Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

  • Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.
  • Jack o’ lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.
  • October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar, was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.
PS: I haven't fact checked any of the above, so Shannon will have to correct me if any of this is wrong.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Remake

Hot on the heels of my discover that Footloose is going to be remade comes this tidbit: The CW is considering remaking Melrose Place now, too.

To echo Rena: Does no one have an original idea anymore?

Or to echo Veronica: Can't somebody have an original idea in Hollywood?

Apparently the rebooted 90210 was such a roaring success that we're all going to be forced to relive the 90s all over again. Next up: the return of flannel!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six degrees of Zac Efron

It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

The powers that be are cashing in on Efron’s High School Musical success with a remake of Footloose. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not into it. I love the original one, and even if most of that affection is based on nostalgia, I just don’t need to see it remade. I also don’t really get the adoration Efron is receiving. I thought he was fine in Hairspray (I haven’t seen HSM or any of its sequels) but nothing amazing. And he kind of looks like he’s 12 years old to me. Whatever it is that people find so appealing, I’m just not seeing it. And I’ll tell you this: he’s no Kevin Bacon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Case Histories

Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories made a respectable, if not winning, showing in this summer’s reading list poll, and it climbed closer to the top of my post-summer pile. After reading the intertwining stories of loss, deception, and—sometimes—hope, I put several of Atkinson’s other books on my wish list. The stories within Case Histories had just enough, and just the right, details to pull me in and keep me enthralled. And Atkinson has a sixth sense for how much to give away to keep both interest and suspense at their peaks.

Definitely recommended.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Michelle treated me to the opening night performance of Speed-The-Plow last Thursday. I was excited to go for many reasons—it was a great chance to catch up with Michelle, I was hot off my Man for All Seasons viewing and excited to take in two shows in a week, and it stars my one-time stage BFF (admittedly, a one sided friendship as he didn't remember who I was from one of our many meetings to the next), Raul Esparza.

Unfortunately, the show just never really came together for me. The script was dated, and I had forgotten just how homophobic and misogynistic Mamet can be. Jeremy Piven basically played his Entourage character, Ari Gold, only this time his name was Bobby Gould. Elisabeth Moss, from Mad Men, was also reminiscent of her TV character. Esparza did well playing the sycophant, but it wasn't enough to save the show for me. I admit to even dozing off a tiny bit during the second act.

It was fun to attend an opening, and we even got a glimpse of Liev Schrieber and a very pregnant Naomi Watts when we left. That was kind of the highlight, though.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Todd, his kids, and I spent the afternoon carving Jack-O-Lanterns to get into the Halloween spirit. We picked up the pumpkins in Central Park yesterday at an autumn festival that included not only a pumpkin patch with 6,000 pumpkins but also a haunted house, a scarecrow decorating contest, a twenty foot pumpkin tower, and live music.

Today, after scoping out a street festival in our 'hood, we got started on the pumpkins.

Todd helped Sofia work on her pumpkin while Dylan tackled his alone

Finished with Sofia's, Todd started on his own creation

All the Jacks lit up. From left to right: Todd's, Sofia's, Dylan's, and mine. I was going for a Joker kind of face, but he ended up just looking like a really happy pumpkin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Voting Republican

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ron Howard says: Vote for change

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theater for all seasons

When I first moved to New York after college, I saw more theater than I’d ever imagined possible. I was devoted. I arrived at the Ford Center at 7:00 a.m. countless times to get tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar (a guilty pleasure; I know Andrew Lloyd Webber has his faults, and lines like “God, thy will is hard. But you hold ever card” are laughably bad. But somehow I love it); I became obsessed with an off Broadway show called Tick, Tick...Boom and started volunteer ushering at the Jane Street Theater so I could see it twice a week. I had a membership to Play by Play and, since their tickets costly only $3 a piece, I saw just about anything they were offering.

Since then I’ve gotten old. It’s been only nine years and somehow I’ve become an old lady. Sit on the sidewalk for three or four hours before the box office opens? No thanks. Watch something that’s frankly kind of bad just because it was cheap and I felt like seeing a show? Pass.

