Rain + Bow

I was sitting on the couch catching up on Elementary episodes earlier this afternoon when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that it was kind of… red outside. Not only do the glass balcony doors not face west, which would indicate the colors of sunset, but sunsets are usually more a spectrum of warm colors and this looked more like cloudy red cover. So I went out to have a look, braving the chance of mosquito bites, and I saw this:

By the time I recovered from my surprise and grabbed my phone to record it had already started to fade from the right side but it was freaking glorious! Huge and bright, that is a full double rainbow I was privileged to witness.

Because I strive to be original I will not be posting the infamous Double Rainbow song/video, you all know where to find it anyway. Now excuse me while I go indulge in a little Rainbow Brite nostalgia via YouTube.

I [Bring] the Cheese; It Does Not [Bring] Me

Due to a mild casein allergy I sometimes stay away from dairy, and honestly don’t find it too hard to do so. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk? Delicious. Soy ice cream? Satisfies my craving pretty well. But there is one food above all others that can never be replaced and that is CHEESE. There is no vegan substitute that comes close.

Now I don’t get very creative with cheese, I stick to my shredded swiss or cheddar blends to put in my scrambled eggs or salads. Mozzarella is king of the cheeses and I save it for the occasional caprese salad and pizza. I don’t usually bother with the expensive artisanal stuff – until now.

Guaranteed to give your breath the power to repel vampires and humans alike.
Guaranteed to give your breath the power to repel vampires and humans alike.

Yes ladies and gentlemen and those who have yet to decide – that is VAMPIRE SLAYER cheese, a potent piece of garlic-y cheese I found at my local Whole Foods while searching for pork-free pate. And I needed cheese anyway, so…

What makes this especially awesome is that cheese is a small but genuine part of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, thanks to the Cheese Man. If you had to pick a piece of food to represent the TV show, cheese would be it. And that got me thinking, if all the vampire franchises got together for a party, what would the food list look like?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – said Garlic Cheese. With some Weetabix crackers.

True Blood – the Tru Blood drink. The notorious Japanese invention of the books and later the show, the Tru Blood beverage is what prompts the unveiling of the secret supernatural underworld to the entire rest of the world.

Comes in flavors A, B, AB, and O. Click for source.
Comes in flavors A, B, AB, and O. Click for source.

Interview with the Vampire – the novel and movie that first tied vampires with New Orleans. Apparently there’s a type of Cajun blood sausage called Boudin that can’t be officially sold since it contains actual animal blood and you have to find a chef on the side or something and ask for it. I don’t know if I’d want to eat something occasionally called The Forbidden Sausage… for many reasons… but there you go. Maybe this franchise will bring some good wine to make up for it.

... yum? I guess you have to be a sausage fan already. Click for source.
… yum? I guess you have to be a sausage fan already. Click for source.

Dracula – it always surprises me when I remember that Bram Stoker published his book in 1897. Due to its presence in and influence on popular culture it just seems centuries older. There are a lot of references to food in this book; “I dined on what they called “robber steak”–bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper, and strung on sticks, and roasted over the fire, in the simple style of the London cat’s meat!” So basically spicy kebab!

Am I the only one who delights in eating these like corn on the cob? Click for source.
Am I the only one who delights in eating these like corn on the cob? Click for source.

Count von Count – Alphabet soup’s lesser known edible cousin, number soup!

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, ah ah ah. Click for source.
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, ah ah ah. Click for source.

Vampire Diaries – a few years ago the CW (then still known as WB I think) passed on picking up a reboot of the show Barnabas because they, launcher of the original Buffy show, didn’t want to get pigeonholed as “the teen vampire channel.” Ha ha ha. In the spirit of the famous fruit posters a couple seasons ago, I say they’d bring red glazed tarts – apple, pomegranate, peach, and pear filled.

This just looks delicious. Click for source.
This just looks delicious. Click for source.

Blade – vampires in this universe can actually eat regular food, it just doesn’t provide any nutritional value. This franchise would be that person who brings a boring veggie platter.

It will not look as cool as this one, it'll be some store-bought one. Click for source.
It will not look as cool as this one, it’ll be some store-bought one. Click for source.

Twilight – Red Velvet Cake with edible glitter. What else?

As long as it's in the food and not part of the decoration, I'm good with glitter. Click for source.
As long as it’s in the food and not part of the decoration, I’m good with glitter. Click for source.

I’ve Got a Fever, a Non-Believer

This past week has been kind of terrible. Monday, the horrific Boston marathon bombings. Tuesday, the six-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. And, if you’re going by online outrage, equally bad is the comment Justin Bieber wrote in the guest book of Anne Frank House last Friday: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

My gut reaction to that statement fell in line with the rest of the internet. What a disrespectful thing to say! What a perfect example of self-absorbed teenage behavior! What an annoying little **** that kid is!

