde, naturally, whines about being sent away, and wishes there were something that she could do.
Not to worry, Ermengarde, here comes Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi! Mrs. Levi has a plan to have Ermengarde and Ambrose dine secretly at a restaurant, and while they are eating their meal, she is going to try and convince Horace to marry her. While Dolly schemes to become the next Mrs. Vandergelder, she hopes that this plan will convince him to allow Ermengarde and Ambrose to marry.
Meanwhile, Horace's clerk, Cornelius, just wants a day off from the excessive demands put upon him by his employer. He is 33 years old and has never been with a woman. He just wants "adventure!" So he and his assistant, Barnaby, come up with a plan to sneak out of the store while Horace is in New York, trying to woo Irene Molloy to be his bride. Cornelius and Barnaby carry out their plan and sneak out to New York--where the first person they see is their boss, sitting on a bench, waiting for Dolly Levi. They sneak into a boutique that specializes in hats, where Irene Molloy is the proprietor. Cornelius falls in love with Irene, and this is where the fun really begins.
After Cornelius and Irene's initial meeting, then come the scenes of characters hiding under tables and in closets, men disguised as women, a complex conspiracy to bring young lovers together, and a happy ending in which three couples are united with plans to marry.
And intertwined with all of this are the traditional Thornton Wilder soliloquies where the characters break the fourth wall, address the audience directly, and reveal their innermost feelings.
It was a really, really good night at the theatre. The sets were amazing, the costumes were fabulous, and the acting was superb. What made this play even more amazing was the fact that, every other night, this acting company alternates performances of The Matchmaker with Hamlet. I've done some acting myself, and it's difficult enough sometimes to get into character for one role. These actors have to alternate between two drastically different genres of theatre, and two completely different roles, every night. I won't be able to attend tomorrow's performance of Hamlet, the final one of the season, but am just awed at knowing what these professionals have to do to prepare.
With this performance comes the end to a fine, fine summer of outdoor theatre and music experiences. Oh, how I will miss those concerts on the Wadsworth Mansion lawn, the Art Farm Shakespeare at Middlesex Community College, and this new discovery, the Elm Shakespeare Company at Edgerton Park.
There were, and will be, many, many other opportunities for outdoor theatre and music next summer. There's the Greater Bridgeport Symphony's concert at Fairfield University, which unfortunately I had to miss this summer, more Shakespeare at Connecticut College, and lots of other outdoor concert opportunities in and around Middletown. I didn't really get into exploring these artistic adventures until this summer, and for as long as I live, I will never let another summer go by without exploring these opportunities.
To borrow something from the title of SarahB's blog, I did have a lot of "Adventures in the Endless Pursuits of Entertainment" this summer.
I hope to continue such adventures in the fall, the winter, the spring...I've got to tide myself over till next year!
*"The Matchmaker: Introduction." Drama for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 16. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. 8 July 2008.
Friday, August 29, 2008
One of the cats woke me up at 7:30, and I couldn't get back to sleep, so I reached for the remote and did the morning show surf that marks many a summer morning for me. And on CNN: the red "Breaking News" banner:
There was a group of three reporters analyzing the possible choices with John Roberts. Who was in the running? What were the pros and cons? There was some discussion that McCain would choose a woman as a running mate, possibly to recruit some of Hillary Clinton's supporters who were still up in the air about Obama. (However, after both Clintons' speeches last week, I certainly hope that Hillary's supporters will support the Democratic nominee).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Today she wrote that a tree fell on her house. Fortunately, both she and Maya are safe. Unfortunately, the house is now uninhabitable, and she will have to move soon. She is counting her blessings, but is already a little stressed about her upcoming move, especially given the circumstances.
Please send your cyberhugs and prayers over to Jane and Maya, that they will able to come through this with grace and peace.
With this in mind, it is hard for me to adjust back to getting up early. My problem is not the early time, but rather, the fact that I stay up so late that my circadian rhythms are so programmed to sleep well into the mid-morning hours. I am a Night Owl, and looooooooooove staying up late. It's when I come alive, creatively and spiritually.
So now I have to reprogram my body to fall asleep early and wake up at a decent hour. Here's how I am doing it:
1. I don't take sleeping pills. I don't need 'em, and even if I did, I'd have a million questions to ask my doctor. I have some friends who are on Ambien, and their bodies are so accustomed to it they can't fall asleep without it. Even if my doctor would carefully supervise me on these meds, I would still be nervous. We're too pill-happy of a society.
2. I have a TV in my bedroom, and when I go to bed, I put it on sleep mode and flip over to the most boring, monotone program I can find. The Weather Channel usually does it for me.
3. Sometimes I read, but I have to be careful in this, since I love to wrap myself up in a book. If it's a really good book, I'll stay up all night to finish it.
4. In a pinch, I go by the old standbys of hot milk and/or tea. And lavendar spray on my pillow.
Lately though, the Weather Channel has been my bedtime companion. Somehow the Muzak during the Local Forecasts has a wonderful way of lulling me to sleep...
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This morning Maggie woke me up at 5:10, a full twenty minutes before my alarm was set to go off. She hadn't done that all summer. I kept flipping over and telling her to leave me alone, and she kept crawling on my back and my chest, massaging me, and gently pawing at my face when I failed to respond to her purrs.
When I left for work, both she and Gabby were at the door with long, sad looks on their faces, as if to say, "Are you leaving us again?"
