Better Luck Tomorrow: Still With Me Today
Al & I went to see Better Luck Tomorrow on Saturday, and we spent the rest of the night and most of the next day talking about it. I'd finally gotten it out of my system by this morning, but then Al offered to drive me to work this morning, and he brought it up again. It's like a song you can't get out of your head, this movie.
So funny, and yet so disturbing. I'm torn about whether I'd want to see it again. Yesterday, I didn't think so. Today, I think maybe I would...
Is 1pm Too Early for Cocktails?
I've been watching The Women while working on my websites and in between rushing down to take photos of the kitchen remodel, and I'm starting to crave cocktails. Everybody drank like fish in movies from the 30s and 40s, and they looked so elegant doing it that it makes me want to dig through our boxes to find the giant martini glasses I got for my 30th birthday. Although now that I think of it, I gave away all our liquor before the move so it wouldn't spill in the boxes....
My sister gave me a bottle of Bailey's for Christmas, but I want a *real* cocktail, not dessert. Hmmm. Oh! I know: our contractor gave us a bottle of cranberry mash yesterday (it's apparently a cranberry-vodka liqueur); maybe I can make something out of that... though what I really want is a Sidecar or a Lemon Drop. Given that I have no vodka, brandy, lemon juice, or triple sec, I'm probably safe (for now) from becoming an afternoon drunk.
Lord of the Theaters
I just had one of the best moviegoing experiences ever, at the Bridge Theater on the Penn campus. I've been to theaters with better concession stands, and no place beats the Castro Theater for a rollicking good time (especially now that they've renovated the seats), but this theater was just plain cool. Mix a Jetsons theme with 70s colors and UltraLounge style, and you get the idea.
There were comfy seats *everywhere*, an actual lounge/restaurant/bar, huge and stylish bathrooms (no lines!), and TV monitors showing views of the snack bar, ticket lines, other waiting areas, and the street outside. Best of all, you could actually relax in the comfy seats, take your time getting popcorn, or feel no pressure to pee quickly, because the theaters all had assigned seating. We knew we were going to be in Row G, seats 7 and 8, no matter how long it took the only person who knew how to make smoothies to show up and make a Pineapple Orange Sunset for Al.
Of course, the whole experience was made better by seeing the best movie I've seen all year (possibly in many years): The Return of the King. If that masterpiece *doesn't* win Best Picture at the Oscars, something's fishy in Hollywood. I haven't seen Master and Commander yet, but I can't imagine that it could really be any better. And I'm happy to say that if the Academy gives Return of the King Best Picture on the strength of the entire trilogy rather than just this one picture, at least it will be giving the award to the best movie of the three.
Herewith, some random observations that have been on my mind for a while and which I have not managed to blog about before now:
I don't know what I was thinking when I stopped at the library the other day; I'm still not done with Founding Brothers, I haven't finished the February issue of Martha Stewart Living (although like all good porn, MSL is pretty timeless), and I'm drowning in Wall Street Journals (I find those crazy pro-business conservatives so amusing!). Luckily both of the books I wanted, Chain of Command and It's My Party Too, were checked out. Of course, yesterday I added another title to my list after the TiVo refused to cooperate and changed to CNN's interview with the author instead of Your Weather Today on the Weather Channel: Honeymoon With My Brother, by Franz Wisner . Sounds like my kind of book (note to self: mention it to brothers Eric & Matt, who've also traveled the world together).
And Marijuana is Still Illegal?
In the WTF department: A new beer from Budweiser with caffeine, guarana, and ginseng. Rather than "beer with something extra", call it "Red Bull with alcohol".
WTF Part II
Last evening Al took Austen out for a walk so I could get some work done, and the plastic cover he put on the stroller to keep Austen warm & cozy blew off. A woman helped Al retrieve it and then exclaimed over the cuteness of the baby. "I wonder if he'll grow up to run a dry cleaners or a restaurant?" she said. When Al related the story, it took me a minute to realize why she identified those two particular possibilities. Weird that both Al and I would experience racial prejudice in the same week (the same week we happened to see Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which identifies—and pokes fun at—so many racial stereotypes).
