Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Memorial Day is the official start of summer so Marilyn and I decided to spend the weekend at Bear Lake.  We had so much fun!
We stayed at the KOA in Garden City and this was our cabin for the weekend.  Both Marilyn and I spent some quality time sitting on the front porch reading.  It was so relaxing!  On Saturday my Mom and Dad drove up and we rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon.  It was so much fun!  My Mom does not like boats and, initially, she didn't want to go with us but she let herself be coaxed on board.  Marilyn is terrified of water and doesn't know how to swim but she eventually drove the boat.  I'm telling you, it was so much fun being out on the water and the weather was absolutely perfect!
On Sunday Marilyn and I spent the day at the beach.  We drove to Bear Lake State Park in Idaho because it was a little bit out of the way so it wasn't very crowded.  We ended up at North Beach and we basically sat on the beach and read.  It was fabulous!
This was such a wonderful start to the summer!  

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Day at the Met

Whenever I am in a big city for a few days, I like to plan a visit to a museum because I find them to be endlessly fascinating.  In New York City there are so many to choose from!  I had been to the MoMA (although it merits a return visit) so I thought about the Guggenheim (it was closed) and the Natural History Museum but, in the end, I opted for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it was incredible!  I started on the ground floor with a current exhibition called Manus x Machina (it runs through August 14) showing how the sewing machine has changed haute couture.  My favorite piece is a wedding gown designed by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel which has a 20 foot train embroidered in gold.  It is quite spectacular.  I also loved the exhibition of J.M.W. Turner's Whaling Pictures (it runs through August 7) which includes one painting in the Met's permanent collection and three on loan from the Tate in London.  These four paintings were completed near the end of Turner's life and are very tumultuous, to say the least.  (I became a fan of Turner after seeing this movie).  Next, I wandered through an exhibition called Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age.  It is fascinating but it closes soon (June 5).  Finally, I wandered through the permanent collections including Egyptian Art, Medieval Art, Greek and Roman Art, and the Art of Africa and Oceania (which has some dramatic exhibits).  I was there most of the day and still didn't see everything!  If you are a fan of art from around the world, I highly recommend a visit to this amazing museum (I also recommend the cafeteria in the basement!).  Go here for more information.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Reading

Today is the last day of school!  Yippee!  One of the things I like best about summer vacation is lots of uninterrupted time for reading!  I already have a stack of books and I can't wait to get started.  Since I teach the classics from British literature during the school year, I decided to spend the summer reading contemporary British authors and I found a great list here.  I will be reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (I will probably start with Me Before You because I want to read it before the movie comes out next week) and I will review each book here every Friday.  You can join me and let me know what you think of each book in the comments.  Yay for summer reading!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hamilton on Broadway

By the time I got in line in front of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, I had worked myself into quite a state.  After all, I had flown all the way across the country, paid the equivalent of the gross national product of a small country to sit in the balcony, and eagerly anticipated this moment for months.  Would I be disappointed?  Was this musical worth all of the hype?  The answer, my friends, is a resounding yes!  Hamilton is absolutely amazing, even better than I had imagined, and I think it is the best thing I have ever seen on the stage!  I have listened to the music going to and coming home from school for months so I basically had the lyrics to the entire show memorized.  The music was even better when I saw the costumes, the staging, and the choreography!  With the intimacy of the theatre it seemed as though the actors (the original cast from the Broadway recording!) sang their roles with much more emotion and passion and, believe me, I noticed every little nuance.  Some of my most favorite moments were when the crowd exploded into thunderous applause when Lin-Manuel Miranda made his first entrance on stage in the song "Alexander Hamilton," when Samuel Seabury (Thayne Jasperson) moves his soapbox forward to get away from Hamilton heckling him in "Farmer Refuted," when King George III (Rory O'Malley) struts out on the stage in high heels and waves his scepter at the audience during "You'll Be Back," when Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) jumps off of the table in "Guns and Ships,"  the choreography of the soldiers in "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)," when Hamilton imitates Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) in "Cabinet Battle #1," how the transition from Hamilton writing and then Washington (Christopher Jackson) delivering the Farewell Address is staged in "One Last Time," how the song "Hurricane" is staged to simulate an actual hurricane, when Jefferson struts around the stage (wearing a purple velvet frock coat) tossing pamphlets in the air during "The Reynolds Pamphlet," when Eliza (Phillipa Soo) actually burns letters in "Burn," when Eliza takes Hamilton's hand and he bows his head in "It's Quiet Uptown," when a member of the ensemble hands Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) a list of Hamilton's grievances one page at a time in "Your Obedient Servant," and the staging of the duel between Hamilton and Burr on the turntable in "The World Was Wide Enough."  I could go on and on!  So many of the performances gave me goosebumps, especially Christopher Jackson in "Right Hand Man" ("We are outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned. We've got to make an all out stand!"),  Leslie Odom, Jr. in "Wait For It" and "The World Was Wide Enough," and Renee Elise Goldsbury in "Satisfied."  I had a hard time taking my eyes off Lin-Manuel Miranda when he was on stage because he was such an imposing presence, much like, I suspect, Alexander Hamilton himself.  I walked out of the theatre with my mind buzzing with all I had seen and heard, wanting desperately to see it again!  It was definitely worth the outrageous price of admission and I would pay it again in a heartbeat.  I highly recommend this brilliant musical if you have the opportunity to see it.  In fact, I highly recommend that you make the opportunity to see it!