As for Gabby, she followed me around all morning long-- from the time I fed her and Maggie, to the time I washed up and brushed my teeth, to the time I got dressed and ready to go. Right now she's sitting in front of the monitor as I type.
I should end this now, so I can give my precious kitty the attention she well deserves.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Speaking of mornings, I'm returning to work tomorrow after summer vacation. The kids don't start till next week, though. Still, it will be a little difficult getting adjusted to the wee morning hours again, but it won't be a problem as long as I get to bed at a decent hour. That's one of the disadvantages of being a night owl--having to go to bed early.
But let's not dwell on that right now. Back to the DNC. NBC News said last night that there were over 15,000 reporters going to Denver for the convention. Even The Middletown Eye has a reporter, and she's got some interesting tidbits about the extravaganza. You can read all about it here, here, and here.
My TV viewing plans: watch CNN or C-SPAN early this afternoon if I have the chance, but watch the coverage later tonight, from 8 til 10, on either station. At 10:00, I'll flip over to NBC, because I feel that their news division is the strongest out of all of the broadcast networks. (Where have you gone, CBS News, that brilliant gemstone in the crown of the Tiffany Network? Hell, the Tiffany Network lost its luster a loooooooong time ago.)
And at 11:00, over to bed for a 5:30 wake up call.
Tomorrow night, the convention cycle repeats itself.
I just hope I don't fall asleep during any of the coverage due to the renewal of my early rising.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Guests: Diahann Carroll, George Gobel
Here's part one of a Garry Moore Show that originally aired in November 1961. It has a cute little opening number with the guests and the regulars, followed by a sketch parody of "The Price is Right." (The ORIGINAL version of TPIR, that is). Carol Burnett plays a crazed contestant as only she could.
Part Two will follow next week.
And over here at The Bookkitten, we've got an anniversary of our own. A Gabby Anniversary, to be exact.
Four years ago this weekend, I was hanging out at my best friend's apartment, cooing over one of his kitties. I already had my Maggie, and was casually searching for a playmate for her, but was not in full-blown search mode then.
"I wish I could take you home with me!" I sighed as I rubbed the cat's belly.
"I have one for you!" my best friend exclaimed.
"Some friends of ours need to get rid of their cat. Their son has asthma and is really allergic. You interested?"
"I haven't met this cat. How will I know if I'll like her?"
"Trust me, you will. We'll go over later tonight and you two can meet."
So later that night, we went over to the friends' house. The cat was locked in the basement because their son was still awake, and his asthma was so severe, any little bit of dander would have set him off. We had just finished a rousing game of Karaoke Revolution and were about to leave when the basement door was unlocked, and a little year-old kitty quietly tiptoed in. She was a calico, with black, white, brown, and orange tabby patches all over her fur.
"You must be Gabby!" I exclaimed.
She rubbed her head against my legs.
I picked her up. She was very light. I hugged her, and she hugged me back. She let me hold her for a minute or two.
I was in love.
The next morning I found myself going home with a new kittycat, a bag of food, a litter box, a cat tree, lots of toys, and thirty pounds of scoopable cat litter.
Maggie was enthusiastic about the new member of our household, but the new member of our household was skittish at her new digs. She stayed in the bathroom for two days, as I kept her separate from Maggie before I felt comfortable introducing her full time. I let her out of the bathroom for two or three hour intervals so she could explore the place, then carefully put her back in.
The third morning, before I left for work, I went to find Gabby to put her back in the bathroom, and she was nowhere to be found. When I did find her, she was up on the perch, next to Maggie, watching the birds in the tree outside my living room window.
She hasn't been locked in the bathroom since.
Gabby acclimated herself very quickly. She is a real lovemonger. She kisses me good night and snuggles under the covers by my feet every night before I fall asleep. It has gotten to the point where I cannot slumber unless this ritual occurs. Maggie joins us in the middle of the night, and sometimes we have the 2:30 AM turf war.
In the morning, Gabby leans into my ear, purring loudly, to wake me up. Maggie then follows by crawling on my back or stomach, depending on my sleeping position, and kneading me.
Gabby is a great companion for naps. She's not a lap cat, but will snuggle against me whenever I sit on the couch.
She is a gentle, loving creature who sits on the vanity as I take my shower in the morning, and if I lean out the curtain before I wash my face, she'll lick the water droplets.
All in all, Gabby has been a welcome addition to our little family.
Happy Fourth Anniversary, Gabs.
(Mags in the foreground, Gabs in the background, almost two months after Gabby's adoption).
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I even love the footage that they show on C-SPAN, when the delegates are doing nothing but pace around the floor of the convention centers.
Since I was a kid, I've been known to block out my schedule and accept no phone calls whenever the conventions come on TV. I remember watching the 1984 Republican convention with my parents, and how excited everyone was to be there. The delegates were dancing, cheering, carrying all sorts of colorful signs, ribbons, and buttons, and just being happy to show support for their candidate. I just thought it was a fun place to be.
I've always loved the political process, although, since the debacle in the 2000 election, my love for it has weaned. That year showed us once and for all that the Electoral College system, which has been in place for at least two centuries, is completely arcane. How much sense does it really make that the American populace votes for a president, but doesn't really vote for a president? Al Gore was the choice of the American people, but George W. Bush was supposedly the choice of the Electoral College. I use the word "supposedly" because the election was eventually decided by the Supreme Court.
