Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You got a pumpkin from the Thnikkaman!

check it out check it out
The fiance has outdone himself once again: It's a Bubs-o-lantern!

Happy Molliewe'en!

(P.S. Who had the most awesome costume in this year's Halloween toon: Homestar, The Stick or Homsar? I can't decide!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm feeling thankful for the small things today

I'm sad that I'm spookyTomorrow, as you are very likely aware, is Halloween. A couple years ago, a friend I'd known a short time asked if I had plans for the holiday, and added, "I'm guessing you're not a big fan of Halloween." It seems that, in our relatively brief acquaintance, he'd somehow come to the conclusion that I am not the public-mayhem-and-vandalism type. I suppose that makes him a good judge of character. But as it happens, I love Halloween. I love autumn in general. I love when it's sunny but not humid. I like corduroy and earth tones and light layers and other fall wardrobe essentials. I love seeing pumpkins everywhere, I love little kids in costumes, and I love creativity for its own sake, which is what Halloween is all about if you ask me. And I'm finishing off a bag of candy corn right now. Deep down I'm pretty sure I don't actually like eating candy corn all that much. It's sort of like chewing on birthday candles. But I love the look of it, and the festivity of it.

Of course, the other reason I love Halloween is that it's my birthday. I'll never know whether my deep affection for all things autumny stems from that, or if it's just a happy coincidence that I enjoy this time of year so very much.

Tonight the fiance and I plan to celebrate Mollieween, as he calls it. (Making up fun names for things is just one of the ways he makes life wonderful.) But I've had my share of festivities already this week -- now officially known as "Molliewe'ek." On Sunday, the school across the street from me had its annual "Fall Festival," where they close off the block and bring in a jumpy castle and a little farmer's market and such. When the fiance and I came back from church, I wanted to take a moment to admire the pumpkins and gourds (how much do I love those tiny little pumpkins? A LOT), and then I turned around and right there behind me was: "Joe" from Blue's Clues! I actually exclaimed, "That's Joe! From Blue's Clues!" a bit too loudly, considering he was about five feet away. But I was excited, okay? Joe is cool. And, um, a little bit sexy. In a wholesome way. (Oh, and his real name is "Donovan Patton," but I didn't know that until just now.) Fortunately nobody was paying attention to me, because "Joe" was making a scheduled appearance -- in costume, which has a lot to do with why I recognized him -- and kids and their grownup chaperones were waiting in a long line to pose for photos in his big red armchair and get his autograph. The grownups looked more excited than the kids, in most cases, but I can't fault them for that. I wished I had a little kid with me, so I'd have an excuse to get a picture.

After that exciting celebrity spotting, the fiance and I made a trip to the Bronx, where his folks surprised me with a birthday cake. When they brought it out after dinner and started singing, it was just like that season 1 episode of The Office where they have the surprise party for Meredith, but her birthday is a month away, and so when they yell "Surprise!" she has no idea what's going on. I caught on eventually, though, because my birthday was only two days away, after all. I just forgot about it. It was also like Meredith's party in that it was an ice cream cake -- but unlike Meredith, I am not lactose intolerant, so I enjoyed it very much.

This Molliewe'ek marks another anniversary: I had my 12th and final chemotherapy treatment on October 25 of last year. When I started chemo in May that date felt impossibly far off. But I survived! Everyone expected me to celebrate right away, but it took a while for me to feel up to partying. I had to take one more Neulasta shot to boost my WBC count, which meant a few more days of aches and pains, and I was pretty rundown in general after six months of treatment. On top of the usual complications, my final treatment was followed by a week of excruciating pain from the poor, overtaxed veins in my left arm. I ended up having to go back to MSKCC to get a prescription for oxycodone, after other painkillers of various strengths failed to make any impact. On my birthday I walked around all day with my arm throbbing. But I was literally smiling through the pain, because it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I was in a great mood. I could put up with vein pain one last time because I knew I wouldn't have to do it again. The real celebration started for me two weeks after that last infusion, when I would have been due for my next one. I was so thrilled to be free. And I still am.

Happy Halloween to everyone! And Happy Hallowe'en, to those overseas! I think a good way to mark the occasion is by inserting an apostrophe into any word that has double E's. Try it at home.

The image at the top is the jack-o-lantern that the fiance made just for me last Molliewe'en. More accurately, it is a Strong-Sad-o-lantern, and if you don't already know that then I feel bad for you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 5

What happened at Oceanside Wellness Clinic this week? I'm so glad you asked...
Violet asks, "What did you mean the other day when you said you don't…do that?" Addison shrugs. "That I don't do that." She pours herself a glass of the dark green stuff she keeps in the fridge for when she wants to distract viewers like me with her oddly colored beverage. Violet is not prepared to accept Addy's claim at face value. "I don't do that," Addy says again, and Vi turns to Naomi: "I feel like she's speaking Czech. Or Mandarin." "I'm not a prude," Addison explains. "It's just…I'm from Connecticut." Ooh, "[to be] from Connecticut" is my new favorite euphemism for abstaining from masturbation! (Not that I had a previous favorite.)
Read all about it over at TWoP.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Home thoughts from abroad

