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October 30, 2005

Mmmmm. Stew!

Even though the weather wasn't very crisp and autumnal today, we were nevertheless inspired to try a beef stew recipe from Cook's Illustrated. I've always made my stew using a recipe from an ancient James Beard cookbook. It's served me well, but this Provençal-style stew just sounded wonderful. I mean, how can you go wrong when the recipe calls for an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon? Mais oui, c'etais magnifique!

October 27, 2005

The Lighter Side of Music

I enjoyed John Gruber's take on the new Dell Ditty (“Rhymes with Ditty”). He was struck by how much it looks like a Bic lighter. It really does! It would be really cool if it were a lighter (it's already an MP3 player and an FM radio). I mean, why not? You couldn't do that with an iPod. Of course, some restrictions would apply. It could only play “lighter” music. You know, stuff by the Flaming Groovies or James Brown and the Fantastic Flames, or songs like Fire, The Heat is On, Hot Stuff, Smoke on the Water, Light My Fire... I'll bet you could easily fill this thing up with lighter music (it only holds 220 songs). Not that I'm planning to get a Ditty. After all, it looks too much like a lighter, and I don't smoke. What would people think?

October 23, 2005

Watermelon Harvest... Finally

We harvested our first watermelon on Labor Day. It wasn’t quite ripe, so we decided to leave the others on the vine as long as possible. When the vine began dying back, Anne harvested the remainder, figuring there was no point waiting any longer. She was right; these watermelons were ripe and delicious. We don’t think we’ll be growing watermelons next year, however. For one thing, the vines tend to take over the rest of the garden, and more importantly, we’re not really in the mood for watermelon in mid-October! Still it was fun having our own home-grown.

2005 watermelon harvest

Watermelon family portrait. “Pee-wee,” the smallest melon, was about the size of a bowling ball. (No, we didn’t actually name them, but that would have been fun.)

And now for Something Completely Different. It’s the the new taste sensation that’s sweeping the nation (not): the pawpaw (the Wikipedia entry). Someone in one of Anne’s classes was giving them out. The tree is native to Pennsylvania, but the fruit’s flavor is decidedly tropical, although very subtle. The texture is unique in my experience—extremely smooth and creamy. I was surprised that I had never even heard of the pawpaw before. They don’t seem to be available commercially, at least not where we shop.

October 19, 2005

Abbey Road???

I confess I haven’t been following WXPN’s countdown of the 885 All Time Greatest Albums (which ended recently), but I was curious about the top ten. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the top of the list is so shamelessly boomer-centric, but I can’t work up any bile about it, nor should I, being a boomer myself. For their part, XPN plays plenty of new music; it’s only these contests that reveal the true nature of the station’s demographics. Still, I was surprised that so many XPN listeners are practically geriatric. I mean, do the kids today really think the Beatles were the greatest band ever?

October 17, 2005

Black is the New Black

Been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple of days and even with a backlog of half-written posts to choose from, actually finishing one was more than I could face.

It was a real treat going to the two photo openings last week: Ted Adams at Penn and a show called Powelton Photographs at Photo West Gallery. At Ted Adams' show, after taking a tour of the prints, I got to meet Ted, who actually recognized me as that "mere cat guy." Oh, the perils of putting your picture on your web site.

At Photo West two nights later, I ran into my old teacher from the Abington Art Center, Bill Kelly. In class, Bill was always urging us to get a “rich black” in our prints. I was a timid printer in those days and was so afraid of making a muddy mess that I rarely printed anything approaching a rich black. In more recent times I have come to value more and more contrast and blacker and blacker blacks in my prints. There's a reason for that. Black is the most powerful “color” in black-and-white photography. It's the one “color” that makes a silver print unique. You can barely achieve a good black with an inkjet printer and as for books printed with ordinary ink, forget it. I say all this in order to comment on Ted Adams' prints. Ted prints a beautiful, velvety black loaded with lots of detail. Not easy to do, I can tell you. His prints really sing to me. Albert Yee put up a nice appreciation of the show; I enjoyed quite an extended conversation with him as well. I was surprised I could talk that much when all I had to loosen my tongue was Sprite.

There were almost no blacks at the Powelton Photographs show. All of the work was in color and presumably digital, although I chanced to see some of Laurence Salzmann's gorgeous work upstairs. I went to this show to see Justin Smith who I had the pleasure of shooting with on one of our photoblogger outings. Justin printed his work with a kind of sepia tonality that was very effective. While the seven photographers' styles were wildly divergent, what really struck me was how coherent and well-edited everything was.

October 12, 2005

Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

Last week, NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed Larry Applebaum of the Library of Congress about a new release by pianist Thelonious Monk and saxophonist John Coltrane made in 1957 at Carnegie Hall. Although the concert was recorded for broadcast, the tapes were never aired and have languished until earlier this year.

