Friday, April 21, 2017
The third volume is coming soon, folks!
Thursday, April 20, 2017
I actually don't have a whole lot to say about it. This isn't out of any lack of excitement for the movie, although I was admittedly less thrilled than most with The Force Awakens. This trailer doesn't really do much more than it absolutely has to. It's a pretty middle-of-the-road, safe trailer, isn't it? It pretty much hits all the points that this movie needs to hit. We hear Luke Skywalker's voice, we see him doing a little bit of training Rey, and then we see some space battle stuff and some flying ships and the back of Leia's head and a brief shot of Kylo Ren. Oh, and Poe and BB-8. And Finn! Only one shot of Finn and he looks like he's still in the coma in which he ended The Force Awakens. Finn was huge in the previous film, so I wonder why there's so little of him here.
Assuming that the trailer is representative of the film, this movie has potential to end up being the most beautiful Star Wars movie yet, in terms of the visuals. There are some gorgeous shots here, my favorite being the distant shot of Rey practicing with her lightsaber on the island.
Luke is also apparently not faking his whole "depressed Jedi teacher" thing, as hinted in The Force Awakens. From what little we see or hear, Luke Skywalker sounds old, tired, and weary of the whole thing. I still don't know that I like this turn of events, and I remain convinced that surely the writers crafting this part of the story could have figured out a way to engage the emotions and have danger without undermining all the victories of the original trilogy. There's a sense here of, oh, as if Victor and Ilsa's plane at the end of Casablanca had to turn around and land again, due to engine trouble.
Also released was the first poster for The Last Jedi:
It's OK as well. Nothing earth-shaking. The lightsaber blade, with the starburst right at the pommel, is a callback to the famous Brothers Hildebrandt poster for Star Wars, way back in the day. The faces of Luke and Kylo Ren, looming over Rey, seem to indicate that they will be battling for Rey herself; she appears to be caught in the middle of these two men. This is all a lot of tea-leaf reading, I admit, but I'm not really wild about the notion of these films making us wonder if Rey will tumble to the Dark Side or stay with the Light. Again, we've seen that story before. But I could be wrong, and I'm willing to see.
I also find it fitting that Kylo Ren's face is notably smaller than Luke's, because Luke is the ultimate hero of much of Star Wars, and frankly, as a villain Kylo Ren is simply not that interesting to me. Finally, as a visual note from the poster, that starburst at the lightsaber blade's base is surrounded by a multi-ringed halo that seems suggestive to me of Captain America's shield.
So, a nice trailer and a nice poster. Red seems to be a dominant color this time out, with the red lettering of the Star Wars logo and the red background in the poster and even the planet in the trailer whose soil seems to be a red dust. Red is typically the color of the Sith lightsabers, so...well, again, we'll see.
Meantime, we're two weeks out from Guardians of the Galaxy v. 2....
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Well, here's what happened tonight when Cane reached out and touched Lester.
Note that Cane is enjoying the hell out of this, and Lester is...not.
He stuck it out, though. When a cat doesn't want to leave the warm space they've found, it takes a lot more than a mischievous greyhound touching their butt to get them to move. Eventually, though, Lester put his ears back, said "Eff this", and ran upstairs.
Such is life at Casa Jaquandor!
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Williams's score for the film highlights Stone's mood of inward-looking paranoia that dominates the film, and it accentuates the central tragedy that Nixon might well be the quintessential political figure for America in the last half of the 20th century. It's a brilliant score, and this track shows why.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Like this rock.
More often than not, after a lot of sniffing, he'll pee on the thing he's sniffing. Like this rock. And I know that the other neighborhood dee-oh-gee's are also peeing on this rock. Nevertheless, I always wonder about the intent way he has about sniffing this rock. Is there really any new information to be gleaned? Or is he gathering the same information constantly? Is it like Sherlock Holmes, stuck on an endless loop of visiting the same crime scene?
Anyhow, for some reason, it often reminds me of this brief bit from the pilot episode of Cheers:
"I smell something!"
"That's you, dude."
"Huh." [continues sniffing]
Friday, April 14, 2017
Thursday, April 13, 2017
This fiasco has, though, prompted a lot of hilarious reaction from the Internet, and really, this post is just an excuse for me to post one of these. And here you go:
Well, look -- it's pretty obvious which of these guys is going to get "re-accommodated". Looking at the line of redshirts, do you notice anything distinctive about the third guy from the left?
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Something about that big rendition of "God Save the Queen" at the very end, I'm guessing! But...that's not "God Save the Queen". Nor is it "My Country 'Tis of Thee". Sure, it's the same melody, but in this case, the anthem is actually "Heil dir im Siegerkranz", which was the national anthem of Prussia during the life of composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), who wrote this piece. It's the "Jubilee Overture", which Weber wrote for a festival in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the ascension of King Frederick Augustus the First of Saxony. The European royal families were famously inter-related, so it seems somehow fitting that their inter-relations should extend to things like their anthems, no?
Monday, April 10, 2017
And...crap. I wanna read that book now.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Edith Keeler: And you, um, don't want to talk about it? Why? Oh. Did you... did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something? Whatever it is, let me help.
Capt. Kirk: "Let me help." A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over "I love you."
Fifty years ago today, "The City on the Edge of Forever" aired for the first time. This episode of Star Trek is, for me, not only the best episode of any Trek series ever filmed, but it's also the best Trek story of all time. It's one of the great science fiction stories, one of the great science fiction romances, one of the great time travel stories, and its ending packs one of the greatest gut-punches ever.
