Friday, October 13, 2017

Surprise!

The true definition of up-side-down Day is coming home to discover a card from a friend complete with a little gift--AND it is HIS birthday!

Tuscan Cabbage Veggie Soup

One of my favorite comfort soups!
Ingredients:

Beef Stock (or Veggie, if you want a meatless alternative)
Onion
Baby Portobello MushroomsCarrot
Green Bean
Cabbage
Canned Diced Tomato with Zesty Peppers
Cannellini Beans (I can, I prefer the Goya® brand)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Three bouillon cubes of beef stock in 6 quarts of water heated on medium to dissolve.  Add one medium onion diced.  At 8 ounces of baby portobello mushrooms sliced.  (There two ingredients
enrich the broth.)  Next add in 3 medium-sized carrots sliced.  Then fresh green beans cut into 1 inch lengths--I used two generous handfuls from the local market.  I used 1/2 of a small head of cabbage that I then cut into 1 inch cubes then added.  By now the whole soup is and has been simmering to a boil with lots of stirring.  Finally add in the can of diced Tomatoes and the can of beans.  Mix well and drop the heat to a slow simmer.  Give it 30-45 minutes to tenderize and infuse the ingredients.

For the cheese melt sopping bread medallions I used a good French baguette.  Buttered the sliced and added fresh green pepper and golden raisins.  Topped them with sharp cheddar cheese and set under the broiler for about 2 minutes.  You know your broiler, so time it accordingly.

And, Bon Apetit!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

"M Butterfly" @ Everyman Theatre in Baltimore


Just got back from seeing "M Butterfly" at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore. To think that it premiered in 1988 and gave the talented B. D. Wong the opportunity to earn a Tony award for best actor. I can imagine then its subject matter was far more risqué than it feels today. It's a quirky show told to the audience by the leads with flashbacks and imagined moments spanning nearly 3 decades. The lead of the French Diplomat; whose story this really is, was played by Everyman repertory company actor, Bruce Randolph Nelson. He was wonderful in the role, and having seen him in various roles last year, I was particularly pleased that he came to the stage with a freshness and authenticity unique to the role of Rene Gallimard. The role of Song Lili (a.k.a. Butterfly) was a regional debut for actor Vichet Chum, whose resume has him acting his way to the east coast via Louisville, Minneapolis, and St. Louis! In this role of the diplomat's lover, Vichet was most convincing and fearless in the role's more revealing moments. The rest of the company was likewise well cast and the rolls well performed. The stage itself was tranformed into a giant butterfly under the design concept of Yu-Hsuan Chen. A butterfly whose one set of wings forms the stage floor, while the other pair of wings provides the outline of the opening in the lattice that divides the background from the foreground on the stage. I would highly recommend this production; however, tonight's performance is its last.





Saturday, September 30, 2017

French Toast with Pure Michigan Maple Syrup & Fried Apple

A once in a blue moon indulgence.

"Death of a Salesman"

Fear not, I will still go to some theater, just not 4 to 6 plays each month!  After all, I spent last season going to over 60 productions in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region--learning my way around dozens of theater companies and experiencing well over 100 mostly amazing actors.  Not to use what I've learned to make discriminating choices would be a waste.

The first event of a normal theater season was "Death of a Salesman" at Ford's Theatre in DC. You have to admire this work. It holds up well against the march of time. (I think better than the works of Tennessee Williams, for example.) But then again, growing old and facing one's demons is probably a theme that will always work on the stage.

For this production, Ford's chose a stellar cast of trustworthy familiar faces. The only one of the four principles new to me was Kimberly Schraf. Like the other four members of the Loman clan, she delivered an adequate performance in a role with a lot of wallpaper moments. I felt she hit her zenith in the scene where she confronts her sons Biff (Thomas Keegan) and Hap (Danny Gavigan). And I was lost in her closing soliloquy--the apex of the entire show. It lacked the sense of personal engagement in the words and came off more like a closing whimper. Both Mr.'s Gavigan and Keegan were fine as the brothers--these two actors have been in so many major regional productions, it was interesting to finally see them together on stage in such intertwined roles. The leader of the pack was Craig Wallace as Willy Loman. Wallace is another fixture in the regional theater community and no stranger to the Ford's stage. I suppose for some the fact that Craig is African American would make his portrayal of the icon Willy Loman, but it didn't see revelatory to me in the least. He's a very competent actor with an underlying inextinguishable boyish charm. A fact that left the tragic protagonist in this production with as much the pity you feel for a lost child and you would for a grown man who's summation of his life is that of a failure. I want to believe this was an intentional take on the character; however, I've come to accept that most theatre is not that subtle.
Linda Loman (Kimberly Schraf) comforting Willy (Craig Wallace) in a moment of confusion.
Linda Loman confronting her sons Hap (Danny Gavigan) and Biff (Thomas Keegan) about their attitudes toward their father.
All the Lomans together.
A moment of flashback with the ghostly presence of Uncle Ben (Frederick Strother)