I took a course during my senior year of high school called "American Government and Political Science." We learned all about the process of electing a president, and spent some time on the reasons for the existence of the Electoral College. I have since forgotten these reasons, but now is as good of a time as any to refresh my memory.
Once I do that, I'll let you know what it's all about.
In the meantime, now that we have an Obama/Biden ticket (that sounds kinda snappy, don't ya think?), let's look forward to the DNC in Denver.
And let's see how long it takes for McCain to announce his running mate.
I'm looking forward to learn more about Joe Biden in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I turn my head towards the DNC...read more that in my next post.
Friday, August 22, 2008
You can go over to CNN.com to visit the live feeds yourselves, but I'll tell you right now: there ain't much goin' on at either residence.
Evan Bayh's house is bathed in front porch light, and there is no movement. Joe Biden's house has a bunch of reporters camped outside the driveway.
I don't know what time he's announcing his running mate, but you can bet that I'll be tuning in--and you can bet to see a post here tomorrow with my thoughts.
[UPDATE, 10:05 pm: Barack Obama's sending the VP announcement through a text message "sometime Saturday morning," according to CNN.com. There was no announcement of a specific time.]
Thursday, August 21, 2008
It's been a summer marked by the things that I didn't do:
I didn't attack the pile of summer reading books that I wanted to. In fact, I hardly read anything this summer, save for The Devil in the White City. I read one book and am in the process of reading its sequel, and won't post commentary about it till I'm done.
I didn't see as many friends as I had planned.
I didn't go to the beach as often as I wanted to.
If anything, this summer, I just was, if that makes any sense.
I've been reading a lot of PeaceBang's posts in depth lately, and today's really spoke to me. PeaceBang reflected on her summer too, and it appears that her summer was very similar to mine in terms of doing what I call "Head Work."
You can read PeaceBang's reflection on the summer of 2008 here. Meanwhile, let me tell you about what I learned about myself this summer, but first, let me give you a little background information.
In 2002, I was officially diagnosed with depression. I had been struggling with depression and its best friend, anxiety, my entire life, but it wasn't till adulthood that I got an official diagnosis and was put on medication. Prozac changed my life. I became spontaneous, happy, and joyful, and felt terrific. However, there was still this feeling in the back of my mind that the drugs were what made me, not my personality.
I had some side effects to the Prozac, particularly weight gain, and went off it in 2005. That's when I started on Lexipro, and the side effects were much worse. In addition to craving food when I was not hungry, I also felt fatigued all the time. And I was still experiencing anxiety and depression, in spite of the medication.
I finally weaned myself off Lexipro late last year, just when things hit rock bottom. My Inner Critic, with whom I have battled my entire life, was completely taking over my domain. I hit a huge slump, professionally and personally. At this point I realized that the antidepressants were preventing me from addressing the emotional and mental difficulties I was experiencing.
That's when I knew I needed a therapist.
I found one, and am so glad I did.
This summer was all about dealing with some difficult issues in therapy, particularly letting go of past mistakes and not letting them affect the present. It was about learning how to not worry about things that won't happen. These are issues that I'm still working on, but I've now come to the point where I realize these things are getting the best of me, and I'm able to step back and examine the situation objectively, as opposed to letting myself get completely enveloped in them.
This was a summer of healing. I spent a lot of time by myself. I really, really enjoy my solitude. There were many days where I would just stay home in the condo and watch a DVD with my cats, and just relax and be content. There were also days where I let myself take a nap for a couple of hours, with the cats cuddled up against me. This month in particular, I slept quite a bit--I've been keeping late hours with the Summer Olympics (which are ending soon--le sigh!)
Basically, I'm learning how to give myself a break. Yes, I slept till 10:30 one day, but I was also up till 2:30 that morning. Instead of beating myself up for not getting up at 7:30, I should be grateful that I got eight full hours of sleep. The dishes in the sink didn't get done one day, but I did get the bathroom done in the same day.
I am learning how to do what's good for me, and put myself first in my life.
It is a process. I am not perfect. I had a relapse earlier this month and found myself back in the old anxiety knot. I recognized it, and dealt with it. There will be days where this will be the situation I find myself in. It's taken time for me to heal, and I think I need more time to do so.
Baby steps. I gotta keep saying that to myself. One day at a time.
And what a glorious day it is.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
"Have any of you ever attended a MeetUp? I’m a big believer in social networking as a positive way to create instant community, so I try to attend them a few times a year at least. I like the democratic nature of these things: loosely organized, open to anyone, very reliant on people’s flexibility and good will."
That's when I learned she wasn't talking about groupies. Briefly summarized, MeetUps are small social networking groups organized a common interest. You go to their website, type in your zip code, and select your mileage radius. In other words, do you want groups within 25 miles or less of your home, or 50?
I typed in my zip code, and there were almost 300 MeetUps within a 25 mile radius of where I live. There are groups of all sorts of interests, from cooking to hiking to needlework. There are singles groups, cancer support groups, groups for vegetarians--you name it, there's probably a MeetUp for it. And if there isn't, MeetUp encourages you to form your own. There is a fee for organizing a website for your MeetUp, but what some groups do is that they charge a very small fee--a dollar usually--for each meeting.
