Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Book of Mormon

We saw The Book of Mormon in Toronto at the Prince of Wales theatre last week. It was on our list of things to do when we were in London this past September, but we just didn't get around to purchasing tickets.

Luckily, the Toronto production featured Gavin Creel in one of the lead roles. He won the 2014 Laurence Olivier Award for originating the role of Elder Price at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the London original.

Brought to you by the creative minds of South Park, this play is definitely irreverent. Laughing and being horrified at the same time is a curious emotional mix. The first half was hilarious, the second half continued the profanity and then inserted a bit of philosophy and wrapped everything up with a quazi-moral to the story.  I interpreted it as, believing is a leap of faith, and sometimes the end does justify the means.

The play didn't just insult Mormons. It insulted everyone, including homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, and Africans. Politically correct,  it was not. Here's a sample tune: Turn It Off. 

Nine Tony Awards, 4 Olivier Awards, and the acclaim keeps coming, with rave reviews wherever it runs. The producers didn't even bother to invite Toronto critics to the latest city staging, but that didn't stop the Globe and Mail from weighing in with a positive review.

Most curious were the three full page adds in the program, "You've seen the play... now read the book." Each featured a very wholesome looking person and the website URL for thebookofmormon.org.   I thought it might be an online parody, but it was in fact for the Church of Latter Day Saints. I couldn't help but wonder if the play was purchasing the ad space to help avoid a law suit, or if it had something to do with appeasing Donny and Marie Osmond, who are visiting the same theatre in December. Turns out the ads have been running wherever the play is produced.

Apparently the Church sees it as a good marketing opportunity:
Instead of complaining about a musical show that pokes fun at their religion, the Church of Latter Day Saints has chosen to capture the moment by launching a marketing campaign of their own... Whoever is advising the Mormon Church on their public relations and advertising strategy should take a bow. It would have been so easy to whip up a storm around the musical. The Mormons could have had all the publicity they wanted: demos, protests, questions in the House. But that would have been the wrong sort of publicity. The Independent (London)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014


Lois and Mark hosted the clan up in Matawatchan for Thanksgiving with a full house. Gord, Linda, Sarah, Brenda, Bill, James, Ryan, Alex, Penny, Rob and I. Lots of laughter, an amazing sunset, a fantastic meal, a bonfire under the stars and waning moon.

When the fire was going strong, we tossed handfuls of sugar to boost the flames with a magical 'bam.' Then inside to play Cards Against Humanity. It seems most everyone slept pretty soundly, although someone said they woke briefly to a symphony of snores in the middle of the night.

In the morning, I opened my eyes to mist rising on the hills and three deer wandering in the frost. Breakfast, a walk in the woods, and then a leisurely drive home with Penny and Alex. We made a few stops along the way. A quart of honey from a roadside stand, a bunch of fresh garlic from a charming cottage called River House, and then apple-picking at Pieter's Appleyard. We stopped in Port Hope to watch the salmon run on the Ganaraska River, cheering for them to make the jump against the rushing water. Listening to music, playing 20 questions when we got bored.

A perfect two days!

One of the best-tasting Thanksgiving meals ever, partly because of all the vegetarian dishes. Lots of recipes for meals to come, to be served with side accompaniments of happy memories.




Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:
6 extra large sweet potato (8 medium)
3 large eggs & 1 egg white
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c milk 
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
4 tsp butter melted
TOPPING:
3/4 c brown sugar
2/3 c all purpose flour
1/4 c butter softened 
1 and 1/2 c chopped walnuts
Note:  Bake the sweet potato rather than microwave and you'll have a sweeter potato but microwave can be substituted.
Preheat oven to 350 
Put the sweet potato's right on the rack.  (No need to scrub or peel.)
Cook for 90 min. Let cool slightly.  Cut the skins off.  
Whip up the eggs until nice and fluffy.  
Add sugar, melted butter, spices, milk & vanilla and mix in well.
Add skinned sweet potato to egg mixture and blend until smooth.
 

Spaghetti Squash

Bake or microwave Spaghetti squash halves (scooped out) over some water to steam them. (Cover dish with foil if baking. Do NOT use foil if microwaving, but poke holes in the top of squash halves with a fork if nuking. Microwave is great if doing a smaller dish - 8 to 10 mins on high. Details for cooking easily Googled.

String cooked squash into a bowl with a fork and add chopped Roma tomatoes, lots of fresh or dried basil, butter until it seems right, ground black pepper. Leave it all together in a bowl for flavours to mingle.

Place squash mixture on the bottom of baking dish. Add shredded cheese and top with grated parmesan. Cook.

Stir-Fry Veg & Tofu

Combine and set aside:
1/4 c. soya sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. corn starch

Finely mince together and set aside:
1" piece ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion (chopped more coarsely)
2 jalapeño peppers with seeds 

Chop, combine and set aside:
3 or 4 Portabella mushrooms (sliced fat)
Shiitake mushrooms if you got em
3 carrots sliced on the diagonal
3 celery stalks sliced on the diagonal
Green, Yellow or Red peppers sliced
1 bag mixed stir fry veggies (optional) 

Have ready on the side:
1 bag snow peas (I like to cut the top and string off)
Unsalted cashews (optional)
5 or 6 chopped green onions 
Sesame oil to drizzle 

1 or more firm or extra firm tofu brick, cubed 

Method:

Stir fry tofu in oil over medium high heat until brown, place on paper towels (takes longer than you think, about 12 mins?

In large wok, stir fry ginger/garlic mixture in a bit of oil until fragrant, about a minute, but don't brown it. Add mushroom/carrot mixture about 4 mins.

Add 1/2 cup water and cover (to steam the veggies). Reduce heat to medium low for about 3 minutes.

Remove cover and stir in soya/hoisin mixture until thickened. 
Add tofu, cashews and peas until peas just done.

Before serving add chopped green onions and a bit of sesame oil for flavour


Seven Layer Salad
(Gord's famous) 
1. One head of regular lettuce washed and pulled into reasonable sized pieces put aside to dry.
2. One average sized Vidalia onion chopped small.
3. Several stalks of celery chopped small and mixed with two tbsp. of sugar.
4. Light Hellmans mayonnaise enough to fully conceal the celery.
5. Cover to conceal mayo with frozen sweet peas.
6. Cover peas with shredded old cheddar.
7. Layer cheddar with generous Portion of cooked bacon.
If you have a clear 4" x 10" salad bowl it should all fit perfectly but if you have to improvise, it all compresses rather well.
You can serve right away but it always tastes better when left overnight.
So easy and so good.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ambition and Inertia


Tom Allen framed the evening's musical offerings as Ambition and Inertia.

Ambition

The Finnish composer Sibelius' first musical ambition was to be a virtuoso violinist. He picked up the instrument at 14, and although a fervent and dedicated student, his audition did not win him a seat with the orchestra. His heart was broken, but eventually he turned his talents to composition.

At 38 years of age, after great success, he wrote the Violin Concerto in D Minor (Opus 47), which  was first performed in 1904. Sibelius had a love-hate relationship with virtuoso violinists, to the point of self-sabotage.

Originally, the much esteemed Willy Burmester had promised to perform the concerto in Berlin, but one thing led to another and Sibelius changed the location of the premiere to Finland and then chose  a date Buermester was unavailable. The composer finished the concerto just in time for the premiere, and the piece was of such difficulty that it would have sorely tested any virtuoso. Given these factors, it was unwise of Sibelius to choose Nováček, who was not even a recognised soloist. Not surprisingly, the premiere was a disaster. Sibelius reworked the piece, and although Buermester offered to perform, he turned him down, once again choosing a lesser violinist.

As the program notes, "This is in many ways an unusual concerto. Though passionate and full of Romantic yearning it conspicuously lacks the sparkle and sensuousness of... Mendelshon... the music is often dark, gloomy, brooding..."

The TSO audience was treated to a performance by violinist Karen Gomyo, who played on a rare Stradivarius ("Ex Foulis" of 1703), that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor. 

This Youtube video showcases Joshua Bell as the star performer of the Violin Concerto in D Minor. If you can, listen to the opening. Such yearning!

Inertia

Dvorak could have happily stayed in Austria for all his days, which is how Allen's label of inertia applies. This composer had to be lured by an incredibly generous salary from his home to New York City.

The patron responsible was  Jeannette Mayer Thurber, who wanted him to help develop a new musical school at the National Conservatory of Music America.  She essentially offered him an amount comparable to his annual salary every two weeks. Even then, it was Dvorak's wife and children who talked him into accepting the position overseas, in Manhattan, where he lived for three years.

From the New World is Dvorak's 9th Symphony. The melodies were so familiar because they've been borrowed liberally by Hollywood over the years, especially in Westerns. "... Despite its fame, (it) still sounds fresh and original. Its pastoral and elegiac tone and almost heartbreaking poignancy evoke unforgettably America's vast, desolate prairies... Throughout the Largo Dvorak's orchestration offers one extraordinary texture and sonority after another - right up to the very last chord, which is scored, to astonishing effect, for divided double basses alone." You can listen to the Largo here.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Full Hunter's Moon - October


Hunter's Moon (Ojibway). Harvest Moon (Cherokee, Celtic)
Blood Moon (English Medieval).Kindly Moon (Chinese).

There was a full lunar eclipse between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Unfortunately, I slept right through it and must rely on photographic evidence.

The last lunar eclipse was April 15 of this year, the next eclipse of a full moon is April 4, 2015. I'll have to mark my calendar and try to stay up.