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Music and Movies — The Perfect Combination

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Think back to the early days of “moving pictures,” before sound was developed to accompany the film. If you watch documentaries about the subject, you know piano players were hired to be in theaters to play music at the appropriate times during the film. This enhanced the acting that was on screen and let the audience know when they should feel happy or nervous about what was being portrayed on film. Fast forward to the 21st century and music is still an integral part of watching a film, in a theater or at home.

We had the pleasure of attending a special event held at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The evening began with a program entitled Common Language: The Art of Composing for Film. It was an evening of film clips and conversation with creative collaborator Carter Burwell, (composer of True Grit, Where the Wild Things Are, and the extremely successful Twilight Trilogy, etc.) and filmmaker Michael Almereyda (Paradise, Hamlet, Nadja).

The evening began with a greeting by Raj Roy, Chief Curator of MOMA’s film department. The audience viewed clips of films and then Burwell discussed how he composed the music in addition to the story behind several of the scores. The tales were as stirring as his music as Burwell described the process he went through to find the right music to accompany such films as Raising Arizona and Fargo, among his vast array of commercial hits.

For True Grit, he had a year before the film was made and decided not to go with a typical western soundtrack. The plot line of the film was from a fourteen-year old girl’s point of view as she talked about avenging her father’s murder. Her narrative bore many passages that were biblical or used “church language” and so Burwell scored music that was in the same genre as church hymns.

In Twilight, the teen vampire series, a compelling love song melody was requested by the filmmakers, so Burwell used a song he wrote when he was courting a girl in his dating days. Bella’s Lullaby was thus created and Burwell was amazed about how much interest this music has been generated by bloggers. “By the way,” Burwell related, “that girl from his dating days is now his wife.”

These and other stories filled the evening with the behind-the-scenes look at the process of inserting music into films. It was a forceful insight into the world of music that stirs, compels and puts us on the edge of our seats in the darkened movie theater.

February 21, 2018 |

Important Information Needed When Babysitting

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Whether you have a babysitter for just the evening or for an extended period of time, there is vital information all parents should leave posted before they go out. Case in point is when we had the opportunity to mind our two grandchildren for the week when their parents took a plane trip out of town. Since we live in another state we were not familiar with the children’s daily routine, so before our visit I sent our daughter an extensive email asking for important phone numbers and schedules. It was pleasurable being with and taking care of our six- and eight-year old grandchildren for that week; however, to feel more comfortable I wanted all the necessary emergency phone numbers at my fingertips. One sheet of information was posted on their refrigerator and the other kept in our car’s glove compartment since we would be doing errands with the children and picking them up from school by car.

I wanted the telephone number for their elementary school and their teachers’ names in case I had to call the school if one of them were sick and not going to class. Since it was wintertime, I asked how we would be notified in the event of a delay or school closing. “The school will call the house with a recorded message” was the answer. More important than the school’s telephone number were the names and phone numbers of their pediatrician and dentist. What is the name/address of the nearest hospital and the name of their medical insurance company and ID number? Grandparents or caregivers in charge of young children when parents are away and can’t be reached should have a note designating them to authorize treatment. Last, but not least, I wanted the name/number of the veterinarian used for their little dog.

Making sure all bases were covered for our week babysitting, we were able to enjoy our time together and not think about what to do or who to contact in an emergency. It was certainly an eye-opener to go back in time and be part of getting two young children ready for school each morning, helping with homework, bath time, listening to them practice their reading, playing classic board games, and best of all reading some of my favorite stories to them at bedtime.

Today’s working parents certainly have a complex life and hectic daily routine – that’s for sure!

 

 

 

 

February 14, 2018 |

Happy New Year – Chinese Style

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

 

In every month there is a reason to celebrate or recognize a particular occasion. Among February’s holidays is the Chinese New Year, which falls on the 16th of the month this year. There are 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac and this year it is the Year of the Dog. The Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year because it is based on the moon, so it’s called the lunar calendar. A Chinese New Year always falls on the second day of the new moon after the winter solstice. There are 7 “lucky foods” to be eaten during the 16-day festival, with each one having a different meaning. Among the most common delectable choices are dumplings, fish, and spring rolls. For instance, eating fish means increased prosperity; dumplings and spring rolls bring wealth; tangyuan (sweet rice balls), family togetherness; good fortune fruit, fullness and wealth; niagao (glutinous rice cakes), a higher income or position; and longevity noodles bring happiness and longevity. So what’s not to like about eating delicious foods with so many unique promises?

