Saturday, May 29, 2010


I shake my head in wonder.....

Fatwa issued that would have allowed women to breast feed their male colleagues so they could work together!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Literary Masterpiece

There is a literary masterpiece that every serious reader should know, but sadly out of print in its purest, original form. I am referring to the original 1961 Craig Claiborne "New York Times Cook Book". Coming the same year as Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", these two books opened new worlds for the average US cook. Reading through these wonderful recipes provides credence to the idea of a superior being. You can see that an omnipotent mind created the basic ingredients that when combined with human creativity and curiosity produces a piece of edible art.

The NYT book is, of course, broader in scope covering many cuisines and styles than Julia's. Some recipes are startlingly simple, for example the one for corn on the cob. Some, like the elegant Aubergines a la Boston, are more complex, but always well thought out and easy to follow, You can recreate a Brazilian Feijoada that was served to the great composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, make a traditional, classic and quite easy Chicken Kiev (in 1961 that dish was quite exotic), serve a delicious and unique black beans in rum, or find a good recipe for Sauerbraten (there are actually two in the book).

And so much fun to read with a genteel, elegant prose. The garlic in a Ratatouille Nicoise is to be added "..according to conscience and social engagements". For Lobster Americaine (Lobster in a tomato sauce with cognac) Claiborne argues that "American chefs say it was created by an American and the French say no such thing, unless it was a French chef lured to the US by the Yankee dollar."

Dear Craig misses the boat when it comes to his inadequate gumbo recipe which does not include celery or bell pepper, two parts of the "holy trinity" that are required (I think by law) for a proper gumbo.

In 1990, the book was revised and to me lost so much of its character. Some 40% of the recipes were replaced and many others changed. I am sure today's chefs look at these recipes as unadventurous, bland and utterly boring. I say to hell with their raspberry-garlic reduction coulis and constant tinkering with tradition; this is good cooking. Maybe not what mama used to make, unless you were on the Park Avenue side of life, but grand, tasty dishes considered gourmet and classic when the world was a bit simpler.

If you ever see one, grab it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill!

Hey Sarah!! How's that drilly, spilly thing working for ya? ;)


This was left as a comment but I thought it was worth posting:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

RIP Art Linkletter

From the "I thought that person died 20 years ago" file:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BBQ Jesse Mae Style

One of my favorite memories as a kid is that of the frequent BBQs my neighborhood had. Our little cul-de-sac loved to eat. Someone would start a grill and before you know it, salads, vegetables and beer would arrive and the party would start. The best ones were when Jesse Mae cooked.

Jesse Mae was a sort-of Southern Belle. Born in Cairo, Il (pronounced Kay-row) she was just enough genteel southern to be a bit exotic in our lilly white neighborhood. And damn she could cook. Nothing fancy, but great BBQ, salads and all that I can still taste.

The one gift I have from this remarkable lady is her BBQ sauce. Trust me, no Gregory Court BBQ was complete without it. I asked my sister to find it for me and sure enough, mom had written it down. Simple, tasty, totally unhealthy.. but damn... it is like home.

I am going to make a batch and use it this summer to remember when I was just a goofy kid, enjoying life in the suburbs.

Jesse Mae Perks' BBQ Sauce:

1/3 lb lard
2/3 qt vinegar either white or apple cider
4 tbs salt
3 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs paprika

Melt lard in large pan. In qt jar add all dry ingredients to vinegar and shake well to blend. Add the vinegar mix to the melted lard. Cook 15min until thicken. DO not boil.

Brush on chicken or chops.

The best.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Higdon and Hindemith

If you believed the big media build up, this weekend's Kansas City Symphony concert was all about:

1) The local premiere of recent Pulitzer winner Jennifer Higdon's "The Singing Rooms" for violin, chorus and orchestra.

2) Ravel's Bolero.

Me? I came for the Hindemith Nobilissma Visione Suite.

Debussy's "Prélude à L'Après-midi d'un Faune" (that is fun to type) opened the concert. Michael Stern conducted with Jennifer Koh violin and the Kansas City Symphony Chorus in the Higdon.

