Monthly Archives: February 2013

Goodbye to the Pope

pope

Today is the final morning that Pope Benedict XVI can call himself Pope.  It’s an historic occasion. The papacy is one of the few positions in the world that is started at retirement age, then held until you die. Literally.  The networks have spent most of the morning covering the Pope’s departure from the papal palace, trying to generate excitement.  Only a few thousand people stood outside to watch him leave.  No matter how much the media try to push it, there is a singular lack of enthusiasm about this “incredible, historic moment”.

However, when Benedict was elected Pope, it was understood that it was for 2 reasons:(1)he was already elderly–and not likely to last long, and he was a stopgap to allow the college of cardinals time to find a younger, and more acceptable candidate(2)he was as conservative as the last pope.  To everyone’s surprise, he has lasted eight years–yet the cardinals have not used that time to seriously search for a replacement.  I watched the Christmas Midnight Mass from the Vatican broadcast this year, and the poor guy was clearly down for the count. He would wake up to speak but the rest of the time he seemed to be sound asleep. Pope Benedict clearly doesn’t want the church to go months without a leader, and wants events to move forward, whether the cardinals want to or not.

I’m sure he’s told them repeatedly in past years that he’s had enough. He announced–both in through the media and in social media–that he’s leaving.  Now nobody can say he didn’t give fair warning, and the cardinals must step up to the plate.  Rest assured, they will probably nag him for his opinions, but he can relax because the pressure to perform and act vital is finally off.

 

The church has made bad mistakes in the past three decades, and they can no longer bury their heads in the sand and ignore them.  They have destroyed their workhorses–the communities of sisters who are the ground level representatives of the church; and allowed abuses to go unacknowledged and unpunished, while alienating as many of the faithful as possible. 

I won’t even address the state of the music, except to say that as a singer much of what I’ve heard is so bad that I can’t bear to attend mass–it honestly hurts me to listen to it. 

Pope Benedict has earned his retirement (however long that may last; I won’t lay bets it is very long), and I hope he enjoys his time of peace. I don’t envy whoever replaces him. They have a tough road ahead.

Advertisements

Things to Do: NYC Coffee and Tea Festival

March is coming at last!~and with it one of my favorite yearly events, the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. This insanely fun event will happen at a new(for them) venue, the Armory on the upper east side on the weekend of March 23-24, 2013. (This is not an AD, I have been attending the Festival for over 6 years)Image

Why go? For the cost of admission you are allowed to wander through a huge space that is filled with coffee and tea vendors that allow you to sample–and buy–tea and products from all around the world.   You can taste everything from Turkish Coffee(which will make your head spin) to delicate teas from Korea and Japan–for free!  They’ll also have vendors selling desserts–which are very much a part of the tea experience, and you can buy teapots and other equipment for making tea. 

For the past few years the festival has included and intense Barista competition, where the best coffee makers from businesses around the region compete against each other.  If you’ve notice that your Starbucks coffee doesn’t taste the same, and it makes a difference who made it for you, then you know what I’m talking about.

For those not interested in watching the baristas they have seminars, demonstrations of formal oriental tea ceremonies as well as classes on how to cook with tea. Note: some of the professional seminars do include a fee.

So, when your scratching your head trying to figure out what to do that weekend, please keep the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival in mind.  I’ll warn you though, get your tickets in advance because they tend to sell out! Go to http://www.coffeeandteafestival.com/nyc/tickets.html, but I’d also check on Goldstar.com. This event will change your mind about what a good cup of coffee tastes like–and you’ll go home with a gift bag..

Music at the Oscars 2013

hero719_oscars

Last night’s Oscar broadcast was their first tribute to music in Film, hosted by Seth McFarland from “The Family Guy” and the movie “Ted”.  Before I talk about the program, let me talk about Seth.  It must be horribly difficult to be put in the crosshairs as an Oscar host–which is why there have been relatively few hosts considering 85 year history of the show.  The Academy planners have an amazing tendency to pick hosts because they are comedians–as long-time hosts Bob Hope and Johnny Carson–while disregarding the obvious fact that their comedic style may not be appropriate for this type of show. Seth said he’d been working on the show for over five months, and it showed.  He sang and danced well, was his own brand of charming, and stayed out of the way as much as possible. They seriously edited Seth’s usual comic style, not doubt in terror that he would re-create the Ricky Gervais experience.  It’s too bad; he and the audience could have had more fun if they’d let him fly a little.

