Thursday, January 31, 2013

reasons to look forward to february

1)  The Super Bowl.  Just kidding.  I probably won't even watch it.
2)  Baseball spring training starts, not that I'm looking forward to baseball itself.
3)  The Oscars, February 24th.
4)  February means that January is over.  As I write this, in the evening of January 31, 2013, the temperature here in Minneapolis is minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind chill is minus-25.  After January, the temperature might be just as bad, the snow might come, but it never seems as bad -- because we are past January -- Spring is within spitting distance -- we are over the hump!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

it might drive me mad

OK, this is the Chopin piece I am trying to master -- or even just make it sound passable.  I might have to give up, it's just too hard.  The first part and the last part are doable, even though they are in four sharps, which is never easy... But the whole middle section is killing me, I  think I might just have to give up and move on to something else.

The pianist in this video is Valentina Lisitsa, and she is amazing.  If you are in Europe, you probably can't see it, and it might go away for the rest of you too, so give it a listen now if you are able.  It's really quite beautiful.

(If you get an ad at the beginning, skip out of it)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

overkilling the burglar

My experience with weapons is limited.  It was all during my two-year stint in the Army.  The M-16 rifle, the M-14 rifle, a pistol.  For a while, they even had me on the machine-gun team, which is ridiculous considering that I was a 130-pound toothpick lugging a M-60 machine gun over hills and through the woods.  And never did I once have the urge to pull the trigger on any of the above, and, if I never would have touched such weapons in my life, that would have been fine with me.  They were all designed to kill people, and anybody who has military-type weapons in their house, despite whatever else he or she may say, has the fantasy of killing people, even if it's only the imagined "intruder", and, let's face it, it's not really about the intruder.

Monday, January 28, 2013

hitchcock on ice

By mentioning TV again, I'm risking sounding like the most boring person on earth ("What? Something happened to Regis Philbin??"), but here I go:

What I watched on TV this weekend (Keep in mind that it was cold and icy and snowy outside -- I'd rather think of myself as a kill-your-television kind of guy than a couch potato):

--  The HBO movie, The Girl, which tells the tale of movie director Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, the actress that he made into a star in two of his movies in the early 1960s, The Birds and Marnie, and subsequently whose career he tried to destroy after she rebuffed his sexual advances.  It's a very unflattering picture of Mr. Hitchcock.
--  And then I noticed that an old Hitchcock movie that I hadn't ever seen, Rear Window, was a free movie on On Demand, so I watched it.  What a cool film!  Hitchcock may have had his dark side, personality-wise, but his twisted way of presenting life on screen paid off for the viewing audience now and then.
--  The SAG Awards.  OK, that's a topic for another time.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

chopin on ice

The forecast was for an ice storm, followed by snow.  I took Tom home early, when the freezing rain started; otherwise we had planned to go over to St. Paul to see the Winter Carnival ice sculpturing contest entries.

Instead I spent the afternoon at home with my oft-neglected piano, and there was something about the day that somehow focused me on Chopin.  I pulled out my Chopin piano music and made up my mind to find some pieces that I can learn and master, which is not easy with the works of Frédéric Chopin.

And I found two or three works that I spent the afternoon on.  I have a long ways to go.  You see, there is something deceivingly complex and difficult in Chopin -- maybe not for the listener but certainly for the pianist.  I have decided to be challenged and not intimidated.  I will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

80 is the new 20

OK, I'm sort of getting used to people walking down the street wearing earbuds or headphones plugged into their iPods or whatever and maybe I don't think it's quite as purposely anti-social as I once did.  On the other hand, I know that people aren't generally so musically-inclined that they can't be ever be disconnected from their favorite tunes. It's not about the music.  Maybe at one time I thought it was just one of those annoying passing fads.  Now I realize that there are a couple of generations in which being only vaguely connected to real people they pass on the street is totally acceptable.

But then yesterday I was walking through the downtown skyway, where a good percentage of young hipsters are constantly plugged-in, and I passed a guy who had be at least 85, and he had the earbugs dangling from his head and he was bopping to who knows what kind of music on his electronic gadget as if none of the people passing him even existed.  That's when I gave up.  This stuff is here to stay, at least until the next thing is invented that makes each of us even more insulated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

slightly damaged

Occasionally, Jerry and I have gotten hooked on a dramatic cable TV series, usually after it's already off the air, and we kind of get obsessed about seeing the whole series, if the story draws us in.  The problem is that we get too drawn in, and then we stay up too late -- "Hey, let's watch one more episode!" -- especially if there is a cliff-hanger.  We were  bad with our all-time favorite Six Feet Under and watched five years of episodes in about two weeks.

Lately, we got into the show Damages, starring Glenn Close, a part legal thriller, part soap opera kind of program that has had us getting to bed too late too many nights.  Well, we just got done with Season 3 last night, and the final two seasons, 4 and 5, aren't on Comcast On Demand yet.  It's a good story, ruthless some of the time -- especially the Glenn Close character.  Check it out.  January is a good month for being a couch potato under a warm blanket, especially if one of you has a broken foot.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

maybe your family isn't as dysfunctional as you thought

Ah, dysfunctional-family drama:  not a good thing to have in real life (although everybody these days seems to think they come from a dysfunctional family), but it makes for great theater.

James, my would-be-actor nephew, and I attended a 20th Century classic at the Guthrie Theater last night, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, a play so autobiographical that O'Neill wouldn't allow it to be published or produced until well after his death (He died in 1953, the play was first staged in 1956).

The four main characters -- father, mother, two grown sons -- are juicy roles played convincingly on the Guthrie stage.  We have it all here -- dark family secrets and regrets, neurotic outbursts, drug addiction, alcoholism, and a riveting script.  The three-hour play takes place all in one day and is left basically unresolved at the end, giving the impression that it was just one tumultous day of many.

Highly recommended for the serious theater-goer.  Thanks again, Guthrie Theater.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

and he might make me look thinner

Christie & Obama, October 2012
I had this dream that I was hanging out with Chris Christie, the colorful governor of my home state of New Jersey, and in my dream he was a fun guy to hang out with, talking Springsteen and Jersey jive.  Even though I can't imagine ever voting for him for anything (unless maybe he became a Democrat and changed his position on certain issues), I do have a certain grudging admiration for the dude.

I mean, isn't it refreshing to have a politician who speaks directly, in a Jersey brutally-frank kind of way?  He handled the whole Hurricane Sandy thing just right, having his loyalty first and foremost to the citizens of his state instead of to his national political party.  It was a refreshing moment.

He might be a good friend to have.  And I bet he knows the best places to eat.

Monday, January 21, 2013

forget what i said about global warming

When I got up this morning, the temperature was was minus 11.  The high temperature of the day was minus 3.  Locals are remembering why jumper cables were invented.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

right before the hoopla

I don't, but you might have the day off tomorrow for Martin Luther King Day, and you can watch Barack Obama's second inauguration.  He actually was formally inaugurated today -- privately -- and tomorrow is the oath done as instant replay for us, the people.

Of course I am very happy that this man has been re-elected, but I fear for him.  There have always been people who have disliked whoever happens to be president at any given moment, but in my life I haven't seen the hate in certain groups as there has been for Barack Obama, and now that he has won twice, there is a fury in them that I don't see lessening any time soon.  I don't envy him the next four years.  I hope he can bring out the best in Americans and that somehow Americans can bring out the best in themselves.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

everybody likes honey nut cheerios

Having a late night bowl of cereal...  I do this often, way more often than having it for breakfast.

Hey, let me ask you a question.  Recently, during a basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, Kevin Garnett, who is apparently well known for being a trash-talker, mouths off to Carmelo Anthony -- "Your wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios!"  My question:  what the heck did he mean by that?

Speaking of basketball, Tom and I went to a good Timberwolves game tonight.  They beat the Rockets and snapped a depressing losing streak.  Yay.  We don't ask for much.

Friday, January 18, 2013

rumors of blackberry deaths

My Blackberry is only three years old, but in the cell-phone world that's like Methuselah, and it seems to be dying.  Of course, Blackberry as a company seems to be dying too, but that's another topic.

Or it could be that I just need a new battery.

