Friday, December 30, 2016

The Secret Garden

I became aware of the musical version of "The Secret Garden" in my choral years. The group I was in sang "Come to My Garden" and I don't think that's the only reason that the song is my favorite from the show. Later, when I watched "It Factor" they featured Daisy Egan who won a Tony for playing Mary in "The Secret Garden" but was figuring out her place in Broadway as an adult. So the combination of a local production of "The Secret Garden" that included Daisy Egan  (now playing Martha, the housemaid who encourages Mary to go outside and such) was a no brainer for me.  
As is my habit of late, other than my great familiarity with the one song, I went in mostly cold. 
One of the reasons for coming in with some additional knowledge is so that you don't spend the whole time marveling at the changes.  The musical, for reasons I do understand, focuses much more on the adults.  Also, books can get away with more internal obstacles, but theater often requires a more specific antagonist so Colin's doctor is now his uncle, who was also apparently secretly in love with Lily (Colin's Mom) but also maybe wishes Colin and Archibald would all go away and either leave him the house and property, or leave him to start over.  (Yeah, I found Neville's motivation a little conflicting.) The ghost of Lily, along with Mary's parents, Mary's Ayah and some other folks who died of the cholera outbreak act as sort of a Greek chorus throughout the show, both narrating and also reinforcing the idea that these main characters of Mary, Archibald, and Colin are all living haunted lives.  
Theater productions of books, even comparatively short books, always seem shorter, and the additional emphasis on the adults tilted that more.  So yes, Mary still does discover that being outside and in the garden is good for her, and later for Colin, but Colin barely makes an appearance in the first act, and gets a comparatively short time in the second act. (The Shakespeare Theater production also cut "Round Shouldered Man".) 
Mary's Ayah does not get a name, which is interesting because the male Indian spirit Fakir does.    
So now that I'm done discussing changes, the overall idea of learning to focus outward to get through your grief is still there.  Mary is still prominent, and the staging did some interesting things to demonstrate both the idea of the creepy dark house on the moor, and the garden that begins to flourish. 
I left wanting to re-read The Secret Garden, and overall was really glad to have had the chance to see it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. It doesn't surprise me as we have more devices that we uses to assist and track use throughout our day, that they begin to factor in things like murder cases, but this story of the police trying to subpoena info from an Amazon Echo reminded me of the discussion around the use of parrots in court cases.   
2. I don't know that it's fair to say that the efforts the Obama administration have made with the current Japanese administration are entirely because a kid from Hawaii would think to focus on that, but the visit to Pearl Harbor and the memorial was poignant, to say the least. 
3. I was pointed to this lovely tumblr that envisioned the convo that might be going on in the afterlife with Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

RIP, Ms. Fisher

Being of a certain age, 2016 has become a bit of a ranking year as far as deceased celebrities.  When I heard about Carrie Fisher, I went to look, because I had just been discussing seeing Fisher when she came to DC for the Wishful Drinking tour and found I apparently didn't blog about it.  (What? I know!) One woman shows, particularly those using a lot of audience interaction are a lot of lightning in a bottle moments strung together so it's hard to describe except to say one of the many things that made Carrie Fisher's later interviews and writing and one woman shows entertaining was she had reached a very specific point of wry humor, laced with really clear eyed understanding of her life, her challenges - both internal and external, and what she needed to best make the world work for her.  So basically, I laughed and came home with a desire to be drinking buddies (even if the drinks for non-alcoholic) with her. 
Someone with that level of fame that early, that level of life challenges, could have easily opted out of the spotlight, and I'm sure there were days, weeks, and years where Fisher wished she did or had.  But she figured out how to set what seemed from my chair in the audience to be healthy boundaries. She did interviews with her assistive dog.  She told Daisy Ridley make sure they give your character clothes, so that you are not forever an action figure without clothes. She talked about addiction, mental health, and heartbreak in ways that now seem less refreshingly honest because people like her were out there talking about it early and often.  
I am so sad for her family for their loss and so grateful the rest of the world got to experience so much of her. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