I kind of wish I were in Scranton right now, celebrating The Office, instead of working in an office. This morning the big convention kicked off with Al Roker and Today broadcasting from the University of Scranton (or, as it's known in Scranton, the U). I forgot to watch while I was getting dressed, and I haven't been able to find any footage of the broadcast online (NBC's website was totally unhelpful), but I did enjoy the scene-setting videos from the Scranton Times-Tribune's website. Seeing all those supporting-castmembers on the scene, some of them in Scranton garb, actually made me tear up a little. I want to be there cheering for Phyllis, too! I guess I'll just keep watching the very beginning of that second video over and over -- the familiar way Maria pronounces "Roker" and "Office" and "dot com" soothes my homesickness. That's one authentic detail the show will never incorporate. You need the real Scranton for that.

Update! NBC's official Office site also has a couple videos from the cast members' time in the Electric City (plus an exhilarating performance by the SHS Advanced Chorus). They're entertaining, but they've also frozen my browser multiple times, so proceed with caution. Meanwhile, the Times-Tribune has a great photo gallery as part of its extensive convention coverage.

The kind of girl you can't send through the mails

My package arrived yesterday, and the Margaret Chase Smith stamps are every bit as festive as I imagined they would be. Along with my large order, the Postal Service sent a catalogue advertising the many exciting products they carry for postage enthusiasts like me. Some of their stationery sets are actually pretty nice -- too bad they're made to coordinate with stamps that now "require additional postage." This Muppets kit is very cute, but having to add a Chippendale Chair stamp kind of ruins the effect. (I know, because I'm still using up my old Muppet 37-centers.) I guess you could just use up the stamps on the enclosed postcards... as long as you don't mind overpaying to send your postcards. The Postal Service always wins.

Incidentially, don't you think the USPS should know the difference between "stationery" and "stationary"? I do.

My favorite "gift item" is the Noteworthy Bridal Set, which coordinates with the old, elegant "Our Wedding" stamps. Not such a bargain anymore, is it? You can also get their Weddiquette booklet. (They've trademarked that title, by the way, but I think the rest of us are still free to use the more sensible spelling of "wediquette." If that's a term you can imagine yourself using. And I hope it isn't.) This description of the booklet, from the USPS site, is the best sentence I've read so far today:
The Official Guide to Mailing Wedding Invitations is the essential booklet that will delight any bride with its style tips, postage guidelines, and size regulations.
Ah, yes, how my little bridal brain thrills when I imagine myself properly formatting the addresses on my wedding correspondence! The only thing that delights me more than postage guidelines and size regulations is the wise countenance of the first female legislator to serve in both houses of Congress. I'm off to spend some quality time with Sen. Smith now! I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stamp of approval

So far, I have made no plans for my wedding-day hair. I'm not planning to wear any jewelry on the big day, aside from my engagement ring. I'm not sure I'll bother with bouquets, for myself or anybody else. We're not having favors or custom-embossed cocktail napkins, and we're very happy using the toasting glasses the venue provides (if we have a champagne toast at all). I've decided none of this stuff is important, and I'm a little afraid of what will happen if I let myself start thinking it is important. I want to keep the number of details I need to stress about down to a minimum. But when it comes to stationery, I care. I want everything to be just right. To me, how we express ourselves on paper matters much more than the flowers or the jewelry or the hair ever will. "You're not a bridezilla," the fiance once said. "You're just a stationeryzilla."

You may have already figured this out, because some time ago I complained about the inconveniently timed release of the USPS's new "wedding" stamps. To catch you up: the rate for a one-ounce letter increased from 39 to 41 cents just before we sent out our save-the-dates, meaning I couldn't use the old "wedding" design, and the new one didn't come out until just after our big mailing.

I liked the old design, and I loved that the two-ounce "invitation" stamp was a soft green that more or less matched our color scheme. Pretty, right? I also liked that the two-ounce rate actually decreased, from 63 to 58 cents, meaning we save 5 cents on every invitation. But then I saw the new stamps, and now I wish they'd kept the old ones in stock, because I would gladly have paid that extra 5 cents to avoid using this design:I hate it. First of all, I hate the way Valentine hearts are always trying to creep into wedding stuff; it feels so very cheesy, and not at all reflective of the kind of "love" our wedding (or any wedding) should be about. I much preferred the birds. The worst part of this design isn't the overall heart shape, though -- it's the cutesy little cartoon heart that sneaked its way into the center of the design. Ugh. But more than that, I hate the color. I could have lived with the stamp in purple (the color of the 41-cent version), but I hate pink, and I especially hate this cotton-candy shade of pink. Does it say "wedding" to you? To me it says "13th-birthday sleepover party." And I hate the girliness of it. This isn't a bachelorette party, it's a wedding, and to me that bright pink implies that the celebration is really all about the bride (and that the decisions are being made by and for her). It says, "My future husband has not seen these invitations, because I don't want to bother his big important male brain with silly frilly things like our wedding."

