Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shenandoah Plans part 2

...or lack thereof.

Back on February 16 I posted a quick blurb on plans for the guys to do some hiking in the Shenandoah on a long weekend in early April. Now five weeks have gone by, and I pretty much haven't given this any thought since. Not that I am not excited about it, but it has been a very busy late winter/early spring, and the continued cold and snow stretching into March (we got 5 more inches on March 20) doesn't exactly have me in an outdoors frame of mind yet. But I better get there quickly, because there is almost no time left.

Plans as of now: Leave Thursday early evening in 2 cars (insanity, but I am the only one that seems to think so). Drive almost all the way and stay in a motel. Hiking and campsite Friday. Hiking and campsite Saturday. Short hike and drive home Sunday. In other words, unchanged and with no real added detail since we booked the dates. Others seem to have not had this at top of mind either...

Motel has been booked. Car rental is not needed. Hikes have been thought about a little, but not selected nor determined in terms of which days to do what. Food has not been addressed at all.

Camp Chef Gear
To Be Done: Gear is a personal issue for the most part. As is usual, me and brother Dave will share his 2-man tent. Standard gear doesn't require much thought. But someone needs to play quartermaster, and in recent trips that has been me (ok, so it plays to my anal detail-oriented are what you are). I also am a big proponent of the fact that we are a bunch of 50-ish guys who are car-camping and not backpacking, so why not eat well and have some good beverages on hand. So in the coming days, I will bang out a meal plan that will cover Friday lunch and dinner, three meals on Saturday, and Sunday breakfast and trail lunch. None of this should be too tough, but my basic nature makes this lack of prep with little more than a week to go seem...unprepared.

As was the case for our West Virginia trip last year, now that I have a good camp stove and related gear, I will probably aim for the two dinners to be one fresh grilled something and one pre-made frozen "thaw it and warm it up in the pot" kind of dish. But we shall see. Claiming (perhaps presumptuously) the role of camp chef, it will be a matter of pride that we eat well.

So I trust that it will all work out.

The more I type, the more excited I find myself becoming. I do love these trips. In the meantime, I will hope for warmer weather than we have now, and go think about what we might eat...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review - Inherent Vice

(First edition cover with added "NYT...")
I have never read anything by Thomas Pynchon before, but seeing something about a movie for Inherent Vice coming out soon reminded me that I had that book sitting on my shelf. Since I was in the market for something to dig into next, I dug into it (Penguin Press, 2009, 369 pages).

Honestly, I had not been in a hurry to read anything by Pynchon since attempting Gravity's Rainbow back in high school. This is a long, dense, difficult piece of post-modernist fiction. While it has been hailed by some as the greatest post WW2 American novel, suffice it to say that it is not an easy read. To say the least.

Inherent Vice was different. To briefly summarize, it is a story of a drug-addled private investigator looking into a number of ultimately related events in Los Angeles at the tail end of the 1960's. It is not a difficult read (as are most of Pynchon's books), and the only distracting things are the persistent "groovy" dialect of the '60s. While correct from a period standpoint, it almost reads cartoonish.

All in all, this wasn't a bad way to spend 369 pages, but if you wanted to read a California noir period piece, you might as well read Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, et al. A worthy read but nothing special.

3.5 stars out of 5. Solid but not earth shattering.

Books this year: 6
Total pages: 2,061
New authors: 3

Next, I am partway into Peter Matthiessen's In Paradise (his final novel before his death).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Oliver! at GVHS

Oliver!, GVHS's 2015 Spring musical, just finished a great run this weekend. As usual, there were 4 shows, the order of which was impacted by snow and ice. Opening night was to be Thursday night, followed by shows on Friday night, Saturday matinee, and the closing show with senior announcements and thank you's on Saturday night. Due to a late winter snowstorm that dropped 9 inches on us, the Thursday night show was moved back to a Sunday matinee. This was very upsetting to Julia, who had nearly 20 friends and counselors from the Mary Campbell Center scheduled to come for the opening.
Opening night snow (March 5)

The show, when it did open on Friday, was another big success. Everything about the show was extremely well done. I didn't know the music to this one as well as the others that Julia has been involved in (this makes three, after Les Miserables and The Little Mermaid), but I really enjoyed it. The performers were great, the orchestra was good, the sets were terrific, and the costumes (of course!) were fabulous.
Oliver! cast and main set

Amparo has now become fully immersed in costume committee, and spent countless more hours on this show, designing and making costumes, organizing things, and doing whatever she could to help out. It has been a great experience for her, getting to know a lot of really nice people and learning a lot about sewing all kinds of different things. It is great to see her having so much fun with the creative aspect of it (even if the dining room and other parts of the house look like a garment factory/warehouse sometimes). I was especially pleased, because of all the hard work, that Amp was one of the people called up to the stage and recognized with a big bouquet of roses at the end of the "thank you" show on Saturday night. She earned it.

Julia, as always, was bouncing off the walls with excitement all weekend (except when she was too tired to bounce). She was an orphan, and was in half a dozen scenes when there was a girls' chorus. She had a blast. Her Mary Campbell Center friends came to the Sunday matinee, and Julia was able to revel in being the center of attention after the show. She was able to have a few group pictures with one of the stars of the show (Marco as Fagin), who came out to greet her friends.
Julia and Marco (as Fagin) and friends

I wish I had YouTube videos to link to...but there aren't any. All I could find was this one test video of a rehearsal, with nothing from an actual show.

A lot of take-down work still needs to be done, but planning is already being discussed for next year's two shows (Footloose and The Music Man). I'm sure there will be a part for Julia, and lots of sewing to do for Amp. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring is Coming


But apparently not today.

[Final tally: 9 inches of snow and two neighborhood kids with a snowblower]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Sing-Off Live Tour at the Grand Opera

Last night, seven of us (us and the neighbors) went down to Wilmington for dinner and a concert: the Sing-Off Live Tour. The Sing-Off is a competition singing TV show featuring entirely a cappella groups. It has short "seasons" every now and then that are more like a miniseries (or in the case of this year, a single long episode). Every sound they make (and the percussion and other sounds are amazing) are entirely done with voice. This is one of the few shows that everyone in the family likes, so going to see the show seemed like a natural choice. We like any kind of live music, this would be something different, and we try to expose the kids to as much as possible...

In addition to a brief appearance by a collegiate group from Vanderbilt University, the bulk of the show was made up of approximately half-hour sets by The ExChange (from this year's single episode season 5), VoicePlay (from season 4) and Street Corner Symphony (from season 2). The concert totaled 2 hours across the various groups, and was interspersed with a bunch of mix-and-match combined numbers. Each of the three main groups had 5 or 6 members, and generated an amazing amount of sound.

All of the groups were terrific, and we all loved the show, including the kids. The kids liked the fact that many of the songs were arrangements of pop tunes that they knew. The vocals were terrific, they had good stage presence, and there was a good amount of humor and crowd interaction mixed in between the actual songs. Especially hilarious was the mixed number where the "percussionists" from each group got together on stage to play a phantom game of ping pong. Hilarious and impressive stuff...

We bought a CD from each group on the way out of the theater.

They said this was 10 dates into a 60 date tour, and anyone who likes this kind of thing would do well to see them if they come to a venue near you.