I listen to podcasts while working.  But I had noticed a thing.  I had podcasts with male and female hosts.  I had podcasts with male only hosts.  But I had pretty much no podcasts with only female hosts.  And there were some days where about four I reached a point where my ears craved diversity and I was skipping around to find a podcast where the voices didn't all land in that lower register.  So, I looked around.  I googled podcasts with female hosts. And well, a lot of this is a lot of my own proclivities (I tend to not be into political or crafty podcasts and so far most podcasts by people famous for being funny have not been for me) but I have found some things.  So, I thought I would share.  It is terribly NPR heavy.  It is also writer and pop culture heavy.  Since I brought up gender, I will note it for each of these.
I no longer listen to all of these, but yeah, I know, it's a lot. 

-88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang - Discussions of books and writing.  (Female host.)
-The Business of Writing in Romance - Writing from a more business side.  (Two female hosts, varying guests.) Now defunct, but some great interviews. 
-Grammar Girl - Self-titled Grammar Girls discusses some quick grammar questions. (Female host)
-How Do You Write - A look at writing process.  (Female host, varying guests.)
-Scriptnotes - Two screenwriters talk writing and movie news (Male hosts)
-The Writers Panel - discussions with writers about writing, usually Comics and TV writers. (Male host, varying interviewees)
-Minorities in Publishing - Interviews with Minority folks in publishing.  (Female host.) 
-Writing Excuses - A panel of writers (mostly book, some comic) discuss writing (Three males and a female are the main hosts.)

Current Events: 
-Freakonomics Radio - The folks behind Freakonomics look at things through, well, a Freakonomics lens. (Main hosts male)
-On the Media - a weekly review of the news media (Female and male hosts, varying contributors)
-Serial - You may have heard of this one, from the This American Life people, stories that take place over multiple episodes.  The first season took a look at a murder case. (Main host female)
-Ted Talks - People with a viewpoint on something.  (Varying speakers.)
-TWIBPrime aka This Week in Blackness- Three (to four or five) panelists discuss the weeks news with an emphasis on things that affect people of color. (Main hosts one male, and two females)
-Planet Money - Stories told through an economic/financial lens 

Pop Culture:
-Another Round - Discussions of race, gender and pop culture.  Also squirrels.  (Two female hosts.)
-Extra Hot Great - discussions and quizzes about TV.  (Currently two female hosts, a male host, and regular guests.)
-Literary Disco - Three bookish folk discuss books.  (Two males and a female host.) I confess, this one I have fallen out of interest with, they are pretty judgey about genre fic and I reached my limit on that.  
-Pop Culture Happy Hour - Four panelists discuss pop culture. (Main contributors contain a female, and two males)
-Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan - Two TV critics discuss TV. (A male host and a female host.)
-West Wing Weekly - Discussion of "The West Wing". (Two male hosts)

-Pardon the Interruption - Similar to the TC show of the same name, a look at the latest sports news (Male hosts) *
-His and Hers - Sports (Male and female host)

Trivia, Knowledge, and other Minutiae: 
-Ask Me Another - Humorous quiz show from NPR with weekly guests. (Female host, male house musician.)
-Good Job, Brain! - A trivia team quizzes each other on different manner of trivia.  (Two female members, two male members.)
-Hidden Brain - The science behind decision-making and behavior. (Male host.) *

-Invisibilia - A look a the things behind human behavior (Two female hosts)
-Nerdette - Two self-described Nerdette's discuss stories of interest to those of us with a nerdy bent. (Female hosts, although for the TV recaps they are regularly joined by a male.) 
-Song Exploder - the history behind a song.  (Male host)
-Stuff You Should Know- Two, um, know-it-alls do a deep dive into a subject.  (Male hosts.)
-Radiolab - Stories that look at the intersection between science, philosophy, and the human experience. (Male hosts.)
-Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - Humorous current event quiz show (Male host, varying panelists.)

