Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"The stars always exact a price": AMONGST THE STARS is out!!!

AMONGST THE STARS is out today! Details at ForgottenStars.net! #amwriting #AmongstTheStars #ForgottenStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks

What are you waiting for? The book is available now! Find out what happens next in the saga of Princesses Tariana and Margeth and their trusty pilot, Lt. Rasharri!

Details at ForgottenStars.net!

The Force will be with you always: STAR WARS at 40

D19 of #IGWritersMay: Novel aesthetics. I make no secret that at its heart, THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS is really my love letter to STAR WARS. (This is a page from the book THE ART OF STAR WARS.) #amwriting #starwars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #Forgotten

I didn't see Star Wars on opening day. In truth I don't even remember exactly when I saw it, but it was later in the summer of 1977. We had just moved from Wisconsin to Oregon, and in that time I was not even aware of this enormous movie phenomenon whose popularity was sweeping the nation.

I finally saw it, though, with my sister, who is six years older than me.

I didn't like it.

It was very loud. It opened with big words flying through space and then there was loud spaceships and talking robots (one of whom only talked in beeps and whistles). There was a girl in white and a bad guy in black whose breath sounded weird. There was a desert planet with weird dwarf-creatures and a kid named Luke who lived with his aunt and uncle. (The uncle could be pretty gruff if Luke was goofing off, to which I could relate.) There were more loud spaceships and one really really big spaceship shaped like a giant ball. There was a guy dressed in black and white who helped the farm kid, and this guy had a giant ape-man friend. There were swords made of light and even more spaceships and a big battle in space.

All of that, and I didn't understand a lick of it.

In my defense, I was all of five years old at the time.

Until Star Wars, my movie experience was pretty much limited to stuff like Bugs Bunny Superstar and Disney live-actions like The Shaggy DA (which contained a hoot of a pie fight). Then there was this movie with loud spaceships and robots and a farm kid and a bad guy in black and...well, I had no idea what to make of this movie.

Luckily for me I had my sister, who is six years older than me.

She went all-in for Star Wars. She ate it, drank it, breathed it. She talked about it a lot, and gradually her enthusiasm began to win me over. She explained the story to me because I hadn't understood it all that well, and I decided that I wanted a part of her enthusiasm for my own. So I went with her to see the movie a second time.

I have never ever ever recovered.

I've been thinking a lot about Star Wars as it nears and achieves 40 years, and I find myself relating to it most as a storyteller myself. As a writer I tend most to look at Star Wars through the prism of story. Many stories have had a deep effect on me, on the stories I want to tell, and the way I go about telling them, but none moreso than Star Wars, even as the Star Wars story itself has changed over the course of its four decades. Most of the core ideas are still there, though, as Star Wars is now no longer in the hands of its creator, George Lucas. Star Wars is still a tale of heroic adventure unfolding in the sky. It is still a tale not just of the wars but more well-focused on the people fighting that war. It is a tale of improbably redeemable villains, of the way our paths mirror those of our parents, and of finding love in the face of desperation. It is a tale of family.

I can't help thinking in most, if not all, of these terms every time I write a story, no matter which genre it's in. Star Wars made me want to be a storyteller (what is playing with action figures, if not storytelling?). It also taught me that stories can focus at times on more mystical matters, and it taught me that story is an excellent way of addressing the challenges people face in their hearts. Most importantly, though, Star Wars taught me about heroes and quests and the wise elders who try to guide the heroes on their way.

Other stories have come since Star Wars arrived, and many have come to places almost as near to my heart. It's not only stories, either; it's all of creative art, really:

Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles
The Lord of the Rings
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
My Fair Lady
Much Ado About Nothing
The House with a Clock in its Walls
The Lions of Al-Rassan
Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy (plus The Wicked Day)
Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E minor
Invisible Touch by Genesis
Once and Again
Princess Mononoke

These are all things -- and there are more -- that are at the center of my creative life, but none has ever quite dislodged Star Wars as my Prime Mover. Star Wars is, and continues to be, my Platonic Ideal of what story is.