If you've never seen it...you should. Really. The story doesn't really require a huge amount of knowledge of Trek. The Enterprise is investigating strange "ripples in time" that are emanating from a particular planet, and during one such jolt, Dr. McCoy accidentally injects himself with an enormous overdose of a drug that drives him temporarily insane. He flees to the planet surface, and Kirk follows, with Spock and some others. They find themselves in the ruins of an ancient city, with one functioning artifact remaining: a giant portal which is actually a portal through time itself. McCoy, still mad, jumps through and into history, and suddenly the members of the landing party realize that the Enterprise is gone. McCoy has changed history so that the Federation never happened.
With no choice but to try and put things right, Kirk and Spock follow, and find themselves in 1930s New York City. While trying to figure out what McCoy did and where he is, they enter the employ of a woman named Edith Keeler, a visionary who runs a soup kitchen. Kirk falls in love with her...only to have Spock discover that what McCoy did was prevent Edith Keeler from dying in a car accident. If she survives, she lives to found a peace movement that prevents America's entry into World War II, allowing the Nazis to win and take over the world.
Spock: Jim, Edith Keeler must die.
The story unfolds so organically that the episode feels longer, heftier, than its 50-minute or so running time. The episode feels large, and yet all of its key moments play out on an intimate stage, such as when Jim Kirk and Edith are walking along the street at night and Kirk tells Edith some things about the future, things that don't even strike her as strange to be hearing from this man she's just met. And the way she sizes up Kirk and Spock's relationship:
Edith Keeler: [to Kirk] I still have a few questions I'd to ask about you two. Oh, and don't give me that "Questions about little old us?" look. You know as well as I do how out of place you two are around here.
Spock: Interesting. Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?
Edith Keeler: [to Spock] You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will. [to Kirk] And you... you belong... in another place. I don't know where or how... I'll figure it out eventually.
Spock: [to Kirk] I'll finish with the furnace.
Edith Keeler: [to Kirk] "Captain." Even when he doesn't say it, he does.
"The City on the Edge of Forever" involves relatively little action. It relies on its character work, showing us that Kirk is falling in love with Edith Keeler before Spock's discovery that she is the key focal point around which history will pivot. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Joan Collins likewise turn in amazing work in this episode. Collins's Edith Keeler is probably the woman in James T. Kirk's history, the one he could not save even though he desperately wanted to. Her death is the memory that he will carry with him forever. Shatner sells every single minute of this, never once over-emoting, never once going too far. His Kirk doesn't just fall for a pretty woman. Shatner portrays a Kirk who has just discovered, hundreds of years in his past, a kindred spirit. He has found someone whom he can understand and who can understand him. And when he realizes that he may well have to stand by as she dies...Shatner's portrayal of a man torn on both sides of the awfullest of dilemmas is so stark, so aching, that it always moves me nearly to tears.
And then the moment arrives.
The script's other masterstroke is that Spock can't determine when the awful event will occur. There is no "She dies on November 12, 1937." This isn't like Stephen King's (masterful) 11-22-1963, when we know exactly when the events are going to occur. Kirk has no idea it's happening, even as we do. He sees her coming back across the street. He starts out to help her...and then he stops. He knows. The moment is upon him, and it unfolds as quickly as it has to. No slow-motion here, no long-held gazes. It comes so quickly that for us, the viewers, it's almost like--what? Was that it? Oh my God, that was it. Over, that quickly.
But Kirk not only had to let Edith die, his choice -- his only choice -- was more awful than that. Because Dr. McCoy was there too, and he didn't know. They had just found him, seconds before, and now McCoy too is watching Edith Keeler walk into the path of the truck. Kirk can't just stand aside, or stand still, and watch Edith die, because if the script allowed him that much, he'd be able to say later, "I couldn't have saved her. She was too far away."
The script doesn't pull its punches. It doesn't give Jim Kirk that one possible out, that one possible way he can morally justify it all to himself.
Jim Kirk doesn't just passively allow Edith Keeler to die. Jim Kirk grabs McCoy and holds him back. Jim Kirk stops McCoy from saving her.
Kirk's choice is an active one.
McCoy doesn't know this. He doesn't know any of it. He only knows that he could have saved her. His voice fills with rage.
McCoy: You deliberately stopped me, Jim! I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?
And then Spock, summing it up so logically, so heart-breakingly, in a line that no actor other than Leonard Nimoy could have delivered:
Spock: He knows, Doctor. He knows.
One thing about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that has always bothered me was the idea of the Kobayashi Maru test, the idea that a false scenario could somehow test a cadet's approach to a situation in which there is no possible "victory". In that movie, Kirk openly says "I don't believe in the no-win scenario," and later on, after Spock's death, he says that he has never really faced death. But in "The City on the Edge of Forever", he faces both a no-win scenario, and he faces death. The idea that Kirk can later on claim otherwise has always seemed deeply false to me. Maybe he's blocked the memory of Edith Keeler? Maybe it's so painful that he doesn't admit it in either case? Certainly Kirk never mentioned her again in any filmed episode or movie, which isn't that surprising given the tendency of teevee shows back in that period to not mention previous events much. But the story here, this love between starship captain and soup-kitchen owner three hundred years before his time, is so iconic, and it carries so much weight, that it's almost offensive to me to think that a James T. Kirk can exist who isn't carrying her memory around. Maybe better, then, if in reply to his son David's accusation that he never has faced death, Jim Kirk were to say, "There was one. She died saving us all, too."
But then, you can't have too many mentions, either. Trek would never again visit that City on the Edge of Forever, except in one episode of the animated series, and with good reason. No story involving the Guardian of Forever could possibly stand up to comparison with this one. Trek would not eschew time travel, by any means, but this particular means was left as a singular part of Trek mythology. I wonder if any Next Generation writers were tempted to visit it. I'm glad they didn't. It is interesting, though, that Jean-Luc Picard would get his own kind of iconic time-travel story in "The Inner Light", as would Benjamin Sisko in "The Visitor".
