Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vintage book: The First Book of Words

I love vintage stuff in general, but I think my favorite vintage thing to collect is children's books. The First Book of Words: Their Family Histories is vintage at its anachronistic best, a window to its publication year of 1954. But a lot of this information is still relevant and is a great introduction to word history, covering English's Indo-European roots, the Norman conquest, Latin and Greek roots, the history of writing and printing, names and surnames, word evolution in the U.S. and words borrowed from other languages, and words formed from brand names, onomatopeia, prefixes and suffixes and slang. It's written in a very engaging way and I expect kids would learn a lot from it. I especially love the two-color art by Hungarian artist Laszlo Roth.

There's always stuff in old children's books that would never fly today, and this book is no exception.
Gotta love the '50s, when women were always pictured cooking, talking on the phone, or being a nurse.

I can just see the letters to the publisher about this entry for assassin.

My kid's elementary school in Oakland, California was always discarding books like this to make room for more politically correct and modern fare, so I "rescued" a lot of them. But this book is from Alphabet Soup in Wallingford.

Monday, March 19, 2012

First Date: A New Musical

I just learned that Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre is a significant developer of new musicals. It's produced 14 in the past ten years, five of which went to Broadway and two of which won Tony Awards for Best Musical, including Memphis, which is currently on Broadway. Huh.

This past weekend I saw the premiere of a new musical, First Date, which was a collaboration between the 5th Avenue Theatre and ACT-A Contemporary Theatre. It's a 90-minute, one-act, seven-actor piece about modern-day dating. I was initially skeptical, unwowed by the bland opening number and stereotypes, but I was won over in the end -- in large part because of the outstanding male lead, Eric Ankrim (who, incidentally, just played Curly in Okalahoma!). He plays Aaron, a Jewish Wall Street trader set up on a blind date with Casey, a Soho artist. He's an open, optimistic BDV (blind date virgin) who is still trying to get over being jilted by his ex; she's a jaded BDS (blind date slut) with a codependent gay boyfriend. They seem opposite in almost every way, and yet, somehow you end up believing that they'll be great for each other.

Unfortunately, none of the music sticks in my head, but the numbers -- such as "The World Wide Web is Forever," about how Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. can ruin your chances with someone before you even meet -- are heavy on dating humor. There are no spectacular, over-the-top dance or vocal numbers, which is in keeping with the more intimate storyline. (Again, Eric Ankrim has a lovely voice, though!) In short, this play isn't gonna go down in history like Oklahoma! and it's not the next Wicked, but single people and those of us who remember well what it's like to be single, will find it amusing. It's at Falls Theatre until May 20.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

Today is Pi Day -- 3.14! If you're thinking "We never had Pi Day when I was a kid," you're right, because it was created in 1988 by a San Francisco Exploratorium physicist and was recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives as a holiday in 2009. Last year, Oscar's 5th grade class celebrated by eating a bunch of parent-supplied pies.

I'm gonna take this opportunity to mention my favorite Wallingford cafe, Irwin's, which has couches and armchairs to curl up on on this cold, rainy day, as well as great sandwiches, pizza, and quiche, but above all else, amazing pie. Specifically, marionberry pie, served warm with fresh whipped cream. It's heavenly. There are three Irwin's locations in Seattle, so if you live near one, I suggest you celebrate Pi Day there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blue C Sushi

Blue C Sushi is the McDonald's of sushi. Just like a McDonald's hamburger satisfies a different craving than a handmade burger grilled on a barbecue does, Blue C Sushi fulfills a different niche than a fine sushi house. Like McDonald's, it is a 5-star destination for children, young and old. They have some crazy sushi, such as the St. Patrick's Day rolls on green pedestals that are currently offered. Besides a daily happy hour, happy hour goes from 4 to close on Thursdays and Sundays, at least at the two locations I've been to in U-Village and Fremont (there are six restaurants in the Seattle area).

The big appeal at Blue C is the conveyor belt, snaking around the entire restaurant, by booths and counter seats, covered in America's version of sushi. It's truly mesmerizing and irresistible, even to me. If you do need a server, say to order mochi or drinks, you just push a button that lights up.

After dragging Oscar shoe shopping this weekend, he was in such a foul mood he was barely speaking to me. But Blue C Sushi instantly dissolved his disagreeableness. He loved surveying his options, and selecting the colorful plates of his favorite dishes: shrimp nigiri, kappa maki, pork gyoza, sesame noodles, spring rolls... It was such fun that we selected a lot more plates than I intended. This brings me to how Blue C is not like McDonald's at all. Each color plate has a different price point; the green are $1.50, yellow are $2.75, all the way up to purple, which are $5.50. It all sounds so cheap, but they quickly add up. Sushi is definitely not inexpensive, especially when you're eating with Oscar. But turning your kid's frown upside down is priceless, right?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hunger Games hype

I know I'm not the only adult who reads young adult fiction. It's often so much more imaginative and fun than "adult" books! I still haven't read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, but I will! Oscar has had the first book in the series for about a year (his friends had recommended it), but he didn't like it. Now that the movie is coming out, he's found it impossible to resist the hype.

I have no idea how the decision came about, but the entire 6th grade class at Oscar's middle school is now headed on a field trip for a noon showing of the film three days after its release. The letter I received from the school explains:
"Many, if not most, of our 6th grade students have read the book The Hunger Games and wish to see one of their favorite books come to life on the big screen. They have been anticipating the release of the film for several months. Students who have not read the book seem to be motivated to read it before the film is released to compare and contrast the book and movie."
I am still flabbergasted that these middle school kids get to go see a movie -- which most could have gone to see with their families anyway -- during school time! But I'm not about to relegate my kid to sit in the library while everyone else gets to go on one of the most anticipated events of the entire school year. After all, friendships and bonding experiences are a huge part of adolescence, so...whatever.

I'm also highly in favor of this sort of hype surrounding book releases (I really miss the anticipation of the new Harry Potter volumes), so this is possibly the next best thing. And just like the letter said, the anticipation of the movie inspired Oscar to reread the book. And this time, he liked it. Now he wants to read the sequels, and I'm happy about that.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Oklahoma! at the 5th Avenue Theater

I'm not ashamed to admit it: I like musical theater. Almost everyone I know hates (or claims to hate) musicals, but occasionally I drag Chris and Oscar to one. Last night we went to see Oklahoma! -- the first musical written by the legendary team of Roger and Hammerstein and first performed on Broadway in 1943 -- at the 5th Avenue Theater. It's a classic, but I don't remember ever seeing it before. Is that possible?

I might have seen it as a child, because I definitely recognized a lot of the songs, including "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "I Cain't Say No," "People Will Say We're in Love," and of course the title song. The plot was really corny and old-timey: Essentially, cowboy Curly wants to take a farm girl to the box social but she's irritated that he asked her at the last minute, so instead agrees to go with Jud, a farmhand she's afraid of. You can absolutely imagine how this all ends up.

The Seattle version of Oklahoma! has been controversial because a black man plays Jud, a bad guy. There's a scene in the play where Curly holds up a noose and basically tells Jed to hang himself, and there's a dream sequence where Jed forces himself on his would-be girlfriend. I bought the tickets before reading about the uproar in the paper, so I can't say whether I would have noticed the actor's race. I'm used to seeing all races in theatrical productions, and the casting director claimed that he meant the casting to be colorblind and was not trying to be provocative. In any event, the actor playing Jud had an amazing voice.

Production aside, the 5th Avenue Theater itself is worth checking out. Modeled after China's Temple of Heavenly Peace, the Summer Palace, and the Forbidden City, the interior is unlike any I've seen before. The center chandelier is held in the teeth of a coiled dragon, and dragons feature prominently in the design elements. It's very striking. It's also really comfortable, and even though we were way up in the balcony, we could see and hear fine. I'd definitely like to see another show here.