I signed up for several MeetUps. I joined a French group, a Spanish group, and an Italian group. I also joined one for thirty-somethings like me, because, while I have a lot of friends, I don't have many who are close to my own age. (Most of my friends are older than I am).
With all sorts of social networking going on in this day and age, there's really no excuse for someone not to have a social life.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Last night, after Michael Phelps's big win, I decided to go to bed. But then there were the post-race interviews, so I stayed up to watch those. And then there was the local news, followed by more post-race interviews. Finally, around 1:30, I headed up to my bedroom.
Then beach volleyball came on. Quarterfinal match between May-Walsh and the Brazilians.
Sooo...can you guess what I did till 2:30 this morning?
After the Games are over, I'm going to go through withdrawl. Yes, the shows are returning, but they're nothing I would care to watch. All of the sitcoms today are formulaic, with very tired jokes. And I find reality TV to be just plain mean-spirited. I am appalled at just how low people will sink to win money.
There's one genre of television, however, that I really, really enjoy, and it's considered to be dead, although there have been a few people over the last few years who have tried to revive it.
I remember watching a special about Ed Sullivan when I was a kid, and being fascinated by the plate spinners. I couldn't believe that people actually watched this sort of thing, in droves, but I still loved it. Broadway performers raved about Ed because his program provided a showcase for all of their musicals and plays. And, of course, without Ed Sullivan, the Beatles may not have been quite as big in America.
Ed Sullivan was just the tip of the iceberg. As you all are aware, I am a huge Carol Burnett fan, and grew up with her sketches. I didn't learn until 1993, when her 25th anniversary special aired, that she also had musical guests and Broadway-style finales on her show every week. The reunion special contained various clips of these musical numbers, and they were amazing. I started to wonder why these elements of her program were left out of syndication--then, as I got older, I learned about rights, royalties, and unions, and how performers are supposed to get money each time their clip is viewed on TV.
A few years pass, and I learn that The Carol Burnett Show was available on Columbia House via subscription. At the time, I was a poor graduate student and didn't have the funds to secure such an item. However, I worked with someone who was as much of a fan of Carol as I was, and she loaned me two of the tapes, one of which I reviewed not long ago.
I was hooked. My mom saw me watch the tapes and she sat with me and shared some of her memories of watching the original runs.
Fast-forward to the present day. I got out of grad school, got a job, moved out, and got so occupied with my life and career that I nearly forgot about Carol. However, whenever I found out she would be on TV, you can bet I wrote myself notes to remind me that she was going to be on the air. I watched the reruns on TV Land and E! whenever I could.
Earlier this year, when Horton Hears a Who came out, I was reminded of my affection for Carol. I found out she was going to be on Oprah with Jim Carrey and Steve Carell and rushed home to watch the show. (I don't have TiVo, and my VCR was on the fritz at the time, so I couldn't record the program. More in the future about these frustrations of mine). Harvey Korman's death reminded me some more of my affection for her, and I did a YouTube search and found dozens of clips. These clips were not just of the old sketches from the syndicated version of the show, Carol Burnett and Friends, no! These were clips that contained the musical numbers, guest stars, and much more! I was overjoyed!
Through YouTube, I was able to discover other variety stars of days gone by--Garry Moore, Dinah Shore, and many more. I found these clips to be much more entertaining than what is currently on TV, and wished that I had DVDs of all of this material.
I really think I was born in the wrong decade. I should not have been born in the 70s, but the 40s, because then I would have been able to live through the Golden Age of Variety Television.
But by the same token, they didn't have any of the recording or preservation technologies that we have today, so I couldn't see them on reruns.
So now, I am a happy subscriber to the Guthy-Renker Carol Burnett Show program, and look forward to more volumes of the show. In the meantime, I would like to entertain you all with some clips of days gone by. Each week, I will post a "Viva Variety Clip of the Week," so you can see what great television once was, and what could be. I still have hope for the future.
If Fox can have an all-reality channel, we need an all-variety channel--and soon!
Friday, August 15, 2008
I don't know what language this video's in, but just let the images speak for themselves.
A lot of the comments on YouTube asked, "How is London going to top this in 2012?"
London, you've got some homework to do.
One of my favorite things about summer vacation is being able to stay up to watch late night talk shows.
Earlier in the week I learned that Richard Simmons is on Letterman tonight. If you've ever watch him on Letterman, you know that there is some interesting chemistry between him and Dave, and I'm sure tonight will be no exception.
This isn't a clip of one of Richard's past visits to the Late Show, but it's the SportsCenter commercial that he did a while back, which I thought was hilarious.
Most of that time was spent watching the Women's All Around Final, which went till 1:15 AM, medal ceremony and all, and the last hour and fifteen minutes was spent winding down from the event, watching the late night interviews with Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, and sneaking in a little beach volleyball in between.
I have never watched a gymnastics final from beginning to end before this year. I always either tuned in or shut off the TV halfway through the competition. I have a rather silly superstition that if I watch, the team I'm cheering for will lose. So I was a little nervous watching the finals last night, but after the first rotation, I thought, "I either watch the whole competition or I don't watch it at all."
I thought that my superstition was proving correct when I saw that the Romanian girl, Steliana Nistor, was in the lead after the first rotation, just hundredths of a point ahead of Shawn Johnson, and that Nastia Liukin was in 10th place. Instead of switching to another program, I decided to stick with the competition, thinking it would be interesting to see how Nastia was going to climb out of 10th.
