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A "Five" you can get behind

This (well, by now, last) week's Friday Five, cryptically entitled "My Dreams They Aren’t as Empty as My Conscience Seems to Be," all seem to feature behind-ness in some way. That fits, since i am behind in answering them, having been out of town all weekend.

Enjoy!

1. What's got you behind the 8-ball?
Before answering the question, I decided to do a little looking up, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I've been using that idiom wrong ... and it turns out that I have been. "Behind the 8-ball" doesn't mean "behind schedule" after all, and that's a shame, because I could have filled a post with a long list of answers to *that* question. It actually means "in a precarious position," and at the moment I don't think there's any particular event that has propelled me into that spot.

I mean, I could say in general that my lack of a PhD has me behind the 8-ball with respect to job security, or that my lack of a pension plan has me behind the 8-ball with respect to retirement, but neither of those things is news (and only the former is a pressing issue at this moment).

2. Who would you like to see a VH-1-Behind-the-Music-style documentary about?
Before answering the question, I decided to do a little looking up, because I have never seen an episode of Behind the Music. The show's Wikipedia article includes a list of artists and bands who've been profiled to date, and I was surprised not to find Harry Nilsson on there. From what I gathered, the program's point was to profile people who not only had musical success, but also made enough dubious choices to qualify for the voyeur treatment; and that's surely Harry! The beautiful tenor voice ravaged from hard living, the idiosyncratic and un-commercial choices throughout his career, the bad-boy Lennon friendship, the unwillingness to do concerts, the doomed London apartment, the drinking and drugs, the has-been years (the Popeye movie!), the bankruptcy, the early death -- it kinda writes itself, which I believe is the idea.

And, what do you know? There *is* an independently produced Nilsson documentary available on DVD, and I think it pretty much does what the VH-1 show would have done (though perhaps with more of a bias in favor of the artist). I'll have to watch it some time.

Oh, you know who I'd like to see that they'd never do, because he's an opera guy? My long-time favorite baritone Bryn Terfel. I think there's definitely a story there.

3. What are you likely to find behind your sofa?
Nothing. Our living room is arranged so that no sofa back is against a wall. Now, *under* the sofa, I expect you'd find the usual coins and dust balls and pencils and bits of paper.

4. What's something you'd like to put behind you this year?
Something bad from last year? I can't think of much. The adjustment to living with son and wife was harder than I anticipated, so maybe any buried resentment from that.

5. What's something you don't want to eat if there's no ketchup?
I guess a hamburger would be hard to eat without ketchup. I could make do with mustard only on a hot dog (which is the only other food I take ketchup on), but a burger would have to have some other wet and umami-savory topping -- say, sauteed onions -- before I would not miss the ketchup.

On the other hand ...

This week's Friday Five are about ... well, gosh, I'm not sure *how* to sum up the theme! In each question, you're being asked to look at something twice. The question-master titled the set "There and back," but I think that might be misleadingly hobbit-y. See what you think.

1. What's the worst thing about something (or someone) you like?
So, I really, really like this Sherlockian hobby that I'm into. For 25 years, beginning in adolescence, I was a solitary (but very informed) devotee of the Holmes stories and the culture I knew had been built up in celebration of them; then, when the turn of the millennium brought us home internet access, I joined a few online fan groups; finally, a couple years after the Man left me and I was in search of a pastime untainted by association with "us," I joined a real-life club. It has been as much fun as I might have hoped, and -- not even a decade into this phase of my fandom -- I'm a regular attendee at as many Holmes events as I can afford. Moreover, I know and am known by a lot of the Sherlockian Cool Kids ... and that brings me to the aspect of the community that I don't like so much. Oh, don't misunderstand: I'm crazy about the individual Cool Kids as people. I just think it's a shame that there's a designated echelon of them, because once you get close enough to feel the gravitational tug of that core group, it's hard to resist the temptation to compete with your fellow just-outsiders for a coveted invitation to the inside. As nice as it seems like it'd be to be tapped, I am still ashamed every time I catch myself acting calculatedly.

2. What's the best thing about something (or someone) you dislike?
He's extremely and unselfishly committed to the organization we are both a part of. And, as I make myself remember that, I like him better.

3. What's something best done in reverse order?
I suppose a lot of people would say, "Life is short; eat dessert first." However, I don't really want anything sweet before a meal, so it's not better for me.

