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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tone Poem Tuesday

[Oops. Saved as draft and forgot to publish, as I do. Frequently.]

This work by Richard Wagner is about as far as you can get from his huge, enormous, dense opera scores. Wagner composed this tone poem for chamber orchestra as a birthday gift for his wife, Cosima, arranging for it to be played privately by an orchestra arrayed on the stairs of their home on the morning of her birthday as she awoke. It is a gentle, almost magical work, full of luminous emotion that almost defies belief when one considers the usual nature of Wagner's work. But then, Richard Wagner was an enormously complex man. As David Dubal writes, in describing this work, "That this man, capable of such emotion, was enraged at Bismarck for not burning Paris to the ground will always tantalize and disturb."

Here is the Siegfried Idyll.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene



"But Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.... He lived happily ever after."

Rainbows, flames, and giant ducks

Last week I picked my mother up at the airport, and it was right after a rain storm had passed through. We don't get many rainbows in this area, so it's always exciting when we do!

A rare rainbow (rare in our neck o'the woods). #rainbow

(I remember when we lived in the Portland, OR area, we'd see rainbows almost daily. Because it rained, well, almost daily.)

This weekend the World's Biggest Rubber Duck was in Buffalo. Yes, we went down there to see it.

GIANT DUCK IN THE WATER! FLY YOU FOOLS!! #canalside #buffalo #bigassduck

Ayup. That's a big duck, all right.

And yesterday the dee-oh-gee and I hiked through Chestnut Ridge to the Eternal Flame waterfall. I'd long wanted to see this, and now I have! It's quite a hike to get there, but very much worth it when you arrive.

At last! The Eternal Flame! #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #summer #eternalflame

The flame, up close #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #summer #eternalflame

By the Flame #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #summer #eternalflame

At the Flame, people generally take their turns stepping up and shooting photos and whatnot before departing so the next folks can do likewise. The group two "turns" ahead of me took extra time, though, so we had to wait about ten minutes. Their reason for taking extra time was justifiable, though: it was two couples, and the man in one couple had chosen this place to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Just as Cane and I arrived, he was dropping to one knee and she was doing the "OMG!" thing. Much smiling and laughing and crying and whatnot. Their other friends, who were in on it, broke out a bottle of champagne they'd toted in their backpack. It was all very nice, and we got to see the Eternal Flame.

Oh, and I've been writing, too. More on that another time!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Symphony Saturday

There are times when the circumstances of a given work's creation almost inexorably lead to conclusions about its nature that probably aren't quite true. Such is the case with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, which concluded his symphonic output. Tchaikovsky's life was not easy -- neither his creative life nor his personal life. He struggled with his works, occasionally destroying them and many times revising them years later. He also struggled with his sexuality in a time when to be a gay man was perhaps the worst thing you could be. Tchaikovsky was famously prone to bouts of depression and mental despair, and his works are so often riddled with emotion, never moreso than in the heartbreaking Symphony No. 6.

And then there is the fact that Tchaikovsky led the Symphony's premiere just nine days before he died, reportedly from cholera that he contracted after he drank a glass of unboiled water during an epidemic of that disease. One wonders how Tchaikovsky made such a mistake:

The timeline between Tchaikovsky's drinking unboiled water and the emergence of symptoms was brought into question. So was the possibility of the composer's procuring unboiled water, in a reputable restaurant (according to one account), in the midst of a cholera epidemic with strict health regulations in effect. Also, while cholera actually attacked all levels of Russian society, it was considered a disease of the lower classes. The resulting stigma from such a demise for as famous a personage as Tchaikovsky was considerable, to the point where its possibility was inconceivable for many people. The accuracy of the medical reports from the two physicians who had treated Tchaikovsky was questioned. The handling of Tchaikovsky's corpse was also scrutinized as it was reportedly not in accordance with official regulations for victims of cholera. This was remarked upon by, among others, composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in his autobiography, though some editions censored this section.

Theories that Tchaikovsky's death was a suicide soon began to surface. Postulations ranged from reckless action on the composer's part to orders from Tsar Alexander III of Russia, with the reporters ranging from Tchaikovsky's family members to composer Alexander Glazunov. Since 1979, one variation of the theory has gained some ground—a sentence of suicide imposed in a "court of honor" by Tchaikovsky's fellow alumni of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence, as a censure of the composer's homosexuality. Nonetheless, the cause of Tchaikovsky's death remains highly contested, though it may never actually be solved.

