Saturday, March 22, 2008

"The Pirate" (1948) -- Initial Thoughts

My "new" musical this week was wacky and silly, and it made me laugh aloud several times: The Pirate (1948), starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.

The plot revolves around a pirate-obsessed girl (don't know any of those, do you?) who wishes the legendary pirate Macoco would come carry her off so she won't have to marry the mayor. Along comes Gene Kelly, who is not a pirate, but a traveling actor. Then we get into hypnosis and secret identities and all manner of skulduggery, and Gene Kelly winds up on the business end of a hangman's noose!

The parts that made me laugh were all when Judy or Gene would stop their ridiculously affected period acting and say something ultra-normal, like when Judy said, "Don't call me bright spirit, it irritates me," or when Gene told her, "You're overdoing this! You're being vindictive!" It was weirdly like them breaking the fourth wall, only instead they were breaking the wall of their own wacky melodramaticness.

So it's not a musical I plan to buy, but I wouldn't mind seeing it again sometime. 'Cause who doesn't love silly pirate stories? :-D

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I am having a completely wonderful morning!

When Dano and I went down the back stairs to go to the Post Office this morning (to mail off the bday package to the Leatherneck), I found an Amazon box on the steps. I said to Dano, "What's this? I didn't order anything from Amazon -- maybe Daddy ordered my birthday present already." But when I picked up the box, it was addressed to me. I began to worry that perhaps I've been sleepwalking and ordering things from Amazon in my sleep (which would be bad, as it could get very expensive very quickly).

So I opened it right then and there, and lo and behold, it was a surprise package from my friend Cheryl, who is even more in love with Hamlet than I am! She had told me about this manga version of Hamlet (manga are Japanese comics, like anime only in book form), and I had tried to find it through our library but it's not in the system (even though they have lots of other manga and graphic novels and comic books). So she decided to send me a copy, and also this DVD of a version of Hamlet directed by Peter Brook that she'd recently discovered and that I also haven't been able to get from the library. Isn't she the sweetest?

And then, when Daniel went down for his nap this morning, I pulled up my latest C! story and worked on revising the ending. Everything clicked into place, and I rewrote the ending (which was truly awful in the first draft) and am so much happier with it now.

So yeah, new Hamlet stuff, a rewritten ending to my latest story -- it's all good! Me happy :-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I tried a new cake recipe yesterday. It's Banana's husband the Leatherneck's birthday next month, so I wanted to send him his own mini-cake in Iraq, since I was usually the one who baked the birthday cakes when we all lived in Ruralsburg. It's a surprise, but I don't think he's ever read this blog, so I think it's pretty safe to blog about this here. Anyway, the cake turned out really well, so I thought I'd post the recipe here, because it's easy-peasy and tasty. I made a mini-cake and a regular-size cake, and Cowboy took half the regular cake to work with him today. He emailed me to say that it was gone in 45 minutes, although his co-workers said they like my brownies better.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

Death-by-Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 chocolate cake mix
1 small (4-serving) box instant chocolate pudding
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat sour cream, eggs, water, and oil together in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add cake mix and pudding mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Place batter in a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until fork inserted into cake comes out clean. While still hot, invert cake onto a serving platter. When cool, sift powdered sugar over top of cake.

See? Piece of cake :-D

Friday, March 14, 2008

"42nd Street" (1933) and "Lullaby of Broadway" (1951) -- Initial Thoughts

My "new" musical last week was 42nd Street; this week, Lullaby of Broadway. I found them oddly similar. Both were about entertainers putting together a musical revue-style show for Broadway, and both had convoluted, not-entirely-unpredictable plots. And both were the style of musical where all the songs are things the characters are rehearsing or performing, not singing about what's happening in the story.

Not that they were bad -- musicals are generally somewhat predictable and a bit unrealistic. They have to be, as people in real life do not periodically dance about and burst into song (Nick Wayne excluded). But I'm finding that I much prefer the style of musical where the songs grow from the plot, where characters sing about the weather or their predicaments or falling in love. I think the thinking behind having the characters be entertainers so all the songs are for a show is that it will make the songs feel more organic and logical, but to me, they too often kill the narrative flow.

Now that I think about it, a lot of musicals are about entertainers. Singin' in the Rain. Band Wagon. White Christmas. For Me and My Gal. Ziegfield Follies and The Great Ziegfield. Summer Stock. I could go on, but you get the picture. I'm sure it's so that the characters have a reason to be great singers and dancers -- ever meet a cowboy or a hoodlum or a painter who also was a great hoofer and singer? But all the same, I like the singing newspapermen and the dancing sailors. Some movies, like White Christmas and Singin' in the Rain and Band Wagon, blend the two styles and have entertainers who sing and dance off-duty as well as on, and those I don't mind.

Monday, March 03, 2008

My friend Jewels has her own online craft shop now: Knitsational, powered by As you can tell from the name, she's selling a lot of knitted things, but she also has stuff like baby slings. I never would have gotten my household packed up for our move here if it wasn't for the sling Jewels gave me -- Dano nursed and napped in it while I used both hands to pack. Babywearing is the best! Now I mostly use mine while taking walks or going grocery shopping -- Dano does still like to nap lying in it, but now that he can sit up and support his own weight more, he's having a great time riding in the sling sitting on my hip. He can see what's going on, I can use both hands to do stuff, and he still feels all safe because he's right next to me, not sitting in a shopping cart or something.

So if you or someone you know is interested in getting a baby sling, buy one from Jewels! They make great baby shower presents too :-D

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) -- Initial Thoughts

My "new" musical this week was Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biopic of performer/songwriter George M. Cohan. I've wanted to see it for years now, as it was recommended to me by Cowboy's family friend Mrs. E back when Banana and The Leatherneck got married. But I never got around to seeing it until now. What a shame! I totally dug this movie. I was afraid it might be a little sugary, but all the sugar was tempered by a healthy dose of hubris in the main character. Just when you thought they were building him up as the nicest, smartest, most talented person in history, there'd be a scene where Cohan's pride and cocksure attitude caused him to make a mistake or lose a job.

I was pretty prepared for seeing James Cagney in the starring role, dancing and singing with the best of them. Although I mostly know him from mean, hard, villainous roles in things like Public Enemy and Mr. Roberts, I knew he started out as a hoofer and had seen snippets of YDD. So the big surprise for me was Walter Huston, keeping up with the rest of the cast in the dance numbers! I'm used to seeing him in stuff like Swamp Water and Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but a little digging reveals that he started out in vaudeville! Also, he was a totally nice character, not grouchy or miserly at all. No hollering or smacking people around or even glaring!

So yeah, fun movie with a lot of big stage numbers involving songs I know really well, and two "tough guys" playing nice stage entertainers! Quite cool.