My religious background is that I attended 12 years of Catholic school, most of which was filled with the “memorize this and believe this” mentality.  It wasn’t until high school that we were introduced, little by little, to cracks in the doctrine / the bible as literature / the books in the “other bible.”  When my Christology teacher in my senior year recommended that I read the gospel of St. Thomas, I was like, “THERE’S A GOSPEL OF ST. THOMAS?”  One of the books we read in that class was The Song of the Bird, which combined stories and philosophies of different religions and which is one of the only religious books I would actually recommend reading.  It’s not a preachy book; it’s just quiet and thought-provoking.  Oh, and it was also in that class that the teacher said in passing, “You know, Jesus probably had a crush on a little girl down the street.” After he said it we all sat there blinking at each other.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Then by the time I was in college where I was surrounded by people of all different experiences and faiths, my world expanded exponentially.  And I started going to church less and less.

My boyfriend went through more years of religious education than I did — grammar school, high school, college, AND a pre-seminary program.

Neither of us go to church anymore, but Catholicism is in our roots.  We have religious discussions once in a while, about everything from churches to saints to what the “eye of the needle” really means.

So anyway, now that you know where I’m coming from, let’s talk about Jesus Christ Superstar.  [General link HERE, and Broadway show link HERE – That link (sometimes?) opens with music.  Be forewarned.]

I bought tickets to this show because it’s one of my boyfriend’s favorite musicals.  My only familiarity with this show was that once in grammar school I saw a performance of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” as part of a presentation in which different classes performed different musical numbers on the school’s stage (my class performed “To Dream the Impossible Dream,” in case you were wondering).  Other than that, I’d seen about ten minutes of the musical on TV once, but I didn’t remember much of it.

So we get to the theater, open our Playbills, and I see a note that Judas Iscariot is going to be played by an understudy.  I show the note to my boyfriend, and naively ask, “Is that important?  Does he have a big part?”  He tells me yes, that in some ways Judas is “bigger than Jesus,” which is not something you expect to hear that often.  And it was only because I had that conversation in the back of my head that I figured out that the first big singer must be Judas.  Because otherwise I would have assumed he was Peter, or Paul, or John … You know.  One of the biggies.

Anyway, the structure of the show was kind of unusual.  I’m used to musicals in which there’s some talking and some singing, where characters will be talking one minute and then bursting into song the next.  Jesus Christ Superstar is structured more like The Who’s rock opera Tommy (which I just saw a week ago, coincidentally).  Anyway, rather than dialogue mixed with songs, Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar are ALL SONGS ALL THE TIME.  Which also takes some getting used to.  When something needs to be conveyed to the audience that isn’t in a song, it’s done through dance or pantomime or other visual cues.

So now that the structure of the show is out of the way, let’s talk about the music.

MAN, that stuff is catchy!

I was singing these songs under my breath for weeks afterwards.  And no, I’m not going to list the songs here, because if I look up the titles then I’m going to get them stuck in my head AGAIN.  But let me just say that the music is written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and that they’ve got a pretty good track record of creating catchy and compelling music.   And I’ll also say that the sweeping, powerful songs made me feel like I was on a roller-coaster while I was watching the show.  Sometimes I was mesmerized, and sometimes I cried.  The whole show was incredbly moving.

But I brought up my high school Christology class for a reason.  And that’s because this show made me think more about the character of Judas Iscariot than I ever had before.  I left the show thinking about bible stories as STORIES, with characters and plot devices.  I thought about history being told through the voices of the victors.  I thought about the gospels with their more or less omniscient narrators, including my favorite, John, because he used to refer to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.”  What a card, that one!

Anyway, I highly recommend seeing Jesus Christ Superstar if you can.  The film version is available on DVD and other formats.  But if you get a chance to see it on Broadway or in another live venue near you, it’s definitely worth it because it will add an immersive dimension to the experience.

Either way, this musical will make you want to sing, and dance, and think, and that’s a pretty unusual combination.

Over the last several days, I caught up with several podcasts, started reading the surreal and hilarious graphic novel Axe Cop, and finally watched The Social Network.

In addition to that, my boyfriend and I did a whole bunch of stuff …

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Stuff that’s been ticking me off:

I went to look up some biographical information for a student today (Honestly?  Who assigns Selena as a research topic for a FOURTH GRADER???) and that’s when I discovered that we no longer have access to the Biography Resource Center database.  Now we’re supposed to use something called Biography in Context which is, I’m sorry, INFERIOR.  This also means that I have to change the text of the research handouts that I use for class visits for the upteenth time, and recycle any handouts I’ve made that mention the old database.  *sigh*

This TLC show called “Sister Wives.”  I’ve watched about 20 minutes of it tonight and it makes me want to slam my head against a wall.  Or more importantly, take the guy who already has three wives and is now wooing a girlfriend, and slam HIS head against a wall.  The tag line in the opening credits is “love should be multiplied, not divided.”  UGH.

