Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh Wal-mart

The whole episode was so surreal...I am going to do my best to explain it and get the quotes right...just know that the event I am explaining is ENTIRELY true.

My best friend in the whole world came to visit me over the long weekend (sometimes called Thanksgiving). He hadn't yet seen our new house so this was a pretty good opportunity. On Thursday we had to get a few things from the store - and since the rest of the world was closed we had to go to Wal-mart.

The trip was somewhat normal...given the weird small town that I currently reside in. The store was not too full - and not all the folks looked like crazies. That's a bonus!

Anyhoo - we were in line and the girl a few spots ahead of us looked a little out of place. I should clarify - she looked out of place perhaps for Franklin on she was wearing a short denim skirt, gray-ish/brown-ish tights, white lace-up Ugz and a large white furry coat. This outfit is NOT crazy - I understand that - but given the circumstances I can see how it was odd.

OK - well, the man in front of Ron and me in line was apparentley more offended by the outfit. He turned his massive barrel chested body around to the two of us and said, "Did you see what she was wearing? I mean, that is crazy. I ain't never seen an outfit like that except on girls on the TV in Califor-knee-I-A." (This last part was spoken as if to say - he was watching his TV in his living room and the actors were in Cali - not that he was actually in California.)

Ron and I did our best not to crack up as this man would have crushed us if we had upset him. We nodded and made idle remarks about the outfit and prayed that he would turn around and go back to his business. He did.

But...then he turned around and said "I mean this is Indiana, this is fucking corn country. You know what I am saying?"

This time nodding did not suffice. He really wanted verbal affirmation to his question. He stared...and waited...and stared...and waited until I finally muttered, "yeah, Indiana." He smiled and and said a few things under his breath as he proceeded move forward in line.

It was a moment later...the same moment...that Ron and I looked down and finally saw what he was buying. It was a 5 pack of underwear. That was it. On Thanksgiving he made the trek to Wal-mart to buy underwear...and nothing else. Now - don't get me wrong - I am not faulting the man for buying underwear, I am not faulting his beliefs on the girl's outfit, I am not faulting her outfit - I don't want anybody to be the bad guy here. I just wanted to share with everybody what it is like to shop at Wal-mart on Thanksgiving in Franklin, Indiana.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

O Tannenbaum

The annual hunt for the Christmas tree; loved by many, feared by all – and yet completely necessary to fully partake in commercial Christmas. Before I go any further with this – I should make one thing clear – as clear as the crystal icicle catching twinkle lights on my Christmas tree – I LOVE commercial Christmas. For those of you that know me – I have just perhaps told you something as obvious as "Hi-Def really does look better." The Christmas songs come out immediately after Halloween. The decorations make their way out of the closet within a week of All Saints Day. I completely skim over Thanksgiving (I am only thankful for the day off) and move right into commercial Christmas. Now that I have made that clear I can continue with the story.

In my part of the world people hunt for the tree (typically) the day after Thanksgiving. I appreciate this day for this task. It keeps me out of the stores on Black Friday, which can be overwhelming, and it allows the tree to be up for a good amount of time without drying out. Thanks to Clark Griswold, we all know the dangers of a dry tree.

For the past three years Amy and I have cut down our own tree at a tree farm just outside of Bloomington, IN. They were never able to tie the tree to the roof, so we always ended up squeezing it into the car and getting home reeking of pine and sap on our sleeves. This year we had to find a farm that was closer – and it had to have Frasier firs (Charlie Brown trees according to my sister in law). This is not as simple as it sounds – but commercial Christmas cannot happen without a tree, and a tree is not worth having unless it is a Frasier.

After much "interweb" surfing and some phone calls we found a place that was not too far. We were told the Frasier selection was slim as most people don't like to pay for them – but we were willing to take a chance to save driving hours with a tree crammed in the car. We hit the road with smiles on our faces, Bing Crosby in our ears and the vision of the perfect tree in our minds.

Thanks to global warming it was about 65 outside – so there was no need to bundle up – which makes the process just a little easier although in a sick and twisted way, not quite as enjoyable. Regardless of weather, Amy and I trudged up and down the rows seeking the symbol of Christmas. The selection of Frasier firs was slim…very slim. But we pressed on. We didn't want to "settle" on a tree that wasn't perfect, but our ornaments were begging to get out of the box – so we knew we had to act quick.

Finally I spotted it. It looked perfect. Not too full, not too symmetrical, not too tall – just perfect. The trick is that Amy and I rarely agree…at first. Although our vision might be similar, when it comes to the details we both get quite picky. I had to tread carefully with this tree. I did not want to push her into a decision. I had to let her think about it, look at the tree for all angles – find the "good side" and the "bad side." She had to debate the tree in her head and I had to just stand back and let it happen. It is a delicate process – and it can determine the entire season.

As I lingered a couple of rows over I saw her warming to the idea of the tree I had found. I watched her carefully as she tested the needles and sized up the tree. Finally she turned to me and nodded. She didn't cave, I didn't push it – she just saw it. I was ecstatic that we were on the same page. I just knew that this tree was going to be great – I knew that it was going to be one for the ages.

Well, we tucked the tree in our cart and pushed our way up to the register. We picked up some extension cords and light bulbs too. The tree cost slightly more than we had planned on, but the cost will surely balance out over the years.

It's funny…we went to Menards to look at a kitchen sink on our way to the tree farm– and we unexpectedly ended up leaving with a plastic Frasier Fir in a cardboard box. The tradition remained intact…the tree rode home inside the car. The only thing missing was the sap. Ah…Christmas.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Unveiling - NYC style

Dear friends,

As you know from my never ending posts - I have recently designed a set for Unveiling and it is running as part of the Havel festival in NYC right now.

I have just recieved the review - and it is glowing. So, if you are in the area - try to see it. If not...well, here is the review anyway. review

Ivanna Cullinan · November 2, 2006

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when people redecorate, they need to show off. What happens when a person visits friends for the grand reveal of their new décor and discovers that their next project is him? That's the lot of the hapless Vanek in Vaclav Havel's Unveiling. The Cardinal Stage Company's production of this work at the Ohio Theater is rich with detailed delights and well directed throughout, the laughs abound.

Unveiling can be performed as a humorous commentary on a man marginalized, stuck in his job at a brewery and taunted with the life he could be living; making indirect reference to Havel's own forced work at a brewery under the Czech communist regime. But the text succeeds as a worthy comedy in its own right without contextual overlay and this production revels in its rich, absurd possibilities. Here, repetitions of text are as much comic incantations as they may be code for government sponsored this-is-the-good-life-we offer-you propaganda. The production is a full-on commitment to hilarity and a friendly evening that questions all motivations.

When the slightly baffled and somewhat depressed Vanek arrives at the apartment of Vera and Michael, they present their new look with the fervor of HGTV-addicts. It starts as an enthusiastic display of the finds acquired from various methods, including "when they liquidated a church!" Passionately extolling the artful tension between where they have hung the scimitar above the fireplace in juxtaposition to the gothic Madonna, Vera and Michael have a wondering seriousness that is deliciously absurd. Their behavior rapidly escalates into a praise-fest for each other and a paean to their lifestyle. As the evening rapidly approaches the night-out-from-hell level, they run through rants of parental pride and an excessively candid, hysterically audacious discussion of their sex life. There appears to be no limit to their efforts to engage Vanek to dance, to drink, to come on over to their way of life. All the while these efforts are controlled by the chiming of a (gorgeously hideous) baroque clock. Its chimes and implied commentary seem to goad and divert the efforts of Michael and Vera, somehow organizing the insanity.

All of this mania could devolve into a pleasant but forgettable trifle without the considerable talents of this cast. As played by Diana Kondrat, Vera is a woman who would make Phyllis Schlafly proud. She is buoyant and charming and utterly unrelenting in her persuasive efforts. Her continual pleasant but pointed digs at Vanek's absent wife Ava would be the envy of any sorority girl, as their humorous bitchiness comes from a place of being in Vanek's best interests, of course. Her husband, Michael (deftly performed by Bill Simmons) is the perfect partner for Vera, this smooth operator is her biggest advocate—and in a truly stinging indictment of the perils of Communist repression, a hearty promoter of Swiss pop. The object of all this energetic proselytizing, Vanek, is played with wonderful economy by Mike Price. His politely restrained yet evocative facial reaction when treated to one of Vera's special hors d'œuvres was one of the most beautiful takes I have seen in some time.

Randy White has directed clearly and with a pace that is brisk, excited, detailed, and, even better, never lingers without cause. Production designer Gordon Strain has done fine work in creating a look which requires very few pieces but fits together so well that objects to which the characters only refer to verbally seem visible. Although all of Amanda Bailey's costumes are perfectly character-specific and communicative, a special mention must be made of the black and green short/skirt piece which adorns Vera. It is a stunning combination, evoking '70s chic with an Eastern European flair that is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

Although after seeing this Unveiling, you might pause when considering the next social invitation, do not pause when considering whether or not to see this show. Catch it while you can!

Copyright ©2006 The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 6, 2006


And her name shall be Maggie!!!

I know it sounds cliche - but it is true. So I am just going to say it - and get it out of the way.

The picture is AMAZING - it is like the players are IN my living room. Seriously.

After much debate and MANY patient years Amy and I purchased our new TV. It is a lovely 37" LCD. We did the consumer reports - we ended up with a Magnavox (#2 in CR for the size). Amy was fairly sure that she only wanted a 32" - but thanks to the helpful persuasion of some friends we got the next size up.

I have named her "Maggie" - she is the newest member of my family. For those of you that know me, you know that TV is hugely important in my life - which is why there was so much time and effort put into this decision.

But, Maggie is home now. She is settling in pretty well. She will soon be hanging above the fireplace. I just need to finish getting the hanging bracket up - but she is comfortable for now. Cayuga is taking to her pretty well - all things considered. It must be hard to be an only child (dog) and then all of sudden a new bundle of joy comes home - but he is OK so long as there is a lap to sit on. And...thanks to Maggie - there might be more lap available then ever before.

I am very excited for this week of television. Almost all of my favorite shows are broadcast in HD. I cannot wait to see them. So far we have just watched the Colts/Pats game - but we were both blown away. Amy LOVED seeing the grass on the field.

So, Maggie, welcome to our home. Make yourself comfortable. Get ready to work hard. I am glad that you are "Engery Star" and use so little power, it makes me not feel so bad about having you on a lot.

And for all you friends out there - you are welcome to come over and meet Maggie. We might even have a party in her honor. Yay!

Oh - and my sister in law and my dear friend Matt are engaged!!! Congrats to them. I am almost as excited for that as I am for Maggie!!!