Am I overthinking this? Probably. But I wanted to put a lot of thought into this aspect of our planning. And no matter how much I thought about it, I simply couldn't get past the hideousness of that stamp. So I spent some time weighing my alternatives. Personalized stamps -- the kinds that you can order online, where you supply the image and the stamps are printed with a bar code -- didn't seem right; we're not really a "personalized stamps" kind of couple, and we're definitely not a "let's spend extra money for no reason" kind of couple. If the invitations would cost us 58 cents to send, I wanted to spend 58 cents and no more. I didn't want to combine multiple stamps, for the same reason (plus, it would be more effort to put two or three stamps on every envelope, and I decided it would make us look disorganized and/or extravagant). So that left me with only two options: The "wedding" design shown above, and this. I am sure you all recognize Margaret Chase Smith, who, in 1948, became the first Republican* woman elected to the U.S. Senate and the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress in 1948 (having already served in the House). She will have the honor of guiding our invitations through the mail, because nothing says "come celebrate our union" like a black-and-white portrait of a pioneering stateswoman.

At least there were lots of good 41-cent options to choose from for our response-card envelopes, so I abandoned the "wedding" design entirely and went with the festive Celebrate! design, although I did consider sustaining our civic-pride theme with the exciting new Jury Duty stamp. Maybe it would be right for your next party?

* I am loath to politicize our wedding invitations, and I wondered if perhaps the "Republican" thing should give me pause. But my quick research led me to Smith's 1950 "Declaration of Conscience" speech (an achievement not mentioned by the USPS), in which she said: "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny -- Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." And I decided I could be comfortable with her credentials. (Of course, she went on, "I doubt if the Republican Party could -- simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest." ...No comment.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ryan treated me like an object.

Faithful reader Buckshot noted recently that I haven't commented much on The Office this season, and wondered what I thought about how it's been going so far. Before I could put together a reply, I read this assessment over at Slate, which says pretty much everything I would have said (and some stuff I might not have thought of). I didn't expect to like it based on the headline on the front page, which was something like, "Why Is The Office so bad this season?" Because it is in no way fair or accurate to describe The Office as "so bad." These hourlong episodes have been slightly imperfect, maybe, like those tights I just bought at Filene's Basement. But not "so bad." We don't live in a world where we can afford to call even the weakest episode of The Office "so bad."

Happily, that little slug turned out to be a sample of Slate's customary contrarian hyperbole; the article is fair and reasonable and quite insightful. I particularly appreciated this part:
There's less promise in Ryan Howard's promotion to Dunder Mifflin's corporate office. At first glance, this seemed like a genius move. Offloading the temp-turned-MBA jackass from The Office's primary setting would free up space for underutilized secondary characters (we love you, Kevin!) while banishing the least interesting one to a supporting role. Turns out that was wishful thinking. A newly bestubbled, technobabbling Ryan is hogging screen time, and it's ruining the show.
As they say over at TWoP, word. Less Ryan! More Jan!

As for Jim and Pam, I was surprised (and a little disappointed) by how quickly they blew through the are-they-dating-or-aren't-they suspense, which I thought they'd ride for at least a full episode, and by how fast the relationship was revealed to the office. It seems a little reckless to be throwing away opportunities to milk the awkwardness of intraoffice dating. But I've thought that before, and the writers have always come through, so I'm not ready to complain just yet. I will be happy when the half-hour format returns, though. The hourlong episodes were kind of exhausting, and not nearly as tight as the shorter ones. And nothing has topped the precredits sequence in the conference room where all the Dunder Mifflinites were watching the DVD screensaver. I'm afraid nothing ever will.

In related news: the New York Times reports on Scranton's embrace of the show, and the show's embrace of Scranton. And before you make your reservations at Schrute Farms, be sure to read the reviews! (Sometimes I just love people, don't you?)

Private Practice recap: episode 4

Violet...sees an opportunity to bring the conversation around to Cami and her obsession with same. "I don't even want kids, but the thought of my ex's new wife having one? It's making me nuts!" "No, it's better to know. Just get through it," says Addison. Do I even need to point out that this response doesn't track, logically? You know how sometimes the directions you get from MapQuest will tell you to make a turn you can't actually make, because there's no bridge or intersection connecting the roads? That's what the dialogue on this show is like, constantly using imaginary bridges to get from point A to point B.
Read all about it at TWoP.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Freezer burned

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6:27 a.m., when my nephew came crashing into the room shouting, "Aunt Mollie! I need you to turn off the TV! I don't know how!" My other nephew was right behind him, telling me something about how he wanted to bring two blankies with him when he got out of bed. Here's the thing about kids: the way they see it, you're either asleep or wide awake. They don't think of waking up as a process. It's like, Oh, your eyes are open! Will you fix me a sandwich? And here's the thing about me, post-chemo: I don't really work that way. I've always considered myself a morning person, and even now I'd prefer to be up and at 'em early, if my body will allow it. But I still need a good 10 minutes, and some coffee, to make me ready to greet the world. Ideally.