Another shout out goes to the set designed by Tim Mackabee. I had a front row center balcony seat and it was the best seat in the house for this tri-level staging. Anyone who was seeing this show for the first time would certainly come away feeling satisfied by the production. Someone who felt more inclined to consider the deeper meanings of the character's lives and roles in the storytelling might feel less sanguine.
Tim Mackabee sharing the design concept during production process.
The view from the main floor.  
My vantage point from my seat in the front row of the balcony.

Rotini Cheesy Bake


Brown a mix of beef and sweet Italian sausage.  Add in one medium-large onion diced.  Add 16 oz. of sliced button mushrooms.  Cover and simmer until the mushroom are done and remove from heat to cool.  Cook 1/3 box of Rotini pasta.  Drain and toss with a little olive oil.  Add one jar of Marinara Sauce to meet mixture.  Add 10 oz of shredded whole milk Mozzarella Cheese.  Add in the cooked pasta.  Combine and place in baking dish.  Top with a little more cheese and then some freshly sliced tomato.  Bake at 300˚ for 60 minutes.  Bon appetite!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Year Aftermath of My Year of Living Theatrically!

Theater season is in full swing and so far I have resisted the temptation, but the theatre's have me in their sights! About half of what I have received from them in the past two weeks!--and three came today.

What tempts me the most from these:


"In The Heights"
"The Wild Party"
"Death of Salesman"

Rosh Hashana Snap Shot

While I'm not Jewish, today is a blessing for me in that I have it off of work as a Holiday. To my dear Jewish friends, "G'mar Hatima Tova"! And know that you are sealed in the book of my heart, too.

Poor Romeo's been such a trooper with me in my present malaise. He can't possibly know that he's the vector of my distress--though I have taken to washing his paws! So we took a nice long walk today. The jingle of his harness makes him swoon. And in spite of his enthusiasm it would probably be easier to train a seal to leap through a hoop than get him to hold still while I slip the harness over his neck!

On the way down we ran into a fawn on the edge of the woods in the lot on the other side of my neighbor's house. It was covered in spots and seemed rather small to me for this late in the summer. There was no sign on a doe anywhere. Romeo finds these creatures uninteresting, but is patient while I stand a speak gently to it. The fawn looks up, flicks its tail, and returns to eating. Greets made, we continue on down the hill.

In the park I am amazed by the moisture in the ground. By this time of the year the creek is often a dribble, and the ground is parched and hard as slate. This year the soil remains dark and clearly moist--and it hasn't rained for about a week, which makes this even more unusual. It's owing to the constant rain we received throughout the end of July and especially into the latter weeks of August and early September. Another benefit is how lush and verdant the woods are. Trees that have normally started losing their foliage for want of water are still full. Notably the sycamores, which are always, a harbinger of early autumn stress.


Asiatic Daylily

Knotweed
The flowers are also in full glory like I've never remembered before. The Asiatic Daylilies and Knotweed are snaking there way up through the tall grass in a veritable battle for pathway supremacy. But the jewel of the trail is my favorite autumn wildflower, the Trefoil Tickseed. And all together the three make a lovely boarder to the path.

Trefoil Tickseed
On the way back we pass a neighbor working in the flowerbeds that frame the walk to her front door. She remembers my desire to start a patch of Cleomes in my own gardens and has shred the seeds of hers with me in the past. "Did they ever take?" she asks.

"No," I report.

"Would you like some more seeds?" she asks.

"If I thought they'd grow, I would. But I don't think I have the right conditions," I say.

"You might need a sunnier spot," she offers.

"That's true," I say, "So I think I'll just have to settle for enjoying yours."

She smiles and we leave it at that.


Back home I drop Romeo off and drive over to a nearby grocery for some odds and ends for super. When I drive back onto my street, I notice my neighbor standing in his front door, and I wave. 

Once I get out of my truck, I see what has captured his attention. The fawn is now grazing in our neighbor's yard across from us. With relief I see her mother is with her, but to my surprise, she is scarcely larger that her offspring--and this in a year of such abundance.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Another Look At The Denver Art Museum

 The large Oldenburg/van Bruggen sculpture outside the Hamilton Building.

 You can't fondle the broom, but the dust pan?  No holds barred, baby!

Summer Vacation Redux #30: Denver: Clyfford Still Museum

And the final stop in Denver--the final stop on my Summer Vacation of chasing the Total Eclipse of the Sun--was the Clyfford Still Museum. Clyfford Still was an American Artist of the 20th century. He was born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota and lived to the age of 75, dying in 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland. In between, his life and career as an artist spanned the nation and evolved from Realism to Abstract Expressionism along the way.

The list of places Still lived is not exhaustive, but it does read like a continental ping pong ball match.  Northern Maryland; Western Washington state; Southern Virginia; San Francisco, California; Manhattan, New York; Alberta, Canada....  And everywhere he lived as a young man and artist, he seemed to have found resonance in the bleak and the spare. 

These austere works morphed into nearly cartoonishly ghoulish images of people around the time of the Second World War and by 1942 his paintings had taken on a nearly perfect abstract identity.  After the war and throughout the rest of his career, the mature Abstract Expressionist style of creation became his signature.  He new and admired the work of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.  You can see in their friendships the cross pollination of ideas, particularly between Newman and Still.   And this is the heart of why I love Abstract Expressionism.

Trust me when I tell you that this son of an autoworker from Detroit didn't always think this sort of art was art.  My affinity for it came at a price.  The price of learning and being willing to image things beyond the concrete is worth the knowing.  Discovering a way to appreciate and enjoy Abstract Expressionism gave me the ability--nay, the freedom--to take an image and run with it without any fear of contradiction.  Whether I think of these works from some desire to find factual meaning; OR, I just let my emotions speak to me--doesn't matter.  The openness always shows me something worth spending time unraveling.  What I think is a psychological reflection of who I am.  As a rabid practitioner of the "examined life," exploring and appreciating Abstract Art (like ALL art) utilizes a skill set that helps me to see beyond the obvious in everything.

In the world of Abstract Expressionism my mind reels with connections--sees them, makes them, needs them, desires them, and almost always finds them.  It's an Artistic Safari in which no paintings are harmed along the path to conquest and discovery.  Enough of the conflated metaphors, just check out these examples of Still's paintings, and enjoy the meaning you discover in them.


 The architecture of the building harkens back to the minimalist aesthetic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and a more post-industrial starkness.  And while this might speak to some dystopian sensibility, here is comes off more like the Rothko "Chapel" at the Tate Modern Museum in London, or the Newman "Stations of the Cross" instillation at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (which I don't think exists any more...)  Yet the idea of the sacred is still present.

 On the ground floor is a series of displays of images and artifacts realted to Still's life and career.  The winter landscape is of his farm "home" in Westminster, Maryland early on in his career.
 You NEVER see his pre-Abstract work.  It is a gift and a window into his evolution.

 American Gothic....Still style?
 And the wheel turns......Although this painting also gave me an image of Picasso's "Three Musicians" as penguins!
 The majority of the museum looks like this.  Spare, open galleries with massive mature works of Abstract Expressionism by Still.



 At no point are the paintings "crowded".  Everything around them is very antiseptic, clinical, cool.

 A one point on the second floor, I discovered this open exterior "garden" patio/balcony.  It was open to the elements and yet confined by the ubiquitous lattice work that defines much of the building's non-concrete facades.

 Between the slats, you get a really lovely image of the front sculpture park and the North Building of the Denver Art Museum.



 Although an early work, I chose to end my sharing this.
I immediately saw within it more than a simple skull. I see Still's very contours and himself represented.  Look at the comparison with a photograph taken of him.  Don't you agree?