Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Recordings 2008 Part II

Part two of my choice of a baker's dozen best recordings of 2008.

7) Roussel Symphony # 2, Pour une Fête de Printemps, Suite in F Naxos 8-570529 Royal Scottish National Orchestra Stéphane Denève

Second edition of the symphonies of this somewhat neglected French master. The 2nd is every bit as fine as the much more well known 3rd, but with its dark texture and overall gloomy mood, it is more of a challenge to listen to. But the rewards in doing so are many.

8) Siegmund von Hausegger "Natursymphonie" CPO 777-237-2 WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne Ari Rasilainen

If you like Mahler, Strauss or just plain long, richly scored works, this is your ticket. Von Hausegger wrote only a few orchestral works, so he put it all in this son of "Alpinesinfonie".

9) Elgar Cello Concerto Walton Cello Concerto Orfeo C 621 061-A Daniel Müller-Schott Oslo Philharmonic Previn

Müller-Schott is a fine cellist and this dark, brooding yet satisfying Elgar approaches the level of the legendary du Pré recording. I don't much care for Walton, but this is a convincing performance of his weakest concerto. If a performance makes me enjoy Walton, it has to be good. Previn's experience and ease with Walton and English music contributes a lot to this outstanding recording.

10) d'Indy Orchestral Works Vol 1 Chandos CHAN 10464 Rumon Gumba, Iceland SO

This disc, 1st of a projected series, shows that d'Indy wrote more than his once famous but now rarely heard Symphony on a French Mountain Air. "Jour d'été à la montagne" (1905) is another mountain inspired show piece, Strauss' Alpinesinfonie through Debussy's ears. The other works, "Souvenirs" and "La Foret Enchantée", are colorful and quite well done.

11) Villa Lobos Chôros # 11, 5 and 7 BIS 1440 John Neschling, Cristina Ortiz Piano, Sao Paulo State SO

Volume 1 of the complete Chôros from Brazil's premiere composer. # 11 is a huge hour long continuous piano concerto that has to be taxing to play, but a delight to hear. # 5 "Alma brasileira" is a short solo piano piece. # 7 is a wonderful and exotically scored tone poem. Wonderful stuff! The other two discs in this series are equally as good.

12) Mieczyslaw Karlowicz Symphonic Poems Naxos 8 570452 Antoni Wit, Warsaw Philharmonic

Karlowicz would have been a major voice in Polish music at the turn of the century. His death at 30 left us with just a few jewels such as on this wonderful disc. Wit milks this exuberant music for all it is worth.

13) Erkki Melartin Six Symphonies Ondine 931 Leonid Grinn Tampere Philharmonic

Released in 1999, I first heard Melartin's Mahler-esque, romantically charged symphonies for the first time a couple months ago. Melodic, well crafted, a little less dark and quirky than his contemporary Sibelius, his symphonies do have an unique voice and are well worth exploring.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Recordings 2008 Part I

Time for the annual round up of the baker's dozen of the best recordings of 2008. I cheat a bit, this is a list of mostly newly recorded or newly re-released recordings that I have heard this past 12 months. Some of them are not new for 2008 but I heard them for the first time this year and were a significant addition to my collection and thus recommended.

So in no particular order we have:

1) Foulds "A World Requiem" Chandos 5058 Soloists and Chorus, BBC SO Leon Botstein.

After laying unheard for some 80 years, A World Requiem was performed in November 2007. The recording of that event was soon released by Chandos. Intended to be performed annually to commemorate WWI, this pacifist leaning work begs comparison to Britten's "War Requiem". Wonderful performance, fascinating work. There is talk of performing it publicly again soon.

2) Ernö Von Dohnányi Violin Concerti # 1 and 2 Naxos 8-570833 Michael Ludwig Violin, Jo Ann Faletta Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Lyrical, dramatic, virtuosic works, # 2 written in 1949 is a bit darker and spicier harmonically.

3) Shakespeare's "The Tempest", Music by Arthur Sullivan and Jean Sibelius Reference Recordings 115 Michael Stern Kansas City SO.

