Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Incredibly....Average!

Now that's a musical I'd see...Well, can't say we haven't tried. But the entertainment lately has, well, not sucked, but just been so darn underwhelming.

We saw 1776 at the Guthrie recently, and it was, well. See it all started when S (that guy we went to North Dakota with) sent around an e-mail trying to see if enough people were interested to try and get group-rate tickets. See, 1776 is not a particularly good musical. I know; I've been in it (Guess when?! Hint: Carter was president...) though we performed a much-abbreviated version. It was still too long. It starts off well, and then, around scene three, it turns into the 18th Century version of C-SPAN. While highlights occur throughout the rest of the show, chances are good you may have already fallen asleep, and will therefore miss them. But, hey, it's the Guthrie, and the people going looked fun, so, of course, I completely ignored the e-mail. But...Boo did not.

Well, the dinner was good. My cocktail was a complete travesty, but that's probably my fault. When it's hot, and it was in the high 90's, I like a good gin Collins. But made with lime, not lemon. This is also known as a gin Rickey with less sugar, but Collins sounds nicer than Rickey. I mean, who would you rather date? And a gin-Collins-with-lime-not-lemon was good enough for Faye Dunaway in Chinatown, and she's a good role model, right? What I got may have had gin in it, though there is no evidence, and I didn't see it made. It couldn't be tasted through the thick sour-lime mojito mix that had been doused over the top. Not a drop of soda was detectable, either. But, like I say, my fault, ordering a classic cocktail when they wanted to serve me a pom-tini or something equally vile.

Dinner was nice, the pinot noir I had with dinner was also lovely, and the company was hard to beat. I was seated across from K, and K's always fun to talk to. K is sometimes masculine and sometimes feminine in appearance, but always pretty level, as befits someone who used to work in construction and now works for a bus company. K ordered a martini, but K is not too fussy, and they didn't screw it up badly. K was in feminine mode, with a lovely delicate cross over her scoop-necked bosom, and a rather fetching teal suit. The thing I like about K's fashion sense is that, while some people find it dowdy, I just find it realistic. It's very much what a Midwestern woman of her age wears. K seldom stands out as a T, not because she tries so hard to blend, but because she's just so casually female. Not glam, not affected, just casually dressed, lightly made up, and with her silvery-gold hair nicely framing her face. We discussed wine, travel, Ireland, Spain, Japan, music, and misspent youth. Quite nice. Boo held court a couple of seats away, and I missed most of that conversation.

I have to give the actors credit; they very nearly saved the production. However, what I'm beginning to find about the Guthrie is that they don't really trust their actors. So, enter technology. The stage is a thrust, and the main set piece was an Independence Hall interior that scooted forward and back, sometimes behind a scrim, sometimes well out to the front of the thrust. When a lovely young man with a lovely voice is singing the lovely and moving
Momma, Look Sharp, it would behoove the director not to choose to move the set. Since it is not quiet. And it only makes it so! much! worse! when you then augment the singer with the most obvious reverb since Madonna's second album (y'know, before she could sing). Also afflicted with reverb was the dynamic and showstopping performance of Molasses to Rum (yeah, these are actual song titles - History was never this much fun!!!) by the amazingly talented (and gay) Bradley Greenwald. Bringing reverb to Bradley is like painting two-inch silver racing stripes on a Bentley - it's tacky, it's ugly, and it's never justifiable.

Poor directorial decisions and a play that was never all that to begin with made for a mostly lackluster visit to the theater.

So, then we ventured out last night for an evening of cinema with Cy and John. We saw Sunshine, though I would much rather have seen Once. However, the other member of our party had already seen it, and Boo and the boys were pretty set on science fiction. Y'know, I'm still yawning. It's a pretty movie. All about flying the Icarus II to the sun to set off a giant fission explosion in hopes of reviving the sun before all life on earth dies. Again, good work by the actors; Cillian Murphy is pretty great as usual, Chris Evans is fine in many, many ways, Michelle Yeoh does a hell of a lot with not much to work with. But, ultimately...meh. The script just doesn't really give you humans with pasts or connections to root for - these people seem to have sprung up five minutes before the movie starts. And, it becomes extremely clear about 1/3 of the way in that ain't nobody coming back alive. So, then it's pretty much just waiting to see if they can actually save the sun before they all croak. And honestly, if you saw Mission to Mars, you'll swear you've seen it all before. Mars's ending is more preposterous, but Sunshine has at least one plot twist that makes you go "Oh, really?!" after they've encountered the Icarus I and found out why its mission failed.

So, not a great month for entertainment.

Just be glad I'm not blogging about work right now.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bitter? Moi?