I was sleeping at my sister's so that I could get the boys off to school in the morning, while she and her husband went to the hospital to see about having that baby she's been carrying around. I gathered that the boys were up by 6:00, and before leaving, my sister set them up in front of the television with instructions to wake me when the show was over. They took those instructions very seriously -- I thought the building was on fire when they jolted me awake -- and that's how I found myself stumbling around, bleary-eyed, looking for the remote control so I could turn off the TV. The much-too-bright TV.

That mission accomplished, I said, "Let's go have some breakfast," by which I really meant "Let's go make me some coffee." "Want to play Go Fish?" my nephew asked on the way to the kitchen. Perhaps he realized how easy it would be to take advantage of me in my precaffeinated state. I put him off. While he got the Corn Pops from the cupboard, I went straight to the freezer, where I knew the coffee would be. It was there -- but the bag wasn't freezing. Even in my sleepy state, I knew this was odd. It wasn't even cold. It was room temperature. And so was everything else in the freezer drawer, which, I realized, had been left ajar overnight. All the frozen veggies and chicken nuggets my sister had stockpiled so my nephews' various caretakers could feed them in her absence: all thawed out. Oh, and the bag of coffee grounds was nearly empty. I gave up on the coffee and set about emptying all the spoiled food out of the freezer while the boys ate their Pops.

Then it was time to get dressed -- it was picture day at school, so the boys needed to look "fancy," as they might say. Well, the almost-5-year-old would say that. The 3-year-old would go to school naked if you let him. He ran around naked for most of the time I was trying to get him dressed: I got him into his underpants, but made the mistake of turning my back for a second, and when I turned around again he was standing there nude, claiming he didn't know where his underpants were. "He hid them somewhere," said his older brother. "Maybe he put them in the freezer." Sigh.

Even so, I thought we'd get out the door in plenty of time. They showed me their "school picture" smiles -- both have perfected the pained grimace proper to school photos at an early age -- and we played a quick round of Go Fish. But I forgot to allow time for the last-minute debate over how many blankies my younger nephew was allowed to carry with him to school. (I told him he had to leave one home. "But I need two, because I cry at home and at school," he explained, through angry tears. I'm not sure I follow his reasoning.) So when we got to the bus stop on Riverside Drive and found it deserted, I had the feeling we'd missed the bus. Of course, the difficult thing about buses is there's no way to tell if you've missed them, or if they're just late, but I didn't want to risk waiting. So we hurried back to Broadway, where we caught the M104 (the nice driver saw us running and waited for us to catch up. Thanks, driver!). "Does this bus go to my school?" my junior-kindergartener nephew wanted to know. "Are we going to be late?" "No," I lied. We hit another red light. "Well, maybe a couple minutes." "How many minutes?" In the midst of all this, I looked up at the line of people boarding the bus, and there in the doorway was: Brian Stokes Mitchell! And this wasn't just a bleary hallucination, either, it was really him. He was with his lovely wife and adorable little boy, also on his way to school, I assume. I wished I had someone to elbow as they walked past us, but my nephews aren't really up on the stars of musical theatre (yet), So I filed away the sighting for you folks. And I felt much better about missing our target bus.

Once the boys were safely delivered to their classrooms, I headed back downtown to restock the freezer with some emergency staples. I stopped on the way to get a coffee and a scone from my good friends at Oren's Daily Roast, because remember, I was negotiating all of this without benefit of caffeine. And after all that I set about a day's worth of work, which is why you didn't hear from me till now.

Oh, and by the way: it's a girl!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We looked at each other in the same way then

Yesterday, October 17, was the second anniversary of the day the fiance and I first met. Or, as we call it, our second meetiversary. We can trace it to the exact date becase we met at a scheduled event -- even though it was nearly two months before we got together again. We didn't do anything special to mark the occasion (except watch Private Practice and make fun of it, of course), but it's still fun to think about where we were individually two years ago, and how little we anticipated what was in store for us. I spent part of the evening assembling our wedding invitations, and 2005 Mollie certainly wouldn't have predicted that. (The "gluing things together while watching TCM" part would not have surprised me. Just the "wedding" part.)