I was relieved when I saw that Nastia had climbed to 2nd place after the uneven bars, but still got nervous when Shawn dropped to 5th. After two rotations, one of the Chinese girls, Yang Yilin, was at the top of the rankings.
I really do believe that the Chinese gymnasts are underage; you can tell from looking at their bodies. Yes, a gymnast's body tends to be thin, but the Chinese women had the skinniest bodies out of everyone in the competition. That, and if you have examined the evolution of women's gymnastics over the past ten years alone, you'll see that the women have gotten something they didn't have a decade ago.
I first noticed it in the American gymnasts. They looked like they had a chance to go through puberty. Their chests were developed, they were taller, and their voices sounded deeper, not as high as in previous years (think Kerri Strug in 1996 and her mouse-like voice). And then I noticed it with the rest of the competition; their bodies were more mature, too. Compare the curvy, muscular bodies of the overall competition to the thin, bony body types of the Chinese gymnasts, and you can understand why the team is under a cloud of suspicion. They look like babies compared to the other women in the field.
But back to the All-Around. My personal nail-biting moment came when the American women went on the balance beam; Alicia Sacramone's fall during team competition was still fresh in my mind. Fortunately, there was no fall, just flawless routines. Nastia had the advantage here over Shawn, with her long, slender legs and elegant lines. It was like watching ballet.
My favorite event in the All-Around is the floor routine. I love how the women can leap and twist through the air at such fantastic heights, yet manage to stick their landings. Well, most of them, anyway. I was really nervous for Shawn Johnson, because she was in bronze medal position and I was afraid she might lose it if she messed up her routine. She didn't, and secured a silver medal to Nastia's gold. The two American women had previously said that they dreamed of finishing 1-2 in the Olympics, and their dream had come true, in spades.
Now we're on to the event finals this weekend. I just hope that I don't have to stay up too late.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe I have had my fifteen minutes of fame. :P
Today, word comes out that this little girl was actually lip-synching, because the one who actually did the singing was not deemed "pretty enough" by the Chinese Politboro.
If you click here, you'll read the AP article, and see a picture of the little girl who did the singing. I saw nothing wrong with her appearance, but the Chinese government deemed her "too chubby" and didn't like the appearance of her teeth.
Chinese bloggers are outraged right now, as are many other bloggers around the world--including me.
The article I linked comes off of CNN, which also has this interesting piece of information. Apparently the Beijing Olympic Committee used some computer-generated fireworks during the Opening Ceremony, arguing that the air quality prohibited some of them to be seen very well.
I hope, I hope, I hope, that the torch-lighting was real. (It has to be; how can you fake something like that?)
Monday, August 11, 2008
I go there year-round to purchase produce from the Apple Barrel, but I especially go from now till October, when the blueberries, apples, and pumpkins are in season. Right now the blueberries are ripe for picking, and I was overjoyed to learn that the first bushels of apples are ready--ginger golds, among my favorite varieties.
Yesterday I picked a pint of blueberries. At $1.85 a pound, they weren't cheap, but they were a lot cheaper than what I can get in the market. They're also a lot fresher, and better, too. I like to pick a bunch and freeze 'em, so I have enough for the winter.
Does this plotline sound familiar, readers? It should if you read the wonderful book, Blueberries for Sal, when you were younger. Robert McCloskey, who also wrote Make Way for Ducklings, wrote this gem. It's about a young girl, Sal, and her mother, who live in Maine and spend a day picking blueberries together on a mountain. While they're picking blueberries for the winter, a mama bear and her cub venture along the mountain, eating enough blueberries to get them through their winter hibernation. Sal meets the mama bear along the way, and Sal's mother gets acquainted with the bear cub. Both mother are very surprised to meet cubs of the other species, but fortunately, and this being a children's book, there is no violence, just shock and surprise.
So every time I pick blueberries, I think of that wonderful book, and the sound the berries made when they entered Sal's bucket: kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! I'm going picking again tomorrow, since I picked a pint for my mother but didn't get to pick any myself!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I got an especially good glimpse of it as I watched the men's cycling road race today. It's a wonder that no one collapsed from choking on the pollutants in the air.
I really wonder how the Chinese are able to breathe in this air every day of their lives, and there has been no real report on elevated cancer rates in their country.
So far, the air quality hasn't really affected athletic performance; several records were broken today in the Water Cube. (I LOVE the Water Cube! What a great design for a building! And the Bird Nest, too!) However, the Water Cube's an enclosed facility. It'll be interesting to see what goes on when the Track and Field events start next week.
Be sure to remember your running shoes, athletes...and your masks, too...
Saturday, August 9, 2008
But it's the OLYMPICS!!!
I love the Olympics. Ever since I was a kid, I never missed an Opening or Closing Ceremony. When I was eight years old, my mom popped up some popcorn, set up little tables in front of the TV, and my sister and I watched the Opening Ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics in awe. We were especially interested because they were in our home country! I remember Rafer Johnson lighting the torch, and Mary Lou Retton's vault. That's all the memory I have of those games.
So with all of this tradition in my family, I couldn't help myself. As soon as I got home from Sing, Virgie, Sing, I turned on the TV to see how far along they were in the Opening Ceremony. It was 11:15, and they were about three-quarters of the way through the Parade of Nations. I called a friend out in Colorado and she told me that the Parade of Nations had just started. So I poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for the action.
