Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weight Watchers Key Lime Pie

Weight Watchers Key Lime Pie

Mar 6, 2006

SERVES 8 (change servings and units)
1 reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 (1/16 ounce) package sugar-free lime gelatin
1/4 cup boiling water
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free whipped topping
2 (6 ounce) key lime pie yogurt
1In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
2Stir in yogurt with wire whisk.
3Fold in whipped topping with wooden spoon.
4Spread in crust.
5Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)

A Quaint Treatment for Women Wronged

Published: February 18, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. — The contraption looks rather quaint, a small wooden box with a few knobs set on a tall, rolling metal platform. A thin tube with a porcelain doodad on the end protrudes from it.

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Kevin Berne
Maria Dizzia, left, and Hannah Cabell in Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” in Berkeley, Calif.

By Sarah Ruhl; directed by Les Waters; sets by Annie Smart; costumes by David Zinn; lighting by Russell H. Champa; sound by Bray Poor; music by Jonathan Bell; production stage manager, Michael Suenkel. Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theater, at the Berkeley Rep Roda Theater, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley, Calif.; (510) 647-2949. Through March 15. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.

WITH: Hannah Cabell (Catherine Givings), Joaquín Torres (Leo Irving), Maria Dizzia (Sabrina Daldry), Paul Niebanck (Dr. Givings), Melle Powers (Elizabeth), Stacy Ross (Annie) and John Leonard Thompson (Mr. Daldry).

Times Topics: Sarah Ruhl

“It looks like a farming implement,” one baffled character says as she considers the machine for the first time. It would add a contrasting note of the rustic and antique to a living room furnished in sleek modern pieces.

In fact this odd mechanical box is a central player — the title character, you might say — in the new play by Sarah Ruhl, “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).” A fanciful but compassionate consideration of the treatment, and the mistreatment, of women in the late 19th century, this spirited and stimulating (sorry) new comedy from one of the country’s brightest young playwrights is having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theater here, in a handsome production directed by Les Waters.

The play is set in a spa town in the vicinity of New York in the late 1800s. Electricity has just begun to spread its mysterious glow in the homes of the well-to-do. It has recently been installed in the parlor of Dr. and Mrs. Givings, and more significantly in the room next door, the doctor’s “operating theater,” where he practices gynecology and the treatment of “hysteria” using that strange electric-powered box.

A new patient, Sabrina Daldry (Maria Dizzia), is suffering from symptoms that alarm her husband (John Leonard Thompson). She is sensitive to light and prone to tears. Referring obliquely to the cooling of the marital fires, and perhaps the real reason for his dissatisfaction, Mr. Daldry adds, “I am afraid there is very little sympathy between us.”

The forthright and self-confident Dr. Givings (Paul Niebanck) sends Mr. Daldry for a short walk while he begins treatment. “We need to relieve the pressure on her nerves,” he says reassuringly. “You will soon have your blooming wife back.”

Enter the magic box. While Sabrina lies supine on a table, her skirts removed and a white sheet placed decorously over her, Dr. Givings makes businesslike small talk while using his new machine to induce a “paroxysm,” the slightly alarming term for what would today be called something else entirely, and is generally considered more recreational than therapeutic.

Sabrina emerges from her first session feeling drowsy and emotional, but rather good. The roses have been restored to her cheeks, and she is not disinclined to return for another session. Tomorrow would be just fine.

Comical though the play’s depiction of Dr. Givings’s methods might seem, it is based on historical fact. The use of primitive vibrators to treat women (and some men) suffering from a variety of psychological ailments referred to as hysteria is well documented. But Ms. Ruhl’s play is hardly intended as an elaborate dirty joke at the expense of the medical profession. Her real subject is the fundamental absence of sympathy and understanding between women and the men whose rules they had to live by for so long, and the suspicion and fear surrounding female sexuality and even female fertility.

For while Dr. Givings, assisted in no small measure by his stalwart female assistant, Annie (Stacy Ross), is pursuing a remarkably successful treatment of Sabrina, his own wife, the candid Catherine (Hannah Cabell), is beginning to languish from loneliness and unhappiness in the parlor next door.

Catherine has recently given birth, but Dr. Givings has decided that her milk is not sufficient for nursing, so a wet nurse must be found. Sabrina’s black housekeeper, Elizabeth (Melle Powers), who recently lost a baby, is given the job, but Catherine feels as if her maternal instincts have been thwarted and denied.

