Monday, August 31, 2009


All right, I'm roasting a duck. Finally. Or rather, attempting to roast a duck, a la Barbara Kafka.

I have never roasted anything, before. I have baked things, and I did braise a brisket in the oven, once. But that's it. That's the extent. I have today performed feats of Preparation I never dreamt I'd manage.

Let's just see if I managed it, oh, say, well. It was an Experience, to say the list.

But but but: this method is magic. It's two-fold, to deal with the Heaping Helpings of Fat, so it involves a poaching with all the sundry extras before the high-heat roasting.

Which means: free duck stock. Before even roasting the duck. I can add back the carcass etc. and double-stock it. (I cannot waste anything, so this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I wish I knew what to do with rendered duck fat, then I wouldn't even have to chuck *that.*)

It smells really good, poaching away. Really ducky, but really good. I am very much looking forward to the roasting part!

Various other life tidbits:
Show is delightful and I love it. Chris is coming Saturday, and Sunday's the last performance ( :(! ). It turns out our two main leads, Bobby and Polly, are pro's, Bobby (Jody Madaras) having done the role some 200+ times, including Euro tours and a lot of choreography. Polly (Natalie Wisdom) is fantastic, too, gorgeous voice and fabulous dancer. I'm really impressed with them both, and with everyone local in our cast.

I've even broken through my formerly often crippling shyness and anxiety and gone to a couple of cast things, formal and informal. This is good for me. It's really strange, too - seeing a little bit of the underbelly of the thing, interpersonal strife. But, I haven't seen any real viciousness, which is comforting. And anyway, I love it; so long as I don't get too wrapped up, it's fascinating. I love people.

More seriously: I am not in the parts of CA that are currently burning. I am well. I *think* my relatives who are in those parts are okay, and so far the friends I have who are in the very thick of it are still in voluntary evac instead of mandatory, and are doing okay. If you are in one of those areas, PLEASE be safe, and I'm thinking of you.

I'm gonna' go back to checking on my duck, and maybe see if my mom's heard anything about my people in Pasadena. LOVE.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Emotional coaster a bit.

Loved Julie&Julia. Apart from the frustrations that come from true stories (when people sometimes don't behave quite how you want them to), it was delightful. I love the idea. The food was gorgeous. Meryl Streep was unsurprisingly brilliant. It makes me want to cook--it's making me want to have a project. And I want the roast duck recipe. (Though I may actually take Barbara Kafka, queen of roasting all things, over Julia in this matter, if we've got hers. If you ever want to know how to roast anything, and have it come out better than anyone's you've ever had? Go to Kafka.)

I spent the movie in and out of tears, basically unrelatedly. I started crying on the way out of the get-together this morning (had to beat a hasty retreat), and just... it's been drop of a hat, since then. I'd guess at least a dozen times, during the flick? And mostly inappropriately. However, I definitely needed the joy and delight and giggling, and I got a lot of that, too, so that's good.

Now we're listening to some Maurice Chevalier (spent some time with Charles Trenet, earlier), and the utter sweetness promises to help. So does Chris's cooking (if you aren't well aware of this by now, Chris is the Philosopher Chef, Saucier Than Thou - a whiz at French cooking - all cooking, reared on Julia Child's show as a kid, and born on her birthday). I've successfully campaigned for some Pommes de Terre à la Maitre'd'hotel to go along with the lamp loin chops sautéed in butter and dressed in pan sauce, and a Child recipe for green beans. Cap it off with a little cognitive dissonance in the form of a Chilean Cabernet, and I think we'll be able to stave off the demons a little longer.

Show; campus

It's weird to think of it this way, but I was having a similar reaction to opening night of Crazy For You to the one I had at the end of doing Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Giddy tears and trembling excitement, and a whole lot of greedy, basking love for the audience and its standing ovation. Even if I was down in the pit. I could still crane 'round and see them.

(Btw, they moved us from backstage to down in the pit with the orchestra, mic'd. Which is a great thing. Besides, I like calling myself a "pit singer" more than a "backstage singer." I'm also defaulting to Backup Girl.)

The show was fantastic. It was a blast. A whirling, frantic putting-together, and a beautiful opening night. The theater has more than its fair share of technical difficulties, and some things blew up at the last minute--missing actors, breaking props--but they still got it off in great order. Everybody stepped up and were brilliant. I've said this before, but I've never really been much for dance shows (I can take a lot of Fosse, but chorus lines and follies have never thrilled), but I sat in awe of this group. These girls are professional quality dancers (there's a 15 y.o. teaching dance classes already, and a girl who just got accepted into the Rockettes, for instance), and they're stunning. The choreography and acrobatics were gorgeous, huge, clever, funny, delightful. There's a bit where the girls are bells, if that makes any sense, and a pinwheel, and and and...

I love it. I'm in love. I'm giddy. I even got over enough of my crisis-level shyness to go with my carpool mates to the cast party, and chat and be silly and play games in the pool. The acting was great, the comedy was spot on (even the cheesy parts - and the physical comedy was PERFECT), the music was grand, and, if I do say so myself, the singing went well. Giddy giddy giddy!