What is Life Teaching These People?
Speaking of weird things people have said to us about Austen, in the first two weeks of his life no less than three women—at different times and places—remarked on his cuteness and then followed up with, "who would ever want to harm a baby?" Uh, yeah. Luckily these comments stopped (for a while there every woman I met on a street corner asked instead, "are you breastfeeding?"), but then something weird happened in the La Colombe coffee store the other day: An old homeless gentleman was trying to engage the baristas in conversation, and in so doing he was blocking my access to the bar where the baristas set up everyone's coffee. The female barista brought this to his attention, and the homeless man turned to me and said, "You know, I would never hurt your baby." When he saw the startled look on my face, he followed up with, "you know why? Because then I would die." "Yes," I replied. "At my hands."
Anakin and Austen
Al and I went to see the last Star Wars movie tonight. I'll spare you my review (I enjoyed parts of the movie very much, others not so much, but as it's been analyzed to death in newspapers, magazines, and the blogosphere by now, I'm sure I'd be adding nothing new) and instead say a few words about what it was like to see it with Austen.
Overall he was very well behaved, and, except for the time he poked me in the eye, the time he bit me while nursing, and the time threw up on me, pretty good company. He watched the first 15 minutes or so quietly and without protesting the fact that I had my hands clamped firmly over his ears. (We found the sound level to be a little quieter in the back of the theater, where we'd moved after a few deafening previews, but I was still concerned that it was too loud for a 6-month old.) I then felt his body start to relax and asked Al to check his eyelids; Al indicated that they were wide open, and that he was watching intently. I had Al check two more times in the next 10 minutes, and the third time, he was definitely asleep.
I think he slept for about 15-20 minutes on my shoulder, and when he woke up, I nursed him on the right side. He was almost completely asleep—and I'd let the jacket I'd been pressing against his exposed ear slip—when Chancellor Palpatine let out a howl and attacked Mace Windu & Co. Austen started to howl right along with the Chancellor, and it took a minute or two to convince him that he was OK, that nobody was coming to attack him with lightsabers.
Once we got him chilled out again, he knelt on my lap for a while with his body toward me and his face toward the screen; it was very important, apparently, that he not miss anything. I then had Al hold him for a bit so he'd remember seeing Star Wars with his dad. When he fussed a little, Al handed him back, and I nursed him on the left until he bit me. At that point I tipped him up, and he watched a little more of the movie facing forward, barely glancing away as he threw up on me. I'm not sure what we missed in the frantic attempt to fish some kind of tissue, napkin, or towel out of the diaper bag; probably not much.
About the time that I started getting into the movie (I couldn't have cared less for most of it, but the last half hour sort of summed up all the backstory I'd heard about Star Wars between 1977 and 1999), Austen lost interest in it, and instead decided to focus on my face. He laughed, giggled, squealed, grabbed my nose, and poked me in the eye (hard enough to make my left eye water for several minutes, and it still hurts). I wished I'd put my glasses back on when Austen first removed them instead of handing them to Al, but I figured they had so many fingerprints on them that I wouldn't be able to see anyway.
We've been playing a game lately where whenever Austen shouts/growls/groans/auoogahs, I shout/growl/groan/auoogah back in exactly the same fashion, and at this point I think he decided that he would play it with the sound-effects-laden movie. At first he responded to the screen, and then, as I do with him sometimes, he anticipated the groans, shouts, and other sounds and managed to make the same ones in unison with it. Sometimes he also inserted his own sound effects, which is what eventually led me to take him down near the exit, so I could dash out if necessary. I didn't, because I wanted to see what was going on; Al said he could still hear Austen auoogahing (not surprising, since the theater was stadium style, and we were directly below where Al was sitting), and that his timing was sometimes hilariously spot-on.
We left the theater with Austen laughing, and he laughed and played in his carseat all the way home. There was only a little protest when Al put him to bed (Al ended up giving him a little speech about how all the images he saw tonight were just pretend, and that he shouldn't worry about them in his dreams), and he's been fast asleep since. All in all, a successful Star Wars outing.*
*Unless, of course, he wakes up at 2am screaming about the dark side, battle droids, or lava creeping up his legs.