Real Life Stories: 
-Criminal - Deep dive into a particular crime.  (Female host, varying contributors.)
-Judge John Hodgeman - Real people bring their real issues to fake internet court. (Male host.)
-Love and Radio - One interview about an unusual story.  (Varying interview subjects.) Some of these are NSFW, so use headphones. 
-Radio Diaries - is a pretty accurate title really. (Varying contributors)
-Snap Judgement - Stories about life, again usually with a common theme. (Male host, varying contributors.)
-This American Life - Stories about life, usually with a common theme. (Main host male, contributors vary weekly.)
-Tiny Spark - A look at philanthropic efforts and other attempts at making good. (Female host)
-Storycorps- Selected stories from the Storycorp project collecting stories of everyday people.(Varying interview subjects.)

Other podcasts: 
-2 Dope Queens - Comedy and comic bits talking about sex, romance, race, and hair.  (Two female hosts, varying guests). 
-Code Switch - Discussions of race and news (Male and female main hosts, varying contributors). 
-News in Slow Spanish - News in slow Spanish for those of us trying to maintain or relearn our Spanish (male and female host). 
-Fortification - Interviews with social justice organizers about the intersection of faith and justice (Female host, varying guests.)
-Sporkful - A look at food traditions.  (Male host.)

Now Defunct or on Hiatus
-Black Girl Nerds - Note: Does not podcast enough - A look at nerd news from some black girls. (Female hosts.)
-Firewall and Iceberg - Two TV Critics discuss TV.  (Male hosts) This podcast is now defunct. 
-How to Do Everything - Instructional tips on a variety of topics, (Male hosts.) This podcast has now ended. 
-PostBourgie - Discussions of race and news.  (Multiple hosts, male and female).  Podcast intermittent these days. 
-Rendered - Stories and interviews with creative folks. (Female host, varying interviewees.) This podcast is now defunct. 
-This Creative Life with Sara Zarr - Discussions with authors about writing.(Female host, varying interviewees).  Currently on hiatus
-The Year of Tea - It's about tea.  Short casts.  (Male Host).  This podcast is now defunct. 
-How to Do Everything - Two guys look into various questions about how best to do things.  (Two male hosts.) Now ended. 

*Enjoyed but moved out of the rotation. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Project Runway - The Finale

In some ways, like sports, I find it hard to go into these things without having picked a bit of a side. I also feel for the designers, they were told cohesion was key, and in the end, it turned out the judges were also looking for a wow moment.  I don't think any of that is too much to ask, but I do think, now that the designers have so little time for their final collections, it's tough to get cohesive, innovative, and wow.  But, that is the crazy show they signed up for.  (I could also mention that one of their most wow shows ever did not win, but I swear I'm not bitter about that still.)
And of course, while the winner gets money, which is nothing to sneeze at, those of the finalists who wish to move on, have the chance now.  "Project Runway" has a mixed bag of successes and failures, but those who were ready, have gotten great opportunities.  
So, all of this is to say, I'm thrilled for Erin, but man, I had thought I was ready for it to be an interesting discussion of playful Erin or classic Laurence, and instead they found Laurence too, um perfect.  I like a good surprising show, and on that merit Erin and Roberi were more successful but I was in the end more attached to Laurence getting this money than I thought I was.  I really do think that these four had some really interesting things.  They are not all things I would wear, but heck, half the stuff that walks fashion week I wouldn't wear.  But these were great finalists and I'm so grateful I got to watch them make fascinating clothes all season. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You might have heard the story of the black female doctor who was told they needed "real" medical professionals when she came forward for a request for medical assistance.  But as a result, she met with the airline and they are revising how they ask flight crew to seek out assistance. 
2. My grandmother always had cats. Once she was suffering dementia, it was tricky as dementia patients are not good at remembering to feed and clean up after animals. My family's solution involved a very understanding assisted care facility and daily visits from a cat care assistant.  But robotic therapy cats might be a much more achievable solution for many. 
3. This is framed as a lazy dog, but I would argue that the dog has learned efficiency, and that the Roomba will just go around it. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Food and Friends