Yes I am prejudiced and have an autographed copy. All that aside, this is a well done recording of some spectacular seldom heard music. The Sibelius is of his late years and is brooding, dark and powerful. The Sullivan is early (he was 19) but mature and colorful. Just so you don't think I am just highlighting a local favorite, Classics Today gave it their highest rating of 10/10 for performance and sound.

4) Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie St Louis SO 5186320 (available through the St Louis SO) Hans Vonk St Louis SO

Vonk got a bad rap in St Louis. The reticent and dour Dutchman wanted to make music, not fundraise. The Orchestra almost went bankrupt and Vonk died way to young of ALS. His recorded and musical legacy is just now getting the acclaim it deserves. This is a spectacular Turangalîla.

5) Mahler Symphony # 4 St Louis SO 5186323 Hans Vonk, Esther Heideman, soprano St Louis SO available as above.

Same comments apply here. A great performance, one of the best. Heideman is child-like without being cloying and sweet.

6) Arnold Philharmonic Concerto, Symphony # 6, Beckus the Dandipratt Overture, ETC. LPO 13 Vernon Handley London Philharmonic.

I heard Haitink perform the Philharmonic Concerto when it was new, written for the orchestra in 1976 for its American Tour. A section of the second movement, a fascinating duet for harp and snare drum, stuck with me for over 30 years. Recordings were none or elusive until I found this 2006 release. The passage I remember is just as harmonically and rhythmically interesting as I remembered. Now LSO has gone and released a Haitink recording of the work... gotta have that one too.

Look for #7-13 tomorrow!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25th

Merry Christmas!

D and P
Puggingham Palace

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christian Love

Responding to criticism of his views on gays and gay marriage, Rev. Rick Warren, chosen by President Elect Obama to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, said in an interview that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Democrats and Republicans and gays and straight people too.

That reminded me of 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, born Jewish but converted to Anglican as a child, who said: "The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken a toll."

Monday, December 22, 2008

$2.50 Worth of Cocoa

My phone went off at 6:45 this AM. I was not right by it, so I missed the call. Soon it beeped telling me I had a message:

"Hi Mr. Clark, this is "M" a client down at ReStart (a local homeless service agency) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! for the hot cocoa. I am not a coffee person and this tastes soooooo good on a cold morning!! Thanks for thinking of us!"

One of my neighbors works for this agency. I save my plastic grocery bags for them, they serve as purses, rain and snow hats and shoe covers. As a little Christmas gift, this last round of bags contained a can of hot cocoa mix, tea bags and a card from the "Bag Guy".

See what $2.50 can do for some one who has nothing? I was feeling lousy and whiny on this cold Monday morning, but with a single call and a carton of cocoa I feel I have made a bit of a difference this AM.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Future of Music in KC

Kansas City has not fared well with some recent city projects. The Sprint Center arena is great but has so far not attracted a permanent sports tenant. Concerts have drawn well, but a look at the calendar shows quite a few open dates. A dark and silent arena makes no money. The surrounding Power and Light District has opened to mixed reviews. Pricey yet bland restaurants, controversy over dress codes, parking and security have dulled the luster.

One big new project, however, seems to be a winner: the under construction Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Arising on a hill just to the south of downtown, it will forever change the skyline of the city and how we experience the performing arts. On Friday, I got to hear a short presentation by the CEO of the center and the famed acoustician, Yasu Toyota. The center is going to be an exciting building, putting KC well ahead of other cities in the field of performing arts.

As Music Director of the KC Symphony, Michael Stern, said, a world class hall demands a world class symphony orchestra. To demonstrate this, Stern led the orchestra in a program showcasing the orchestra's dramatic rise.

A fine and fun Polonaise from the "Christmas Eve Suite" by Rimsky-Koraskov started the evening off with a holiday tinged mood. The strings alone followed with Bach's Brandenburg # 3, a brisk and well turned performance, the strings were in fine form that night.