When our children were young we taught them to try many different foods over the years. To make meals interesting when I cooked Chinese food, I served tea in the tiny handle-free cups used in Chinese restaurants. It was served in an Asian-designed teapot with a bamboo handle. My family’s favorite dish was Niu Ju Chin Jow (beef with green peppers, served with rice) an easy recipe I discovered decades ago in my international cookbook.

Recipe

This recipe serves four. While cooking the beef and peppers, cook your rice so it is ready when this part is finished. I use a wok, but a large frying pan is also fine to use.

Ingredients:

1 pound thinly sliced lean beef

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon pepper

6 medium green peppers

6 tablespoons cooking oil

1 teaspoon salt

Mix beef with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, cornstarch and pepper. Seed peppers and cut in julienne strips. Fry in 3 tablespoons of oil. Remove from pan, add remaining oil and fry beef until redness disappears. Add peppers, salt and remaining soy sauce. Note: chicken, pork or shrimp can also be used instead of beef.

In closing, here is the Cantonese greeting used on New Year’s to wish everyone “Great Happiness and Prosperity” — Gong Hey Fat Choy (pronounced Gung Hey Fah Choy).

February 7, 2018 |

‘A Chorus Line’ Opens the 2018 Westchester Broadway Theatre Season!

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

There couldn’t be a more appropriate production to kick off the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s (WBT) 2018 season than the mega Broadway hit, A Chorus Line! One of the longest running musicals ever, the iconic music gets your feet tapping instantly. This WBT show opened on January 11th and will run through April 1st. As with all their shows, this one is filled with glitz, glamour and soul as well as talented performers that fit their roles perfectly.

While life on stage appears glamorous under the lights along with hearing thunderous applause, the road to this fame is an exhausting process. Based on the book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line was destined to be a hit show. The storyline is simple. It’s a celebration of those unsung heroes of the musical theatre—the chorus dancers—valiant, over-dedicated, underpaid and highly trained troopers who back up the stars and often make them look more talented.

This is the real life experience of Broadway dancers. Everything is on the line for 17 dancers as they audition for a highly sought-after place in the chorus of a Broadway musical.  Through this exhausting process, their stories and vulnerabilities are laid on the line as they ultimately come together and become one singular sensation! In a brilliant fusion of song, dance, and compellingly authentic drama, the musical features one powerhouse number after another including What I Did for Love, One, and I Can Do That. Considered groundbreaking when it opened on Broadway in 1975, the musical went on to win nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Today, it remains as touching and powerful as when it debuted and is one of the longest running musicals on Broadway.

Reservations

Think of Valentine’s Day or any other upcoming event that you wish to celebrate or enjoy with an evening out with friends and co-workers. A Chorus Line promises the perfect night of dance, music and extraordinary entertainment and dining as is customary at the WBT. Call (914) 592-2222 or visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com

There are discounts for groups of 20 or more, Luxury Boxes for private parties at both lunch and dinner shows and free parking. Dinner & Show range between $59.00 to $89.00 plus tax depending on the performance chosen. Beverage Service & Gratuities are not included in the ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Check their website for on-going Special Offers!

January 31, 2018 |

Handling Money Techniques Can Create a Lifestyle

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

How you handle your money, keep track of it and spend or save it influences your lifestyle. People learn by example, and handling money is no exception. An article about family finances stated that children usually grow up handling their money in a fashion similar to that of their parents. Does the child overhear family issues about “not having enough money to pay the bills” or “how should we invest the money we have saved this year?” The child who observes parents’ strong money values and is taught to spend wisely, to comparison shop, avoid heavy credit card debt, and to save for a rainy day will most likely do the same later on as an adult.

Teaching Taxes

When a parent is in the middle of preparing income taxes, it can be so frustrating that there is little time to think about sharing a “learning experience” with a student. Parents wrapped up in calculations and completing the filing process forget there is a vital mathematics lesson here for their children. A student in their junior or senior year of high school is ready to learn how to prepare income taxes. If the student held a part time job, this is an easy tax form to complete. When our student was a senior she received a W-2 form from her summer employer. Her taxes were not complex, so my husband taught her how to complete her own income tax form that year. His instruction included the importance of neat and accurate writing when filling in all the information, how to find the figures she needed to insert in the boxes, and how to read the form. Her form was the 1040 easy version and a perfect start for learning what filing taxes actually meant. It was not difficult for her and she was able to compute the appropriate final figure for her refund. Naturally, Dad reviewed it to make sure everything was correct and nothing was left out. The feeling of accomplishment was something she talked about months later. Now with the ease of computer software a novice has no problems with this task. New software literally speaks to you and personally guides the user through every step, asking questions, prompting responses and providing tips along the way. This is certainly far easier than the old pencil and calculator method my husband first started with decades ago! By starting at an early age, the student will feel more comfortable tackling the process in the years to come.

