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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2018] The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

I didn’t know this story, nor did I know anything about the Thorne rooms before our trip to Chicago last summer.

So the Thorne Rooms are, well, I’ll let the Art Institute of Chicago’s website describe them:

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.

Read more about them and see pictures here.  That description doesn’t really do justice to the rooms themselves.

They are really magical in the way that they fully represent a room from a specific time and place.  The floor, ceilings, walls and furniture all meet exacting standard of detail.  And what makes them somehow even more special is that each room shows rooms out of the side and back doors.  These are lit (and show a painted facade) that indicates what is just beyond the walls of the room you are looking at.  It really adds a lot of depth and character to a scene.

Seeing them in person was really wonderful.

T. and I had started listening to this book before we left for Chicago, but we decided to wait until our trip to save it for the whole family.  Then we wound up not listening to it until the home, after we had seen the rooms.  And I feel like that made it all the more special. Because I could see exactly what the kids were doing in this fun and bizarre adventure. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BÉGAYER-“L’image du manque” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

I certainly didn’t know Bégayer before hearing them here.  Bégayer is a trio from the south of France that howls in French and Arabic, bangs on homemade instruments and leaves a path of delirious distortion in its wake.

Lars describes them as a combination of Animal Collective, Malian desert rock and Eugene Chadbourne thrown off a cliff.

This song starts with a kind of unsure-sounding opening foray into a guitar riff (very Malian in style), after twenty seconds, the high-pitched guitar notes resolve into a furious frenzy–an almost amelodious riff that flies around at breakneck speed.   The super fast drums help to propel the chaos along.

After a minute or so the vocals kick in–they are sparse and peculiar–more keening than singing at times and I have no idea what he is singing.  On a few occasions, the guitar seems to almost have a breakdown while he is singing although by the end he starts to sound like Jeff Buckley having a bit of breakdown himself. It’s bizarre and eerily compelling.

The whole album plays around with these sounds for a different experience with each song.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Feast of the Epiphany”

This surreal story was published in 2016 in Gronzi’s collection Claustrophobias.

It begins with this bizarre, hilarious opening

It must’ve been either my thirty-third or my thirty-ninth birthday, if one is to believe the numerological charts, and there must’ve been some kind of adult arrangement involving children or else I would’ve never agreed to show myself in public in the company of three or four diversely aged creatures whose cumulative understanding of metaphysics was equivalent to the curiosity of a wart on the nose of a Rajasthani kaan-saaf wallah cleaning people’s ears in the streets of Paharganj.

This dinner becomes farcical with the introduction of the waiter:

Unable to appreciate the animated performance of the waiter who insisted on joining his forefingers over his head and doing a little dance every time he mentioned the rabbit in orange and thyme sauce, I finished the rather cheerless ten-year-old Hermitage before I even read the menu.

Before the appetizer is even over, the narrator makes his excuses and heads for the restroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NICK LOWE AND LOS STRAITJACKETS-“Christmas at the Airport” (2014/2013).

I probably like Nick Lowe a lot more than I realize.  I know I like his songwriting more than I realize.  And I love Los Straightjackets.  A perfect pairing.

This is not a moving, treacly holiday song.  And yet neither is it a bitter, what-has-the-season-come-to song.  It’s just one of those things that happens, and he’ll take in (humorous) stride.

It wasn’t until celebrated songsmith Nick Lowe’s 2013 curio, “Christmas at the Airport,” that someone expressed in song what it was like to watch the hopes of holiday cheer fade right before our eyes, on a snow-covered runway in late December. Recorded live in 2014, at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, backed by Nashville’s neo-surf band Los Straitjackets, Lowe takes us through all the stages of Christmas-time travel grief, one verse at a time.

Stage One: Bemusement. Gazing out the window of his cab upon arrival at the airport, Lowe notices that the place is beginning to look more like the front of a Christmas card than an international travel hub. But even as the tarmac takes on ever-increasing layers of soft, white, wintry down, the full gravity of the situation hasn’t yet sunk in enough to truly unnerve him yet.