Even so, I haven't always kept as close an eye on Star Wars as a massive universe as many. I've read only a small handful of all the many novels and comics written over the years, and I haven't played any of the video games. For me, my appreciation focuses pretty exclusively on the movies themselves, and not just the wonderful Original Trilogy but also the admittedly uneven -- but still, in my eyes, uniquely compelling -- Prequel Trilogy and even to a smaller extent the recent "Rebirth" movies, The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Those form the core.

Star Wars is as strong now as it ever was, and it is very likely even stronger. It has more fans than ever, and it is now in the hands of a corporate power whose pockets are deep enough to maintain it at a very high level for decades to come. More fans are created every day, it seems, and yet...I do have to admit to feeling a certain level of possibly grumpy oldsterism. Sure, you kids can love Star Wars and in fact I hope that you will, and that your love for Star Wars will lead you to other things. But I came in on the ground level. My memories may be hazy, but I do remember a time before Star Wars.

I believe that every story one writes -- or rather, every story that I write -- should be, in one way or another, a love letter, either to someone or something. The Song of Forgotten Stars has many influences, but it is ultimately my love letter to Star Wars. If not for Star Wars, there's no way I would be writing this story. It's not just about the internals of Star Wars, though: it's about the way Star Wars impacted me and shaped my life and helped reflected certain relationships in my life. Put it this way: There's a reason why the two main characters in my Forgotten Stars books are two Princesses, one of whom is six years older than the other. It's a dynamic that makes sense to me on a lot of different levels.

I also know, from reading a lot about the making of Star Wars over the years and about the life of George Lucas in particular, that the way by which a creative work comes into existence is often a messy one. Lucas's manner of creation is eerily similar to my own, or maybe vice versa. Lucas is someone who starts out by following ideas in any direction they might go, and only gradually whittles things down and discards this notion or that idea until a streamlined story starts to emerge. I work the same way, at least in part. My rough drafts are often very messy and they always contain entire ideas that I remove entirely, for one reason or another. Lucas has done so much mixing and matching of ideas over the decades (remember that for him, Star Wars is 47 or 48 years old, depending on where he dates The Beginning) that he at times seems to be misremembering his own history. I know how he feels. There are times when an idea seems so organic that it's hard to claim it for my own. Even if it is.

So thank you for forty years, Star Wars! And may the Force be with you, forevermore.

Something for Thursday (40 years of STAR WARS edition)

A longer post about Star Wars is forthcoming later today, but for now, let's let John Williams (and Michael Giacchino) show the way! Happy birthday, Star Wars!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


HOLY CRAP THE SOON-NESS YOU GUYS!!! #AmongstTheStars #ForgottenStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks #amwriting

Nobody Did It Better: Thank You, Sir Roger Moore

Sir Roger Moore has died.

I've loved all the James Bonds, to be honest. My favorite is George Lazenby, but I appreciate each and every actor who has played the part. There is a special place in my heart for Roger Moore, though, because he was my first Bond, and you don't forget your first. That initial Bond experience for me was Moonraker in 1979, and I've been a James Bond fan ever since.

Here's Moore as I first saw him:

Oddly, Moore's first film as Bond is the Bond film I like the least -- in fact, I dislike Live and Let Die so much that to this day I do not own a copy of it, and I don't think I ever have. This isn't Moore's fault, though. He's actually very good in the movie, and my distaste for it is based on other complaints. Moore's reputation as Bond is unfortunately skewed: many see him more as a comic figure, when the Bond films had a lot more broadly comedic moments than in the Connery (or Lazenby) years. (Witness Jaws flapping his arms after his ripcord breaks in the clip above.) It always struck me as unfair to blame Moore for faults in the writing of the scripts, to be honest, and the Bond films of the 70s were all written with that kind of broad comedy that often bordered on outright slapstick. This started with Sean Connery's last turn in the role, Diamonds are Forever, and didn't end until 1981's For Your Eyes Only toned things down significantly. That film and its successor, Octopussy, are two of my absolute favorites, and I even have a soft spot for the troublesome A View to a Kill, which starts trending to over-the-top comedy again.