James T. Kirk is an explorer at heart, and an adventurer. But his experiences in the past, via the Guardian of Forever, have a profound effect on him. At episode's end, when he and Spock and McCoy return to the present with everything restored, the Guardian appeals to that part of his soul, offering to guide him and the others through history. What an offer to someone whose life is charged with boldly going! And yet, all Kirk can muster in that moment is a gruff, "Let's get the hell out of here."
"The City on the Edge of Forever" is the kind of story I dream of writing. For a single one-hour episode of a teevee show to hit so many emotional highs and lows? To linger in the memory as it does? I wonder if, as they were shooting it -- maybe at the first table read -- anyone either thought or muttered, "They'll still be talking about this one in fifty years."
Who knows? If my health permits, I'll still be talking about this episode when it hits one hundred.
Like many a great artist, I actually haven't heard that much of her music over the years. As I've noted before -- just last week! -- my relationship with country music is complicated, and Harris isn't really the type of singer that one hears a lot on the country stations these days anyway. Her brand of folkish country doesn't seem to really ride alongside crap like "Red Solo Cup" and "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue", does it?
But while Harris has never really been on my radar in a big way, I've always been aware of her and her lyrical voice. Here is a small selection of songs. Note the presence of three duets. This isn't really an accident. Duets can be problematic for some singers, as they end up being mostly a song split in two, so that each singer can have equal share of the spotlight. Emmylou Harris has an instinctive sense of how to use her voice to complement that of her duet partner, whomever that might be. It's not just how to harmonize or how to balance out, dynamics-wise. She pays attention to her partner and, most importantly, her partner's phrasing. That's pretty amazing, because every singer phrases differently.
I may not have heard much Emmylou Harris over the years, but I've never once heard her and not concluded that she's amazing.
(For more, see Roger's post.)
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
I am honestly not sure if I have ever heard anything by Webern before. Primarily an early-20th century composer, Webern is known for being one of the chief students and followers of Anton Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, in which the traditional systems of tonality in Western music were finally broken down completely. I've always found twelve-tone music difficult, and in truth I have honestly never much explored it (and yes, perhaps I should). This piece is an early work of Webern's, written before he really took Schoenberg's twelve-tone lessons to heart, but it is still easy to hear the way it straddles the line between Romanticism and Modernism. This work is deeply steeped in the late Wagnerian sound, the post-Tristan period when a lot of music felt like it was simultaneously grounded and at sea.
Webern apparently felt that Im Sommerwind was not representative of where, as a young man, he wanted to go as a composer, and he shelved the piece. It went unperformed until 1962, fifteen years after the composer's death.
Friday, March 31, 2017
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Or, if former teen idols are more your speed:
Hey, if your musical life doesn't include the occasional bubblegum song once in a while, you're doing it wrong.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I've had an odd relationship with country music my entire life. On balance, it generally isn't my cup of tea, but when a country song gets under my skin, it really gets under my skin, and this -- "Y'all Come Back Saloon", by the Oak Ridge Boys -- is a perfect example. I love this song to death. I don't know why I've been listening to it a bit of late, but I have (and I've almost certainly featured it on Something for Thursday at one point or another). It goes back in my memory a long, long way -- all the way back to my childhood. I looked it up, and the song's 40th anniversary is coming up later this year. Wow.
I think I really respond to the country songs that have a hint of sadness to them. The best country songs always seem to deal with sad memories, of loves lost and people looking back over hard lives. That's what this song sounds like to me...and then there are the wonderful lyrics. I mean, the first verse (heard after the chorus, for an interesting formal change) is pure poetry:
In a voice soft and trembling, she'd sing her song to Cowboy,
As a smoky halo circled 'round her raven hair.
And all the fallen angels and pinball playin' rounders
Stopped the games that they'd been playin' for the loser's evening prayer.
I don't care how much you claim to hate country music, that is some wonderful writing there. The smoky halo circling her raven hair? That is a perfect image for a song like this, as is the notion of an entire saloon's clientele falling silent as the raven-haired beauty with her tambourine starts her song. Of course, the song's melody will lodge in your ear in the best way. What a great song.
This live performance is terrific. Please don't laugh at the Saturday Night Fever outfits they're wearing! This is a terrific performance. There are more recent renditions on YouTube as well, if you want to hear how the group has changed over the years.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Which he did.
The Sorceror's Apprentice is pretty much the only work by Dukas to enter the standard repertoire, and I couldn't begin to tell you without Googling what else he might have written. This is partly because apparently Dukas was extremely self-critical, and he actually destroyed a good number of his own works rather than let them be heard. A number of his works have survived, but as of this writing, Dukas remains to me entirely unknown outside of this one tremendously famous piece (which received an assist from Walt Disney when it was included in Fantasia).
Here is The Sorceror's Apprentice.
Friday, March 17, 2017
A friend posted this on Facebook, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, here it is!
It was raining hard and a big puddle had formed in front of an Irish pub.
An old man stood beside the puddle holding a stick with a string on the end and jiggled it up and down in the water. A curious gentleman asked what he was doing.
'Fishing,' replied the old man.
'Poor old fool' thought the gentleman, so he invited the old man to have a drink in the pub.
Feeling he should start some conversation while they were sipping their whisky, the gentleman asked, ‘And how many have you caught?'
'You're the eighth.'
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Yeah: the KFC bucket. This is now off the table as an option for us, although once a year or so, when The Wife isn’t gonna be home for dinner, I’ll treat The Daughter and I to a bucket. (Same thing with one of our favorite local pizza joints, because I try not to flaunt Teh Gluten in front of She Who Cannot Eat It But Can Still Smell The Amazing Food).