In the light of such thinking, many consider the Sixth Symphony to be Tchaikovsky's musical "suicide note" in which he meditates on the nature of his own impending demise. I'm honestly not sure about this. It really does make for an interesting story -- there could even be a novel here -- but as others note, it seems a bit too easy a conclusion to draw.

To which the only possible rejoinder is: I’m afraid that’s nonsense. To take some examples from elsewhere in musical history: many of Rachmaninov’s pieces are haunted by the Dies Irae plainchant, that symbolic intonation of impending fate, and yet even after writing a piece called The Isle of the Dead, he kept on living; Berlioz’s music too is full of intimations of mortality, but he kept going for decades after dreaming of his own execution in his Fantastic Symphony; Beethoven didn’t expire after just after he faced the limits of human mortality in the Missa Solemnis; and even Mahler remained alive just after he had just crossed the border into silence at the end of his Ninth Symphony. In fact, if every composer, author, painter, or poet had died after making their greatest works about death, none of them would have been around for very long. It is pure, tragic coincidence that Tchaikovsky should die of cholera a few days after conducting the Sixth Symphony at the age of just 53 – a piece, to reiterate, that he actually composed in good mental and physical health – but that’s all it is. We do this symphony a terrible injustice if we only see and hear it through the murky prism of myth, story, and half-truth that now swirls around accounts of what happened in the composer’s final days.

Most commentators do at least agree that in the Sixth Symphony, Tchaikovsky really is exploring and examining issues of fate and death. The symphony is full of wild contrasts. Stormy passages in the first movement are juxtaposed with lyrical passages that feature one of Tchaikovsky's most yearning melodies. The second movement gives us a waltz that feels "wrong" somehow, because it's in 5/4 time. The third movement brings a vigorous march that feels like it's progressing toward a triumph, but then the final movement begins. It's in that final movement that Death takes hold, because here Tchaikovsky writes a slow movement that opens with drama and descends to meditative brooding and sorrowful lamentation before finally fading away in the end.

And with that, we leave Tchaikovsky behind.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Twelve....

Sorry for not having a bad joke today, but I'm feeling a bit contemplative as today is Little Quinn's birthday. He should be turning twelve. Alas, he is not.

Hippie Quinn

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Something for Thursday

There's a little viral-game running around Facebook right now, in which if someone tags you, you post the cover of a music album you consider to be a great album. You are not tasked with defending the album in any way; all you have to do is pass the game on to some other folks. It's kind of neat seeing which albums people pick, because so far no one seems to be taking the obvious ones. I've seen the game a bunch of times, and I've yet to see Abbey Road or Rumours or The Wall.

So what was my pick? This:



And yes, I totally mean it. Live at the Acropolis is a great album.

Is it great music? Look, let's get real. It's schmaltzy New-Age stuff, with a lot of twinkly-tink piano. But as such music goes, Yanni is far from horrible, and on Live at the Acropolis, the presence of a full orchestra gives his music some weight that it otherwise would probably lack. Also, there are times when a certain kind of magic seeps into a live performance, and this concert appears to have been one of them. There's energy and life in this recording that isn't present in some of the studio recordings of the pieces Yanni would perform that night. It's hard not to feel the energy in "Santorini", for example, or the lyrical magic in "Until the Last Moment". And you know what? If by chance I had my wedding to do over again, our first dance would be "Reflections of Passion".

So yeah, I consider Live at the Acropolis a great album, and I make no apologies for it. Sometimes the music-making itself is good enough to elevate the music itself. This is one of those cases.

Here is the album, in playlist form. However, for some reason, track five -- "Acroyali/Standing in Motion" -- was blocked on copyright grounds, so I present that track after the playlist, by itself. Why they challenged that one track and not the rest of the album (it was all uploaded by the same person), I can't imagine. Sometimes companies do weird shit with respect to their copyrights on YouTube.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tone Poem Tuesday

Antonin Dvorak wrote five major symphonic poems in his life, of which we hear the last today. A Hero's Song has no specific program to describe or illuminate its action, and some have concluded that it is partially autobiographical. I don't know about that, but it is a typically fine Dvorak work, full of melody and energy that is at times infectious, especially in the final bars when the kinetic nature of the music really picks up. I've found over the last several years that when I get in the car and turn on the classical music station and I hear an orchestral work that brings simple, sheer pleasure, as often as not it's something by Antonin Dvorak. His music seems to be very closely attuned to my happier, non-brooding self, and that certainly applies here, as well.

