Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tartuffe, or "The Hypocrite"

The 2008-09 Triad Stage season ends with a bang with the 17th century play by Molière. The director's notes (and personal experience these past few years) say this is only the 2nd pre-mid-19th century play performed at Triad Stage; they are dedicated to the more "modern drama". So, this 1664 play gets a modern revival. The French-to-English translation utilized is from 1870, but there are marked nods to modernity throughout: iPods, fist bumps, Honeymooners references, all make it "the bomb", er, I mean "da bomb".

The focus?
The Golden Mean
A main theme in Tartuffe is one of Aristotle’s philosophical theories, which states that virtue is a point between two vices. For example, love should be neither obsessive nor careless. And, Aristotle said:
“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet— neither thirsty nor drunken.

The plot? The background?
Orgon is a very happy man. He has a lovely family, a beautiful new wife, an incredible fortune and a spiritual advisor who promises him eternal bliss. Unfortunately, he is about to lose it all. He’s fallen into the trap of a pious imposter, the hilarious hypocrite Tartuffe. Preaching piety, two faced Tartuffe is plotting to steal Orgon’s fortune, marry his daughter, seduce his wife and take over his home. Can anything stop him? Triad Stage presents one of the world’s funniest comedies and dares to shake up a theatrical classic to find its very contemporary heart.

Really one of the more uplifting and mood-elevating plays seen here. This is not to say that previous ones were bores, but this was the first in a while to elicit guffaws, giggles, and outright laughs throughout.

A joy. What a way to finish a season!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farmer Gordon's back 40.

Took a stroll around the backyard to check out some produce. Things are coming along just nicely. The squirrels managed to snag all but one peach, but there are plenty of apples to be had.

The lone surviving peach:

Granny Smith:

Yellow Delicious:

Cascade hops:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Took in an evening of candy. Sure it has measured caloric content, but it ain't good for you. A junk food of a film to rot your brain.

The trailer:

What can I say? A film that uses sensory overload to confuse you...or just leave you an open-mouthed blob of jelly after 2 1/2 hours plus. So much going on. So much flotsam and jetsam. So much visual stimuli. So many fight scenes where you cannot perceptibly ascertain where one robot begins and one ends during the frequent tangles.

And not content to leave robots be robots, this go 'round there are two Autobots who, unexplainably, are given voices of dubious honor. They are, ahem, from "the street". They walk with swagger and strut. One, after transforming from his automobile persona into robot, displays a gold tooth. They profess and proclaim to be illiterate and have no use for reading. Nice stereotypes there....

Apparently the United States armed forces allowed much much usage of their vehicles, toys, and ships for this film. What better way to advertise the glories of the military life, eh? "Come sign up to fly to desert lands and play with huge robots!"

A train wreck of overstimulation. The score? Unless you're really into it for the full theater surround sound, just wait for HBO.

The only saving grace? I did mention it was "candy" you know...

The Taking of Pelham 123

When you're a high roller like me with the Greensboro movie houses, certain concessions are made. For instance, today I had a personal screening of the new Denzel Washington / John Travolta film, The Taking of Pelham 123. Yup. Just me. An entire theater for me. I mean, a 11:50am film on a Thursday morning? And no one wants to go? No one except me? I'll take it.

The trailer:

And a homemade concoction of what could pose as an original 1974 trailer:

It's a small thing, but I enjoyed the switch of Denzel Washington's character from Zachary Garber to "Walter Garber" in honor of Walter Matthau. A nice touch.

A gang of hoodlums take a subway train hostage. A huge amount of money is ordered. Garber is pulled into this situation he's certainly not trained for. The banter back and forth between criminal and metro worker is gripping. Both have issues: both balance past indiscretions, both begin to wonder if they are more alike than different.

How in the world will it end? How can hostage takers escape from a subway tunnel? Who will in fact receive redemption in the end?

Pretty good suspense film. Witty dialogue. And even with salt-n-pepper in the goatee, Denzel is still so dreamy....

Matinee Plus for me.

Family values.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Governor Mark Sanford's Affair
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

"Oh, marital infidelity. You're just another run of the mill human being whose simple moralizing about the sanctity of marriage is only marred by the complexities of their own life. Well, just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis."

