Thursday, June 30, 2011

Humphrey Bogart

Bogart's career, like Davis, Colbert, and Grant, began in the 1930s with early talkies. Unfortunately, it ended in the late 50s due to his relatively early death from cancer; if he had lived, he would undoubtedly have continued making films, like his colleagues. Maybe we would have seen Bogart on 60s game shows and sit-coms: imagine.

Bogart's status as a star usually rests on his work in The Petrified Forest (1936), when he was still playing criminals and cons, and closes with The Caine Mutiny and Sabrina, both in 1954, as his last "big" pictures. These three give a clue to Bogart's usually ignored range as an actor: comedy, drama, suspense.

Type-cast early as a crazy guy with a gun in B-movies, he was able to transcend such successful but limiting casting and move into what we now think of as his regular gig: romantic leading man in major pictures. Unlike Grant, Bogart was completely contemporary -- no period pieces for him. Like Colbert, he started in plays, but turned to films in the late 20s, breaking into regular work in the 1930s. In 1934 he was cast in the play of Petrified Forest, which was a huge success on Broadway; Leslie Howard bought the film rights, and both he and Bette Davis were cast. Howard insisted Bogart reprise his B'way role, and Bogart's film career took off.

Like all three of the other actors in this group, there are a few well-known Bogart films, but lots of great unknowns, which are worth renting or watching on Netflix. Again, a great way to spend your holiday weekend, checking them out from the library or local rental place, or looking online for free streaming versions.

My recommendations of famous Bogart films include:
The Petrified Forest (1936) -- bonus, you get Davis and Howard, too. This is Bogart's signature "tough guy" role, the killer without remorse but still complex.
The Roaring Twenties (1939), with James Cagney, where Bogart is a bootlegger. Again, b-movie bad guy with style.
The Maltese Falcon (1941). Brilliant Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Elisha Cook Jr. as supporting cast. Read the Hammett novel after, but watch this for the fun of the John Huston screenplay/directing. Huston and Bogart were life-long friends--you can see why!

Casablanca (1942), this time with the fantastic Howard Koch screenplay. The role cemented Bogart's status as a star, and he never had to do a B-picture or struggle for casting again. Bergman and Henried are fantastic, but don't miss Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, and Lorre, as well as the bar staff. Best moment: "La Marseillaise."
To Have and Have Not (1944), the film where Bogart met Bacall. Based on a Hemingway story, this is one sext action picture. Bacall was 19 and Bogart was 45: that didn't seem to be a problem. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? And the music of Hogey Carmichael.

The Big Sleep (1946), Bogart's first Chandler picture, playing Phillip Marlowe--again, with Bacall. Read the book after (it's better!) but see the picture.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948), another John Huston picture, and one of my favorite Bogart films. he's not a good guy, here. The brilliant Walter Huston, John's dad, co-stars. Both Hustons won Oscars: acting and directing/writing. Bogart? Bupkis.
Key Largo (1948), again Bacall and the return to the complex loner hero. Claire Trevor deservedly won an Oscar for Supporting Actress (she's really, really good!) and Edward G. Robinson is just fun.
The African Queen (1951) with Kate Hepburn. Fun and funny to watch.
The Caine Mutiny (1954), where he plays the nutty Commander Queeg. Again, worth watching for the raft of great performances, anchored by Bogart's complex character.
Sabrina (1954), the original, with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden. Ooh la la! Ok, it is Hepburn's transformation from awkward teen to stylin' Paris girl that I love, but Bogart and Holden are a great pair of suitors. And Bogart, despite being, yes 55, to Hepburn's 25, is still sexy. I prefer this to the later version with Harrison Ford because it is simply funnier, wittier, and better done all 'round.

But rent these, too:
Dead End (1937), based on the stage play. Fantastic Bogey as escaped criminal come back to old neighborhood. Depression-era grittiness.
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), with Cagney and Pat O'Brien. Bogart is third-billed behind these two but gives a solid performance in this story of a thug trying to corrupt a gang of local kids, while their tough priest tries to save them. Surprisingly good script.
The Oklahoma Kid (1939) a Western (yes!) with Bogart and Cagney playing basically ganster versions of battling cowboys in the old West. You know you want to see it.
The Two Mrs. Carrols (1947), with Barbara Stanwyck. Meller-dramma with Bogart as insane, wife-killing  artist.
We're No Angels (1955), another odd Christmas film with Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Rey as criminals escaped from the notorious Devil's Island who save an impoverished family. Witty, funny, and bright. It almost seems a parody of Bogart's bad guy role... delightfully.

Comic publicity shot
These are the best, but there are obviously more. I love that Bogart wasn't the typical gorgeous actor, but in either bad guy roles or romantic hero roles always added some twist.

Don't they look happy?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cary Grant

Like Davis and Colbert, Grant had a flourishing career beginning in the early 1930s, and, like Davis, his career in film lasted into the 1970s. Amazing.

Once asked about his life, Grant responded, "My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can."

When I lived in NYC (in a former life) The Regency Theatre on the West Side had a summer film festival with all Grant's pictures--it was a month-long festival and they showed every picture only twice. I saw a lot of pictures I'd never heard of, as well as the familiar ones. Believe me, seeing the less familiar ones is as big a treat as the famous ones you already know.

Grant could do comedy or drama. He was hilarious in, for example, His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and even in Charade, which is after all a mystery with violence. But he was also spectacular in such serious films as Notorious, North by Northwest, An Affair to Remember, and Suspicion. No one seemed to think he was acting much, just being himself, a ridiculously suave and charming man. I suspect there was a lot of acting going on, but he made it all seem simple.

In her famous book The Dress Doctor, Edith Head talked about how great Grant was to work with, and how smart he was about style, fashion, costuming, and the camera. He always worked to make his co-stars look as good as himself, and was extremely aware of the nuances of screen costumes.

A list of Grant films would take you through the month I mentioned above, so I've got two categories:

My favorite famous Cary Grant films (a must-see collection):
She Done Him Wrong (1933), the early vehicle with Mae West that might be considered Grant's first break-through; he plays a temperance guy who tries to reform West, while being tempted by her. Oh, yes.
I'm No Angel (1933), again Grant and West, this time as a lion-tamer. Her earthiness and his class are an... interesting combination. And her costumes!