Also yesterday, I played a few highly competitive hands of Go Fish with my sister and my just-shy-of-five-years-old nephew. It's fun to watch him learning about strategy, because it doesn't come naturally at all (our recent game of Memory would have gone on for hours if I hadn't been liberal with the hints). He knows that the point of Go Fish is to collect four of a kind (these particular cards have fish on them), and the person with the most matches wins. But he didn't know how to help himself progress toward this goal, so as we played, we reminded him to do things like listen to what other people asked for and check his hand to see whether he had any potential matches. At one point he asked for a card that he'd already collected all four of, so we told him to try again. "Aunt Mollie," he said, "do you have any clown fish?" I had two clown fish, so I made a big deal out of how sad I was to part with them, and he added them to his collection. We weren't sure he was paying close attention to his hand, so his mother prompted him: "Do you have all four now?" "Nope," he said proudly. "These are my first clown fish." I'm not sure, but I think he outsmarted us both.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Please don't let on that you knew me when

My dad's comment on yesterday's post ("Pop Greene" = my dad, for reasons I won't get into) kept me thinking about this whole "celebrity sighting" experience. In the blog post I linked to below, JRB says: "I'm not entirely comfortable with my celebrity, in part because it's so unpredictable." In other words, he doesn't get recognized every time he ventures outside his home, but it happens, and it's weird because he never knows when it will happen (outside of announced public appearances, of course).

Obviously I can only speak from the other side of the equation, but in my experience, those of us doing the recognizing don't usually expect it to be a surprise. I know there are people I consider "celebrities" who aren't the least bit notable to the rest of the world. And there are a lot of very famous people -- major athletes, starlets named "Jessica" -- whom I wouldn't recognize on the street unless they were surrounded by photographers and wearing T-shirts that said "I Am So-and-So" (like the one "Fred Savage" wore in the South Park episode I watched last night). But I still think that someone I can recognize should be recognizable to everybody else in the vicinity. I couldn't believe Stephen Sondheim was able to walk down the street without being stopped on every block (whereas my fiance was like, "You recognized him?").*

Furthermore, when I recognized Mr. Sondheim, I was almost surprised that he didn't recognize me. I feel like we're old friends, me and Steve, and so my first impulse was to say hello, just as I would if I ran into an old friend on the street. It seems rude not to acknowledge the presence of this person you know so much about. But then the rational part of my brain kicked in and reminded me it doesn't work that way. (Sometimes the rational part of your brain doesn't kick in until you've actually approached the "celebrity" in question, for an autograph or whatever, and then you discover you have nothing intelligent to say, and you stand there gaping like a fish. I was pretty sure that's what would happen if I did stop Mr. Sondheim on the street the other night.)

And if that's true of people whose work is much more famous than their faces (like musical-theatre composers), how much more is it true of people whose appearance is inseparable from their work -- like Howard Cosell, my dad's long-ago celeb sighting? It must be so weird to be a super-recognizable person, and have strangers acting like they know you everywhere you go.

I want to hear more about your celeb (and lesser celeb) encounters! Bonus points if you embarrassed yourself and regretted it later.

* ETA: The fiance protests that he did not say this, and is not at all surprised that I would know what Sondheim looks like. So it must have been someone else who reacted this way. Apologies to the fiance, who knows me better than that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aren't you whoozis?

You guys! You guys! A few nights ago I was crossing 57th Street at 8th Avenue, which I do at least once a day -- by the way, memo to whoever's responsible for traffic-law enforcement: that would be a really great intersection to have somebody ticketing drivers for running red lights, because they could catch at least one offender every single time the lights change. It would be easier than giving out parking tickets, and a much greater service to the city. But I digress. I was crossing 57th Street at a trot, because the "Don't Walk" hand was flashing, and mentally commending the folks on the other side of the street for noticing when it stopped flashing and deciding to wait for the next "Walk" signal, rather than venture out into intersection and snarl traffic even more. And then I realized that one of those people was - no kidding - Stephen Sondheim! The man himself!

"Did you say anything to him?" the fiance wanted to know, when I told him about my super-exciting "celebrity" sighting (I was on my way to his place at the time). But no, I didn't bother him, because while passing him on the street was the highlight of my day, I figure he doesn't need (or want) to know that. My guess is that he'd prefer to study the zigzaggy Hearst Tower (which he and his companion did as they waited for the light to change) in peace. Of course, I stared -- from a discreet distance -- and I'm blogging about it now, so I'm not saying I'm cool or anything.

Once, years ago, Jason Robert Brown passed me on the street, and that was pretty exciting. I'd actually met him a few years before that (at Yale), which was much more exciting. I didn't have anything for him to sign but my copy of Audra McDonald's album Way Back to Paradise -- in those days I was still listening to Parade on a dubbed tape (which I eventually wore out and replaced with the legit CD) and any other appropriate paraphernalia was in my bedroom at home. But he graciously signed the booklet from Audra's CD on the "Stars and the Moon" lyrics page, and I skipped off looking for someone to show it to. Of course, all the other people on campus who would have been impressed were in line behind me for autographs of their own. But still: exciting, right? And this year I topped even that, as you know, when I had the privilege of interviewing him (via phone) about 13. I mention all this because I just now read this little essay he posted on his blog back in July, about the peculiar experience of being "anonymous to the vast majority of the planet Earth" but, at the same time, "really famous to about four hundred people." It's an entertaining read, with all the insight and candor you expect from JRB.

What about you: Have you ever met/run into anybody who was a major celebrity in your eyes (but less so in the world at large)? Did you say hello, or merely squee internally? Did you regret your decision later?