The fragments I heard were characteristic of each players’ style, but with an extra dimension that was electrifying. Monk was his usual angular and pointillistic self, while Coltrane was the opposite, spinning unbroken strands of melody to fill every available space. I think Carnegie Hall inspired them, and it didn’t hurt that many of their distinguished peers were listening in the wings. I mention this only because jazz festivals can bring out the worst in players. Larger venues and enthusiastic audiences often encourage musicians to engage in bombastic overplaying, or what Wynton Marsalis calls “housin’” (showboating to please the audience). This group had way too much taste for that. They were definitely on though.

As great as the music was, that’s not what made my ears twitch. It was the sound—full, clear, balanced, and present. During the course of the interview, Robert Siegel even commented on the fidelity, and the interview turned a corner to discuss the engineering. The concert was recorded by a staff engineer at the Voice of America named Harry Hochberg, who recorded many of their jazz programs. He did a superb job. Harry, wherever you are, I salute you.

October 11, 2005

Ted Adams Photography Show at Penn

I don’t go to very many gallery receptions mainly because I never find out about them unless I have some kind of personal connection, however slight, with the artist. I always enjoy myself immensely, however. I mean you’ve got your art, your gourmet snacks, your scintillating conversation, your running into old acquaintances. I could imagine a full life just crashing one reception after another, and I would do it, too, if I could live on wine, cheese and raw vegetables. What a life that would be. Maybe they’ll even make a movie about it.

Kathleen Connally’s show opened Sunday at the Indian Rock Inn in Bucks County. And not merely wine and cheese, but there was a three-course Mediterranean dinner Friday night. That would have been a fun evening, but regrettably I was unable to attend. This Wednesday, October 12, a show by Philadelphia photographer Ted Adams will open at Kelly Writers House Art Gallery on the Penn Campus. It’s entitled “Stills from the Cinematic Street” based on Adams’ books of black-and-white photography, “Between Cracks: Philadelphia Photographs” and “Bleak Is Beautiful.” The reception is from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at 3805 Locust Walk (215-573-9748). I’ve never met Ted, but I have admired his work for some time; I also happen to think of the street in a cinematic or theatrical way. Barring some unforeseen crisis at work, I will be attending.

October 9, 2005

Commutus Interruptus

I knew we were in trouble when the train stopped at Fern Rock station, and the conductor announced with exasperated sarcasm, “Welcome to Friday. Everybody off the train!” I soon gathered that all SEPTA trains heading inbound from the northern suburbs were stopping here thanks to “police activity” at Market East station. When I finally got to work, I learned what that activity was—a bomb-sniffing dog had targeted some guy’s backpack. The object that the dog objected to turned out to be a propane nozzle. I guess it didn’t help that the suspect was reportedly wearing camouflage clothing.

I don’t know... it seems obvious to me. Somebody wearing camo with a propane nozzle? it’s pretty clear what we have here is a pastry chef on his way to scorch some crème brûlée, although I could be wrong; he might have been an artist (like Tremain Smith).

October 5, 2005

Five Stages, No Waiting

At the box office of the Keswick Theater tonight for John Scofield. Let’s listen in as Tony goes through the five stages of grief...

  • Shock Cancelled?! CANCELLED?! No way! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!
  • Denial This can’t be happening. The concert was cancelled ten days ago? That can’t be. I bought these tickets only seven days ago.
  • Anger That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How could you even sell tickets for a show that was cancelled?! Oh, great. Now what am I going to do with my evening? Blog?
  • Bargaining OK, OK. I’m cool. Now, can I get a full refund, or a credit or something? Aw, c’mon. Pweeeze?
  • Depression ::sulk::
  • Testing <tap> <tap> <tap> Is this thing on?
  • Acceptance I’m sure John didn’t mean it personally. He’ll come back. Shane, come back, come back!! ::sniff::

Yeah, I know there’s seven stages. My grief is too big for only five stages, man.

October 4, 2005

It’s What’s for Lunch

Setting: A Sodexho on-site restaurant somewhere in suburbia. T approaches a table where R is sitting. On R’s plate is an unappetizing slab of deep-fried something.
T: (visibly recoiling) What’s that?
R: It’s supposed to be fish.
T: How can you prove it?
R: I, uh... I can’t.
T: Ah, it’s kind of a faith-based lunch then.

October 3, 2005

Another Misheard Lyric

Some of the spam I get masquerading as real email cracks me up. Like ones that pretend to reply to a message you sent: Re: lunch plans. Some of these fool the spam filters, but since I don't know the sender, I don't read it. (What were they thinking?) This morning I got one with the subject: Re: Re:

Two Re's were all I needed to start channeling Aretha Franklin:

Re, re, re, re, re
Just a little bit.
  .   .   .
Find out what it means to me.
Take care of TCP.
  .   .   .
Socket to me, Socket to me,
Socket to me, Socket to me.

TCP, sockets, who knew this song was about networking.