Stuff that picked up my spirits:

We saw the Broadway show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson in previews last week, and it was bloody hilarious.  Cool music, funny (and smart) dialogue, and a good mix of historical fact with absolute lunacy.  Fun for everyone, but especially for American history buffs like my sweetheart.  ETA (10/10/10): My boyfriend just sent me this link to a NYT article about the theater decorations and design for the show, which were, in fact, REALLY cool: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/theater/10bloody.html

Comfort food.  I made chicken adobo for dinner tonight to try to cheer up my boyfriend.  Last night he spent several hours assembling a desk that he’d ordered.  After he spent all that time and effort, he went to move it and … one of the legs broke off.  If that had been me, I would have been curled up in the fetal position and sobbing, but he is made of sterner stuff.  Still, I thought he could use a pick-me-up, so I went shopping on my lunch hour, got out of work early, and made chicken, stuffing, and snow peas.  It was delightful for us and especially delightful for the cat, who demanded multiple helpings.  And since you asked, it’s the simplest thing in the world to make (at least the way my mother used to make it): take a quartered chicken or your favorite parts — with bones and skin still attached — and sprinkle them on both sides with Goya Adobo seasoning powder (we use the “with pepper” variety).  Then bake at 375 degrees for one hour, and let sit for 5 minutes.  DELICIOUS.  It reheats well, but it’s best when it’s right out of the oven and the skin is crispy and the meat is moist.

Stuff that will pick up my spirits even further in the near future:

New York Comic Con!!!! Another Bx Librarian and I will be seeing the sights and scrounging for freebies like the vultures that we are.  We are also likely to run into fellow vultures (teachers and librarians) as well as people in peculiar costumes.  I’ll be doing mostly-library-related stuff, but I’ll also be swinging by the podcast arena for a few minutes before I bring my bag of swag back to work.

Open House New York. Free stuff to see and explore all over New York City?  I am SO there!  I have Saturday to myself, so I’m going to be taking the subway back and forth to a number of sites in Manhattan.  Then on Sunday my boyfriend is available and he’s renting a car, so we’re going to be exploring a bunch of Brooklyn locations.

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short.  I missed his last one-man show, but I got us tickets to this one.  I’ve always thought that he was very smart and very funny, and I’m REALLY looking forward to this!

I know what you’re thinking: Wait, she didn’t sit around all week eating bonbons and watching TV and MAYBE doing a couple of loads of laundry? No, I didn’t, thank you very much.  Not THIS time.  I’ll admit, most of the reason I was so productive this week was that this time around my boyfriend had the week off with me, AND he spent most of it with me instead of going into work and running afterschool programs.  So that means that in addition to getting some laundry done, we actually went out and DID stuff.  A lot of stuff.  And I spent far less time eating this week because I actually tried to go on a diet for the first time ever.  I’m not counting the weekend I decided to try the “Magical Leek Soup” promoted in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat and by the end of the weekend I felt like I never wanted to see another leek again AND that I would have gladly strangled someone just to get a ham sandwich.  But this time the diet seemed plausible because a) I could still eat a variety of foods and b) my boyfriend was willing to try it with me.  More on that in a moment … first let me tell you about the cool stuff we did this week.

We finally visited the High Line

For years we’d been curious about the elevated freight train tracks that we saw in the distance whenever we were down in the Chelsea Market neighborhood.  I would say something like “I want to go exploring up there” and my boyfriend would say something like “There are probably lots of rats and homeless people living up there.”  Then I’d say, “Hmmmm” and the conversation would be over until the next time we had it.  Luckily for us, a group called Friends of the High Line spent years trying to turn this overgrown space into a public park, and in June of 2009 the first section of the park opened.  So this week we finally went up to check it out for ourselves.  It’s a really unique space, and a great example of how to reclaim something old instead of tearing it down.  We plan to visit it again during different seasons so that we can see more of the old train tracks and so that we can see the flowers that grow there in the warmer months.  I’m still glad that we got to see it in the winter, because it was also beautiful  while covered with snow.  You can go here to find out more about this park-in-progress so that you can plan your own visit.  Oh, and I would be remiss as a librarian if I didn’t recommend The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, a picture book that came out last year about an urban garden that was inspired by the High Line.

We visited the New York Historical Society

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because the exhibit we came to see, Lincoln and New York, didn’t allow photography.  But the exhibit was very interesting and informative.  It was also very crowded, because lots of other people were taking advantage of the week of free admission sponsored by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Fund.  Good to know all the money didn’t go to that dog, I suppose.  Anyway, the Lincoln exhibit will be there until March 25th.  It’s informative and emotionally moving (the section on the New York draft riots especially) and it’s definitely worth a trip.

We did three increasingly rare things in one day – we went to the movies (Shutter Island), we went to an upscale restaurant (Becco), and we went to the theater (Love, Loss, and What I Wore).

Shutter Island was a great movie — very suspenseful, cinematically striking, and compelling.  I enjoyed it a lot, and even though I’d already read the book there were a few times I jumped out of my seat.  I knew WHAT was going to happen, but not HOW it would happen.  Kudos to Scorsese, DiCaprio, and the rest of the talents who pulled off this exemplary adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s book (which I also highly recommend).