His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell. Fast-talking version of B'way hit originally starring two male leads, Grant and Russell plays a soon-to-be-divorced newspaper couple caught in the story of the century! Quick, witty dialogue, with the delectable Ralph Bellamy as the fiance and a mob of great character actors.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart and, again, a fantastic supporting cast. Grant is a huge star by now, and in this, the third of the Grant-Hepburn match-ups, they are at their best. Again, great style, witty dialogue, and fantastic characters. Super date movie, as well. The scene with Stewart, drunk, and Grant, sober, is priceless--better than anything else in the film, except maybe the song "Lydia."
Notorious (1946), Grant's second Hitchcock work, is my favorite romantic film of all time. He and Bergman were lightning in a bottle, in my opinion. But, hey, look for yourself.

To Catch a Thief (1955), third Hitchcock outing, with Grace Kelly... the film where she met Prince Rainier, as it was shot in Monte Carlo. The scenery is gorgeous, as are Grant and Kelly.
An Affair To Remember (1957), with Deborah Kerr. This is actually not one of my favorites; I think the tearjerking melodrama is over the top, but the style is fantastic. And it is considered an iconic "romantic" film, and the basis for Sleepless in Seattle's romantic use of the Empire State Building. I think the script is weak, but Grant and Kerr are both master actors and their scenes are often wittier and more complex than the thin script suggests.
North by Northwest (1959), fourth and final Hitchcock match-up. This one with the beautiful and talented Eva Saint Marie. The iconic race against the crop-duster.

My favorite unknown Cary Grant films (the follow-up, just for your own pleasure!)
Blonde Venus (1932), a very early film that pairs Grant with Dietrich. He's "the other man" and kind of a bad guy.
Madame Butterfly (1932), as, yes, Pinkerton. This is the original stage version (pre-opera!), and Grant plays the careless American sailor who seduced and "marries" the Japanese geisha, then deserts her, only to return and claim their child. In 1932, Sylvia Sidney, who played Cho Cho San, was much more famous than Grant; she is not Asian, he is a total cad, but oh, boy, worth every minute of the drah-ma.
Alice in Wonderland (1933) -- Forget Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (ok, well, for a minute) and get this live-action version of Alice starring major actors and character actors in Carroll's story. Oh, early Hollywood! Grant plays the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper is the White Knight, Edward Evertt Horton is the Mad Hatter, and W.C. Fields is Humpty-Dumpty. Just get it!
Topper (1937) with Constance Bennet and Billie Burke. Grant and Bennet are a young couple killed in a car wreck who come back to haunt their stuffy banker. Light comedy with, again, great style.
The Awful Truth (1937) the first film with Irene Dunne--one of my personal favorites because of the great chemistry between Dunne and Grant, the witty script, and the supprting cast which again includes Bellamy and the ever-great Cecil Cunningham.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) with Jean Arthur and the deightful young Rita Hayworth.
My Favorite Wife (1940), the second Grant-Dunne pairing, this time with Randolph Scott as the handsome man with whom Dunne, married to Grant, was stranded on an island for 7 years... oh, yes, hilarity ensues.
Penny Serenade (1941), the third Dunne-Grant film, this time a serious film about a couple trying to have a child. Charming.
Mr. Lucky (1943), with Laraine Day. Here, Grant plays a gambler trying to romance a society dame (Day) while cheating her charity out of lots of cash. This is his cad-turned-honest guy character, and again, well done.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). The stage play turned film -- RUN, do not walk, to get this fabulous comedy. Peter Lorre is priceless as Dr. Einstein, Raymond Massey terrifying and hilarious as evil brother Jonathan, and the supporting cast simply brilliant. The timing, the dialogue, the physical stuff--perfect.

None But the Lonely Heart (1944) with the great Ethel Barrymore are his mom. Tear-jerker extraordinaire.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), one of his best comedies with the luscious Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, and Rudy Vallee. Temple gets a crush on Grant, and her sister, the judge (Loy), mandates dating to cure Little Sister of her crush... hijinx ensue when Big Sister too get a crush (who wouldn't?). Best scene: the nightclub (below)... or maybe the Fourth of July picnic? Mellow greetings, yukey dukey!

The Bishop's Wife (1947) in which Grant (an angel) competes for Loretta Young's attention with her husband, David Niven (the bishop). A lovely Christmas film you should see all year.
Crisis (1950), in which Grant, a brain surgeon, has to save the life of a South American dictator. I know! Just see it, for the fun of Grant operating.
Houseboat (1958) with Sophia Loren as the "housekeeper" Grant takes on to care for his three kids after their mom dies. Loren is on the run from her constricted life as a socialite (natch!), and hilarity and romance ensue. Loren is young and earthy, a great match for Grant's maturing glamour.
That Touch Of Mink (1962), Grant's only match-up with Doris Day is witty, again, as he pursues her. He wants an affair, she wants marriage... guess what?
Charade (1963), another personal favorite, that matches Grant with Hepburn--Audrey this time--in Paris. How could it go wrong? Clever, charming, and funny. The drip-dry suit: I love that Grant could laugh at himself so effortlessly. And I think I stayed in that hotel... but in the 1990s. Imagine!

What a list!

A mix of any or all would be an excellent use of your weekend.

One last image:

This morning's adventure

This morning early -- before the daily heat wave -- Bella, the bike, and I went along to Whole Foods for some provisions. This was my first time in the New Apartment taking the trip, and it was a huge success. Only the initial (and final) crossing of the road was nervy, with huge amounts of fast-moving traffic due to to monring commutes.

But overall, it was all good. And hey. by 9 am I was done with my "required" daily exercise. Pretty good!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Claudette Colbert

Colbert is one of the best comediennes of her era (the 1930s and 40s) as well as one of the most stylish stars of the movies.

Her career started in the 1920s, when she was just a girl. She was born in France--actually, in the eastern Parisian suburb I lived in on sabbatical--in 1908, so her first movies, made in 1927, were when she was just 19.

Like Davis, she made a bunch of minor melodramas initially, really breaking out in 1934 with It Happened One Night, with her co-star Clark Gable. For both of them, it was a break-out picture, but before she made this, she made 26 films between 1927 and 1934. Any of those are fun, but it was her appearance as the Empress Poppaea with her bath of asses' milk that made early censorship happen. Forget Janet Jackson--this is the original peek-a-boo, and Colbert is great, just acting while naked. But don't ignore the "slavegirls'" BDSM chains and peek-a-boo dresses, either.

Her final, great film might be The Egg and I (1947) with Fred MacMurray (of future My Three Sons' fame). Like Davis, in the 1950s her career turned to TV, but by 1961 she was done, retired from the spotlight, until her final appearance in 1987. Unlike most actresses, she had only two marriages, one short when young, and one long marriage to a surgeon who died in 1968.