It was a weekend that involved bundling up and staying warm, eating yummy food made by myself and friends, knitting and otherwise.  In my extended circle this weekend involved two funerals and a new puppy.  In some ways it was a great reminder that we gather, we hang out, and it may just seem like knitting, and gossiping, and eating, but the connections and the maintenance of them through time and food make us better, fuller people and the reason on this top half of the planet we try really hard to do this this time of year is not only because of the cold and the dark, (although yes, that too).  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Project Runway: The Tim Visits

The Tim visits are my favorite part and if I had been Roberi's family, I would have demanded they have that video chat while Tim was there.  Also, time for my annual reminder to folks, hi, I love you, if you get on "Project Runway" make it to the final four and invite me as your dear friend.  Laurence told Tim her story, which viewers had gotten a peek at earlier.  Roberi talked about leaving Caracas.  Erin took Tim to a bar.  And Rik took Tim bowling which is kind of delightful.  I don't know what makes you think, I'll take Tim bowling, but these are creative minds at work here. 
Back in New York (or still in New York in Roberi's case) they showed the judges three looks with Heidi there via video chat, and Michael Kors there as an in person judge (along with Nina and Zac).  And so they were all told to work on cohesion.  I don't think the judges were wrong, and in fact it was a lot of what Tim had said during his visits, but I think the three looks can be tough, because if I show you a chocolate chip cookie, an sugar cookie, and a brownie, the brownie stands out.  But if I show you a chocolate chip cookie, sugar cookie, gingersnap, a marshmallow treat, a blondie, and a brownie, now it seems more balanced.  (This is a bad example because who says brownies, what were you thinking?  But you get my point.) 
But I'm looking forward to the finale.  These are some talented designers with excellent sewing skills, and the two have not always gone hand in hand.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You may have heard there was a recent legislative change to Voice of America.  This article talks about what Voice of America does now and how they expect this to change their mission. . 
2. This article about how Moana is an unusual female character for demonstrating leadership through empathy and smarts rather than supreme fighting skills is really interesting but it contains a spoiler for the ending, so proceed with caution. 
3. Because it is sugar season, these three recipes can be combined into one amazing sounding thing. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

RIP, Mr. Thicke

When I was in high school "Growing Pains" not only aired new episodes throughout the year, it reran on one of the local stations every evening.  So, in an average week I watched six episodes of "Growing Pains" while doing my homework.  (I would argue that I got a lot done during this half hour, my parents may disagree.) So, I am intimately familiar with the show, watched all the reunion movies, and also know "Growing Pains" factoids like Brad Pitt guest starred twice, at a time he was such an unknown that he played a different character. As someone who at the time had flirted with the idea of becoming a psychologist, the role of psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver was compelling to me, plus the various sibling differences ultimately spoke to me.  I haven't revisited those episodes, so have no idea how they read now, but I was incredibly attached to them and so, with sadness saw that Alan Thicke passed away last night.  He was also a TV theme song writer, and ridiculously, I can still sing quite a few of those.  These days I understand increased ad time has limited such things, and really only "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is committing to the theme song as a complete song, and not a short riff. 

Monday, December 12, 2016


I went to see "Carousel" at Arena Stage Friday. It included a number of actors I've seen in other local productions, so it was a gimme for me, even if I knew that musicals of a certain age tend to include problematic things.  Which is to say, while I had listened to the music some in preparation, I had decided to go in blind on plot and well, yeah.  
Let's summarize first.  "Carousel" is the story of Carousel barker Billy who loses his job for flirting too much and ends up married to one of the flirtees (who also loses her job for engaging in behavior unbecoming of a factory girl).  His sadness over being unemployed leads to drinking and spousal abuse, but when he discovers his wife is pregnant, he engages in a ridiculous scheme to get more money and ends up dead and in purgatory.  He is offered the chance to attempt to up his heavenly entry points by going back to help his daughter who is now a teen with a bit of a temper problem.  it also includes a number of well known songs such as "June is Busting Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". 
So, having consulted post-show with a friend who was quite familiar with it, and also taken a peak at the summary here, it is clear to me that this version attempted to address some of the elements that in the original made spousal abuse seem adorable.  Yes, Julie still stays with Billy, but everyone else tells her that she shouldn't.  Domestic violence is a complex issue, and it's not impossible to address in a musical, but in this case it was clearly meant as a layer of Billy's character, not anything the show was going to spend real time exploring for Julie. Billy has to make amends but not to Julie, just to someone.  So it's essentially treated as a character flaw where the victims are unimportant other than it is preventing him from progressing on to heaven. 
The performances were great, and the orchestra was suspended over the stage in what looked like the top of the carousel.  Since it takes place in Maine there were what to my ears sounded like a good Down East accent.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

