Thursday, March 31, 2011

#76 - Hey, Daddy-O, make mine type O

This will probably be the only time I post twice in one day.  And, to celebrate my acting like a typing fool, I'm going to have a little contest ... the first person to comment with the title of the song (and performing group) that the post title was taken from will win this fabulous jar of home-made strawberry jam from the kitchen of yours truly!  And, if the shipping isn't too bad, I may add a tiny jar of my mutant pepper jelly!

And the reason for a second post ... today I found out my blood type - type O+.

#65 - Money in the bank

The first Day Zero list that I read was full of financial goals ... obviously, that person was waaaayyy more into money than I am.  However, it did make the impression on me that perhaps, as a single person, I should be a bit more pro-active in making sure that I was set for that proverbial rainy day.  So, I set myself three goals - each with a different purpose. 

A couple of weeks ago, I met one ... thanks to my income tax refund check ... having to do with good old-fashioned savings.  I now have a year's worth of take-home (not gross) income in the bank(s) in easily accessible forms ... just in case.  Don't ask in case of what ... that's the point, you never know the curveballs that life might throw at you.  And, I may be dipping into it soon to solve the roof problem that's been plaguing me this spring, but you can be sure that I'll keep adding to it as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

#73 - Live Theater

I love live theater, but I have to admit that without this goal I would never have made the time to see 10 performances in 200 days. I guess the lesson from this goal is that I need to make this activity more of a priority in my life ... and I will since I have 3 shows scheduled to see in the next month!

The first four performances I saw while I was in London last fall. I've already shared my thoughts on seeing Wicked. The second show was Love Never Dies ... an Andrew Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom of the Opera set 10 years later at Coney Island. Waiting for the curtain at this performance was one of the times that I felt most keenly alone in London ... there was a couple having an animated discussion next to me involving the program notes, comparisons to other shows they'd seen, etc. and I had to restrain myself from leaping into the conversation. Alas, a different group seated by me spoiled the climatic title song with a ill-timed giggle fit (bad enough that other audience members were turning around to glare). However, the truly amazing part of this show was the visual effects. When Coney Island comes to life from Madame Giry's memories at the beginning, I was awed. I'm still not sure how the technical aspects of making the steeplechase horses appear in the smoke worked. Definitely a show with a large budget (well-used) for visual effects.

Next, I went to We Will Rock You. This musical based on Queen songs was a random choice on my part based on available tickets that particular night. It was definitely fun; however, I have the feeling that I missed many of the jokes because I don't know much about Queen and didn't get the British political references. This performance suffered for me by being compared to three other fabulous shows within just a few days ... timing is everything, and I'm sure it would have captured me more if I had seen it on its own.

The final London show was The Lion King. I had been told by more than one person that I NEEDED to see this show. I went in a bit dubious about the description of puppet costumes and came out a total convert. I had the good luck to sit in an aisle seat and looking back over my shoulder to see the elephant approaching me literally sent chills down my spine. I thought the most beautiful moment was at the end of the intermission with all of the birds swooping through the house; it was hard to decide where to look. I even stopped to look at the merchandise on the way out ... I'm glad they weren't selling any of the flying birds because I definitely would have ended up trying to fit one in my suitcase on the way home. A great use of the house space, you felt like a part of the savanna where the action takes place rather than looking through a window to it. Another technical aspect I noticed with this show was the great lighting ... subtle changes that brought the colors of night and day to the open spaces of Africa. I was also impressed by the character actors who brought to life Simba's friends ... how do you convince people that you're a meerkat or a warthog?

The next group of shows were a gift from my friends Nina and Peter for cat sitting - tickets to this year's UMD theater season. I think I owe them about three more months of cat duty for this! If you live in northeastern Minnesota and like theater, I would suggest attending one of these shows as they are a great entertainment value. If you see several shows over a period of years, it's also fun to watch the actors mature and gain range in their individual skills.

The first of this group was South Pacific. I had never seen either the stage or screen version of this musical despite many opportunities that somehow went awry. I was impressed by the vocal skills of the cast - particularly the two leads. Another highlight of this show was how much everyone on stage seemed to be having a good time ... it's hard to point to what actually conveys this feeling, but the shows that have it always seem to have an extra sparkle. A glaring drawback that would seem minor but kept pulling my attention from the action ... non-period footwear for the ladies, especially the gladiator sandals worn by Nellie, or styles not appropriate to the setting like ballet slippers on the beach ... the hairstyles were spot-on, but the shoes ... yikes!

The second show was Richard III. This was THE show I wanted to see out of the season, and the actor who played Richard did a fabulous job! I really get all of those references now that I've been reading in books over the years, and he made the villain both repulsive yet understandable. The setting was not traditional; after reading the program notes, I understood it, but it involved much seemingly pointless moving of set pieces. The rest of the cast seemed content to let Richard have the spotlight ... not many memorable moments from anyone else.

Blithe Spirit is the most recent of these shows. This was another piece I had wanted to see at some point. I felt that the best performance in this piece came from the actress playing Elvira; however, my companions (who had seen other performances) didn't agree. The set design seemed a bit awkward ... all the action was downstage (mostly centered) and often the actors were lugging the furniture around so the blocking would stay there.

Amidst the UMD performances, I saw a local community theater production of Church Basement Ladies. I had read the book that this show is based on a few years ago, so it was interesting to see how a series of essays was turned into a storyline. It's always fun to see people you know on the stage, and this show had a great ensemble cast. Plus, the set looked very close to the church kitchen I remember from my youth -- only the chest freezer was different.