One of my friend Cheryl's many beautiful photos
You know, I don't think I've ever lived anywhere with a disaster. Weird. Boo, of course, attracts disaster everywhere he goes, but me, not so much.

So I can hardly express how weird it was watching the news all night last night. Very strange. News reporters, I must conclude, are completely insane.

Channel 4 (WCCO) seemed hell-bent on driving me right round the bend - everything seemed to center on the "BUT WAIT! IT COULD STILL GET WORSE!" school of journalism. My favorite paraphrase was "fortunately the kids [from the bus, natch] are physically fine, though the psychological trauma of living through this will, no doubt, remain to be seen." Subtext: Next May, there will be a Very Special Feature® on the "survivors of the horrifying bus on the bridge incident!" I had to change the channel.

I tried 11 for a while (KARE) and they weren't bad, and since a friend of mine works for them, I try to give them a chance. They had some absolutely gripping footage of what has to be my hero of this whole event - a blond amazonian rescue worker, wearing little more than a dive singlet and what seemed to be a Kevlar vest, precariously tiptoeing through the fucking Mississippi along giant fragments of broken concrete bridge and exposed re-bar, and putting her bare hands and arms and head through the smashed windows of crushed automobiles to see if anyone was still trapped inside. (edit: She's now been identified as Shanna Hanson, a Fire Captain.

But I kept going back to FOX ultimately, if for no other reason that I first heard about there - we were looking for So You Think You Can Dance and found, well, oh so much more. Now a word about our local Fox affiliate - they weren't always a FOX affiliate. It used to be a pretty good local station with the usual line up of not terribly annoying re-runs, (the not so usual) annual high school hockey tournament coverage, and some kick-ass local news - this was the nine o'clock news in a ten o'clock news region. Robyne Robinson has been with the station for at least 15 years and a major cultural force in the Twin Cities for most of that time; and while Jeff Passolt alternately reminds me that he used to be a sportscaster when I'm not confusing him with Don Shelby from Channel 4, he's also quite credible. Boo still avers that Robyn absconded with a bunch of hats that his chorus wore in the Pride Parade one year, but I'm sure it was a misunderstanding, and really, what are you doing putting your hats in the Grand Marshall's car, anyway?

This was really fascinating coverage. Both were clearly shocked, and it was interesting to see their emotions so visibly as they presented the news. I'm not sure what was pissing Robyne off so much, but her demand to a reporter on the scene ("...your REPORT!") sounded like it should be followed up with "...or I'll KILL you!". She seemed absolutely furious with the remote reporter every time she attempted to deliver news from the scene. She also seemed on the verge of slapping Jeff most of the evening; a sentiment I must have shared at least once or twice.

Give her the benefit of the doubt; like me, she was probably frustrated with the rate of news reports trickling in from officials, and the inevitable fog of confusion and inaccuracy that surrounds a huge disaster. At least three "eye-witness" reports were credited to people "walking on the bridge" at the time, which is simply not possible unless you're one of the construction workers - there is no pedestrian route across this bridge. It's a fucking INTERSTATE FREEWAY people. Poor Robyne. Sometimes she seems to channel the entire frustration of the Twin Cities intelligentsia. Shame she has to work for FOX.

I'm sure the days ahead will be filled with annoyance and frustration with the media, (I'm looking at you, Malkin, you insane bitch) but I'm feeling pretty good today. Almost all of my friends have checked in, (and if you're local and reading this and haven't, please do. ANDY. FROSTI.) and I can't stop thinking that damn, it could have been SO much worse. Most of the lanes were closed limiting traffic on the bridge, the severe weather did NOT arrive, a huge number of people walked away with minor scrapes and bruises, which, I'm thinking is a pretty good thing. Dropping a Honda or Ford from tree-top height (65 feet!) into a river is not something they've generally designed seat belts or airbags for. There are probably some elements of this that won't sink in until I see the site; on the news it all looks so small, and this is a bridge almost three blocks long. I really am finding it difficult to comprehend.

Today, the press is full of fault-finding and report-dissecting. I don't know yet what they'll find. I do know that at least two years ago I read an article in either Harper's or the Atlantic about the crumbling and decrepit state of America's infrastructure. The recent gas explosion in New York being another symptom. The levee failure in New Orleans being still another. This is scary stuff, and I hope, really hope, that we won't find that we've been sold down the river by our government once again. If the '70's, 80's, and 90's are the best we achieved by pushing grim reality and tedious and expensive maintenance into the future, we were totally had. It wasn't THAT good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


We're fine. We're checking on friends now. If it's in you to pray, this would be a good time. There are fifty cars in the water. There are fires. Severe weather is on the way. This is just terrible.