Witness this clip from For Your Eyes Only, when Moore's Bond gets the drop on a vicious hit-man who has been dogging him throughout the film:

That is as lethal a moment as anything that Connery's Bond ever did, and it's worth noting that no matter who plays him, James Bond is rarely that cold. But Moore could play it.

Moore's Bond was an enormous part of my geek childhood, and I wouldn't be a Bond fan if not for his work. So thank you, Sir Roger Moore, for your wonderful work, and I hope there are some wonderful ladies and nifty Q gadgets awaiting you!

Tone Poem Tuesday

I've featured this before, of course, because Alexander Borodin is a relatively newly-discovered favorite composer of mine. But I find myself returning to this work often, not only because of its beauty but because of its depiction of two groups of people, traveling opposite directions on the same road, meeting each other and spending a bit of time before departing again as peacefully as they met.

Borodin described the work thusly:

In the silence of the monotonous steppes of Central Asia is heard the unfamiliar sound of a peaceful Russian song. From the distance we hear the approach of horses and camels and the bizarre and melancholy notes of an oriental melody. A caravan approaches, escorted by Russian soldiers, and continues safely on its way through the immense desert. It disappears slowly. The notes of the Russian and Asiatic melodies join in a common harmony, which dies away as the caravan disappears in the distance.

Here is In the Steppes of Central Asia.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Symphony Saturday

Sir Arthur Sullivan has a hallowed place in the history of classical music for his work in setting the librettos of W.S. Gilbert to music, resulting in the enduring operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which are probably the greatest musical achievement of Victorian England. Sullivan didn't just write operettas, however. He was a prolific composer who wrote a number of operas, oratorios, various orchestral works, and this single symphony, which he considered titling "the Irish Symphony". He didn't officially choose that title, and in fact it didn't end up being attached to the work on a de facto basis until after his passing.

The symphony is a youthful work and as such it is uneven and in places clearly inspired by Sullivan's musical models -- in this case, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Nevertheless, the piece is an engaging listen. I'm not familiar enough with Sullivan's more mature work to know if and where you can hear in his Symphony hints of what is to come later on when he writes, say, The Mikado or Iolanthe, but Sullivan's Symphony is a pleasantly typical Romatic-era symphony, with some moments of pleasing lyricism -- particularly in the opening, when a portentous opening in the low brass yields to an almost ethereal chord in the strings.

Here is Sir Arthur Sullivan's Symphony in E Major, the "Irish".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Something for Thursday

I'm seeing this movie tonight on the big screen...so here are a couple of selections from that oh-so-wonderful camp classic, Flash Gordon!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Twenty Years

When we took our vows, twenty years ago today, she didn't like coffee and I didn't want a dog.

Go figure.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Twenty years ago today. Happy anniversary, my love. The sun rises in your eyes!

Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife! This was taken last summer. We probably need a photo of us with the dee-oh-gee....

Wife and Dee-oh-gee on a nice Christmas walk! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #ChestnutRidge #OrchardPark #wny #winter

Posing with Patience (or is it Fortitude?)

The Wife, with horse. #eriecountyfair #Wife

The Wife enjoys a bit of quiet. #CapeMay

Pumpkinville: Happy wife, irritated Daughter

Guess what happened to me today....

Death by Kitteh

To the sea!

Nose to nose!

Hurry up and pay for the popcorn.

I Get Hit in the Face with a Pie (on National Pie Day).