Stage Two: Realization. The cold, hard reality of the protagonist’s circumstances suddenly hits home. The fickle finger of fate is pointing at everyone in the airport as if to say, “Nobody’s going anywhere this Christmas. Have you seen that snow outside?” Tempers flaring all around him, Lowe sneaks into a secluded spot for a catnap, maybe hoping things will somehow look better when he awakes.

Stage Three: Transcendence. We’ve all had to buck up sooner or later in this kind of situation, find a way to make a homebound holiday fun. For Lowe, that process entails playing with the TSA equipment in the agents’ absence, turning the baggage carousel into an amusement-park ride, and even scrounging some fast food from the refuse.

And all set to a chipper, surf rock tune.

[READ: December 24, 2018] “Christmas Eve, 1944”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although this song is an NPR curio.

At first I was concerned because this is a Christmas war story (and those really only go one of two ways).  But in fact it turned out to be awesome.  One of the most moving stories I have read in a long time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WU-TANG CLAN-Tiny Desk Concert #810 (December 5, 2018).

Wu-Tang Clan is more myth than real in my mind.  I didn’t even know they had released so many records.  I thought they had done two or three and then that $2 million record and that was it.

Of course I knew that each Wu had a hugely successful solo career as well.

Somehow I even missed that they are doing a show in Philly next month ($100/ticket for GA seats).

So I was pretty surprised to see them at the Tiny Desk.  And after watching the show, I totally see the appeal of seven or eight lead rappers flowing off of each other and backing each other up.  Each guy has his own style and it’s a ton of fun hearing them play snippets throughout their career.

Obviously I don’t know many of their songs, so I couldn’t even speculate how many songs they do a snippet of.   But I enjoyed watching them pivot around each other in this small space.  All the while the live strings (!) sounds great and RZA played DJ with turntables and a whole lot more.

The rest of the Clan include:

Cappadonna: black leather jacket/backwards baseball cap
U-God: gray hoodie and sunglasses
GZA: blue hoodie
Masta Killa: camo jacket
Raekwon: aqua jacket
Inspectah Deck: White hoodie blue sleeves
Young Dirty Bastard: black sweatshirt and fun hair

So what was this all about?

The Wu-Tang Clan gathered at the Tiny Desk to commemorate the 25 years since the release of the group’s landmark album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). With more than 60 albums between the various members, The Clan’s combined discography left them spoiled for choice when it came to narrowing down the set list for their performance. The result was an extended, 20-minute medley of songs from across the group’s iconic catalog.

The retrospective mashup of Wu classics started with the posse cut “Triumph.” Backed by strings (The Green Project), the performance morphed into an old-school cipher as Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and Cappadonna traded verses with GZA, Masta Killa and U-God. Young Dirty Bastard, son of original member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, provided a spark of energy reminiscent of his father.

As RZA cued up songs, the Clan got the crowd to chant along

Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with

The medley includes “Glaciers of Ice” and “Protect Ya Neck”

They give a shout out to Method Man who couldn’t be there, while RZA plays a clip from one of his songs.

After about fifteen minutes RZA says

We could do this shit all day we having fun like a motherfucker.

This leads to RZA rapping “Duckseason.”

At one moment in the performance, RZA — the mastermind behind the Clan’s success — omits some explicit lyrics from earlier in his Wu journey, while alluding to the #MeToo movement mid-cadence.

They finish up the set with “C.R.E.A.M.”  [Doll bill, Dollar bill, y’all].  This gets everyone going.  When they end, RZA has one more request.

He says he’s always wanted to play with a trio.  Is it okay if I do one dart and you can play whatever the fuck you want.

But it’s the poetic interlude, read from his phone at the close of the set, that better reflects his current state of consciousness.