Note:  Hamilton was the highlight of my New York trip.  It may be the highlight of the year!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Job Well Done

The school year is soon coming to a close and this is always a bittersweet time for me.  I have to say goodbye to my current student body officers and my heart is certainly heavy at the prospect.  I have worked with many different student groups over the years but I have never had a group more committed or more dedicated than this one.  They have worked countless hours to make Hunter High School a better place and they have accomplished more in one year than I thought was possible.  There are so many memories from this year that it is hard to narrow it down but I think my favorites are when they brought the Spirit Can out for the first time in an assembly (it was definitely a big hit with the students), when we crowned a special needs student as our Homecoming Queen, and when we presented a check for $4,500 to a little boy with cancer named Carson through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Emily, Sam, Alex, Oriana, Cameron, Nesley, and Sam I am so proud of you and, even though I will miss you terribly, I am excited to see what this next chapter in your lives brings you!  I wish you much success in all of your future endeavors!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wicked on Broadway

Outside the Gershwin Theatre in New York City.
While I was in New York City I was able to see seven shows in five days!  I included a few new shows that I had not seen before and a few of my old favorites that I can see again and again.  Wicked is a show that I never get tired of because I absolutely love the music and I can definitely relate to the story about a girl who doesn't quite fit in.  The Broadway production was one of the best I have seen (maybe even better than the London production).  I tend to think that whoever is playing Elphaba in the production I am currently seeing is the best one but Rachel Tucker was simply amazing!  She just about blew the roof off the Gershwin Theatre during "Defying Gravity" and "No Good Deed."  I also really liked Carrie St. Louis as Glinda, especially when she tossed her hair.  She added her own hilarious touches to "Popular" by stretching and throwing punches.  I laughed and laughed.  St. Louis and Tucker had great chemistry in "What Is This Feeling" (they had the best facial expressions) and they sang "For Good" beautifully (I had a tear in my eye).  Jonah Platt (Fiyero) was not the best dancer I have seen in the role but he had an incredible voice and I loved his song "As Long As You're Mine" with Tucker.  When the Wizard sang "A Sentimental Man" at the end of the first act, I kept thinking that I recognized him so I looked him up in the program during intermission.  It turns out that the Wizard was played by Peter Scolari, a veteran of several TV shows and movies, most notably Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  I have to admit that I was a bit star-struck by his performance!  I thought Madame Morrible (Judy Kaye) was the best I've seen and the ensemble was great in all of the big song and dance numbers, especially "No One Mourns the Wicked" and "March of the Witch Hunters."  I really enjoyed myself at this production because several people in our group had never seen it before and it was fun experiencing it through their eyes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