We’d been to Becco a couple of times before, and we always have a nice time.  It’s one of several Italian restaurants run by a lady named Lidia.  Yes, that one.   They have a good menu filled with items that are cross-referenced to her cookbooks (in case you’d like to make them yourself).  They have a daily special called the “Sinfonia de Pasta” which features three different freshly-made pastas in unlimited supply.  And they have a whole page of wines available for $25 a bottle, plus a menu of wines available by the glass or by the bottle at a variety of prices.  We went there on Friday after following the 4-day diet “jump start” from Monday – Thursday, so I had to be careful not to undo ALL the progress I’d made in one fell swoop.

I first heard about Love, Loss, and What I Wore when they were reviewing it on the NY1 channel.  It’s based on a book by Ilene Beckerman, and the show is written by Nora and Delia Ephron (BTW, I think that Nora is the bigger name, but Delia has the bigger place in my heart because she wrote one of my favorite books when I was a kid).  Anyway, the reporter described it as a funny and poignant show that would be most appreciated by women, but that men who knew (and loved) women would also find it entertaining.  So I brought my boyfriend along to hear stories about prom dresses, wedding dresses, bras, purses, and more.  To give you a sense of perspective, I counted TEN men in the audience including him.  Don’t worry; he’s going to a Knicks game with a bunch of male friends next week, so he’s going to get his man cred back.  But I’m pretty sure that this show will NOT be included in their list of conversation topics.

Anyway, on to the show: the stage is set with chairs and podiums, and each month there are different women doing the readings.  Often the women are reading as characters who are basically delivering monologues to the audience, but sometimes they’re talking to each other, too.  And yes, the stories WERE sweet and funny and sensitive and memorable.  I liked the whole idea of women telling stories about themselves, about what they were wearing during milestones in their lives, about how they used to argue with their mothers about how they dressed.  The show is running at a small venue called the Westside Theatre, which is a very intimate space.  So intimate, in fact, that the audience is very close to the stage, and basically every seat is a good seat.  So intimate that a row of women sitting to our right kept cackling and giggling through much of the performance to the distraction of others, including the performers.  Of course, it didn’t help that when the actresses first walked out to take their seats, one of these women started yelling at Janeane Garofolo, “OH MY GOD!  JANEANE, IT’S YOU!  I DIDN’T EVEN RECOGNIZE YOU!  YOU LOOK SO MUCH PRETTIER THAN YOU DO ON TV!!!”  And Janeane replied with as much grace and bewilderment as you might imagine, while everyone in the room sat there wondering if the lady was drunk or something.  Anyway, I highly recommend the show if you’re of the female persuasion.  If you’re of the male persuasion, you’ll probably get a kick out of it anyway.  Just look at it like reading an issue of Cosmopolitan.  Sure, it seems like a girly thing to do, but stay strong in your masculinity and remember that this experience will help you understand women better in the long run.

So … wait, I said I went on a diet, didn’t I?  Oh right, I did.

So let me tell you about this diet plan.  I have no interest in dieting to improve my appearance, although if I do, that would be a nice side-effect.  But since I’ve become a public librarian I’ve learned that it’s not to my advantage to be attractive, mostly because I tend to attract a very strange subset of humanity.  I put zero effort into my appearance until I leave work, at which point I will (sometimes) spruce up … and maybe even let my hair down.  But the main reason I paid any attention to diet plans is because of health concerns, both for me and for my boyfriend.  I figure anything I can do to lower our health risks will help us out in the long run.  So to clarify, I’m going to refer to this diet as “the MUFA diet” because the real name is very embarassing.  Also, I will refer to “cucumber water” because the official name for that recipe is even more embarassing.  But here’s how it all started.  I read THIS ARTICLE after I stumbled across it one day on MSN, and I thought that if THAT guy could do it then maybe WE could do it.  And like I said, being able to eat without starving myself would certainly be a plus.  The jist of the diet is this: eat four low-calorie meals a day, and have a small amount of MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) at every meal.  Also drink plenty of cucumber water, which is actually pretty damn tasty.  There’s a four-day “jump start” to the program which is more restrictive — fewer menu choices, lower calorie counts, and 2 liters of cucumber water a day.  The toughest parts of the program for me were portion size (having the meat take up less than 1/4 of my plate rather than half of it), living without any coffee or soda for four days, and not being able to impulsively eat food that looked good (And it DEFINITELY didn’t help that I was in the vicinity of Fat Witch Brownies, the Rickshaw Dumpling truck, and the Upper West Side Shake Shack this week).  But now those four days are over, so we’re looking towards cooking and eating what we want, just in smaller portions and with an awareness of portions and calories.  I’m still going to try to have a MUFA at every meal (my boyfriend keeps asking me if I remembered to have a SMURF with my meal), and to that end we now have a kitchen stocked with nuts, nut butters, oils, etc.  When I go back to work next week, I’m going to bring containers of dried fruits and nuts to keep in my locker right next to my multivitamins and calcium chews to get me into the habit of eating them every day.  The four day “jump start” plan was kind of tough, which is part of the reason why I decided to try it while I was on vacation, but the long-term plan looks doable.  Let’s see how this works out.  It certainly can’t be any worse than those magical leeks!