Of course, the most famous composer of tone poems of all time, Richard Strauss, would not long afterwards write a work called A Hero's Life, which has not been neglected as has the Dvorak work. We'll get to Strauss in good time, but for now, here's the Dvorak.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Symphony Saturday

In researching a little for this post, I discovered that Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor is not universally beloved. Shocking, but true: some critics find the finale "insincere and crude". Well, really. While I've had issues with a number of Tchaikovsky's works over the years, I've never had any issue with the Symphony No. 5. I've loved it since I first heard it, in a televised New York Philharmonic performance sometime in the late 1980s. Tchaikovsky's Fifth is one of my "signpost" works: it hits home for me on nearly every level, touching nearly all the emotions along the way. It broods, it battles, and it struggles; it sings and it waltzes and it dances -- and finally, in the end, it triumphs. Of all the symphonies I have heard, I can think of only one other that touches so many ranges of feeling. (Longtime readers almost certainly know which one that is, and readers who don't...well, we haven't got there yet.)

The Fifth, even moreso than the Fourth, makes use of a cyclical structure in which all four movements are tied together by a recurring theme. We hear this theme immediately, in the first movement's opening bars; this theme is often called the "Fate" theme, and indeed, the work is sometimes said to have an "underlying program" involving some sort of triumph over fate or some such thing. Tchaikovsky himself indicated something of a programmatic aspect to the work early on, but in its finished form the symphony has no specific program as such. Still, the music is highly emotive and dramatic, as befits a composer who never wrote a work that was not dramatic in some fashion.

That "Fate" theme is always recognizable throughout the symphony, each time it appears, and it is heard in a number of different guises and characters. We first encounter it in its brooding mood, before the first movement gives way to a march theme that partially broods but also partially seems to approach a dance-like character. The mood is almost of a folk dance or march, but there is still a feeling of something larger going on under the surface. (And remember that march theme, when it starts: it will return later on.)

In the second movement, we reach the emotional heart of the symphony. This is the slow movement, and what a grand movement it is: meditative and song-like, with multiple themes that wind into and out of each other until the whole thing feels like it's going to burst (with a massive quotation of the "Fate" theme in the middle). The movement begins with a sequence of soft chords which lead into the first them, played on a solo horn in what I have to assume is one of the "dream works" of every horn player. This movement is one of the most perfect symphonic movements I know.

The third movement, about half as long as the movements that surround it, feels like a small respite in the midst of some very huge emotions being expressed in the rest of the work. It brings us several waltz-like themes that intermingle with each other, at one point taking on the feel of an actual scherzo, before concluding with a triple-meter statement of the "Fate" theme. Tchaikovsky does some interesting things with the rhythms throughout the movement, with syncopations and unexpected turns of musical phrase. Even so, this waltz is both elegant and somewhat melancholy, right to the very end, when we encounter the Fate theme again.

And then the finale begins, with the Fate theme again -- but this time it is in a major key, played in stately fashion. The feeling is almost one of optimism. Optimism! From Tchaikovsky! Surely we're mistaken...and indeed, after a lengthy introduction involving the Fate theme, we launch into the "meat" of the finale, which is stormy and dramatic and at times even almost violent sounding. But even through all that there are moments that feel as if optimism is trying to break through. As much as I don't like resorting to visual metaphors in describing music, this movement is rather like one of those afternoons in late summer or early fall when a series of thunderstorms rolls through, one after the other, and in between are moments of sporadic sunshine with breaks in the clouds through which the brilliant blue sky can be seen. The tension mounts and mounts throughout this movement, until it all finally culminates in a final crashing chord -- or what feels like a final crashing chord, if you haven't been paying attention (and audiences have actually been known to start applauding what they assume to be the symphony's concluding moment at this point) -- and then, after a brief silence, nothing but pure triumph, with our "Fate" theme blazing forth, backed by heroic trumpet calls before being fully taken up by the brass itself. Then, at the last, there is one last stormy passage before the symphony's last bit of Tchaikovskian thunder: a blazing call-and-answer between the trumpets and the horns that actually quotes the march theme from all the way back in the first movement.