My favorite Colbert films include:
The Wiser Sex (1932) with Melvyn Douglas and Franchot Tone, two very classy actors no one knows anymore.
I Cover the Waterfront (1933)
It Happened One Night (1934), the great classic comedy

Cleopatra (1934) -- watch this, then the Liz-and-Dick one. Laugh!
Imitation of Life (1934) which also stars the great Hattie McDaniel; later this was a Lana Turner tear-jerker of the 1950s, of the same title, with the great Juanita Moore. I prefer the Colbert version, perhaps because it is more honest about the issues of "passing" and race that are central to this piece.
The Gilded Lily (1935) with Fred MacMurray and Ray Milland.
I Met Him in Paris (1937) with Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young, later of Father Knows Best on TV.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) -- a pretty great comedy with Gary Cooper.

My personal favorite of all is The Palm Beach Story (1942), with Joel McCrae, Rudy Vallee, and Mary Astor. Simply brillant! Here's the trailer, with French subtitles.

Since You Went Away (1944) is one the host of "at home" picture studios made during WWII about life without husbands and fathers. It also stars the beautiful Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton, who were  a great movie couple as well.
The Egg and I (1947) is charming and surprisingly holds up well. It includes Ma and Pa Kettle, too, so if you've never seen Marjorie Main in this role, definitely find it!

Colbert's films are definitely a record of the star system (she refused to be filmed from the left, for instance, after learning about film lighting) and the studio/contract era of Golden Hollywood. Unlike davis she was never considered a "great" actress, but watching her films you see that she had strong comic timing, the ability to handle complex language (whether comedy or drama) as well as weaker dialogue (and make it look good), and that she was a professional. She, too, made the transition from ingenue to "mature" roles gracefully.

Tuesday's Frugality

Purgation! I am still working off the move from Old Apartment to New Apartment, but One Good Sign is that the number of boxes has diminished. Last week: 4 Rubbermaid bins and 6 liquor boxes turned into 3 Rubbermaid bins and 1 box, which will this week be consolidated into a remaining Rubbermaid bin and stored in the closet under the stairs.

This is huge. Lots of things went to Goodwill, some were thrown out, the boxes and newspaper wrappings were recycled (yes, a HUGE recycling bin for virtually everything right outside my door... almost). The empty Rubbermaid bin conveyed stuff to Goodwill, remaining there.

Sigh of relief.

What remains in the bins? My great great aunt's china (which I am thinking of selling online), glassware (a good majority of which was donated or relocated to the wet bar--and yes, I have 10 wine glasses in one style and 3 in another...), some table linens too good for everyday, and a lovely tea set given to me by my parents 2 decades ago. Right now, for me, this is all worth storing. We'll see in six months, which is when I'll revisit these bins.

I sold my console table on Craigslist (note the consolidated bins behind it, and the discarded bin on top!). None of the other listed items have sold yet, but I've got time. I also relisted items on my Amazon store and have more to put in there this coming week. A lot of the new listings are textbooks I hope I can sell for this fall's courses.

Victory! I had fight #4 with AT&T over my bill. Again? I did get the entire mistaken bill back in my checking account (miracle of the ages!) nearly right away--which was great, because it was over $100. However--for the third month in a row--they overcharged me. One 18-minute phone call was all it took to get it changed back, and the right amount charged (supposedly). I have also gone to paper bills and sending in checks: no more auto-deduction where I cannot see what they're doing. But I am about $150 richer from that fight... or at least I retained the $150 I did not owe them, which is just as good.

The homemade dishwashing powder has been brilliant: dishes are amazingly clean without prior rinsing. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I am very happy. Easy to make, simple to use.

The homemade yogurt, this week made with 2% milk, is delicious and lasts more than the 7 days suggested. I made a half-gallon, which means I can cook with it, eat it every morning, and I generally use it to mix into this delicious breakfast "galette" which I got from the Dukan diet when I was in Paris.

1 1/2 Tbsp yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp oat bran (found at Whole Foods, Sunflower, Central Markets--not oatmeal!)
1 egg (or egg white)

Mix all three together, cook in a small skillet on the stove, both sides, until brown. I use Pam olive oil spray, but you cna certainly use butter, margarine, etc. to cook it (consider calories, etc.). Great start to the day, coupled with fruit. Filling and lasts me until mid-monring snack. These pancakes also keep 3-4 days in a  container in the fridge, so I usually make a few and munch until they're gone. Great for lowering cholesterol (better than quick oatmeal, because oat bran is higher in soluble fiber).

And the pantry clean-out continues: this week, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of black beans, 1 bag of frozen edamame, 1 chicken breast, 2 pieces of pork, 1 1/2 c. quinoa, and produce from last week's farmer's market (jalapenos, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and melon) got incorporated with fresher produce and the remaining yogurt.  

I am also working on have at least three "No Spend" days weekly, where I consciously do not let cash, credit, or checks flow out of my hands on anything (barring emergencies). This is easier in summer, when I do spend several days weekly in my apartment working online or on computer documents, rather than going up to  My U, where I buy coffee or a snack, or stop for groceries, or whatever. Distraction or Comfort Spending, ugh.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bette Davis

From the time I was 7 or 8 until I started college, one of my greatest pleasures was watching what are now called "classic" movies on TV. Where I grew up there were two channels devoted to them, one that showed movies everyday between 430 and 6, and on weekends, when not covering sports, other channels also ran old movies. Why not? They were cheap and no one had heard of reality TV, cable channels, 24-hour news, QVC, or the Food Network.

I watched everything possible, especially films made from the advent of talkies to about 1965. I had to be a lot older to appreciate the nuances of the gritty movies made after that.

Other than that, I wasn't very discriminating about my viewing: musical, comedy, drama, costume drama, great literature, b-movie, film noir, etc. No one was showing foreign classics, few showed silents, so it was 99.5% American studio industry films.

My suggestion for summer savings? Get these "old" movies from your library, Netflix, wherever, and enjoy.

Bette Davis.

 A career that spanned the early 30s to the late 80s (Wow!), Davis played everything from comedy to drama to costume pieces. Probably she is best known for the endless series of melodramas she appeared in during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, bounded by Jezebel (1937), her first Oscar win that went a long way to legitimize her and separate her from the herd of young, blonde actresses of the period, to All About Eve (1950), her amazing turn as an aging actress shadowed by a young wannabe. Of course, after that came The Virgin Queen, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, as well as a string of TV appearances (Bette Davis in Perry Mason and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Wagon Train and Gunsmoke!) and TV movies.

My personal picks from among her films:

Of Human Bondage (1934): in this filming of Maugham's novel, she plays a cheap tramp wiithout a heart of gold who tortures Leslie Howard (later Ashley Wilkes), who plays a sensitive med student/doctor infatuated with the girl. Davis is fabulous stealing this scene from Howard. Yes, over the top, but that is part of Bette's charm.

