The West Wing

I just finished watching all 7 seasons of The West Wing. Yes, for someone who loves great television I am way behind the curve on this one. In my defense I was in college and then in grad school working two jobs during the majority of the show’s run, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to watch television let alone get invested in a show that I knew was a serial drama. Plus, this was way back in the dark ages before DVRs existed or at least existed in such a way that anyone but early adopters actually owned them. I think TiVo actually existed by this point.

I’ve had The West Wing on my to-watch list for quite some time now, but kept delaying it in favor of other old show for a number of reasons including the fact that I don’t get much into politics so I wasn’t sure if I really would like it despite the hype and also the fact that picking up a show that is 7 seasons long is quite an investment of time if you wind up liking it and watching the whole thing.

The answer to the question of whether or not I would like the show is assuredly yes. In fact it’s one of the strongest 7 season runs of a series that I can think of. Being tuned into what people are talking about in regards to television, I already knew certain things about the show going in including the fact that Aaron Sorkin, who was one of the executive producers and the main writer, left the show after the fourth season. Everything I ever heard about this transition had me expecting a significant drop off in quality and enjoyableness of the show in the last three seasons. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this was not in fact the case. Yes, there was definitely a change of tone after Sorkin’s departure. He does have a distinctive writing voice. The show did lose some of its quickness with the loss of his jazzy, fast-paced dialogue which was noticeable, but it also noticeably lost Sorkin’s heavyhanded writing about his pet topics. If you’ve watched more than one Sorkin show you’ll see they crop up over and over again, and he really beats you over the head with them. That I can say I was not sorry to see go.

The fifth season, the first after Sorkin’s departure was definitely the weakest of the 7 seasons, but ultimately I thought the show came back very strong in the last two seasons and finished out it’s run on a high note which is not something you can say for most long running television shows because writers run out of ideas and the initial creative people behind the show have often moved on to other projects by that point. I’m specifically thinking of two other 7 season series  (hi I’m looking at you Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) whose initial run pretty much coincided with The West Wing, but were pale shadows of their former selves in their last few seasons, which I don’t think was the case with The West Wing.

My one major complaint with the show is the way it treated almost every romantic relationship. One episode some sort of relationship would develop and then all of a sudden be dropped only to pop up again half a season later in a really bizarre place based on where it was last left off or just dropped all together (see Zoe and Charlie, Toby and Andie, Sam and Mallory, Donna and the photojournalist). I pretty much came to expect it after awhile so tried not to think too much about it for the most part. Though I am glad they wrapped up a couple of long running potential relationships with C.J. and Danny and Josh and Donna in the final season.

If you’ve never watched The West Wing I would highly suggest it. That is unless you’re super-conservative or will get really annoyed by a decidedly liberal bias in the show, in which case you should probably refrain for your own sanity.

The Twins

As I mentioned in my post yesterday about War Horse, my husband I went up to NYC this past weekend to visit his sister and her family. She and her husband have 11 month old twins Lily and Ryan. New York isn’t just around the corner, but it is significantly closer than Arizona where my other niece and soon-to-be nephew reside, so we get to see them on a much more frequent basis which is nice. That is especially true when it means we will soon see them again after a less than ideal visit this time around. (We’ll be back up in NYC in about 6 weeks for their first birthday). Things started off great as exhibited in the photos below, but within an hour or two of these delightful photos being taken, both kids were down for the count with a stomach virus which mom and dad then woke up with the next morning. Fingers crossed that they didn’t pass it along to their aunt and uncle as well. So far, so good with that, but since I don’t know the incubation period of this particular virus I’m not counting us out of the woods quite yet. And on that note here’s some cute baby pictures for you to look at.

Ryan contemplating opening his Christmas present from Aunt Danielle and Uncle Paul. I have a super cute picture of him that looks like he’s actually reading the opened card, but it looks like I uploaded the wrong photo to my media library at home. I’ll have to add it in later. (UPDATED to include that photo).

Lily getting ready to open her present.

Ryan reading his Christmas card.

Ryan checking out his new cars, while Lily like babies everywhere decides that the packaging is way more fun. See as she hugs the wrapping paper tightly…

and plays with the box her toy came in.

Let’s check out this toy now that mom took away all the super fun packaging.

War Horse

This past weekend my husband and I went up to NYC to visit his sister, brother-in-law and their 11 month old twins. My sister-in-law got us tickets to the show War Horse for Saturday night, which turned out to be a really good thing for other reasons that will be covered in a future post that will be going up once I get my pictures from the pictures from the weekend off my camera. This post however is reserved for War Horse.