The last two performances I saw were of two different companies doing the same show - All Shook Up. I had given tickets for a performance at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater as a Christmas gift to my sister Janet; you can read about that here. This show had the glitz that comes from a long run on one stage. It had great set pieces and lots of humor plus longer dance numbers and more ensemble cast. However, all of the characters were exactly that ... characters or perhaps caricatures... only the older actors gave any sort of depth to the roles. I was also bothered that the male lead never seemed willing to make eye contact with the audience ... not just the ignoring the "fourth wall" but actively seeming to shut out the crowd.

The other performance was the current national tour group at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids. This group had that sparkle I referred to earlier where everyone up there is just having a great time. Plus, the characters all seemed human underneath; I even felt sympathy for the snooty Miss Sondra after despising her (in a good way) in the other performance. I missed the sets from the previous performance, but later heard that there were some difficulties with the touring company's normal set so they were running at a bare minimum that night. I loved the costuming touch early in the first act where all of the girl's blah dresses switch to color. However, the best part of this show for me (and many others in the audience there) was seeing the lead role of Chad played by an actor that we've watched grow up. Brian Kess was still in school when I moved to here, and he was a standout then ... he more than stands out now, he knows how to rock the auditorium and take the audience with him! Check out Brian's site here to see some of the other things he's done.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

#39 - 1000 Paper Cranes

A mountain of completed origami took over my table
There is a Japanese tradition that if you fold 1000 origami cranes with a wish in mind that the wish will come true.  However, as with many legendary beliefs, the wish may not come true exactly how you expect.  I think it's more an exercise in slowing down and examining whether you really want what you wish for.  When I was talking to a friend about this particular goal, she likened it to the Buddhist belief that if you create enough mandalas, you will achieve nirvana.  Well, I certainly don't think that I achieved nirvana by finishing this goal.  And, while I did have a particular area of my life that I thought about while I was folding cranes, I didn't come up with any fabulous ideas for making that part of my life better.  Perhaps I need to give it more time?

The 28 folds in a crane
I will admit that 1,000 cranes is a lot; I have no desire to fold any more for a very long time ... if ever.   Here's a photo showing the progression of folds with each crane done just one step further than the last.
I had never really done this much origami all in a short period of time, so I didn't realize the huge difference that the paper can make.  I had paper from four different manufacturers.  One was very hard to work with - but beautifully translucent - as it was about the consistency of wax paper and tore as easily.  Those cranes took two to three minutes to fold.  Using the other papers I could usually make a crane in about 90 seconds.

One of the best things about finishing was having some fun props to use for the photography course I'm taking.  My friend Nina came over this morning and tossed cranes into the air for me to try getting some motion shots.  Alas, I have quite a ways to go before I could really do them justice, but here's a rough idea of what they look like raining down.
Directly below the box

The cranes fall surprisingly quickly - no hovering in the air for these birds.  Even tossing them straight up really didn't increase the hang time.

I'm only going to keep one to remind me of this goal.  The rest will be mailed tomorrow to the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota ... this organization is looking for origami cranes to use in an art installation to illustrate the number of people who suffer from brain injuries.

Ironically, the resident of the house who will be happiest that the cranes are gone is my cat.  I've been folding (and counting) cranes on the dining room table right where he likes to sit to look out of the front window.  He squashed many that were in his way and even more got impatiently flicked to the floor by his tail.
Would you get these things out of my way!

Friday, March 4, 2011

200 Days In ... and still hanging on

It's surprising to me that 200 days of this project have already gone by ... I feel like I've just started.  In January, I started having the first twinges of wondering if I'll have time to complete most of the list.  I also faced my first big set-back to the project in the form of ice dams.  Yes, you read that right.  The overriding concern in my life for most of the last six weeks has to do with water seeping through my roof because of ice buildup and damaging walls, ceilings, or both in four different rooms of my house.  The first couple of weeks meant dealing with the immediate problems of changing buckets, wiping up water, and finding a room to sleep in that I couldn't hear any dripping noises.  (I did find out that my couch is very comfortable to sleep on).  Now I'm onto the challenges involved with putting a new steel roof on my house this summer and deciding on the best way to tackle the interior repairs.  I've already ripped out most of the wet plaster because I couldn't stand the smell.

Getting back to my list and what I've been working on ...
  • I did finish goal #39 recently but want to take some photos before I post about it.  
  • After much thought and research on distance learning catalogs, I decided to take a professional photography course to fulfill goal #41.  So, I'm now enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography and learning lots and lots of information.  I never realized my little digital camera could possibly do so much.  I'm so glad that I'm taking the course after digital cameras have improved -- trying all the different shutter and aperture settings on one shot just to experiment and then paying for film processing would really add up fast.
  • I've spent a great deal of time making some special things for my niece Ciera's package for goal #17 and am almost done with the last one.  On that same goal, I also have a number of costume pieces selected to make and send to various nephews when I'm done crocheting for Ciera.
  • Goal # 27 is moving along ... I'm about a fifth of the way through my music collection.  That's about a thousand songs I've listened to.  
  • I finished goal #54 about eating more veggies and am proud to report that the habit seems to be sticking since I'm still eating vegetables every night at supper.
  • I decided that the best way to tackle goal #61 (having friends over to play games) was to schedule one night every month, let everyone know, and see who shows up.  It seems to be working fairly well, and I've discovered a new favorite game - Dicecapades!
  • I am longing to get out to work on goal # 74, but the walking is still too treacherous with icy sidewalks and streets.
  • Alas, I'm almost to the end of goal #73 - having seen 9 plays/musicals already - I'm sure I won't stop seeing shows, but having the "it's one of my goals" motivation makes going a priority.
 So, that's where I am.  A bit further behind than I had hoped for this point, but I guess that can't be helped.  I'll just need to take more time off when the weather gets nicer to catch up on the outdoor things :)