Couples all around

Wife 2

Arrival at Pumpkinville

Spot the non-family member!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy exists somewhere in the space between tone poem and concerto, with its prominent and technical part for solo violin. It's not a concerto, however; its structure more casts it as a fantasy on a number of Scottish folk tunes. Bruch was a prolific composer in the Brahmsian tradition, although not much of his music is heard today. His Violin Concerto is a mainstay in the repertoire, and the Scottish Fantasy has not disappeared either. The nature of the work puts me in mind of Berlioz's great symphony Harold in Italy.

Monday, May 15, 2017

In other news....

Two developments:

:: Amongst the Stars: The Song of Forgotten Stars Book III will be available on May 25! As is my usual practice, the book will be in paperback first with e-books to follow a couple of weeks later. And I am planning to start selling signed copies of all my books through ForgottenStars.net!

I'm calling it, folks! MAY 25 IS RELEASE DAY!!! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #amongstthestars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks

Front cover:

IT'S MY FRONT COVER YOU GUYS!!! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #AmongstTheStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #soon

Back cover copy:

ANNNNNND, the back-cover copy! I wrote the HELL out of this book, folks. I can't wait for it to be out there! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #AmongstTheStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #soon

I've already posted the first two chapters to ForgottenStars.net, and there will be a third chapter up later this week, probably Thursday.

:: The jury is still out on this particular development on the home front. I'm sure we'll get it all figured out, but for now, things are a bit of a whirlwind at Casa Jaquandor.

Meet the source of the whirlwind: Carla, aka Dee-oh-gee 2.0.

Carla. Sigh. #Carla #DogsOfInstagram

What is this 'popcorn' of which you speak? #Carla #dogsofinstgram

So there we are.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Symphony Saturday

I seem to recall once owning a set of Franz Berwald's symphonies. They made no impression on me whatsoever in the occasions I tried listening to them, and I'm not even sure if I still own the CDs. I'm not even sure what led me to listen to him again now, in 2017, but I did, and I'm glad I did so.

Berwald is a virtually canonical example of an artist whose work was obscure in his lifetime to the point of being almost completely ignored. Berwald, a Swede who lived from 1796 to 1868 -- a decently long life in that time -- couldn't even earn a living as a musician, instead making his way as a surgeon and then as a factory manager. Of his four symphonies, only the first was played during his lifetime. He didn't toil in complete obscurity; he had a few champions here and there, but virtually none in his own homeland.

His four symphonies certainly don't deserve their obscurity, and one wonders just why they were so roundly disregarded during his lifetime. They are not massive works, nor do they place undue demands on the performers; their harmonic language is interesting but would surely not have been unlistenable in a musical climate that was trending toward Tristan. The world of art is a capricious one, and it is hard to escape the notion that what separates those who achieve recognition and those who do not is some celestial roll of the dice. (Enduring legacy? That's another matter entirely.)

I present two of Berwald's symphonies here: the Third in C major, titled "Sinfonie singulaire", and the Fourth in E-flat major, called "Sinfonie naive". Both symphonies abound with life and rustic nature, and it's even tempting to hear -- since Berwald was Swedish, after all -- tantalizing hints of what would come decades later when Sibelius or Nielsen.

Here are the Third and Fourth symphonies of Franz Berwald.

Next week...I'm not sure. I want to do some more homework before I start in on Mahler.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Something for Thursday

It seems odd to me that one of the greatest Hollywood film composers, Jerry Goldsmith, had to wait until thirteen years after he died to get a star on the Walk of Fame, but there it is.

Here is some Goldsmith, who is almost always worth hearing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Here is an oddity of sorts. I can't really say much about it, because I have found almost no information whatsoever about it online. It is a symphonic poem called Visions, by Jules Massenet. Massenet was a French Romantic who is best known for his operas, and for the "Meditation from Thais", which is one of the most famous solo violin works in all of classical music and a staple on "Music for a peaceful mood" compilations. Massenet was a gifted melodist whose work tends to exhibit high craftsmanship. Debussy eulogized Massenet thusly:

He was the most genuinely loved of all our contemporary musicians. His colleagues never forgave him for having such a power to please; it really was a gift. Massenet realized he could better express his genius if pastel tints and whispered melodies in works composed of lightness itself.

Visions is a late work in Massenet's life, and it was never published. How it saw the light of day, I have no idea; nor do I have any information about its composition or its inspiration. All I have here is, quite literally, the music, which is meditative and playful and ultimately dreamlike, with an offstage solo violin and an offstage soprano. It's a highly meditative work that seems a cross between Romanticism and Impressionism, or between the symphonic language of Europe in the 1800s and the glass-like textures of Ralph Vaughan Williams to come. There is something compelling about this piece, which I found simply by doing a YouTube search for "Jules Massenet". I ended up listening to it three times in succession as I worked.

Monday, May 08, 2017

And now, a sunset

Just because.

(And I guess it's not technically a sunset, but rather a dusk sky.)

Sky tonight #sunset #clouds #sky

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Symphony Saturday

Alexander Glazunov's seventh symphony is named the "Pastoral", and as such it evokes inevitable comparison with Beethoven's own Symphony No. 6. Glazunov's is clearly not the equal of Beethoven's, but how could it be? This is not to say that Glazunov's work isn't worth hearing, because it most certainly is. It is pastoral music heard through the prism of Russian Romanticism as opposed to Viennese Classicism. Lyrical, folk-song melodies abound, and the symphony often has that wonderful Russian feel of "sustained build". There always seems to be a spot in the best Russian symphonies when you can feel the energies gathering for an inevitable release. Listen in particular for some really thrilling writing for the timpani and the chant-like opening of the second movement, which sounds almost like a chorus of monks as they gather for prayer.

Here is Alexander Glazunov's Symphony No. 7 in F Major.

Next week: a small step backward, chronologically, to look at a Swedish composer with whom most are probably unfamiliar. (Including me!) And soon...Mahler.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Something for Thursday (May the Fourth edition)

It's Star Wars Day, people!

(Warning: This next one is for if you need TEN HOURS of the Cantina Band!)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Symphony Saturday

OK, we really fell off the wagon here, didn’t we? So let’s get back into it with a two-week look at a couple of Alexander Glazunov’s eight symphonies.

I must confess a great lack of familiarity with Glazunov’s work. He seems to be one of those composers who lingers at the edges of the standard repertoire. For whatever reason, he hasn’t broken through into the first tier of composers, but neither has he lapsed into obscurity, either. From what little I’ve heard, his work tends to be right up my alley, with its scope and its lyricism. He seems to be somewhere between Tchaikovsky’s songs of sorrow and Borodin’s love of epic grandeur. Glazunov bridged the end of Russian Romanticism and the beginnings of Russian Modernism, and thus he seems to be roughly analogous to Sergei Rachmaninov.

This is Glazunov’s Fifth Symphony. I’ve played it several times over the last few weeks, and I find myself responding more and more to it. It has all the heartfelt singing and Russian brooding that you would expect and wish for from a Russian symphony written in the post-Tchaikovsky era, as well as an almost frothy confection in the scherzo movement that sounds almost like a children’s dance.

Here is Glazunov’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major.

Next week: Glazunov's 7th.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (the Kinda Clever Joke edition)

It's still Friday! And this one is actually not bad, in my opinion. And yes, it's a wee bit political.

Steve Jobs would have made a better president than Donald Trump.

But that’s a silly comparison, really.

It’s like comparing apples with oranges.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Something for Thursday

I don't recall if I've posted this before, but it's an interesting piece nonetheless: the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra by Alexandra Pakhmutova.

The repertoire for solo trumpet is pretty rich prior to, say, 1750, and then aside from the concertos of Haydn and Hummel it dries up spectacularly until the 20th century, when suddenly composers left and right were featuring the instrument. That's a shame, because it would have been wonderful to hear what some of the Romantic masters might have done with the instrument as a soloist. How great would a Dvorak Trumpet Concerto be! Alas.

