Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pella Christmas Pops II

Rockapella Holiday Day 2
Sunday, December 4, 2011 7:30 pm
Show 2 -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Prudential Hall
Newark, NJ

Dinner was tasty, although the guy gave us way too many forks, considering that two of the orders were for sandwiches.  The fries were good, though.  I had a couple of Wendy's, since I had only ordered crab rolls, which had no rice and had mostly crab.  Now happy and fed, we did our little touch-ups and walked across the street to the theater.  Yes, it was across the street.  Coolness.  I didn't see any CDs being sold in the lobby; rather, there were other things being sold, like hats and stuff.  No, none of the stuff was related to Rockapella or even the Pops.  It was like a little upscale outdoor market indoors.  I know that makes no sense.  We got free media player holders, and my phone fits into it, so maybe I'll actually use it if I remember that it's there.  Wendy needed to stop and apply lipstick.  I don't know why this wasn't done back in the hotel, maybe we were in a rush.  KP made a comment about applying it in the lobby, and I said she didn't understand because she doesn't wear makeup.  As I was saying this, I noticed that KP was wearing makeup.  OK, shut up, Sher.  Idiot.

Pretty lips were at the ready, and we made our way to our seats.  Wendy had scored us awesome seats for this show.  She was in the front row, and we were right behind her, in the center section.  There was an empty seat next to me, on the aisle.  Somebody's missing out on a great show!  The guy seated next to Wendy was festively wearing a Santa hat, and he was quite friendly and talkative. The theatre is absolutely gorgeous.  Here is a link to a virtual tour of the theatre (it uses Quicktime). 
Even the ceiling is beautiful

A Christmas Festival
Are there actual sleigh bells back there in the orchestra, or is it Jeff Thacher?  :)

I Wonder As I Wander
So now that we're so close to the stage, I kept watching Kathryn Skemp Moran breathe.  I'm always in awe of great singers, but she looked like she was about 5-6 months pregnant, and I wondered if it was her baby kicking or her breath that was making the little movements while she sang.  Do you know how hard it is to breathe when your diaphragm is pushed up against your ribs?  She amazed me.  She also looks like a cute soprano friend of mine, and I kept picturing her up there with the orchestra.

Trois pour Noel

Suite from The Nutcracker
I forgot to mention that for this performance, we brought Scotcherbreadman, GingerGeorge and ThacherFredman with us.  Scotcher was not content to stay inside a purse, and sat with me in my seat.  But for this piece, he couldn't help but get up and dance, especially during Waltz of the Flowers.  I was having so much fun letting him dance that I had kind of forgotten that I was in a theatre filled with people whom could probably see me from their seats.  It totally reminded me of the Seinfeld episode "The Pez Dispenser" when I helped Scotcher applaud at the end.  I've lost my ever-loving mind.  A week or so later, Rockapella posted a video of themselves backstage during the show.  Well, lo and behold, they dance during that little trilly part, too!  Seriously, how are they not the perfect group for me to love?

Keith Lockhart said that Rockapella has been making its own orchestra for almost 25 years now, and their CD is "available by miraculous holiday coincidence in this very venue."  Then they appeared in their same suits, but with silver shirts for this show, instead of the white.  Steve is the only one who wears a vest with his suit.  He looks dapper!

I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day
Scott's bowtineer is really, really tiny.  Karla says that they're "Scott size".  I love how we talk about how small he is, and Wendy's probably the same size.  Geo smiled at Wendy and me.  :)

They did their roll-up to Zip, and Scott said, "We said we will never sing with instruments..."

The Little Drummer Boy (Carol of the Drums)
Ooh, there's a little vocal percussion line at the end of that.  Got smiles from Steve and Geo.  I'm really digging the orchestral arrangement of this piece, with the Pellaness.  I can't gush enough about it. It's frickin' amazing.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Geo smiled at Wendy.  He also smiled at me, but mostly at Wendy.  I like the breaths that they take during the all a cappella verse (How silently...).  I also like watching Scott watch the orchestra play his music.  I just love seeing that proud smile on his face.

Angels We Have Heard On High
Wendy is very happy.  :)

So the person that had the seat next to mine never showed up.  I said to the gals that it better mean that at least one Pella member would come over and sit there during the sing-along.  While Wendy was chatting with us, she sat in the seat and some dude came up to her, talking about having the actual souvenir from sitting in the seat.  We told him that her seat was right in the front, and she was only there for intermission.  I don't know if he was being sarcastic or not, but still, nobody sat there.  The guy that had the seat next to Wendy kindly took pictures of us.  The one on my camera didn't turn out well enough to post here.

Sleigh Ride
I thought of my friend Jen.  She says that it's not Christmas until she hears this song.  Lockhart said, "It's ours, but we enjoy sharing it with the rest of the world."  Indeed, this is their signature song.  I'm missed seeing the annual Tuba Christmas with Jen, but she was still excited for me when I told her that I'd be seeing Pella with the Pops instead.  Thanks for understanding, Jen!

Glow Worm
Scott  informed us that the special Christmas lyrics for this song were written by Johnny Mercer, heard by Mel Torme, and written and recorded by Mr. Torme in 1992 with an orchestra conducted by Mr. Keith Lockhart himself.  :)

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Scott finally saw Wendy and pointed at her.  Geo smiled at us.  KP and I did the choreography from our seats.