Petrified Forest (1936), again with Howard and also with Humphrey Bogart, pre-Casablanca.
Kid Galahad (1937) with Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.
Jezebel (1937) with Henry Fonda--Davis as the "headstrong Southern belle" who dares to wear red to the Cotillion! Great film, with Davis at her young peak.

Dark Victory (1939) Of course! Davis as the dying headstrong heiress, with Bogart and George Brent as the man she loves.
The Little Foxes (1941), based on Hellman's play. Fabulous! Especially, the scene on the stairs.
The Man who Came to Dinner (1942), one of her few comedies, but she is brilliant in the film version of the Kaufman-Hart stage play. Hilarious!
Now, Voyager (1942)--admittedly, one of my very favorites because despite being a melodrama, it is actually not over the top and Davis gives a controlled and layered performance as a spinster who falls for a married man, played by the ever-sexy Paul Henried. And yes, the clothes, hats, sets are all fantastic.

A Stolen Life (1946), in which she plays twins, one of whom dies in a tragic boating accident....
All About Eve (1950), which is the pinnacle of her career, in my opinion,because she never appears in a script as smart, funny, and perfect for her as this again.
The Star (1952), perhaps a little autobiographical.
Pocketful of Miracles (1961), the remake of a Damon Runyon-based story, with Glenn Ford and Hope Lange.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), brilliant, brilliant over-the-top film with Davis and Crawford trying to outact each other. A horror film, a mystery, a fantastic scary thing... with Davis doing her parody of Mary Pickford (ouch! Take that, Mary!).

My sister and I re-enact this scene. We worry which of us might end in the wheelchair: take note!

Davis was an incredible, enduring actress who adapted to new forms and genres, as well as "grew up" on screen, refusing to get stuck playing the ingenue (although she was a pretty one!).

We all know it is more fun to play the experienced, sophisticated grown-up girl.

Love this ad! Smoking, Jim Beam, that laser-sharp gaze, that amused smile.

Tomorrow, Claudette Colbert.

Local Productions of New Plays

In the past couple of weeks I've seen two new plays performed in town. The first is Ponzi by Elaine Romero and the second is The Shipment by Young Jean Lee.

Ponzi is the story of a wealthy young woman who becomes friends with a couple, then lovers with the husband and a kind of mentor to the wife. Katharine never wants to be seen as a fool, and she guards her money and her heart carefully; she reminds me of a Moliere protagonist, although the play isn't a comedy. Perhaps it might be called a serious coemdy of manners. The contemporary setting means that one cannot but think about Bernie Madoff and other recent financial scandals. But Katharine is fooled, because while she wants to be smart she also wants to be loved, and her desperate neediness enables her to be tricked by the charismatic husband.

This play was a commission, which means this was its world premiere.

In this case, I don't think the production served the play as well as it could have. I actually found the directing, the casting, and the design distracting me away from the plot itself. The actors playing Katharine and the husband were simply more experienced and therefore smoother onstage than the actress playing the wife; the wife is described as "naive," but instead she came across as not very smart. Her worship of the off-stage financial guru Jack was a huge red flag in the plot and never convinced me: why, again, was he so inspiring? But I was also unconvinced of the husband's necessary charisma: it is obvious that he has the looks, charm, and "sincerity" to get Katharine flat on her back in a hotel bed in one scene and rethinking her financial choices in two... didn't see it because the actor didn't sell it.

I also think the play moved too fast, so that the interesting moments of silent connection were cut short, mostly by the directing. The actors also rarely touched each other with meaning, and I never felt either of the two women were comfortable in their bodies--which they should be at the top of the play. Perhaps it was because of the costumes and shoes, which distracted me over and over.

Ponzi has a lovely three-hander possibility--which means productions!--but needs a little more nurturing and some serious attention from a very good director to reach its potential.

I was also curious about the Tarot designs built into the scenes' titles and projections. Nothing in the play itself reached out to them, but the significance was somehow very clear to the author. How tarot reading/layout/meaning connected to the notion of ponzi games or these three people, I don't know. I know a lot about tarot, so I appreciated the meanings, but they would have been opaque to most viewers, something pretty to see rather than something necessary, another layer of meaning.

The Shipment was curious as well. With a cast of five young Afrian-American actors--including two students from our department--it is a play that centers around race. One of its central messages is that here in 2011, even with Obama as President, Americans have not resolved race.

No fooling.

Or gender, or class, or nationality, or anything else that divides us.

I'd like to meet the people who think we have resolved or solved these things. Talk about naive.

The Shipment seems to present a series of episodes, unrelated one to another, that enact different racially-loaded actions (I don't know really the word: events, moments, positions?). The play opens with one young man, in a tuxedo, dancing. A second young man joins him, also in a tuxedo, and at first they "compete" in the dancing, then pair up, then return to battle. The moment was contradictory: at once charming and well-done because of the performers, behind it winked the memories of black dancers tapping in films (Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Bojangles Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers) and the whole host of blackface performers from Daddy Rice to Fred Astaire. That was followed by a DJ/hip-hop dancer, again both male, in tuxedos; the dancer's movements and gestures are overtly sexual, evne sexual positions, as he makes eye-contact and grins at the audience like the tap-dance duo.

Then came a stand-up comedian, with the same contradictory/two-faced message: one, a sharp, funny "routine," wherein he talks about wanting to docomedy about poop but having to talk about race because he's black, and two, again the winking image of Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and the "stereotype" of the foul-mouthed black stand-up guy. The language (and some of the imagery) is in-your-face dirty (sexual, scatological), but the ideas embedded in it should catch a corner of your brain. This seems to be the "Theatre of Cruelty" segment, where the audience is abused, but given flashes of insight--if you can hold on--that suggest something worthwhile, deeper in the message.

One of the problems here is that this is not a stand-up routine, per se. It is an actor playing a stand-up comedian who is performing his routine--a routine which has become a problem for him (the stand-up guy) while still being successful as a stand-up routine. The moment calls for the actor to present the comedian and the routine as two separate things that are constricting and destroying each other--a complicated piece of performance the young actor I saw was not able to pull off.

This is followed by segment done in a deliberately simple style--with no emotional affect, though lots of drama--about a young man who wants to be a rapper but becomes a drug dealer instead; and finally by what seems to want to be a "realistic" sequence about a party of friends and co-workers. Unfortunately, again, the young actors played the final two sequences in a very similar style vocally and physically (creating two-dimensional allegories, rather than full-bodies characters), and the result, for me, was few moments of not feeling absolutely shoved back by the production--Brecht's "alienation" rendered one direction--which left me too distanced by the parody and politics to connect to the message.

