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Yearly Archives: 2015
My Top Five of 2015
Another 525,600 minutes have come and gone. (Okay, so there’s a few hours left.) Time to reflect on the past year. Aside from the day to day, ordinary activities–much of which provide many unexpected special moments; there are those stand-out things that make the year unique.
Here’s my list for 2015:
Movies. I started the year watching a lot of independent films on Netflix and with Amazon Prime. There’s quite a bit out there to explore. Some are quite creative and unique. Others are just good old fashioned story-telling. And of course, there are many that are downright terrible. I didn’t keep track of how many I watched but I’m sure it was over fifty.
Michael and I saw quite a few main stream movies this year as well. For years I’ve avoided going to movie theaters because people can be so rude and annoying. We found though, if you go to the first showing of the day; you can avoid most of that. Plus, our local theater just replaced all their seating with recliners and reserved seating. Very comfortable and convenient.
We’ve seen probably a couple dozen movies in the theater this year. I don’t remember much of what we saw– so many were either bad or just okay. I have to admit that the best film I saw this year was one I had dreaded going to see. Quentin Tarantino’s The H8ful Eight is glorious story-telling. We saw it Christmas Day at one of the 98 theaters presenting the movie in the 70mm road show edition. I can’t say I miss film over digital but the work itself is pretty fantastic. It was the last and best film we saw this year.
I also should mention I really enjoyed (for different reasons) The Age of Adaline, Trainwreck and Get Hard; all released this year and all of which I saw while flying overseas.
Politics. The abnormally early start to the Presidential campaign has been impossible to escape. Much of it has left me dumbfounded. I don’t want to offend anyone (at the moment) by spouting my political views. I just want to say that this election cycle can best be described as the worst, bottom of the barrel, reality TV possible. No one could write this stuff.
It’s not just national politics that gets me worked up. I’ve spent a lot of time this year following local politics as well. You know what? It isn’t any better.
The bottom line is that you can’t trust politicians. Even the supposed good ones. They all publicly support or oppose one thing– and the turn around and quietly vote the opposite way. Too much talk –too little action. Action that doesn’t back up the talk. Why is it so hard to find an honest politician? (Insert joke here.)
Reading. I used to love to read. This year I challenged myself to read 20 books. I’m ending the year having read 96 books! I know, I know– why didn’t I push to finish 100? That wasn’t the point. Returning to one of my great loves was the thing.
I started reviewing books as well. Goodreads, Amazon and NetGalley are my prime target audiences. Goodreads continuously has book giveaways called First Read giveaways. I was fortunate to win 9 books in 2015.
In August I wrote about my three top favorites and they remain my favorites now at the end of the year. You can read about them here and here.
I don’t know how I let myself get away from reading. Whether for entertainment or education– I have really missed the world of books.
You don’t even have to spend a lot of money on books if this is your passion. There are many places online where you can find free books waiting to be read. I know I’ll be reading many more in the coming year.
Published. One of my bucket list items has always been to be a published author. That dream came true in October with the publication of my play, The House of Evil.
It is available in print and digital formats through Amazon and a number of retailers. You can purchase it by clicking here for print or here for digital.
The House of Evil is also available for production throughout the world.
Though I’ve had the satisfaction of completing a number works– this finally allows me to claim the title of published author. Which is pretty exciting.
I have written a number of things over the years that I also hope to eventually have published. I’m currently in the preliminary stage, planning a book on Christmas decorating; and I have a new novel in the works.
My play, September’s Heroes will be published early in 2016.
Eighteen Days in Southeast Asia. Traveling to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore was the biggest thing of the year for many reasons.
It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The people, the history, the cultural differences– were all enlightening and overwhelming. It was a whirlwind stimulation of the senses.
We spent many hours over the months leading up to our adventure- planning and researching, to make the most of our trip. Hours very well spent. All the pre-planning and anticipation were half the fun but certainly didn’t come close to the amazing experience itself.
If you haven’t already, you can read my day-to-day blog posts starting here. I’m really glad I have the blog as record of our trip. Along with the thousands of pictures I took, it helps trigger many memories I might otherwise forget.
Next stop? Italy in 2016.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
The Haunting Faces of Angkor Thom: A Photo Essay
Angkor Thom was probably my favorite location of all that we visited in Southeast Asia. There’s an aura that is simply magical. I found myself standing– high up amongst the faces in the ruins– and I got kind of emotional. How incredibly lucky was I to actually be standing there? It was one of those moments that words fail. Hopefully, these images will explain it all.
