Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Dark Knight

I finally watched The Dark Knight the other day. When I first saw Heath Ledger on the screen I thought, 'Oh I wish I hadn't heard so much about his performance because it won't be as good as the hype.' And it wasn't. It was better.

What struck me the most about his acting was that he created a three-dimensional role with a character that had nothing: no objective, no backstory, no love, no ambition. During the movie Lt. Gordon says with regards to The Joker, "[We've got] Nothing. No match on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pocket but knives and lint. No name, no other alias."

Although I've been in theater for many years, I have never seen an actor create a character as fully realized as The Joker with so little to go on. Even the story about how he got his scars changes with each victim.

And in the movie, we don't see Heath Ledger at all, just The Joker. The Bagger talks about it in a recent blog post.

It does make me wonder if this character messed with Mr. Ledger's head. I've heard from stage actors about characters that they could not let go of. They've said they've gone through a 'dark night of the soul,' trying to return to normal.

Of course I am only speculating because of his untimely death. Had he not died...but then I wonder what he would have been like?

And, I guess I wonder because I didn't sleep a wink after watching the movie. I tossed and turned and thought about that character -- how does an actor do that?

Should he be nominated or even win an Oscar? I don't know but it was a damn good performance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's the Buzz?

I've been busy this season with holiday prep and my daughter's birthday but more on that later. I wanted to call attention to this great article in the (yeah, you guessed it) New York Times about the political buzz words of 2008.

It made me think of all the times I've tried to use hip, new words only to be shot down by my friends and family. Once, I adopted "411" and "dilio" (not even sure if I'm spelling it right) until Brian said, "Enough, already."

But I think the nadir of my experimenting with new slang came when my daughter asked if she could do something and I responded by saying, no and then explaining my answer. I ended (and I thought it most mavericky of me) by saying, "Word." She looked at me and said, "You are way to mommy for word."

She didn't go there...oh yes, she did.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

While the Cat's Away...The Rat Tries to Hold it Together

Brian is in Denmark this week for work. While Denmark, is not on the top of my list of places to visit, I would not turn it down. He knew he might have to go but didn't know when, so it sprang up rather suddenly. I'm not upset at all. Perhaps, okay, just a bit jealous. I mean, Denmark, how cool is that?

Sometimes, I look forward to his going away. Life certainly slows down. I can't run out and grab something at night so we end up doing without--and doing just fine. What I can do is lie in bed and watch TV while working on the computer and doing the crossword puzzle without bothering him. Let's just say, Brian is not so much with the multi-tasking.

Dinner is easier when he goes away. For some reason, I never feel like I have to make a big meal when he is not around. Oh, the kids get fed but they eat eggs, tomato soup, pasta--nothing fancy. Talking with other moms, I realize this is almost universal. While our husbands don't demand elaborate dinners, we tend to make them when they're home. Perhaps it's because we know someone is going to appreciate the effort.

But this week has been difficult. The kids have had half-days due to conferences and the afternoons are incredibly long. My daughter doesn't know what to do with herself without homework so she antagonizes her brother. I end up having to be their playmate so they won't kill each other. I eye the clock longingly, wondering, how close to 5 o'clock must one be to open up a 5 o'clock beer.

During normal times (when we're both home), Brian and I try our best to keep the kids occupied until bedtime. Instead of computers or TV, we'll play games with them, read, go over homework, etc. I try to keep this going when Brian is away. It was easier when they couldn't tell time and I could put them in bed 30 minutes earlier; now it's like experimenting with a new form of torture.
To add fuel to the fire, I don't sleep well when Brian is gone. I hear every creak in the house and when they wake you up, those creaks sound exactly like an axe murderer opening up your door. So I'm overtired and trying to negotiate peace between Israel and Iran.

Of course, my allergies are really acting up as well. But I did I mention, I'm not bitter?

No, really, I'm not.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Proof is in Prohibition

The New York Times started a new blog today called, "Proof," which discusses the uses and abuses of alcohol. Appropriately enough, the first post talks about prohibition which ended 75 years ago on December 5, 1933. When signing the law for the repeal, Roosevelt is supposed to have said, "What America needs now is a drink."

I find it fascinating that I'm reading a lot more about alcohol these days. I'm not sure if it's the holiday season (all those, "What wine to drink with turkey" columns) or the economic times which, sadly, almost mirror the 1930's.

On another note, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day in the Catholic Church. Many people, including Catholics, get the reason for the holy day wrong. It is the Feast of Mary being conceived without original sin. Most people think it's Jesus' conception. But think about that last one, the Immaculate Conception happens on December 8th and 3 weeks later Jesus is born? That's one fast pregnancy.

Anyway, in their infinite wisdom, Church theologians decided that Mary, in order to give birth to Jesus, could not have been born with original sin. See, she was born before baptism existed which washes away original sin. Fortunately, the Church does declare that it doesn't mean that her parents didn't get it on; lucky for them.

By the way, during prohibition an exemption was made for sacramental wine used during Mass. A 1925, study discovered that the demand for sacramental wine had increased by 800,000 gallons in a two year period. So I guess you could say that while there are no Atheists in foxholes, you won't find any during prohibition either.

OSCAR UPDATE: I've heard that Sean Penn's rival for the Best Actor Oscar may just be Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. It's a comeback role for Mr. Rourke and Mr. Penn has been nominated several times and has one once for Mystic River. Let the intrigues begin!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Got Milk?

I just saw Gus Van Sant's Milk today and LOVED IT! I especially loved the performances and, jumping on the bandwagon, Sean Penn is the one to beat for the Oscar. His performance was so good, I can't even describe it. Actually, all of the performances were great. Many reviewers are citing Josh Brolin as especially good in the supporting role of Dan White, the supervisor who shot Milk. I preferred James Franco, as Milk's boyfriend Scott Smith, and Emilie Hirsch as Cleve Jones. Mr. Brolin was fine indeed but he just didn't sparkle. Now, they may be pushing Mr. Brolin because he was overlooked in last year's No Country for Old Men. And he may get the Oscar nod because of that.

Throughout the movie, I felt as though I was in the living room with Milk and his associates. It was such a great story of a positive and charismatic man and how he charmed a city politically.

Throughout the film, Mr. Van Sant interspersed scenes of Milk reading a statement into a tape recorder. As he states in the film, the statement is only to played in the event of Milk's assassination. This was the only part I didn't like. I'm not one for narrators and this felt very much like a narrator that we didn't need. It also kept reminding me that Milk was to be assassinated. I didn't want that reminder; I wanted to stay in the living room and marvel at Milk's utter belief in himself and in the movement for as long as possible.

At the very end, as at the end of most bio-pics, Mr. Van Sant tells us what happened after the assassination. In addition, Mr. Van Sant shows us the actor in the film and then shows us a photo of the real person. It was so eerie how similar the actors looked to their real-life counterparts. For me it was a great addition because I often wonder how closely actors look like the real people they are portraying.

Truly, I loved this movie. I'm not sure if it's a Best Picture but I do hope many of the performances are nominated and that Mr. Penn wins. But Oscar or not, as one reviewer said, it's one of the best movies to come along in a while.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Obviously, I love cocktails. Thursday nights, as you know, are cocktail night here in my household. Interestingly, a friend of mine once wondered if by cocktail night I meant going out with girlfriends for drinks. No, I stay right at home where my favorite bartender, Brian, makes my cosmos exactly the way I like it.

And, yeah, his cosmopolitan is way to strong for you.

I don't mean to be nasty about it but I have yet to meet someone who has tasted Brian's cosmo and not said, "Oh that's a bit strong."

And I love them! But I can have only one.

I'm so not into that cosmopolitan cocktail mix they sell in grocery stores. It's not a cosmopolitan-- it's flavored sugar-water that you mix with vodka. As Miss Brodie would say, "For those of you who like that sort of thing..." Brian makes my cosmo just right: vodka, triple sec, cranberry and lemon instead of lime (or that horrid Rose's lime juice). He rubs the glass with the lemon as well. Tasty!

I'm picky about my cocktails or so I thought. In the NY Times (the source for all my information, have ya noticed?) I found this article about cocktail geeks or cocktailians as one person prefers. These guys are picky about their cocktails--going so far as to make their own ice or bring their own vermouth to a bar. When I first read it, I thought, 'making your own vermouth? Really, that's a bit much' But then, why not be as picky about cocktails as you are about food or wine or beer?

Foodies discuss the intricate details of a foie gras and wine connoisseurs understand what is meant by 'hints of leather,' (why anyone would drink leather is beyond me) so why wouldn't a cocktail lover want only the best ingredients for his manhattan? I've noticed that my tastes have changed or matured might be a better word, over the years. I used to drink whatever beer was cheapest until I spent a year in Ireland and learned what good beer is. I was on the Yellow Tail bandwagon--drinkable and cheap--but now I find it to be headache in a bottle. Even my vodka can't be just any vodka, I prefer Stoli or better yet Grey Goose. Smirnoff's? Absolut? I don't think so.

By the way, Mark Bittmann does a great job in this video of breaking down the parts of a cocktail, but notice that even he insists on good ingredients.

I do enjoy cocktails of finer ingredients or beer with an actual taste but I'm not always into discussing them. Sitting around before our party on New Year's Eve, Brian and a few of his friends opened barley wines from a few different years. Each bottle had to be sipped and analyzed. I kept thinking, 'drink the damn beer already.'

So I guess I can't really call myself a cocktailian if I'm only asking for lemon instead of lime in my cosmo but I'm sure some bartenders have called me a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mornin' Joe

I woke up wicked early this morning (yeah, I grew up in New England) to run and after Monday's debacle I am happy to report that I ran 3 miles. Not great, but still, this was at 6:30 in the morning.