It's another hot day in Philadelphia, and I woke up wondering how Austen and I would spend the 10 hours or so until Al got home without overheating or going bonkers. My usual diversion, a nice long walk with Austen in the stroller, didn't seem prudent in the heat, and I didn't want to spend the whole day trying to work while fighting to keep Austen's little hands away from the trackpad buttons. (He's on my lap at the moment, but he's busy with a frozen washcloth.)
I managed to get us both dressed and fed by 10:30am, so I checked moviefone.com to see if there were any interesting films playing at the Cherry Hill Loews (which, as host of the weekly Reel Moms, is relatively baby-friendly). I noticed that Batman was opening today, and a quick visit to rottentomatoes.com told me that the movie was surprisingly fresh. We decided to go.
Long story short, since the wascloth is wearing off: I thought Batman was wonderful. OK, yes, it has a few flaws, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the movie that all the others should have been, IMHO. Since I'm no fan of superhero movies in general, and I didn't know that the movie was directed by the same guy who did Memento, my expectations were fairly low despite the fresh rating from rottentomatoes, and Batman Begins had no trouble exceeding them.
Austen was pretty well-behaved through the first two thirds of the movie and fast asleep in the Bjorn for the last third (I stood in the entry aisle for that, but I didn't miss anything). And like our Star Wars outing, he emerged from the theater exceedingly happy, and he's been cheerful ever since. I ought to take him to the movies more often!
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Reader's Digest Version
Al, Austen and I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie at the Franklin Institute's IMAX theater last night. Austen was a prince; he watched the first hour, slept for another hour, and then woke up and watched the remaining 45 minutes or so. I was worried that the IMAX presentation would be visually exhausting (that was the case when I saw the third Matrix movie in IMAX), but it really wasn't. Perhaps the domed screen helped with that? I'm not sure.
In any case, I had really low expectations for this film given (a) my love of the incredibly long, detailed books and the voice characterizations of Jim Dale; (b) my experience with the first three films, none of which really capture the stories properly, IMHO; and (c) the fact that this book was longer and more complex than the other three by FAR. The makers of this fourth film solved problem (c) with some serious—and pretty good—story editing. As ratphooey mentioned, the Dursleys and the house elves are gone. Instead of spending huge amounts of time on a few scenes as the earlier films did, this one shows just enough details in many scenes to give you the gist and then moves on. (In fact, that phrase ran through my head the whole time I was watching: "it gives you the gist".)
The Quidditch World Cup takes less than 5 minutes—just long enough for us to see how a portkey works, what a magical tent looks like, that the stadium is huge, that Victor Krum is the Bulgarian Seeker, and that somebody in the vicinity of Harry sent up the Dark Mark. Phew! Done with that. Next! Except for one scene, the whole movie felt like I was watching with the TiVo fast-forward button down, and for the most part, that was a good thing.
The one scene that seemed to be in real time rather than fast-forward was Harry's battle with the dragon in the First Task, and as a consequence, it felt like it was in slow motion. It took far too long, in my opinion—long enough for us to notice (and be annoyed by) the fact that it wasn't faithful to the book. If I were going to devote more time to any one scene, I think it would have been the duel with Voldemort. While the graveyard scene benefitted from moving quickly from the moment of Cedric's murder to Voldemort's re-emergence, I felt a little drama was lost when the wands connected—the very point at which I would expect the drama and tension to heighten. A little patience (and better special effects) would have served the story well there.
Despite the speed—or maybe because of it—I liked this movie the best of the four. The story edits were drastic enough to make it work as a movie and to keep it from competing with my memory of the book. Fred and George are hilarious throughout, we were both delighted to see more of Neville, and the casting continues to be very well done. As ratphooey mentioned, however, it *is* very scary, especially during the Third Task, and I wouldn't recommend it for small children. (Austen seemed to be little enough—or tired enough—not to be fazed by the dark storyline, though he did startle several times.)