Anyhow, very few restaurants offer GF fried chicken, so now it’s become an almost-luxury. One such restaurant is the wonderful Waffle Frolic in Ithaca. We make a point of eating there each and every year when we visit for the Apple Harvest Festival. I never heard of waffles with fried chicken until about ten years ago, but since then? One of my favorite things! We found another fried chicken restaurant with GF offerings in Webster, NY, but that’s nowhere near our usual beaten path. That leaves making it myself as the only real option.
Despite our love of fried chicken, I never made it all that often, because it tends to be a bit labor-intensive. (As per this excerpt from one of my favorite cookbooks.) However, I’ve recently decided that I should make it more often, and it needs to be gluten-free. So! Off to the races, Batman!
Obviously, the key is to make sure your seasoning is gluten-free (they almost always are, but it’s best to check the label or make your own seasoning mix) and use gluten-free flour instead of regular wheat flour. That’s it. Other than those cautions, making GF fried chicken is no different from any other fried chicken. I made a batch last weekend, and I was promptly informed that I didn’t make enough. (I made twelve pieces. For a family of three. Not enough. And...they were right.)
In terms of methodology, I did a little research on GF fried chicken, and then I basically mashed up a recipe of Emeril Lagasse’s (from this cookbook) with one of Alton Brown’s (from this episode of Good Eats – excuse the poor video quality. I only fried legs and thighs, because frankly I don’t get America’s obsession with breast meat, and while I could have done wings, the legs and thighs were enough. (And no, I didn’t butcher my own chickens. I know, Alton Brown says you’re supposed to. But when The Store sells these nice big packs of a dozen legs and another pack of a dozen thighs for the same combined price as two whole chickens, which wouldn’t yield enough of what I want anyway, I go with the big packs. My sense of frugality has not yet developed to “butchering my own chickens”.)
As I researched technique and looked at recipes, I realized that the only real difference is the flour, when making fried chicken gluten-free. That’s it. Every other aspect of preparation is the same. You just have to use different flour, and the key tip I found in this regard is that you have to be a little bit careful in which GF flour you use.
Gluten-free flour, for those who have never used it, is made of grains that don’t have gluten. I know, that’s obvious, but there are a lot of variations out there: rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, flours from various nuts, and so on. Some GF flours consist of just one of these, while others are a blend. The thing with GF flours is that because there’s no gluten, they don’t behave in quite the same way that wheat flour does, especially in yeast-leavening situations. Gluten is what gives bread and pizza dough that “stretchy” quality, which is why breads made with GF flour tend to have noticeably different texture. And that’s fine, but to get the textures closer to what’s expected, GF flours often have to be supplemented with xanthan gum.
What does this have to do with fried chicken? Well, some GF flours on the market now come with xanthan gum already added, while others don’t. For fried chicken, you want the stuff that does NOT have xanthan gum in it. Now, I did not verify this myself, but I found that tip on a GF cooking website that really seems to know what it’s talking about, so I took them at their word. So read the label and make sure your GF flour has no xanthan gum. OK? OK!
The rest of the steps were pretty standard, actually. I soaked the chicken in a quart of buttermilk overnight in a one-gallon ziploc bag. Emeril Lagasse says to season the buttermilk with hot sauce and Essence, but I didn’t bother. (Yes, I use Emeril’s trademark Essence spice mix. Sue me. It’s a perfectly good spice mix with flavors I like.) For the cooking oil, I used regular vegetable oil. I know, peanut oil is better for frying, but it’s also really expensive in the quantities needed, and since I do very little deep frying, I never end up keeping the oil I use for further dishes. Besides, smoke point wasn’t a factor, because of the temperature I used.
After about twenty-four hours of buttermilk soaking in the fridge, I drained the chicken, seasoned it liberally with Essence, and dredged it in my GF flour. Then I let the pieces rest on a rack over a cookie sheet while I heated the oil and then fried the pieces in batches, four at a time.
Alton Brown’s method in the Good Eats episode is actually for pan frying the chicken, not deep frying it. But the preparation steps are the same, as are the food-handling tips he provides, so I used all those: long buttermilk soak, liberal seasoning of both sides of the chicken, flour dredging, and resting the pieces. I did rest the pieces much longer than Brown calls for – in fact, the last pieces to go in ended up with a 40-minute rest period! But all was well, so I wasn’t worried. I also did not season the dredging flour itself, heeding Brown’s advice that some spices do burn so they’re better off being shielded beneath the flour than being mixed in with it.
And then, into the oil with the chicken!
As noted, Brown is pan frying his chicken in the show, so he uses vegetable shortening that he heats to 350 degrees. I used vegetable oil to deep fry my chicken, and here I heeded a piece of advice from Lagasse: I used a lower temperature, only 300 degrees (which dipped into the 280-range when the pieces first went in). I had about three inches deep worth of oil in my Dutch oven, and I did four pieces at a time, ten minutes to a side each. Doing the math, it took me about an hour to fry up a dozen pieces of chicken – another reason I don’t do this all that often. Lagasse recommends the lower heat because he believes that higher heat can result in a scorched crust on the chicken by the time the meat is done. Again, I did not experiment to see if he was right. I did, however, follow his advice, and the result was highly satisfactory.
Finally, out came the chicken:
Those two pieces above are from the last batch, which was quite noticeably darker than the first batch, because of more bits of stuff floating around in the oil by the time I got to them. They were still awesome, though.
Oh, and that book excerpt I link above? I think she’s wrong when she says that the chicken must be fried at the last minute. If anything, the chicken should be fried first, and then allowed to rest for a while before eating. I had more than enough time to throw together a batch of cornbread and bake it in between the batches. It’s generally my belief that you do not want to eat fried chicken within at least fifteen minutes of removing it from the fryer. The stuff stays warm for a really long time, and cooked meat of any type should always be rested.
How did the chicken come out in the end? Well, the family ate it all up and promptly scolded me for not making enough. I made twelve pieces. That should tell you something. That was some good chicken, folks! And The Wife didn’t get sick from eating it! Yay! Yeah, we really set the culinary bar high here at Casa Jaquandor: food has to both taste good and not make The Wife sick.