Anyway, before going out, I had to fuel up on coffee and a glance at the NY Times where I found this picture/essay about a coffee lover's addiction. It's brilliant how Mr. Niemann captures the true essence of a coffee drinker. Just today, while caulking at a Habitat for Humanity house, I had a long discussion about coffee with the supervisor. We both don't like Dunkin' Donuts coffee. He says it's because they use powdered creamer. I say it's because Dunkin' Donuts coffee sucks. We did not agree on Starbucks however. He finds it too strong while for me, it's the nectar of the gods.

I know I differ with a lot of people about Starbucks; some don't like the coffee, others don't like the Starbucks culture. Really, it's coffee, just coffee, not a culture but who am I to say, I'm rather fond (fond may be an understatement) of the Americano--fresh brewed espresso with hot water. I just add a bit of creamer and I'm good to go. I'm not into those steamed milk drinks like lattes or cappuchinos but others are, I know.

And some people have coffee rules. When we traveled to Italy, with friends a year ago, we were told by our Italian friend that there are certain times of the day when one orders espresso and other times when one orders cappuchinos. I could never keep it straight and luckily the waiters just wanted my money so they were happy to oblige my whim.

I could talk for hours about coffee likes, dislikes, rules, and cultures as I'm sure most coffee lovers could. Read few of the comments from Mr. Niemann's essay and you'll get a taste of America's love affair with java.

But to be honest, when I meet someone who doesn't drink coffee it's like meeting someone who doesn't drink; it's all well and good but don't expect us to have anything in common.

You know, after a long day of running, caulking, discussing coffee, I could really go for a beer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Most Wonderful Season of All

While reading the New York Times yesterday, I discovered the return of The Carpetbagger, a seasonal blog about all things Oscar (as in the Academy Awards). I realized with delight that we have now entered my favorite season, Oscar season.

I love the movies, no make that adore the movies. While living in upstate New York, I had a standing date with a friend of mine every Tuesday night. We'd go see a movie in Albany, and then return home and stop off at a local bar for a beer. The bartender knew us and we always chatted with him about the latest movies. Actually, most of the people in the bar knew us (it was a true local) and they called us the Oscar club.

Man, I miss that.

It's been difficult here to find movie buddies. I'm not sure if it's the late night on a weekday or the idea of seeing a movie without one's husband. Either way, I'm on my own for movies most of the time. I don't mind seeing a movie by myself but it is nice to have a friend to motivate you out of the house.

I haven't seen too many movies lately and most of them with my kids (I can't imagine High School Musical 3 will be up for anything). After Candide, it took me a while to get back into the movie swing of things. I jumped in by watching Body of Lies and Quantum of Solace - not really Oscar fare.

But now, it's serious and I have to weigh my movie decisions carefully. I'm looking forward to Milk (I can see Sean Penn walking to the podium now) but I'm not so sure about Australia (I'm not a Nicole Kidman fan so that may color my judgment.) One of my favorite aspects of the season is reading movie reviews and trying to second-guess the Academy: Has anyone made a major comeback this year? Has any "deserving" artist been overlooked?

It really is the most wonderful season of all and while I don't have a movie buddy, I do have everyone who reads this blog. I'll keep you posted on my picks, let me know yours.

Running on Empty

While volunteering at the Philly Marathon expo, I picked up a pair of new running sneakers. My old ones were at least three years old and although I don't run that much, I knew I needed another pair. I went running immediately and felt fantastic. The first day I ran four miles and two days later I ran four and a half. Then I ran six glorious miles after spending all day painting for Habitat for Humanity.

As I upped the mileage I thought about all the races I could run--Broad Street in May, the distance run next fall, and maybe, just maybe the marathon next November. But reality struck--during my run on Saturday I struggled with every mile. Today, I tried, I really tried but couldn't even get around the block.

What happened? I have no idea. It's frustrating because I thought I was finally hitting a stride(no pun intended). I have been taking Ashtanga Yoga classes which I felt really complemented my running. Oh, I know it was only one day but I was really looking forward to the endorphin rush. I haven't had a lot of motivation to do anything for the past couple of days.

Does that ever happen to you? I have a huge to-do list and yet all I want to do is stare out the window and listen to NPR. I'm rather addicted to NPR (I listen to WHYY); it has gotten me through all the yard work and it keeps me company when I clean the house. But I do start to feel guilty if I'm listening and not actually accomplishing anything and I start justifying:

  • Maybe I should just blow the day off and get it out of my system so I can hit the ground running tomorrow (oh, there's another pun, sorry).
  • This is my life and if I want to sit around one day who's going to stop me? My kids are fed and the house is clean (ish).
  • I work for a few months out of the year and when I work, I work a lot so I deserve down time.
But the guilt comes back and my brain starts going down another path:
  • Think of how much I could do if I wasn't so lazy.
  • Other people motivate themselves to run, clean, bake--what's wrong with me?
  • If I just push myself, I'll get something done today and I'll feel better.
It would have been so much easier if I had just gone for a run.