As the Higdon work unfolded, I drifted in thought to the 1936 article in the Soviet newspaper "Pravda" that condemned Shostakovich's opera "Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District" as a "Muddle Instead of Music". They could have been talking about "The Singing Rooms".

Based on poems by Higdon's Curtis Institute colleague Jeanne Minahan Mc Ginn, the composer described the piece as a "house where the violin sings, the chorus sings and the orchestra sings." But, as in a house inhabited by too many people, there was just too much going on and too many family members fighting each other for attention. The percussion banged, clanged and clinked with every sound imaginable, a full orchestra and chorus filled the stage to overflowing taking turns overpowering each other. Plus the incredible virtuosity of Jennifer Koh had to fit in now and then. Thus this massive piece, about 30 minutes duration, went nowhere slowly.

Higdon goes on to state that "every room has its own sound world". Could have fooled me. The sections "Three Windows: Two Versions of the Day", "Things aren't always", "The Interpretation of Dreams", "Confession", "History Lesson". "A Word With God" and a reprise of the "Three Windows" poem, all sounded quite the same. Each section could be characterized as featuring similar declamatory choral lines, lots of percussive effects and Koh sawing away at the violin. Higdon obviously lavished great attention on the choice of texts, but then buried them in the mix as the chorus was mostly unintelligible. A tender dialog between the cor anglais and the violin about 3/4 through the piece was a rare highlight as was a rhythmic battle between clapping percussion and the violin.

Thus I lay the blame for my dislike and the lukewarm reception of the piece mostly on the over ambition of the composer. The piss-poor Lyric Theatre acoustics, thick orchestration and some sloppy diction from the huge chorus certainly contributed to the blurring of the text and program. Frankly, I think the piece could work as a chamber piece for small chorus, ensemble and violin, allowing the listener to appreciate and follow the meticulously crafted program. Just a suggestion, Ms. Higdon.

The highlight for me was a coolly elegant and noble performance of one of Hindemith's masterpieces "Nobilissma Visione", a balletic retelling of the story of St Francis. Using 1/3 as many performers, Hindemith set the scenes of the conversion of St Francis from worldly playboy to the pious, humble saint more realistically and vividly than anything Higdon attempted in her much more ambitious work. Stern and the orchestra fully understood and communicated the restrained, rarefied joy and humility of St Francis as represented by Hindemith. The rich full strings and the excellent work of the violas (Hindemith was prejudiced you know), subtle brass and always excellent winds contributed to this most fine performance of a piece that is simply not heard enough. Stern has an affinity for Hindemith ( a fine "Symphonic Metamorphoses" brought the house down in his inaugural concert several seasons ago) and thus I ask him to please do the masterful Symphony in Eb some day.

The Debussy was a fine performance with a standout solo by flutist Michael Gordon and Stern's detailed attention to the many ebbs and flows of the piece.

And Bolero? As one expected, this brisk performance was a crowd pleaser. Spoiled only for me by a horn flub in the cleverly scored section for flutes, celesta and horn. Percussionist Christopher Mc Laurin received a well deserved accolade for his rock steady snare drum.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Service Without a Smile

Along with the implosion of polite public discourse, political compromise and co-operation comes the end of customer service. It is dead for all practical purposes. No one cares, you pays your money and you takes your chance. If something is wrong, well good luck in finding someone who cares. Good luck even finding someone to provide service. And if they say they will do something... I give it 50/50 that they will.

I have so far been stood up by 3 different concrete contractors. My friend Amy has been stood up by three totally different one. I guess they are so busy in this booming economy that they do not care for my piddly little $2000 job. I made a call to a structural engineer firm, asked for a fellow by name, told his voice mail who had referred me and never heard back.... nothing. It is a 50/50 chance my roofer will come by after reminding him he promised to come by and look at a problem 2 weeks ago. (It seems he is on his way... we will see...). Please, if you do not want my business, then tell me so. I'll go quietly and not bother you. But if you say you do and then piss me off and I will be sure everyone I know will hear about you.

And then when you do get served.. well that is a different story.