Couple my new high standards with my recent old lady-ness, plus the move of my bestest theater going friend, and it’s resulted in a shortage of plays in my life lately. Somehow, I ended up on Roundabouts mailing list, though, and when they offered me a really good price on a subscription for the season, I decided to do it. I spent a chunk of money on it, but now I know that I’ll see at least five Broadway shows this season. It reminds me of my Chicago days when I got subscriptions to the Goodman and Steppenwolf. Without someone to do things with, I can easily submit to a hermit’s life, so sometimes I just need to make the big commitment upfront.

Last night I saw A Man For All Seasons, starring Frank Langella. It was good but not a total success in my opinion. The play, which dramatizes Sir Thomas More’s rise under King Henry VIII and then his subsequent fall, is very timely. Thomas Cromwell is played as some sort of Karl Rove/Dick Cheney hybrid, which is to say that he’s manipulating, full of machinations, and all about gathering more and more executive power for the man in charge with very little regard for how legal, ethical, or warranted it is. Viewing it with the Bush administration so tantalizingly close to being over provides a very interesting context, but the show still never soared. Langella was very good, mining small moments of comedy while still presenting More as something of a saint (the show neglects to mention the people More had burned at the stake for heresy). But clocking in at just under three hours, the show did drag in parts. I was especially impatient during More’s trial and sentencing. I’m sure it was meant to be climactic, but we were well past the second hour and I knew what the outcome was going to be. There was no suspense there at all. And the finale sort of hits you over the head.

Even with all those nitpicky complaints, though, it was a good production with a good leading man. And it was great to be at a the theater again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The benefits of Rena moving to MA...

is hand-picked apples!

Rena is back in town just for a couple of days following the big Open Studios event. Somehow, in the midst of all the excitement she found time to visit an orchard and pick 40 pounds of apples! Lucky me, I came home with a big bag last night.

I also came home with a stomach that was way too full. Who knew that Popovers had a s'mores sundae? It was too good!

Sadly, Rena's trip was a short one. I guess I'll have to make my way up to North Adams again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Matt Groening, Seer?

How many of you already saw this clip of Homer Simpson trying to vote for Obama? Pretty funny when the machine switches his vote from Obama to McCain, right?

Yeah, I'm not laughing any more now that this basic scenario (minus the diebold-inflicted beating) is actually being reported in West Virginia. And I'm also not surprised that it's happening in a state McCain is terrified of losing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A portrait in stereotypes

Saturday's volunteer trainer told my fellow New Yorkers and I that we'd likely be spotted as out-of-towners. Todd and I sat down to our picnic lunch half way through Saturday's canvassing, took a look at our spread, and realized it was true: we were giving ourselves away. Not only were we clearly not from the neighborhood, we were practically screaming that we were Upper West Siders who came in from Manhattan. We had:

couscous with spinach and feta

organic carrot sticks

tofu salad

a WNYC/NPR eco-friendly tote bag

and we were wearing
"Hillary Sent Me" stickers

We were a Manhattan stereotype personified.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Painting and Drawing

I'm very happy to have spent part of today painting. I'd like to do more art, and I love that Todd cares as much (or more) about it than I do. It prompts me to try new things and think about new ways to be creative.

Todd did some drawing today, and I busted out the painting materials I bought on Friday. I'm exploring making silhouettes by marking out my subject in masking tape and then painting over the whole canvass, pulling off the tape, and voila! If today's project comes out well I'll post a picture.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cavnassing Again

Todd and I hit the road today and visited Pennsylvania for more canvassing. I'm impressed with the organization of Obama campaign and the local headquarters who put these trips together. I'm also impressed that the NY group we went with recognized, after my stellar bus riding last weekend, that I was bus captain material. That's right, I was promoted to Bus Captain after just one trip! All it really means is that I had to make sure everyone made it back on the bus before we left for the evening. Someone got left behind last week, so the pressure was on. Luckily we all made it!

The canvassing itself was a success but slightly less wonderful than last weekend. Last weekend I was right in Bristol, and most of the folks I met were happy to talk. Today, though, we were in Falls Township, and the people we were visiting had clearly been contacted again, and again, and again. We went to multiple doors where flyers for the local congressman were still under the mat.

