Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remember these?

Way back when, I decided to embark on a mission to make some faux-buffalo chip cookies, and in the last couple of weeks before finals, I settled on something close.

Adjustments I made from the very beginning to what I've got now:
  • less sugar because mine spread too much. Instead of a cup of brown and a cup of white, we're down to 3/4 cup brown and 1 cup powdered sugar. Powdered sugar? In a cookie? Yes, because somewhere along the line I decided the texture of these cookies was something like Mexican wedding cookies, which use powdered sugar. I'll stop now - I can hear you getting bored.
  • more salt because it makes me happy. Also because there's enough sweet stuff in these cookies to singlehandedly give you a cavity. A little salt is nice.
  • more flour because they were just too wet.
  • different mix-in levels, for accuracy's sake.
  • one other important distinction: you may recall the day that I unsweetened some sweetened coconut and was pleasantly surprised when I didn't get a call from maintenance telling me our bathroom pipes were clogged with coconut. No? Well, I do. In any case, I used the extra sweetness from the sweetened coconut as an excuse to nix some more of the sugar. Did it make a difference? Who knows.
In any case. We're here now, and I like cookies. These are some nice little guys. They're not identical to the original, but you know, these are darn good little suckers, and this way you get to eat the dough. Priorities, people.

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar (NOTE: I used 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1 1/2 T. molasses)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 3/4 cups cornflakes
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath bar pieces/toffee chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together all dry ingredients, then add them. Add oats, cornflakes, chocolate chips, toffee chips, pecans, and coconut. Scoop. Use an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 375 degrees for 16 minutes or until you poke them and, while they don't like it, they don't poke back. That's how you know.

**Also: these make a crazy ton of cookies. Like 64 if you make the dough balls the size of golf balls. Go easy or make friends.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Les Mis: what a croissanwich.*

Well, you can’t say I didn’t try. This was my last chance for that musical, and it’s not looking too good.

The good bits:
  • Jean Valjean had a nice voice, as did Marius.
  • There was a pretty expressive pit.

The neutral notes:
  • Schönberg must have really had a thing for the perfect 4th because it’s literally everywhere. “On My Own.” “Look Down.” Name a song, and it’s there.
  • Fantine had a moment where I was sure she was singing something like a low D. This is just ridiculous.

List of grievances with the production:
  • Eponine. She literally sounded like a pop star. You do not put riffs into “On My Own.” It just doesn’t work that way. No ma’am.
  • There was what I call the “bright light of death”: both when Fantine died and when Eponine died, there was a crazy bright, stark white light focused directly on the dying character. It nearly blinded me, and it was aimed at the stage. What are you doing, light crew?
  • Speaking of lights, there were some crazy effects going on with the battle scenes. I mean, do random (but remarkably evenly spaced) little beams of light directed at various parts of the stage really look like explosions or gun shots to you? Because they don’t to me.
  • Way heavy on the amplification. Excessive, really. What’s more, they added some serious reverb to Fantine on more than one occasion. Is that really necessary? No, no it’s not.
  • In the wedding scene towards the end, the men in tuxes weren’t wearing black socks. They were wearing black tights. That just looks awkward. You’re in a full tux with a vest and tails. Act like it.
  • Javert’s death was as lame as they come. He was standing on a bridge. Expectation: the bridge will lift up, Javert will jump off. Reality: Javert “jumps” off bridge while it’s on the stage, then the bridge lifts up, and Javert twirls around to make it look like he’s falling. Are you for real right now?

List of grievances with the musical itself:
  • Too many characters. Maybe 80% of the audience was seeing this show for the fifteenth time. Doesn’t matter. I couldn’t follow the plot. Oh, someone just died? Too bad I don’t even know his name. If you want me to care about your characters, at least make it obvious which ones I need to care about. I don’t have enough caring for a whole dozen, I just don’t.
  • Along those same lines, “I Dreamed a Dream” was way too early in the show. We just met the woman! I can’t sympathize with her situation when I’ve seen her running around the stage for ten minutes!
  • Nearly everything in the show is super high on the passion scale. I get it, you have convictions. Everyone can’t sing like “this song is the most important one you’ll hear in this whole musical” if everyone else is doing the same thing. It’s like I said before. You just can’t care about that much stuff that strongly. (Note: this went under grievances with the musical because those songs demand power. You try belting and sounding apathetic at the same time. It doesn’t work.)
  • I’m all for continuity in a musical, but this feels like you’re listening to the same five songs for three whole hours. It’s why any 30-second clip from Les Mis is so obviously Les Mis. It all sounds the same.
Oy. I don’t know how anyone’s supposed to go to sleep after getting this worked up.

*see Seth Rudetsky's deconstruction of Les Mis for full explanation (3:15)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The first full day.

Yes, we got in at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but the first half of that was spent going through customs and getting to our hotel-like little conference center (hereafter "here" or "home").  A little nap, a big dinner, and two blistered heels later, we had familiarized ourselves with the city some and picked up many, many brochures for concerts and shows. I slept well.

The morning and afternoon were spent in class today, with every spare moment being used to see what tickets were available for what, when, and how much.  Most of us got tickets for a play tonight at a small theater about fifteen minutes from here. It didn't have a ton of substance and was surprisingly feministic, but the lead actress was good and there were a few funny moments. More importantly, I learned that you're allowed to bring food and drink into theaters here, which is odd.

We learned at one of our meetings before we left that one of the people who went on this trip two years ago saw a whopping 37 shows. This is ridiculous. I don't know how anyone would have the energy, much less the time, to go to that many. So far, here's my interest list, with the asterisks representing the shows to which I already have tickets:

  • *Filumena, tonight's play
  • Ragtime
  • Jersey Boys
  • The Wizard of Oz (with new songs added by everyone's (least) favorite, Andrew Lloyd Webber) 
  • *Singing in the Rain
  • *Sweeney Todd (with Imelda Staunton, a.k.a. Dolores Umbridge, and Michael Ball, the original Marius in Les Mis, among many other things)
  • The Great Gatsby, which is now a play
  • Noises Off
  • The 39 Steps
  • *War Horse
  • *Les Mis, to which I've gotten tickets because if anything is going to change my mind about that musical, it'll be the London production.
  • Peter Pan
  • *Matilda, which apparently is amazing.
  • any number of Shakespeare plays in foreign languages at the Globe (see note)
  • Company
  • The Lion King
  • Shrek, if I'm desperate (Update 5/10: apparently not that desperate. I saw it today, and I still wonder why Sutton Foster ever chose to be in that musical.)
  • Wicked, if I'm more desperate
  • *Billy Elliot
  • Einstein on the Beach, a Philip Glass opera in case I'm feeling adventurous 

Note: the plays at the Globe are lovely, especially because you can get standing tickets in the yard for five pounds. The bad news: ushers are apparently quite strict about the fact that you will be standing for the duration of the play, no leaning allowed. This might be the sort of thing you do once for the experience, and then never again. Or leave at intermission. That sounds nice too.

But for now, we're in ticket-hunting mode, sleeping and eating when we can. Wish us well.