Okay, on to the music. I’m not discussing the performances in order, but there’s a point to this. The Chicago reunion was puzzling until I remembered from the red carpet pre-show that the people who did Chicago produced last night’s show. They had been campaigning for years to be allowed to produce the Academy’s and were very excited–they hoped they’d be invited back. (This fact will be important later).  There were three performers whose performances had been widely hyped, and they delivered!  Shirley Bassey in a gold sequined gown sang the daylights out of her trademark “Goldfinger”, alone on a brightly lit stage.  Just after the usual In Memoriam segment honoring industry people who had passed away in the last year, Barbara Streisand walked out onto an empty stage–which was black and looked like she was standing in a field of stars– wearing a black and gold gown, and very simply but with deep emotion, sang “The Way We Were” in tribute to her friend, Marvin Hamlisch.  As the monitor behind her showed a montage of photos of him, I noticed they hadn’t played his song under the In Memoriam segment as they have done for years;  which made Barbara’s performance even more poignant.  Although they are both over 70, both Barbara and Dame Shirley’s performances had the crowd on their feet  at the end of their songs, having casually shown the audience “that’s how it’s done, son”.

I confess that I am not familiar with all Adele’s songs, but she deserved a better production than they gave her performance of “Skyfall”. Her mike wasn’t working properly when she started, there was a big crowd of people on stage, with a giant blue smoke projection behind her–and flashing lights– and the music was too loud.  No wonder she looked very uncomfortable until about halfway through the song.  Of course since she won the academy for her performance on the soundtrack of “SkyFall”, she’ll get over it, but I liked her voice and really wanted to hear her sing something she could sink her teeth into, without all the extras.

Jennifer Hudson looked amazing in her dark blue gown, and settled in to sing her trademark, “I’m not leaving” from Dreamgirls.  The woman has an incredible voice whose intensity can make you drown in your own tears when she really gets going. That said, I wish she would remember that you can get a bigger buildup on a song if you leave yourself room to grow.  It might have been the excitement of the night, her desire to really hit the song out of the park after Barbara and Shirley, or the distraction being unable to connect with the orchestra which was in another location and completely out of sight, but she started the song too hot–the intensity was already too high.  When she tried to build to a bigger finish, she had nowhere to go but screaming–which put her off-key.  The volume level of the orchestra and the lighting display around her made it all exciting for the audience nonetheless, but again, the overproduction of her number did her a disservice. 

There were many surprises last night; among them–who knew  Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron could dance?  The final appearance of the cast of the movie version of Les Mis was stirring, Catherine Zeta-Jones finally got to sing the entire song, “All that Jazz” (she was interrupted by Rene Zellweger in the film), and there were other big dance numbers.  Kudos to Seth and Kristen Chenowith for singing “Here’s to the Losers” as the credits rolled.  It was funny and clever but I couldn’t enjoy it from worrying at what point they broadcast was going to cut them off since the show was running overtime.  

Musically, I really enjoyed last night’s show.  However as is usual with 3+ hour-long shows, it did drag during the presentations, and some of them were  Only Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy know what their bit was all about.  The  field of winners were surprising.  The awards didn’t go as they had on the preceding events, but held such gems as Ben Affleck’s touching acceptance speech (“..and no one would hire me) and Daniel Day Lewis saying he was up for the role of Margaret Thatcher, but lost to Meryl Streep. I look forward to the Tony Awards in a few months. I hope the producers allow the performances to speak for themselves and not try to replicate the Superbowl.

 

.

The Invasion of the Body Shapers

Image

Another cold Saturday morning in NYC.  Of course as I’m drinking my coffee and trying to persuade myself it’s worth it to venture outside, I’m watching the usual slew of infomercials. 