My husband and I both enjoy the theatre so it’s nice to be able to be able to take advantage of having relatives to stay with in NYC while taking in a shows in the inarguably best city for live theatre in the country. I had a long list of shows I was interested in seeing, but ticket availability and my husband’s choice led us to War Horse.

War Horse won the Tony for best play this year, and after seeing a scene from it during the awards ceremony I was definitely excited to see it. What turned out even better, at least for me, was the fact that the show was not on Broadway, but instead playing in Lincoln Center. I am not a huge fan of masses of people, so needless to say NYC is not really one of my favorite places in the world. Though I like many of the cultural experiences available to me in NYC, it is just far too crowded for my taste. Going near the Broadway/Times Square area on a weekend night particularly during the Christmas season has nightmare written all over it for me, so I was happy to find out we wouldn’t have to deal with that particular drama. Instead we had dinner and then took a nice stroll down Broadway the 30 blocks from where my in-laws live down to Lincoln Center.

The show itself was just as incredible as I had imagined it would be. The story is based on a young adult novel of the same name. It takes place just before and during World War I in England and France. A young farm boy in England comes into a possession of a horse who he trains and who essentially becomes his best friend only to see his father sell the horse to the army for money after the start of the war. The underage boy then sneaks off to join the army and get sent over to the frontlines in France where he hopes to locate his beloved horse. The story is moving, but what is truly incredible about this show are the horses, which are all created through giant wooden framed puppets. The puppeteers are amazing. They truly capture the movements of a horse down to the littlest things such as the subtle movements its body makes while breathing. It’s not long before these puppets which only rudimentarily look like horses begin to seem entirely real and you don’t even notice the most visible of the puppeteers. You can get a little bit of a sense of what it’s like from the video below, but it really is much better in person. If you ever have the opportunity to see the show I highly recommend it. I’m interested now in going to see the movie version of the book, which opens in movie theaters on Christmas Day in order to see how the two adaptations are similar and different.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Mannheim Steamroller

Aside from the Christmas carols like Jingle Bells that little kids learn to sing, Mannheim Steamroller is the first Christmas music I can really remember listening to. My parents owned their first two Christmas albums on cassette and I remember listening to them over and over every Christmas. Say what you will about it but, Mannheim Steamroller is still some of my favorite Christmas music and their Christmas albums make up a large portion of Christmas music I own.

This particular song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, is my favorite of all the Mannheim Steamroller songs. They have two versions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that play back to back on the Christmas album. When I was a kid we went to my great-Aunt Vi’s house every year for Christmas dinner. I have a memory of rewinding the cassette tape over and over to listen to those two songs while jumping on one of those little mini trampolines in her basement. This song will always be near and dear to my heart because of the childhood memories it evokes.

Looking on the Bright Side of Life

Today I was planning on posting something about how happy I was to finally wear these boots I got back in June for my birthday. I am not one to spend a lot of money on shoes, but I fell in love with these and my husband was kind enough to give me a gift card to buy them for my birthday since he knew I would never pull the trigger on a pair of $300 shoes otherwise. Of course these shoes are not summer shoes, so I have been patiently waiting for the weather to get cool enough in Baltimore to actually wear them. Today was finally going to be the day I was going to break them out. I got all dressed up in the skirt I specifically bought to go with them and then went to put them on, but alas I couldn’t find them where I thought they would be. No big deal, no panic yet. I probably just put them somewhere else, which led to a scramble of looking under every bed, in every closet, in every nook and cranny they possibly could have been stuck in to no avail. My husband even joined in the hunt in case I was just being super blind. He sadly didn’t find them either. I’m almost 100% positive that I left them in the shoe box to avoid them getting scuffed up in the pile of shoes that resides in my teeny tiny little city rowhouse closet, and the best I can figure is that the box somehow made its way into the trash without whichever of us (probably me) realizing that the shoes were still inside of it. I never even got to wear my beautiful, fun shoes that I was so excited about.

Now you may be asking yourself, what in the world is this sad tale doing in a blog about things that make me happy. Well first of all the shoes did make me happy before they disappeared, so there’s that. Even more than that though is the fact that I am looking on the bright side of this whole situation and am hereforth choosing not to dwell on it. If by some Christmas miracle I happen to find the shoes stuck in some really bizarre place I haven’t thought to check then wonderful, if not life will go on and I really won’t be any worse off than when I woke up this morning. I am insanely blessed in my life and those are the things I want to dwell on. The fact that I even have the means to consider buying a $300 pair of shoes puts me far above most of the people in the world, some who don’t even have shoes at all hence the wonderful work being done by Toms and its copy cat companies, who donate one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair bought. Also if the worst thing to happen to me in recent memory is that I accidentally threw out a $300 pair of shoes, then I would say that my life is pretty amazing and that is in fact something to be happy about.