Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunset, New Year's Eve eve

I'm really taken with the view from my office window in the waning light of winter evenings. Last night, a sliver of a moon joined the bare winter branches.

Monday, December 29, 2008


I had a really fine Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we were invited to two neighbors' Christmas Eve parties. It was hard to stop eating at the first party to save room for the even better second party, but I did practice restraint. And, the evening was astonishingly warm.

On Christmas day, we opened gifts. Since I do all the cooking in the house, I was given a new CrockPot (on sale for 50% off, plus additional savings). But, I also got a new electric razor, two flannel shirts, Godiva chocolates, a restaurant gift card, and seven DVDs (Bourne Identity, Casino Royale [with the delicious Daniel Craig], Mamma Mia! [hot damn!], Elizabeth, The Hard Nut [Mark Morris' wonderful, irreverent take on The Nutcracker], Hot Fuzz [great comedy], and Notting Hill [great all-around film]).

In the afternoon, we went for a walk at a local state park. On our way to the park, we pulled up to an intersection and stopped at a traffic signal. Off to my left, I saw a man walking up to a convenience store with his son. I only saw the man from the back, but that was enough. He was wearing tight, stonewashed bluejeans, tan leather work boots, a dark insulated jacket cinched tight at the waist. And, best of all, he was a redhead (my weakness). This guy was to die for. Hell, the tight bluejeans with a great ass would have been enough, but this guy (at least from the back) had a hell of a lot more, too. The things fantasies are made of...

After the walk, for dinner, I made pork tenderloins with a rich cranberry sauce, wild rice and cranberry pilaf, and asparagus. A great day all around.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Solstice Sunset

This is the view from my office at sunset on the solstice. Winter sunsets are my favorite.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

We went to see Slumdog Millionaire this weekend. My colleagues asked if I liked the film, and I had a hard time answering that question. I told them that the film is intense. I also told them that the film is extraordinarily well directed, well acted, and has a satisfying story line with good closure. However, the upbeat conclusion of the story and the energetic Ballywood dance number accompanying the credits really can't make up for the fact that the film grinds down the audience unrelentingly for two hours before it finally resolves. Would I recommend the film? Yes, I'd recommend it for a great (if improbable) story, and great movie making. But would I recommend it as an uplifting "rags to riches" fable? No can do.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Drying out

Sunshine (at least a bit of it), at last! We've survived two solid days of clouds, rain (some of it torrential last night), and cold. Today it's windy and partly cloudy with breaks of sun but, most importantly, it has stopped raining.

Yesterday afternoon, driving back to work in the rain after a meeting out in the country, I watched a Great Blue Heron flying over the suburban sprawl. This lonely bird, battling the cold, the rain, and a light headwind, was heading back to its roost for the evening--a gray wraith against a gray sky on a gray and dreary day. I felt so sorry for this bird (and all the other animals that have no choice but to bear the cold, inclement weather with wet fut and wet feathers). I thought about how difficult it must be to find something to eat when the bird needed food the most, yet the streams were running high and the prey were obscured by mud and silt.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Doug Varone stumbles

My wife and I went to a performance by Doug Varone and Dancers last week. We both like contemporary dance a great deal and have a season subscription to a contemporary dance series in our city, so you'll be hearing more about dance as the season goes along. Varone's company performed four dances, but only the first was worth watching. Lux, with music by Philip Glass, premiered in 2006. It started a bit slow with a solo by Eddie Taketa, but it gradually built as the intensity of the music built as well, with more and more dancers on stage until the entire company of eight was performing as an ensemble. The dancing was inspired, and the music was engaging. A winner! Unfortunately, we should have gone home after the first dance. The second piece was a duet called Home which portrayed the trials and tribulations of a relationship; wow, that was insighful. Other audience members with whom we spoke during the intermission seemed to agree that the work was tired, tedious and trite.

After the intermission, Paul Verone danced a duet with Daniel Charon called Polonaise #44. The music was an unaccompanied piano work of the same name by Chopin. I might be labeling myself a boor here, but I don't much like unaccompanied piano music. (When I was in graudate school, my advisor used to listen to classical music in his office next to mine from sunup to sundown, and the plink, plink, plink of unaccompanied piano got old really fast. It hasn't improved with age.) I thought that the piece looked a lot like improv and, while most of our fellow audience members thought it better than Home, that wasn't saying much. The evening closed with another full-company ensemble piece called, enigmatically, Boats Leaving. I was unable to engage with this dance, either. I found myself paying attention for a while, only to discover that I had drifted off; this happened repeatedly. My wife reported the same reaction.