The Green Project plays a great little mildly menacing melody as he does his brand new lyric.

They end with a big “Wu-Tang is for the kids.”

Kinda makes me want to spend $100 to see them.

[READ: December 20, 2018] “Addie and the Chili”

Lydia Davis is known for her short, quirky stories. But I often wonder if her stories get published just because of her name.

This is a story in which nothing happens.  And three-quarters of the way through, it even bemoans the fact that nothing happened.

It opens with

Years ago, Ellie asked me to write the story of our friend Addie and the chili.

She says she tried to write it then and gave up.  But now, 30 years later, she tries again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JINGLE BELL SWING (1999).

I grew up listening to swing music so I love all the greats–Duke, Benny, Glenn.  Anyone else.  This collection fits right in that comfort zone, although they liberally sprinkle the disc with some more beat than swing pieces, which is pretty amusing, too.

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra-“Jingle Bells”
A fun instrumental swing version of the classic song.

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea-“Deck The Halls”
Obviously, Herbie and Chick were not around during the swing era.  But this song does in fact swing.  It’s a fast zippy number with some decidedly 1970s era horn blasts and percussion.  The song is nearly 5 minutes, which is long for  Christmas song, but it’s good jazzy fun.

Tony Bennett-“Winter Wonderland”
Tony Bennett is not one of my favorites, but this is a decent version.  Even if it’s not really swing.

Duke Ellington-“Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)”
The Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite is awesome.  This is one section in which he make a cool, jazzy version out of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Dance.  I love this so much.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tex Beneke-“Snowfall”
A pretty, slow instrumentalist that invokes snowfall for sure.

Benny Goodman And His Orchestra-“Winter Weather”
Peggy Lee sings the female vocals and Art Lund sings the male vocals and every one dances to Benny’s clarinet.

Louis Prima-“What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everyone Swinging?)”
Louis Prima is always a hoot, and this song is no exception.  Everyone is swinging when Santa comes to his house.

Pony Poindexter-“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I’ve never heard of Pony Poindexter before.  This version is quite dissonant.  The orchestra hits are loud and sharp and the two horns playing together don’t always meld.  But the middle section is jazzy fun.

Russell Malone-“O Christmas Tree”
This is a pretty standard jazzy version–sounds a lot like the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Delightful.

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-“Deck Us All With Boston Charlie”
The first part is a hilarious rewording of Deck the Halls, and the second part is just an insane couple of minutes of scatting.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley’garoo!
Don’t we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly welly cracker n’ too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, ‘lope with you!

Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly gaggin’ on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Ninky dinky dink an’ polly voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Miles Davis “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)”
This might be the most anti-commercial Christmas song in the history of music.  In addition to Miles’ gorgeous horns, you get a scathing attack on commercialism by Bob Dorough, who you will know from Schoolhouse Rock.  His beat-style delivery of these words is brutal.

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
You see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
And plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards, and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It’s a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy

Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Fal-de-ral
Bitter gall . . . Fal-de-ral.

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it’s blue…

Louis Prima-“Shake Hands With Santa Claus”
More fun from Prima.  He even alludes to bananas (Yes We Have No Bananas) in the zippy lyrics.

Art Carney-“‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”
Art Carney in his mid 30’s reads a beat-style delivery of the titular song set to a simple hi-hat rhythm.  It is so much fun.

Carmen McRae-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This is a slow, rather long version of this song set mostly to a bass and twinkling vibes.

[READ: December 12, 2018] “A Clean Break”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Is this “The most Jewish story ever written for an advent calendar?”

Possibly.

It also has footnotes! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKWE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS (1994).

This is another disc that S bought a long time ago.  It’s fun looking these up because most of them are ones she bought for $5 at the CVS or something.  This one is yet another collection with classic crooners and country stars merged together.

BING CROSBY-“Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is everpresent on Christmas collections–I wonder if he sang the most Christmas songs or if he is just the most popular. This version is so over the top with the choir and backing team that Bing is almost superfluous.  But it’s pretty.