Years ago, I worked my way through college as a waiter in a fine restaurant in my home tow, The owner was a bit of a stooge, but the manager was smart and went on to own several successful restaurants. He always told us that if a customer wanted something in reason, they were to get it. If they asked for bluefin tuna and we didn't have it, that was something else. No sauce on a dish.. no problem, a pepsi and vodka with a shot of gin... whatever floats your boat...

Last night at a fancy, jackets-for-gentlemen members only club the waiter got in to a heated argument with a member who was hosting a party (little ol' me got to go!) over how to make a Brandy Alexander. This guy was belligerent and even brought over an i-phone or some such device to show him that it was made with chocolate. The customer wanted one with just ice cream and brandy. That is the way I have always had them. Now, if it were me, he would have had it the way he wanted it. When I stated that I did not like chocolate, he did not offer to make me one without, he simply said it was that way or nothing. I passed until Scott raised a bigger ruckus. It was quite tasty but they forgot the nutmeg... I didn't want to start another war.

Sad that we have come to this. I blame the work environment these days for creating the throw-away employee, laying off at a whim to make someone else richer, cutting manpower to the bone, taking away benefits and making loyalty as rare as hen's teeth.

I don't have a solution.. well maybe I do. When I worked for a company that actually stressed and practiced customer service on a daily basis, we made money, we did well and I had less employee issues than in the past. So it can be done. It just takes a change from "making value for our stakeholders" (translate make our rich stockholders richer) to "doing onto others as you want them to do unto you".

Simple really.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coupl'a Things XXXVI

1) RIP Yvonne Loriod, French pianist and wife of the late composer Oliver Messiaen who died Monday, May 17, at the age of 86, after years of poor health.

Loriod was born on 20 January 1924 near Paris. She had piano lessons from childhood, as did her sister Jeanne, four and a half years younger. Jeanne Loriod, who died in 2001, became a leading exponent of the electronic instrument the ondes martenot. Long regarded as a brilliant pianist, Yvonne giving monthly recitals as a young girl and by 14 she knew the whole of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and all 32 Beethoven sonatas.

Yvonne was Messiaen's second wife. He had fallen in love with her when she was a teenage student of his at the Paris Conservatoire and she was his muse for five decades (they only married in 1961 after the death of Messiaen's first wife, in a sanatorium, after many years of mental illness). Loriod's playing was the inspiration for music from the gigantic cycle Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, for solo piano, to the piano parts of orchestral pieces in the Turangalila Symphony and Des canyons aux étoiles. She also specialized in modern French piano music, being a leading proponent and performer of the piano works of Pierre Boulez.

2) Happy Birthday to Overland Park, KS! On May17th, 1960 voters in the Mission Urban Township approved the motion to form a city, which was made official on May 20th. Just 50 years ago, this sprawling suburb was mostly farm and field. Now it is the second largest city in Kansas behind Wichita with over 175,000 people. When it officially incorporated as a city, it had less than 29,000. Despite the late blooming, it quickly overtook older suburbs such as Olathe, Prairie Village and Lenexa and passed by state capital Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas in population.

We would sometimes like to, but we could not live without you OPKS? Maybe we could with out many of your drivers who never seem to know how to signal or what "one way" means and some of your politicians as well. You are vital to the area and you know it. So enjoy your birthday. Are they serving cupcakes? (inside joke to KC area people.. we sometimes call OPKS and its county "Cupcake County")

Anyway...many more!

3) Move over Susan Boyle, 80 year old Janey Cutler is this year's sensation from Britain. What is with these spunky Scottish ladies and their singing? Must be the pubs and scotch.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Vienna 1785-1911

Associate Conductor Steven Jarvi, now in his second year with the KC Symphony, got his (official) chance to conduct a subscription concert this weekend. I say official as he was pressed into service last season when Music Director Michael Stern was indisposed. Jarvi, a student of Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony in Miami and no relation to the other Jarvi musical family, chose a concert highlighting the music of Vienna from 1785 through to the end of the empire and the advent of Schoenberg and his "Second Viennese School". Music of Mozart, Schubert, Mahler and Richard Strauss comprised the demanding concert.

