January 30, 2010

Do You Like My New Blog Header?

I know it doesn't go with the background but what do you think? Here's what I like about it: I like the Chicago skyline, I like that it's black and white.

Should I leave it and change the background? Should I try something else? Should I go back to the daisies?

Or...how about this one?

January 29, 2010

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

This is very funny, even if you're not into cats.

January 20, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar

** (out of five stars)
Here's my review in three words: Oh, come on.
Really. Okay, the technology is incredible and it's beautiful to look at so I'm giving it two stars for that but it has nothing else going for it. Really, it's pretty stupid. The story is lame, there's nothing original about it - it borrows from every other movie in the world - a little Dances With Wolves, a little West Side Story, a little Star Wars, a little Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
The Na'vi are blue anorectics who are supposed to be intelligent life but who retaliate against flying armored cars with bows and arrows. Uh huh. That'll work.
Star Wars at least had characters you could get involved in, this has nothing of the sort. There's no chemistry between them, nothing that pulls you in or makes you want to root for them.
If you like digital effects this has it in spades. If you like a good story, take a pass.

January 18, 2010

Pictures From Too Hot To Handel

We had two fabulous performances this weekend of Too Hot To Handel, the jazz-gospel version of Handel's Messiah. Standing ovations both days. We (the choir) were in fine form. Our hard work paid off and, if I do say so myself, we sounded amazing. Thanks so much to Bill Fraher for his relentlessness and good humor as our choir director.
These photos are from rehearsal.

And these are from our performance nights.

I can't get the music out of my head. I sing it in my sleep, I hum it all day...
I'm happy to have my Monday nights back - that was our rehearsal night - but am missing it. Ah well...there's always next year.

January 15, 2010

My TV Debut on WGN

In case you missed the live version yesterday here's a clip of The Too Hot to Handel choir on WGN TV.

It was great fun.
Last night we rehearsed on stage, with the orchestra and two of the three featured soloists, at the Auditorium Theatre. One more rehearsal this morning and then our performances Saturday and Sunday. I hope you get to see this rockin' show.

January 6, 2010

Movie Review: Invictus

4 1/2 stars out of 5
When you see the trailer you probably think the story is implausible and ridiculous - rugby saving a nation. But rugby is just a vehicle that Nelson Mandela used to help heal his country from the ravages of apartheid.
I was a little leery going in, I haven't liked Clint Eastwood's last couple of films, particularly the insanely horrible Grand Torino, but I really like Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, and I'm glad I went. It's a touch simplistic and predictable but then, it's a movie. Mostly it's a well-directed, well-acted, heart-warming story and what more do you need from a film?

January 4, 2010

New Year's Eve

The best thing to do on New Year's eve is stay home. Don't you think? Or am I just old? We've done the hotel-party-thing, the prix-fixe-dinner-out-thing, the house party-thing, the live-theatre-thing...but the best of all is dinner at home with friends.
We went to a movie with our friend Claire (The Young Victoria which we all loved, loved, loved!) and then Claire and I made a sumptuous dinner (alcohol was also involved - what a surprise).
Here's our menu:
Crab Stuffed Endive
Chicken Liver Mousse
Shrimp and Lobster Bisque
Cornish Hens with Wild Rice Stuffing
Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans, Dried Cherries and Asiago Cheese
and (drum roll) home-made Chocolate Eclairs for dessert. Yum! Claire made those and they were fabulous.
While we were eating (read: making pigs of ourselves but what the hell, it's a holiday) and drinking (of course) we watched the New York new year come in with Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest at 11:00. High cringe factor watching Dick Clark. I can't decide if I admire him for continuing to do it or feel pity but watching him just makes me wince.

It's Movie Season

I'm so happy - it's such a great time for movies and I've seen lots this holiday season, many of them really, really good. I'll post my reviews as soon as I can so stay tuned. Here are the titles to look for:
Brothers (already reviewed)
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
Broken Embraces
It's Complicated
An Education
Where the Wild Things Are
The Young Victoria

January 3, 2010

Movie Review: Brothers - 4 stars

4 stars out of 5.
I was anxious to see Brothers which is a remake of a 2004 Danish film Brødre (brothers in Danish) which I loved. The story is a powerful one about family dynamics and brothers who grew up competing for their parents' approval - one who's a war hero, one who's just being released from prison. The gist of the story is about what happens when the "good" brother dies in Afghanistan (that's not a spoiler, it happens early on).
Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman star in this film and they are all wonderful. What's a little less than wonderful are the script and the direction. There are moments filled with confrontation and emotion when a normal person would not be silent yet there are long spans of silence. And the script leaves important questions unanswered. In spite of that I recommend this film but if you want to see the better one get the original on DVD. I give that one 5 stars.