While many US orchestras have not made a recording in a long time, or release them through their own labels, the Kansas City Symphony is about to embark on its 3rd commercial recording since 2006. We got a taste of what is in store on the all Britten disc with a finely detailed and elegant performance of the Passacaglia and 4 Sea Interludes from "Peter Grimes".

For someone who loves almost every note of English music, it took me a while to warm up to Britten. It was these pieces, taken from Britten's monumental opera, that awoke the passion I now have for his music. Stern's Passacaglia was suitably dark, spare and mysterious, whipping up to a shattering gong and tympani fueled climax. Principal Viola Christine Grossman deserved her hearty ovation for the soulful opening solo.

The sea interludes were equally as well done, a misty, primal "Dawn", a bustling "Sunday Morning" with all the underlying drama and foreboding given equal thrift, a elementally tidal "Moonlight", the orchestra heaving, ebbing and flowing with the tides of the cold sea, leading to a climactic "Storm". It will take a lot to displace what is for me the definitive performances of these mini tone poems, the Steuart Bedford led LSO performances once on Collins now thankfully available on Naxos. From what I heard, these performances stand a good chance.

After a champagne and sweets intermission and the talk by Jane Chu, CEO of the Kauffman Center and Mr Toyota, the orchestra finished off the festive evening with some bon bons, the lovely "Noel" by George Whitefield Chadwick (let's do the whole "Symphonic Sketches" sometime) the popular "Troika" from Prokofiev's Lt Kije Suite and the overture to "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss.

The Kauffman Center will have a suitable ensemble to compliment its grand architecture and vision. Although lovely and charming in its way, the old Lyric Theatre is an acoustic mess and uncomfortable to boot. With a dedicated music hall and hall for the Lyric Opera, we will finally have a decent home for two fine performing arts groups.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Invoking Anger

Like many, I am dismayed at Obama's choice of Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is an outspoken supporter of Proposition 8 comparing gay marriage to incest polygamy and pedophilia. He does have some good progressive values: he is concerned about global warming, telling fellow evangelicals it is not just made up hooey and he is supportive of AIDS work with a caveat... only when it involves children in Africa. But he is solidly in the right wing when it comes to gay issues. Gay leaders are of course quite upset. The gay community got behind Obama early and solidly, voting overwhelmingly for him. Some evangelicals, on the other hand, continued to support the theory he was not American, would not wear the flag and was really a Muslim. Needless to say, evangelicals were not solidly Obama.

Obama said he is passionately supportive of gay issues and that "It is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues." He went on to say that the Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference would give the benediction. Lowery is a long time civil rights leader and supports GLBT causes.

So that is supposed to make iit ok. But is this any different than having an anti semitic leader start the cermony, but close with a Rabbi? Obama would never think of that. To initiate dialog with others of different view points, would it not be fitting to ask a KKK Grand Wizard or what ever they are to talk about the evil of having a black man as president? Is this further "proof" of black homophobia as some have mentioned.

No one will win on this. But hopefully Obama will learn that Proposition 8 has ignited the GLBT community. He will have to listen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama Thrown out of the Class

Catholic priest Rev. Ron Elliott said he would put a couple of books about President-elect Obama back on the library shelf of St. John LaLande Catholic Church in Blue Springs, MO. It seems Rev Elliott had received complaints about the Obama books from parishioners. Why? Obama is pro-abortion. He now says he plans to return the books after the inauguration.

The elementary level picture books describe Obama’s childhood and his rise to the nomination for president. Elliot admitted the books are harmless: “They don’t begin to touch on that (abortion) they don’t touch on anything controversial at all, they are just about him growing up, with pictures of him smiling.”

"Mary Margaret, that man may look nice, but he wants to kill babies". I guess that is the message the good Padre wants to leave for his kids.

But, it is OK, according to the Catholic clergy, to support the death penalty and war, hardly positions that are "pro-life". I suppose it would be more important for Rev Elliott and his flock to support a candidate that opposes abortion and ignore that the candidate supports cutting programs for the poor. Since when did care for the sick, old, in prison and injustice become non issues with the church?