The symphony, as a form, can be the most epic of musical forms (other than pure opera), and Tchaikovsky's Fifth is a supreme example of this. A good performance of it always leaves me breathless and satisfied. It's one of those works of art that gives me the sensation of having been afforded a glimpse, however brief, behind the curtains of this universe into the realm of the truly majestic and beautiful.

But now, you probably want to actually hear the Symphony No. 5, so here it is! And I'm doing something different this time out: I'm featuring two performances. The first performance is from a concert given at London's Proms (and God, how I want to go to Proms someday!) by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Han-na Chang. I had never heard the QPO before I heard this performance, and in doing a little reading, I learned that the QPO is less than ten years old as of this writing (their inaugural concert was in 2008), and they focus especially on the music of Middle Eastern composers, which sounds fascinating to me. There was an unfortunate story surrounding this particular concert, though: having been recently named the QPO's music director, Han-na Chang led the orchestra in this, the group's first ever performance at Proms -- and then, citing difficulties with management, she resigned the very next day, while the QPO was still on tour. Nevertheless, the QPO's Proms performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth is quite a good one.


Next, though, we have a performance that is nearly transcendent. Leonard Bernstein was made to conduct works like this, with his famous passionate podium manner that sometimes made it seem as if he was about to levitate into the air above the orchestra. This performance is by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and it was recorded over 40 years ago, at Tanglewood (the BSO's summer home, in Western Massachusetts). The sound isn't quite up to modern standards here, but so what? The fire and drama of the music are still luminous.


Next week we wrap up Tchaikovsky.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Something for Thursday

Film music today: a suite from Jerry Goldsmith's score to Patton. I only watched the film once, when I was ten or eleven. I don't recall having much of an opinion, but I remember being struck by Goldsmith's work -- particularly those echoing trumpets that are heard throughout.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It's Prismatic!

So there's this new photo app called Prisma that's all the rage. It's kind of cool, really -- it's similar to Instagram in that it takes photos (new or existing) and applies filters to them to make them look nifty. The difference is that Prisma's filters don't just tweak certain aspects of the photo, like contrast or color balance or such things; Prisma uses your photo as the basis for a new image, called an "artwork", in a certain artistic style, specified by use of the filter. It takes a little getting used to (and I'm not quite there yet), and initially I found it hard to see the appeal, but as I played with it more (mostly using existing photos), I found myself also liking it more.

Here's a selection of photos that I filtered through Prisma. Some of these look really nifty, if I do say so myself!















I may be biased, but I think that these are all pretty cool!

I got a BB-8 mug.

My newest mug! #bb8 #starwars #mug #coffee

That is all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Fair 2016

Photos from the Erie County Fair, 2016

Ribbon fries #eriecountyfair

Wow. Stroh's. Blast from the past! #eriecountyfair #strohs

Quilt detail #eriecountyfair #quilt

Detail from vintage jewelry box. AM&A's was the department store chain in Buffalo and WNY back when every region had its own department store brand. #buffalo #eriecountyfair

Llama #eriecountyfair #llama

Bunny #eriecountyfair #rabbit

Wife and another horse #eriecountyfair #horse

Woodcarving guitar. #woodcarving #eriecountyfair

And in new acquisitions, among a few other things (including a new coffee mug which I haven't photographed yet), a new scarf and a new keychain!

New scarf I bought at the County Fair! #scarf #overalls #vintage #Lee #HickoryStripe #tiedye

I got a new keychain! Huzzah!!! #eriecountyfair #millenniumfalcon #starwars

There was actually some new stuff to see at the Fair this year that felt fresh and nifty, which was nice; sometimes the Fair can seem a little "Same old, same old". We do miss certain things about the Fair -- particularly the daily parade, which was always fun to watch -- but we did have a great time.

Now, of course, with the Fair being over (for us, anyway), I am mentally shifting gears already into Fall Mode. This is usually helped along by August in Buffalo generally being cooler and less humid than July, but that certainly hasn't turned out to be the case this year; instead it's been just as hot and humid in August as in July, and our region is actually in the midst of a pretty severe drought. We've actually had measurable rainfall over the last few days, but earlier we went something like 80 days without a drop, so things are pretty parched 'round here. Hopefully it'll rebound.

Anyway, that's the Fair for this year. The next big things? Buffalo Comic-con, then our annual trek to Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival, and then...who knows! The sky's the limit, folks!