The only major disappointment of the evening was the opening Schubert Rosamunde Overture. The stiffly foursquare, totally forgettable run through was redeemed a bit by Jarvi's slashing, brash work up of the final pages, thus at least ensuring a brisk round of applause.

Much better was the Mahler Adagio from the Symphony # 10 that rounded out the first half; a performance that was a thousand times more committed and passionate than the Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin performance I heard in New York almost exactly a year ago. Jarvi spoke eloquently about the work before the performance, giving the audience a taste of what was going through the bitter, dying composer's mind at the time and demonstrating his own passion for the music.

The performance was quite excellent, marred only by some string intonation issues (usually in the fiendishly difficult pianissimo upper registers the composer demands) and a bit too aggressive brass. Unfortunately, when they were actually called upon to be brash, the trumpets bobbled their high-pitched blasts. But on the whole, Jarvi mastered this most incredible piece of music and notably negotiated the subtle change of gears in this long lined, linear work more successfully than Barenboim. The adagio is not a splashy, colorful work, so it is imperative that the tempo relationships are adhered to so as to provide some contrast and movement. Jarvi understood that was the key to bringing this movement to life.

My friend Gerry, who was with me for the concert, was bemused at my lack of applause after the performance. "You said you adored this piece... was it not a good performance?" "Frankly, it was excellent," I responded, "but you know me, I am old fashioned and thus do not clap between movements." So, with a quite successful Adagio under your belt, Maestro Jarvi, please tackle the completed Mahler/Cooke 10th. There is so much glorious music that should be heard more often. Yes, I know the second scherzo is somewhat of a mess, the first scherzo is a bit clunky and Mahler would have likely pruned the finale a bit... but damn what a symphony and I promise I will applaud.

Jarvi and the orchestra were at their height in the second half. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein joined the orchestra for the Mozart Piano Concerto # 21 in C K 467. Showing our age, Gerry and I were both surprised no mention was made in the notes of this being the famous "Elvira Madigan Concerto", springing from its use in a 1967 film about the tragic Swedish tightrope walker and her doomed love. We figured it was because many in the audience were not born by 1967 and had never seen or heard of the now obscure film.

In a previous recital by Dinnerstein, I noted her cool and somewhat detached style combined with a formidable technique. This style worked well in this swift, yet totally classic performance of this masterpiece. I was a bit put off, however, by Dinnerstein's splashy cadenzas. Although technically brilliant, to me they clashed with the simple elegance of this noble concerto. The KC Symphony winds and strings provided a most deft and perfectly balanced accompaniment, adding to the cool grace and elegance of this satisfying performance.

Bounding on the podium with a flourish (delighting his female cheering section seated to the left of me), Jarvi concluded his concert with the suite from Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavailer". The KCS horns were in full bloom tonight, contributing to a well turned performance that tended to drag just a bit as Jarvi swooned over and milked some of the more juicy waltz melodies. But the audience loved this crowd pleaser, bringing a well thought out concert to a close.

Sadly, this was the last performance with our wonderful concertmistress Kaniko Ito. Ms Ito's husband, Martin Storey, has landed a plum job as principal cello with the BBC Scottish National Orchestra and thus Ito will be moving on to Glasgow. What a loss for us. Godspeed Kaniko!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Coupl'a Things XXXV

1) I note with now more pity than outrage that The Pope Formerly known as Cardinal Ratslinger calls abortion and same-sex marriage two of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today.

Never mind about war, famine, disease, poverty, priests fucking children for sport and that little problem of terrorism. Of course the Catholic Empire can not do anything about the above and in many ways has been the leading cause of much of it throughout history. So the mighty, god ordained Vicar of Christ, picks a couple of issues of which he can not find a shred of evidence that they have caused more harm than war. Really, is same sex marriage all THAT insidious, or are you just pissed, Pope Nazi XVI, that you can't get married to your sweetie, Cardinal Fang?

There are more people in the world than not who feel the Roman Catholic Empire is among the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today.

Kick this fucker to the curb.