Either way, I have to admit that it's nice to have the battery konk out mid day and leave me disconnected.  It's very freeing.  Otherwise, I would have already headed to the store to buy an iPhone.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

ancient egypt at the pantages

Austene Van as "Aida", photo by Michal Daniel
Last week was a movie week.  This is a theater week, and James, who just started his first college acting class, is going with me.

At the Guthrie, there's Shakespeare's As You Like It and, next week, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

But I want to be sure to tell you, if you live in the Twin Cities, to go see the Elton John/Tim Rice Broadway musical Aida at the Pantages Theater. It's being produced by the local theater company, Theater Latte Da, and is beautifully done.  It's just there til the 27th, so get your tickets!

Shakespeare, O'Neill, Elton John... How's that for some play-going variety?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

the word 'oogie' doesn't auto-correct

The streets had a light dusting of snow this morning.  I was on my way to work.  The song "Boogie Oogie Oogie" (Taste of Honey, 1978) was on the radio, and I was thinking  "'We're gonna boogie oogie oogie til we just can't boogie no more' -- what does that even mean?", when suddenly a minivan swerved in front of me and I slammed on the brakes while once again being validated in my belief that minivan drivers are the absolute worst drivers in the world.  I mean, these people go from driving a little Toyota Corolla to a vehicle that is more the size of a bus and they can't see anything, so they just change lanes with reckless abandon and are a menace to society.

I used to have a bumper sticker on the refrigerator at the office -- "Minivans Are Tangible Evidence of Evil".  (Remember that, Aaron?).  I never had the nerve to put it on my car.  I don't want to take a chance on distracting those people.

I say, after we get assault weapons banned, let's go for minivans next.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

january 1977: mankato, minnesota

It was a while ago.  My son Jon wasn't even quite three years old yet.  Tom was still off in the future.

Our first winter in Minnesota.  I was a student at the University in Mankato.  I wasn't prepared for a Minnesota winter, the below-zero temperatures and the prairie wind chills and how to dress for it all.  Who ever heard of plugging a car in so that it would start in the morning (which it didn't always do anyway)?  That winter, a record was set for the number of days in a row that the temperatures never once went above freezing -- 68 days, I think it was.  I kept wondering how the pioneers ever managed to survive or what drove them to settle in such a desolate place.

Januarys in Minnesota are still no treat, but, wow, they sure are easier than they were my first couple years.  For me, it makes all the difference being in the city.  I drive from my heated parking garage at the condo to the heated parking garage at the office.  Global warming might be coming into play too:  We don't get many 25-below temperatures any more, thank goodness.  This morning, a lady in the elevator told me the temperature was 13 degrees, and she had just heard on the radio that the record low temperature for this date was 50 degrees lower than that.  That would have been 37 degrees below zero.  Ah, those were the days.

Monday, January 14, 2013

forget about that early refund, dude

The IRS has announced that, because of the timing of the last-minute tax law changes enacted by Congress on January 1, the Service will not be accepting any individual tax returns before January 30.  In addition, they cannot accept business returns that have depreciation deductions until well into February or maybe even March.

This is really bad news for somebody in my profession.  Bottlenecks will be the norm, followed by a flood of filings, which, come to think of it, I'm sure not sure the IRS system can handle.  Just don't count on that refund check until you see it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

this might annoy Jon

My niece Ruthie and nephew James are coming over in a little while to watch the Golden Globe Awards with us, and, as much as I hate being a dork for movie award shows, hey, it's just one of my guilty pleasures.

And I know it annoys my son Jon if I blog too much about one subject too many days in a row, but here I am with a movie-related blog again -- no more for the next few days after this, I promise!

This weekend Jerry and I saw four Oscar movies -- as I already told you, Silver Linings Playbook, and also Beasts of the Southern Wild (on On Demand, not in a theater), Argo, and Django Unchained.  I'm still pondering what I think of the last three, especially Django, which we just saw today.  It's a Quentin Tarantino film -- very intense, blood-splattered, and excellent in its own way, but geeeez!!