You know... I would never encourage my daughter to have an abortion. But certainly if she did, I would want it to be her choice. That is the crux of the abortion issue.

Rev Elliott may disagree and that is a shame. Poverty, injustice and hunger are bigger dangers and more pressing issues than abortion in my book. And in the "good book" too

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Like Barking at a Knot

As time passes, our vocabulary changes. New words and phrases are added as old ones pass away. Here are some that are not commonly heard today. I guess I show my age, I know all of them but three (# 11, 27 and 31).

How many do you know??
A Bone to Pick (someone who wants to discuss a disagreement)
2. An Axe to Grind (Someone who has a hidden motive. This phrase is said to have originated from Benjamin Franklin who told a story about a devious man who asked how a grinding wheel worked. He ended up walking away with his axe sharpened free of charge)
3. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel (one corrupt person can cause all the others to go bad if you don't remove the bad one)
4. At sea (lost or not understanding something)
5. Bad Egg (Someone who was not a good person)
6. Barking at a knot (meaning that your efforts were as useless as a dog barking at a knot.)
7. Barking up the wrong tree (talking about something that was completely the wrong issue with the wrong person)
8. Bee in your bonnet (To have an idea that won't let loose )
9. Been through the mill (had a rough time of it)
10. Between hay and grass (Not a child or an adult)
11. Blinky (Between sweet and sour as in milk)
12. Calaboose (a jail)
13. Catawampus (Something that sits crooked such as a piece of furniture sitting at an angle)
14. Dicker (To barter or trade)
15. Feather in Your Cap (to accomplish a goal. This came from years ago in wartime when warriors might receive a feather they would put in their cap for defeating an enemy)
16. Hold your horses (Be patient!)
17. Hoosegow ( a jail)
18. I reckon (I suppose)
19. Jawing/Jawboning (Talking or arguing)
20.Kit and caboodle (The whole thing)
21. Madder than an wet hen (really angry)
22.Needs taken down a notch or two (like notches in a belt usually a young person who thinks too highly of himself)
23.No Spring Chicken (Not young anymore)
24.Persnickety (overly particular or snobbish)
25.Pert-near (short for pretty near)
26.Pretty is as pretty does (your actions are more important than your looks)
27.Red up (clean the house)
28.Scalawag (a rascal or unprincipled person)
29.Scarce as hen's teeth (something difficult to obtain)
30.Skedaddle (Get out of here quickly)
31. Sparking (courting)
32.Straight From the Horse's Mouth (privileged information from the one concerned)
33.Gallivanting around, or piddling (Not doing anything of value)
34.Sunday go to meetin' dress (The best dress you had)
35.We wash up real fine (is another goodie)
36.Tie the Knot (to get married)
37.Too many irons in the fire (to be involved in too many things)
38.Tuckered out (tired and all worn out)
39.Under the weather (not feeling well this term came from going below deck on ships due to sea sickness thus you go below or under the weather)
40.Wearing your 'best bib and tucker' (all dressed up)
And last but not the least!
You ain't the only duck in the pond (Oh yes I am!!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

We Three Pugs: 2008

As she does every year (she is quite predictable) Her Majesty Puggles, Queen of All Pugs and Supreme Ruler of Alaska, etc, etc. wishes to share her favorite Christmas Carol with her loyal subjects:

We Three Pugs
(To the tune of "We Three Kings")

We three Pugs of Orient are,
Shuffling low, we cannot go far.
Bellies dragging,
Tails a wagging,
Hounding the Milk Bone jar.

O! O!

We love treats and we love hugs.
We love all 'cause we are pugs.
Licking, sneezing, snoring, wheezing,
Guide us to the warmest rugs.

We wish all a Merry Christmas from Puggingham Palace
D and P

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just Another Day at the Capitol

Since I drive the venerable Queen Mary around Kansas City with Illinois license plates (never heard them called tags until I got here to Missouri), I am sometimes asked what I think about the current controversy surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. First of all, you have to believe me that I am from Illinois as I could spell Blagojevich without looking it up. Second of all, you know I am a son of the Land of Lincoln because I am not real excited about it. Frankly, for Illinois, this is par for the course.

