Monday, November 14, 2011

Veterans Day Weekend

We very much enjoyed our three-day Veterans Day Weekend.

On Thursday night, my middle brother and Joshua and I went to Bloomington to see Bloomington Civic Theater’s production of the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon musical, “Sweet Charity”. None of us had seen a staging of “Sweet Charity”, and none of us had seen the film version.

“Sweet Charity” is very much a second-rate musical. The score has a couple of familiar and pleasant numbers, but Coleman was more manufacturer of music than genuine composer for the stage. His music has the surface appeal—and the character and depth—of television jingles.

Simon’s book for “Sweet Charity” is poor. The dialogue is both glib and protracted—not a happy combination—and the characters are not allowed to register as three-dimensional human beings. Simon’s book is also insufferably 1960s.

Bloomington Civic Theater’s production was not especially strong—the stage design was not as fine as the company frequently offers and the choreography was, I thought, entirely lame—but the show held together because the young woman playing the lead was very fine. She sang well, she danced well, and she displayed a very beguiling stage personality. Had it not been for her, we probably would have departed at intermission.

Unaccountably, the Star-Tribune had singled out this young actress as the chief weakness of the production, claiming that her portrayal was not well-rounded and that she lacked the necessary vulnerability to bring the character to life. Whatever may have happened on opening night, the presence of this same young actress was the only thing that made the performance endurable on Thursday night.

Before the performance, we ate dinner at a barbecue place in Bloomington. We ordered pulled-pork sandwiches with baked beans and coleslaw.

On Friday morning, my brothers and Josh and I took my niece and nephew to Saint Paul to visit the Science Museum Of Minnesota.

The main interest—for us and the kids—was the dinosaurs. The Science Museum Of Minnesota is renowned for its dinosaur collection.

The museum owns one of only four Triceratops in the world, and its Triceratops is the largest and most complete anywhere.

The museum owns an Allosaurus and a Camptosaurus, the latter the largest ever discovered. The two are displayed together, in combat.

The museum also owns a Stegosaurus and a Diplodocus. The Diplodocus is 82 feet long, and was actually discovered in Minnesota. I believe it is the largest dinosaur skeleton on display anywhere.

My niece and nephew were awed by the dinosaurs, as children generally are. We spent an hour and a quarter walking around the skeletons and examining other dinosaur parts and fossils, at which point the kids had seen enough and were ready to leave.

On Friday afternoon, Josh and I checked the progress on our house. We do not believe the house will be ready for settlement this coming Friday—and this will create no problems for us.

My mother made a special dinner on Friday night. Her supplier had located for her a large and beautiful fresh carp, so she built a dinner around baked carp. We started with homemade tomato-cream soup, and continued with an elaborate garden salad. Next came individual cheese souffl├ęs, for which I was responsible. The main course was baked carp, redskin potatoes, fresh green beans and a white grape salad. Dessert was custard-rhubarb pie.

The dinner was excellent—and the kids liked the carp (but, as a precaution, my mother had had boiled chicken standing by).

Minnesota hosted Wisconsin on Saturday, and on Friday Josh and I decided to accompany my father and my brothers to the game. Minnesota had played well the previous two weeks, and we had hoped that a rejuvenated Golden Gopher squad might create some problems for the mighty Badgers, especially since the game was in Minneapolis.

Our decision was not a wise one. Wisconsin showed up ready to play ball, and the game was effectively over at the end of the first quarter, with Wisconsin leading, 14-0. Minnesota had zero first downs and three yards of offense in the first quarter; Wisconsin had nine first downs and 198 yards of offense in the first quarter. The latter figures, and not the first-quarter score, told the story of the game.

We remained for the entire debacle—we were too embarrassed to go home early, since my mother had warned us that we had signed ourselves up for a grievously disappointing afternoon—yet at least we were able to witness Minnesota’s special teams score twice in the second half (while Wisconsin was playing its reserves).

Our disappointment in the game was tempered by the splendid Norwegian peasant dinner my mother had waiting for us when we returned home: homemade beef barley soup; tomato-onion salad; and minced Norwegian fish, riced potatoes and sour mixed vegetables (including beets) soaked for twenty-four hours in a special Norwegian brine before being quick-fried with bacon. I would not want to eat the sour mixed vegetables often, but I can handle them once every five years, which is about how often my mother prepares them. For dessert, we had slices of buttercream Dobish Torte, which my mother had picked up at a bakery.

My mother, my sister-in-law and the kids had eaten their dinner at the normal hour. They had enjoyed the very same dinner foods—except they had eaten NORMAL mixed vegetables (and with no beets).

On Sunday, we stayed in all day after service.

We had a big post-service breakfast: Eggs Benedict, followed by buttermilk pancakes and sausages, followed by cranberry-orange muffins.

When the kids woke from their naps, we helped my nephew play with his BluTrack for a couple of hours. BluTrack was one of my nephew’s birthday gifts, and BluTrack has become one of his favorite toys.

He has learned that he can create all sorts of twists and contortions with the track, and that the cars will nonetheless continue to glide on the pathways. He will set up BluTrack in a particular configuration and run the cars a few times, after which he will devise a new configuration. The process repeats itself endlessly.

My niece watches with interest while her brother plays with and rearranges BluTrack. Even the dog finds himself fascinated with the cars gliding on BluTrack—although we have to restrain the dog from acting upon his natural inclination to pounce on the cars when they glide by him and to grab them with his teeth and run across the room.

It is easy to understand why BluTrack has become so popular with young children. BluTrack encourages creativity and use of imagination while providing an hour or more of pleasure and fun at a time.

We had a good Sunday night dinner: pumpkin-poppy seed soup; pasta and Cayenne shrimp in a Cayenne cream sauce; and chicken quarters baked with an apple-cranberry glaze, succotash, glazed carrots and an apple-cranberry salad. We had cherry crisp for dessert.

At church on Sunday morning, we learned that we were wise to have skipped this weekend’s Minneapolis performances of Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The company had brought its full-length Alice In Wonderland ballet to the Twin Cities—the ballet was titled “Wonderland”—and we were told by persons that had attended the production on Saturday night that “Wonderland” had been God-awful.

We have decided to skip the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s ten-day Bach Brandenburg marathon currently in progress all around the Twin Cities. For some reason, the prospect of sitting through five Brandenburg Concertos in a single evening (the SPCO is omitting Brandenburg Concerto No. 2) does not appeal to us at present. Further, Josh and I have some interest in attending four consecutive weeks of SPCO subscription programs beginning in another two weeks, and we do not want our musical appetites to become satiated before the stimulating late November/early December programs commence.

We are contemplating attending University Opera Theatre’s production of “Cosi Fan Tutte” at the University Of Minnesota next weekend, but we will not make a firm decision until the weekend draws near. We attended Minnesota Opera’s production of “Cosi Fan Tutte” only six weeks ago—and there are reasons in favor of, and reasons against, attending a second production of the opera in such close succession to the first.

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