Varone addressed the audience during the intermission. He probably shouldn't have. He told us more than we wanted to know, and he tried to explain his motivation for creating Boats Leaving. For the life of me, I didn't see how his motivation translated into the dance. Varone does a lot of work choreographing for opera and stage. Those influences definitely inform his dance pieces, which are stagey and posed. Based on Lux, Varone can definitely engage his audience, but you'd never know it from the final three pieces.


It's been unseasonably cold for the last several weeks. It snowed a bit on Saturday evening, and Sunday was really cold and windy. One of the nice things about the arrival of winter, though, is that the sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular. The sky at sunrise generally has had a few clouds that glow with brilliant orange on the eastern horizon, and the higher clouds reflect pink hues, all surrounded by deep blue. In the evenings, the clouds are mostly gone, and the red sunsets grade seemlessly up to the zenith from red to deep indigo flecked with early stars.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Turkey Day Weekend

I just had three good days. Three out of four ain’t bad but, unfortunately, the one bad day (Friday) was my wife’s birthday. Can I pick ‘em or what?

We had three days of fine weather this weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; Sunday was a rain-out from sunup to sundown), so we took advantage of them to go for walks each day. On Thanksgiving morning, we went for a walk at a nearby park. While we were walking, we ran into our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, who was walking the trails with a large, extended family. Then, further along the trail, we ran into a person whom we hadn’t seen in over 10 years. I stared at her at first (not recognizing her) because she was preparing to saddle-up on her bicycle, which she had just removed from her Prius, and I wondered what kind of bike carrier she had attached to the Prius. (We have a Prius, too, which will accommodate few bicycle carriers, so I’m always on the lookout. It turns out that her bike fits in the hatch of the Prius if she takes off the front wheel). While I was staring at her, she called out my name, which surprised me since I hadn’t seen her in so long. We caught up for a few minutes before several of her companions came along and the group took to the trails.

When we got back home after the walk, we began preparing our 22-pound turkey. Because our turkeys are usually boring, we decided to consult our new Bon Appetite cookbook and make a citrus-glazed turkey with wild rice stuffing. It was the most delicious and moist turkey we’d ever made, but was a lot more work than a “standard” turkey. Nevertheless, it was worth it. Plus, now we’ve got leftovers for days.

While the turkey was roasting, I raked leaves. I made a lot of headway, but there are still a lot of leaves left to rake, load into a trash can, and dump on the compost mountain behind the house.

After enjoying and cleaning up after dinner, we watched Moonstruck. I just finished watching Brokeback Mountain on Monday, and then had a chance to watch Moonstruck on Thursday—two of my favorite movies in one week! Moonstruck is nearly perfect—only one false note when Cher first meets Nickolas Cage’s character (Cage overacts his part).

On Black Friday, my wife decided to help pump up the economy, so she went Christmas shopping while I stayed home to take care of errands and to rake leaves. For some reason, I became increasingly depressed as I raked the leaves. By the time she returned around noon, I was in a full-blown foul mood. It was a nice day, so we decided to take a long walk for exercise but hardly said a word to one another for almost two hours.

Because it was her birthday, I decided I’d better do something nice, so I started to bake biscotti late in the afternoon. She came out to help, and my mood began to lift. Of course, by then I had ruined her day. I made dinner, and then we watched The Incredibles on television—a clever animated film we’ve seen several times.

Saturday morning we decided to go see Bolt at the super-bargain matinee ($6 for all shows before noon). We both enjoyed the film and I’d recommend it, but there’s not much to the story; we both agreed that The Incredibles was better. After the movies, we took a long walk at a nearby state park. When we got home, I raked leaves again, and then we went out to dinner at a TGI Friday’s type restaurant.

After we were seated, the hostess seated a young family in a booth across from us. The father was a real “looker”—I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He appeared to be in his late 30s, had a shaved head, and was handsome, slim and trim—just my type. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt, Carhartt-style canvas pants, and hiking boots. Woof!

Sunday it rained all day. It showered in the morning, and then steady rain arrived around noon. I decided to go Christmas shopping myself. I was gone for three hours, went to lots of different stores, and had mixed results. It wasn’t a total bust, but it wasn’t completely satisfying, either.