January 24, 2018 |

Winter Entertaining—Pizza, Chocolate and a Movie

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

 

Let the winter winds blow and the snow fall because it is a great time to stay inside and watch a good movie! A dear friend of mine, JoAnn, lives near Niagara Falls and surely has plenty of winter weather that keeps her and her husband inside. During one of our phone calls she told me that tonight was her “Pizza, Chocolate, Movie” night, and her two lady friends were coming over. She explained how it started and what it was.

Dinner

The ladies take turns visiting each other’s home every other week during the winter. To make it easy on the host, the menu is kept simple. Dinner is pizza, and dessert is always something chocolate that one of the other ladies would bring. It could be a cake, brownies, éclairs or chocolate cream pie—anything luscious.

Their movie choice is decided beforehand, and either one of the ladies would bring a DVD or borrow one from their local library. The only decision to be made was what kind of movie were the ladies in the mood for that night. Would it be a drama, mystery, romance or an international film? As JoAnn described, by having the same easy dinner there was no guessing what was on the menu. The pizza was ordered in, so the host never had to cook. This was a lovely way for friends to spend time together and pass a winter’s evening! However, it doesn’t take cold weather to have friends over—this idea they devised is fun year-round.

International Films

Our neighbor subscribes to Netflix and often invites me over to watch some of the selections offered. We’ve discovered some of the most interesting foreign film choices that are so engrossing they can easily be called “binge worthy.” Perhaps most people are hesitant about reading subtitles, but after two or three episodes it becomes second nature. If you feel adventurous, give it a try if you have Netflix. Our recent favorites were Velvet and Kurt Seyit and Sura. Velvet is a romance about the son of a wealthy department store owner who falls in love with the orphaned niece of the store’s manager. It takes place in Barcelona in the 1950’s. Kurt Seyit and Sura takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia and is about a handsome Turkish officer in the Russian army who falls in love with a young, beautiful girl of Russian nobility. The costumes and lush scenery are fantastic and the story engrossing.

Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

January 17, 2018 |

Tax Season Need Not Be Taxing

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

With January’s arrival, mailings containing the documents required for tax preparation will begin to appear. April 15th seems to sneak up on us, and being organized helps lessen the frustration of finding necessary information. If files are kept in order year-round, there is no need to panic. The hardest part about preparing your taxes is locating the papers that you have saved all year long. Putting your fingers on the forms and important records or cancelled checks you need can be a challenge, especially after a busy holiday season. To help with storing files and records visit an office supply store to see what they offer.

Filing

At the beginning of every year I purchase a large, durable accordion-style folder for holding the papers I file. Some folders have designated names for each slot, starting with Auto Insurance, Bank Records, Credit Cards, Dental Bills, Income, Medical, Utilities, etc. You can also buy the same file folder with alphabetical listings of “A to Z” and create your own titles on each letter pocket using a label maker. After each bill is paid, slip the stub in the appropriate folder making sure the check number and payment date are on the statement. A duplicate computer record can also be kept with account numbers and totals using a tax or home accounting program. An Excel file can tally your accounts with each new entry. At the end of the year, with this sheet you can easily assess how much you have donated to charity or paid out in medical bills in addition to any other totals needed to compute your income taxes. The IRS suggests you keep your income tax records and files for at least seven years in the event you are called in for an audit. A side note—just because you have not heard from the IRS the year after you filed your taxes, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from them sometime down the road.

If we have no dispute regarding payment of our utility bills, we shred them after three years. When it is time to destroy old papers, whether it is a statement, medical record or other financial piece of information, think about the shredder you are using. A “cross cut” machine cuts paper on a diagonal, making it impossible to piece together any information. Don’t skimp on this piece of equipment if you are considering purchasing one. It is your life history and personal identity that are at stake. If you think income tax time is a nightmare, just imagine what identity theft would be like!

 

January 10, 2018 |
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