And speaking of reasons to visit a friend now in London emailed me to ask what theatre I would recommend seeing. (How jealous am I?) Naturally, I told her I'd drop everything to see the Donmar Warehouse production of Parade. If you'd have said the same thing, you should read JRB's latest blog post, which details the revisions they've made to the show.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 3

Having trouble coping with Monday? Flash back to Wednesday with a brand-new recap!
In his office, Cooper examines Erin, taking care not to get her blotchy blue body paint on his ear thermometer. "Was she exposed to any water from a well or spring?" he asks. Mom says no. Cooper kneads his face in despair. "How about antibiotics?" Again, no. In the corner, the three other little girls, huddled in the armchair and clutching their dolls, put their heads together and whisper. "Quiet for Mommy. The doctor's thinking," says the woman, who apparently is the mother of all these little girls? All these very close-in-age, non-identical little girls? Are they quadruplets? Two sets of twins? Do they multiply when Mom's not looking? I don't know, but something about them creeps me out. Even the non-blue ones.
Will Cooper save the spooky little girls? Read the whole thing over at TWoP.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oddly worded headline of the day award

Yahoo's homepage greeted me with this AP headline today:

"Ailing Myanmar Prime Minster Dead at 59."

Is it nitpicky to point out that one cannot be "ailing" and "dead" at the same time? I read that and a little Monty Python voice in my head said, "Perhaps he died while they were reporting it." That would be cutting-edge news reporting, wouldn't it? "Ailing Prime Minister Will, By the Time You Get to the End of This Sentence, Be Dead."

If it weren't for IMDb, we'd still be arguing

I can't remember how the fiance and I ended up talking about Helena Bonham Carter last night. We certainly weren't discussing the upcoming film version of Sweeney Todd, because I don't know how to feel about that, and in lieu of forming an opinion I've decided to simply pretend it's not happening. But somehow HBC* came up, and I said, "I think she's married to Tim Burton now."
    HIM: No, Tim Burton is married to that other actress, isn't he?
    ME: What other actress?
    HIM: That weird woman who's in all his movies.
    ME: Yeah, that's Helena Bonham Carter.
    HIM: No it isn't.
    ME: I'm pretty sure it is.
We turned to the internet, as we so often do, to settle this dispute. It turns out the fiance was thinking of Lisa Marie, Burton's onetime love (not wife, although they were engaged for nine years?) and the star of a string of his films; I guess she's the Oddball Burton Muse of his generation. I'd never heard of her, and he didn't realize HBC had become Burton's leading lady/romantic partner (in the interest of accuracy, I should point out that they're not married either). So we were both right! Sort of! I wonder where our relationship would be if we didn't have the internet to arbitrate in these matters?

I'd take this opportunity to brag about the time HBC sat down right in front of me at a play in London, but it seems I've already mentioned it. I will add that she was wearing a big flower in her hair -- as you might expect -- but she didn't do anything particularly kooky, which was disappointing. Didn't stop me from telling the "story" twice, though!

* Someone needs to add Helena Bonham Carter to this "disambiguation" on Wikipedia. Could that someone be you?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Comedy last night

Where have I been? Recapping, and working on an RCIA presentation on Scripture and Tradition in the Church. Highbrow, lowbrow, I try to mix it up.

Speaking of recaps: You guys, last night's Private Practice made me laugh! Multiple times! In an appreciative way rather than in a derisive way! Audra, in particular, had one line that made the fiance and me both laugh hard, and reach for the remote so we could see it again. So I'm feeling better about this show. Still not feeling the Pete-Addison flirting/fighting, though. We'll have less of that, if you don't mind, show. Anyway, you'll hear about it all in my forthcoming recap, but for now you can check out the recaplet if you're dying to know how the many medical plots resolved themselves.

Did you know you can watch episodes of this and other ABC series online, free of charge (as long as you're willing to put up with a handful of ads)? I'm not getting paid to tell you this or anything, but I felt it was worth mentioning. I've been finding it very useful in checking my work. Of course, if you have a real job and can't get away with actually watching television shows at your desk, TWoP recaps are there for you. Lately I've been enjoying Wing Chun and Miss Alli's weecaps of The Office very much.

In wedding news (since you're dying to know), I've completed the design, printing, and purchasing phases of the wedding invitation process and am now moving on to the assembly part. There are other, more pressing concerns I should be focusing on, but as you know, I'd rather be gluing. The craftily inclined might care to know that Kate's Paperie is having a big ol' ribbon sale. Never thought I'd see the day when Kate's would save me money!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Spell check

You don't often come across a musical that would be better off without its music. After all, what's the point of making something into a musical if the music isn't the best part (or at least a vital component of the whole)? Musicals with excellent scores and filmsy books are pretty easy to find; musicals whose books and scores are both poor-to-terrible are regrettably common; musicals whose scores and books are equally solid are precious, precious treasures. But the good book/lousy score combo is relatively rare. And it's one of the things that makes The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee such an oddity on Broadway.