Everybody Hurts

It's far too late to be playing melancholy songs on repeat over and over and over and over, but it's hitting a nerve tonight....

When the day is long,
And the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had too much of this life to hang on,
Don't let yourself go 'cause everybody cries.
And everybody hurts

Sometimes everything is wrong.
Now it's time to sing along.

When your day is night alone,
If you feel like letting go,
When you think you've had too much of this life,
Well hang on.

'Cause everybody hurts.
Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts...

Don't throw your hand. Oh, no.
Don't throw your hand.
If you feel like you're alone,
you are not alone!

If you're on your own in this life,
And the days and nights are long,
When you're sure you've had too much of this life,
Well hang on...

'Cause everybody hurts.
Sometimes everybody cries.
And everybody hurts.......sometimes.

Everybody hurts sometimes.

So hold on
hold on
hold on
hold on
hold on
hold on
hold on
hold on

Everybody hurts. You are not alone.....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

David Sedaris in Winston-Salem

Tuesday night saw my favorite storyteller descend upon his home state of North Carolina and give a reading at the Barnes & Noble over in Winston-Salem. After work and attending to the dogs, it was a quick drive over for some coffee and (shocker) book purchases, making my "to read" queue swell to almost inconceivable volumes.

It was difficult to physically "see" him, as 9:00am that morning saw the wristband giveaway begin. Work beckoned or else I would have stood in line for one. But regardless of the enormous crowd for the 7:00pm start, a standing spot on the periphery and a well-placed speaker system allowed me to still enjoy the reading and giggle appropriately (and sometimes inappropriately) at his sardonic humor. I love him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two Toronto Blue Jays fans as fake umpires? Classic!

I've seen on a few MLB games at home on the dish where Toronto was playing at home and I got the biggest kick out of two fans who dress up as umpires and mimic the actions of the "real" home plate umpire. They sit in the front row and cannot be missed. The ump hollers "STEEEERIKE!" and pumps his fists? The first row umps do the same. The ump brushes dirt off home plate? The first row umps brush off the top of the backstop wall. The ump raises his fingers to display the count? The first row umps raise their fingers and give the crowd the count. It's rather entertaining indeed.

Sitting at the Nationals/Blue Jays game last Saturday offered quite the view of these two fine gentlemen. Sometimes when a pitch was offered, I would turn my head to the left and glance at the first row umps to get the call. Crazy.

An article about them hit the website A lot of the comments afterward were rather derogatory towards the first row umps, but screw that....I LOVE 'EM!

Fake Umps Phenomenon Hits Nationals Park to Great Delight of Fans
Posted Jun 20, 2009 3:38PM By ANDREW JOHNSON
Filed Under: Blue Jays, MLB Fans, FanHouse Exclusive

WASHINGTON -- If you've tuned into a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre this year, chances are you've seen Tim Williams and Joe Farrell. If those two names aren't ringing a bell -- and there's really no reason they should -- how about a description.

Williams and Farrell, both Jays season-ticket holders, often take their seats in the first row behind home plate dressed from head to toe as umpires. Their impersonation of the men in blue doesn't end there. For the entire game, Williams and Farrell mimic the calls of the umpires, raising their arms and bellowing out strike calls, sticking up their fingers to let fans behind them know the count and brushing one hand over the other emphatically to signal foul tips.

"There are 7 billion people on the planet. Do you know how many of them travel to another city to fake umpire a game? You're looking at 'em," Williams tells FanHouse Friday night at Nationals Park.

For the first time this weekend Williams and Farrell, who have a bit of a cult following in Toronto, took their show onto American soil, traveling to Washington for a three-game series between their hometown Blue Jays and the Nationals.

If the fans at Nationals Park -- even the stuffy ones sitting in the $325-a-game President's Club seats -- are any indication, that cult following could grow quickly.

During Friday night's game, a 2-1 Nationals win in extra innings, Washington team president Stan Kasten approaches Williams and Farrell to shake their hands and compliment their work. Scores of fans rush up during every half-inning to get their picture taken with the faux men in blue, while others take delight in either cheering or heckling their calls.

"We were out in the tent (a beer garden just across the street from the ballpark) having beers before the game, and we took 38 pictures with people," the pair explains. "They thought we were the real guys going to get juiced up before the game. We were like 'No, no, we're not gonna be on the field tonight, we're just fans.'"

Their appeal is undeniable.

"We love baseball, we love umpires, we love the Blue Jays and we like having fun. That's it." Williams says.

But the act doesn't pass muster solely because of their enthusiasm for their fake job. Williams and Farrell have authentic umpire uniforms. They have the short-brimmed hats, the official major league umpire shirts with numbers stitched on the sleeves, gray slacks, masks (which they only don when the Jays are pitching), clickers to track the count, brushes, pictured right, to clear dirt off of home plate and ball bags saddled to their right hips. Every time the actual umpire behind home plate throws a new ball to the pitcher, they dig into their bags, pull out a baseball and follow suit.

"We're the real deal," they say, explaining that there are 14 different ways for a pitcher to balk in the rulebook. (There are 16 different ways, according to Wikipedia.) I ask them to reel off all the ways and, fittingly, they balk at the task. Even more fittingly, Nationals relief pitcher Jesus Colome actually commits a balk moments later, moving Toronto shortstop Marco Scutaro up from second to third base.

Williams and Farrell, both traders at the Toronto Stock Exchange, got their equipment after a chance meeting with a few umpires (they neglect to name which ones) at a local steakhouse.

"You can't buy these anywhere," they boast. (Who knows? Perhaps their following will grow, compelling Major League Baseball to sell umpiring gear online?)

Funny enough, the enthusiasm, authenticity and commitment to their act seems to actually be paying dividends. The umpiring crew always notices them.

"Oh yeah, yeah, [the real umpires] laugh." Farrell says. "Did you see C.B. Bucknor over at second base? Can't even control himself! He went into a conniption when he saw us."

They were planning to visit with Blue Jays players in the clubhouse Saturday in Washington. And next month, when the Jays head to New York for a series with the Yankees July 3-5, Williams and Farrell will be in their customary seats in the first row behind home plate at new Yankee Stadium. Ordinarily those seats, located in the Legends section, would cost more than $1,000, but they were such a hit on a YES Network broadcast last month that the Yankees arranged to have them fake ump the July series.

And they also amused and befuddled YES color man, and ex-major leaguer, Ken Singleton.

"[Singleton] couldn't even put a sentence together," Farrell says. "When we rung up Alex Rodriguez in [the fourth] inning, he goes 'multiple umpires ring up A-Rod," and Ken Singleton's a pretty serious stiff, eh."

"He's a very strait-laced guy and he couldn't even put a sentence together," Williams confirms happily.

"While that game was going on, I had a best friend in a bar in New York, and he's watching the Yankees," Farrell continues. "Even before he told them he knew us, there were 500 people in the bar who loved us. They were going ballistic. And he goes, 'I can get 'em to wave,' and [someone in the bar] goes 'What's that guy's name?' Our friend says 'Farrell,' and he had 500 people in the bar going 'Farrell! Farrell!'"

The Williams and Farrell world tour is only beginning. In addition to the New York and D.C. trips, they are planning to be in Oakland for a series that will span the end of July and the beginning of August. And there's plenty more to come.

"We're just going to sporadically pop up," promises Farrell.

"Randomly, randomly," Williams says. "Dude, you'll be watching a Cincinnati Reds game one night and you'll go 'those guys!'"

Even if their antics don't leave you rolling on the ground, you have to give Williams and Farrell this. Their motioning and gesticulating is orders of magnitude more interesting than someone waving and talking into their mobile phone.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In review...

Street Sweeper Social Club/Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction, the Blackburns at Natty Greene's, Colonial Williamsburg, Eddie Vedder, Cooperstown, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown Brewing Co., Ommegang, Saranac, Washington Nationals, Ben's Chili Bowl, Blue and Gray Brewing Co., Gordon Biersch, District Chophouse, Washington Nationals again, foul ball, 38.

Yup. A busy week. Back to the "real world" of pharmacy tomorrow morning.

Work to live. Don't live to work.

Lifetime dream fulfilled

Nationals Park. Day before my birthday. Saturday June 20, 2009. Toronto Blue Jays vs. Washington Nationals.

Sec 127, Row E (2nd row), Seat 2.

Bottom of the 4th inning. Toronto's Brett Cecil pitching. 1B Nick Johnson is the first Nats batter of the inning, 3B Ryan Zimmerman on-deck.

Johnson fouls one straight down into the dirt and it dribbles towards Zimmerman.

Zimmerman picks it up and turns to the crowd at the edge of the backstop netting. He makes eye contact with me and James. He then lobs the ball in our direction. It veers towards James on the aisle and his long arms reach it before mine. He hands the ball to me with the statement, "You're the one who loves baseball, what am I going to do with it?"

And my world is at peace. For I go home with a dirty $8 baseball.

Concerning a brewery, a missed Newseum program, and baseball

Saturday was planned to be a busy day: brewery tour, Newseum, DC brewpub dinner, ballgame.

Saturday morning, James and I took off early for Blue and Gray Brewing Co. in Fredericksburg, VA. They are open for tours on Saturdays from 10am-1pm. The plan was to get there early for the tour then have plenty of time to head back up to Alexandria to take the Metro into DC and catch a 2:30pm Newseum program.

Didn't happen.

First off, the traffic on I-95 southbound was horrendous. Our planned 10:00 arrival turned into a 10:45am arrival. Seriously. Not a problem in the grand scheme of things however. The tour shouldn't be THAT long and the northbound traffic was smooth sailing.

Blue and Gray is in the process of moving to a new location mere yards away. Moving from one large industrial one-room building to another. So we arrive and the only shiny stainless visible is one 40-bbl serving tank, one 40-bbl fermenter, and one 30-bbl fermenter. Seriously? Here's the entirety of the equipment:

Wow. Breathtaking.

So anyway, there is a tour occurring before us, and the pleasant gentleman manning the merchandise register says it'll just be 15 minutes or so if we just want to wait around. Sure! No problem. There will be beer sampling involved so we'll wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The 15 minutes turned into an eternity. 11:30 and we're FINALLY touring. We begin with samples of four of their offerings. The engaging older man conducting the tour was certainly engaging. Engaging with us, engaging with anybody who would interrupt, engaging with a fixit-man entering to help with equipment, engaging with the pretzel bites he shoved in his mouth with reckless abandon while continuing to garble his unintelligible tour speech, engaging with the distractions in his head that continued to blow him off course into confusing waters.

Worst. Tour. Ever.

"Comedically bad" was the apt description.

Fine. As long as we hit the Metro in Alexandria by 1:30pm we'll be golden to get to the Newseum by 2:15pm for our program. The program we RSVP'd for as Newseum "press pass members"? Newsmen Bill and Chris Plante were to discuss their careers in news media and their familial relationship. Interesting!

Except we didn't get to see it.

That easygoing northbound traffic we saw on our crawl southward turned around and killed us. it took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to drive the 40 miles up I-95. Forever. So no Newseum program for us.

Thanks terrible brewery tour of three pieces of steel and awful DC-area traffic!

So we make our way to Gordon Biersch for dinner and multiple pints of their German lager offerings. Tasty. We leave all bloaty. But, there's still some time to kill. Hopping on the Gallery Place metro stop now and just traveling 4 stops to Navy Yard and the Nationals Park will leave us waiting for the gates to open. So we walk a few blocks down to District Chophouse and Brewery for some delicious and velvety rich Bourbon Stout.

It's kicked.

Are you freakin' serious?

Still delicious yet subpar for what we pined for Oatmeal Stouts were consumed in its place. Unbelievable. A sucky tour, traffic that kills our chance to get to the Newseum in time, and no Bourbon Stout? ARGH!!!

So we hop the Metro and get to the park. Two nights in a row for baseball? Sweeeeeet. And since Kimberly splurged for good tickets last night, I figured really good seats again would even out economically. One section closer to the plate, and the 2nd row behind the camera pit next to the dugout. Insanely closeup view. Another great game. The Nationals win again this time in 12 innings! Fantastic! Great seats, great camaraderie, and great outcome.

Plus, and I'll save it for its own stand alone post, I walk home with something I've never gotten in all my years of baseball going. A superb birthday weekend....

Toronto @ Washington, Friday 6/19/09

Friday I get up early for the close to 7-hour drive from Cooperstown to the Brannon household in Alexandria, VA. My vacation is sadly coming to a close. Just a couple more days left. Left at 8:00am and pulled into their driveway about 2:40pm. Hung around on their back patio and drank a few of James's homebrewed creations. Sadly the Brannons had a charity dinner to attend, so it was planned to be a solo game for me. But no. At about 4:00 I hit the Metro to meet Kimberly in DC. Yes, she was in town for some legislative visits, so she offered to meet me for the Nationals game and celebrate it as a birthday present. Nothing beats birthday baseball. I try to hit up a game either on my birthday proper or as close to it as I can. Baseball brings me joy.

I told her that it's my birthday and I was going to get some primo seats as a treat, and she didn't need to pony up for them. She would have none of that argument. We got 4th row behind the Nationals dugout. I have never been as close as we were that night for a major league game. Ever. It was absolutely incredible. Wow.

Made sure to get there by 5:30 for the 7:00 game. Wanted to walk around and take in as much of the park we I could. Plus, there was the added bonus of my favorite DC hangout Ben's Chili Bowl having a stand at the park. Delicious. Engorged myself on a chili cheeseburger plus chili cheese fries. I was a mess. Beards hold cheese like a sponge.

The draw for Kimberly for the game was fireworks. Friday night fireworks. However, the game went into extra innings. 11 innings specifically. There apparently is some ordinance or a gentleman's agreement that if the game runs past 10:50pm, there would be no fireworks display. The game ended at 11:00pm. No fireworks. Curses. Still, pay for 9 innings and get 2 free? Sweet! And to have the home team win in extras? Even sweeter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Upstate New York brewery visits

A perfectly rainy day today to drive around and spend some time inside.  And what better place to spend some time inside than in a few breweries?  Three planned on the docket today!  Let's go make some beer...

About 10 miles out of town in the village of Milford lies Cooperstown Brewing Co.  Opened in 1994 with baseball themed brews: Old Slugger Pale Ale, Nine Man Golden Ale, Benchwarmer Porter, Strike Out Stout, etc.  That buttery nastiness from Ringwood yeast is actually held in check with these guys.  The butterscotch and slick oily mouthfeel is calmed down.  Such an aggressive yeast it takes over a brewhouse and these guys have no hope of using a different yeast (that's even if they wanted to).  A tiny operation with a tiny crew.  Distribution puts up a fight in that they don't want to push more than 4 labels....even though the brewery puts out 7 beers.  7 beers that we all got to sample at 10:30 in the morning before the 11:00 tour!  A tight space with a leaky roof.  A mixed case came home with me.  And with Cleveland Indian Napoleon Lajoie on the t-shirt for Old Slugger?....SOLD!

Stop #2: Brewery Ommegang
"Belgian Brewing in America".  Opened in 1997 as a family-owned business, now under the Moortgat umbrella of Belgian brewers (Duvel, Maredsous, LaChouffe).  Funky Belgian-style beers in upstate New York.  Started out with tiny sample tastings of Witte, Rare Vos, Hennepin, Ommegang, Three Philosophers, and Biere de Mars.  A quick tour, fast-paced.  Almost a "let's just get this done".  The sampling before the tour was more informative and cordial.  Some glassware souvenirs, and a "Make Beer Not War" shirt.  All their brands are available in NC, so no samples came home.

Stop #3: F.X. Matt Brewing Co., the Saranac line of beers
Oldest brewery in the state, starting up in 1888.  Four generations of the Matt family running the show.  A smidge over 45 minutes away from "home base" out to Utica.  Most organized and "corporate" of the three tours today.  Immense gift shop to browse before touring.  Sadly, a devastating fire from last year has abruptly shortened the tour.  We couldn't go past the fermentation tanks (large enough to take 88 years for one person to drink dry if they drank 10 beers a day.  Think about it.)  Construction was still going on even though they are functioning, so the general public can't go further in for a few more weeks.  But of course, they still charge full price ($5) for the tour.  After this tour though, two full-sized pints are offered.  Both other tours were just samples, with Cooperstown beating out Ommegang's thimbles for quantity quaffed.  A lot of frou-frou "brewery tour headquarters" touring, as opposed to proper brewhouse viewing.  A lot of dark wood, manly dens, and rich mahogany tones.  Nice to see, but I want to smell some grain!  I might still return one day to see the whole tour however.