There’s an interesting dynamic going on there.  Cooking shows on half the channels,compete with infomercials for weight loss equipment insisting that “in just a few minutes of doing 100%” using (whatever)you can have the hard body of your dreams, followed by various body shapers. Basically it breaks down into (1)eat, eat! (2)work it off, and (3)abandon hope all you who enter here. I already know how to cook and eat, and the urge to exercise only afflicts me occasionally.

I decided to give the body-shapers a try, but wanted to try a lower cost version first. After spending 30 minutes in Target picking one out (I’m sure the store clerks wondered if I had some kind of fetish) I chose a likely suspect and took it home.  I’ve worn camisoles for years, so I thought putting the thing on would be simple–arms through the straps and pull down….nope. The cami wouldn’t unroll so I could pull it down.  I took it off, and noticed the instructions printed on the manufacturers tag(which most people throw away immediately, assuming the garment had the tag on there when you bought it).  Surprise! The instructions said to roll the camisole up, put it over my head, and down to my waist, then just pull it up from there and slip your arms into the straps.  The manufacturers evidently didn’t realize that as you unroll the camisole from your waist there’s an obstacle (well technically, two)in the way.[Sidenote:  I also recalled that one of the TV body shapers mentioned that to put on their product you should “just step into it and pull it up from the bottom”.  Well, not over mine you don’t.] 

After much tugging and pulling I managed to get the thing over my bra in the front, but there was another problem.  The camisole managed to get under my bra in the back and refused to budge.  Maybe the cami was mis-labled and it was as an exercise device in disguise, but I’d seriously broken a sweat by then.  Okay, down goes the cami again.  Pull it up in the back first, then up the front, and into the straps.  Mission accomplished….The cami rolled up–by itself–from the bottom until it sat like a giant elastic lace rubber band. I refused to give up. I’ve come this far, and I would see how much better, and smoother I would look in my dress with this thing on!  I wrestled the cami into submission, and for the few seconds it stayed down, I looked really good. So I finished dressing and went out, feeling the cami return to the rubber band position as I walked down the street.  When I finally came home later that night, I realized that taking the thing off wouldn’t be any easier.  Arms through the straps, but the rolled-up cami refused to budge.  It wouldn’t pull up–the bra again, and go down.  I tried to pull it up enough to ease one arm out, but that made it even tighter.  With visions of paramedics having to come to my apartment with the Jaws of Life to help me, and explaining the them that I had dislocated my shoulder trying to take off a cami, I did something I’d only seen in cartoons.  I reached for my scissors and cut the stupid thing off me. 

Maybe I’ll go take the plastic off one of the videos in my exercise DVD collection…..

My Favorite Academy Awards Moments

ABC is showing a special tonight about their favorite moments from the Academy Awards. I have several that stand out in my memory, so I’m going to set mine down first and see how many they catch.
1.Crocodile Dundee’s hilarious speech explaining that he’d traveled over 3,000 miles knowing he wasn’t even going to get an award, and detailing how he wishes nominees would act at the Oscars.
2. Clint Eastwood struggling to read jokes on the cue cards that had been written for host Charleton Heston, who was caught in traffic, as the audience howls with laughter.
3. David Niven’s calm assessment of a streaker who showed up while he was on stage.
4. Various awful opening production numbers, including one that started with NO INTRODUCTION of dancers standing on the wings of a plane with cheesy special effects behind them.
5. Sylvester Stallone thanking the Academy for the accolades given to his movie, “Rocky” and saying, I’m broke I need a job.
6. The many Billy Crystal mini movies using the famous stars.
7. Elizabeth Taylor getting her tonsils cleaned by a very drunk Jason Robards when she gave him his award.
8. Randy Newman getting a rousing ovation from the audience and the Oscars orchestra when he was given an award for best song.
9. The amazing montage of the best action films ever made
10. Every year the montage of stars that have passed on is a shock. But I love it because it reminds you of performances you loved but had forgotten, and shows you how incredible the performers looked in their glory days.
11. When they announced the nominees for best makeup, and actors from 2001:A Space Odyssey appeared onstage in their ape makeup, it was the first moment everyone realized that Kubrick hadn’t used real apes for the opening sequence.
12. The year they decided to have actors simply read the words to the best nominated songs, ie, “oh, you chitty, chitty bang,bang. Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang, we love you”. read by Sidney Poitier.
13. Jayne Mansfield defying gravity as she climbed the steps to the stage in an incredibly low-cut gown.
14.Louise Lasser’s acceptance speech for her role as Nurse Racher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She was speaking with tears running down her face as she used sign language to make sure her parents knew her love and gratitude.
15. In a celebration of the great Hollywood musicals, they rounded up all the movie musical stars they could found. Cyd Charisse and Jane Powell looked fabulous.