Angkor Wat in Black & White: A Photo Essay
Here are some more images from our visit to Angkor Wat, Siem Riep, Cambodia. I did filter them to age them. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world– visiting here is a must! Photos can only go so far in bringing the awe-factor through the lens.
Too Little Time in Singapore
Southeast Asia Travel -11/15 – Day Seventeen: Packed and ready to go, our suitcases outside our door, we were ready to disembark Le Soleal for the last time. We had to go through immigration and customs in Singapore before we could take the shuttle to our hotel.
We arrived at Raffles Singapore and were escorted through the magnificent lobby to a waiting area on the second floor while the staff checked everyone in. Our rooms wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon so we headed out to start touring the city with only one day to take in as much as we could.
Instead of taking a planned tour, we had already planned to use the hop on hop off bus to see Singapore with our friends George and Mary, who were staying a couple extra days. We decided we could either settle on seeing just a couple things; or by taking the bus around the city instead, we could at least get a nice overview. I think we made the right decision.
We rode the first line and then went back to the hotel to get settled in our room.
I could go on and on about the Raffles Singapore. It is the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The hotel itself (built in 1887) is massive and elegant. Our room was huge! The bathroom alone was almost as big as our room on the ship had been. Michael and I were both disappointed we could only enjoy Raffles for one night.
In all, Michael and I rode three of the five bus lines around the city. Though we didn’t really get to explore; we saw most of the different districts in Singapore. We saw much of the eclectic mix of modern and historic architecture and only wished we’d had the time to wander through the vast markets in Chinatown and Little India. Instead of being overly wordy- here are some of my favorite images I took throughout the day.
We went to Raffles’ Long Bar for their famous Singapore Sling, which was celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. A busy place and always a line out the door, Long Bar is full of old world atmosphere. I have to say that they have quite a racket going with the Singapore Sling though. One drink is about $28 USD!
We had hoped to go to Gardens by the Sea for the light show but were seeing lightning in the distance. Exhausted after a long day, we decided to call it a night. Sadly, we said ‘goodbye for now’ to George and Mary. We’d had a great time with them throughout our vacation and I’m sure we’ll see more of them in the future.
Tragedy and a Deserted Island
Southeast Asia Travel -11/14 – Day Sixteen: We woke up early to the news of the Paris attacks, as they were in progress; and we were instantly glued to the TV. Outside our balcony door, we could see our ship was cruising closer to the peaceful, sparsely populated island of Tioman, Malaysia… our destination for the day.
In the marketing materials for the cruise, Playbill touted (what other sources have as well) that Tioman was the island used to represent Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific but this isn’t true. Those scenes were actually filmed in Hawaii. Nevertheless, this beautiful island was here waiting for us.
The chaos playing out in Paris was diametrically opposed to the serenity before me. It just wasn’t right.
We broke away from the TV and headed to breakfast. Only a few people had started straggling in. Of course we wondered if anyone else knew what was going on in France. Our ship is French—did the crew know yet?
We checked the news again after we ate, and then decided to catch the first tender, figuring it was only going to get more crowded if we waited for a later one. We got down to the deck only to find out it had temporarily been postponed. After an hour, the temporary delay had become a questionable, permanent decision. No Tioman.
The story of what actually happened will probably always be a mystery. We were told that the resort we were supposed to visit (and use their beach)– suddenly went bankrupt overnight. This was odd as we were also told that as of the night before they were excited we were coming. I should also note that the population of Tioman (in 2008) is estimated at 432. So to believe this story, you’d have to believe that a small beach resort, knowing a ship was bringing over two hundred customers for the day– suddenly decided to close shop and not even wait an extra day, collecting whatever income it could. It makes no sense.
Add to this, there were two other resorts visible from our ship and no one could be reached at either of them. From our viewpoint, the coast was completely deserted. A rumor started on our boat, early on, that initially I didn’t give much credence. A few people were suggesting that because of the Paris attacks and because our ship was French; the islanders were afraid to let us come ashore. Later I had no choice but to believe it, especially after seeing movement on shore as soon as our ship started drifting further away. A few small fishing boats also started to appear. It was curious to say the least.