A couple other random thoughts:
:: This gadget is awesome:
It’s a combo timer and probe thermometer. The probe is on a really long high-temp cord, so you can actually set the probe in a piece of food in the oven and set the gizmo to alert you when a target temperature is reached. Or you can use it as a straight-up timer. Very useful. I recommend it.
:: I also recommend that every kitchen on Earth have at least one of these:
The spider skimmer is a Chinese invention that is ideal for removing food items from hot liquids. Seriously, you need one of these if you don’t have one. You might even need two.
:: This was the first time I ever used my Dutch oven for deep frying. Prior to this, I always used my wok, which works just fine. The wok is a perfectly acceptable pan for deep frying. I prefer the Dutch oven, though. Its straight sides give more room at the pan’s bottom for the chicken pieces to do their thing without touching each other and getting clingy. Also, the Dutch oven is narrower at the top, which means that I could use my splatter-shield gizmo to contain the splattering oil. With the taller pot and the lower oil temp, there wasn’t really much splatter at all, but being able to use the shield was a bonus. (I know, I can get a shield wide enough for the wok.)
:: Always take time while cooking to pet the cat.
And I always wonder, why don’t more cooks and chefs wear overalls in the kitchen? Their whole purpose is to be protective! Comfort is supreme, they’re not super hot to wear, owing to their looser fit than regular pants, having pockets to stick utensils is nice, and I like to hang a towel off the hammer loop to wipe my hands on. Anyway....
So there you have it: making gluten-free fried chicken. Next time I’ll probably make two dozen pieces. And I’ll be frying for two hours....
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
This really hasn't been a very hard winter, in terms of snow. In fact, there's only been one or two really "big" snow events, and one of those was really only notorious by virtue of when and how the snow hit: intense snowbands that stalled in place right during late afternoon and evening rush hour, back in November. That made a huge mess, and there were even kids stranded on school buses or who didn't even make it out of school.
So now the "big storm" is hitting the Northeast, and it's not sparing Buffalo. We're not really on the docket to bear any of the brunt of this one, but we will get a good amount of snow. Luckily it will fall over three days instead of three hours, which makes it much more manageable. There's some kvetching going on because Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency not just for Eastern NY and the NYC metro area, which are the regions that are in the crosshairs for a big hit, but for all of New York State, which has a lot of people in Buffalo going, "Huh? We've functioned normally in worse than this." I dunno...I can see that point, but we have seen storms turn worse than expected in recent memory (see above), and just last week there was a nasty wind storm that still has several thousand homes in WNY without electricity. I don't think erring on the side of caution is always a bad thing.
Anyway, stay warm, people!
Is it a tone poem? You bet! Or rather, a "symphonic poem", which is really much the same thing. Gershwin intended the work to reflect the energy and rhythms he experienced while traveling in 1920s Paris himself, and the work really does buzz with a certain cosmopolitan energy, at least until the pace slackens and we turn to the plaintive blues sung by the solo trumpet. It's amazing to me that such an optimistic work could be inspired by a European city so soon after the cataclysm of World War I, but in the roaring twenties, I imagine Paris was a place of amazing energy. I tend to see this work as a companion to the Rhapsody in Blue, but an older, more mature one.
Yes, it's Pi Day, 3-14, the funnest of all the various goofy geeky holidays! (Well, May 4 -- Star Wars Day -- is right up there.)
I posted the earlier material to hold this space until I had my own material ready to go. I didn't properly observe Pi Day last year, so I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice!
(These photos have been modified with an app called Prisma that makes nifty "artistic" images out of source photos.)
Happy Pi Day, everyone!!!!!
Monday, March 13, 2017
(This was a total FAIL of a photo, because of the lighting, but the look on the dee-oh-gee's face makes it look like he's just realized that the Horror Movie Murderer is behind him. Look out, Cane! Beware the Double-Denimed Doer of Dastardly Deeds!
(You know, I doubt I'll ever decide to agree with people who say you shouldn't wear double-denim. Denim is awesome...especially the raw denim of those overalls. Need to blog about those....)
(These next photos I took while walking about with The Wife and The Dee-oh-gee in Geneva, NY. We went on an overnight getaway there a couple weeks ago.)
We visited a couple of wineries for tastings; hence the six bottles of wine. Wine is a big thing in the Fingerlakes Region.
Life keeps on goin', man!
Friday, March 10, 2017
Geologists are important for our understanding of rocks on Earth and on other planets. So never take them for granite.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 10, 2017
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Go wish Roger a happy birthday. Do it. Do it now!
Of course, this type of thing would be done a lot more convincingly decades later by Tchaikovsky in the 1812 Overture....
Friday, March 03, 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
1. Her hand fits perfectly into mine, as though our hands were fit for each other.
1a. That said, there's a good chance that she prefers the dog to me.
2. The first time she saw Star Wars was with me. And ET.
2a. The first time I saw Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were with her.
3. She used to keep an aquarium before a bunch of moves made us give up the fish. Maybe we'll do that again someday. But when we started dating, she had two fish, named Ken and Wanda, named after two memorable characters from A Fish Called Wanda. When Ken went belly-up, she called a friend and solemnly informed her, "K-k-k-ken d-d-d-died." (One of the movie's running gags is Ken's stuttering.)
4. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I've converted her from someone who hated coffee into a regular coffee drinker.
5. For reasons passing understanding, she has always found Erik Estrada attractive. She and I used to have arguments over who could best the other in a fight: Agent Mulder from The X-Files or Ponch from Chips. (I think Mulder would have blinded Ponch with the beam from those giant blue-beamed flashlights he and Scully were always toting, and then beaten him into submission with his eternally-able-to-get-a-signal cell phone.)