Well, be fair; I was giddy. The budget crisis has taken its toll. Chris is a union rep for our campus, for contingent lecturers (think: the college faculty equivalent of highly vulnerable wage slaves, with next to no protections, who make up the majority and do most of the work; the adage is that every lecturer is fifteen seconds from utter humiliation). There's been a slash-and-burn going on, and a lot of people are up in the air, and we spent the morning with a handful of lecturers who've been on tenterhooks and probably let go from the university-but-not-necessarily-completely, trying to hash out their rights and contracts and potential outcomes--the culmination of which was a last minute email (received by one of them by iPhone) with the nail in the coffin for all of them. Their small hope was a false one; they have no work, and no rehiring rights, and no continued affiliation with the university or the committees they man, this Fall. Which is to say, in a week and a half. They have no health insurance, they will not be getting a check this month. They're not even at the top of the rehire-if-we-get-some-money list. They have to give back their keys, and clear out their offices. This week.

These are people we know. Our campus, with its 400 faculty, has lost 187--no, wait.. now it's 192, after this morning, isn't it?--of its faculty. Cut in half. Everyone the university could cut without declaring an official layoff, they cut. Fellow lecturer reps from other campuses are working with the union through the summer, even though their teaching jobs are no longer waiting for them in Fall. These are dedicated, passionate teachers, and most of the people we were with today graduated from this campus, went through the very programs they're teaching in, worked most intensively with the most vulnerable students, in the most fundamental classes.

And they're just... gone, now.

(This doesn't even get into the issue of the hundreds of classes cut on our campus alone--classes that were full, and whose students have not even been informed of the cuts and schedule changes and who will most likely get to campus on day one with no idea their classes and teachers are gone and that several of their class days will be furloughed &c, but who have been pulled for an extra $500 for this semester, or $1000 for the year, already. Or all the students who just aren't going to be accepted at all, come Spring and next year, despite state law dictating that this system accept all eligible students. And all the basic remedial classes the bulk of new students will need to complete in their first year to be kept on at the university, but which will be unavailable to them, since they've been cut. And--)

...Sorry for the whiplash. That kinda' where we're at, right now.

I think we're going to spend some of my blood on Julie&Julia (...I can get comp movie tickets, with all the blood donations I've racked up), try to get something a little joyful going.

Love, all.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

...Okay, no, really.

We were just out in Modesto, and saw several posters printed out and stuck on trees, with President Obama's face on them done up to look like the Joker, and "Socialism" written under them.

I just... need to point something out, here.

Among developed nations, we have the highest or nearly highest infant mortality rates, death rates from preventable and treatable illness, and costs per capita to provide health care to our people.

Comparable nations with single-payer health care have much lower infant death rates than we do, far fewer deaths per capita from preventable and treatable illness, and longer life spans, and they spend a hell of a lot less per capita to do it.

This all seems very simple, to me.

The system we have now still covers people who aren't insured privately--but we do it by picking up the pieces when someone who couldn't afford to get preventative care or get a small problem like an infection or a minor wound or a bad flu looked at winds up on death's door (which is to say, in the ER) with a far more expensive problem. What could have cost a few dollars to treat or prevent costs thousands to the revered taxpayers. The prevalence of untreated disease means that it's a lot easier for diseases to spread like wildfire, too--so this isn't just the problem of the person who's sick. This is your problem, too. Yes, there are clinics, but they're overworked, understaffed, underfunded. Yes, there are some safety net programs in place, like Medicare and Medicaid and Medical, but they're increasingly underfunded, and are sloughing otherwise eligible people off of their rolls, ever day. And the ERs and Medicare and clinics are all a lot more expensive per capita to run than a central program with a strong emphasis on prevention would be.

The public option doesn't eliminate private health care, if you've got it and you like it. HMOs and the like already limit your choice of doctors and services, and while they don't run your requested services past a bureaucrat (who incidentally has no profit motive), they DO run your requested services past a mid-level businessman who wants to (1) make the largest profit possible from serving you, and (2) spend the least amount possible on you to do it. This is the nature of having shareholders; their job is not to keep you healthy or happy, their job is to produce profit. Any service they can avoid giving you, they will. The more they can charge to give you the services they do, the better. And the fewest at risk (read: in need) people they can insure...

This is really not limiting our options. It just means that people with nothing but desperation can be healthier, and fewer people die for no reason. Some people running private health care companies may lose a little off of their multi-billion-dollar profit margins. I can live with that.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Story of my life:

I am too afraid to try to do something. Usually something involving an interview, an audition, or otherwise throwing myself out bodily in front of uninterested parties.

Said thing throws itself at me, and allows me (just that once) to bypass some portion of the terror--the decision to consider or try at all, of course, and maybe part of an audition, or an application, or whatever it is, too. Volunteer work, the choir, a gig, the knitting group, an open mic night, my job. Anything I want to do and am afraid to go ask to be a part of.

Well, as of tonight, I'm in a musical. That opens in two weeks.