I regret missing a lot of the pagentry, such as the drummers and the dancers, but I figure, with today's technology, I can view segments of those later. But the most breathtaking moment of the ceremony had to be the torch lighting. I never saw anything like it. I really can't put it into words how incredible it was, but if you thought the torch lightings from Barcelona in 1992, Sydney in 2000 and Torino in 2006 were amazing, you've got to see this. The clip has to be up on YouTube somewhere.
So while I am angered and saddened by the human rights travesties, I'm still going to watch the Bejing Olympics and cheer on our American athletes. Which reminds me...I think Michael Phelps is about to swim...excuse me while I go to my living room...
I don't know why I get so caught up in comic strips and their storylines. Currently, in For Better or for Worse, the Pattersons' eldest daughter, Elizabeth, is finally marrying Anthony. It was stated, however, in a previous strip, that the wedding would not take place until August 23rd, which is two weeks from now. Right now they're profiling all of the activity leading up to the big moment. Which leads me to wonder: Is something catastrophic gonna happen that will postpone the big event? The suspense is killing me!
Then I wander over to Sally Forth. Since Memorial Day, Sally and Ted have been trying to have another baby. Their daughter, Hilary, is ten years old, going on eleven, and during the past two weeks, Sally and Ted have been telling Hilary about how they purchased their first house. Well, enough with the suspense! Is Sally preggers, or isn't she? Only her creator knows, and he ain't telling!
And then there's Funky Winkerbean, which is as close to reality as you can get in the comics. This week, Les and Summer are back in the neonatal ICU for a reunion of all of the babies who had been there sixteen years prior. Summer, as many Funky fans will recall, was a preemie. I really got tied up in this strip last year when Les's wife, Lisa, was dying of cancer, and I actually cried when I read the strips leading up to her death and funeral.
Why do I get tied up in these situations? I have to occasionally remind myself, "These are only comic strips!" Most of the people I know occupy themselves with the latest plotlines of various TV shows, but not me. I feel that I can't go a week with the suspense of not knowing what'll happen next. With the comics, there's a feeling of instant gratification; I only have to wait for the next day to find out what's going on.
Only lately, the comics have gotten a lot craftier, what with the examples I've mentioned above. Thankfully, I read all of my comics online; they're among the first sites I go to when I first log onto the Internet in the morning. That, in addition to checking my E-mail, I also read the obituaries first thing.
But that's another Kitten Confessional for another time.
Anyhoo, the play takes place in 1945, during the ending days of World War II, and deals with the life of the Bellacastelvetti clan of Hartford. The title character, Virgilio, the Bellacastelvettis' son, suffered an electrocution on the Fourth of July, and no longer can talk, but communicates solely through song. His mother, Josie, is constantly saying novenas to Saint Jude, praying for a miracle. His sister, Raphaela, will not respond to her given name, but the Americanized version, Ella. Ella is embarrassed by her mother's constant praying and doesn't believe in miracles, but relies on the movie stars of the day to escape from her life.
Ella's parents want her to marry Ralph Scotstumato, who owns a produce store in the neighborhood. Ella wants nothing to do with Ralph. Her best friend Tootsie, however, has been in love with him since grade school, but complains that he never notices her. Ella's parents believe that it is destiny, or "il destino", that will lead her to marry Ralph. Ella's father, Frank, rescued Ralph's father from a well, and Ralph's father was so grateful that he promised Frank his firstborn.
Meanwhile, a subplot involves Virgie and his activities after the electrocution. After the doctor examined him and pronounced him OK, Virgie goes to all of the local offices of the four major branches of the Armed Forces and applies to become members of all of them. He receives notices from all of them, which require him to report for boot camp on September 1st.
The title of this play is very misleading. I was led to believe that Virgie was the center of the action, but he is not. He spends most of his time in front of the dining room table, looking around and occasionally breaking into song. He does not break into song that often, though, and when he does, he is sometimes escorted out of the room. The Ella/Ralph romance is the main focus, not Virgie and his performances.
As an Italian-American, I had to laugh at some of the references in the script, such as the Sunday dinners, going to Mass constantly, the overbearing mother, and the belief that Italians can only marry other Italians. However, I was disappointed that there weren't any further references to Hartford in 1945, except for one reference to working at Travelers. There were many references to the classic films of that era, though, but too many. Ella compared so many movie plots to her own life that the device, by the end of the play, had become cliched.
In spite of its flaws, Sing, Virgie, Sing proves to be an enjoyable night at the theatre. Marge Patefield's performance as Mama Bellacastelvetti will remind many of the classic Italian mother, with her constant praying to Saint Jude and mea culpa breast-beating. As Ella, Stacey Hartley displays good chemistry with Patefield in many mother-daughter conflicts that occur throughout the play, particularly when it comes to the issues of love and marriage. But Patricia Urso, in her role as Tootsie, almost steals the show with her portrayal. She is great comic relief, particularly when her character transforms from a mousy Plain Jane wallflower to Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce--which happens to be one of Tootsie's favorite films.