Tone Poem Tuesday

Is there a more Me thing to do, blogging-wise, than announce a new series, post the first post in that new series, and then promptly forget about that series a week later? Oops! I completely forgot about Tone Poem Tuesday last week. Now, I did have a lot of different stuff going on, but Ye Gods, I gotta do better than that.

So this week we attend upon a work by Sir Arnold Bax (Great Britain, 1883-1953). In fact, this might be Bax's most well-known work, although I personally have only heard it a handful of times. Bax's music tends to be earthy and rustic, almost to the point of being rough-hewn. In addition, Bax's music is atmospheric and clearly molded in the spirit of Romanticism, which is almost certainly why, to a large extent, his music fell into neglect after his death: his particular musical idiom was simply not in fashion anymore. Couple that with the fact that his scores tend to require large numbers of performers, and it all adds up to music that spent several decades languishing, except for occasional dustings-off of his tone poems, the most famous of which is apparently this one: Tintagel.

Bax was also heavily influenced by Celtic lore, and the castle of Tintagel in Cornwall is of major import in such lore, seeing as how it's traditionally held as the birthplace of King Arthur. Bax's tone poem is meant to convey some of the emotions of the location and give a sense of its character, through music. Bax eschewed any specific program for this work, intending it to be mainly suggestive of the ruined castle on the tiny spit of land that is constantly being pounded by the sea.

Here is Tintagel by Sir Arnold Bax.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mr. Bolt finds your efforts amusing

Great sports photography is always a joy. Take, for example, this wonderful shot of Usain Bolt, enjoying himself while his competitors...don't.


Man, all that photo needs is a twinkle in his 1000-watt smile.

A couple other nifty photos from the Olympics:



(photos via)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Symphony Saturday

OK, last week didn't happen (we were out of town and I just didn't get the post written), and this week's supposed to be Tchaikovsky's Fifth but I still didn't get the post written (because it's one of my favorite pieces ever and I want to do it right), so this week, a placeholder, and a particularly fascinating one. Years ago -- we're talking, when I was in high school -- I checked this record out from the library. It's a performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 36 in C Major. Mozart wrote this piece in four days, when he was traveling with his wife. They arrived at a town called Linz, and the local Count learned that Mozart was in town and announced a concert, so suddenly Mozart found himself in need of a symphony. Out came this work.

What's interesting about this recording is that it begins not with the symphony itself, but with a recording of the rehearsals! You get to hear conductor Bruno Walter addressing his musicians on the finer points of how he wants to get his musical vision across to the audience. This is always fascinating stuff to hear, when you realize how nuts-and-bolts it is. Walter doesn't go in for long and lyrical digressions of what the music means and what it suggests to him in terms of imagery and whatnot; instead he obsesses over how long the introductory notes are and how the strings are accenting things that should be accented and so on. (Try to overlook the obvious lack of women in the group, when Maestro Walter says "All right, gentlemen, let's rehearse!")


Next week, Tchaikovsky's Fifth. (I hope.)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bad Joke Friday

What happens to nitrogen when the sun rises?

It becomes daytrogen!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Something for Thursday

Ack! Sorry, folks. This week has been really screwed up, because of usual stuff: a big weekend trip with the family last weekend, lots of writing, and an overnight shift at work that has me wondering what day it is. Well, I suppose none of that's usual other than lots of writing, but there it is. Anyway, here's something that I feature for obvious reasons: Henry Mancini's "Pie in the Face Polka", from the movie The Great Race. Enjoy!


PS: Oh, what the heck? Here's the very scene for which this bit of film music was written!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Linkage and Stuff (with pies)

Some stuff!

:: Oh my, I forgot about my new feature, Tone Poem Tuesday. Ugh! I'll really try to remember next week. In fact, I think I'll write some in advance. Meantime, here's an oft-featured favorite of mine, the gorgeous choral setting of Shenandoah.


:: Roger visited the Corning Museum of Glass. Oddly, I have never been there. How weird is that! A major upstate NY attraction, and I've never once been there.

:: Kevin Drum thinks we should stop complaining about the Olympics being tape-delayed for prime time viewing. I agree. In fact, as I write this I was just listening to the local sportstalk guy complaining about this.

:: SamuraiFrog begins telling the story of his own life. I look forward to this.

:: Sheila O'Malley on the Baz Luhrmann film of The Great Gatsby. I haven't seen the film, and I haven't read the book in many years (despite the fact that I loved it), but I'll generally read Sheila O'Malley write about nearly anything.