The Christmas Song

A Visit from St. Nicholas
 I don't think that Lockhart meant to say "Horsetop" instead of "Housetop", but he did.  When he mentioned Santa's "bowl full of jelly", the conductor shook his belly.

Silver Bells
Scott smiled at me!  Hi, Scott!  :)

I kept totally laughing at Geo.  Scott slapped John's butt at the start of the break down.  During "Yahtzee!", Jeff pointed his microphone at us.  When Santa made his appearance, Jeff goofily waved at him.  Karla loves that.  Me, too.

Must Be Santa
Wait.  I thought they sang "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", but I didn't write that down.  Did they not sing it for this show?  Or was I laughing too hard at the Rudolph thing that I forgot?  Anyway, Lockhart said to Santa, "In a day of random security checks and retinal scans..." and went into his spiel about needing to verify the guy.

A Merry Little Sing-Along
During "Rudolph", Geo sat down next to me.  YAY!  My wish came true!  He had us sing a little bit, mostly me, since the others wouldn't sing.  Then, during "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Jeff came down the aisle and pointed his microphone at KP just in time for the lyric "gay".  I don't know what that was about, but it was damn funny.  She didn't sing it, by the way.  Then he sang "Sherry" and pointed the mic at me for "From now on our troubles will be miles away", and after I sang, he said, "Nice!"  Aw, thanks, JT!  He never pointed the mic at the guy sitting next to Wendy, which is a shame, because he had a nice voice and was singing a lot.

The Pops did another medley while the guys made their way back to the stage.  Nice trumpet solo!  Spin that bass!  

White Christmas

That was a great show!  The guy next to Wendy said that he was glad that they didn't mess up Drummer Boy because he hated the way it was done at the Rockefeller Center show this year, and it made him cry because it was his mom's favorite Christmas song.  He said she really would have liked this version.  Aw, that's really sweet how much he misses his mom.

Meet and Greet
They had sold out of the Christmas CDs.  Grrrrrrrr.  Well, I still had something for them to sign, but I really wanted my CD *now*.  So I had to resort to ordering it online.  One of the ushers that was handling the M&G line kept saying that the guys looked different in the lobby than they did on stage, especially George.  She was funny.  They even had a little sign for the line, making it all official.  I had made a photo collage Christmas card for all of the guys, and had a copy for myself for them to sign.

When Steve saw us, he said, "Hi, California!"  I asked him how his birthday was, and he talked about riding his motorcycle and just chilling out with his brother, whom had cooked dinner for him.  It must have been nice for him to be home.  Karla thanked him for making it worth the trip, and he was grateful.  Wendy gave him a birthday card from us and he said thank you.  He said he'd see us in Napa.  How nice of him to remember that we are dedicated Napa-Pella-holics.  He laughed at the picture of him wearing his cape, and pointed at our picture together.  :)

Jeff asked if all of the pictures in the collage were from the cruise, so I pointed out the ones that weren't.  He mainly concentrated on the one of us together.  He called Wendy "Darling" and thanked her for his birthday card.  Wendy told us later that she thinks he still doesn't know her name because he called her "Darling".  Later, on the plane ride home, I realized that maybe he *does* know her name!  Wendy Darling is Peter Pan's friend!  Maybe that's his nickname for her!  KP and I talked to him about the car service that he had recommended to us, and he said that it was lame of our driver not to know that there were two theaters with the same name if he lived in the area.  He asked who the guy was that was sitting next to Wendy, because he was so animated.  I'm telling you, he should have let him sing a little with the microphone!  KP said Happy Birthday to him, and he said that he doesn't count birthdays anymore, as he is still 29.  He asked if we were going to Napa.  Perhaps he should have asked Steve.

George had just recently announced that he had been selected to be the Grinch for a new Boston Pops live Christmas recording.  We congratulated him and he talked about making the deal and that he can die afterward because he'll have sung with the Boston Pops.  I told him that there was at least one person that would be unhappy about that, since there still needed to be a wedding.  He agreed, and said he could die after that.  I was hoping that he'd bring his lovely fiance to Napa, but he said that it might not happen because they were still going to Wyoming first.  I told him that we had been watching "Drumline" while we were getting ready today, and Wendy had told me that one of the featured bands was from George's alma mater, Morris Brown college.  He talked about being in Atlanta for a show and they were having a reunion, so he attended with Steve as his +1.  Steve was met with hugs by people that he had never met.  I'd hug him, too!  George talked about his daughter, and her education, jokingly saying that she didn't need algebra, knowing that KP was standing right there.  

I saw Fred briefly to give him his card.  He said that he had to run and get George's clothes or he wouldn't have any.  I replied, "He doesn't need to wear clothes."

John and I talked about the picture of him and his wife Christina on his card.  He said that I sent it to him.  I don't think I did, but I did tag him on Facebook, so maybe that's what he was thinking about.  She'll be coming to Napa, and I look forward to seeing her again.

Scott saw the different envelopes on the table.  He said, "This one says CSL4, so this is mine."  He signed all of Karla's stuff "To Karla", "for posterity".  So cute.  After he signed my card, I kneeled beside him to talk to him a little bit more.  He thought that I was trying to hug him, so he hugged me.  Okay, I'm not going to correct him!  :)  I told him that I absolutely loved his arrangement of Drummer Boy.  He said that the Middle Eastern influence in the orchestra was mostly done by the other arranger (Pat Hollenbeck).  Scott mostly did the drums.  He's just incredible.  I asked him about his shirt, which had a big drawing of a shrimp on it.  He said that he got it from Japan, and tried to find the tag for us to read it.  He said that they had been asked to sing with the Pasadena Pops.  My eyes widened.  He said that the schedule didn't work out this time, but they're still working on it.  Yay!  Party at Sherry's!