2) On a lighter note, I can only wonder about the chain of errors that occurred within the US Postal Service that resulted in a letter from a business to Chicago addressed to a business in Salem, New Hampshire appearing in my mail box.

3) Bad day for nudity in Missouri. Despite record unemployment, a state budget cutting essential services, a justice system out of control and myriad of other problems, the legislature led by Matt "Needs to Get Laid" Bartle R-La La Land, banned nudity from strip joints and basically makes it so difficult for them to operate that most will shut down. What will all the poor single moms and college slut ladies do now? What will all the married dads, drunk boys and truckers do for entertainment?

4) No wonder I drink too much.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adieu KFUO

Another sad farewell to an institution that has served its community well for 62 years. KFUO FM radio, St Louis' only classical music station, will cease broadcasting classical music in the next few weeks. Owned by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the station was sold for 26 million dollars to, of all things, a Christian Music broadcaster Joy FM.

Many in the arts community, disappointed LCMS members, listeners and even local politicians battled what seemed like a foregone conclusion that St Louis would lose this radio treasure. The church did everything to block any other group besides Joy FM from bidding on the station's license. For example, a group of donors to the listener-supported station attempted their own effort to purchase the station and keep classical music on the St. Louis radio dial, but the group couldn't come up with as much money as offered by Joy FM.

One of the reasons for that could be that the church refused to provide the donor group a copy of the term sheet for the station. Thus the controversial and high powered attorney and LCMS Board member from Omaha Kermit Brashear could shepherd the sale through the approval process and claim no one else was interested. The sweetheart deal means Joy FM only pays $3 million up front and the rest over many years. Who knows if they will ever get the full $26 million.

Even though I no longer live in St Louis, 99.1FM was set on my car presets so when I traveled back and forth from Illinois to Kansas City, I would have at least an hour or two of excellent music. KFUO also played a wide variety of good classical music, not just short baroque pieces and excerpts. At Christmas, I could hardly wait to get in range to hear their continuous Christmas music broadcasts, so much better than the pop crap that permeated the dial. I got to know the announcers, Tom Sudholt, Ron Klemm, Dick Wobbe and John Clayton and could recognize their voices. Even though I heard them rarely since I left St Louis, they still seemed like old neighbors.

But no more. Greed wins out.

KFUO 1948-2010. Thanks for everything.
LCMS 1847- thanks for nothing.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Leave It To Beavers

I am bemused today by reports from Alberta, Canada of a giant beaver dam so big that it is visible in NASA and Google satellite photos, giving it a certain cachet along with the Great Wall of China and the Panama Canal. Supposedly Sarah Palin can see it from her window.

The dam is situated in northern Alberta's Wood Buffalo National Park and stretches about 1/2 mile deep in the forest.

Busy little beavers they are, using just their instincts with no government money or environmental oversight, the dam has been a work in progress since the 70's. Canadian citizens, with their usual good humor, were proud of the accomplishment of their furry mascot accompanied by cheers of "own the podium!" and a sense of pride that the structure was one of the most impressive things ever built in Canada. Some were wondering, however, if this dam thing was not the work of one giant beaver or maybe a conspiracy of rodents to take over Alberta. Perhaps a government plan to produce "green" power by installing generators.

Any way, here is the pic. I am assuming the large brown thing is the dam.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Salt of the Earth

Supposedly, Henry Ford (not sure if it was HF I or HF II) would always take a new executive prospect to lunch. If he/she salted their food before tasting, he would have reservations about hiring them. Mr Ford seemed to think these people would act before getting all the facts and thus be a risk.

I probably would not be hired.

BUT I am getting better on cutting back on the old salt, just a short twist of my handy dandy salt grinder and I am usually fine. Unfortunately, being of the single set and a work at home person to boot, I eat out a lot. It is easier, faster and sometimes even cheaper than a home cooked dinner. And with a Micky D's up the street, it is so tempting to count out a couple of bucks and get two warm, ready to eat sausage and egg burritos for $2 than it is to prepare a fake egg omelet and turkey bacon. I am sure it is loaded with salt too, probably what makes it good.

