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March 31, 2007

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

The other night we were discussing the pronunciation of “illustrative” and wondering why just adding -ive changes the pronunciation to ill-US-truh-tiv from the more logical ILL-us-tray-tiv. Furthermore, is ILL-us-tray-tiv even considered correct? A modern dictionary did nothing to answer the question, as it included both pronunciations, but in such sudden-death overtime cases I turn to my antique Webster’s Second International, widely considered to be the last “prescriptive” dictionary, i.e., one that takes a stand on correct usage.


The unabridged dictionary in our library. In my dreams. “We shall be two for dinner in the library this evening, Jeeves.”

That settled nothing—both prounciations were listed. Thanks for nothing, Webster. A day or two later, while watching Robert Reich’s first video podcast, I noticed he pronounced “indicative” IN-di-kay-tiv, not in-DIK-uh-tiv. That was a surprise. Since I depend on highly-educated speakers such as Mr. Reich to guide my ear, I’m more confused than ever. Whadda youse think?


Well, that was...illustrative. ;-) Eether/eyether, ant/awnt, etc. Fun to hear...I'm still old enough to say Care-uh-bee-un instead of Cuh-rib-ee-un. I never did get used to the news anchors pronouncing Nicaragua like they were in the Managua barrio....Nee-hah-rah-waw.

Is Zyzzogeton the last word in your dictionary? It was in the only unabridged version I have come in contact with. Zyzzogeton is a genus of South American leaf hoppers.

Rick, yes Zyzzogeton is also the last word in my dictionary.

March 29, 2007

Medieval Tech Support [nanoblog]

Apparently the Help Desk dates back at least to Gutenberg’s time as shown by this sketch (in Norwegian with English subtitles) from 2001. “Everyone needs help with the new system.” In this case, a book. Via Phil Windley’s Technometria

March 28, 2007

Piano Benefit Concert Friday

Vintage Mason & Hamlin keyboard

The Church of the Holy Trinity (on Rittenhouse Square) is holding a benefit concert this Friday to raise money for a new piano. “Join us for an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, show tunes, gospel and opera performed by many of Philadelphia’s talented local musicians.” Admission is $20. After the legions of broken-down pianos I’ve endured in my life, I’m all about helping folks get a better instrument, and it sounds like fun, too. I am planning to attend.


Thanks for the press!

i've walked by and the interior of the church looks so gorgeous. wish i could attend, but that's waaay too steep for me.

March 16, 2007

Blogger Meetup Time Again

March’s Philly Blogger Meetup is tomorrow and looks to be a bittersweet celebration as it will probably be my last one for a few months.

You never know who’s going to be there, but I am hoping to buttonhole Colin Devroe for a few minutes. I followed his adventures at SXSW and am looking forward to asking him about microformats, as in What are they and should I care? (He has written about this in the past.)

Apart from the interesting conversation, I am looking forward to tasting some Victory HopDevil (an IPA). I remember having some and thinking it was the first IPA I ever liked. Following some recent experiences with IPAs at the Philly Craft Beer Festival, I suspect that HopDevil may be the king of the IPAs, for me at least.

Ten Stone Bar & Restaurant, 21st & South St., 3:00 pm.


As long as this snow lets up long enough for me to drive down - I'll be there!

March 12, 2007

Lotus Blossom

I recently finished watching Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, a documentary by Robert Levi about the composer’s life that a friend recorded for me (thanks Peter!). “Lush Life” was not only the name of one of his most enduring masterpieces, but it also alluded to his one weakness. He really enjoyed his cocktails—perhaps a little too much.

I learned that “Lush Life” was composed when Strayhorn was only 16. The lyric certainly belies his age, as it is written from the perspective of a much older person and is imbued more with despair than youthful hopefulness. It’s very sophisticated musically as well, and is one of the few tunes from the standards repertoire where the verse is always played.

I admired “Lush Life” for many years and was well aware of Strayhorn’s long collaboration with Duke Ellington and his enormous contribution to Duke’s fame. Two of Ellington’s most famous tunes, “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Satin Doll,” were written by Strayhorn. It was another song, however, that really elevated Billy Strayhorn into one of my favorite composers. The tune is “Lotus Blossom.” I first heard it about 10 years ago on a trip to San Francisco to visit a friend. My friend had a new CD by the pianist Fred Hersch called “Passion Flower,” which was a tribute to Strayhorn. It included “Lotus Blossom,” which was new to me. It’s not an obscure song at all (there are at least 50 versions of it on iTunes), but I had never heard it before. The feelings it evokes are complex, an introspective sophistication tinged with sadness. It was a perfect soundtrack for gazing down on San Francisco bay from his condo in the hills.