We waited to take pictures with the guys, and when it seemed to be my turn, JT yelled, "SHERRY!" so I went on up there.  JT was loving on my sweater, remarking on its softness.  John or someone asked if it was cashmere as they all oohed and aahed.  I replied, "I don't know, just keep touching me."  So he did, and my happiness is quite obvious in this picture, yes?

Merry Christmas to Me!
Karla told Scott that there was one special thing she would miss about not seeing a regular Rockapella Holiday Show, and asked him to say, "Merry Christmas, Everybody," as he does at the end of each show. He did.  We expressed our happiness. He laughed.  

We said our final goodbyes for the year, and took pictures of the gingerbread men outside.  Our fellow Pella fans saw us and remarked on the cuteness.  I mean, how can you not think this is cute, even if it's a little crazy?
Airport Husbands

We were going to try to get something to eat with Jill and Elisa, but Maize had closed for the evening.  We were told about a place down the street, but it was a club, and we didn't feel like going clubbing, even for food.  So we bid goodbye and ate our snacks in the room, and the gals finished off their french fries from dinner.   I looked at the signatures on my card, and saw that Scott had signed his name over Steve's face in the picture of Steve and me.  How dare you!  Wendy said it was because Scott was jealous of Steve, because that picture of us is too cute.  OK, I understand now.  ;) 

In the morning, we saw the gals at breakfast.  The people working there were baking cookies, so we waited for those to be done, and the lady nicely brought some freshly baked ones to our table.  I mean, they were still too hot to eat, they were so fresh.  They were also yummy.  We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, and were surprised that we were boarding the plane earlier than usual.  The flight home was a little turbulent due to the wind, so we held Wendy's hands and Karla advised her to imagine that it was George's voice making all of the rumbling in the sky.  I distracted myself on the flight by doing a draft of the blog and writing down this recipe which is more conveniently found on their site: 

Thank you for a great time, my Pella Posse!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I find it quite fitting that the first and last posts of 2011 were about Rockapella, especially in this Rockapella-filled year.  :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pella Christmas Pops I

Rockapella Holiday Day 2
Sunday, December 4, 2011  2:00 pm
Show 1 -- Tilles Center for the Performing Arts
C.W. Post Campus / Long Island University
Greenvale, New York

OK, that's a long header.  I apologize.  This may be helpful information in the future, though.  Really.  Read on.

We got up and somehow found the hotel breakfast area, which was located below the hotel lobby.    Breakfast wasn't that exciting-looking, so I got a bowl of way too much cereal to start.  I eventually woke up and saw the hard-boiled eggs and was happy to have protein.  We figured out how to get back to Jersey, since we worried that taking the train would cut our time very close to the 2nd show.  Then we took the hotel shuttle to Penn Station NJ.  We had just missed the train, so we sat for awhile, and realized that both KP and I were wearing reindeer earrings.  We also realized that we would have lost The Amazing Race because we didn't catch the other train. 

Waiting for NJ Transit

At Penn Station NYC, we figured out how to take the Long Island Rail Road to Greenvale, thanks to someone who actually cared.  The train conductor was very helpful, too.  KP had reserved a cab to pick us up at the Greenvale station, and there it was!  We arrived at the Tilles Center in plenty of time before the show, and visited with fellow cruisers Jill and Elisa for a bit before taking our seats.

Ever since Rockapella announced that they would be performing holiday shows with the Boston Pops this year, I wanted to see the show.  I was thinking that I might miss out because they were only playing back East, but when we found the cheap airfare on Southwest, we jumped at the chance, making sure that we could see more than one show in order to maximize our Pella time for the weekend.  We were especially excited because Scott had arranged songs that we had never heard them sing before, so this was promising to be quite the experience.  

So here we were, at the first show of the day (yup!  2 shows in one day!).  Our seats were on house right, next to the wall, about 4 rows up in the second section of seats.  We saw Ross walk by and one of my companions said, "There's Ross."  So I yelled, "ROSS!!!" and he heard me and waved.  Yeah, I'm not obnoxious at all.   I think that I was just really excited to see him.  Because, you know, I'm never excited at a Rockapella concert.  He took a picture of us.  I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure that it's lovely.  

The orchestra finished their warm-up, the concertmaster took the stage, and they tuned.  I beamed.  It's been a long time since I last saw an orchestral concert, and watching one always makes me miss my violin.  Sigh.  I love hearing an orchestra tune. I'm such a geek that way. I actually almost stood up with the orchestra when Keith Lockhart entered the stage.  The announcer guy from the Tilles Center advised us that the program was incorrect, and there would be no intermission, "because once these guys start, they can't stop."

A Christmas Festival  by Anderson/Courage (Boston Pops only -- BP)
This was a medley of songs that included "Joy to the World".  We could see Scott in the wings, watching the orchestra, and glowing in his white shirt and blondness.  I saw Santa hats on some of the chairs in the bass section, and wondered what that was about.

Soprano Kathryn Skemp Moran (KSM) then joined BP on the stage for the next couple of songs.