Pakhmutova is a former Soviet composer whose work was well enough known in the USSR that she became Leonid Brezhnev's favorite composer, which is interesting enough. Her trumpet concerto is a complex work with some folk-like rhythms that put me in mind of the more famous Trumpet Concerto by Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian, although Pakhmutova's effort is more martial in nature and its melodies don't linger in the ear like Artunian's. Nevertheless, the Pakhmutova concerto is a fascinating piece, especially for the soloist, making a number of interesting technical demands and at times requiring tremendous skill.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

The waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr. are more than just waltzes. They're much more than just dance music for an elegant age now gone by; they all contain some of the most wonderful tone painting that I know. It's impossible to hear these waltzes and not get a feel for the culture in which Strauss was raised, with its attention not just to courtly elegance but also to the pastoral nature that surrounded the sparkling city of Vienna.

Here is one of the most famous of those waltzes, Tales from the Vienna Woods.

Friday, April 21, 2017

How revealing!!!

I've revealed the full cover art for Amongst the Stars, otherwise known as The Song of Forgotten Stars, book III! It's over at ForgottenStars.net, so go have a look!

The third volume is coming soon, folks!

Bad Joke Friday

Hey, anybody know what a will is?


Come on! It's a dead giveaway!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

"It's time for the Jedi to end"

So last week the first trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hit. Here it is!

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....

Something for Thursday

One of my favorite piano concertos: Mozart, No. 22 in E-flat, K 482. It's very nearly perfect, so 'nuff said!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dogs and cats, living together -- MASS HYSTERIA!!!

Generally, Cane gets along pretty well with our two cats, Lester and Julio. Julio will actually walk up to Cane and head-butt him, where Lester's relationship with Cane has a little "sibling rivalry" thing going on.

Well, here's what happened tonight when Cane reached out and touched Lester.

Lester finds displeasure in the dee-oh-gee's touch. The dee-oh-gee, however, thinks that this is some fun shit. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #Lester #catsofinstagram

Note that Cane is enjoying the hell out of this, and Lester is...not.

Angry kitteh is angry. #Lester #catsofinstagram

Poor Lester.

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

Tone Poem Tuesday

Some years ago I wrote about the Oliver Stone movie Nixon, which is a sort of companion piece to his JFK. As in the earlier film, John Williams provided the score, and it's an underrated standout in his long parade of amazing works. The opening track on the CD is, in my mind, a brilliant film music tone poem, called "The 1960s: The Turbulent Years". There are brief moments of lyrical optimism, but they are shot through with moments of militaristic menace.

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

There's something NEW here, I know it!!!

The dee-oh-gee walks the same neighborhood every day, usually three times. He passes the same shrubs and the same trees and the same lampposts. And he stops each and every time to smell them.

Like this rock.

When the dee-oh-gee intently smells the rock he pees on twice a day, I'm reminded of an exchange from the first episode of CHEERS: COACH: [answers phone] Cheers...yeah, just a sec. [addresses bar] Is there an Ernie Pantusso here? SAM: That's you, Coach. C

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

Bad Joke Friday


Evidence has been found that William Tell and family were avid bowlers. However, all the league records were destroyed in a fire and we’ll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Come on, ONE of you has gotta go!

This United Airlines fiasco is quite the thing, from the bizarre legality of a business being allowed to sell more of a product than it can actually provide (most other businesses would be accused of fraud if they tried that), to the police being deployed to enforce the whims of a corporation. For me, the most depressing aspect is all the people online excusing United's behavior, on the basis that "Them's the rules" and "It's in the fine print." Blind acquiescence to corporate authority cannot be that good a thing. (And I'll leave unmentioned the awfulness of some news media outlets deciding to dig into the passenger's past, as if that in any way excuses what's happened to him now. The whole "He's no angel, though" thing has got to stop.)

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?

Something for Thursday

I know it's late in the day, so here's something for the setting of evening and night: one of Chopin's most famous Nocturnes. Way back when I was taking piano lessons, I remember that I started working on this piece, but for some reason I don't recall, I never got it to the point that my fingers knew it. Alas!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

If you listen to this overture without knowing what it is, as I did the other morning when it came on the radio, you might think -- especially at the end -- that it's a very British work.

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

Improving the Books

There's a thing going around the Interwebs where it's said that you can automatically make any book better by inserting the sentence "And then the murders began" right after the first sentence. I didn't believe this, so I tested it on Stardancer:

Huh. That actually DOES improve rhe opening of STARDANCER! #amwriting

And...crap. I wanna read that book now.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

"Let me help" (Thoughts on "The City on the Edge of Forever", on its 50th anniversary)

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.

Something for Thursday

Emmylou Harris just turned 70.

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

Tone Poem Tuesday

I heard this work on the radio just the other day and I found it captivating. It is Im Sommerwind -- "In the Summer Wind" -- by Anton Webern.

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

Bad Joke Friday

For those of a musical mind:

An Eb note, a C note, and a G note walk into a bar. The barman says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors here.”

C sends Eb a dirty look. “I told you to act natural!”

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Something for Thursday

You all need an earworm. I'm here to provide.

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

Something for Wednesday

I know, it's not Thursday. But hey, whoever said I had to stick to the schedule?

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

Tone Poem Tuesday

Easter is coming, so in that vein, a concert overture by the great orchestral master Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. His Russian Easter Festival Overture is a work that pays tribute to Easter and the Russian Orthodox liturgies. The composer actually uses a number of liturgical melodies and chants throughout the work, giving the piece a feel of being both older and newer than it actually is. Apparently in Russia Easter is called "the Bright Holiday", and Rimsky-Korsakov's overture teems with both a celebration of the Resurrection and a more pagan exultation in the coming of Spring.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

Something for Thursday (Friday edition)

Oops. Time got away from me yesterday. So what to do? Resort to the old favorites, of course. Lerner and Loewe, performed by Maurice Chevalier. Here is "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" from Gigi.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Like many a lover of classical music, I suspect, my knowledge of composer Paul Dukas can be summed up in one sentence: "He wrote The Sorceror's Apprentice."

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

GOOD Joke Friday!

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

Something for Thursday

What's neat about really great songs is that they can be remade from one genre to another. "The Long Black Veil" started as a country ballad, but here it is recorded by Celtic supergroup The Chieftains and sung by Mick Jagger.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I made Gluten-Free Fried Chicken, lived to tell the tale, and was worshiped as a hero

The Wife and I both share a love of fried chicken, because fried chicken is awesome and people who don’t like it are wrong and unhappy. We don’t indulge fried chicken all that often, because it is admittedly not the healthiest stuff in the world, and over the last few years, we’ve indulged even more infrequently, as The Wife has had to adopt a gluten-free diet. Before that, though, this is how we almost exclusively enjoyed fried chicken:

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.

I'm making fried chicken. #yum #friedchicken

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!

Fry some more! #yum #friedchicken #altonbrown

Come to papa! #yum #cooking #friedchicken

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:

Overalls are the ideal garment for cooking, yo. #cooking #overalls #vintage #Key #bluedenim #dungarees #denim

Thigh and leg. Finished article. Oh yeah babe. #yum #cooking #friedchicken #darkmeat #ftw

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:

Another indispensable kitchen gizmo: a combination timer and thermometer. The probe is on a long cord and you can set a target temp for stuff in the oven: when the food hits the temp, the gizmo beeps. Very handy. #cooking

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:

BTW, if your kitchen arsenal doesn't include one of these, GET ONE. Trust me. #cooking #spiderskimmer

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.

Lester visited while I was making dinner #Lester #catsofinstagram

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....