Spelling Bee is not, of course, new on Broadway -- it competed at the Tony Awards in 2005, and won a few, including one for Rachel Sheinkin's book. (The show also has a "conceived by" credit, for Rachel Feldman, and an "additional material by" credit for Jay Weiss.) Since then it's been puttering along in the cozy Circle in the Square theatre, next door to Wicked, and I only just got around to seeing it last week. This may surprise those of you who know of my personal history as a middle-school spelling bee competitor -- people expected me to be first in line for this show when it opened on Broadway. It had good buzz! It was a musical! It was about a spelling bee! What's not to love? But I was in no hurry to buy a ticket, for the same reason Pee Wee Herman doesn't stick around to watch the movie based on his life at the end of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. I don't have to see it. I lived it.

Now that I have seen the show at last, I can confirm that the book deserved its Tony Award. It's funny, sharp and original, and it has the irresistible momentum of any spelling-based competition -- at least until the songs, by William Finn, interrupt. They're totally boring. Overthought, underwritten and so forgettable you can actually forget them while they're still happening. The show hums along, skipping lightly from joke to joke, held aloft by appealing performances, pulsing with spontaneity, and then a song starts and you can feel the energy drain from the audience. (In fact, from most seats you can actually watch people get restless, thanks to the shape of the theatre.)

When it's not singing, Spelling Bee works hard to win your heart. Even before you enter the theatre, the branding draws you in: the lobby is decorated like a high school cafeteria, with hand-lettered posters announcing meetings of various clubs and samples of kids' artwork. The thrust-stage theatre is set up to look like a middle-school gymnasium, complete with basketball hoop. It's all very endearing. And although the original cast is long gone, the current performers are a likable bunch. Finn's songs sounded best when performed by Jenny Barber, extremely winsome as Olive Ostrovsky, and Angelica-Lee Aspiras, understudying the role of Rona Lisa Peretti (the bee's host) at the performance I saw. Also terrific: Daniel Pearce, appealingly loose as vice-principal/bee pronouncer Douglas Panch, and Stanley Bahorek, utterly vivid and adorable as Leaf Coneybear (which is my favorite character name ever).

All this is very entertaining, but I'm not convinced it's more entertaining as a full-fledged Broadway show than it would have been (and probably was) in its original form, as an improv-based play. The show's best moments occur spontaneously, or are calculated to seem spontaneous -- it's disappointing to see the last audience member turned contestant leave the stage. The choreography seems made up on the spot, and I couldn't help thinking that I'd find the musical numbers far more interesting if I thought they actually were spontaneous creations. But aside from the moment, late in the show, when an understudy took an apparently underrehearsed turn at the piano and everyone onstage, including the conductor, struggled to stifle laughter, the songs evoked the one aspect of my spelling-bee experience I'd rather not relive: the long, dull stretches between my turns at the microphone, when I had to sit politely and find something for my brain to do. And so I was ready for the show to end long before it actually did (although my flagging interest was revived by the appearance of Jesus, offering words of wisdom I plan to take to heart). And as much as I appreciated Spelling Bee's intelligence and heart, I suspect I might have liked C-R-E-P-U-S-C-L-E better.

I mentioned the audience participation element of the show, and I should note that I did submit my name to be considered. I thought it might make for interesting blogging. I didn't tell them about my blog, of course, nor did I disclose my National Spelling Bee credentials, but I still wasn't chosen. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned copy-editing?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 2

New Private Practice recap is up at TWoP!
Cut to Cooper's office, where Addison is breaking the news to the O'Brien family. "Emily has a serious presentation of Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease," she tells them. The (still unspecified) symptoms can be treated with drugs, Cooper adds, but there's no cure, and Emily probably has about five years to live. That's the bad news. Nobody tells them the good news: they could become very well known and sought-after in the field of genetics, because according to the National Institutes of Health, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease affects males almost exclusively. Of course, Addison, with her impossibly long list of credentials, has probably seen cases even the NIH doesn't know about.
Go on and read the whole thing.

Instead of, what, like a rented tux

The fiance and I made another quick trip to the Electric City yesterday! I wish I could blog from the car, because then I could give you a real-time wildlife update. On this trip, we saw: at least one dead deer, one unidentified gray furry dead thing, one dead porcupine (the first porcupine I ever saw!), and -- the most exciting part -- one live turtle making his way across a busy stretch of I-380. He was crossing the median when we whizzed by; you might have thought he was a shredded piece of truck tire, but it's pretty hard to slip a turtle past me. I turned around to look back at him, stupidly poking his neck out into oncoming traffic, but I quickly realized it was probably best not to watch. I can just tell myself he made it across safely. I mean, he got halfway...

Oh, and we also found ourselves passing through an intersection where, if you were heading toward the Elmhurst Country Club and made an erroneous right turn, you would drive directly into Lake Scranton. Just like a certain regional manager of a fictional paper company might have done on a certain popular television show the previous night.