I Wonder As I Wander  -- Traditional, arranged by Sebesky(BP + KSM)
Her voice is lovely.  I can't sing that high and still sound lovely, at least not anymore.

Trois pour Noel  -- Trad., arr Sebesky (BP + KSM)
  • Il est ne, Fum, Fum, Fum and Quittez Pasteurs

Yay, French!  Nice accelerando on the 1st piece, and I've always liked Fum3.  

Suite from The Nutcracker -- Tchaikovsky (BP)
  • March, Trepak, Waltz of the Flowers
I want to see John dance to the Russian portion.

Time for Pella!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Calkin/Longfellow, arr Leonard  (Rockapella only --R)
Yes, that's Scott Leonard, the fabulous arranger.  :)  JT can't wear a tie.  Neither, APPARENTLY can Geo or JKB.  They were all wearing silver "bowtineers" (that's Wendy's word).   JT's hair is getting longer.  I like it.  Oh, the song: gorgeous, and always the perfect opener for their holiday shows.

They did their roll up, showing off their different voice parts, with "Zip".  Scott said, "We didn't need any help, the crutch of the instrument, but when the Boston Pops called and invited us to sing, we said, "oh, yes, we do!"

The Little Drummer Boy (Carol of the Drum) by Davis-Hollenbeck, arr Leonard (BP + R)
This is the song that I most anticipated, and it did not disappoint me one bit!  I didn't have their new holiday CD yet, so I hadn't heard it at all before the show.  It starts with the rhythm section (of JT, Geo and the orchestra percussion) and rain sticks.  I like the "wha wha" of the horns.  I also like the Middle Eastern vibe in the instrumentation.  JT with the drums (tympani):  that was AWESOMESAUCE!  That song was seriously worth the whole trip.  Amazing.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Calkin/Longfellow, arr Leonard (BP + R)
This starts with the violin, then all the strings, then the tenors.  George joins in on the second verse.  I like the pause after "how silently".  JT takes a well-deserved rest during this one.  I like how Steve brings attention to the concertmaster during the applause.  It's just so polite and Steve-ish. 

Angels We Have Heard on High Traditional, arr Leonard & Hollenbeck (BP + R)
This is Wendy's favorite Rockapella Christmas song, so we were all happy.  How fun to hear bells from the orchestra!  Sing that low note, Georgie!  That solo was a cappella.  Feel the thunder in my heart!

Sleigh Ride by Anderson (BP)
Aha, now is the time for the bass section to wear their Santa hats.  Keith reminded them to put them on.  I like how he plays with the percussionist during the whip cracks.  After the song, the hat was no longer on one of the bass players, and it was instead on the scroll of his string bass.

Glow Worm / It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas arr Leonard/Hollenbeck (BP + R)
Scott did a little dance as he pushed the microphone stand away.  John got to do a little soft shoe at the end of the song, too.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Marks, arr Leonard/Hollenbeck (BP + R)
Scott's whistle is accompanied by the strings playing pizzicato and the rest of the full orchestra.  AWESOME!  He's so funny grooving around the "O Christmas Tree".  JT got to play a little battle with the drum kit guy.  Fun!

The Christmas Song by Wells, Torme, Morley (BP)
Nice solo from the concertmaster, with the little bluesy note.  The song was arranged by Angela Morley for the Pops as a tribute to the passing of Mel Torme.

A Visit from St. Nicholas ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) arr. Reisman
Keith Lockhart recited Clement C Moore's poem, as the orchestra played.  Cute little sound effect as he said, "down with a bound".

Rockapella came back to the stage, sans jackets.

Silver Bells by Livingston/Evans, arr Leonard (R)
Ah, pure a cappella.  :)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Marks, arr Leonard/Hollenbeck (BP + R)
Lockhart joined in by singing "Santa came to say" during the foggy Christmas Eve.  They added "Up on the housetop, reindeer pause" at the end.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Coots & Mason, arr Leonard (BP + R)
This started off with Rockapella singing a cappella, then the orchestra joined in.  John now whispers "Get the picture".  At the end, Santa entered!  Rockapella left the stage as Santa took the spotlight.

Lockhart said, "Santa, we live in a suspicious age.  We live in an age of identity fraud", so they needed to do a little test.

Must Be Santa (no info in program) (BP + KSM)
I don't know this song, but it's cute.  "Who's got a big red cherry nose?"

Then Lockhart made a wish come true for all of us, as he allowed us to sing with the Pops.  Rockapella walked among the audience, having people sing a long, as KSM stayed on stage with BP for A Merry Little Sing-Along, arranged by Reisman
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Jingle Bells
I don't think that the guys could see us where we were sitting. At least I don't remember them seeing us.

White Christmas (BP + R+ RSM)
The concertmaster played while KSM sang, and it built until the audience was singing along, too.

Afterward, we tried to buy CDs, but there were no Pella CDs available.  WHAT?!  Don't they know that I need to buy 10 of them?!  KP almost sold hers to a nice lady that she talked to, but they'll go to the website instead.  There was no meet and greet, as the performers all needed to get on their buses and go to Jersey for the 2nd show.

I called the car service (Dial 7) to ask if the driver could pick us up earlier, since we ended an hour earlier than our scheduled pickup time.  We waited outside and I took pictures of the beautiful campus.

Wendy & Karla in front of Staples Tilles Center

I have no idea what this means, but it looks cool.