Okay, how about this: for the classic "dinner and a movie" date, I think it's better to reverse the order and do "a movie, then dinner." It means eating a little late, but you'd definitely have something to talk about over the meal!

4. What's something you wish you could unsee or unknow?
I've made the "ooh, I'll never unsee that" remark before, but always humorously. There's nothing that really haunts my dreams on the visual front. But I believe I alluded in an earlier post to losing a little faith in a few of my heroes (two literary, one cinematic) after over-researching their lives and finding out about each of their little-known extra-marital affairs. All of said heroes were male, and all had children with their wives. In two of the cases, devotion to spouse and family was a big part of the man's public persona, while in the third case, the wife was ill and the "other woman" married. Go ahead, call me judgy for caring; perhaps I am. But it doesn't come from a place of naivete. I'm fully aware that I live in a world where not everyone shares my values (not to mention my worst triggers). I'm also aware that no one, myself included, is perfect. I guess it's just that these were people I'd already been hero-worshiping when I learned the things I learned, and I'm a girl who needs her heroes to be heroic. If I could just unknow the unfortunate info, I could still admire the respective dudes without the inconvenience of mental asterisks.

Maybe I should stop choosing only authors and artists as heroes ... or stop having heroes altogether?

5. What's the most recently released movie you've seen more than once?
Ant-Man and the Wasp. Number Three and I saw it in the theatre back in July; then Two, who had been too busy changing jobs and planning his wedding to have any fun over the summer, acquired the DVD and we all watched it together at home in November. Although I usually like a bit more space between re-watches of a thing, I found it no less enjoyable the second time.
[Check out my Year-in-review !]

New Years Meme 2018

And now, as my remaining long-time reader has been waiting for, it's the end-of-2018 edition of that New Year's meme that I've been filling out every year for longer than I can prove (some posts having disappeared in the Purge of Aught-ten). Over the years, I've added one or two prompts to the question set, and I've deleted others for which I could never, ever think of an answer). See if you can spot this year's addition.

Ready to wrap up a year? Here goes!Collapse )

The end is nigh ...

This week's Friday Five calls for comments on Last Things. Here are mine.

1. As the year comes to a close, what are you looking back upon most fondly?
Some really fun Sherlockian events, especially the one I attended in Poughkeepsie in June (new friends were made, G & S was sung, and on both the outgoing and return journeys I stopped in NYC to see museums). Is that a pathetic answer, or a refreshingly honest one? Remember, this was the year in which one of my sons got married, moved in with me, and announced that he and his wife were expecting my first grandchild.

2. What do you do with the end slices on a loaf of sandwich bread?
I use them in sandwiches, like the other slices (and happy is the day when both heels are available and I can make a double-crust sandwich!). They are the best part of the bread for everything except possibly toasting (only because they're curved and thus don't cook evenly in a toaster), but I've been know to toast them anyhow.

3. What in your residence is approaching its last days?
I'm not sure I want to tempt fate here. Last time I answered a Friday Five question about what thing I was surprised was still going strong, I named my 15-year-old heat pump ... and within a couple weeks it had given up the ghost! The fact is, all of my appliances -- except the replacement heap pump, of course -- are pretty, er, mature, and no breakdown would utterly shock me. But I'm thinking the closest to death would be either my upstairs toilet or the fridge. Each is more than 30 years old and very inefficient (though now that I've started using a slightly less cold setting on the fridge, it has stopped making a hideous noise and shuddering at the end of every temperature cycle). The toilet may be in more critical shape: its flush mechanism, various bits of which have been replaced over the years, is pretty wonky. You have to use just the right amount of pressure on the handle, and then not go anywhere till it stops running, just in case.

4. What would be an appropriate cherry on top of your 2018 in these final days?
Performing well at the New Years Eve gig I unwisely accepted. I'll be the only hack among some very good musicians. (A friend got me the spot. People should stop being nice to me -- it's going to give me an ulcer!)

5. What (or who) has a fantastic tail?
One of Number Two Son's cats has a pretty agile one. He hates to have it touched, I've learned.

'Tis a puzzlement

That I've done this week's Friday Five must mean I have turned in this semester's grades. Hooray!.

1. What are some pencil-and-paper puzzles you enjoy?
Midweek-level NYT crosswords are fun. For a Sunday edition, it's nice to have a collaborator.

2. What are some video (or computer or mobile app) puzzle games you’ve enjoyed?
I used to love Tetris, but the (now-defunct) version I played on our old computer so imprinted on my soul that other ones look alien to me. On my phone, the puzzliest thing I play is a word search game called Word Academy.

3. When did you last work on a jigsaw puzzle?
Over 15 years ago, I'll bet. The Man used to love to do one on New Years Eve.

4. What’s puzzling you right now?
Making a late-50s career switch. There has to be a way, but I can't figure how.

5. Who is the most enigmatic person you know?
The Man, I guess. I still don't understand why he did it or how he can live with himself. My new daughter-in-law is also hard to figure out. I'd like to be friends, but maybe that won't happen till they don't live with me and aren't (evidently) having to hold in constant frustration with my quirks and deficiencies. *sigh*

Holiday Mix

This week's Friday Five is titled "I Spy," but I'm not sure about the theme. Eye-catching things?

1. How do you feel about candy sprinkles (on ice cream, doughnuts, cupcakes, or whatever)?
If something's going to disrupt the otherwise smooth texture of a dessert, it has to be worth it. Sprinkles are not. (That said, I think my child self made an exception for chocolate jimmies.)

2. Where's a good place to look at Christmas lights?
Are we talking light shows, or just rows of decorated houses? Oddly, I don't know *any* special places for the latter. I mean, I know they exist, out there somewhere, but I don't know where. I've always lived in suburban tract housing -- dull neighborhoods where there was no concerted effort regarding such things -- and my family has no tradition of going out in search of them.

Now, light shows, on the other hand ... My church does a Christmas light show, set to music, that is big and busy and flash-y (in the on-and-off sense of the word) enough, IMO, to induce seizures even in a non-epileptic. (Agree?). The story told to me was that it used to be on some ordinary citizen's property, where it was the kind of thing that routinely made the local news (and YouTube), but it got too big and disruptive for his neighbors, so he and my pastor arranged to transfer it to the church. The original tens of thousands of lights on a single house & front lawn made for an effect so dazzling it could probably be seen from space; spread out on a church's campus, however, the effect was initially less stunning. But we've been doing it for six years, adding tens of thousands of lights each year, so that now it's quite the thing. Honestly, I can't understand how it might make *anyone* think about the spiritual side of Christmas -- and I wasn't kidding about the seizure aspect -- but lots and lots of people come to look at it, so I am clearly the oddball.

[Full disclosure -- I just looked up the guy who designed and donated the initial materials for our light show, and it appears that he still does a super-spectacular home display involving not only his, but his near neighbors' lawns. I guess the story we got was the made-for-TV version, with amped-up drama.]

For a Disney-esque light spectacle that didn't have me wishing for anticonvulsants, I'll take the Saks Fifth Avenue display I saw a couple years ago. So good, and right across from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

3. What's a good idea for a drive-through service or product that doesn’t yet exist?
You can already get food, banking, prescriptions, and library return service at a drive-up window. Since food, money, medicine, and books are the only important things, what's left? I have no good ideas, but here are some that really exist.

4. How confident a parallel parker are you?
On a scale of 1-10, about a 6.5. Okay, maybe a 7. But no higher than a 7.5. :-) You had to be able to do it to get a license in my state in my day (though not anymore), and I always parallel park if it's an option, just so I don't forget how. But I'm not one of those single-turn-of-the-wheel, super-slider-inners; just an average Jane who doesn't get many opportunities to practice.

5. How much plaid do you own?
I am wearing a plaid nightgown right now, but for a girl from a large Scottish-American family that revels in all those ersatz ex-pat manifestations of said heritage (bagpipe music, Highland Games gatherings, Kenneth McKellar recordings (<< you really must click on that link), online-ordered meat pies and bridies, tartan accessories), not very much. Along with the nightie, I have maybe a skirt, a scarf, and a thermos.

Totally tubular

Potato, po-tah-to; any way you slice it, this week's Friday Five went up too late for me to post yesterday. Here, a day late, are the starchy questions and my responses:

1. What's your favorite dish in which potatoes are a supporting ingredient (and not the star)?
Shepherd's Pie. That said, I know it's possible to top a Shepherd's Pie with enough spuds to reverse the prominence of them and the meat. This was a favorite trick of my erstwhile spouse, and, for all I know, that's how it was routinely done back in the day when meat was a scarcer commodity.

2. What is your favorite type of french fry?
Wedges, aka seasoned potato wedges, aka Western fries, preferably either from KFC or Royal Farms. Though we often refer to them as "Western" fries here in Maryland, I've heard people say that they're an East-Coast thing (what? No KFCs out West?). Anyhow, we're talking potatoes cut into wedges, then coated in a thin, seasoned batter, and then usually deep-fried. The Internet abounds with copy-cat recipes.

3. How did you last use a potato in your cooking?
I have not cooked a potato in forever (so, three years?). I was on Weight Watchers for over a year and a half and never found potatoes to be worth the "points" they cost, so I kinda dropped them from my diet. And even though I'm not doing the program anymore, I haven't re-incorporated potatoes into my home kitchen.

4. What's your favorite potato chip?
Salt and vinegar kettle chips. These are good. That said, if I'm going to be dipping them, plain Ruffles are fine.

5. What's a word you pronounce differently from the way most people around you pronounce it?
"News." I say "nyooz"; everyone I know says "nooz." It's only an issue when I'm directing a choir and I have to instruct them to do it my way so that (1) we all sound the same, (2) we all sound correct.

Off-kilter

I'm three days late on this, so no one will see it, but here are my responses to the most recent Friday Five:

1. What actor or actress would you like to see in a film genre he or she has never attempted?
I like it when comedians go serious, but I don't have a specific per--- Wait! Has Neil Patrick Harris played a straight-up dramatic lead in a film or on TV? It seems to me he's mostly been about the comedy, exaggerated character parts, self-parody, music, and the stage-y stuff. His out-sized, inherently ironic style seems particularly suited to the stage, so perhaps he's already gone serious there? Anyhow, I'd like to see him try it on film.

2. When did you recently see something beautiful in an unexpected place?
One should expect beauty everywhere, because that's the surest way to find it, right? That said, I sometimes get wowed by street art that comes out of nowhere when I'm walking in NY, but that's not a very specific answer. Hmm ... I'll get back to you.

3. In what way is someone you really admire flawed?
How about Michael Moore? I love his documentaries and his POV, but he can come across as a crackpot, and (based on the Q-and-A from the time I saw him in person) I don't think it's all "antic disposition."

Also, I have hero-worshiped a couple of authors, plus one actor, who I later found out cheated on their respective wives, which is a super-trigger for me. But I don't like to name them here, because they were all from a time when you didn't necessarily become famous for this (but I just happen to know about it, due to too much research).

And now there's Neil deGrasse Tyson. For a smart guy, he's not been so bright about women (and how to act around them so you aren't super-creepy/super-creepy-seeming -- whichever one it is).

4. In what situation did you recently find yourself utterly out of your element?
Before I saw the word "recently," I was going to say, "At my first job out of college, the cubicle one working for the Army. It was the worst, and I was the worst at it." But that was 35 years ago, so, in the words of the great Emily Litella, "Never mind."

But hmm ... recently? I currently have three jobs, and it feels like 90% of my waking time is divided among them, so I would have to have been doing something rogue during the other 10% in order to get myself into an unfamiliar (& therefore uncomfortable) sort of situation...

ETA: Okay, thought of something. Last weekend I played the piano for a Handel's Messiah sing-along. I was asked to do it by my old chorus, and frankly I figured it was because they were too poor to afford someone good. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a decent general musician and an okay hack pianist, and I don't undervalue those skills in myself, but it takes something a little more to do justice to those stupid orchestral-reduction accompaniments. I expressed my reservations and was assured I was just what they wanted, so I said "yes." And the whole thing was fun and went all right, but I was correct: doing actual justice to it was beyond my hack skills.

I didn't name this at first because a Messiah sing-along really *is* my element, if any context is! However, musically, I was in over my head, and I only didn't feel super-bad about it because I'd discussed it ahead of time and am confident that I went in a known quantity to the group, whose director enthusiastically expressed her satisfaction with the concert immediately afterward.

5. What implement do you use in a manner unintended by its designer?
I've hemmed a skirt with duct tape, which may be one of the intended uses of the tape, but probably violates the intentions of clothing manufacturers everywhere. And I have used half of the long pointy things I own, including scissors and knives, as emergency back-scratchers.

The game's afoot (but not that way)

Given my Sherlockian proclivities, there's no way I'm not going to respond to a Friday Five prompt called "The Game's Afoot," even though it is mostly about walking (and I'm not much about any kind of physical exertion).

1. Where's a nice place to take a walk?
New York City, by which I generally mean Manhattan. Some of my favorite walks taken there in the past five years have included


2. What do your everyday shoes look like nowadays?
My work/church shoes are a pair of practical, squarish, black Clarks loafers that go with either a skirt or trousers (but which, alas, look like army boots when paired with a dressy dress). At any given time, I own two identical pairs, so it takes twice as long till they start looking shabby. They are comfortable and give great support (unfortunately, I can't marry them).

However, when I know I'm going to be doing serious walking, I don't wear my everyday shoes. Instead, the current walking shoes are a pair of Skechers "Shape-Ups" cross-trainers (the ones with the turned-up, "rocking" heel -- which, yes, I know doesn't *really* give your glutes the automatic work-out the ads promise). They *are* looking a little shabby, though, so it might be time to replace.

3. What separates a good pedicure from a bad one?
It's the quality of the calf & foot massage. The grooming part is gravy; the massage is the reason to go out and pay a stranger to touch your feet.

4. When did you last go for a hike?
Hahahahahahahaha. Unless you call my Manhattan treks hiking (and sometimes they feel that way), then I genuinely can't recall. 1991?

5. What's a good song with the word "walk" in its title?
Well, gosh. I *was* going to pick The Pretenders' weirdly ingratiating "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," because, until I just now looked it up, I actually thought its title was "I Would Walk 500 Miles." Okay, then, others I like that *do* meet the qualification include

  • "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Rodgers & Hamerstein) -- This one's hard to sing well, IMO, and I'm frankly amazed at the number of recording artists who've taken a stab at it!
  • "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" (gospel hymn) -- A strong sentimental favorite (my grandfather loved it), but even when I listen "objectively," I'm in.
  • "Baby Elephant Walk" (Henry Mancini) -- Is it cheating to choose one without lyrics? I've loved this novelty instrumental since I played an E-Z version in piano lessons as a kid.
  • "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk" (Irving Berlin) -- The break-out hit from from the ill-fated Miss Liberty, it's fun to listen to from the cast album because it shows what a good singer Eddie Albert was in his prime.
  • "I'm Walkin'" (Fats Domino) -- Do I need a reason? Some things are just insanely catchy.

What's that you say? You think those choices seem deliberately -- nay, perversely -- retro? Well, respond I, just whose blog did you think you were reading? ;-)

Up in the air

Today's Friday Five ask about my in-flight experiences. They are few and dull, but here goes:

1. How do you feel about passengers riding in front of you reclining their seats?
I don't love it, but I don't have long legs, so it doesn't ruin my flight or anything.

2. What single aspect of airplane flight do you dislike the most?
Duh. It's the knowing that you are up in the sky in a hunk of metal that gravity would just love to get its hands on.

3. What was your longest flight on an airplane?
My longest flights have all been standard transatlantic hops from some northeastern U.S. airport straight to London (the most recent of which was made in 1998). Oh, yeah, and back. Now, I'd've guessed they each lasted six hours at most, but when I just now looked it up, the Internet said that a flight to London comprises about eight hours in the air when you start in Washington, and seven & a half hours out of NYC. What's more, you're in the air a half-hour longer for the return journey!

That makes my longest flight, presuming that conditions were similar in 1985, about eight and a half hours.

4. What's your favorite way to pass the time on a long flight?
Reading. Barring that, sleeping. In a pinch, conversation. Last choice would be a movie, since they usually aren't very good. (Remember, my last long flight was in '98. Back in the day, one film was shown to everyone; there were no individual selections or screens. I've heard it's spiffier now.)

5. What are the best and worst things you've eaten on a plane or in an airport?
Best: a SwissAir (London to D.C.) in-flight meal of salmon with hollandaise sauce & steamed veggies. Worst? Gosh, I don't remember ever hating an airline meal. Then again, I think I've only flown, like, about 20 times, and not all were flights with meals. And I don't tend to eat in airports -- too expensive.

Quote

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you." -- Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

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