Levi must have been impressed by “Lotus Blossom,” too, because he saved it for the end of the film summing up Strayhorn’s career. Composer Don Shirley said, “Of all the things that Billy wrote, ‘Lotus Blossom’ was such an enigma for Duke. Duke died never being able to figure out how Billy wrote ‘Lotus Blossom.’ It got to a point that I began to realize that it bothered him—in the good sense—trying to figure How did he do that? It's that kind of thing. But Billy had that kind of genius.” It is a remarkable song.


I love the song, and have looked for years, without success, for the sheet music or a book containing the music. The closest I've come is a lead sheet in a fake book. Does anyone have any leads or tips?

I, too, have looked for years for the sheet music for "Lotus Blossom." And would be grateful for any leads. I've also looked for "Such Sweet Thunder" or an abridged version without success.

Yes, May I too ask for any leads through which one may purchase the piano sheet music of the Strayhorn/Ellington "Lotus Blossom".

Russ, (Dorset, UK)

I love this tune. I also recorded a video of a band from the Netherlands that performed it during a Dixieland Jazz Festival in Orange County California in August of 2007. The name of the band is Jurbena Jazz Band. They do a delicious rendition of the tune.
I enjoyed reading your information above about some of the history of Stayhorn and Ellington.
Tom Warner

I have an old sheet of this tune. Lotus Blossom aka "Asiatic Raes". Contact me at and I will send a copy to anyone who wants it.

Richard, that is very generous of you! I have never been able to find a sheet for this tune.

Hi, do you think your friend, Peter, would be interested in making me a copy of Robert Levi's "Lush Life"? I have a doctor who essentially saved my life (cancer), who's a huge jazz fan AND shares Billy Strayhorn's birthday. He'd LOVE the video and it would be the ideal "thank you" present.

sweet lotus blossom is original sweet mariuhana titled. The song and melody line should let you hear the trip you get from the drug. the song is used in an old hollywood film and they changed the title because is was not propper in that time to sing about drugs. on youtube there is an clip from the movie were a girl sings the original lyrics about the drug. greetings
John van Ierland (jurbena jazz band)

Hey John, I listened to your Sweet Lotus Blossom on YouTube. Really enjoyed the performance, but that's a different tune than the Strayhorn composition. Still, interesting background info, and I really enjoyed your band!

Hey guys, for those of you wanting sheet music for Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" have you seen this?$2292

And is that useful at all?

What _I'm_ looking for is a lead sheet to the OTHER "Lotus Blossom" -- written by Coslow and Johnson for the 1934 movie "Murder at the Vanities." The tune was originally entitled "Sweet Marihuana" but that didn't get past the censors and so was changed to "Lotus Blossom."

I hadn't heard that version on YouTube, that's GREAT! The tune the Jerbena Jazz Band plays is exactly the one I'm looking for. I got to the piece originally through Dave Frishberg, it's in his repertoire.

No, this is not "Asiatic Raes" -- that's ANOTHER "Lotus Blossom." (Another nice tune in itself.)

Any help gratefully appreciated. Lemme see what else can be found. Thanks.

(tuba player/jazz fiend)

I love this song! and I have looked for its lyrics with no success. Can anybody post it here? Thanks!

Laura, As far as I know, the Billy Strayhorn “Lotus Blossom” does not have lyrics. I’ve never heard it sung, only played. CORRECTION: Apparently, someone named Gene Esposito wrote lyrics for "Lotus Blossom." Try Googling that.

The tune Lotus Blossom may be found in these books:

Hal Leonard Jazz Play-Along Series
[Vol 88] Lotus Blossom

The Real Jazz Classics Fake Book - Hal Leonard
Lotus Blossom

Jazz of the 60s and Beyond - Hal Leonard
Lotus Blossom

[Hal Leonard] Real Book Vol 2
Lotus Blossom

Good luck....I have none of the books and would appreciate a copy of the music myself.

Wayne Renardson
Nashville, TN 37204

[Hal Leonard] Real Book Vol 2
Lotus Blossom

Thanks for the info! Very helpful. has the LB lead sheet available for instant download for $3.99.