An Incredible Evening With Paul Simon

I love the music of Paul Simon.  I grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel but I came to love Simon as a solo artist when the album Graceland was released the summer after I graduated from high school.  This album literally blew my mind (and prompted me to protest against apartheid).  I think Simon is an absolutely brilliant and innovative songwriter and I love his fusion of sounds from all over the world.  I predicted that his concert last night at the Maverik Center would be an evening of spectacular music.  It was!  Simon was joined on stage by an unbelievably talented band, all of whom played multiple instruments, and he played hit after hit for over two hours to the delight of the crowd.  He did play some new songs from his forthcoming album Stranger to Stranger, including the sultry title track "Stranger to Stranger" as well as "The Werewolf" and "Wristband."  He also played some old Simon & Garfunkel songs such as "Homeward Bound" and "El Condor Pasa."  However, much of the evening was devoted to his solo greatest hits like "Boy in the Bubble," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Dazzling Blue," "That Was Your Mother," "Rewrite," "Slip Slidin' Away," "Mother and Child Reunion," "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" (which got everybody dancing), "Spirit Voices," "The Obvious Child," "Duncan," "The Cool, Cool River," and a rowdy rendition of "You Can Call Me Al" to end the set.  One of my favorite moments of the evening came near the end of the set when he played my favorite song, "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."  For the first encore he played "Graceland" and "Still Crazy After All of These Years."  For the second encore, Simon came out alone with just an acoustic guitar and played a lovely rendition of "The Boxer."  He usually only plays one song during the second encore but last night he said that he would play one more because it looked like we didn't want him to leave (I found him to be so charismatic which surprised me a bit).  This was the best moment of the evening because he played "The Sound of Silence" which is one of my all-time favorite songs.  I had goosebumps through the whole thing!  It was an incredible performance to end one of the best concerts I have ever seen!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

9/11 Memorial

One of the things I really wanted to do while I was in New York was visit the 9/11 Memorial.  It is located at the site of the former World Trade Center towers and includes two giant waterfalls and reflecting pools set in the exact footprints of the towers.
The names of every person who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as the six people who died in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, are inscribed into bronze panels edging the pools.  If you look directly through the letters you can see the water.
It is an incredibly somber place and it was unusually quiet.  In a city as cacophonous as New York City, it was noticeable that the only sound I could hear was the falling water.  It was so peaceful.  Many of the people around me were silently crying but I managed to keep my emotions in check until I asked one of the many docents the significance of the white roses place in some of the names.  
A white rose is placed in each name on that person's birthday.  For some reason that touched me so much and the tears just started falling (I am crying now as I type this).
It was an incredible experience to visit the 9/11 Memorial.  I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in New York City.  Go here for more information.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Money Monster

Thursday night I went with my Mom and Marilyn to see the movie Money Monster.  George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the flamboyant host of a slick investment advice television show (also called Money Monster), and Julia Roberts plays Patty Fenn, his exasperated producer.  Walt Camby (Dominic West), the CEO of Ibis, is scheduled to be a guest on the program to explain why the company's stock inexplicably crashed losing investors over $800 million.  Just as the show is about to go live, Gates learns that Camby is believed to be in Geneva and that Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), CCO of Ibis, will be taking his place via a live feed from their corporate office.  As the show gets under way, a man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) storms on set with a gun and places a vest, with enough Semtex to blow up the entire building, on Gates holding him hostage on live TV.  Budwell invested his entire nest egg in Ibis stock, on a recommendation from Gates, and wants answers about why it crashed.  As Gates tries to keep Budwell calm, Fenn, trapped in the control room, and Lester, from the IBIS corporate office, work to uncover a conspiracy that stretches from Johannesburg to Seoul to Reykjavik.  It is a taut and entertaining thriller with highly nuanced performances by both Clooney and Roberts, as well as a riveting performance by O'Connell.  It is incredibly suspenseful because the characters are trying to find answers in real-time in the claustrophobia of the set and the control room while the cameras are rolling.  Director Jodie Foster uses the perspectives of the various cameras on the floor quite effectively.  The script is very intelligent, making complicated stock manipulation understandable for a lay audience, and it is often quite funny, especially when a low-level producer is sent running from place to place multiple times.  It seems that indictments of Wall Street have become de rigeur in Hollywood lately and, while this installment isn't quite as scathing as The Big Short, it does, however, show the human cost of corporate greed.  I really enjoyed this movie but both my Mom and sister found all of the profanity to be a bit off-putting.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Three Medals

This week Tashena competed for the final time at the District Track & Field Championships.  She entered three events (discus, long jump, and shot put) and won medals in all three of them!
In the discus she broke a district record that has stood for thirty years!
Discus Champion (Look at those guns!).  She has won the discus championship for three years in a row!
Long jump champion.
Third place in shot put.  I am so proud of this girl!  I can't wait to see what she does next year in high school!
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