It's good that we asked for an earlier ride, because our driver, Muhammed, couldn't find us.  It turns out that there is another Tilles Center at another campus in Greenvale.  Oh, good Lord.  He was able to get a student to talk to me on the phone and figure out that we were not on the same campus.  Poor guy didn't get to have dinner beforehand because we called for the early pickup, but he was entertaining anyway.  Well, up until he told us that President Obama was born in Kenya, and I tuned out from what he was saying for about 10 minutes.  (I can't deal with the "birthers").  Anyway, he tried to play Cash Cab with us, and asked us to guess his ethnicity.  We did not win, as we didn't guess "Bengali" off the bat, despite the fact that I look smart because I'm Asian.  I'm not making this up, folks.  Then he didn't listen to me when I told him to turn right immediately, and we had to do weird turns to get back on track to the hotel.  Anyway, he got us there, and he was funny most of the time.  If his name had been Abdul, it would have fit in more with Scott's lyrics, but that's OK.

We wanted to have dinner at the hotel in the restaurant, Maize, but there were no tables available.  So we ordered room service (same kitchen as Maize).  It took awhile, but at least we got to eat dinner before the next show, because we hadn't eaten lunch, and we were hungry.

Next up:  Pella Pops II

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dragon One

I've been excited about seeing "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" as soon as I finished the first book in this trilogy.  The book itself started out a little slow, but the person who recommended it to me advised me to stick with it and it would move much more quickly later.  She was right.  The only way I put down the book once into it was the fact that I needed to work in the mornings.  The film was already done in Sweden, which is where the book is set.  I did not see that version, but hope to one day, as Salander is said to be played really well by that actress; but for now, I'll take the American version.  I was off on opening day, so I got myself to the Arclight Pasadena, despite shopping traffic.

  • Her tattoo was AWESOME.  (So now that's out of the way).
  • A fair warning to those of you that have not read the book: there is violence and sex and a rape scene, much of which is integral to the characterization and story line.  They did cut out some of what was in the book, but there's nudity here, so don't be stupid and bring young people.  
  • I find it hilarious that Christopher Plummer is playing a character whose brother is a Nazi.  If you've never seen "The Sound of Music", maybe this is why you're puzzled at this thought.
  • Rooney Mara does a great job as Lisbeth Salander.  I love that this character is strong, despite her difficult past.  She's also intelligent.  I can't wait to see what she does in the rest of the trilogy, if, indeed, they film it.  At this point, I've not yet finished the 3rd book, but that doesn't matter.
  • I didn't remember MIkael's daughter in the book.  Perhaps I missed that part. 
  •  I expected to see one relationship with Mikael and another character that didn't happen, but I guess they didn't have time to include it.  Or maybe the filmmakers didn't think Daniel Craig needed to be all Bond-like with all of the women.
  • I didn't know beforehand that Robin Wright was in this film.  She looks really different from her old Buttercup days, mostly because they don't cover up her freckles with makeup.
  • Whoa!  Goran!  When I was making a picture of Armansky in my head, he was not at all dreamy like Mr. Visnjic.  I like this version better.  :)
  • Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails composed the score.  I giggled when one of Lisbeth's contacts was wearing a NIN shirt as he answered the door.  The music playing during the opening credits was very Reznor, and the visuals that went with it were quite interesting.
  • The movie was pretty true to the book as far as character and story go.  Of course, some stuff was cut for brevity and there was a change from an Australian location to London, but those changes didn't make a big difference to the film.  Location, by the way:  it's cold in Sweden.  I could almost feel the chill while watching those outdoor scenes.  Great cinematography.
Excellent film.  I liked the movie, although the rape scene did its job and disturbed me.  It did not help that the trailers prior to the movie were about demonic possession, and set a scary tone for me anyway.  Although the movie is not really Christmas-y itself, it starts and ends at Christmastime, so it was OK to see during the holidays, right?  ;)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Drum Corps + Christmas Light Display = Awesome

I like those light displays at people's homes that blink and stuff with Christmas music playing.  Of course, I'm not a next-door neighbor of any of them, so maybe that's why I still like them.  We do have a house nearby that plays music at night, but I haven't noticed any lights blinking along with the soundtrack or anything like that.  It is kind of loud, though. 

Anyway, if the house in the video below was nearby, I'd probably go there at least once every night to watch the display.   The video playing at the house is Carolina Crown in 2003, during their show, "Bell-issimo".  Yes, I saw this one live, with Bro, Chun and V in Orlando.  

Merry Christmas, fellow drum corps fans!

Carol of the Bells 2011 from Robert E Peterson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sadness in Paradise

I had some time to kill between work and rehearsal a week or two ago, so I saw "The Descendants". 