I kept thinking The Shipment was deliberately trying to evoke a "minstrel show" air, but one turned on its head by a Korean-American female playwright and an African-American cast. If this is a kind of  new minstrel show, one that parodies the stereotypical parodies that the white-performer minstrel show developed in the 19th-century (which are perhaps some of the roots of the dancing, foul-mouthed, drug-myth narratives of contemporary American regarding blacks, generated both by African-American and white American actors, writers, and spectators), something missed. The young actors didn't seem to grasp the notion of playing characters and stereoypes/situations simultaneously, in a Brechtian mix--but that is a difficult feat. And the playwright too often left it to me, the audience member, to say, oh, this is like a minstrel show! this is a parody turned on its head! she is playing with race humorously! in other words, to get the message by extension.

The actors did an amazing job--all very young, they stepped up to the challenge of this piece as an ensemble beautifully. I suspect they didn't grasp the deeper nuances of this complex piece, and frankly even if they had, it would be hard to make it all work. The play, too, was interesting, but the structure was what was supposed to carry the bulk of the message and it isn't carrying the weight. There are no layers underpinning her humor and insight. The playwright wants to confront and disconcert the audience, to make them uncomfortable, but she also wants to entertain, as well as diffuse the blame (who is to blame for continuing stereotypes and racial inequities? she winks both ways, but never comes right out with it).  The production was definitely successful in its design and in making me think about it for the last few days (like Ponzi) off and on, about what I liked and didn't get, etc.

Untimately, both productions made me think about various aspects of playwriting (always good) and new plays in production, and our relationships with the audience. So that's all good.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This Week!

I decided that with my heat-induced lethargy I had better give myself specifics for the week. So here goes, and here's what to come this week.

Monday/Review: Two plays by local theatres
Tuesday/New Frugality: My recent experiments in purging
Wednesday: Who knows?
Thursday/Clothing & the ongoing Express Checkout Experiment: My closets
Friday: If I were in Paris...
Saturday/Cooking, eating & drinking
Sunday: Who knows?

Plus, because it's summer and I'm always looking for good things to do, I think I'll have a piece everyday about one of my favorite actors in classic movies, with my suggestions for what to rent, checkout from your library, watch on streaming/regular Netflix, or, if you're lucky, see on a big screen in some revivial art house near you.

Monday: Bette Davis
Tuesday: Claudette Colbert
Wednesday: Cary Grant
Thursday: Humphrey Bogart
Friday: Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly
Saturday: Family films

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Favorite Things: Reality TV, The End (Oh, boy!)

We come to the end of my reality TV binge with the serious issue of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Yes, this poster says it all.

I find myself fascinated, appalled, puzzled, and irritated in various mixtures while watching this. I think part of my combined fascination and puzzlement comes from the endless series of media publicity surrounding this family of "reallity celebrities" (oxymoron!). Kim and her quest for "true love" before she's 30! Khloe and her battle with her family over her boyfriends! Kourtney and her baby-daddy (a term which I suspect is born from reality TV and simply sends shivers up my spine).

Like the rest of America, I ask myself: what makes the Kardashians worth a second glance?

I have no answer, but find myself watching episodes (again, at other people's houses) to see what nonsense and drah-ma Kris, Kim, Khloe, and the rest of the K-folks are perpetrating. I watch Bruce Jenner wander through his own home like a sleepwalker or someone who isn't quite sure what the heck is going on... I see bad choices, hyper(non)drah-ma perpetrated by Mama and Da Girlz, and simply wonder what makes them desperate to be media ho's, desperate to live every moment on camera, which apparently validates their existence.

Sadly, their averageness is the basis of their "celebrity": none of the Kardashians is more than a pretty face (except Kris, who is also a razor-sharp promotions and marketing force!). There isn't apparently any creative energy, intellectual drive, philosophical queries, or even humorous point-of-view. It is all about superficial looks and consumerism (several of the girls have owned/managed their own stores and Kim has fashion/perfume/merchandising contracts). The whole show suggests the audience could only be interested in a/ what these girls look like styled (not natural), b/ who they date/sleep with, c/ how they fight amongst themselves over the bad behavior of family or baby-daddies or husbands (not the same thing), and d/ what they buy/sell/promote.

I cannot suss it out, and perhaps that is why I watch. How can something with so little substance hold my attention? What does that suggest about me? One major thing: I don't need cable TV so I can spend more time with this nonsense.

Simple Pleasure: Cezanne's Apples

I love looking at Cezanne's paintings, pastels, drawings of apples. And pears. And oranges.

But especially apples. Something so simple, and yet...

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Favorite Things: Reality TV III

This is where things take a turn: reality TV I am equally fascinated with and horrified at. The "must look at the car accident" looky-loo kind of attraction that signals something bad.

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Oh, yes. This entry into the franchise holds a power over me that is really, really disturbing. I think it is because unlike the other sites (Atlanta, Orange County, NY, NJ), Beverly Hills qualifies as Fantasy Island, so perhaps I sense a stronger whiff of non-reality TV than is good for me. It cannot be "real"... can it?

Oh, the excess! Oh, the bad behavior! All against the background of privilege, money, entitlement, and shallow glamour.

Again, I've only seen this while vacationing elsewhere, so cannot judge an entire season or series of shows. I am not even certain I have all the players yet, but without that I can still "enjoy" the backbiting, gossip, manipulations... all of the things that actually make it nasty.

I do not know about "real" or "housewives," but the Beverly Hills part seems only too true. Houses, limos, dresses, jewelry, bags and shoes, kids, husbands, dogs... whatever. I cannot fathom what these women call a "normal" day, which is probably one of the attractions.

And of course despite the "glamour," their relationships with husbands, children, and friends seem so unstable, unfulfilling, and combustible. Nothing makes them happy but a limited palette of shallow--and undoubtedly material--things, while they search for happiness, respect, connections, and meaning. And deny those things to each other.

I guess I could learn from RHOBH that money doesn't bring happiness, and things are a facile substitute for real connections to people, and that a life without giving to others or generosity of spirit leads to fear, anger, and uncertainty... but I think (hope) I already knew that.