A friend from the choir emailed about a dozen of us to see if she could snag some backstage singers to fill out the sound of the chorus and dance line, and I appear to be one of three (there are eight Girls/Chorus/Follies we'll be behind - I am not insignificant, here). I'm (most likely) singing the high soprano part. I may be the only person singing the high Bflats in large groups, when the girls who have to actually dance and act and be out on stage are too SRSLYBUSY to knock out those notes, or I'll be one of two. (Or I may not get to do all of them--sadness!--but that's okay, too. But Bflats are yummy.)

I'm kinda' in shock. Went to part of a rehearsal, tonight, going to most of one tomorrow. It rehearses 6 days a week, 6-11pm, though I'm missing a lot of next week. The week after that is dress/tech week. And then there are shows.


...There really isn't too much material to learn. I get to keep the score onhand (because who'll care, when I'm backstage?), and it's not too tough. It's a Gershwin thing I've never actually seen or heard of, called Crazy for You, and it seems to be a redux of other stuff of theirs, with a new plot combining them. But it's got a lot of their songs that I do know (which is not many). But I'm not singing in most of those ("Someone to Watch Over Me," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," etc, don't have chorus). But I am singing in "I Got Rhythm." And I think also "Nice Work If You Can Get It." And a handful of things I hadn't heard before today, but that I'm picking up quickly. Hopefully quickly enough.

OH CHRIST OH FUCK OH FUCK WISH ME LUCK. I know you're not supposed to, but I think I don't mind. This is SO COOL.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

County fair! County fair!

Briefy update: went to the county fair, didn't ride any rides or play any games (v. v. expensive!), but pet copious animals, listened to much music. More on the last two:

I have, before, pet the noses of police horses and must have once a goat (because I remember him trying to eat my clothes). There are probably petting zoo memories of my early youth I've just lost, by now. But in my memory, this is the first time I've ever touched a cow. I pet a cow, tonight, and I pet so many wonderful young goats and sheep (and was nibbled on to my heart's content by both), and even a llama and an emu and a piglet.

Still on the lookout for chicken-, goose-, and duck-handling opportunities (we didn't find the petting zoo until it was about to close, and they were all already in bed).

....I haven't had much farm-type experience.

Mind you, I have held/pet cockatoos, cockatiels, conures, macaws, green parrots, African Grays, sparrows, a crow, boas, pythons, corn snakes, bearded dragons, alligator lizards, iguanas, salamanders, toads, frogs, wild field rats, pet rats, mice, hamsters of all descriptions, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rabbits, turtles, tortoises, all kinds of spiders and insects and crawlies generally, butterflies and giant moths and iridescent beetles, sea slugs, skates and rays, muscles, abalone, fish and bottom dwellers, cats, dogs, wolf mutts and half-coyotes. So I'm really not low on animal interactions, just... particularly domestic ones. I have stroked more sea slugs than I can count, but never a chick or a duckling. Maybe we'll have to go back, break down and pay for some rides and pet as many birds as will sit still. <3

Areas with titles like "Meat Goats! No petting" were comparatively quite, quite depressing. The Petting Zoo was a seriously healing experience after that. We couldn't find it until so so late!!

Music: one of Chris's students was playing as part of a band there, One-oh-One Percent, and they were fantastic. Great listening to them, very talented, great and varied repertoire. V. impressed.

Rick Springfield blew my socks off (or would have, if I had been wearing any). For one thing, ain't no way he's 60 on the 23rd, even if he is. He stripped down shirtless, and it was a lovely thing. He was a lovely thing. He played for an hour and a half, and never stopped moving, barely stopped singing, one song right into the next. EVERYTHING was a prop. He flung guitars wildly--literally flinging them in arcs through the air, across the stage--switching out almost every song, for a while. He played "What's Victoria's Secret?" and a lot of things that were familiar to me, but that I didn't really know, or didn't know were his, and he covered Paul McCartney and Wing's "Jet," from Band on the Run. During "Don't Talk to Strangers," he caused many people to talk to strangers, and appealed to anyone he landed on to sing along (micing them embarrassingly, but only teasing them moderately). Was teasing and jovial generally. Fixed on "lady in the pink shirt" early on in the show ("do you even know who the hell I am?"), and returned to tease her frequently (hugged her, cheered her, had her sing, and sang "Marylou" to her, that being her name). Chatted with little kids and got them on stage to dance and sing along ("Don't Talk to Strangers" lasted about 20 minutes, what with falderal). During "Human Touch" he waded probably 30 rows into the audience, and shook every hand and touched and was touched by everyone available. Went from blazing energy of that right into "Jessie's Girl," and was fabulous. After that, introducing the band, they were playing the Beatles' "She's so Heavy," from Abbey Road, and I was highly, highly impressed.

Voice got a little weak in the low, quieter register (he never stopped leaping around; I am 34 years younger and half his activity would have winded me immediately), but he wailed on everything else. Amazing music + voice. It was loud; my ears hurt, and the bass beat very literally felt like a heart beat--I kept getting a reflexive panic that I was getting seriously arrhythmic--but that's all I could say against it. We had a great time.

I want more of all of this music. And I want more critter cuddling, have I mentioned that?

Can I have a pygmy goat, please? Or a sheep? I promise I will pretend I have an agricultural excuse, I will.. Iunno, I'll make yarn, it'll be great. Please? And two chickens?