Bored and frustrated, she becomes increasingly curious about what goes on in the room next door, not least because those confused cries of excitement are hard to tune out. In the delightful scene that concludes the first act, Catherine unlocks the door to the operating theater with Sabrina’s hat pin and the two women engage in a liberating session of self-administered therapy, without benefit of prescription or medical supervision.

Ms. Ruhl, the author of “The Clean House,” “Eurydice” and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” has not abandoned her affection for unexpected leaps or lyrical language here, although with its traditional construction, old-fashioned set (charmingly realized by Annie Smart) and lavish period costumes (by David Zinn), “In the Next Room” looks almost as if it could be a revival of Shaw or Wilde. (Mr. Zinn’s exquisite dresses are period-appropriate but witty too in their superabundance of buttons and bustles and gatherings that constrict or obscure the natural female form.)


By Sarah Ruhl; directed by Les Waters; sets by Annie Smart; costumes by David Zinn; lighting by Russell H. Champa; sound by Bray Poor; music by Jonathan Bell; production stage manager, Michael Suenkel. Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theater, at the Berkeley Rep Roda Theater, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley, Calif.; (510) 647-2949. Through March 15. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.

WITH: Hannah Cabell (Catherine Givings), Joaquín Torres (Leo Irving), Maria Dizzia (Sabrina Daldry), Paul Niebanck (Dr. Givings), Melle Powers (Elizabeth), Stacy Ross (Annie) and John Leonard Thompson (Mr. Daldry).

Times Topics: Sarah Ruhl

Ms. Ruhl’s characters always exist both on a poetic plane and a flesh-and-blood one, and while the people in the new play speak formal English suitable to the period and the social milieu, they also drift into imagistic reveries that would lead to confused pauses over tea service in real life.

Nor has Ms. Ruhl abandoned her gentle impressionistic touch and her gift for playful symbolism. The play is dappled with images of lightness and darkness, moisture and its absence, that underscore its themes. (There is a single truly vulgar joke, overplayed in this staging, when the sounds of ecstasy in the doctor’s office coincide with Catherine’s arriving late to answer the door in the parlor, calling out what one would quite naturally call out.)

The play’s second act has some structural infelicities. Elizabeth has two lumpy speeches about black-white relations that seem an unnecessary attempt to give this subsidiary character a more central role. (I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of having her enlighten Sabrina and Catherine about the possibility of experiencing the sensations they’ve awakened to with the machine in bed with their husbands.) Ms. Ruhl mostly weaves together the multiple strands of her plot, which includes the arrival of a male patient, a frustrated artist, with dexterity. But there is too much of it, and it becomes clotted in the unraveling.

The cast is mostly fine, with a few standouts. Ms. Dizzia (seen in “Eurydice” in New York) brings to the role of Sabrina a touching hesitancy that slowly blooms into confidence as Sabrina finds herself liberated, not so much by the doctor’s treatment as by the emotions it arouses. Mr. Niebanck’s abstracted expression as he briskly goes about his work is hilarious. And Ms. Ross imbues the smallish role of Annie with a fully human dimension, a sympathy and intuitive wisdom about her work that is affecting.

Although the doctor’s magic box has a liberating effect on Sabrina and Catherine, all the women in the play are ultimately transformed by their interactions with each other. And in the final scene the process is extended to include the doctor himself, as Catherine administers some therapy of her own to her husband. A woman who has never been allowed to listen to the music of her own body teaches her husband to discover the beauty in his own.


Steamrolling Over Life’s Obstacles With Family as Cheerleaders

Published: November 20, 2009
One of the many turning points in “The Blind Side” — a movie made up almost entirely of turning points and yet curiously devoid of drama or suspense — comes during a Memphis high school football game. Michael Oher, the offensive tackle whose remarkable life is the subject of the film (and of the nonfiction best seller on which it is based), is having trouble protecting his quarterback.

An especially obnoxious player on the opposing team taunts Michael and evades his blocks down after down. But finally Michael snaps into focus and, on a climactically important play, grabs hold of the guy and steamrolls him all the way down the field, dumping him into the stands as the crowd (in the stadium and also, most likely, in the movie theater) cheers.

What Michael (played by Quinton Aaron) does to that hapless defender is pretty much what Sandra Bullock does to the audience for the entirety of “The Blind Side,” which is a very long time. Ms. Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Memphis decorator who, along with her family, rescues Michael from homelessness and sets him on a path to football stardom. The outlines of the story — and the details as recounted in Michael Lewis’s book — are both interesting and inspiring. A wealthy, white Southern family adopts a poor black teenager, cultivating his athletic gifts and providing him with the comfort and safety of a happy, loving home.

And the film, not unsurprisingly for a holiday- (and football-) season release from a major Hollywood studio, plays this story straight down the middle, shedding nuance and complication in favor of maximum uplift. Ms. Bullock is convincing enough as an energetic, multitasking woman of the New South, who knows her own mind and usually gets her own way. And Tim McGraw, as Leigh Anne’s affable husband, Sean, inhabits his character comfortably and knows how to get out of Ms. Bullock’s way when necessary.

The Tuohys have a pretty daughter named Collins (Lily Collins) and a wisecracking whirligig of a son, S J (Jae Head), who would, if this were an animated children’s movie, be Michael’s annoying-but-lovable talking-animal sidekick. And “The Blind Side,” written and directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie,” “The Alamo”), is, in effect, a live-action, reality-based version of a Disney cartoon: it’s the heartwarming tale of a foundling taken in by strangers, who accept him even though he’s different and treat him as one of their own.

In a typical Disney movie, however, that process would be full of conflict, excitement and danger. “The Blind Side,” until the end — when an N.C.A.A. bureaucrat throws a hasty obstacle in the way of Michael’s triumph — is more like a two-hour holiday greeting card. Leigh Anne and Sean first spot Michael in the school gym after one of Collins’s volleyball games, and on the drive home figure out that, even though he attends this private Christian academy on scholarship, he has no place to sleep. Before you know it this impulsive act of generosity turns into a project, to which Leigh Anne devotes herself with tireless zeal.

A few of her friends raise eyebrows and make unkind remarks, but she puts them in their places with a few heartfelt, angry words and a swell of soundtrack music. She does the same to the drug dealer back in the projects where Michael used to live, and to anyone else who messes with her and her family.

All of which can be fun to watch, as are walk-ons from real-life college football coaches. And Ms. Bullock’s brisk self-confidence can be appealing — until it becomes annoying. The biggest problem here is that her character never changes, never experiences a moment of doubt or guilt or selfishness, and after a while her display of goodness sinks into vanity. And Michael is a curiously blank character, his inner life lost in the glare of Leigh Anne’s self-congratulation. His pre-Tuohy life is a flurry of flashbacks and vague stories meant — like that drug dealer and Michael’s drug-addicted mother, who appears on screen briefly — to conjure a world of violence, dysfunction and despair.

“The Blind Side” is interested only in that world as an occasion for selective charity, and it is only slightly more interested in Michael’s inner life. He seems shy, grateful, sometimes sad and always, to Leigh Anne, an open book. She hears that a psychological test shows Michael to have an unusually strong protective instinct, and uses that information to unlock his latent offensive-tackle abilities. The left tackle’s job is to protect the quarterback from unseen opponents, and if Michael just thinks of the quarterback as his family — “as me,” Leigh Anne says — he’ll know just what to do to the other team. And it works, just as if the young man were a 300-pound robot she had reprogrammed with the flip of a switch.

And the audience is meant to respond in similar fashion, choking up, chuckling with warm laughter, feeling so sorry for this poor young man and so gratified that he found someone to care for him. Will you be moved? Maybe, though only in the sense that “moved” can describe the experience of defensive player, overpowered by a blocker and left flat on his back with a possible concussion.

“The Blind Side” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has some on- and off-field violence, and some drug and sexual references.


Directed by John Lee Hancock; written by Mr. Hancock, based on the book by Michael Lewis; director of photography, Alar Kivilo; edited by Mark Livolsi; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Michael Corenblith; produced by Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 2 hours.

WITH: Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Tuohy), Tim McGraw (Sean Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher), Kathy Bates (Miss Sue), Lily Collins (Collins Tuohy), Jae Head (S J Tuohy) and Ray McKinnon (Coach Cotton).


Howls of a Life, Buried Deep Within

Published: November 6, 2009
Claireece Jones, the Harlem teenager at the center of “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” lives in a world of specific and overwhelming horror. She goes by her middle name, Precious, which seems like a cruel taunt, since nearly everyone around her thinks she’s worthless and lets her know it.

The Audacity of ‘Precious’ (October 25, 2009)

To Blacks, Precious Is ‘Demeaned’ or ‘Angelic’ (November 21, 2009)

Precious’s mother, Mary, played with operatic fervor by the comedian Mo’Nique, dispenses a daily ration of humiliation and abuse. The constant verbal and physical violence she directs at her daughter would be shocking even without the monstrous crime that hangs over their dim, dirty apartment like a cloud. Precious, overweight and illiterate — and played by an extraordinarily poised first-time actress named Gabourey Sidibe — has a young daughter and is pregnant for a second time. The father in both cases, who is nowhere to be seen, is Precious’s father too.

This information is bluntly presented at the beginning of Sapphire’s 1996 novel, a first-person narrative composed in rough, stylized dialect. In Lee Daniels’s risky, remarkable film adaptation, written by Geoffrey Fletcher, the facts of Precious’s life are also laid out with unsparing force (though not in overly graphic detail). But just as “Push” achieves an eloquence that makes it far more than a fictional diary of extreme dysfunction, so too does “Precious” avoid the traps of well-meaning, preachy lower-depths realism. It howls and stammers, but it also sings.

Mr. Daniels, directing his second feature (after the vivid and eccentric “Shadowboxer”), is not afraid to mix styles and genres. In his determination to do justice to Claireece’s inner life, as well as to her circumstances, he allows splashes of fantasy, daubs of humor and floods of unabashed melodrama into the drab landscape of her struggle. Ugliness is all around her, but beauty is there too.

There is something almost reckless about this filmmaker’s eclecticism, which extends from the casting — pop stars and television personalities alongside trained and untrained actors — to the visual textures and the soundtrack music. “Precious” is a hybrid, a mash-up that might have been ungainly, but that manages to be graceful instead. It’s partly a bootstrap drama of resilience and redemption, complete with a hardworking teacher (Paula Patton) wrangling a classroom full of disadvantaged girls. It’s also the nearly Gothic story of a child tormented by the cruelty of adults, as lurid as a Victorian potboiler or a modern-day tell-all memoir.

Above all “Precious” is unabashedly populist in its potent emotional appeal — not for nothing did Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey sign on as executive producers around the time of the film’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January — and at the same time determined to challenge its audience’s complacency as only a genuine work of art can.

Mary, brimming with rage, thwarted love and plain meanness, is a character bound to provoke discomfort. Even otherwise misogynistic hip-hop artists will pay tribute to the heroism of African-American mothers, and to see that piety so thoroughly dispensed with is downright shocking.

Other provocations are more subtle but no less pointed. There are virtually no men in this movie. Precious’s father is glimpsed briefly in flashbacks of his assaults on her, and in the fantasy sequences that provide escape from her pain Precious hobnobs with handsome boys, but otherwise the only male character of significance is a hospital worker played by Lenny Kravitz. Otherwise, Precious’s cosmos, for better and for worse, is a universe of women: the social worker (Mariah Carey, scrubbed of any vestige of divahood); the teacher, Ms. Rain; her co-worker in the remedial education program, played by the comedian and talk show host Sherri Shepherd; and Precious’s fellow students.

These characters all can be seen as surrogate mothers, aunts and sisters, who together provide Precious with a more functional family (to say the least) than what she has at home. But their love is also enabled by institutions and government policies. An unstated but self-evident moral of “Precious,” set during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and based on a book published in the year of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, is that government can provide not only a safety net, but also, in small and consequential ways, a lifeline.

I will leave it for others to parse the truth or the timeliness of this message. But “Precious” is, in any case, less the examination of a social problem than the illumination of an individual’s painful and partial self-realization. Inarticulate and emotionally shut down, her massive body at once a prison and a hiding place, Precious is also perceptive and shrewd, possessed of talents visible only to those who bother to look. At its plainest and most persuasive, her story is that of a writer discovering a voice. “These people talked like TV stations I didn’t even watch,” she remarks of Ms. Rain and her lover (Kimberly Russell), displaying her awakening literary intelligence even as she marvels at the discovery of her ignorance.

And Ms. Sidibe, perhaps the least-known member of this movie’s unusual cast, is also the glue that holds it together. Nimble and self-assured as Mr. Daniels’s direction may be, he could not make you believe in “Precious” unless you were able to believe in Precious herself. You will.

“Precious” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has frank depictions of emotional and physical violence, including the sexual abuse of a child.


Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Opens on Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

Directed by Lee Daniels; written by Geoffrey Fletcher, based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Joe Klotz; music by Mario Grigorov; production designer, Roshelle Berliner; produced by Mr. Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

WITH: Mo’Nique (Mary), Paula Patton (Ms. Rain), Maria Carey (Ms. Weiss), Sherri Shepherd (Cornrows), Lenny Kravitz (Nurse John), Kimberly Russell (Katherine) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).

bob dylan United Palace

Bob Dylan

When Bob Dylan sings, everyone listens -- even though half the time it's hard to figure out what he's actually saying.
Uptown at the United Palace Theater, at the first of his three-show engagement (concluding tonight), Dylan's vocals on his famous and not-so-famous songs were warped in distinct growls of self-parody, fast eruptions of words and strange sing-song phrasing that made the familiar strange and the strange absurd.
Yeah, it was another great show by the Zim.
You might not have been able to tell that by "Cat's in the Well," the opening song Tuesday night. During that one Dylan stood behind a keyboard stage left, shaking the rust from his pipes and turning the entire song title into a single word. He grooved a slight foot shuffle synched to the tune's beat.

A hatted Bob Dylan, seen here in an earlier 2009 performance, was practically frisky Tuesday.

It was just OK, but one song later when Bob let loose on "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" the legendary singer found himself. Sure, it wasn't immediately clear what he was singing, but under the shade of his big cream-colored Stetson, and playing guitar (rare these days), the song revealed itself in an array of grunts and vocal creaks that only Bob and wounded animals can make naturally.
It's always fascinating to see Dylan in concert. He's unpredictable, and enjoys dabbling in the erratic.
Take his version of "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum." This is a propulsive song that has good bottom and usually rouses the audience, but not Bob. At this show Dylan did the tune standing center stage alone, with a mike in one hand and a harmonica in the other, as he hammed it up like a real rock star.
I've seen Bob at least once a year on his never-ending tour, and he's never put on the entertainer's hat like he did at this show. There were lulls at the center of the show, such as when he stacked "John Brown," "Summer Days" and "Po' Boy" one on top of the other. But he powerfully followed up with "Highway 61 Revisited," "Ballad of a Thin Man" and in the encore, "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower," all of which were really memorable.
Also outstanding was Dylan's choice of opening act -- Dion. This veteran architect of rock 'n' roll killed with rock standards of the '50s and his own early hits, such as "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer." He even showed he's still in the game with his more recent song "King of the New York Streets." If you're going to the show tonight, get there early enough for Dion's 7:30 start.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Capricorn Horoscope for week of November 19, 2009

Capricorn Horoscope for week of November 19, 2009

Verticle Oracle card Capricorn (December 22-January 19)
"There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears," writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book Women Who Run with the Wolves. But the magic of that formula may not unfold with smooth simplicity, she says: "The teacher comes when the soul, not the ego, is ready. The teacher comes when the soul calls, and thank goodness -- for the ego is never fully ready." I'd love it if the information I just provided encouraged you to feel right at home with the jarring yet nurturing lessons that are on the way.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


i got a flu shot and got a slight touch of the flu.

I went to bed thursday and Friday morning woke too sick to go to work. I went back to bed and dreamed that I was uptown Manhattan near Columbia. I saw the streets of upper manhattan and there was an open park with no grass just dirt. There was stage set up and a figure like the Moldy Peaches, when they dressed up in Sheep or Cow costumes came on stage. After the show, I was walking down street, knowing i had to get to my supervisor, I saw a person woman who walked with me. We walked past the fruit stands and down the street. I thought of Suzanne Vega and knew that I could not be late calling my supervisor. The woman showed me her tatoos.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Capricorn Horoscope for week of November 12, 2009

Capricorn Horoscope for week of November 12, 2009

According to psychologist Carl Jung, one of the most potent influences that our parents have on us is their unlived lives. Whatever dreams they didn't pursue, whatever longings they didn't fulfill, are likely to worm their way into our core, often without our conscious awareness. There they get mixed up with our own dreams and longings, causing us confusion about what we really want. The coming weeks will be a good time for you to get clear about this. You'll have the power to untangle your own deepest, truest desires from the muffled wishes your mommy and daddy deposited in you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009