But upon reading an article about the most salty food in the US (thankfully my burritos did not make the list) I think the old fake eggs and turkey bacon may just make more appearances. Plus, with a new used copy of the fabulous 1961 New York Times cookbook in my possession, I have all sorts of new things to try.

10 Saltiest Restaurant Meals

1. Chili’s
Jalapeno Smokehouse Burger w/ Jalapeno Ranch (6,460 mg)
Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy (1,050)
Seasonal Vegetables (490)
Total sodium: 7,770 mg

2. Chili’s
Buffalo Chicken Fajitas w/ Tortillas & Condiments (6,290)
Bowl Black Bean Soup (1480)
Total sodium: 6,950 mg

3. Denny’s
Meat Lover’s Scramble (3,180)
Hash browns with Onion, Cheese and Gravy (3,820), Small Milk (100)
Total sodium: 6,165 mg

4. Red Lobster
Admiral’s Feast (4,400)
Caesar Salad w/ Caesar Dressing (1,120)
Creamy Langostino Lobster with Mashed Potato (1,110)
Cheddar Bay Biscuit (350)
Light Lemonade (55)
Total sodium: 5,925 mg

5. Olive Garden
Tour of Italy (lasagna) (3,830)
Breadstick (with garlic-butter spread) (400)
Garden Fresh Salad w/ House Dressing (1,930)
Coca Cola (5)
Total sodium: 5,725 mg

6. Olive Garden
Chicken Parmigiana (3,380)
Breadstick (with garlic-butter spread) (400)
Garden Fresh Salad w/ Dressing (1,930)
Raspberry Lemonade (15)
Total sodium: 5,320 mg

7. Denny’s
Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt (3,820)
Vegetable Rice Pilaf (820)
Small Tomato Juice (680)
Total sodium: 5,090 mg

8. Dairy Queen
Spicy Chili Bowl (3,900)
Large French Fries (1,040),
Large Mountain Dew (150)
Total sodium: 4,625 mg

9. Arby’s
Large Beef ‘n Cheddar Sandwich (2,200)
Large Mozzarella Sticks w/ Marinara Sauce (2,380)
Dr. Pepper (Small Cup) (45)
Total sodium: 3,280 mg

10. KFC
Large Popcorn Chicken (1600)
Biscuit (530)
Macaroni & Cheese (880)
Jalapeno Peppers (480)
Large Lipton Green with Peach Tea (280)
Total sodium: 2,760 mg

10 Saltiest Packaged Foods

1. Hungry-Man
Grilled Bourbon Steak Strips in sauce with rice and green beans (one prepared meal)
Total sodium: 6,990 mg

2. Boston Market
Meat Loaf with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (one prepared meal)
Total sodium: 5,680 mg

3. Maruchan
Instant Lunch Chicken Vegetable Soup (recommended serving = 64g)
Total sodium: 1,420 mg

4. Celeste
Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza for One (one pizza)
Total sodium: 1,230 mg

5. Rold Gold
Pretzel Rods, (recommended serving six pretzels)
Total sodium: 1,220 mg

6. Hormel
Chili with Beans (recommended serving one cup)
Total sodium: 1,200 mg

7. Jimmy Dean
Breakfast Bowl with sausage, egg, potatoes and cheddar cheese (one prepared meal)
Total sodium: 1,090 mg

8. Hebrew National
Quarter Pound Franks (one frank)
Total sodium: 1,070 mg

9. Oscar Mayer
Lunchables Lean Ham and Cheddar Cracker Stackers (one prepared meal)
Total sodium: 1,060 mg

10. Kraft Easy Mac
Microwavable Macaroni and Cheese Dinner (one prepared meal)
Total sodium: 1,050 mg

I think I could make a Chicken Parmesan without using 3,380 mg of salt.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

HM's 11th Birthday Photos

Some photos from HM's 11th birthday, taken by Royal Photographer Lord Snowpug:

Browsing the treats at Three Dog Bakery:

After Returning home:

Enjoying Sausage for breakfast in her fine silver:

The Sausage was a special treat:

2010 11th Birthday Official Portrait: