Aside

Whetting for Work

20 Jan

IMG_9696I was in Brattleboro, Vt. last week for a work visit, and got a chance to check out a new brewery and restaurant the Northeast beer community has been buzzing about.

IMG_9708

Tim’s Awesome Burger

The reasons to visit Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery are countless. If the great food – Tim’s Awesome Burger with peanut butter and bacon, anyone? – and beer brewed on-site don’t tickle your fancy, then how about dining on the banks of the Connecticut River as trains chug by? Sampling small plates in the Bier Garten from May to November? Or how about this … checking two states off of a cross-country beer tour list under one roof? That’s right, the New Hampshire – Vermont line runs right through the Whetstone.

The Noms are Out!

15 Jan

It’s the first official step toward our annual Oscar Party and Food Contest … the nominations have been released. This is it, kids: a veritable menu from which to choose your edible, Oscar-themed creation and vie for the prizes and glory that come with a win.

Let’s take a peek at some of the contenders — for both the Academy Award and voting at our fiesta, via the uncomplicated ‘pen and piece of scrap paper’ system. PriceWaterhouseCoopers was unavailable.

The Academy nominated eight of a possible ten films for Best Picture this year, and it looks like Boyhood and The Theory of Everything are the front-runners. The Grand Budapest Hotel did surprisingly well at the Globes, though, so maybe that’s the Dark Horse.

Best Actor… Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne took the Globes home, but can we get a win for Steve Carell? He’s virtually unrecognizable in Foxcatcher and for my party purposes his nomination makes ‘Steve Carvel’ a potential reality.

It only took 30 years

Best Actress… Bummer that Jennifer Aniston was snubbed for her role in Cake.

Best Supporting Actor… Fun fact: in high school, my friends Patti, Heather and I went to a screening of a short film by nominee Ethan Hawke in Provincetown, then proceeded to tail him around the town in my 1978 two-tone Chevy Monte Carlo when he left with friends.

Best Supporting Actress… Oh hi, Meryl.

As for some of the lesser-followed categories, this is the bread and butter of the Oscar Party Food Contest. If a food-themed dish didn’t come to mind in the major categories, these always offer a ringer or two. For instance: 2015 documentary nominee Salt of the Earth and Foreign Language nom Tangerines.

To review, here are some of last year’s entries!

1922103_10152652038798219_1483908512_n 1902784_10152652038838219_2065202302_n 1797531_10152652039118219_970342866_n 1622690_10152652039168219_1887863377_n

5 am.

14 Jan

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.13.51 AMAs it’s at the tail end of the period during which saying ‘Happy New Year’ still flies, it’s my last chance to write a little about a poetry challenge I took on earlier this year. Think of it as a wrap-up post and a resolution to write more poetry in 2015 in one.

Back in April — National Poetry Month — I signed on for the 30/30 Poetry Challenge organized by WordxWord. The goal was 30 poems in 30 days, with a different prompt each day and a 24-hour deadline to submit. Full disclosure: I only made it to poem 26 before life took over and I ran out of time. But that’s still 26 new works; some rushed, some thoughtful, some containing flashes of brilliance (dare say I) and some kinda crappy.

Such is the stuff of writing.

Prompts ranged, literally, from ‘Things we Carry’ (April 1) to ‘All she Wrote,’ (April 30). It’s strange to write poetry with the overall goal of quantity versus quality, but as the challenge progressed, I realized this is a great exercise: I was writing on a theme presented by someone else, and stepping outside of my writing comfort zone, which generally lasts longer than a day as I tinker and tweak. I found that ideas would pop into my head, and instead of torturing them into something that I felt reflected my poetic voice and viewpoint, I simply ran with them. The result was a broader selection of styles and topics than I normally tackle, and probably plenty of nuggets that I can coax into something even better later down the line.

One of my favorite poets is the singer/songwriter Mike Doughty, former Soul Coughing front man. he came to mind on April 17, when the prompt was ‘5 am’ and his song Screenwriter’s Blues, largely spoken word over an instrumental strain, started rolling around in my noggin. Instead of trying to get as far away from his words as I could and write something that was totally, uniquely me, I instead merged with his lyrics full force. Call it an homage, call it a mash-up, call it dreck … the point was not to amaze and dazzle. The point was simply to write, and the result is one of my favorite submissions, even if no one else thinks it’s worth a pile of magic beans.