We had to go to Scranton to discuss the details of our wedding reception -- and it's all details, and they never ever end. We also made a stop at the tuxedo rental place, where I got a good look at the differences in wedding-related marketing to men and women. There was no concern about finding the tuxedo the groom has always dreamed of. The tux salesman seemed surprised we even wanted to try on more than one jacket (do you call them jackets?). Like, why prolong this routine chore? It's not that he wasn't helpful -- he had good suggestions about what color cuff links would look best in photos and so on. But he didn't seem to think of himself as a retailer of dreams. Just, you know, tuxes. So that's the first not-surprising thing I learned. The second not-surprising thing I learned is that our decision not to include any of our many adorable nieces and nephews in our wedding party is a sound one. The pictures of small boys in tiny tuxedos are seductive, no question, but while we were in the store, at least two and possibly three little boys were brought in by their mothers to be fitted for ring-bearer outfits. I lost count, because they were all pretty much the same: miserable, uncooperative, whiny. And their mothers all looked equally pleased to be participating in some bride and groom's special day. My four-and-a-half-year-old nephew announced his intention to wear a tuxedo (which he calls, variously, a "muxebo," a "tuxemo," and "that black thing that [the fiance] has to wear") to the wedding almost as soon as he heard about our engagement, and he's welcome to, but we will not require it. Because his parents have better things to do with their lives, and also because kids look cute already. They don't need the formal wear to make them presentable and camera-ready. We do.

Oh, also, we picked out our cake. The cake was not something for which we'd budgeted much time or money, so we were very happy to get that over with in less than fifteen minutes. We think it will be both tasty and cute, but if it's not? Who cares. If you're looking at the cake, wedding guests, you're missing the party. I also discovered this Precious Moments cake-topper, which I guess is for couples who are planning a Disney theme but find the Cinderella and Mickey-and-Minnie merch too sophisticated. (And a bargain at $75! That's a memory you can keep forever!) I just needed you to know it's out there, because that way, no matter how short of our own vision we might fall, we will be able to say, At least we didn't put that on top of the cake.

Anyway, I'm back in the city now, moving ahead with wedding stuff while the fiance is off celebrating his bachelorhood. I've got a Broadway review coming up for you, and another Private Practice recap in the works, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Yet another website where you can find me

Even my most dedicated fans (aka my "parents") might not know that I serve on the shadowy editorial staff of The Big Jewel -- the masthead was only recently updated, and I haven't contributed any of my own material to the site in quite a while. But the long wait is over! I have a new piece up today, entitled "Whole Foods, Half Truths" and inspired by the completely hilarious online adventures of a certain real-life supermarket CEO.

I owe credit to the fiance for tipping me off to this news story (and for having a WSJ account with which I could read it). Incidentally, this is my second Big Jewel piece to be inspired by real-life corporate fraud. The last one came about after I read an item in The Financial Times, which publication was delivered to my apartment for a three-week period during my first year in New York. It seems the actual subscriber and I had similar addresses -- my "River Rd." was on Roosevelt Island, and his was in the southern part of Manhattan Island. Our zip codes were different, and I called the FT subscription line at least twice to point this out, because I felt guilty, even though it's not like I set out to steal the guy's paper. They sorted things out eventually (or, at least, stopped sending the paper to me), but in the meantime I read it, because I have to read something while I'm eating my breakfast. So I guess the lesson here is that I should read financial newspapers more often. You just never know what will trigger your creative impulses.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 1

New recap is up, just in time to get you excited for tomorrow's show!
...Pete chooses this moment to ask Addison whether her moving to L.A. had anything to do with his kissing her. She denies this, of course, but his smugness is not reduced. “You should know it was just a kiss.” Addison’s all, Are we really having this conversation? “It was a good kiss,” Pete recalls. “It was an excellent kiss.” Addison feels that this assumption is “deranged,” and she tells him so. I say, Uh, guys: woman in labor, in case you forgot. And I think, Someone should probably tell Naomi that if she really wanted to run a clinic where “every patient gets our full attention,” it may have been a mistake to staff it with the most self-absorbed group of doctors south of Seattle.
Head on over to TWoP to read the whole thing.

My clever friend

Back in high school, I devoted many hours and many long Saturdays to the pursuit of speech-and-debate greatness. By my side for most of that time was my good friend Stephen, who competed with me (and routinely bested me) in the category of Original Oratory (specifically, "Persuasive Speaking"). Steve was an Original Orator to be reckoned with. In his free time, he kicked ass in Humorous Interp. And he made it all look easy. And the very best thing about all of Steve's many successes, in speech and debate and everything else he pursued, was that they very literally could not have happened to a nicer guy.

I mention all this because Stephen is now a playwright to be reckoned with, and his latest comedy is called Speech & Debate. It's being produced by Roundabout Theatre Company as the inaugural production in their new Roundabout Underground series. In speech and debate jargon, you might say Steve has broken to finals. And I can't wait to watch the round!

Previews start this weekend, and the show runs through December 16. And tickets are only $20! Go buy yours now!