Though most people (though not all) were friendly enough, they just weren't as open to talking to us. And there were a couple of people who were rude and one who struck both Todd and me as racist. It was something intangible about his response to us, but we both felt it.

Overall it was a positive day, though, and we got some face time (sort of) with Barack and Hillary back at HQ.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama’s Wit

Obama and McCain both made appearances this week at the Al Smith dinner, a fundraiser that is a standard stop along the presidential campaign trail. There is typically an element of comedy to the event, and I liked some of Obama’s lines:

  • “Many of you know that I got my name from my father. "Barack" is Swahili for "That one." I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't realize I would run for president."
  • "My greatest strength would be my humility. My greatest weakness is that it's possible I am too awesome."
  • On his “celebrity” status: “[I] punched a paparazzi on my way out of Spago's. I even spilled my soy chai latte.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not much of a poker face

The follow-up to last night's debate seems to be not so much about what the senators said, but how they looked. Obama's latest ad is all about McCain's eye rolling and other facial tics, and the Huffington Post published an entire slideshow of McCain's expressions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


October 15th is Blog Action Day, when bloggers are encouraged to post about a single topic to raise awareness. This year's topic was poverty, and I was going to write an in-detail explanation of Obama's plan to reduce it.

Unfortunately, I flaked out yesterday, so I'm backdating this post and doing a sort of half-assed version of it. Instead of analyzing, I'm giving you all a link to his plan and this article about its innovation.

I'll also say, that it's been sad how little this topic has been discussed during the presidential campaign. Too bad John Edwards got caught stepping out and lost his position as an anti-poverty advocate. Without him, the conversation shifted to helping the middle class, which was at least still important and relevant to many Americans. Then, during the third debate, the whole conversation shifted in a totally absurd way to Joe the Plumber who makes more than a quarter million dollars a year. I'd point out that the middle class is made up mostly of people who make no where near $250,000, but since McCain suggested that it takes an annual income of $5 million to be considered rich, I think his out-of-touch-ness is pretty well established already.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Palin makes even the GOP nauseous

My feelings about Sarah Palin are no secret, and I find the reactions McCain supporters and republicans have about her very interesting. Certainly plenty of people are jazzed by her, as her rally attendance and enthusiasm (technically, screaming "kill him!" is enthusiastic) attest.

But there have also been a lot of conservatives voicing concern. I stumbled across a fantastic quote about her this afternoon from Matthew Dowd, political consultant and strategist for GWB's reelection campaign. In talking about the way she's energized the GOP base, he said:

"To me it is like Halloween. You get energized by eating all that candy at night but then you feel sick the next day."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Elements of Style

A break from the political postings that have dominated lately, and a return to my first true love: books! Who wouldn’t want to read a novel whose title pays homage to the great Strunk and White? I’d never read anything by Wendy Wasserstein before but, of course, loved this title. And I’d heard great things about some of her plays.

The book is a lot fluffier than I had imagined it would be, but Wasserstein injects a serious shot of satire to the froth, which made it much more enjoyable for me. She gives us the very grounded Francesca Weissman to relate to, and through Frankie’s eyes we watch the fascinating yet ridiculous lives of Manhattan’s most successful and ambitious socialites. They worry about the resilience of their underarm fat despite daily 5:00 a.m. Pilates classes. They pity each other for imperfectly decorated dinner parties. They imagine the horrors of (gasp!) flying commercial.

There were very few characters I’d actually want to know in real life (luckily, most of the characters would never stoop to knowing me, either) but they made for some fun reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My experience canvassing

Saturday was a great experience. Once our busload of Upper West Siders arrived at the Bristol, PA field office, most people went off in pairs with local volunteers who had cars to nearby towns and developments. I paired up with a Columbia grad student, and we were one of the few groups who spent the whole day on foot. All told, we knocked on about 80 doors in Bristol.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which made it extremely pleasant to walk around. It also meant that most people weren’t home (I’m presuming that they were out barbecuing, having a picnic, or otherwise enjoying what may well be the last sunny and warm weekend for a while). Of the 80 doors we knocked on, we talked to about 20 people. The majority of folks we met were already strong Obama supporters, and we were even able to sign up three volunteers. I had mixed feelings about meeting so many people already firmly in Obama’s camp. On the one hand, it was really encouraging and made me hopeful for November 4th. On the other, I wondered if we shouldn’t have been deployed somewhere else.