With all of this talk about buying local foods and local products, it's just as important to support local theatre. Sing, Virgie, Sing runs at Cheney Hall in Manchester each weekend until August 24th. Tickets are fairly inexpensive, and there's not a bad seat in the house. Go to http://www.cheneyhall.org/ for more information. And check out some of the other performances going on at Cheney Hall. It's one of the Connecticut theatre's best kept secrets!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This DVD series is billed as "The Collector's Edition," and what makes it collector-worthy is the commentary from Carol, Harvey, and Tim that bookend each episode. The DVD opens with a wide aerial shot of a camera panning the seats in Studio 33 at CBS Television City, where The Carol Burnett Show was filmed. (Studio 33 is now known as the Bob Barker Studio, named after the longtime host of The Price is Right). The stage itself had mannequins displaying the costumes worn by Carol's most famous characters--Eunice, Stella Toddler, Nora Desmond, Mrs. Wiggins, the Charwoman, and, of course, the famous curtain rod dress she wore in her legendary takeoff of Gone With the Wind. The trio reminisced about the episodes that were on the DVD, reminiscing that was, to me, unscripted. (Then again, you had Tim Conway as a part of the discussion, so any outline of a script was certainly to have gone to pieces).
The first episode of the DVD contained the famous Went With the Wind sketch, which appeared in the second half of the show. The first half started with a Carol/Harvey sketch about a harried business couple who discuss marriage as if they were in a corporate meeting. Harvey showed Carol charts, graphs, and stats of their "potential merger," while Carol was concerned about their "second quarter dip." It was a sketch that could really work well today, with a little updating: add some cell phones, Palm Pilots, and laptops, but don't change the basic humor or premise of the sketch, and it will still be funny.
Dinah Shore followed, with a bluesy, jazzy rendition of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." I watched episodes of Dinah's talk show as a child, because she reminded me of my grandmother--sweet and gentle. I watched her golf tournament on TV, not for the golf, but for Dinah. I didn't realize she was a singer till I was much older, and fell in love with her all over again. Dinah can put the phone book to music and come up with a #1 hit.
After Dinah Shore, there was a Harvey/Tim sketch that featured Tim as the Old Man. In this one, the Old Man was a butcher. I'll let you use your imagination as to what happens with this, but I will say one thing: it's one of the rare sketches where Harvey does not crack up at what Tim says or does. It's still funny, though.
Then comes Went With the Wind. Many remember this sketch for the curtain rod sight gag, and rightfully so. However, there was still some brilliant acting in this one, particularly Vicki Lawrence as Cissy. She was absolutely amazing in this sketch, from her one-liners, her energy, and that accent she uses. I don't think the depth of her talent has ever been fully appreciated; she really belongs up there with Carol, Harvey and Tim in the Comic Powerhouse echelon. Vicki Lawrence is really one of the underrated comediennes of our time.
This episode concludes with a medley of New Orleans-style blues. Carol, Vicki, and Dinah all have solos and a group number. Harvey joins in with a song and a trumpet, which he pretends to play. And the dancers get to show off their stuff, too.
The second episode on the DVD guests Roddy McDowall and the Jackson 5. It leads off with Carol's classic Q&A intro, followed by a medley of love songs between Carol and Roddy. Here's the catch: Roddy is wearing his full Planet of the Apes style makeup.
The second sketch of the show is a milestone in Carol Burnett Show history: it's the first appearance of "The Family". Eunice, Mama, and Ed all make their debuts here, and Roddy McDowall guests as baby brother Philip, who just returned to his hometown after winning the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes. The actors haven't yet fleshed out the full potential of their characters yet, but it was a strong beginning to what has become a classic in American television.
The next sketch is brilliant. It features Harvey and Lyle Waggoner as two carpenters who argue that women can't be as good as men in their jobs--until Carol comes along, and does the whole job while the two of them argue some more. They refuse, however, to accept Carol as a part of their crew--until Carol changes her outfit into a VERY mini dress. I thought this sketch was brilliant because of its underlying issues of sexism in the workplace. Carol does as good a job--even better, in this case--than the men in this sketch, but still has to keep a little femininity in order to be accepted by the guys.
The Jackson 5 make their first guest appearance in the following sketch, singing their hit, "Dancing Machine." As I watched Michael, I couldn't help but get saddened by what he's done to his life over the years.
The four regulars participate in the following sketch, about four people waiting at a bus stop, when the pay phone rings, and it turns out to be from a radio quiz show. I couldn't help but think how much Harvey looked like Karl Malden in this one. (Remember those old American Express ads, kids?)
Roddy and Carol star in the next sketch as two Brits having tea. This sketch was amazing because each line of dialogue was only one single word. Too bad it's not on YouTube; it's something that really needs to be seen in order to be believed.
The show's finale features the Jackson 5 performing their hit "ABC" as students in a music school. During the sketch, the Jackson 5 and the show's dancers are sitting in their desks when an earthquake occurs. Yes, an honest to goodness, San Andreas Fault, honey we're in California now earthquake. You can see the cameras and stage shake if you look really carefully. The Jackson 5 is caught off guard, but not Carol. She just goes on with the sketch, as if nothing had happened.
The DVD ends with Carol today, thanking us for watching, and she, Harvey, and Tim all pull their ears.
Sigh. They really don't make TV like this anymore. The sketches have amazing writing, and none of it is cynical, bitter, or too intellectual. There's no rapid-fire dialogue, and all of the situations in each sketch are real, even though some of the characters, like those in the "Family," can be outrageous. But my favorite parts had to be the finales, which were like mini Broadway revues every single week. There are some clips on YouTube of some more of these finales, and I'll have to post them eventually.