What I don't get, and what ultimately fascinates me:
  • these women will reveal anything on camera, apparently without limits
  • these women are apparently okay showing the lack of depth or generosity or charity in their lives
  • these women are so interested in being "reality celebrities" they will hurt each other or embarrass each other
  • these women don't see that they are clones of each other, in the worst way, like a high school clique or a pack of hyenas (rmember that Buffy episode with the hyena-clique?)
  • these women are okay revealing they don't like each other, when they know everything is on camera... and don't care that their hurtful remarks might be seen and heard by the world at large
  • these women don't understand that their most intense moments of naked vulnerability and pain are the only "real" thing about the show
This is what we really have to fear from being "on camera" all the time: whose life will bear the brunt of constant observation? It's either high drah-ma or boring everyday "normality': which would be most devastating to these women?

7 in 7, Day Four

Yesterday was productive, mostly because it is still cool here in Dallas. I think that might be over for good, however, since it is 9 am and 81 degrees.
  1. photograph and drop off a Goodwill shipment
  2. visit a consignment store with the best of my "giveaways"
  3. post 7 items on Craigslist with photos
  4. re-vamp my Amazon store
  5. get my new printer/fax/copier/scanner up and running
  6. hang 7 pictures or message boards in the new apartment
  7. hang the birdfeeder, repot three plants, hang windchimes on back patio
Today I have no idea which task I'll work on!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

7 in 7, Day Three

That's right, didn't note Days 1-3 before... but here we go.
  1. photograph and drop off a Goodwill shipment
  2. visit a consignment store with the best of my "giveaways"
  3. post 7 items on Craigslist with photos
  4. re-vamp my Amazon store
  5. get my new printer/fax/copier/scanner up and running
  6. hang 7 pictures or boards in the new apartment
  7. hang the birdfeeder, repot three plants, hang windchimes on back patio

 So far, so good.

Good Things that Happened Yesterday

  1. Met a friend for dinner. Had great convo with her about her work and mine. Left 3/4 fries and 1/4 burger on my plate...
  2. Finally heard from publisher: only prelim message, but finally! Fingers crossed.
  3. Offered tickets for local show, which has gotten great reviews. Hope to see it this weekend, before it closes.
  4. Found a movie gift card someone had given me, that I had forgotten all about. Score: free movies!
  5. Sold something on Craigslist within a day of reposting it with better pictures.
  6. Was the high bidder on eBay for something that I had been looking for, for a long time. At 25% or original price, including shipping.
  7. Uploaded my pictures from DC.
  8. Got great advice from two friends and myself about how to rethink upcoming classes and production events, which led to a flurry of ideas about fall's classes, assignments, lectures, and programs. Great feeling.

My Favorite Things: Reality TV, II

What Not to Wear.

Not a guilty pleasure at all.

Why should it be? Like Clean House, this show is all about solving problems in the most positive way possible. In one hour, Stacey and Clinton (with help from their pals) confront the subject's clothing issues, clean out their closet, give them rules, force them to shop by the rules, correct mistakes, and bring it home by putting the subject back into the bosom of the friends and family who turned them in in the first place.

And I say this without irony: the narrative structure of this show keeps me interested. It is a fairly traditional three-act drama. Act I: the problem. Act II: confronting the problem. Act III: climax and resolution.

And the resolution is happy! The friend or family member who sent the (embarrassing) video of clothing issues is gratified: he/she was right all the time! And even though they couldn't solve the problem, they brought in the Big Guns, who closed the deal.

The subject has learned to face the truth about body/style/mental issues re: clothes and shopping, and has a new wardrobe (on smeone else's money!) of great stuff, head to toe, work and play. And a haircut and make-up fix, as well. With rules and reinforcement to follow so it can't go wrong again....

I love it!

Granted, sometimes Clinton and Stacey are a little snarky, and I don't always agree with their taste. And I wouldn't shop in those stores; what happens when the subject is back home with only Wal-Mart for an option? And I don't think they do enough middle-aged women... but otherwise: an hour of pure joy.

The humilation is kept to a minimum (usually only when the subject refuses to admit that leopard knit jumpsuits in a size too small are not really really attractive...really!), the hard work of cleaning out the crap from your closet is done by the couple (who don't have the sentimental attachments and guilt, say, that keep my closet full), and it ends with applause for the subject's new look (and no plastic surgery or exercizing necessary!). They point out the subject's assets on the way: coloring, height, body shape, etc.--so uncovering assets and forcing the subject to see them is central. And I find the hair and makeup people so helpful, for women who never wear/cut/color their hair to women who have done it completely wrong for decades (who hasn't?).

It is not about extremes of weight, or ugliness, or phobias, but "regular people." What woman in American doesn't have days where her closet is full of clothes but it is all ugly or makes her look too fat/too tall/too old/too young? And ads are all wrong, with nothing that interests her or would make her look good? Or, confronted by the racks of choice in Wal-Mart or The Loft, one wonders what to buy? Or what cut/color to do to one's hair? And, like Say Yes to the Dress, it is clear that one's friends or family should not be the ones making the decisions....

This is what I consider "good expert TV" without humiliation and with applicable results. Yay!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Favorite Things: Confession! Reality TV

(Note: I was completely foiled from posting this on Saturday! Lost the entire thing... had to start again today from scratch. What's up, Blogger?)

Generally, I do not like reality TV. I much prefer scripted series or documentaries. Last week, however, I found myself in not one but two intense discussions about reality TV as cultural phenomenon. Or just good ol' entertainment.

So this week I'm going to talk about  my reality TV perspective. Now you've been warned.

When Survivor "broke through" on TV and became the first "reality show" I noticed, I watched once to see what the fuss was about. Needless to say, it was obvious that Survivor, far from being like the Congressional session on C-Span, was heavily edited and driven by a narrative (one might even call it a traditional plot) while working very, very hard to look as if it was completely unscripted and impromptu. With "real people" rather than trained actors and "impromptu" or "authentic" events, Survivor actually did a great job of masking all the pre- and post-production work that went into making what must have been hours and hours of boring "real life" dramatic, mostly through manipulating (editing) the paranoia, jealousy, competitiveness, and fears of the contestants. Individual interviews allowed them to "reveal" their inner feelings, which were all focused on themselves, while group competitions introduced the "value" idea of each contestant, where each "tribe member" had to prove her/his worth constantly. Or manipulate others into letting them stay.

Oh, how I wish Richard III could be a contestant on Survivor!

My favorite reality TV shows are:
  • Clean House
  • Say Yes to the Dress
  • What Not to Wear
  • Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
  • Keeping Up with the Kardashians
This is actually predicated on the fact that I do not have cable TV and watch all my TV via Netflix or when at a friend or relative's home (at which point I become irritatingly fixed on their TV). So while I say these are my favorites, there are a lot of shows I have never seen or have chosen not to watch, although I may be familiar with them as a cultural phenomenon, like Big Brother or Jersey Shore or Dancing with the Stars. There are others I have seen, like American Idol and Cupcake Wars that are either "meh" to me or which I actively dislike.