:: One of my favorite vloggers with a poem for women with a broken heart:


:: Sarah Gailey writes in defense of villainesses.

:: Bill Clinton really loves balloons.


::  A cat takes to the rugby field. The Internet provides the hilarity.

:: Finally, I recently did a favor for a friend who has enjoyed some of the "fantasy"-looking locales of parks in this region. She is a cosplayer, and she wanted some photos taken in costume in the fantasy-like setting of Chestnut Ridge Park, so I cheerfully obliged. The payment? A couple of pies in my face! Huzzah!


That's about all for now. Excelsior!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Making Mojitos!

My favorite cocktail is undoubtedly the Dark And Stormy, but the wonderful Mojito runs a very close second. Here's how I make them!

We start with some mint. Here I have eight smallish leaves, lightly crushed between my fingers and thrown into the mixing cup.

Mojito I: It starts with mint. 8 leaves, lightly crushed and put in the shaker. #mojito #yum #rum

Next comes lime juice. For each drink I squeeze one lime, using this nifty squeezing hoodickey:

Mojito II: Lime juice. I squeeze one small lime into each drink. #mojito #yum #rum

No, you don't need a fancy citrus-squeezer. You can stab the lime with a fork and squeeze it by hand.

Next, a tea spoon of fine sugar! The finer the better, really. I use a fine-grind turbinado sugar. Some recipes call for simple syrup instead, but I find that the granular sugar helps with the muddling.

Mojito III: a tea spoon of fine sugar. I don't like to use simple syrup for this. #mojito #yum #rum

Then, we use the muddler! Yes, I have a muddler:

Mojito IV: Bring on the muddler! #mojito #yum #rum

But you don't have to use an actual muddler. You can use a wooden spoon. The idea is to get down in there and crush the mint leaves, releasing their oils.

Mojito V: MUDDLE IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT! #mojito #yum #rum

After that, you add rum! This is to taste. I sometimes use spiced rum; other times I use light rum, or gold rum, or even black rum. You can also use flavored rums if you like. Here I use spiced rum. Two ounces: both sides of a shot measure get filled and dumped into the mixing cup.

Mojito VI: Rum! 2oz, please. I used spiced rum tonight. #mojito #yum #rum

After this, you add ice:

Mojito VII: Ice! I use cubes. #mojito #yum #rum

I use cubes because I'm generally too lazy to crush the ice. Either is fine, really. Most bars where I've ordered mojitos used crushed. Once the ice is added, put the top on your mixing cup and shake vigorously. You don't need a whole lot of shaking; just ten to fifteen shakes will do. Pour the whole kit-and-kaboodle into your waiting glass, and now add the final ingredient: club soda.

Mojito VIII: Shake, pour into glasses, and top with club soda. I like to pour some club soda into the shaker first to "deglaze" it. #mojito #yum #rum

I usually make two mojitos at a time, so I evenly split the can of club soda between the two, and I like to first pour a bit of the soda into the mixing cup to "deglaze" it, rinsing out any sugar that didn't dissolve and getting some remaining lime juice and mint oils. Top off, add mint garnish if desired, and serve it up!

Mojito IX: Drink! Additional mint garnisb optional. You can vary the drink by adding fruit at the muddling stage...berries of all kinds are wonderful! #mojito #yum #rum

That's the basic mojito recipe. You can change it up by adding different fruit before muddling -- blueberries or strawberries work very nicely -- and you can change up the rums. I've considered making a mojito with a lemon instead of a lime, but I'm pretty sure that would be sufficiently different conceptually from the classic drink that I couldn't call it a "mojito" anymore. But there it is -- the mojito! Such a refreshing, wonderful drink for the latter half of summer, when the night starts to fall sooner but the heat lingers!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Bad Joke Friday

Courtesy Sarah Gailey, who -- among other awesomeness -- likes to occasionally regale Twitter with bad jokes:

I read a book about Stockholm Syndrome the other day.

It started off bad, but I ended up loving it!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Something for Thursday

Tony Bennett is 90 years old! Wow. Here's some Tony Bennett, because...Tony Bennett!









Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Third Party Madness

One maddening thing about every single Presidential election cycle is the inevitable cries of "We need a third party!" I always find this concept generically annoying, not because I'm in love with my own party (believe me, there have been many times when I wanted to junk-punch the Democratic Party and/or some of its component parts), but because the two-party system is simply baked into our political system. No, the system wasn't designed for only two major parties, and the Founding Fathers didn't especially want only two major political parties, but you can't always foresee the future, and this is what we got: a system that by its very nature allows only two major parties.