Al and I started our weekend right with "date night", our third since the Boopster was born. (The first was in February when my parents were here, and we went out to see Sideways; the second was in October, when we went to see a New Jersey Devils game for my birthday.) This time we went to dinner at Washington Square, a Stephen Starr restaurant that's located, as the name implies, on Washington Square, and afterwards to a movie.
Washington Square is supposed to be a hip, trendy place, a place "to see and be seen," as one review we read indicated. We ate really early, however, long before the hip crowd—or any crowd, for that matter—arrived, so the only people-watching involved the 12 or so waiters keeping an eye on us. We had the full attention of the kitchen at that hour, and the courses came promptly, which was nice. We both considered the Unlimited Wine menu option, which included an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, and all the wine you cared to drink from among about 8 choices (the food options were more limited, with only 2 choices for each course) for $55. It seemed like a decent deal and a good way to have the wine you wanted with each course, but in the end we each decided we could put together a meal we would enjoy more by just picking random items from the food and drink menus.
I had a gulf shrimp cocktail with wonderfully, perfectly HOT cocktail sauce, a savory vidalia onion tart, the mushroom fettucini, and an Orange Hurricane. Everything was delicious, and the portion sizes were just right. The only thing I would have changed were the flavor proportions on the tart—half the phyllo would have been sufficient, and twice as much goat cheese would have made it perfect (the dot on top was half the size of a pat of butter). Al had a wonderfully fresh tuna tartare, more pork medallions than he could finish, and a glass of Mark West pinot noir (which he also didn't finish). The bill was about the same as it would have been under the Unlimited Wine option, but as we suspected, we enjoyed it more for being able to eat exactly what we wanted. Because we had a movie to catch, and because the overwhelming stench of cigarette smoke hanging in the air made it difficult to breathe (I actually had to take my inhaler), we weren't likely to linger over glasses of wine all night anyway.
From the restaurant we walked the few blocks to the Ritz to see Syriana. To avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it, I won't go into the details; I'll just say that although it was excellent, were a couple scenes that really freaked me out. I squeezed Al's hand, pressed my lips together, and held my breath to keep from sobbing in one case, but I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face; in the other I had to hide behind Al's shoulder and try to plug my ears to keep from vomiting. Sounds horrific, I know, but I still recommend the movie, and the fact that I can now think of that first scene without bursting into tears makes me think I could see Syriana again. It's worth seeing twice. The casting was excellent except for Amanda Peet as Matt Damon's wife; I've never been an Amanda Peet fan, so I thought at first I was just biased against her, but Al also hated her in the role. I must say that it was a bit unnerving to see George Clooney looking so very much like my recently deceased Uncle Bruce, but that probably made a sympathetic character even more so in my mind.
OK, so now that I've spent four paragraphs on Friday night, I'll try to be more concise about the actual weekend. The summary is that I traded Al a Saturday of Projects for a Sunday of Cookie Baking. I was on baby duty all day yesterday while Al rewired light switches and outlets, filed down our bedroom door so it would close properly, assembled some storage cubbies in the basement, and did a bunch of other things that he never gets to do because we usually share baby duty on the weekends.
In return, I got to bake today. I'm almost done—the only thing that remains is the slicing of the Seven Layer Cookies (Gourmet, Dec. 2005)—and as usual, when I see what I have wrought I think to myself, "who is going to eat all of these things?" I'm sending some of the iced sugar cookies to work with Al, and I've assembled a sampling of each cookie type for our babysitter, but the rest will probably end up on our hips or going stale in their Rubbermaid containers. This is one of the things I miss about being in the Bay Area and going into an office on a regular basis: I used to have friends and co-workers with whom I could share my baking experiments.
Speaking of baking experiments, I did take a couple photos of the Orange Bread, but I forgot to post them along with the recipe. I'll be adding them shortly. Look for photos of today's cookies to be added to this post
later right now, too.
Seven-Layer Cookies, Iced Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (top), and Rustic Nut Bars (bottom)