Since 1960:

William Stratton (R): not convicted but charged with tax evasion.

Otto Kerner (D): was bribed by owner of racetracks. The bribes came to light when the owner deducted them from her income tax as normal and customary business expenses. He was no longer governor but was a federal judge when he was convicted and sent to prison for 3 years.

Dan Walker (D): hated by all. After serving was convicted of fraudulent loans and practices surrounding an oil change franchise.

Jim Thompson (R): never convicted or charged but led one of the most patronage riddled administrations ever, only disbanded after a long court battle. To get the most menial of state jobs, you had to be a member in good standing of the Republican party. I know, that is why after getting a degree in Public Administration, I had to leave Illinois, I could not get a job.

George Ryan (R): Currently serving time in Federal prison for corruption. It is possible he may get a pardon. Ironically for a Republican, Ryan actually is a hero of mine. He had the boldness to stop the death penalty in Illinois due to concerns over the morality and fairness of it. "We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system," he said. "There is a flaw in the system, without question, and it needs to be studied." He eventually commuted all death sentences to life and pardoned some with flimsy evidence.

And now Rod. And that is just the Governors.

Business as usual. All the hacks in the state are going ballistic over his troubles. Why? They can't stand him personally, not because he is crooked. Obama? He is an Illinois politician. Of course he is shady... but in this case, I don't think he was involved.

So to take advantage of the current media attention and to enshrine corruption as intrinsic to Illinois as Lincoln and prairies, the state has recently decided to revise the state song:

By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois
All thy Gov'ners to prison going, Illinois, Illinois

The state license plate will now feature a likeness of Lincoln and a border made of handcuffs and prison bars.

I kind of like the idea.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Tuna Christmas: American Heartland Theatre

Twas the night before Christmas, Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in that great state. All the nutcases that call Tuna (located between San Angelo and Hell) home are stirring about, havoc to wreck.

The annual Christmas light display contest, sponsored by radio station OKKK, is about to won for the 15th year in a row by Vera Carp, will the Christmas Phantom strike it down? Stanley Bumiller is about get off probation hoping to get out of this Dodge, his twin sister, the town slut, is off slutting around and as usual, their mom Bertha is waiting in vain for her drunk husband to get home. R R Snavely is searching for UFOs while his wife Didi runs the most popular store in town, the ammo and used weapons shop. Local food service professionals Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd are swamped down at the Tastee Kreme... so goes Tuna this magical night.

American Heartland Theatre (best theatre venue in regular readers know) is mounting "A Tuna Christmas" until December 28th. Jim J. Bullock (famous as a TV actor, upper right "Hollywood Square", and co host with Tammy Faye Bakker on the "Jim J and Tammy Faye Show", and local favorite John-Michael Zuerlein ("A Dog's Life") play a whole slew of characters in this hilarious study of isolated small town life. Both Bullock and Zuerlein are brilliant, the humor none too subtle and the sets (variously decorated Christmas trees, Didi's tree festooned with guns, handcuffs and grenades, draped with crime scene tape and topped with a gas mask is the winner) simple yet effective. Zuerlein almost stole the show for me with his hilarious Didi Snavely, but Bullock fights back with a subtle and sympathetic Bertha Bumiller.

A Tuna Christmas is part of a series of plays by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears and has become a staple of regional theatre. Devotees of "Sordid Lives" will feel right at home in Tuna.

So before you think all is bleak in Tuna, remember this is Christmas and of course the ending is happy. Bertha, bless her heart, finally gets her see what it is like to be a Methodist.

"A Tuna Christmas", American Heartland Theatre through December 28th

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coupl'a Things XI

1) Happy 100th Birthday American Composer Elliott Carter. What makes this 100th even more special is that he is still alive and well at 100. What's more, he is still composing! He has written at least 24 major works, not just little 2-3 minute ditties, but concerti, song cycles and major chamber pieces, since he turned 90! In his 99th year (2008) he wrote Tinntinabulation for percussion sextet, Wind Rose for wind ensemble, Duettino for violin and cello and a Flute Concerto. He has won many awards including two Pulitzer Prizes for his string quartets. He is supposedly working on a new song cycle.