Thanks for the info! Very helpful.

The extremely underrated vocalist Carole Sloane wrote some very poignant lyrics for Strayhorn's Lotus Blossom, which she performed on her Duke Ellington tribute CD (on Concord) some years ago. Every time I hear it, I get a little misty-eyed.

March 9, 2007

Flower Show 2007

Another year, another Flower Show. No, I don’t take it for granted. This year’s was a particularly good one. I think this was the first show I went to unencumbered by a camera.

SEPTA managed to distinguish itself in the eyes of a small group of passengers at the Market East station. Understand that during the Flower Show, SEPTA gets a lot of business from suburbanites who would otherwise never set foot on a train, so you would hope they would be on their best behavior, or maybe that’s just their excuse not to care. Anyway, the R5 heading to Doylestown was still labeled “Thorndale” (where it was coming from), so even though the regulars knew where the train was going, someone unfamiliar with all this naturally asked about it. The conductor tried to make a joke about it, but the intent was to dismiss the question. I have to admit that the vast majority of conductors are professional and helpful and even this guy wasn’t rude, but come on, how hard is it to flip the sign? Way to go.


That happened to some of my wife's family who were in from Iowa a couple of years ago...they were supposed to come to Paoli, and ended up in Landsdale. Long trip back...and *oops* said the conductor. Ugh.

March 6, 2007

60 Minute IPA at Bridgewater’s Pub

I didn’t expect to post a followup to the Philly Craft Beer Festival quite this soon, but I happened to grab dinner at Bridgewater’s Pub in 30th Street Station tonight on the way to the OWASP meeting and had an interesting beer. The lobster roll I was looking forward to is off the menu for the moment (the chef told me he would have to charge $25 for it at current prices—the New York rate—and to look for it to return in May), so I tried the hamburger, which was excellent.

In researching the Craft Beer Festival post, I stumbled across a list of 25 best beers in America which included Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA (“the best we’ve found”). As luck would have it, Bridgewater’s Pub serves this beer in bottles. It had the characteristic grapefruit-juice flavor of an IPA, but was less bitter and hence more drinkable than the ones I remember from Saturday. Bridgewater’s Pub has a nice selection of beer, not to mention great food if you happen to be stuck waiting for a train. On tap:

  • O’Hara’s Irish stout
  • McChouffe
  • Legacy’s Hedonism Red Ale
  • Spaten Lager
  • Stoudt's Triple Ale
  • Smithwick’s Irish Ale

In bottles:

  • Harp Lager
  • Youngs Double Chocolate Stout
  • Chimay Cinq Cents White Cap
  • Dogfish 60 Minute IPA
  • Railbender Ale
  • Ayinger Dunkel
  • Corsendock Dark (Brown)
  • Duvel (Belgian Ale)
  • Lindeman's Kriek and Pomme
  • Erdinger Bock
  • Éphémère Apple

March 4, 2007

Philly Craft Beer Festival Recap

We had a great time at the Philly Craft Beer Festival yesterday. Whether it was worth $40+ is another story to be explored below, but it sure was fun.

Philadelphia Cruise Terminal

The Philadelphia Cruise Terminal hosted the Festival. After recent rains, it was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-fifties.

We went to the first of two four-hour sessions (noon and 6:00 PM), arriving at the parking lot around 12:30. There was no traffic at all, and there weren’t that many cars in the lot. It was easy to get a seat on the next school bus shuttle to the terminal building. So far, so good. That is, until we arrived at the terminal and got a look at the incredibly long line queued up still waiting to get in. While we were waiting, they announced that the Festival had sold out, so the few people without tickets left the line, disappointed. In the end, it actually didn’t take long to get though this line and receive our complimentary 4-ounce tasting glass. We were in and immediately swept into the teeming multitudes.

Philly Craft beer Festival

Despite the tipsy camera angle, this was taken before I had had enough to affect my aim.

People cheering at Philly Craft Beer Festival

Later in the afternoon, people hoisted their glasses and whooped for no apparent reason. I guess it’s like doing the wave.

For a few seconds there I was freaking out because of the crowd. I have rarely been in situations with this many people all packed together (despite riding SEPTA every day), but everything turned out just fine. Everyone was polite, there was no rude or rowdy behavior, and everyone was in a good mood. While at first it seemed that getting to the beer was a hopeless case, it didn’t take that long at all. All in all, a well-organized event with 1500 really nice people. On to the beer.