Then I started to reflect on the whole thing. I am by no means a Justin Bieber fan, and I don’t feel that being a Jewish girl gives me some kind of special insight to Anne Frank. But there is something paradoxical about the whole thing, this scandal of a stupid teenage boy versus an intellectual teenage girl. Think of the stereotype of the average teen girl – obsessed with dating, high school status, clothes/makeup/shoes, her favorite bands or singers, despising her oppressive parents and various annoying siblings, occasionally thinking of college and the future, and mostly just wanting to have fun. Dare I say we have put Anne on a pedestal?

Yes, her life in hiding and death merely weeks before liberation were absolutely a tragedy, one that has us still grieving for her almost seventy years later. But I think this image the general public has of her is contrived by people who haven’t even read her diary. The girl was a self-confessed chatterbox! Had Anne and her family survived, maybe immigrated to America, is that much of a stretch to imagine she might have been a fan of, say, Frank Sinatra? Thrilled by a pair of blue eyes instead of a swept-aside haircut? Consider Zlata Filipović, who kept a diary through the Bosnian war (1992-1995) and has been called the Anne Frank of Sarajevo. She’s 32 now, and has a twitter feed. It has less Instagram and more activism than the average feed, but there’s some hidden whimsy: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? (stole this off Facebook, quote by Satchel Paige).” Frankly (pun intended), I think Anne would have loved YouTube, vlogging, and being able to chat with the world.

Justin Bieber’s insensitive comments show more narcissism than sympathy, but the idea he accidentally hit on of wishing Anne Frank had been given the opportunity to be a silly teenage girl is one to keep.

Allie’s Recipe for a Snow Day

Snow – You will probably need to borrow from Mother Nature.

Play in the Snow! – If you are a child, put on your gear and go sledding, make snowpeople, have a snowball fight.

‘Max was given a wintry treat of a snowman—complete with meat for eyes and buttons, as well as bones for feet. Frosty didn’t stand a chance against Max, who eventually pounced, knocking it to pieces.’ Calvin and Hobbes would approve! Click for source.

If you are an adult, you most likely no longer own a sled or even a greased cookie sheet big enough to hold you. And you’d have to drive to the nearest big hill, thus defeating the point of it being too snowy to safely drive to work today. I advise standing outside like a lunatic trying to lick the snowflakes, and making snow angels in your increasingly soppy pajamas.

It's hard to tell, but the flakes coming down are huge and fluffy.
It’s hard to tell, but the flakes coming down are huge and fluffy.

Hot Meal and/or Beverage – After playing in the snow, you must replenish your energy. Soup is traditional, but if you’re not that hungry hot chocolate is best. Again, if you’re an adult and calorie counting a cuppa tea is probably your best bet. This is voided when you have a roommate who works at Williams-Sonoma and comes home with a bag of cocoa mix sized to fit Thor, God of Thunder.

Thumbs-Up included to give you a sense of the size of this thing.
Thumbs-Up included to give you a sense of the size of this thing.
Mmm, ANOTHER! *smash*
Mmm, ANOTHER! *smash*

Entertainment – If you’re part of a family, now you have the excuse to break out the holiday themed movies even though it’s March: Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Love Actually (which Actually is not for the kiddies, that would be if your family consists of you, your sweetie, and optional pet). For the more classically inclined adults though, this is the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

Bought this at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. As you can see from the cover, the setting of the book is somewhere snowy!
Bought this at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. As you can see from the cover, the setting of the book is somewhere snowy!

Add all ingredients in order, start no later than 12 noon, and enjoy!

Way to Go Lauren Kornacki!

I can’t believe this hasn’t shown up in any of the alumni e-mails yet – maybe it’s too soon? – especially as I’m hearing about it a week after it hit the press, but fellow Mary Wash grad Lauren Kornacki straight up hauled a BMW off her dad and performed life-saving CPR on him.

Tomorrow I’ll upload the video from CNN (I’m using the flash-unfriendly library wifi at the moment), but for now – that’s just awesome.
Ta da:

Gold Medal for Lauren!

From 1(0) Grain(s) of Rice

What do other people do when hit with writer’s block? Sort out their closet, clean the bathroom, work on that knitting project? Because knitting needles, as opposed to, say, crochet needles, are like ninja weapons cleverly disguised as old-lady craft items that make you feel like a badass while creating a blankie for your nephew? Hypothetically. Myself, I have a cure-all that lets me procrastinate on writing and accomplishing other tasks around the apartment… while feeding my brain.

Damn you screencap, why must your text be so tiny and blurry when reduced to a normal picture size? AKA what freerice.com looks like on my laptop.

Freerice.com is my favorite place to go when I’m stuck or bored. (Or, in my recent case, stuck at home sick.) It’s too easy to be called a game, but that’s what it feels like when playing it. I remember its original incarnation – a simple website that let you virtually flip through vocabulary flash cards, and for each word you got right ten grains of rice were donated to areas of the world in need of food. There are no penalties for getting an answer wrong, you just keep going for as long as you feel like clicking, watching the image on the website fill up with more and more rice. A lot of fun and easy to do, it was like a higher education version of spider solitaire or Bejeweled.

And the site has upgraded, so in addition to English vocabulary you can learn about human anatomy, chemistry, geography, and yes, literature! There’s also an option for non-native English speakers to use the site in languages like French or Spanish (flashcards for a foreign language are another category you can choose to earn rice in). Players can also choose the level of hardness – too easy? Go up to level 60 and tell me what on earth acatalectic means.

It means ‘complete.’

So go on, there’s no excuse now. There are starving orphans in Africa who don’t care about your dinner leftovers, only that you play a really addictive online game.

~*~

I really hope northern Virginia elementary schools aren’t the only ones familiar with the educational mash-up masterpiece that is Demi’s book. A math and an English lesson all in one!

“I’m in love with this nerd of a beautiful daughter, and my friends dress me up as a pirate.”

About two weeks ago my family had a cousin come stay for a while, and I used that as an excuse to make her and my mom come with me to see “The Gaming Table” at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It’s a close adaptation of “The Basset Table,” a play by Susanna Centlivre from the early 1700s, and it’s run ended the day after we saw it. So my post on this show is sadly belated, but that’s what happens when you’re not always free on the weekends and are short on friends who want to drive to D.C. for some 18th century entertainment. In any case, I’m glad we saw it just in time!

You might wonder why a library/theater/museum so focused on Shakespeare that it’s got his name in its name, would feature a play from about a century later. Well, the library also features other European Renaissance literature, and works that have their roots in Shakespeare, which Restoration comedy certainly does. I had a brief but memorable education in Restoration/18th century literature thanks to one Professor McAllister, which has forever endeared me to drama from that time period even if I’m really lazy when it comes to furthering my education on the period’s literature on my own. So I was really excited to go see a classic, bawdy Restoration play, advertised as having a strong feminist slant, in the grand and Tudor-styled theater.

I could review the whole play and gush about how much I liked it, but it’s already gotten lots of positive press and you can Google for critiques more articulate and knowledgeable than mine. Yes, the costumes were gorgeous, the set was amazing, the play pretty much as witty now as it was in 1705, the adapted prologue and epilogue clever and funny, the actors and actresses hilarious in bringing their distinctive characters to effervescent life. I want to share my opinion on two aspects of the play that were brought up in just about every review: the feminist element, and the character Valeria.

The stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library, set up for "The Gaming Table." It was even more impressive in person. Click for image source.

The label “feminist” is no longer a simple adjective that basically means, “the belief and support of women being equal to men” – now it’s a buzzword that gets thrown around to describe lots of things, from “nazi man-haters” to “upper class white women only” to “including females at all.” Being written by a woman and featuring women as main characters is no indication of having actual feminist content. “The Gaming Table” turns it up to eleven: it was written by a women, it has strong female characters, the director was a women, the whole design crew (heads of set/costume/lighting/sound) were women, and it passes the Bechdel test.

One way I judge a piece of work on its feminism is not to count how many female characters there are, or even if said characters have values that match up with contemporary ideas about women and equality in contrast to the time and place setting of the story. Instead – and this is kind of depressing – I see if the women in the story are punished, in some way, in the end, because that was and is far too often the way writers “get away” with having outspoken, intelligent, and capable women as characters. Shakespeare, who else, has some classic examples: Katherina and Beatrice are subdued and married at the end of their plays. Victorian literature has a lot of ‘modern’ women that end up drowning themselves. For a modern version I’d point out all the females other than the Final Girl in horror and sci-fi films that are killed off.

A round of Basset. Let me tell you how it (always) ends: the house wins. Click for photo source.

So is “The Gaming Table” truly feminist? For its time, yes; for our time, mostly yes. There’s an egregious incident of attempted rape which totally disrupts the comedy of the play, a blatant example of the Date Rape Averted cliché complete with a Rescue Romance. It doesn’t help much that the audience is aware the attempted rapist himself is genre-savvy and doesn’t actually intend to do any harm – Lord Courtly paints himself as the villain in order to make his friend Lord Worthy a hero in Lady Reveller’s eyes, and have her finally admit her romantic feelings for him. Honestly, if your idea of getting two quarreling lovers to make up and get hitched is to make one of them genuinely frightened of being sexually assaulted, you’re not the benevolent matchmaker you think you are. Lord Courtly, in character, even brings out the speech about how Lady Reveller should expect and accept such treatment, seeing as how she openly behaves so improperly by partying and gambling all the time. It may or may not be an ironic admonishment, since it’s coming from the bad guy, but as some of the fallout from Lara Logan’s assault in Egypt proves, not an extinct one.

But otherwise the play was full of slapstick and wit, and the women end up getting just what they want. I can’t be 100% percent sure without the script in front of me and so I’m going from memory – I should have looked for that in the gift shop instead of buying a pack of cards and thinking myself clever – but the play definitely comes to a satisfying conclusion. Lady Reveller marries Lord Worthy after all, taking away the unique freedom being a widow gave her, but just because she’s a wife once more doesn’t mean she’s giving up her vivacious and gambling ways. Look at the character of Mrs. Sago, who pretty much bankrupts her husband and almost gets him thrown in jail – she manages to keep him wrapped around her nibbly fingers, and in the epilogue shows how she nicked off a little more coin and is ready for another round of cards. The proper Lady Lucy stays true to her principles and wins over the not-so-secret object of her affections, the Lord Courtly; I don’t know if I’d be so sure that he’s finished with his  rakish ways upon engagement, but at least she’s very convinced and very happy. Even the maid Alpiew gets what she wants: extra spending money by charging suitors to see her Lady Reveller, and the cute footman Buckle.

Our Lady Scientist! Click for image source.

That leaves the character Valeria. A ton of critics singled out Lady Valeria Plainman, scientist and philosopher, and with good reason. First of all that photo to the left of Emily Trask as Valeria doesn’t do her justice at all, it’s just one of the few online photos I could find of her in the role with a full face and costume view. In motion she’s more like Amy Adams playing a young Ms. Frizzle (whose first name, incidentally, is Valerie!), although this natural science enthusiast is more likely to dissect a lizard than name it Liz and keep it as a pet. To my knowledge The Scientist is not a stock character normally found in Restoration comedy, and it’s definitely not a character usually found in contemporary rom-coms. (The only example I can think of is the maybe the 1994 movie “I.Q.” which I haven’t seen.)

Valeria is a treat of a character, sort of an adorable absent-minded professor. Her enthusiasm for science and learning draws you in, and makes her likable even when she talks about using animals as test subjects. She makes no distinction between insects and mammals, which is both an unbiased approach and fairly true of real life scientists of the time period. She’s also not at all into the drama and angst of romance like her female companions, which provides a refreshing contrast to the other ladies of the play. And I love how it was reflected in her costume – even the modest Lady Lucy has a bit of a plunging neckline in keeping with fashion, but Valeria wears an academic Tudor bonnet instead of a fontange, and instead of a frilly and sparkly mantua gown Valeria normally wears what I believe is a redingote, basically a woman’s riding/hunting coat, and since they were made by tailors instead of seamstresses they had a more masculine style. Very practical, very cheeky considering her attitude towards creatures, and coded in bright blue. (Diverging here, but I loved the costume coloring for the female characters, they fit perfectly: bright and glittering red for Lady Reveller, pink and animal print for Mrs. Sago, respectable black with hints of purple and green for Lady Lucy, and striped royal purple for Alpiew.)

Froggy, do not go home with that lady. It's not a kiss she's got waiting for you in her science lab! Click for photo source.

Ever better, she’s not the 18th century girl equivalent to Sheldon Cooper – Valeria is secretly courting Ensign Lovely, a sweet guy who wants to marry her, although he’d be ecstatic if she decided to go ahead and start sleeping with him before they’re legally wed. What’s great about their relationship, besides his funny take on how to trick and win over Valeria’s father, is that Lovely doesn’t seem to dismiss her scientific interest and profession. He’s kind of grossed out at her specimens, and again, he’d REALLY like it if he could only convince her to do the horizontal gavotte, but otherwise he finds her charming and in my opinion after they’re married Valeria just keeps on experimenting and learning about the natural world and he loves her for it.

Overall I enjoyed the play and I hope one day I get to see another production of it. If you’re wondering where I got my post title from, it’s a quote from this video about “The Gaming Table,” as explained by the people who made it come to life:

Dude Watchin’ with the Brontës

In elementary school, around 4th grade, I decided to read “good” books and got about half way through “Jane Eyre” before giving up. I couldn’t take:

  1. All the untranslated French.
  2. All the moodiness and brooding of of an idealized mid-19th century romance. At least Mr. Rochester doesn’t dazzle in the sunlight, sparkling like a million Cubic Zirconia on the tiara of a toddler beauty pageant winner, the way literature’s current emo vampire lead does.
Dude Watchin' with the Brontës
Hark! a Vagrant, by Kate Beaton. Never gets old. (Click for full version.)

I’ve read the novel all the way through for school, but in my head I like to leave the story when Jane sets off for her new governess position, just as her life has taken a fortunate and open-ended turn.