Sorry to say, however, that I really just can't take his music. Now I love a lot of modern, even pretty avant garde music, but Carter's is dense, dissonant and devoid of any charm or color. Many vehemently disagree with me, but such is the world of classical music.

Anyway, Happy 100th Mr. Carter. Keep on composing... maybe by 103 you'll hit on something I will like!

2) Speaking of 100, I wonder if I will be that age when Boeing finally gets the 787 Dreamliner off the ground. It was supposed to be in service this past summer but now first flight is sometime 2nd quarter 2009. Deliveries??? 2010 maybe.

Quite a fascinating and wonderful airplane, if they ever get it right. New manufacturing methods, world wide risk sharing partners and a long strike have taken its toll. Boeing stands to lose millions, likely billions in compensation for delayed delivery.

Someday, she will be a great plane.... hope I live to see it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RIP: Hilma Carto

My dear friend Hilma Carto died this weekend in Bloomington, IL where she lived at the Westminster Village Retirement center, she was 93. The obituary told of her family and her remarkable life, living all over the country working for Western Union many times the first woman to hold the postion she filled. The last line, the writer wished to hear her say "God bless you, honey" one more time. She said that to me a lot as well.

What the obituary didn't say is that Hilma was a scream. She had a sense of humor as sharp as a rapier and dry and bubbly as a fine Verve Cliquot.

I got to know her when she attended my church here in KC. One Sunday, as we prepared to sing a hymn, I handed her a hymnal. ", dear", she said with complete seriousness then looking around and lowering her voice even further, "they pay me not to sing..... there were complaints", as she patted my hand and smiled ever so slyly. I split a gasket over that. At Westminster, she said she was on her best behavior as "I am on probation for a repuation preceeded me." She was concerned once that she would be asked to leave, "there is this issue that everyone that takes the apartment across the hall from me soon dies after moving in" she said with a complete straight face, "they suspect me, but so far the evidence is just circumstantial".

Bloomington is just a short drive from Decatur so when I went to visit my sister, a call or visit to Hilma was in order. I told her on the first visit that we'd like to take her to lunch. "Oh, no, first visit it's my treat. But we can eat here at Westminster. It is nice; we have china, printed menus, waiters...just like at the Ritz! But we only get one fork. Put two forks in front of some these old ladies and they'd starve to death trying to figure out why they had two." She paid for our dinner with her "Bingo Bucks", money won at bingo games to be used at the center. "I wait and see who is playing, some are easier to beat than others. I have amassed a small fortune!"

My last call to Hilma was the only one I hung up from feeling sad. It was just before Thanksgiving, she was tired, not feeling well and I think she really did not know who I was. But it was the one of the best in many ways, as she said "God bless you honey for calling".

Hilma Wilson Carto 9/8/1915-12/7/2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Move on Karl

Bush's butt boy, mentor and guru, Karl Rove wants us to believe that the only reason Obama won the election is because he outspent Mc Cain. Rove, in his usual sour grapes attitude seems to insinuate that some how this was totally unfair. dear.... look at it. Stop the Cleopatra, Queen of Denial routine, it is getting old. Obama’s postive message, fresh face and promise of change compelled people of all political persuasions to donate to his campaign. They saw a winner.

What really sank the Republican ticket was Bush’s eight year long message of despair and ineptitude.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

GOOD EATS...small prices

Yep, things are expensive out there. Gas prices have plummeted, but not so the prices of other commodities that rose due to "high transportation costs". Among the worst, grocery prices remain out of sight. But I am finding ways to get some great food items for a lot less. It is even more fun than a visit to the local SunFresh (aka GayFresh).