6. One of the first things we cooked together was Spanish rice, which is to this day a comfort dish of ours. The first time we made it together was also the first time she'd ever cooked with actual bulb garlic, as opposed to garlic powder. The recipe called for a clove, but she thought the entire head was a clove, so into the rice the entire head of garlic went. That was the best Spanish rice ever.
7. A few years ago she baked a Bundt cake for The Daughter's birthday, but the damned thing stuck in the pan, resulting not in a ring but a mound. So she just mounded it up, glopped the frosting right over the top, and called it a "Volcano Cake". Now, every year at her birthday, The Daughter says, "Remember the Volcano Cake?"
8. Our first date was to see Edward Scissorhands. So, Johnny Depp's been there since the beginning, from Edward all the way to Captain Jack Sparrow and beyond.
9. We used to go out for chicken wings and beer every Thursday night. We didn't even miss our Thursday night wing night when The Daughter was born: her birth was on a Saturday, and we left the hospital on Tuesday, so at the tender age of five days, The Daughter entered a bar for the first time. This may have made us bad parents, but I don't think so. A girl's got to know how to handle herself in a bar, right?
9a. She's not a huge fan of when I post photos of her sleeping.
10. She insisted on breastfeeding both The Daughter and Little Quinn, which in both cases required lots of pumping. Especially in Little Quinn's case, since he was never able to eat by mouth. Every drop of breastmilk that entered his body went in via the G-tube, so for as long as her production held up, she pumped six times a day.
11. I'll probably never completely understand how much of herself she sacrificed in fourteen months to keep Little Quinn alive and progressing. It seems, in retrospect, that every free day she had was given to him.
12. That same instinct in her kicked in again when Fiona was in danger. She didn't question the necessity or possibility of spending months flat on her back with her feet inclined, if that was what it took. If commitment was all that was needed, Fiona would be here today. (Of course, if commitment was all that was needed, Little Quinn would be here and Fiona wouldn't have happened.)
13. We used to associate certain teevee shows with the snack foods we'd eat while watching them. NYPDBlue was always chips-and-salsa. ER, when we still watched it, was often good ice cream. Now, good ice cream has been transposed to Grey's Anatomy.
14. "Our" first teevee show was LA Law.
15. Subsequent teevee shows of "ours" included ER, Mad About You, The Pretender, Profiler, CSI, Firefly, and more.
16. On our first Internet account, we set up our combined e-mail identity after the two main characers on The Pretender. We were "Jarod and Miss Parker". People familiar with the show wondered what that said about our relationship, since Jarod and Miss Parker aren't allies. In fact, Miss Parker was initially a villain but as the show went on her character became much more complex.
17. She started roller blading, got me hooked, and then promptly stopped roller blading. Now she prefers biking.
18. It was almost without warning that I met her parents for the first time. We started dating late February 1991; a couple of weeks later was spring break, for a week, so I came home to Buffalo. At the end of that week I tried calling her, only to learn from the old lady she was renting a room from that she wasn't home because of a death in her family. I remembered her saying something about a sick grandfather, and that's what turned out to have happened; her grandfather had passed away from Lou Gehrig's Disease. When I got back out to school, her entire family was there. So I met the future in-laws on the spot. Luckily, I seem to have made some kind of decent impression.
19. Our first long trip together was from Iowa to Idaho, to visit her family, a couple of weeks before school began in August of 1992. She had already graduated college, but I was in my senior year. While we were out there, the infamous Ruby Ridge Incident was taking place twenty miles down the road, so all week there were National Guard vehicles on the roads and helicopters overhead.
20. I am forever amazed at her ability to take some fabric and create a garment. This skill of hers looks like magic to me.
21. Her first pair of overalls were a gift from me. She thought the whole thing was goofy – maybe she still does! - but she wore them for years until at one point they became too small for her, and then a short while later they became too big for her. We didn't start wearing overalls together until we'd been dating for about a year.
22. Back in the 90s, on two different occasions, we picked out Persian kittens. Both were wonderful cats, both are gone now, and we miss them both dearly. The first was a beautiful tortoiseshell Persian named Jasmine; the second was a red Persian named Simba. Both died in the year preceding this blog's launch.
23. Adopting Lester and Julio was The Wife's idea. I'm still unsold on these two giant lummox goofballs.
24. The Wife also took The Daughter to adopt Comet, when The Daughter was only two.
25. Shortly after The Wife moved to Western New York to be near me, she adopted a cat from the shelter she named Lilac. That cat never really liked me all that much. Lilac died a few months after Little Quinn passed.
25a. She is directly responsible for all the animals with whom we currently live.
26. She loves to laugh, particularly at my expense. She is convinced I don't think she's funny, but that's just not the case.
27. Things with which she has a deft touch include: a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, a kitchen knife, the mixer, bread dough, a screwdriver, a lug wrench, and a shot glass.
28. It irritates her that The Daughter has inherited my tolerance for sunlight -- I tan, whereas The Wife burns.
29. The Wife likes to read, albeit not quite as much as I do. She always has a book going, and she reads every day.
30. She never used to use a bookmark, until I finally decided I was tired of watching her flip through a book looking for a passage that was familiar to her so she could find her place. I bought her a bookmark.
31. She loves nuts – except for walnuts and pecans, which I love. This makes it occasionally difficult find good brownies and similar items in bakeries, since many people default to putting pecans or walnuts in their brownies or other chocolate cookies.
32. When I first met her, she was a huge Anne Rice fan and read most of what Rice wrote until she decided that Rice's output wasn't interesting her much anymore. Since then she's read a lot of other authors, including a lot of unfamiliar names whose books I've plucked from the stacks of offerings at library book sales over the years. Interesting how obscure even the bestsellers of yesteryear eventually become, huh? Currently she really loves Gregory Maguire, the Wicked guy.