At noon, the crew organized a brief gathering on the rear deck to remember the people of France and lowered the French flag to half-mast. Yes, all over the world- even on a small ship floating in the South Pacific– people were touched and solidarity ruled over despair.
It was announced that at 2 PM the Broadway performers were rallying together to put on a variety show to entertain the ship. This thrown-together event turned out to provide some pretty exciting moments. All the performers (except Liz Callaway whose concert was scheduled for tonight) performed; giving us a wonderful show. For many of us, it was probably a better way to spend the afternoon than basking in the sun anyway.
This was our last night on the ship; tomorrow we’d dock in Singapore.
Liz Callaway’s show was moved up to an hour before dinner. She pulled out all the stops and gave us a terrific show. I was especially thrilled because her final song was, The Story Goes On, from the musical Baby. Particularly poignant for many reasons. Liz is another of the many Broadway performers that gives her whole heart when she sings. It was a perfect last concert among so many great performances we received.
Following the concert, we had the introduction of the ship’s crew and our final toast to the end of a great cruise. Michael and I just happened to be sitting in front of Hunter Foster and Jennifer Cody, so we got to clink our glasses of champagne with them.
I regret not getting to say goodbye to a lot of people after dinner. I really wasn’t thinking about the unlikelihood of seeing many of them in the morning. We were smart enough to get most of the email addresses exchanged early though, so we’d be able to stay in touch.
We spent the last couple of hours before bed packing and dealing with the reception desk. The cruise has gone way too fast and I’m just thankful for all the wonderful memories. Luckily, we have a full day in Singapore tomorrow before we start the long journey home.
Seasick & Show Happy
Southeast Asia Travel -11/13 – Day Fifteen: Breakfast… show… lunch… show… show… dinner… show. That was today’s schedule.
I was really excited about the first event of the day—Seth Rudetsky interviewing Christine Ebersole and Rachel York about their roles in the musical, Grey Gardens. Christine won a Tony Award in 2007 for her dual roles of Edith and Edie Beale. We were fortunate to see her performance on Broadway. Rachael York just finished playing the same role(s) this summer starring opposite Betty Buckley. The highlight of this session was Christine Ebersole singing Around the World from the show.
Here’s a YouTube clip from the Broadway production:
Pat Birch is probably not a name familiar to a lot of people though her work is everywhere. A dancer/choreographer/director with credits a mile long, she has definitely left her mark in many forms of media and entertainment. Film, theatre, TV, music videos… she’s done it all.
Pat entertained us with stories from her career, hosted by John Fahey, in the afternoon.
Patricia Birch started as a dancer and quickly segued in choreography. She played the role of Anybodys in the 1960 revival of West Side Story. Among her many credits she was responsible for choreographing stage and film productions of Grease, Candide, A Little Night Music, Parade and her work was regularly seen on Electric Company, 6 seasons of Saturday Night Live, and the film, The First Wives Club. That’s just a sample. Pat is a friendly, gifted and fascinating artist.
The Playbill Cocktail Hour became The Newlywed Game today. Better stated: The Broadway Newlywed Game. All the questions had some Broadway connection. Three couples married less than a year participated: One older couple, one young gay couple, and one couple I’d guess to be in their late 30’s. The game itself was fun but it was the banter between the hosts that made it the best. Married couple, Jennifer Cody and Hunter Foster were hysterical—much of the time, not trying to be! From making the instructions more confusing than reading the U.S. Tax Code to Jennifer’s constant quick wit—it was a ball.
I have to say I was feeling a little seasick today. At least the constant, slight rocking back and forth wasn’t helping how I was feeling. To say that I was grumpy at dinner was an understatement. Feeling the way I did, the extremely slow service started to make me crazy. Dinner took an hour and 50 minutes to get through—with big breaks between courses. I wanted to pull my hair out. We barely had time to run back to the room before the evening’s show.
Rachel York has a powerhouse voice that doesn’t quit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performer do so many big power numbers in one set before– each using the full range of her voice. She loves doing impressions. She gave us Julie Andrew, Liza Minnelli. Cher, Celine and a whole lot more. One example, Rachel sang I Will Always Love You, starting with Whitney, switching to Dolly, throwing in a few others and ending with Whitney’s big ending.
With all the performers there has been a great variety in content and style of performances… Not to mention the contrasts of the different personalities. In spite of the changes in the originally announced list of performers, Playbill has done an excellent job of entertaining us with a wide range of Broadway talent.