Check out local farmer's markets or fresh markets. Many large cities have an outdoor or even indoor market that sells fresh produce or specialty foods. Today at the Kansas City River Market, I got 6 huge green peppers for $1. Yep.. 1$ for 6. Nice ones too. Combine with a nice fresh bunch of asparagus for the same $1 fee. Greg got 10 limes for $1 at the same stall. Onions were 2 for $1, Got some of those too. Few places charge by pound as they do not have a scale. Many do not charge tax either.

Another good source is the local Asian or international market. In the same area, there is a huge ChinaTown Market. Yes it smells funny from all the fresh fish and strange spices, and this one continuously runs huge fans which roar above you like prop plane on take off, but there are some great prices and bargains on common and not so common items. This place has fresh baked French baguettes every AM. 75cents a piece. Not real long ones, about a 6 in roll. But damn, nice and flaky-crunchy with a soft flavorful center. YUM! I love mushrooms and picked up a package of dried shiitake mushrooms for $3. Tons of them. They won't spoil and the liquid you soak them in can be added to the soup or sauce for more flavor as well. Thai jasmine rice? I got a huge bag, probably 5-6 lbs for $3. Price at the store? 2 lbs for $6. Lots of these markets sell fresh meat and fish (as mentioned) at great prices too. Want some goat meat?? They have it!

Besides good prices, you are keeping your money local, not sending it to Bentonville or some stakeholder in New York.

So tonight?? Fried rice with some shrimp, green pepper, onion and mushrooms. The baguettes are gone.. that was lunch.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What I am Listening to Today

d'Indy Orchestral Works Volume 1
Ramon Gumba, Iceland SO Chandos 10464

Vincent d'Indy is best known for his once quite popular Symphony on a French Mountain Air, and frankly, that was about it. This Chandos release offers some quite fine and atmospheric works that have rarely been heard or recorded.

I was most impressed by the impressionistic Jour d'été à la montagne (Summer Day on the mountain) for orchestra from 1905. Here d'Indy leaves the sound world of Franck and Chausson and enters the mist shrouded world of Debussy. A French Alpine Symphonie, but certainly less fraught with drama and chilled by cold winds than Richard Strauss' mountains.

La foret enchantée (The Enchanted Forest) is an earlier work from1878 and thus is deep in the Franckian language. Colorful but hardly exotic, this is fine music but not the revelation of the Jour d'été. The final work, Souvenirs, like Jour d'été written in 1905, is a charming and nostalgic four movement suite penned as a memorial to his wife.

Rumon Gamba and the Iceland Symphony make fine partners and clearly have a grasp of d'Indy's style. This is an excellent recording of some little known works from a composer who has slipped through the cracks in the last decades. Is it time for a d'Indy revival?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Coupl'a Things X

1) They laughed at me. "You're taking your car to Illinois?? You are not renting one??? My you are brave."

Oh, how they underestimate the Queen Mary. She may look a little rough, after all in car years 21 is getting up there. But as a true survivor, she is really in pretty good mechanical shape. I got 24 mpg on the highway (at a lot less $ than last trip, I paid an average of $1.50/gal), used no oil to speak of, cruised comfortably in cushy velour and leather at 75 without breaking a sweat and brought back easily 1/3 of my storage unit in St Louis stuffed in the trunk and back seat. The load level system made sure I rode level, not scraping my butt on the driveway. The Pug lay serenely in her own towel draped seat (ever try to get pug hair off velour????), rarely disturbed by noise and kept comfy in the thermostatically controlled cabin.

Long Ride the Queen Mary!

2) Bringing back stuff from my storage unit made it seem like an early Christmas. Stuff I had not seen in years. Stuff I wondered why I kept. Stuff to cherish. I did find out why Mickey and his friends had been in my unit. I guess in my haste to pack, I kept a bag of rice, an open box of pancake mix and a bag of egg noodles. They enjoyed them, even if I didn't. I did not want to chance getting botulism or something from the 2 jars of pasta sauce I also found. They were use by 2004 so I thought it best to toss them.

Anyone want about 200 coffee mugs?

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day

World Aids day 2008