Squirt

Some explanation of the title of my blog is in order. Squirt is a feral tomcat who figured out the cat door. I think he’s been tortured (his tail is a mess) so he avoids people. But he likes the food, a particular pillow on the couch (I’ve had to cover the couch to protect it), and being around the house. We can’t touch him but he watches wistfully as we pet our cats. I think he wants affection but doesn’t know how to trust. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking; he’s probably thinking I’d make a good meal. I think I’d prefer not to die when Squirt’s around. Anyway, I feel sorry for him, except when he spraypaints our house with urine, and I admire his adaptability. I’ll work on gaining his trust until I can cut his fuzzy little nuts off. Until then, I’ll keep my ammonia bottle and kneepads handy for clean-ups. The Daily Squirt will try to reflect my impression of the cat himself. Cautious, adaptable, amusing…and sometimes it’ll stink on ice. Keep your ammonia bottle and kneepads handy.

Did I forget to mention that I’m a struggling writer with a novel, First Year, and a memoir, Greetings from Casa Cesspool to my credit? Read more about my work at my website, barbaraschnell.com

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Hello, Dolly!

Gordon and I drove over to Hollywood last night for dinner and a show and had a wonderful time. Traffic wasn’t as awful as it usually is, the parking lot attendant was friendly, and there was room for us at the bar at Delphine’s. The bartender was back from vacation and Gordon’s iced-tea was waiting. He also changed the channel on one of the TVs without being asked so we could watch Jeopardy. It was good to have him back. I don’t think we were the only people who appreciated him; the place was full. Gordon and I split a burger as we watched Jeopardy and left a big tip. As we walked across the street to the Pantages I commented that it’s nice not to be pissed off when I leave a restaurant. Wonder if Delphine’s changed management…

I’ve never seen a stage version of Hello, Dolly! before. It’s a hoot. And there were no politics! What a relief. Betty Buckley starred as Dolly and she was wonderful. She’s not much of a dancer (she’s a woman in her 70s) and her voice has dropped a register but when she’s on stage, she owns it. Talk about presence. She and the cast stopped the show when they sang the signature number in the second act. The whole cast was wonderful really. This is nice, frothy entertainment and I recommend it…although I don’t think they need a nod from me; the place was packed. Maybe because it was opening night but what the hell. It was fun. Now I wish I’d seen Carol Channing in the part. Oh well.

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Mary Poppins Returns

Gordon and I went to Disney Studios to see a screening of Mary Poppins Returns at their main theater. The place was packed so we got stuck 2/3 of the way back. That’s okay. I was just glad to be there. I’d streamed the film already but kept getting bogged down in comparisons. This time I just enjoyed the movie for what it was–thoroughly charming. There was also a Q&A with Emily Blunt and Rob Marshall, the director, afterwards. They’re both delightful. Every time I decide I can’t stand living in Los Angeles I get to go to something like this–and I change my mind.

Go see the movie a few times. It’ll grow on you. It did on me.

Blunt and Marshall with unknown interviewer.

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Adams and Glass at Disney Hall

Gordon and I went to Disney Hall early to plug in the car but all the slots were full. Darn. The charging stations remind me of milking stalls in dairy farms I visited when I was a kid. But I digress…

We checked three restaurants/bars in the area but everything was full. Nice to know Downtown businesses are doing so well but it’s annoying that’s no room for us. We finally went back to the café in Disney Hall where Gordon ordered the prime rib and I just had a glass of wine. It was okay.

John Adams conducted a minimalist evening which started with Tumblebird Contrails by Gabriella Smith. It was an interesting piece but a sound effect had to be explained to me. I heard a gentle wind at the end but there was no sound machine. The woman next to me explained that she’d attended the pre-concert lecture and learned that the brass sucked into their instruments instead of blowing out. It sounded just like wind. Interesting. The composer took her bow at the end of the piece and it was evident she was from Berkeley; she wore a trendy black cocktail length dress with rainbow colored half boots. Cute.

John Adams then conducted his own piece, Grand Pionolo Music. Two pianists and three singers were backed by the Phil. It was an interesting piece. Adams had to cheerfully tell the audience to hold their applause after the first movement. I suspect they didn’t read the program and thought the piece was over. I liked the second movement better than the first.

After intermission Adams conducted Philip Glass’ world premiere of Symphony No. 12, Lodger. The lyrics were by David Bowie and Brian Eno and sung by Angelique Kidjo. She has a distinct voice; low but powerful. I don’t know how she figured out that music. Maybe she didn’t and just did what she wanted to do–none of us would have known the difference. But she ended at the same time as the orchestra so she must have done it right. James McVinnie was the organist. One of his past positions was as assistant organist for Westminster Abbey so he obviously knows what he’s doing. No expense was spared for this premiere. I still have to assimilate what I heard. It was taped so maybe I’ll get another chance to listen in future. But I stayed awake so that says something. Oh, one other thing: Phillip Glass was wearing a suit and tie when he took his bow. The premiere must have meant a lot to him. The last time I saw him at Disney he was in jeans and a baseball cap so I just wore jeans last night. Guess I should have worn a dress. Although I fit in with the hipster crowd. Not many oldsters last night. But Glass and his crew got a standing ovation. It was a good night for them.

The program kept saying the pieces performed were of the Minimalist School which seemed like a contradiction to me–they all required a huge orchestra. The lady next to me explained that few themes and chord structures were marks of minimalism. I better stick close to her; she seems to know what she’s talking about. And she was fascinated when our UCLA buddies commented on an instrument in use that they’d only seen at the music museum in Vermillion. She said she’d been to Mount Rushmore and loved the wide open spaces of South Dakota. We had a lively conversation. Fun night.

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The Favorite, Crazy Rich Asians

The Favorite is a sumptuous period drama demonstrating that women can be just as corrupt as men when it comes to politics. The stars are all women; Weitz, Stone, and Colman are all brilliant. I thought it was interesting that, not only do women have to be naked, now they have to do lesbian scenes. I guess that’s what Hollywood men want to see. But we get to see Stone’s left boob–once from the back and again in a bedroom scene with the queen. I wonder if that was in her contract: “Only one boob to be displayed.” And she picked the left one. Well, it’s Hollywood, everything is left. And it’s a nice boob. I don’t know the point of the movie except that power corrupts and people will do anything for power with differing motivations. Had moments of thoughtfulness but I appreciated the performances more than anything.

Enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians although I don’t think it seriously deserved awards consideration. Every actor in the US and Europe with Asian ancestry must have been included–with the exception of Sandra Oh. She’s busy elsewhere. It’s a fun romcom with spectacular scenery. Makes me want to see Singapore if I could afford the locations they used which I probably can’t. This is the story of a plucky Chinese-American girl who falls in love with a boy from Singapore. She has no idea he comes from one of the richest, oldest families in Singapore. Of course, his family doesn’t want some poor American nobody marrying the golden boy. It’s a charming Cinderella story with the plucky American standing up for herself. I enjoyed it although I’m beginning to feel sorry for Ken Jeong; he’s a smart guy who deserves better material than he’s getting. I guess he’s crying all the way to the bank. It’s a sweet film filled with beautiful people and scenery. Fun.

 

I watched all of Jack Ryan and thoroughly enjoyed it–if enjoy is the correct term. It’s a well-acted, well-written geo-political thriller. I had a few questions about the motives of one of the characters but I suspect that’ll be addressed in the next go-round. I recommend it.

 

Also watched about seven episodes of The Amazing Mrs. Maisel. I loved last season and am really getting into this one. Love Brosnahan–actually I love the entire cast. The writing is rapid-fire patter but it’s funny. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

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Mary Poppins Returns, The Quiet Place, The Green Book

I’ve been watching screeners so here’s my opinion:

I liked Mary Poppins Returns but I kept comparing it to the original–and that’s really not fair. I’ve seen the original every year for the last 40 years so I know it backwards and forwards. The new version is darker and more adult; I guess adults need a Mary Poppins, too. The director obviously is very reverential to the original; he even follows the sequences. There’s the first adventure in a cartoon soon after Mary Poppins arrives, followed by an adventure with a dotty relative, followed by a dance sequence with lamp lighters instead of chimney sweeps.  Lin-Manuel Miranda was perfectly fine as the lamp lighter and Emily Blunt is a wonderful Mary Poppins–just different. Her voice is lovely but it’s just not as special as Julie Andrews’. But I think she’s a better actress; more nuance. Loved Dick Van Dyke. I enjoyed it.

I had a few problems with The Quiet Place script but thought the direction and acting were excellent. This is a sci-fi horror/thriller. Emily was Blunt was good but then again the whole cast was. It’s an interesting movie; it kept my attention. Lots of tension, just not many lines.

Just finished The Green Book and loved it! And I didn’t expect to. I figured it was one of those good-black-people/ evil-white-people screeds but it was much more interesting than that. It’s the story of an educated, talented black pianist touring the Deep South in 1962 with his trio. He hires an uneducated Italian/American to be his driver–and muscle, as it turns out. The movie is beautifully written and both leads, Mortenson and Ali, are terrific. I didn’t even recognize Mortenson in this part. He must have gained 30 pounds. And I had no idea he was such a good comic actor. It’s a wonderful, hopeful movie. I recommend it highly.

Oh, and I watched two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. That’s all I could take. The acting is good but it’s so depressing! I’ve never been a fan of dystopian material. Life is tough enough.

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2019 Rose Parade

I meant to write this blog a few days ago but time got away from me. Plus, I was tired. Anyway…

Gordon and I went to the 2019 Rose Parade. We had our usual seats in the front row one block down from the cameras. I got a kick out the Texas couple who sat behind us. I mentioned the Dodgers and they asked me if I got to many games. I said I only went to about six a season but I always followed them on TV. They said they were baseball fans, too. I asked if they followed the Rangers or the Astros. They smiled quietly and said, “The Astros.” I just nodded resignedly and told them they were welcome anyway. We all laughed. Charming people. The parade started out as usual with the stealth bomber then things seemed to get screwy. The timing was off. There were huge gaps between entries with other entries being rushed by so we couldn’t really get a good look. The final screwup came when the Chinese/American Federation/Union Pacific float broke down and blocked the route. We could see floats and bands behind but they couldn’t get around. Most of the people around us gave up since it was close the end anyway. But Gordon and I played salmon, going upstream against the crowd to see the floats that had been blocked off. We saw two tow-trucks. I don’t know if the first truck broke down, too, or it wasn’t enough to haul the HUGE float out of the way. Then we noticed the smoke coming from it. They finally got the fire put out and it took another ten minutes to move it enough so the other floats could go around. Of course, by then most of the audience had left. I felt so sorry for the Swedish Cadet band. They’d come all that way and didn’t have much of an audience. Those of us left cheered loudly. The City of South Pasadena finally got around but same thing; no audience. I wonder if there were any people left at the end of the route. I’ve never seen such a mess. I noticed when we saw the parade replay that afternoon that the TV people had edited the footage so you couldn’t see what a mess it was. Anyway, The floats were nice, the bands were good, and they all deserved better than what they got. I don’t know who’s going to take the blame for this but I hope they fix things for the sake of the entrants.

I thought this was one of the more spectacular floats.

This is the float that broke down. This is only the first half. It was HUGE. And was a terrific cork.

 

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Annual Letter

Running crazy this year but we finally got the Christmas letter done. And here it is! You’ll have to use the zoom feature–or a loupe.

 

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