So do with that what you will.

I've already written about Clean House here, so you can enjoy my love for this show and its experts. Yay!

Moving on. Say Yes to the Dress is another crazy fave. Why? It is packed with valuable lessons I can actually use (unlike Cupcake Wars: I already know tuna and wasabi will NOT make a delicious cupcake and that improvising on the day is usually a BIG mistake).

What can/did I learn?

First, take no one with you to the bridal boutique. Not your mom, not your sister, not your groom. NOT your mother-in-law to be. At least, not until you figure out what kind of dress you can a/ afford and b/ feel good about. (This was a lesson my sister knew instinctively!)

Second, a corollary: everyone has an agenda and it is often not about you... so you can make it about you or you can stop listening. Or find someone who really has your back and take them (and only them). Then listen to them.

Here's what I love-hate about this show. Brides who have no sense of their own style get beaten up by EVERYONE who loves spangles/seed pearls/froth/bustles or whose taste is driven by what the minister will think/what the guests will think/what Kate or Angelina or Pam Anderson wore/the cost (high or low)/what they wore on their wedding day -- not what is good for/looks good on you. Dad worries about cost. Mom worries about neighbors/relatives. Sister worries about whether you look prettier than she does. Groom worries about what his buddies will think of your hotness. Mother-in-law worries that you're not good enough for groom, and how dress will show that off.

Third, you can't make a tea-length, short-sleeved white dress into a floor-length, mermaid-shape with a bustle and long sleeves. If you want a mermaid-shaped dress, start with that. The brides who choose one dress and then, little by little try to alter it so completely it no longer resembles the original shape or style... adding to the cost and often creating chaos.

Unfortunately, we often make the same mistake about life partners or houses or jobs. Yes, we pick a laid-back guy and suddenly, spend lots of time trying to tailor him into a go-getter... pay attention up front! See what is actually in the mirror, not what you hope will become true.

Fourth, while we tell ourselves that the wedding day is for the bride (and it is, to an extent), I see so much entitlement and bad behavior from young women who think that means she is Queen for a Day... but Marie-Antoinette, not Elizabeth I--including the power to behead people, act rudely and outrageously without consequences, throw away huge amounts of money on a 12-hour event, act out ridiculous fantasies, and force everyone to acknowledge her as the complete center of the universe! Bad behavior/self-centeredness run amuck, usually reinforced by parents, friends, and siblings.

I don't get it. But it is kind of fascinating. And certainly makes me more aware of how I treat other people.

Fifth, similarly, pay attention to how people talk to you. Ugh, the relatives/friends/in-laws who talk so rudely to the bride! Hey, if your groom insults your taste in front of his mother, he'll do it again. If she insults your taste and he allows it, it'll happen all the time. If your maid of honor undercuts your choice with sarcasm that makes you feel badly, she's not your friend. It is sad and illuminating to listen in on these conversations as they revolve around money, taste, maturity, and the power dynamic.

Six, I just love to look at wedding dresses. I could probably get all these things from some other reality show, but this one combines them with dresses.

And when it works, the bride does look gorgeous and feels good about her choice... and everyone is happy, which is what is important. It's not the money, or the poofiness, or the show-off factor, but whether everyone leaves the boutique happy... and good to connect these to a consumer event that sometimes costs huge amounts of money (really?) and leaves everyone, even the saleslady, unhappy.

I couldn't watch it everyday... but yes, I love this show.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday, June 17, 2011

I would definitely make tracks for the Caillebotte exhibition at the Musee Jacquement-Andre, featuring the paintings of Gustave (whose other works hang in the Musee d'Orsay across the Seine) and the photographs of Martial. I fell in love with Gustave's paintings some time ago, and now discover that I am equally passionate about his brother's pictures. This exhibition lasts until July 11, so go! Someone who is going to Paris could be nice enough to buy me the catalogue...

Plus the museum itself is a wonderful trip. Buy your tickets ahead of time, and plan to eat lunch in their delightful cafe (again, go early!). They actually have a special salad and dessert menu for the exhibition.

Also, plan to sit in the back garden for a little while and read or listen to your iPod or whatever: delightful.

And if that wasn't enough for you--and I admit, it probably would be for me, but you could be tempted to travel to the 7th arrondissement and see a couple more exhibitions there.

Manet: The Man who Invented Modern Art at the Musee d'Orsay. Manet doesn't get enough credit, but if you read Ross King's book The Judgment of Paris you would know how very, very important Manet was to the emerging oImpressionist art and the modern styles that followed that. A colorful character, Manet also seemed to be a bit of a continuing pain... which might be the reason he was less successful, for example, than Monet. But the museum's website suggests that this retrospective puts Manet into historical perspective (like the King book) and shows the many influences on him, as well as his influence on contemporary and future painters and critics.

And I do recommend King's book as preparatory reading, if you are going to Paris because you want to see the art of the mid- to late 19th-century and the early 20th century, and really appreciate it in context. King is a fine writer and weaves his story beautifully, if with a few too many words.

Or you might head to the American Library and see their exhibition on Les Cafes Parisien, not very far from the d'Orsay. This set of photos by Anne Boudard captures the contemporary life of the cafes in 2011.

And for those of you who like antiques but don't want to travel to les puces, in the 6th arr. there is an antiques fair this June at Place St. Sulpice. Which gives the added benefit of putting you right where you can visit that church and see Delacroix's great painting for them, as well as one of the sites for Angels & Demons (ok, I don't care, but lots do). 

7 in 7, Part 2

My personal 7 in 7 challenge last year was very successful. Time for another one. Now that I've completed my big project last night (opera panel), I'll be starting tomorrow, Saturday, and going  thru the following Friday, I'm challenging myself to complete seven tasks in seven days.
  1. photograph and drop off a Goodwill shipment
  2. visit a consignment store with the best of my "giveaways"
  3. post 7 items on Craigslist with photos
  4. re-vamp my Amazon store
  5. get my new printer/fax/copier/scanner up and running
  6. hang 7 pictures or boards in the new apartment 
  7. hang the birdfeeder, repot three plants, hang windchimes on back patio
7 in 7.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Men in Power, or Tonight's Opera Talk

Tonight I am one of three panelists taking part in the discussion "Sex, Guilt, and The Diva" in the Dallas Opera's summer subscriber series. We are focusing specifically on La Traviata and Katya Kabanova.