I reiterate … such is the stuff of writing.

It is 5 a.m.

It is 5 a.m.,” (as a matter-of-fact.) “And you are listening to Los Angeles.”

The words are Doughty’s on the mic.
But could I say it better? No matter:
5 a.m. is bleak and hopeful, confusing and stark
the light is gray and piercing

there’s little noise, but what sounds
is deafening.

To drive seems foreign, to sleep natural,
but sleep evades (if we’re recognizing time).

It’s a gloaming when night fades and morning resists
It is 5 a.m.
and my own words don’t come
but those spoken by others
resonate like the snapping of a trap.
~ Jaclyn C. Stevenson (with an excerpt from Screenwriter’s Blues, written by M. Doughty) 2014

2014 in review

29 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Excitement Builds…Golden Globe noms announced

15 Dec

OK, kids … this is one of the big ones. The Golden Globe nominees were announced last week, giving us our first glimpse at what are expected to become the quintessential films and shows of 2014.https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8229/8403541010_4ba428f83a_z.jpg

The winners in the film categories (to be announced at the Big Show on January 11, with Amy and Tina at the helm again — yay) often go on to the Big-Big Show, the Oscars, on Feb. 22… that means the Globe noms are not just a preview of award-winners to come, but also our first chance to start devising movie-themed goodies for our annual pre-Oscar party and food contest. 

In fact, it’s become hard for me to scan the list of nominees without automatically assigning food-puns to the actors, directors, and producers — Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch, anyone? — and even more so this year because I have yet to see most of the films. That said, here are a few early impressions:

It’s nice to see Jennifer Aniston on the Best Actress (Drama) list, finally, and for a movie called Cake, too! That’s an easy entry for a food contest… so no excuses, future guests. Aniston did win a Globe for her role on Friends in 2003, but she’s never been among Jennifer Aniston 2011.jpgthe heavy-hitters on the film side of things, and from the looks of it she has as good a chance as everyone else in the category: Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, Reese Witherspoon, and Felicity Jones. I dare say she might even be the favorite, with Moore nominated in another category (Best Actress, Musical or Comedy), Pike and Jones representing the newcomers, and Witherspoon starring in a film that was just released to the masses this month.

In the Best Actor, Mini-series/TV Movie category, it feels like Take Two for Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, who were already pitted against the all-powerful Bryan Cranston at the Emmys and therefore only worth a handful of beans. I personally feel like their collective moment has passed but I’m always game to hear McConaughey wax poetic about Neptune, so may the best Wood-a-been win. 

Best Supporting Actress, Mini-series/TV Movie is another interesting category for performances; we’ve got Kathy Bates playing a bearded woman, Allison Janney playing a recovering alcoholic, Uzo Aduba as an inmate, Joanne Froggatt as a maid, and Michelle Monaghan as a cheatin’ heart… it seems to be the year of the unsung hero.

One of my favorite categories, Best Song, is largely populated by the new pop elite: Sia, Lorde, Lana del Rey, Common, and John Legend are joined by veterans Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye. My pick here is Lorde for Yellow Flicker Beat (Hunger Games: Mockingjay), because it’s just a great tune.

…What say you?

Grammy Thoughts

5 Dec

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Grammy_Award_of_Dr._Martin_Luther_King,_Jr..jpgThe GRAMMY Nominations just rolled out, signaling the start of Awards Season … although a few ceremonies have already come and gone in recent months, in what seems to be an effort to extend the life of statuettes. Hollywood Film Awards? Yeah, no thanks.