Overall, The Carol Burnett Show is quality entertainment, something the whole family can watch, even if some of the sketch dialogue flies over the kids' heads. I really, really hope people are buying this DVD collection, because my biggest fear is that Carol will become one of those forgotten TV comedians like Milton Berle or Garry Moore (who was, ironically, her mentor). In this day and age, if you don't get extensive press saturation, you're forgotten. I really hope no one ever forgets her; it would be a travesty if they did!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Two months after graduation, I purchased my first cell phone, an Omnipoint. My father asked me why I wanted to be in touch with someone 24 hours a day. I told him it was for driving purposes, in case I got into an accident, my car broke down, or ran out of gas. At that time, statewide cellular networks were still being built, and Omnipoint had the lousiest coverage out of all of them. The only place I could get reception in my hometown was at the traffic light at the intersections of Routes 20 and 189, and only if I positioned my car, and leaned my body, just right.
When SNET came out with their own cellular service, I canceled Omnipoint and switched carriers. I got better coverage, but I also got a cell phone larger than the palm of my hand. When I went to upgrade it six months later, I placed it on the counter at the Cingular wireless store and the employees started laughing.
Two years later, I upgraded again, to a small, digital Motorola StarTac. I loved having a phone that you could flip open. It was a simple, silver phone, with only one ringtone.
In the fall of 2004, I took a course at Southern Connecticut State University. That was the first time I noticed this phenomenon...
...after I got out of my car and started walking through the parking lot, I observed nearly everyone on campus walking around, gabbing on a cell phone. When I got in the building, everyone in the hallways--or nearly everyone--gabbed on a phone. Whenever there was a break between classes, people whipped out their cell phones to check their voicemail or make a call.
And now, it's the year 2008. I just got back from a conference where most people whipped out their cell phones whenever there was a break in the action. And now these cell phones have miniature keyboards, internet, music players, and lots of ringtone styles. Most of the American population has an electronic portable device. During most of my Subway/Metro rides this summer, I noticed many riders listen to their iPods, text their loved ones, and organize their Palm Pilots--all while being completely, or almost completely, oblivious to the outside world, only to snap back to attention when they arrived at their destination. There is absolutely no human interaction.
I've become one of the guilty ones. When I leave work, the first thing I do, once I get in the car, is turn on my cell phone, put my Bluetooth behind my ear, and check my voicemail. I return any calls on the commute home. Then I get home, turn on the computer, and catch up on E-mail.
At the beginning of the summer, I decided that I was tired of depending on my phone so much, so I started to leave it at home. And I felt, in a strange way, free. I felt good that no one was able to reach me, that no one could get in touch with me. It was a little difficult at first, but it got easier.
Then my hypochondriac, on-edge side took over and thought, "What happens if you're in an accident, Kitten?" So I started carrying my phone again, only I started leaving it off for extended periods of time. If people missed me, so they did. I could always call them back.
Now, if Darwin's theory of evolution ever becomes law, it may not be so unwise to think that humans may eventually evolve so that the portable electronic device becomes an appendage. Don't be surprised, ladies, if you hear a "Barney" ringtone come from your womb if you ever get pregnant in the next twenty years...
Friday, August 1, 2008
So here's what I did:
1. I had leftover red and green bell peppers in the fridge, and if I didn't use them immediatement, they'd go bad. So I cut them up into chunks and set 'em aside.
2. I then took two medium onions, peeled them, and quartered them.
3. I took a skillet, poured a tablespoon of EVOO in it, turned the burner to medium, and sauteed five cloves of garlic till they were light golden brown. I'm Italian, and I likes my garlic!
4. I added the onions and peppers to the skillet and sauteed them for about 10 minutes. After about 7 minutes I noticed some brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and I immediately thought, "Deglaze!" I poured about half a cup of white wine into the skillet to deglaze the pan and add some more flavor.
5. While the veggies were cooking, I put on a pot of water to boil, and added a pound of Barilla Omega 3 Pasta.
6. When the pasta and veggies were done, I dumped the pasta in the bowl after drainage, added the veggies, and tossed 'em together. I immediately realized I should have cooked less pasta; there was more pasta than veggies in the mix.
7. I poured some leftover peanut sauce on top of the whole dish and tossed to coat. I put some pasta into a bowl, added a little more peanut sauce, and a little grated parm on top.
Oh yeah, and after I poured the wine into the skillet, I pulled a Graham Kerr and poured myself a glass. Delish.
It was good overall, but again, next time I make this, more veggies, less pasta! (Not that there was anything wrong with all that pasta...)
Today was the best workout I've had all week--30 minutes on the treadmill, 1.6 miles done, 150 calories burned. For those of you who religiously work out, that may be small potatoes, but for me, it's a triumph. I worked up a sweat, and stayed motivated with some cool iPod music and by watching a program on marathons on the TV. It really made me want to go faster. In fact, I walked at 3.5 miles per hour for most of my time on the treadmill.
And then, as if that's not enough of a triumph for me, I had extra energy when I got home, and lifted weights for 15 minutes with a FIRM tape.
I feel really, really good, both on the inside and out. I don't feel as anxious or worried as I usually do. It must be those crazy exercise endorphins that everyone talks about!
Since I'm making this public, I'm going to keep everyone abreast of my progress. Wish me luck, and thanks for your support!