My role, as explained to me, is to be the theatre expert (both plays are based on 19th-century dramas) and to offer feminist insight. I was told we want our discussion to be informative but not academic, and fun. All of which is great, and right up my alley.

Facts: La Traviata, Giuseppi Verdi's 1859 opera, was based on Alexandre Dumas fils' novel/play La Dame aux Camellias (usually referred to as Camille,which was in turn the title of the 1936 film starring Greta Garbo base don Dumas's novel/play). All versions focus on a courtesan who falls in love with a young, middle-class man and leaves her demi-monde life behind. In turn, his father comes to her and begs Marguerite/Violetta/Camille to set the young man free for the sake of his family's honor; she agrees, and returns to her old life, just in time to die from consumption (tuberculosis).

Katya Kabanova, Leos Janacek's 1920 opera is based on Alexander Ostrovsky's 1860 play The Storm. One of Ostrovsky's social dramas, the play and opera tell the story of Katya, a young wife who is bullied by her mother-in-law and her husband. She loves a neighbor and, while her husband is away, is tempted to meet the lover at night, which her mother-in-law discovers. When her husband returns, Katya confesses in front of all the neighbors, and then drowns herself in the Volga.

Verdi's opera is much more "traditional" in its structure and the style of the music. It is the second most performed opera worldwide (The Magic Flute is #1, and also part of this year's season in the Big D). Both operas dervive from plays that are, surprisingly, critiques of middle-class values, even while the middle-class values triumph. Both women die--one from consumption (a wasting disease) and one from suicide (derived from the guilt of adultery). Both plays and operas openly depict the double standard about sexuality for men and women, as well as the reality of women's limited opportunities.

Both are about doomed love, as well, which is, of course, the central draw for many spectators, as well as the gorgeous music.

I'll tell more about this tomorrow... but it has made me think about our recent news items about "men in power," since both authority, sexuality, and middle-class values seem to be a common thread.

Update on Clarisonic: 6 months in!

In December I bought the Clairsonic Plus on eBay, including the normal & sensitive heads for the face and the body brush. It was a steal at 40% off, including shipping.

Since then, I've used the sensitive head every morning on my face, in the shower -- with my usual Avene Soapless Gel Cleanser, btw, not the Clairisonic products or Jurlique, which is being advertised so hard right now. I've use the body brush specifically on my hands and arms, which are always tan and had developed brown spots and simply rougher skin, my decolletage, and my shoulders.

Report: great success! On my face, the blackheads around my nose and upper cheeks that have driven me crazy since I was 13 are gone, almost entirely, even in the folds of my nose. This, without peeling, drying, or damage to the less oily parts of my face. Plus, the lighter brown spots that had started to emerge are al-most invisible now. The overall brightness and texture of my skin is better, and I am thrilled! On my arms, the rougher skin is gone, replaced by softer and smoother skin. The bumpy pimples -- or keratosis pilaris -- that is usually on my upper arms and shoulders is gone too, thanks to the high setting of the body brush.

I believe that the brush's daily exfoliation enables my body and face lotions to be better absorbed and to work better. Again, the condition of my skin overall is proof.

This is the best result I've had with any product, and, again, I don't think it matters what soap you use, but it will certainly help a specific cleanser (for example, one with acne-fighting salicylic acid) to work better. I do my face in two minutes and my body in about three, while my hair conditioner is working, say.

I think I'd still be thrilled if I'd bought it new for full price... but I'm glad I didn't.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Travelling with a small suitcase

For maybe the first time ever, my travel wardrobe was, in the words of Goldilocks, "Just right."

I used/wore everything I took, except one scarf and the red raincoat (but weather reports said rain rain rain for both Boston and the Hudson Valley). I took:
  • jeans
  • khakis
  • a red print wrap skirt
  • a rust-colored gored skirt
  • t-shirts: black, gray, and lt. gray
  • 3/4-sleeve t-shirt, a little dressier and black
  • blue button-up shirt
  • a black cardigan
  • a khaki jacket
  • a black dress
plus 3 pairs shoes, purse, tote, underwear, slip, 2 scarves, jewelry, 2 belts, pjs... and I wore everything! It was a 20" suitcase and I brought 5 books and a case of cosmetics/hair care/body care products, too.

Cooking and Eating in the Summer

This past week and a half, I've been having lots of fun experimenting with new recipes and drinks.
  • Moroccan Grilled Salmon
  • Tomato, Corn, Spinach, & Avocado Salad with Red Wine Vinegar, Shallots, and Olive Oil dressing
  • Quinoa & Chickpeas with Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers
  • Mango with Lime & Cayenne
  • Black Bean Soup
  • Tuna, Celery, & Cucumber in Vinaigrette (Martha Stewart Living)
  • Cool Tea: Green Tea with Mint, White Tea, and African red Bush with Hibiscus Tea
The most exciting development is that I found a recipe for making yogurt in my slow cooker. Did it Sunday night into Monday, and now have delicious, homemade yogurt. Tastes better than the soup low-fat/plain I usually buy, although this is also plain. Next week I'll do it again using low-fat milk. Soooo easy!

Because my annual medical checkup showed a higher than usual level of LDL cholesterol, I am now working on/committed to lowering that measurement.

The upside is that it is summer, which means lots of fresh produce pouring into the Big D, including at the Farmer's Market downtown. Last week I bought local tomatoes, corn, peppers (jalapenos and small, sweet peppers), and peaches. The prices were a bit steeper than the grocery stores, but it was all local. So everyday I've been eating apples, cherries, peaches, cantaloupe, mangos, tomatoes, corn, peppers, avocados, and spinach. Very little meat--only fish.

I've also been making tea the simple way, by putting two teabags in a pitcher of cold water and letting it brew. Which means I've been drinking lots of tea--rather than coffee or soda or alcohol--everyday. With high antioxidents, as well.

Next week I plan to make Edamame & Avocado Soup, using the bag of edamame I already have in the freezer. And re-make the tuna/celery/cucumber salad. I also found a great recipe for turkey burgers stuffed with goat cheese.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back on line!

I've been out of town and dealing with stepping up to the summer schedule I created for myself. That's been giving me a lot of "to do" priorities.

Things I'll be talking about in the next week or so:
  1. My annual check-up and summer cooking
  2. Big D's Farmer's Market: is it worth it?
  3. My trip to the Great NorthEast
  4. Paris: the Caillebotte Brothers' exhibition (would that I were in Paris!)
  5. Downsizing my stuff
  6. Temptations
  7. Men in Power
  8. Bad Chat

Yes, a lot has happened that I've been thinking about, talking about, and doing. Looking forward to sharing!