  • Probably not a good idea to see such a weepy movie prior to singing.  Yes, I cried.  I do that a lot during movies, but there were a LOT of tears with this one.  I mean, hello, it's about a guy dealing with the fact that his wife is dying.
  • Oh, George Clooney.  You're getting even more handsome as you age.  Thank you for continuing to do quality work like this so that I can be happy to keep watching you.
  • It's difficult to walk fast or even try to jog in flip flops.  This is exemplified here, and it amused me.
  • Shailene Woodley does an excellent job here as the rebellious older daughter.  Then we get to find out why she's being so rebellious, and it drives the plot further, which is great.
  • Amara Miller cracked me up as the younger daughter.  She just says stuff without any filter because she's rebellious, too, yet I still felt a lot of sympathy for her.
  • Nick Krause was hilarious, too, and I loved his interactions with Clooney, especially the night in the hotel room when Clooney couldn't sleep.
  • Whoa, Beau Bridges.  Please do not ever grow your hair out like that again.  Yikes!
  • I liked how the plot of Matt (Clooney) dealing with his wife's coma played out against the other plot of him making a decision regarding his family's land.  It's that whole concept of "letting go" that interested me.
  • Lucky Judy Greer.  She gets this great role AND she gets kissed by the guy in the flip flops. Sigh.
  • I think that I need to read this book.  I'll probably need a box of tissues for that, too.
  • I really want to go to Kauai.  I was looking at some of those scenes and wondered if the Smoke Monster was there, though.  
Great movie.  Just remember to be prepared for crying when you see it. Especially that scene toward the end with Clooney talking to his wife.  Oh, I'm tearing up again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Fairest One of All

Today, the apple of my (other) eye turned 2.  Luckily for us, she was also in town, so that we could celebrate together at my parents' house.

Miss O loves to watch "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves", and dressed as "White" for Hallowe'en.  My parents had asked Bro to bring her costume this weekend, so that she could be themed with her cake.
The yummy cake, with princesses
Our Princess

When I heard about the cake, I immediately asked if there was an Ariel and if I could have it.  Mom said yes, but advised me to ask the birthday girl.  The cake arrived, and I asked Miss O, and she nodded yes.  Yay!  She was in a good mood today, and responded to me.  Here we are with our princesses.

There were so many cameras flashing that it was like we were paparazzi, and as we waited for Auntie Milda to return from her 2 hour jaunt (for what we thought was just to get chicken, Starbucks, bananas and popcorn), we decided to attack her with flashes from our cameras.  The result was hilarious.  This was my mom's idea.  My mom came up with a lot of funny stuff this weekend.

For some reason, Mom also said that we should do the candle blowing before dinner, and got all of the plates and forks ready.  We sang to Miss O, whom inexplicably went under the table in the middle of the song.  It might have been because Bro needed us to start the song over for the video, and she had done enough waiting.  I don't know.  But then we didn't eat the cake, as it was dinner time.  So I don't know why we did the candle thing before dinner anyway.  

After our dinner that included the birthday tradition of pancit, we designed our own donkey tails (yes, all of us), and played Stick the Tail on the Donkey.  Don't you miss the old days, when we used pins and were a potential danger to ourselves and everyone around us?  Yeah, me too.  Auntie Milda was terrified of being blindfolded.  Lucky for her, the blindfold didn't fit her, but she and all of us other adults were trusted to keep our eyes closed.  Even the lady with the new hip joined in.  It was tons of fun.

Mr. B then asked if we could eat cake, which he didn't really end up enjoying.  I loved it.  It was from Goldilock's bakery and was made of mocha sponge cake and macapuno filling.  Mmmm...I may need to have more of that before I leave tomorrow.

Miss O then opened her birthday gifts, which included a toy that had a hippo (from guess who), a couple of outfits (from guess who again), a rockin' Elmo, a couple of Angry Birds, and a very nice play kitchen and plastic food from her parents.  She also received a plush of one of the 7 dwarves.  I think it's Doc.

Miss O and this season's Chritmas trend: Scottie Dogs
Snow White gets dinner ready for the dwarves
Auntie Milda had forgotten to buy the popcorn while out on her 2-hour jaunt, so she was required to go out again.  She also went to get herself more Starbucks, because hers had spilled in the kitchen, much to the delight of Stocky P, who would not get away from licking the floor until actually being physically forced out of there.  Her 2nd coffee ended up being free because the computers had gone down.  Wow!  During this time, Bro and V built their daughter's new kitchen.

So the kids had their bath, the kettlecorn was popped, and we (Miss O, Mr. B, V and I) sat down to watch the "Cars 2" DVD, which I had requested because I had never seen the movie.  Miss O loves the movie, so she happily agreed to watch "Dardoo".  That was a fun movie.

During the movie, Miss O was very attentive to the TV most of the time, but she IS only 2 years old, and there were new toys to distract her.  My favorite distraction was when she decided to be inside the box that held Elmo.
That's not Elmo!

Happy Birthday, Miss O!  Thank you for letting us enjoy your special day with you! 

The Fairest One of All

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hoppin' on a Train to Macy's

Rockapella Holiday, Day 1
Saturday, December 3, 2011

The morning was difficult for me.  The day before,  I had been catching up on everything that needed to be done for the trip but couldn’t due to the loss of power at my house and the surrounding neighborhoods.  Very strong winds had hit our area on Wednesday night, and trees were strewn about everywhere, knocking down power lines and making transformer bursts look like bolts of lightning all over the skies.  24 hours later, I had power, but the damage was done to my schedule.  I had tons of stuff to do, and not enough time to do it.  But I was packed and ready to go in the morning…until I kept remembering little stupid things that needed to be packed, and then I was too late to meet Wendy at our agreed-upon time.  I realized that I didn’t haveWendy’s phone number in my phone anymore, and it also wasn’t written down anywhere.  All of the searching for her number was not getting me any closer to the airport, so I texted Karla and asked her to contact Wendy if she possibly had a number.  Well, thank goodness, she still had Jeff’s cell phone number in her phone, so I could relax and just meet everyone at the airport.  

I worried about traffic because I heard about road construction on the 10 and couldn’t remember where the mentioned exits were located.  I trudged ahead, though, and soon realized that those exits were not where I would be driving.  I got to the airport parking lot, got a good spot, and walked to the terminal.  The security line was a little longer than normal, and I realized that TSA only had 2 lanes open for their machines.  You’d think that on a weekend in December, they’d have more lanes open for all of the travelers, especially because this is the time of year when the less-experienced travelers are out and about, visiting family and stuff.  But noooooo.  Karla gave me updates on the boarding status, but I remained patient.  Even when the guy 2 points in front of me didn’t even have his boarding pass yet (Dude, did you not read ANY signs while we were standing in line?!).  Even  when the guy in front of me didn’t have his real ID and had to explain to the agent that he had lost his wallet and was told that he could use a photocopy.  Oh, goodness.  But I made it!  My patience paid off, I barely made it into my boarding group, found my friends in row 10, and we were good to go.

Our takeoff from ONT was quite turbulent due to the remaining winds, but the rest of the flight went OK.  We changed planes at PHX and Karla scored us seats in the 2nd row.  We were seated behind a little boy who shares his name with a very tall former Lakers center that graduated from UCLA, so I’ll use that player’s initials here (KAJ) in order to protect the kid.  KAJ had been pretty active in the airport already, and he was quite talkative.  The flight attendants took a liking to him and talked to him to keep him entertained while he was awake.  We learned that KAJ was 4 years old and he had a twin brother at home.  They are identical except for one thing: Grandma informed everyone that KAJ got a mohawk on this trip, which Mom didn’t know was going to happen.  The hairstyle kind of fit his personality.  Like any other excited 4-year-old boy, he talked about what it was like to ride airplanes, and told stories about how he was just sitting there doing “nothing….nothing…nuuuuuuthiiiiing” when his twin up and punched him in the eye.  Wendy and I had other ideas about how that happened, but still, he was funny.  He wanted an iPad, mostly the one that the flight attendant said she owned.  At the end of the trip, he was asked to sing, but wouldn’t do so until everyone in the group was quiet.  Then he very quietly sang a song, during which, when he was told that they couldn’t hear him, he  got irritated and told everyone to be quiet so that he could sing.  Ah, a rock star in the making.  He’ll learn soon that rock stars just turn up the amps and sing the heck out of the microphone in order to be heard.  But I won’t be the one to teach him that.  I just wanted to see the expression on his mom’s face when she saw his new ‘do, but we didn’t get to see that. 

Inside Macy's
We landed at EWR and took the air train to P4, where the hotel shuttle would pick us up.  When we arrived at the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel, we unpacked, charged up our phones, and got ready to go to NYC.  We took the hotel shuttle to Penn Station in Newark, and got tickets for the NJ Transit, which, we were told, would be leaving in 4 minutes.  So we hurriedly walked over to the platform and stepped onto the crowded train.  Luckily for us, we were only there for 1 stop before arriving at Penn Station in NYC.  Don’t you think it’s silly that the 2 stations so close to each other had the same name?  We think so.  It’s kind of confusing.  Stacey hadn’t arrived yet, so we went to Macy’s to wait, while Karla shopped for unmentionables.  Yeah, I still mentioned them.  That’s the way I roll.  She got a great deal for them on sale, then Stacey found us, and we had dinner at au bon pain on the 8th floor, on the side of the store where the escalators were wooden on the sides.  Karla was excited to be on those escalators, and they were neat and different.  Since that was also the area where the kids were taking pictures with Santa, they also had a couple of movie posters on display for “Miracle on 34th Street”, so I needed to take a picture of one before we left, because that’s where the story takes place, you know.

Outside Macy's
Stacey showed us the department store windows, which are really cool to look at in NYC.  The Macy’s windows were themed with Wishes, due to their sponsorship for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  The theme was about how wishes were made and where they went.  It was kind of futuristic, and at the end of the display, you could design your own ornament and buy it inside.  We also saw the windows at Lord & Taylor, which were lined with children’s drawings of different holiday themes, around displays of neighborhood traditions.  My favorite drawing was that of Ginger the Gingerbread Man. 

Mabuhay Pinay!
We passed by the New York Public Library, and I advised Wendy that this was where the climactic scene in “Ghostbusters” takes place with the Gatekeeper and the Key.  She hadn’t realized that it was an actual place.   I just had to take a picture at the Philippine Embassy as we walked by.  

We went to Rockefeller Center, and Stacey took us up to her office on the 33rd floor of the GE building, where we leaned out the window of the library to take pictures of the skating rink and tree below us.  Yeah, we leaned out of open windows.  Kinda.  We’re all kind of scared of heights, so I just strapped my camera on my hand and held the camera out the window.  But look at how cool the picture came out! 
Rockefeller Center, from 33 stories up
We then went downstairs and took pictures by the trumpeting angels, where you can see the more famous view of the tree at Rockefeller Center. 
The Posse at Rockefeller Center
Since we were in the perfect spot for it, we waited a couple of minutes for the projections on Saks Fifth Avenue to start.  The theme was of bubbles and snowflakes at war with each other or something like that.  My favorite part was at the beginning when all of the windows had lit up projections on them, and they “opened’ at the same time.  Very nice effect.

Snowflake at 57th
We tried to go into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but it was closed.  Then we walked over to 57th Street to see the snowflake.  For those fans of Rockapella’s Christmas music, this is mentioned in Scott’s lyric: “A snowflake of light suspended high above 57th”.  Wendy didn’t know that this actually existed, either.

At the same intersection, I saw and really liked the Tiffany window of a carousel.  When you look inside the porthole, you see the store and the window you’re peering into, so it’s like an infinity painting. 
Tiffany window of Tiffany window
At that point, we bid good night to Stacey, and also, apparently, to Karla’s unmentionables.  So we ended up going to a drug store for more of them.  They don’t need to be pretty folks, just functional.  We walked back to Penn Station NYC, as I marveled at the theaters that were showing “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon”.  When we got to 42nd Street, I felt the need to do high kicks, but refrained.  I tried to get a picture of Madison Square Garden, but those didn’t come out very well.  APPARENTLY, there had been some kind of boxing match there that evening, as evidenced by the flags and the boxing gloves around some necks. 

We waited at Penn Station NYC for quite a while with a LOT of other people before a train arrived to take us back to NJ.  When the train got to Track 8, we were happy because we were close to the entrance.  Then we were pretty much pushed into the door.  I was not moving of my own accord.  Wendy said that she even spun around a couple of times.  I wish we had video of that.  After I had to assure Karla twice that Wendy was, indeed, in back of us, we got seats on the train.  We decided that we didn’t want to wait for the shuttle to pick us up, and walked back to the hotel. 

Exhausted from all of the walking and traveling, we settled in for an exciting day ahead.  Thanks, Stacey, for touring us around!  We’re here, Pella! 

Next up:  Pella Pops Day

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pella on TV in NYC

With the holidays going on, Rockapella is pretty much all over the place.  Just not in California.  I'm not bitter.

Here they are on CBS2 in New York, singing "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town".  Someone needs to tell JKB that the words are "rummy tum tums" and not "runny tum tums".  Because the latter just sounds like a cute way of describing a stomach ailment.  ;)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rockin' on BetterTV

Rockapella was on BetterTV in Connecticut yesterday, promoting their holiday show in Ridgefield.  Here's a clip of them performing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", complete with Scott's whistling, JT's sleigh bells, and the choreography that I can't resist doing whenever I hear them sing this song.

The viewer is getting cut off by the wide margins on my page, so here's a link so that you can actually see everyone at once.

I love them.  :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Can't All Travel By Bubble

June and I went to Hollywood after work and had some dinner at Dillon's before going to pick up some wine she ordered.  We then walked back to the Pantages Theatre to see "Wicked" on opening night!

I resisted buying a beautiful t-shirt for $48.00, stared and stared at the merchandise (which included a cool pen that lights up like a flashlight with a silhouette of the logo).  Then I finally broke down and bought "The Grimmerie", a book I had been eyeing since my first Wicked show.  Our seats were on the orchestra level, left center, row Z.

June had seen the show previously once, from the balcony.  She didn't really get the play at that time because she couldn't see the facial expressions.  She had recently read "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire, on which this play was based.

  • The first piece didn't really impress me that much because the chorus seemed a little bit off in its intonation, and I was worried that this touring company would not make me as happy as the semi-permanent cast that I had seen in this theatre during its long run.
  • The feeling of worry went away, though, as soon as I heard Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda) sing.  She sounded just plain beautiful.  
  • Then Mamie Parris (Elphaba) opened her mouth to sing "The Wizard and I" and I was blown away. She has an amazingly strong and wonderful voice!  
  • Ms. Clarke also impressed me throughout the show with her comedic skills.  She tossed her hair ("toss toss") with her back bent all the way with her body at almost a 90-degree angle, and it made me giggle every time.  It also made me wonder how she could be so limber and not hurt herself.  She must do yoga.
  • I also liked Kyle Dean Massey's (Fiyero) performance.  I didn't really like the one that I saw the last time I saw the show, so I was pleased that Mr. Massey did such a fine job.  He actually made me feel sympathy for his character. 
  • The Wizard was played by understudy Kevin McMahon.  I never really like the people that play the Wizard, but since I like Mr. McMahon and still don't really like the Wizard, I guess that I just don't like the role.  
  • The flying monkeys still creep me out.  I doubt this will change.  EVER.
  • The sets were great, and I didn't see any difference in them from the ones they used when this was the house show in the theatre for 2 years.  
  • Every time I see this show, I notice something I'd never seen before.  This time, it was in "Dancing Through Life".  Fiyero's dance moves are the same as those of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz!
  • June now understands the show more, and has linked stuff from the book into the show, and loves the show now that she's listened to the CD a lot of times and actually understands the show.
On our way back to June's house, we had a bit of trouble getting home, due to very strong winds that hit So Cal.  It then took me 45 minutes to get home from her house; the drive normally takes me 15 minutes.  The freeway was getting too scary with the wind pushing the cars sideways, so I exited the freeway and had more trouble due to fallen trees on every street I encountered.  When I finally got home and closed my gate, the power went out.  My power was out for 24 hours (I was one of the lucky ones).  Cindy came by to loan me her ice chest (what a good friend!), and then concluded that the wind was my fault, because I took home the tornado from the show.  Sorry about that, folks, especially to those that still don't have power, 6 days later.

Anyway, if you like "Wicked", go see this show.  The leads are fantastic!