I think Ruthie is coming in time to watch part of the pre-Awards red carpet interviews.  Heaven help us all.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

i forgot how much i used to like led zeppelin

It started with Led Zeppelin, sort of the originators of hard rock music, receiving the Lincoln Center Honors a couple weeks ago.  It was weird seeing Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, old men now, dressed in tuxes and hobnobbing with the President while Heart sang "Stairway to Heaven"  Then this afternoon -- at the movie theater seeing Silver Linings Playbook -- a Led Zeppelin classic song came on the soundtrack, and I had another flashblack to 1969, 1970, 1971...

Sometimes I see young kids wearing Led Zeppelin T-shirts, and I think, How do they even know about Led Zeppelin?  And now I'm thinking, Why did I ever get rid of my Led Zeppelin albums?

Oh yeah -- Silver Linings Playbook.  We loved it!  And it was only one of three Oscar nominated pictures we've seen so far this weekend.

P.S.  If you are a Philadelphia Eagles fan like I am, you will really like Silver Linings Playbook.

Friday, January 11, 2013

the lockouts

A lockout (per Wikipedia):  "A lockout is a temporary work stoppage or denial of employment during a labor dispute initiated by the management of a company."

Lockouts have been in the news.  There of course is the National Hockey League lockout, which has recently been settled but cut short the hockey season by about three months and left hockey fans disgruntled and maybe not caring too much anymore (except for my son Tom, who loves the Minnesota Wild).

More immediate in Minnesota are the lockouts of the two major orchestras here:  The Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, both of which have been "locked out" since early autumn.

It's hard to have a season with my no orchestra concerts, and it's hard to know that a prolonged silence will endanger the future of both organizations.  In the meantime, there are highly talented orchestra members who are receiving no paychecks and could start leaving for other cities.

Jerry co-hosted a fundraiser last night for Minnesota Orchestra musicians.  A quintet played Mozart for the crowd, and the members updated the audience on the lockout situation, which doesn't seem too close to ending.  The Board is negotiating to have musicians take as much as a 50% pay cut, so it's easy to see why the union can't accept.

The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the top orchestras in the country.  It would be a shame to see it drop into the next tier of lesser orchestras.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

oscar and me, revisited

One of my self-imposed annual traditions -- Seeing all of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees --

And this year's nominees were just announced this morning....  I've only seen two of them (Lincoln and Les Miz)... which means I need to see seven more before February 24.  It's some consolation that I'm not dreading any of them.  Bear with me!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

it's next week now

Before crossing over into New Jersey last Thursday, we stopped in Philadelphia at Geno's, one of the two famous dives known for their Philly cheese steaks.  Jerry, who had never given cheese steaks a thought before he met me, has become a connoisseur of cheese steaks, at least in his own mind, but I had mostly exposed him to the South Jersey version of cheese steaks, which are different.  The cheese steaks at Geno's and at Pat's in south Philly are cut differently and have Cheez Whiz instead of provolene cheese, so, even though they are the originals, Jerry proclaimed the Geno's version inferior.  I laughed.  James and I enjoyed them, maybe mostly because we were back home on the East Coast.

The familiar can be comforting.

We crossed the bridge over to Jersey, stopped at Wawa for coffee (an indispensable first act), made our way back to the home town amd dealt with our angels and our demons.

It was good to touch base with who we are..... as Jerry pushed his way on his scooter alongside us.  Then back home to the more recent familiar.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

pausing at 856

We (Jerry, James, and I) are taking a quick trip to New Jersey, leaving tomorrow and back in a few days.  If you're from New Jersey and now displaced, you know the need to re-group and touch base with the ocean and Jersey attitude every once in a while.

And it seems like a good time to pause, blog-wise.  Hey I've blogged every day since August 11, 2010, that's 856 days in a row.  I bet that's even more than Ruthie would have expected.  I'm bored.  So are you.

The  blog will resume sometime next week -- or sooner, if there is something I can't wait to say.  It might be a little different.  Or it might be exactly the same.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 as science fiction

Here we are with 2013 as an unwritten script.  How it plays out is up to us -- comedy, drama, action/adventure.... all with plenty of plot twists.  Babies will be born, people we don't want to die will die, there will be wars and rumors of wars, bad weather, perfect weather, hurtful characters and heroes.... We all have a front-row seat.  Sit back, relax, have some popcorn....  Or get busy creating your own story.