33. When we first met, she was a Washington Redskins fan. So of course, the first Super Bowl we were together was the one where the Redskins knocked the Bills on their collective arse. Oh well, at least she hated the Cowboys.
34. She prefers her KFC "extra crispy", where I'm an "Original Recipe" guy.
35. Movies that are particularly meaningful or nostalgic to us, in addition to Edward Scissorhands and Star Wars are Dances With Wolves, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Singin' in the Rain, and the James Bond movies.
36. For some reason we didn't take any pictures when we were on our honeymoon or when we were on our vacation to Disney a year later. I think we were between working cameras at those points...but lately I really wish we'd have addressed that at the time.
37. Things we did on our honeymoon to Cape Cod, Boston, and New Hampshire: road a boat out to sea to watch the whales; visited the New England Aquarium; ate dim sum in Boston's Chinatown; bought lots of kitchenware at an outlet strip (don't laugh, we still have some of that stuff); visited the Boston Science Museum. While doing two days in Boston we stayed at a hotel about forty miles out and road the train into town; on the second day, on the way back, we fell asleep on each other's shoulders.
38. Our first argument as a couple resulted from a common misunderstanding between people when one is from Iowa and one is just living in Iowa for a while. I told her we'd meet for dinner, so she showed up at noon and got annoyed because I wasn't there. Well, duh! I said "dinner", not "lunch". Except, remember, she's a native Iowan, which means instead of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner like most (ahem) normal folks, she ate breakfast, dinner and supper. Thankfully, I've converted her since then. Whew!
39. Our first wedding anniversary saw us spending a week at Walt Disney World. What a wonderful time that was! Even if she managed to rip her toenail out two days into the trip, thus requiring me to push her around in a wheelchair the whole time after that.
40. She had long hair when we started dating, and I had short hair. Now we've reversed that.
41. Before we started dating, I had a beard. When I became interested in her, I shaved it so I'd look better. Then, I learned that she likes facial hair. So I grew the beard back a while later.
42. Foods I've tried because of her: asparagus, squash, rhubarb, grapefruit, and more that I don't recall.
43. She loves George Carlin.
44. She bought me my first cell phone, and my second cell phone.
45. When we were at the Erie County Fair in 2001, she wandered off to look at the Bernina sewing machines. When I came by ten minutes or so later, she was in the process of buying a Bernina sewing machine. I didn't complain; I just stood there, kind of looking shell-shocked.
46. Leading up to our wedding, she rigidly adhered to the notion that the groom should not see the bride in her wedding dress until she comes round the corner to walk down the aisle. So I didn't see her until she came round the corner to walk down the aisle.
47. Starting a family was her idea. Not that I was against it; I figured we'd get there eventually. She just picked the "eventually".
48. She picked The Daughter's first name, so I got to pick her middle name.
48a. And now, this:
49. Since Thanksgiving Break at college was only a four day weekend, I didn't go home for T-giving my junior year; instead, I spent the weekend with her. We went to see her extended family out in Storm Lake, Iowa, which is on the other side of the state. Since she has family over there on both sides of the family, we ended up having two Thanksgiving dinners that day. Some part of me is still full from those two meals.
50. Iowa delicacies that The Wife and I share are pork tenderloin sandwiches and broasted chicken.
51. Some of our early dates were sufficiently cheap that we had to look for ATM machines that would dispense cash in five dollar denominations.
52. She bought Simba, the above-mentioned red Persian kitten, while we were on a shopping trip to Erie, PA. She fell in love with the kitten as soon as she saw him in the pet store; we then spent the rest of the day walking around the mall with me listening to her as she tried to talk herself out of buying him. (Persian kittens are pricey little buggers.) Finally, while we were at dinner at Red Lobster, she decided to pull the trigger.
53. Before Little Quinn, the most heartbroken I ever saw The Wife was the day we finally had to end Simba's life. His kidneys were in failure.
54. Great gifts she's bought me through the years: my current winter coat, a cupboard-full of drinking vessels of all types, candles, incense burners, the Star Wars original trilogy on DVD, my anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings with paintings by Alan Lee, my star sapphire ring, my current wristwatch, and many more.
55. The first thing she ever gave me: a stuffed bear, around whose neck she tied a lavender ribbon. I think she doused it with perfume. I named that bear "Bertrand", after philosopher Bertrand Russell.
56. The first thing I bought her: a little two-inch high figurine of a laughing Buddha. I think this confused her a bit.
57. Despite my best efforts for a while, she's never much warmed to baseball. That used to bother me, but these days that doesn't bug me much at all. I'm pretty cool to baseball myself now.
58. For a few years we went to Cedar Point each fall. We haven't been there in a long time, but I always found being there with her in the fall, in the cool air, pretty romantic. I loved riding the Giant Wheel after dark, sitting up there with her hand in mine, looking out over Lake Erie.
59. At Cedar Point, she decided that she liked this one coaster that does loops, so I stayed on the ground while she rode it. I'm terrified of those things.
60. Why don't we play mini golf more often? We both love mini golf. The Daughter loves mini golf. What gives?
61. One day in 1996, we were eating lunch in Buffalo when we had "The Discussion". Any guy who's ever been dating the same girl for a period of time measurable in years will know what "The Discussion" is. So I agreed, it was time for us to take the "next step". Later on, while she was having her eyes examined at LensCrafters, I bopped over to Penney's to buy her a ring. I chose a nice emerald one that looked really pretty. Sadly, they didn't have it in her size, so they had to order it, which would take three weeks. So I figured, OK, I'll get the ring in three weeks and make this thing official. Yay, Me!
62. The next day, she proposed to me.
63. Three weeks later I showed up to get the ring. They had it, but they couldn't find the paperwork, so some poor guy at the pickup counter at Penney's spent his entire lunch hour trying to find the paperwork so I could give my already-fiancee her engagement ring.