I do love Awards Season in its traditional form, though, and as per usual I’m scanning the list and musing on the odd mention here and there. Some of my preliminary thoughts:

Best Pop Vocal Album

This category has quite the range, including Miley Cyrus’ irritatingly misspelled Bangerz as well as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith’s much-more-excellent albums, X and In the Lonely Hour, and some Katy Perry and Coldplay mixed in for good measure. I feel a bit removed from this category as I’m not up-to-date with all of the music included, especially Nikelodeon’s latest Trick-at-Nite Ariana Grande’s. But I hope the singer-songwriters win out — namely Sam or Ed as I mentioned before and not necessarily Coldplay — which I feel is on the list solely to cover the awards show’s 35 – 45 age demographic.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

This is not a new category — it was added in 1958 — but I’m still confused by what an urban contemporary album is, especially when two nominees are entertainment powerhouses (Beyonce and Pharrell), two I’ve never heard of (Mali Music and Jhene Aiko, sorry) and one doesn’t bear mentioning.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Haim_at_%C3%98yafestivalen_2013.jpgBest New Artist

With the understanding that I-G-G-Y will probably be walking home with the Gramophone, I’m glad to see HAIM on the list.

Best Pop Solo Performance

I see what you did there, Pharrell and John Legend. You submitted live versions of your hits because the studio versions weren’t eligible. Crafty.

Best Metal Performance http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6f/Tenacious_D_in_concert_2.jpg

Tenacious D is nominated for best Metal Performance. I repeat, Tenacious D is nominated for best Metal Performance.

Best Rap Song

It took nine people to write Kanye West’s ‘Bound 2,’ and Kim Kardashian wasn’t one of them.

 

The Cosby Effect: Bastardizing my Childhood and Fouling up the Future

20 Nov

Photo via Ted Eytan / flickr

I wasn’t going to throw my hat into this ring, but the Bill Cosby cluster currently in the news is messing with my nostalgic head.

I’m 37 years old … I mention that because, as a young Gen Xer, I was a spectator during what were arguably Cosby’s most active years. We played Picture Pages together first, then I spent a few years imitating Fat Albert’s signature Hey, Hey, Hey greeting.

When The Cosby Show first aired, I was too young to stay up and watch it, so I would creep out of bed and crouch on the stairs where I could see the TV through a small window in the kitchen. When I did graduate to an 8:30 bedtime, I’d watch in my parents room, sitting on the floor with my knees tucked under my chin. I got a special treat once, being allowed to watch his comedy special Bill Cosby: Himself with my parents and cousins… I didn’t understand all of the jokes, but his impressions of his wife breathing through labor and after Novocaine at the dentist had me in hysterics. And even after a first taste proved I didn’t really like them, I still asked my mum for Jell-o Pudding Pops every week.

Cosby’s influence continued into my pre-teen years with A Different World, a spin-off that took place at the fictional Hillman College. In thinking about it today, I realized that the show might not be why I went to college, but it was one reason why I was excited about the prospect from middle school right on up to graduation.

I don’t know if the allegations we’re hearing now are true, or if some are true and some are false, or if Cosby’s silence is an attempt at refusing to dignify lies or avoiding an admission of guilt. Some of the stories we’re hearing have a disturbingly true ring to them, others don’t.

What’s most notable to me, though, is any other public figure from my past probably wouldn’t have me thinking about it so much. If we were hearing about Ron Howard, John Cusak, or another champion of the eighties, I’d probably absorb the headline and wait to see how the story panned out. This one just has me feeling alternately sick and sad. If Cliff Huxtable is an inescapable sod, how will we be able to rein in our cynicism and suspicion of others moving forward? Is this the tipping point at which we enter a world where every celebrity, role model, or influential figure is viewed with a raised eyebrow?

Moreover, will every explosive accusation from now on be analyzed to death by a slew of talking heads who pore over every clip, every interview, and every article looking for something inflammatory, whether it’s the truth or not? Yes, we see this kind of ‘reporting’ already, but the Cosby Circus really has me ruminating on what our media coverage is turning into. In my eyes, the women coming forward are being turned into a side show. If they are telling the truth, that’s another assault on them. If they — or some of them — are lying, they’re positioning themselves as the next permutation of low-rent reality TV. We’re in a world now where a CNN anchor has been given a platform to tell women they should just bite the penis of the man forcing them to perform oral sex. I won’t even get started on how ludicrous that is, but what’s next — a demonstration?

For decades, Bill Cosby has been synonymous with World’s Greatest Dad. I used to put him up on a shelf with the best dads I knew, including my own. I can’t do that anymore, whether it’s the result of his own actions or those of damaging stories spinning out of control. It’s getting too hard to tell… and we need to change the channel. Quick.

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