TANYA TUCKER-“What Child is This”
My imagination for this conversation: Tanya, you are a good time country gal, and we need you to be really intense and serious as you sing this.  Boy howdy, does she emphasize and enunciate every syllable.  It’s also total whiplash after the previous song to have an acoustic guitar and string version of a song.

THE LETTERMEN-“Silent Night”
This version is pretty vanilla but honesty you don’t want frills and fancy on this lovely song.  It’s not my favorite but it’s nice anyway

AL MARTINO-“O Holy Night”
I don’t know who Al Martino is, but this version is straight and understated–a solid proper version of this song with a choir and everything

THE NEW CHRISTY MINSTRELS-“Here We Come a Caroling/Deck the Hals/We Wish You a Merry Christmas”  This is a classic mashup with the songs melding into each other–while one group is singing deck the halls, another is fading out “Here We Come.”  It’s pretty fantastic, and decades before Glee.

SUZY BOGGUSS-“The First Noel”  This version is straightforward and pretty with acoustic guitar. She is yet another country singer doing Christmas.

THE BEACH BOYS-“We Three Kings”  Certainly my least favorite Beach Boys Christmas song.  Possibly my least favorite Christmas version.  Why is this so slow and mournful.  Every verse sounds like they regret showing up and they are wiped put from their gift giving.   Although the live version was much better.

VIRGIL FOX-“Joy to the World.” I have no idea who Virgil Fox is but this is a lovely pipe organ version of the song.

THE ROGER WAGNER CHORALE-“Good King Wenselsas.”  If you like chorales (and they are lovely) this is a wonderful version of thus song.  I can’t tell the quality of one chorale from another but it is nice.

THE HOLLYRIDGE STRINGS–“Jingle Bells”  This is my favorite song of the bunch.  The Hollyridge Strings are kitschy and wonderful.  This song includes a great  farfisa organ solo and clopping wood blocks.

[READ: December 9, 2018] “Someone Steps In”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is one of those stories that is important but kind of tedious to read.  And yet I feel like when my daughter is older I would love her to read it to feel like she is not alone. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: WE ARE AUGUSTINES-“New Drink for the Old Drunk” (Field Recordings, September 5, 2012).

I have never heard of We Are Augustines (and I’m pretty amazed to see them referenced with Titus Andronicus as if they were big enough to be known back in 2012.  Were they?)

For this Field Recording [We Are Augustines: Somewhere Over The Mountain], the three guys are on top of a mountain outside of the Sasquatch! Music Festival (where it is very windy, they keep saying).

The singer starts singing a song (perhaps an improv) and the band joins in briefly.  Then with two guitars and a box drum, they move on to their song proper.

The Brooklyn band We Are Augustines wouldn’t seem to lend itself to windblown acoustic sing-alongs: The songs on 2011’s Rise Ye Sunken Shipssongs bellow and soar in the electric, anthemic spirit of, say, Titus Andronicus. But for this Field Recording, captured during the closest thing to a quiet moment at the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival, the trio strapped on acoustic guitars — and grabbed a box for percussion — long enough to perform a cover of Crooked Fingers’ “New Drink for the Old Drunk.”

This has a good raw powerful feel and their style suits an acoustic performance–of course, this is a cover, so I still know little about them.  They were able to drown out the actual Festival (not far away at all), which you can hear as the song comes to and end.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Save a Horse Ride a Cowgirl”

I really enjoyed this story a lot although I found it hard to follow a bit.  This was primarily because the protagonist of the story is not the person who opens the story.

It opens with Sterne crashing his car into the car of two young girls, Heidi and Bree.  We stay at the scene for a few paragraphs and we soon learn that Sterne was not at fault–the girls had been texting while driving.

We find this out through Sterne’s brother, Bradley, a lawyer.  And this story s all about Bradley. (more…)

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