Bristol, from what I saw, looked mostly white and working class. It made sense, then, that we met a handful of very ardent Hillary suporters (some of whom were now going to vote for Obama enthusiastically, some grudgingly, and one who opted out of the election all together, feeling that neither McCain nor Obama is as good as HRC). We also met veterans who represented every part of the spectrum. One was an active democrat who owns a restaurant and had already held fundraisers for the local democratic congressional candidate and would happily host an Obama event. Another—and possibly our most interesting conversation of the day—had a McCain sign on his lawn. We approached anyway and learned that this guy’s wife was the strong republican in the family. He started out saying he was definitely going to vote McCain because he believed that only someone with military experience could get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The more he talked, though, the more you could see that he wasn’t totally happy with that choice. I got the distinct impression that if he wasn’t married to an ardent McCain supporter he would have either been 100% undecided or leaning Obama. Hopefully the Obama campaign can pull him over to our side.

We heard a lot about rising healthcare costs over the day and spoke to one woman who worried about Obama’s experience and association with Jeremiah Wright. No matter how the conversation was going, though, we found that there was always an easy in: when asked, every person without exception said that the last eight years had been bad for them. McCain’s party affiliation and Bush-aligned voting record definitely working against him.

It was a long day but a good one. I wish I’d talked to more people, but every piece of info we gathered for the campaign (including who had move and even one person who had died (awkward!)) is helpful. Todd and I head back out to PA on Saturday for more pavement pounding.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Household Help

I have plenty to say about my day spent canvassing, but I'm pooped right now and not up for the recap. Instead, I give you another youtube video.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Overachiever Alert!

I’m posting a second post today, which means I’m actually on target to complete Blog 366!

I just want to remind everyone that today is the last day to register to vote in New York. Forms must be postmarked or handed in today! Make sure all the democrats you know are registered before the end of today.

What’s round on both ends and tall in the middle?

OHIO! It’s also a state in serious need of some Obama-love.

I just got a call from the national Obama campaign office and they really need help in Ohio. They’re feeling fairly confident about Pennsylvania right now (though not so much that they’re telling me I shouldn’t go there), but the state where they’re really looking for volunteers is Ohio. I’m trying to figure out a way to go myself, but without a car it starts to get a little expensive.

Anyway, just in case some of you have felt so moved by my pleas for participation of the last several posts, this is a chance to really help out. I’m happy to put anyone in touch with the woman who called me, and if we can turn this into a fun road trip all the better!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain and the Keating Five

Please watch this video to learn a bit more about McCain's history regarding the economy. Not only has he admitted that the economy is not his strong suit, but he was also at the center of an enormous savings and loan scandal that predates our current crisis. History is definitely not on his side on this enormous issue. Vote for Obama!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Great Schlep

I have more than my share of Jewish friends—this one's for you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Less than a month to go

It's not news to anyone, but there is less than a month to go before the presidential elections. The polls have been looking a bit better for Obama lately, but there is still plenty of time for undecided voters to decide they are scared of the real world and want to live in Palinland.

The real world is really scary right now. Americans have lost a trillion dollars in the past month. People are losing their jobs. We're mired in wars and other seriously fucked up situations throughout the world. But I'm extremely hopeful that enough voters will realize that voting for Obama is our best chance of improving the country and not choose to bury their heads deeper into the sand.

It's very tempting to talk about leaving America if McCain/Palin wins on November 4. It is really hard to live in a place where the priorities and values of the marjority are so out of sync with your own, which is why people talked about heading to Canada when Bush was reelected and why it's tempting to consider that again.

Todd and I went to a local political event over the weekend, though, where we heard from several city and state politicians (Scott Stringer, Gale Brewer, Charles Rangel, and more). Maybe because the speakers were working on a local level, something about the event made me more energized by the idea of fight than flight for the first time in a while.