64. I don't remember exactly when we picked out her wedding rings, but we each have an Irish wedding band, and each ring is set with the other person's birthstone. So my ring is set with four amethysts, which is her birthstone; hers is set with four sapphires, which is mine.
65. For years I wore my ring incorrectly. Apparently there's one way to wear an Irish wedding band that signifies being married, and another that signifies being single. I was wearing mine the "single" way. I was alerted to this by a guy I worked with at The Store; he said, "Yeah, you're telling all the women that you're available." I replied, "Yeah, and I'm beating them off with a stick."
66. On our honeymoon, it was important to her that she at least get to dip her toes in the Atlantic Ocean. So she did. The water was very cold, though.
66a. She replicated this moment years later when we took a trip to the Jersey Shore.
66b. We returned two years later.
67. It always bugged her mother that she saw Niagara Falls before her mother did. Later we took her mother to Niagara when she was out for a visit.
68. During the summer of 1991, when I was at home and she was still in Iowa, she came to spend a week with me. I took her to Buffalo and to Toronto, on the way to which we stopped to see Niagara Falls for her first time.
69. She was really confused the first time a Japanese tourist asked her to take his picture in front of the Falls.
70. At the time our beer of choice was Labatt's. It's pronounced "la-BATS", but we had a family friend at the time who liked to say it "LAB-uhts", which is how I said it at college just for fun and habit. So when she visited me that summer, we went to the bar where this friend hung out, and he was so impressed when she ordered a "LAB-uhts".
71. Our favorite mixed drink in college was the sloe gin fizz. A few years ago I tried making these again, discovering that her tastes had changed and she now found them sickeningly sweet. I like them still, but yeah, they're sugary. (And pink. When I told a friend at work who knows everything about liquor that I'd bought some sloe gin, he laughed and said, "Oh good! Now you can make pink drinks!")
72. She taught me the right way to do laundry.
73. I taught her the right way to crack open crab legs so as to not mangle the meat.
74. Our first major mistake of parenting was taking The Daughter to a fireworks display on the Fourth of July in 1999. The Daughter was all of fifteen days old. This was the big display in Lakewood, NY, which is right on the banks of Lake Chautauqua. The Daughter did not respond well to the fireworks detonating right over our heads; the sounds were bad and for years afterwards The Daughter was very scared of loud sounds.
75. We always say that we should go camping. We never actually do go camping. We need to do more camping.
76. Once for dinner I made some frozen cheese ravioli with sauce, a favorite meal of ours that we hadn't had in a long time. She said that she was looking forward to "eating some cheesy goodness". Unfortunately, the raviolis were a bit on the old and tough side, and the cheese never got nice and melty, so after the meal, she commented, "That wasn't really cheesy goodness."
77. She likes eggs over-easy. I'm not a big fan of those, but I try to make them for her when she's getting over being sick.
78. She makes fun of my over-reliance on boxed mixes in the kitchen.
78a. I'm much better about this now. Her main kitchen complaint about me is that I make way too big a mess when I cook.
79. In 1993, when Cheers aired its final episode, she bought pizza for my roommate and I.
80. She only swears when she's really annoyed.
81. She is not happy that her nine-year-old, fourth-grade daughter is now the same shoe size as she is.
82. A while back she had her hair colored a brighter shade of blond than is her natural color. It was awesome.
83. Before that she experimented with red. I've tried talking her into doing that again, but no dice.
84. When my aunt met her the night before our wedding, she made a comment to the effect that I was to be commended for adding blond hair and blue eyes to our gene pool.
85. The Daughter has blond hair and blue eyes. So did Little Quinn.
86. I'm not sure there's a variety of seafood she dislikes.
87. I love the way she looks when she's just come home from work and changed into her PJ's.
88. Adopting Lester and Julio was her idea, but she claims the upper hand on that anyway because she was helping out my mother.
89. For some reason, The Daughter and I like to bring up at the dinner table the fact that The Wife, as a kid, had to help the family out on Chicken Butchering Day. I don't know why.
90. She thinks Orlando Bloom is really attractive. I don't see it, myself, but you can't argue these things.
91. For my birthday in 1992 she drove me to Dyersville, IA so I could see the Field of Dreams.
92. If I want to spoil her, all I have to do is buy her blush wine, cashews, olives and chocolate. Cake helps, too.
93. She spoils me by looking the other way when I go to Borders; by making me waffles or French toast or Spanish rice; by cleaning the kitchen after I've messed it up; by indulging my love of pie; and a thousand other ways.
94. I'm always game for a pie in the face, but I'm pretty sure nobody pies me like she does. Or better.
95. I know I've found the perfect girl for me when she describes our Thanksgiving in 2006 as being perfect because, after dinner, we went to see Casino Royale. In her words: "We had a big turkey dinner, and then we watched James Bond kill people."
96. We both love laughing at David Caruso on CSI Miami.
96a. Sadly, CSI Miami is long gone, but now we thrill to the adventures of Team Machine on Person of Interest, of Castle and Beckett on Castle, and we enjoy Alton Brown's delicious brand of pure evil on Cutthroat Kitchen.
97. One time last year we were at the Y, and she got so engrossed in what she was doing that when I approached her, she didn't recognize me at first.
97a. She loves lilacs.
98. Maybe this is a personal failing on my part, but I can't bear it when she cries. It kills me inside. But I'm trying to get better at this, since as Gandalf said, "Not all tears are an evil."
99. I wish we were living lives that didn't include so many tears.
100. I love her more than I did last week at this time.
101. Number 100 on this list will be equally true next week at this time. And the week after. And so on.
102. She makes me happier than I thought possible.
103. She...oh, I guess that's where I need to stop. I love you, honey!