This is all explained very effectively by blogger Christoper Bird, who is very astute about American politics. (This is interesting because he's Canadian. Oh, and that blog is something of a group effort, but he's the Big Cheese there and posts as MGK.)

So, first this (it's a slideshow, so you'll have to, well, slide your way through it):


And then, as follow-up, this (just normal scrolling now):























































Comments on this post are deactivated.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Tone Poem Tuesday

So let's try something new! I already have Symphony Saturday, but symphonies are far from the only worthy form used by classical composers. There is plenty of music that is symphonic without being an actual symphony, so in this series we'll explore that wonderful world. One major difference is that while I've arranged the Symphony Saturday posts roughly in the chronological order of the works' composition, I'm not going to do that here. We're just going to jump through time a lot, and hopefully hear some wonderful things along the way.

So, what is a "tone poem" anyway? Glad you asked! Tone Poem is a term that is often used interchangeably with symphonic poem or any number of other similar terms, denoting a single-movement work, usually intended to be illustrative or at least suggestive of some extra-musical work, be it a particular story or poem or legend or something else. Tone poems tend to be free in their form, usually eschewing the more strict notions of form that most symphonies (particularly sonata-allegro form). As such, tone poems really found their chief flowering from roughly 1830 to 1920, during the Romantic period and the post-Romantic period that followed.

We'll start off with a work I'd never heard before the other day when I wrote this, by a composer I'd never heard of until I tracked down this list of tone poems. Mieczyslaw Karlowicz was a Polish composer who lived from 1876 to 1909, when he was killed in an avalanche while skiing. The tone poem here, Stanislaw and Anna of Oswiecim, is dense music clearly in the tradition of Wagner and Strauss, but with its own thrilling lyricism. The work is based on a local legend involving the illicit love affair between a brother and sister (more here). It's amazing how often the great works of art draw inspiration from tragic stories of doomed and forbidden love.


Next week? Gosh, I don't know. I'm just getting started!

Monday, August 01, 2016

Western New York Love Letter: Adventures in the 716

Last week, two friends of ours from our college days happened to come to WNY for a visit, taking advantage of a week with their kids away at a mission trip of some sort to come see Niagara Falls and some other stuff in the Buffalo area. That's why my posting was nonexistent last week. It was really nice to catch up with old friends, and it was also nice to play tour guide and get a look at this region of mine through eyes that had never seen this stuff before. It's really easy to get wrapped up in the constant day-in-and-day-out minutiae of what's wrong with Buffalo and WNY, but it really isn't all bad. At all. I can happily report that this region made a very favorable impression on one couple from Iowa, especially downtown Buffalo, which resulted in the words "We don't have anything like this in Des Moines!" being said a lot.

Anyway, we went to Niagara Falls one night for fireworks, which we watched from the American observation platform. Our initial vantage point was OK, but we wanted to move farther out on the platform, and there were just too many people there...until it rained for ten minutes, making half the people bolt for cover. We just waited it out, and then we moved down to where we wanted to be. When the rain cleared out ten minutes later (and it wasn't even a soaking downpour, just a gentle summer rain that came and went), we had the spot we wanted.

We also attended Food Truck Tuesday at Larkin Square, a new-ish development in the city where a once-moribund area of warehouses has started transforming into something cool, and we hung out at Canalside, the unfinished-but-inviting waterfront development. I came away from Canalside still thinking that it needs more. It feels like a great start. Here's hoping for more stuff down there! (And I finally got to see the Sharkgirl statue! Every other time I've been to Canalside since her 'installation', she's been inside for cleaning.)

Some photos....

Buffalo Harbor lighthouse #buffalo #lighthouse #water #blueskies

I FINALLY SAW SHARK GIRL YOU GUYS!!! #buffalo #sharkgirl #canalside

Canalside #buffalo #canalside

Buffalo River at sunset #buffalo #sunset

The USS Little Rock #buffalo

The lighthouse, after dark #buffalo #lighthouse

Woodfired Pizza from Larkin Square's Food Truck Tuesday #yum #pizza

Food trucks are awesome. #foodtruck

The Falls at dusk #niagarafalls #wny

Darkness falls on Niagara Falls #niagarafalls #wny

Fireworks over Niagara

Mighty Niagara