Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Fry

It’s the Lenten fish fry time down in St. Joseph, the little village founded by German Catholics about 150 years ago. It is at that fish fry where I broke my hip three years ago. I didn’t go the year after the accident even though, as I lay writhing in pain at the time, I was f promised a free dinner whenever I came back. I went once last year and managed to get out of there intact, but with no free dinner. I didn’t really want to remind them. I think they were afraid that I would sue, which, of course, I wouldn’t have. It is a most enjoyable event, even though we don’t attend any church functions there, being pagans, and all. There is a wonderful community spirit abut the thing. The parish is in a rural community. They have managed to hang onto their school, which I think brings people together. There are on ly two Catholic elementary schools left in Portage County, the other being St. Patrick in Kent. But I digress.

YOU can get the full deal, or the half deal. There is baked or fried cod, a combo of baked cod and shrimp and a choice of two sides - mac and cheese, baked potato, green beans or French fries. Homemade desserts are included, along with beverages. Ten bucks for the full deal, 5 bucks for a half deal meal.

It’s easy to get into conversations with table mates. We had in interesting geezer next to us, a retired rubber worker. First he talked about how inefficient the major Akron rubber company he worked fro had been. He told us how difficult and exacting the work of the tire builders was. He himself never got the hang of it, and worked at another job in the factory for over 40 years. Then he segued into his favorite retirement hobby: reading. He goes to flea markets and buys a bag of books every week. He reads a book a day. He has eclectic tastes. He’s read “Lord of the Rings,” the Harry Potter books, some early James Patterson, and mysteries. He’s been coming to the St. Joseph fish fries ever since they started. He said that in those days there was also gambling and he lost $100 bucks the first time he gambled there and never did it again. He said he’s not even a Catholic either. This reminded me of the time my in-laws were vesting, and I took my no card playing, no dancing on Sunday mother-in-law to the neighboring St. Michael’s Catholic Church summer carnival. The priest greeted me, holding a bottle of beer and running a wheel of chance. Ernestine practically froze in her tracks. We didn’t stay long. I Hope we’ll go back to another St. Joseph Lenten Fish Fry this year.

Oscar notes: I don’t know how they managed to find 10 movies this year to nominate for best picture. I saw only one movie all year that I’d want to see again, and that was “Moonrise Kingdom, which only had one nomination. Think about 2011: Hugo, The Artist, Descendents, The Ides of March, The Help, and Midnight in Paris – all of them first rate. The much hyped movies I saw this year were just lackluster, formulaic bores. I didn’t see Argo or the Zero Dark Thirty, mainly because I don’t want to even think about the Middle East in the last 60 years or so.. Friends who have seen Argo reacted with “eh.”

The Oscar show was a total bore, overloaded with schtick. Either they need to get Billy Crystal back or just hand the damn things out in an unpadded hour broadcast.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

That's Entertainment

Opera! Theater! Downton Abbey heartbreak! Lots of drama this past week-end. First, I watched the Met in HD and the new production of “Rigoletto", one of my favorite operas. This was a way cool production, placing the story in 190s Las Vegas, rather than 15th century Italy, but still with  Italian (mostly) characters. The sets designer used the colors of the Las Vegas Strip, all bright neon. The evil seducer, the Duke, was patterned after Frank Sinatra, wearing a white dinner jacket, and singing his opening aria surrounded by leggy chorus girls waving huge feather fans. His henchmen were wearing those cheesy shiny multicolor tux jackets that the famed Rat Pack wore. Rigoletto, the court jester in the traditional presentation, was wearing a wild sweater with the harlequin diamond pattern of the usual jester’s outfit. He represented a comedian, based on Don Rickles. Nothing in the music or dialogue was changed from the Verdi original. In interviews during ht intermission, the director described his decision to set the story in Las Vegas, since the court of the Duke was full of swaggering, womanizing, corrupt nobles with lots of power. It worked very well, especially since the voices were just excellent. The singer who played Rigoletto said in an interview during an intermission that he actually preferred the traditional setting to this one, but he certainly didn’t let that get in the way of a boffo performance. This is one of those operas where someone dies at the end, so even with all the neon, it was still moving. The director of this “Rigoletto” had also been the director of “Spring Awakening,” a Tony award winning musical from several years ago. All of the folks who worked on this production came from Broadway, the aforementioned director, the set designer and the costume designer. It was their first opera production and I think they’ll probably be doing more of them. There’s a drive to get more young people interested in opera and this isn’t the first non-traditional production, and most that I have seen have been interesting and exciting. By coincidence, “Spring Awakening” is playing at the KSU Theater. Sally and I went to see it and it is the usual excellent production. These theater students are so good you forget that you are watching a college production. The theater and music departments work together, so you get good acting and good singing. The only problem I have these days is that everyone is miked, including the orchestra and whoever runs the soundboard doesn’t seem to know how to work it so that the music doesn’t drown out the lyrics. The drums completely blocked one lyrics in a number of songs.Since the melodies are not the type which you can leave the theater humming, the lyrics are pretty important.  The action takes place in the early 20 th or late 19th  century and the title is self explanatory: adolescents trying to understand their burgeoning sexuality. The moral of the story is that you’d better tell your kids where babies come from or disaster will strike. By the end of the play, the death tool was worse than that in “Rigoletto." I have a feeling that not too many college students could relate to it these days. Those kinds of concerns are quite dated and have been for many years. What’s the big deal? I can imagine many of them thinking. Didn’t these kids know you could buy condoms at the local drug store? You’d almost have to give a history lesson before they could make sense of issues in this play. The one character struggling with homosexuality would probably be one of the few they could comprehend, since some things haven’t changed all that much for the young in that area. I think there could be some interesting discussions about this play in the classrooms, both in college and in high school. Be entertained while you learn.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dining on Dobbin

Every morning on BBC Radio 4 there is more news about the horsemeat scandal. Apparently some unscrupulous providers of frozen beef have been mixing horse meat into their product. Much of this goes to nursing hones, schools and other institutions. Now, with apologies to horse lovers, there is nothing nutritionally wrong with horse meat. Once on a trip to Italy, we stopped in Verona, the site of the doomed romance of Romeo and Juliet. I got out of the car and right in front of my horrified eyes was a butcher shop featuring horse meat, the hanging sign over the door depicting a painting of handsome horse’s head. Various cuts of meat were displayed in the shop window. It looked like any other sort of red meat, but I knew it was horse, not beef. I wonder if that’d what the Capulets were serving it the ball. Verona is a lovely city with sidewalks of marble, but I shall always associate it with carnivores who eat horsemeat. At least they now what they are eating, but the people in England who are the ultimate animal lovers, did not know that they were eating the creatures they love to ride to hounds over the beautiful English countryside. Well, actually they had no choice, since it was sold as beef. I don’t know where the neat has come from, whether it was from healthy stock. There have been no contaminants found, but it is just not cricket to disguise foodstuffs. Next thing you know, we’ll e having other creatures mixed in with our ground beef. Enough to turn one into a vegan or vegetarian. Almost.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sixto, the Extraordinary Cat

I know that people can be boring about their pets at times, almost as boring as they are about their children’s potty achievements, but Sixto is actually a really extraordinary cat. Truly. One night Sally was tossing him a wadded up piece of paper, his favorite toy. Suddenly, he brought it back to her. She threw it again. Again he brought it back. Again and again. Imagine that, a retrieving cat, self motivated. Or course he looks absolutely adorable, trotting back with the paper I his mouth. He also passes gas occasionally which is no t so cute. I think he needs a new, lass gas producing sort of food. This condition is also extraordinary, but not adorable.

Home Defense

I come from a gunless family. I realize that is downright un-American, but that’s the way it is Oh, m younger brother, about whom the Christmas Story of Jean Shepherd could have been written, did wear my father down finally and got a BB gun one Christmas and did almost shoot his eye out, but that was the extent of weaponry in my family. (He also had to make a solemn promise that he would never shoot a bird, a promise he promptly broke but felt really bad about.) My husband told me that he and his father went squirrel hunting once, with an old rifle, but ended up sitting under a tree and watching small animals frolic about the forest. I guess we were lucky, since we never had a home invasion or mugging. During WWII we never encountered any Nazis sneaking through the shrubbery and were too far away from the West Coast to need any armed defense against marauding Nippon invaders. We never have felt the need to be armed, in spite of our God given rights as written in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, which God has blessed via Irving Berlin. This is not to say that we have never felt the need to defend out home. A fierce dog works well. But the one incident when we were dogless, as well as gunless, my husband managed to rise to the occasion. We heard a noise downstairs, a noise as of someone possibly dropping or throwing something. My husband bravely decided to investigate, grabbing a heavy object from his study. I waited while he slowly made his way downstairs and into the kitchen, where the noise had come from. Fortunately, there was no masked and armed burglar. He discovered that a bottle o grape juice has popped its cork, creating the suspicious clatter. He returned to the bedroom, still clutching his weapon of choice: Gunnar Myrdal’s “An American Dilemma,” a classic and the heaviest book in his library. As a professor of sociology, it all seemed a logical tool of the home defense by an academic. Pity the fool that could have been conked with that leaden tome.