I am extrememly hopeful that Obama wins on the 4th. I hope that all of you vote for him, and I hope that all of you talk to your friends and family about why he's the right choice. I'm going to Bristol, PA the next two Saturdays to canvass and hope to find time to phone bank and do other work over the next four weeks as well. I hope you'll all find ways to participate, too. This election is too important to ignore.

Win or lose, though (please, please let it be win!), I think I want to start doing more in my own community. Part of what is so hard right now is how out of control everything feels. I hope that by participating more, I'll at least know that I'm doing all I can to help create the world I want to live in.

With NYC Council Member Gale Brewer

Congressman Charles Rangel

In front of the local spirits store's (almost) life-sized Obama cut out

The photo that will turn up in the tabloids if I ever run for president myself

Monday, October 6, 2008

Domestic bliss and a fart joke

Check us out—Todd and I are cooking! In a fit of domesticity, he made us a delicious dinner of tilapia, potatoes, and butternut squash last night. I, to compensate for his healthy meal, baked chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and a pumpkin and marshmallow pie. Mmmm....

He also made a delicious looking and smelling spinach and pesto lasagna for later in the week. Here it is, still a work-in-progress:

I also took this picture, which I maturely title: "Todd cuts the cheese."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Possibly getting sick

I'm just a day away from having to go back to work (boo!) and woke up this morning with a sore throat. I've since sneezed about fifteen times, which doesn't seem like a good sign. I was planning to return to work rested and refreshed, but instead it looks like I'll go back dragging more than a little. I'm going to load up on vitamin C today, drink lots of tea, and maybe grab some meds at Duane Reade. Hopefully the combo will be enough to get me back on track.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hatin' on Palin

I've been playing blog catch up since vacation. I never fell too far behind, but I've been a day or two back all week. Somehow in the flurry of vacation shenanigans and blog catch-up I never got around to blogging about the VP debate. Let's just say that my reactions were pretty predictable. I was more impressed with Joe Biden than I anticipated, mostly because he stayed on message and didn't say anything too ridiculous. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, reinforced my impression that she doesn't know anything about, well, much of anything.

I think she's getting a pass from the media because everyone expected so little of her. Just like with GWB before her, she's getting praise for the easy feat of just not sounding like a total fucking idiot. The rest of us go around day after day not sounding like fools, but the national medai doesn't congratulate us on it!

Anyway, Kristinn sent me this video, which I'm loving. Todd and I are thinking about writing our own down-with-Sarah song, and I'll post it here if we ever do.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Cloisters

Laura and Nate were kind enough to let me tag along on the first portion of the New York chapter of their vacation today. After a sushi lunch in my neighborhood, it was onto the subway to visit Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters. After all my time in the city, the Cloisters is one museum I'd never been to, so it was nice to finally make the trip.

The most famous art at the Cloisters are the Unicorn Tapestries. My favorite, though, was a wood carving of the Virgin Mary's deathbed. She has eleven apostles around her mourning her passing. Missing is Thomas who, characteristically, doubts that she ascended to heaven until an angel drops the Virgin's girdle down to earth to prove it. The angel drops her girdle! Is that not the weirdest story ever?!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Scenes from a vacation

Here are a few shots from my trip to MA earlier this week. Overall, a very good trip!

Dock off Martha's Vineyard

Enjoying the ocean views

With Jen in P-Town

One of the Cape's beautiful lighthouses

Laura getting some smooches from Austin

Me with Laura and Nate

With Laura and Rena

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Contemporary art but no apples

We woke up this morning to some rain and general dreariness outside. We had a half-baked idea to go apple picking that didn't come together since the weather wasn't cooperating. I realized it was all for the best when I thought about how heavy all those apples would be to carry home, anyway.

Instead we hit MASS MoCA, Massachusetts' museum of contemporary art. I find contemporary art pretty hit or miss. I want to be able to have a reaction to a piece of art on my own before the write-up, audio guide, or tour guide tells me what it's supposed to all mean, and there are times when I just have no reaction at all to modern art. There were a few pieces that left me cold at MASS MoCA, but mostly it was excellent. There was an amazing light instillation that I feel would be impossible to describe but was really, really amazing. And we really enjoyed the biospheres. Very experiential! Check us out: