Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve

It's that time of year. The last time of year.

Thank g-d.

2014 is one for the books, and I'm ok with that. It wasn't a stellar year. I'm ok to see it go.

2015 will be better. I'm hoping.

As weather goes, so far so good. Last holiday season we had subzero temps and a number of neighborhood houses with busted water pipes and totally flooded houses. Save a day or two in November, we've had no measurable snow. I can deal with that. Not to say that January - April won't suck......but we've made it through December.

I am opting not to cover highlights or lowlights of the year here. If you've read, you know need to wallow or brag (not that there is a things to boast about). I'll cover blog stats tomorrow, I'm sure.

As always, I will stay up for a while, probably watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, more for him than her. I like the way he lets down his guard and just giggles at everything.....or looks uncomfortable....or both. I'll avoid Ryan Secrest at all costs.

We will both be in bed around 22:00, no doubt. And as always, to be awakened by fireworks gunfire at the stroke of midnight.

I don't see any goals or resolutions on my horizon. I suppose I should. I suppose I even probably do, but they're not completely formulated.

My bigger concern is what to make for dinner tonight. We won't go out - it's just too busy, and we didn't plan ahead for a reservation. But I'm not above making a better than average dinner. I just need to figure out what it's gonna be and go to the store. I'm thinking of pork loin with a Dijon mustard and maple syrup glaze.

But I hope everyone here has a great NYE and a Happy New Year. More to come tomorrow. But be happy and safe tonight.

Song by: Jerry Douglas

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Year in Pictures - 2014

You know the drill (at least most of you) by now. I try to give an overview of the year in pictures.

I attempt to utilize shots I have not previously posted on this blog. I've even tried to stay away from some I've posted on FB.

January 2014 - one frickin' cold and very very very snowy day after yoga. 
Hot chocolate at Dewey's.

February 2014 - my home town, Chagrin Falls.  
And just another freezing day from a never-ending Winter 2014. 
Still it's always in interesting sight when most of the falls freeze over. 

February 2014 - frigid frigid Lake Erie. 
That small patch might be the only part of the Great Lakes not to be frozen over this last Winter.

March 2014 - Arcade Fire concert
One of the best live performances I have ever seen. 

March 2014 - my stalled modeling career.

April 2014 - my father's first hospital stay in 2014. 
It would not be his last. 

April 2014 - Blobby Football.  

May 2014 - honestly, I'm not attempting to fingerbang this more some life-sized ad in NYC. 
It was supposed to come out as a more questioning look, but that was no achieved. 

May 2014 - NYC from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

May 2014 - View from the High Line.  
I like all the lines from construction, fencing and such. 

May 2014 - apparently you can't even spell out 'farting'. Who knew!

 May 2014 - 1 World Trade. 
...and some other buildings. 

May 2014 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
I found on their site the room in which these gates reside, but it does not really talk about the gates themselves.  

June  2014 - Yoga in the Sky
Yes, whomever (I did not take the snap) used a filter, but it made the clouds look neat. 

June 2014 - Rosilee. 
Possibly the best pic I took at the I Believe in CLE event. So much for mindful meditation. 

July 2014 - Red, White & Yoga.
Getting into Plow. No - regardless of all those probable movies, I still can't reach "it".

July 2014 - Yoga Rocks the Park.
Another image not by yours truly, but of yours truly. I don't get (re)adjusted often, but this kind lady was helping me better my Locust pose.

(I like the guy in the pink top, chatting like he's just sunning himself at the beach)

August 2014 - spending my days at Hillcrest Hospital with my father. 

August 2014 - day before Gay Games 9 opened.

September 2014 - What? A guy can't appreciate a little neighbor eye-candy?

October 2014 - One of the best pics of Petey. He's an Autumn.

October 2014 - Can't ignore Sophie. Always attentive Sophie.

November 2014 - having Geoff Knox assist in getting me up into one of my first non-against the wall headstands. 

November 2014 - Tree pose at Believe in CLE at the Q
It looks like a cast of failed try-outs for A Chorus Line

November 2014 - Buddy and myself around Thanksgiving.

 December 2014 - Washington Monument as taken from the Tidal Basin.
More on our DC trip soon - I promise.

 December 2014 - Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
More on that too - soon.

December 2014 - Arlington National Cemetery.
Oddly, one of my favourite places on Earth.

December 2014 - David and myself at the opening of viBE at the 9.

That's all for the 2014 images. I foresee this happening next as well. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Year in Music - 2014

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I will give shout-outs to what I think is the best music of the past year.

Again, I have no formula on this.  It can be one or two albums or songs - or it can be 10. Rarely can I find 10 "good" albums, but can usually must up that number for songs.

So here we go........

Album of the Year

The year was full of marginal music best.  While I liked some of the music, overall, the albums lacked consistency and cohesion. Some of them even lacked talent.

I have to go with Damien Rice

For me, My Favourite Faded Fantasy was the best disk of 2014. It was a late comer, but for all the music I acquired this last year, it stands out more than any of the others. And most importantly, I really dig it. 

However, I do have my two runners-up. 

Rosanne Cash's the River & the Thread was my top pick, up until Rice's November release. Cash still has a good disk - and it's landing in many top 10 (or top 5....sometimes even the top spot) critic's choices for the year. 

I can't believe I haven't even had an opportunity to review Chrissie Hynde's Stockholm yet. Probably it will be my January RotM selection. It's a really good disk, not that I'd expect too much crap from Hynde - at least that wasn't "I'll Stand By You".  {shudder}

Songs of the Year (in no particular order)

I'm a little all over the board here. Some Americana, Bluegrass, Pop.....but that's just me. You won't find me picking Speed Metal or Opera, so you're safe on that front.

I don't think it's coincidence that most of my selections, and the accompanying videos, are live takes of their studio counterparts. It goes to show how strong the material and artists actually are.

"the Long Way Home" - from Rosanne Cash's album the River and the Thread.

Just Cash and her husband's (John Leventhal) guitar and it still works. No studio trickery. The song has a very Bobbi Gentry bent and it works.

"Destination" - from Nickel Creek's album A Dotted Line.

Their first new recorded music in over seven years - and was a contender for my Album of the Year.

I dig "Destination" in this NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance. It's better than the album version or other live YouTube clips that are out there. But since this video just not this song, you really only have to listen to the first four minutes or so.

The video is a little disconcerting to me. The band, while still "youngsters", have been together for 25 years, know each other so well that during the first song there is almost no, if any, connection between each other. It's like they're high functioning Asperger folks, but in reality have just worked together so long they don't need visual cues. Still - great talents, great musicians, good harmonies.

Lots of good picks from Rice's disk, but I keep coming back to "the Box'. The disk version has a swelling string section as the song goes on - which is impressive. But you see that the basic, live song is just as strong.

The only one of a My Music Monday selection to make it to this list. Suzanne Vega and her live version of "I Never Wear White".  It is much better than her album version (imho) and this is better than her other live versions.

I think the reasons for that is that Vega is generally an acoustic guitar artists and the studio and other versions are electric guitar and it makes a nuanced song less so.

"Come Unto Me" - the Mavericks from their album, In Time.

Yes, it's from a live performance in 2012, but it wasn't released until sometime in 2013 and it stretched into my 2014 playlist.

I love the group, though this last disk was very Mariachi-y. "Come Unto Me" was a little less so and with a more cajun influence. ...and the accordionist in the video is kind of dreamy.  ...and singer Raul Malo still has one of the best voices out there.

"Happy" - by Pharrell Williams

Because it's still fun to listen to.

I'm sure I'm missing stuff, but it's a good slice.

What are your favourite songs / albums from 2014?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Out of the Woods

Since we are gay - or at least gay enough - it seems to be in the homosexual by-laws that one must go to see Into the Woods.

I mean, that's pretty fucking gay - and this is coming from someone who has seen Madonna in concert. Once.

I was torn on this one. I mean, I love just about anything Meryl Streep does. And I like Anna Kendrick enough.

If we're being honest here, Emily Blunt's career probably peaked in the Devil Wears Prada (thought I did like Wild Target, which was on PBS).

And Chris Pine's popularity will never surpass his groundbreaking role in Unstoppable.

Nahhhh. I kid. I kid.  That movie sucked balls.

As I've said before - I like the idea of Stephen Sondheim more than I actually like his work. He seems like an affable man - and a smart one. Well spoken. He clearly has talent. I've said before, he has a way with a lyric and phrasing, but at time his music can be......just ok. For its quirkiness, after a while, it has a predictability to it. By his own admission, he's not "hummable" - that is kind of what you want when listening to a frickin' musical. When he branches out into being a playwright the entire project can be dicey.

Let's add to it that Rob Marshall - that big queen - directed the movie. Chicago was ok, though nothing outstanding (I don't care that is has an Oscar - so does Anne Hathaway!). Nine and Memoirs of a Geisha suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked. so it's not like he has a great track record either.

So here we were, a Friday evening with friends, committed to some movie and Into the Woods it was. A Disney film, at that.

But it was this movie or the Interview - and I feel Sony has duped lots of people into seeing a less than mediocre movie, by blowing up a what was probably a small story into a huge P.R. feat. By all accounts that movie just blows.

I've never seen the play, so I can't get into the difference or the song(s) they cut. Frankly, I don't care. Honestly, I "liked" one song. I had to look it up, but it's called "Your Fault". Besides being one of my creeds, it was the most cleverly arranged songs of the movie.

I won't get into the details of the movie, but it is basically a mash-up of three or four Grimm's Fairy Tales. Most of them fit into each other, but the Rapunzel one just is there brief need and then that storyline goes almost nowhere. And by almost, I mean, it goes nowhere.

Streep is fine, but it's not an Oscar worthy performance. Blunt is fine. Kendrick is better. Pine looks great, and maybe it is his actual singing voice, but it doesn't quite seem real. James Corden was probably the stand-out. Well, him and Frances de la Tour as the female giant.

I'm not sure Johnny Depp doesn't always look like he did and his song was just plain creepy. His delivery that is - though I get it was supposed to be. Christine Baranski basically plays every fucking role Christine Baranski has ever played since being in Cybil (save maybe the Good Wife).

The kid who plays Jack is a little annoying and over the top  The girl playing Red Riding Hood a little less so (but always trying to play to the back of the room) - though it seemed to me her one solo song is about getting fucked sex. Am I wrong?

"But he drew me close 
And he swallowed me down
Down a dark slimy path 
Where lie secrets that I never want to know
I really got scared
Well, excited and scared"

Ick. I mean, she's like 11.

I saw the ending coming a mile away - and a good 40 minutes away at that. But it's predictable Broadway made into film, so there's nothing surprising about that. You don't really fuck with formula. And while many a review will say that Sondheim is trying to say there isn't always a happy ending - it kind of ends up with a happy ending.

Of course Disney loves this shit - there isn't a mother in sight.....or at least not for long. It's like every Disney animated movie. Visually, the movie and sets are not bad at all.

Overall, the movie was fine. I didn't find it outstanding. But the reality is, if you don't like musicals (Morty!) - and I'm borderline at best - this isn't really the movie for you.

2014 Movie Count / Goal:   11 of 12

Song by: Nickel Creek

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Animal Instinct

It's Petey Porn and Sophie Smut Day. Holiday Edition.

There are also extended family pets involved too. Buddy, my mother's cat and Pippa, my niece's cat.

 Sophie - xmas morning. I missed the pic when she got a bag stuck on her head. 

Even a sick puppy is the model of a 'good dog' for a nice vet with a treat in hand.
He got the reward. Several times. 

Buddy trying to 'catch' the rain. 

My niece's cat, Pippa in my sister's tree. 

One Mr. Pete very interested in a tub of ornaments. This is out of character for him. 

Buddy in front of a small tree my mother has on an entertainment console. 

The blue stuff? Tape (sticky side up). It is meant as a deterrent to keep Buddy off the console. She navigates around each piece like she's in the Hurt Locker. 

Peek-a-Boo Pippa

Vocal Sophie. She's a talker. 

That's it for this week. Can't overdo it on the cuteness. You guys can't handle it.

Song by: the Cranberries

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cucumber Jam

For our holiday appetizer for my mother's gathering, I don't think 710 and I could have planned it more wrong. There was a lot of hemming and hawing on what to bring or make and then time just kind of was running out. Quickly, at that.

710 searched 'easy appetizers' and off we went with Cucumber Cups with Creamy Salmon Whip.

Technically, it was not salmon mousse....but all I could think about was one of the last scenes from Monty Python's the Meaning of Life. If you've seen the movie, you know of which I speak.

Yet save for lox, I'm not a fan of salmon. And 710 doesn't like cucumber.

But it's not about what we want or what we like. It's not even about what they like. It's about what looks good. How to make the straight folks "oooh and ahhh" over what you bring.

....and I'm not sure we even accomplished that. I mean, these were family straights - not the neighborhood ones, who are more easily impressed by the homos on the block.

Still, it was relatively easy and we lifted the recipe from Ellie Krieger - whom we liked whenever we'd catch her show, but never actually saw anything I wanted to make of hers. She always seemed nice, but a judgmental nice if you went for anything with fat in it.

This has no fat in it....or almost none.

Skim Milk - 1T
Low Fat Cottage Cheese - 1/2 cup
Whipped Cream Cheese - 1/4 cup
English Cucumbers - 2
Lemon Juice - 1T
Smoked Salmon - 4oz
Scallions (white parts only) - 4
Chives - 1T
White Pepper - pinch

 Add milk and cottage cheese to food processor. Run until it is smooth. 

 Add salmon, lemon juice, cream cheese, scallions and pepper. Process again - until smooth. 

 Like this. 

Cut cucumbers 3/4" thick. Scoop out enough to make a cup, but be careful not to go all the way through. My suggestion is after you scoop, place cup side down as the cukes will drain some of their excess water away.  

We then scooped the "mousse" into a plastic sandwich bag, clipped a corner and piped into the cucumber cups. Oh yes, I said 'piped", because we are that gay......or can be.  

...and then topped with some cut chives. 

They looked good. I didn't care for the taste, but again, it is a salmon thing with me.

Everyone claims t have enjoyed them, but about one-third went uneaten. Keep in mind we had another set of these with about half as many as you see here.  ...and there was a lot of food to be tested.

Would I do it again for our neighborhood block party? Possibly. People love that kind of shit. I'm just not one of them.

Song by:  Tommy Bolin

Thursday, December 25, 2014

a Dollar Short of Happy

I hope everyone had, or is having, a nice holiday today.

Our tree this year is pretty much a metaphor for the year itself. Or at least the holiday season.

Slightly sad. Slightly off-kilter.

I'm sure it could be a plethora of reasons, but I've had a harder time getting into any good cheer. And g-d knows, decorating went by the wayside.

The tree is a little smaller than usual, but the selections weren't that great - at least not compared to what they were charging. And we had no good cut to place a star - hence the droopiness.

Don't start me on the lights burning out.

And the tree was all we did. Nothing else came out of the basement and actually we were fine with that.

Everything was left until later in the season and then everything felt rushed or we just opted to let certain things go. We did do cards this year. That's always been a spotty commitment for me, sad to say.

The week before the holiday, we went to Washington DC for fun, frolic and food (more on that in a later post) and then to visit 710's parents.

We got back right before the holiday. See - the beauty of the blog is you can pre-write stuff and have it schedule to publish. Or if you're me, you could forget to hit 'publish' and then get a text from Morty telling me there was no blog posting. Ooops.

I'd say 85% of my getting presents for nieces and nephews happened two days ago. And it didn't bode well for me that I worried Petey was getting sick again.

Yesterday started off at the vet. I was 90% sure he was having a bad bought of tracheitis, but since he has been so susceptible to pneumonia, and we were going into a holiday, we didn't take the chance. Ruckiry (not Jon's boss), his lungs were clear, but his trachea was and is bone dry. The dry air isn't helping, so he's on additional steroids and a cough narcotic. And we have gotten the vaporizer out for him.

The 24th was our day - as you might remember from years past. It is my mother's and a brother-in-law's birthday. We just do a joint celebration - which until this year also included my dad's birthday too. Lots of food and never enough booze - mostly because I know I have to drive home and can't be that inebriated, and it's not worth staying over my mom's house, love her though I might.

Actually, the drive home sucked. Winds were gusting at 60 miles per hour and it was hard keeping the car steady. All I needed was to be stopped for wreckless driving because of wind and get a DUI.

There was a lot of food, as always, but this year, I can't say I enjoyed most of it - including what we made and brought (more on that in a later post). That's not to say I didn't fill up on crap. And beer.

Who knows what today holds.

Perhaps a movie. Perhaps Chinese food for dinner. Sadly, probably some laundry.

710, Petey, Sophie and I will lounge around this morning. Someone is getting a water buffalo horn, because he was so good......and no, it's not 710. But we're happy just to watch him and make sure he's resting comfortably and recovering nicely.

Of course, 710 and I will exchange our gifts. It's a low-key day for us and that's just fine.

And this weekend should be good. Heading to see friends - even if it is just for a day.

Anyhoo......everyone have a great day. A great holiday.

Song by: Nick Lowe