What were your favorites?

2013 Oscar Fever-Let’s Add Viewer Changes

It’s Oscar fever time! Sunday night I will be joining everyone else who’s home watching one of the year’s most elegant events–in my yellow flannel pj’s and fluffy bear slippers, on the couch. The pre-award show fashion specials let us see the stars in all their designer gowned, and bejeweled glory. But maybe they should add a few other categories:
(1)Worst fake appreciation of someone else getting by their award (2)Longest acceptance speech
(3)Presenter’s biggest “what the hell were they thinking?” moment
(4)Most puzzling award presented
(5)Most snarky acceptance speech
I’m just saying…

Part of what makes the Academy Awards broadcast interesting is the voters decisions about who gets what. This year’s awards are no different, with Ben Affleck’s ARGO already sweeping all the other awards shows, while he wasn’t even nominated for best director. If it makes him feel better, Affleck’s in fine company. The Academy Award voters have an amazing tendency go against public perceptions.

In 1939 the awards were an absolute nightmare of decisions. We can only imagine the panic the voters felt when they saw the list of nominees, and the migraines they had trying to reach a decision. In the end,Gone with the Wind won over: Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, and Wizard of Oz, for best picture. It is inconceivable to us today that the Wizard of Oz only won 2?! awards–Best song (Over the Rainbow, which was by the way repeatedly cut from the movie before it’s release)and Best original Score(remember the music for the witch riding her bicycle, the witch’s guards, in addition to the main character’s individual songs. Robert Donat (Goodbye Mr. Chips) won over Clark Gable’s Rett Butler, Laurence Olivier’s Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mickey Rooney’s Babe in Arms.

Only after the Academy did a film montage of the greatest films in history–including a ridiculous number of Stephen Speilberg films did they finally give Speilberg his Best Director Oscar. Hmmmm. It might be fun to give out an Academy Honorary DO-OVER AWARD, allowing the general public to award an Oscar to a person or film that was unfairly slighted in the past. Just for starters, give Peter O’Toole his Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia, and My Favorite Year. Give Clark Gable his award for Gone with the Wind, and Sidney Poihero719_oscarstier wasn’t even nominated him for his lead role in “In the Heat of the Night”! Who do you think deserves a “Do-Over” award?

Loving Period Movies

I have become a big fan of period movies.  From all the old musicals, to Barry Lyndon, Tom Jones, all the various versions of the Jane Austen novels, to of course Downton Abbey.  I know that costume designers research the clothes from what dresses were worn at what time of day, to the dyes used on the threads from which the cloth is woven.  But the clothes used in British films have always puzzled me.  Knowing that the castles are difficult to heat–even today,and that England is not a particularly warm  country,  I don’t understand why so many of the evening and dinner gowns are (1)sleeveless and (2)made from very lightweight fabric! As I watch the ladies of Downton Abbey calmly eating dinner in these gowns–however  beautiful–I am amazed the the cameras don’t catch their teeth chattering as they recite their lines.  How do they hide the goose bumps?  They occasionally have evening shawls, but they are used as decorations on their arms, not for warmth.  Speaking from personal experience, you would freeze to death if the room isn’t well heated.  The men are wearing long-sleeve shirts,with vests and jackets.  With the exception of the Dowager none of the women have on anything nearly that warm.

As I watched Matthew’s romantic proposal in the snow to Mary, all could think was,”That poor girl! One of the greatest moments in her life and she can’t enjoy it because that smile on her face is a true frozen smile. She’s not just listening intently, she’s trying to figure out how to get her mouth open so she can say her lines.”