Project Runway: The Final Four

The final challenge is always so exhausting for everyone.  The designers are right at the point they can taste the end - although the end hopefully means six more weeks or whatever silly time frame they have of work.  Okay fine, honestly all five of these designers are going home to create a collection, but one of them may be a decoy.  Anyway, so, because they weren't tired at all, they whisked the designers to Austin where we met Nick Verreos who is there to tell the designers about the hotel.  Then they get swept to two locations for their unconventional shopping. I would hope that they got more than that nice meal in Austin because for a challenge that was supposed to combine high fashion and Austin's weird aesthetic, it didn't look like they got much time in Austin. 
But anyway, they made things, they got a surprise additional outfit (that I suspect was because no one was fighting so they were trying to amp up the tension, but this is just me spitballing here). No one had two bad outfits, and really it was just down to who do you want to see more of.  So Cornelius was sent home again. And we get to see what Laurence, Roberi, Rik, and Erin move forward.  I have to say, other than Laurence, none of this would have been my early challenge picks, and yet this feels about right.  So looking forward to my favorite part, the Tim home visits. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I had missed this story the first time around, but Jennifer Lawrence's use of this story as a hilarious set story when doing promo for an entirely different film is as disconcerting as the fact that her earlier versions were very much more I did a bad thing, instead of the current oops, I ruined ancient sacred rocks.  Lol!
2. Maureen Ryan asked that TV creators keep fighting for more diversity
3. US raises pandas, sends them "back" to China unable to understand Chinese and addicted to American crackers is probably not a metaphor for anything, but there are panda pictures. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Irony Aging Badly

I have a number of ironic t-shirts.  I even have one that says "I <3 irony" which is less ironic and a little more straight up.  In the past few years, this past year in particular, things that used to seem funny or at least a bit arch have become less so.  
One of my shirts that is no longer funny said, "The fake news is all I need." I've been a fan of the comedic news, starting with "The Daily Show" and now that we have even more offerings.  (I am aware that "Saturday Night Live"s Weekend Update also does this, it's just not a thing I ever watched regularly.)  I've talked before about both the shirt and the study that showed that what we used to call fake news was actually substantive.  As one friend put it, the jokes wouldn't be funny if you didn't know what they were laughing about.  
But of course, as more and more people move away from more traditional news, the idea of fake news has moved from news provided with laughs, to news that is actually not correct, or more insidiously, news that is intended to cause harm.  I have also talked before about being your own curator as the internet provides increasing access to information.  
I talked Thanksgiving with someone who said that just as during the Obama administration we found many people turning to conservative sites sometimes of dubious truthiness, that during the Trump administration their concern was that liberals might find much of the same. I bring this up to say recent events at a DC pizza place are not about how one person decided showing up with a gun and shooting at things (thankfully just things and not people) was the best route to the truth not because one extreme person is a representative sample of any particular viewpoint, but more to say that if or as each of us feel that the mainstream news isn't serving us, it's something we all have to be vigilant about in seeking out other sources, in examining our own biases that let some stories seem more or less true, and in making sure that we seek out reliable information. Just as reading TV reviews is often more helpful if you have knowledge of a critic's general taste and style, the same is true of news. Knowing both your own biases, and those of your news curators makes you a better consumer. 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You know when people tell you such and such mashup is the thing you needed, and you're like, I dunno, do we need a mashup of "Hamilton" and Beyonce?  We might.  We just might. 
2. And it turns out some sea lions are particular about grammar
3. Some native Americans have been reviving food and farming traditions