Joe Sixpack advised, “Have a plan. Try comparing a specific style - say, pilsener - from different breweries.” I’m not a fan of “hoppy” beers, but after a recent favorable impression of Victory’s Hop Devil, I decided to compare some pale ales. I tasted:

I confess I couldn’t tell them apart. I had a slight preference for Arrogant Bastard and the Yards IPA, but the preference was probably statistically insignificant. Unfortunately, Victory ran out of Hop Devil in the first hour before I could get a sample for comparison. Either pale ales really are all the same, or I lack the sophistication and discernment to tell them apart. I suspect the latter.

Other beers I tried in no particular order:

The Original Bullets

Bobby Bloomingdale (bass), Michael Davis (guitar), Walter Epting (drums) of The Bullets.

That’s nearly 20 varieties (between the two of us), but we only scratched the surface of the 150-odd beers available. I particularly liked Southampton Double White Ale, Nodding Head Grog, and Victory Golden Monkey, but there wasn’t a single beer that compelled me to run out and buy a case the way I did after I tasted Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter, a brew which blew me away. I’m ambivalent about whether I would attend the Festival again, mostly because of the cost. While it was a terrific party and offered an unparalleled opportunity to compare a multitude of beers, the opportunity was always at risk because of the logistics. Beyond some notations on a chalkboard, it wasn’t clear what varieties were available from each brewery, and the festival was so crowded it was easy to get swept away from the brewery you thought you were in line for. Because of this element of randomness, comparing beers in an organized way was more difficult than it would be in a well-stocked bar like Monk’s. Of course, I could never sample five IPAs at Monk’s without passing out. Still I had a lot of fun pretending to be a beer connoisseur and will probably go again next year.

Afterwards, I had hoped to stop by the renowned John’s Roast Pork for a roast pork sandwich, but learned they are closed on the weekends. That was a disappointment, but it was the only one in a great day.


Tony, if I count correctly, that 16, being a cheap drunk, I would haven't' gotten through half that many...and then I would have NEEDED that roast pork...

I'm not great with pressing crowds, but that event sounded like fun. Now I'm going to have to find some Three Floyds...sounds tasty...

Sounds like I missed a pretty good time! Glad you enjoyed yourself. I could see the situation getting a little overwhelming, due to the crowds and the inability to systematically taste the beers you wanted to in order to form a good opinion of any one of them.

Perhaps for so much money, and the obvious good turn out, they should extend it to an entire weekend limiting each session to less than 1,000 people or something. That may have gone a long way to making the price a little easier to swallow (pun intended).

I really appreciate you jotting down your experiences.

count me as one of the many would-be patrons of john's who were turned away by a closed door. i believe their hours are 11-3 and only during the week. nuts i tell ya.

Rogue Dead Guy Ale is one of my favorites, but I think I'm biased, being that it's a beer from Oregon.

March 2, 2007

Philly Craft Beer Festival

Just learned about the Philly Craft Beer Festival yesterday, but Saturday was already a busy day. Then the Mac programming meeting was postponed and my plans for Saturday night were canceled, so suddenly it looks like we're going. It was meant to be.


Does this mean that you are going? If so, please let me know soon.

I'm looking into going. But it doesn't seem to be worth the entry price. 35 bucks a head (if you buy online), and you get to taste beer but food is not included?

Seems sorta steep for some reason. Thoughts?

Colin, We are going to the first session (12-4pm). It is quite spendy, considering how few ounces of beer I will actually drink (I calculate about $20 worth at retail prices). On the other hand, it seems like a great opportunity, since I've only sampled beer from about 10 of those breweries. When I saw the price, I waffled. It's probably not worth it, but I talked myself into it.

Grrr. I was tempted. But the price, plus the drive, plus the fact that I can only go at the 6PM session... makes my decision much easier. I think we'll pass this time. Thanks for blogging about it (otherwise I would have never heard of it). Hopefully I can hook up with you at one of these types of events sometime in the future.

Blocked in China [nanoblog]

According to The Great Firewall of China, this site is blocked there. I always knew I was one dangerous, subversive dude and now I finally have proof. China, at least, is safe from my seditious cat pictures. Via The Smedley Log.


You joke about the cat pictures, but you know repressive regimes are always threatened by the independent nature symbolized by the feline species.