Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Music #2

The 2008 albums I actually bought in 2008:

Black Keys "Attack and Release": Two guys playing dark dirty blues, this might be their best album.

Raconteurs "Consolers of the Lonely": Full of the dark/light grace and roots music of good Zep.

Foxboro Hot Tubs "Stop Drop & Roll": Sharp lyrics and great 50s garage sound from Green Day. Very very repeatable.

TV on the Radio "Dear Science": Yay Brooklyn! Sophisticated quirky sound and vocals, brash and sweet and keeps you engaged. Rolling Stone picked this as album of the year but I like it anyway. TV's earlier album "Cookie Mountain" was great too.

Beck "Modern Guilt": As deep as you need it to be. Quite melodic too. He might be getting old.

Kaiser Chiefs "Off With Their Heads": Loud Brit pop/rock with catchy riffs and singalong lyrics. Their 2 other albums are great too.

Elvis Costello "Momofuku": Press Play and be magically transported back to the late 70s! An entirely pop and rhythm-driven approachable new EC album. My god.

Kings of Leon "Only By the Night": A pretty good kick-ass assortment of songs in southern-rock style.

Mudcrutch "Mudcrutch": Tom Petty in disguise with his 1st band, gone back to blues and country rock stylings he kinda let alone for a while. A repeater.

MGMT "Oracular Spectacular": Boys angst without the emo. I almost wish I didn't feel like a cougar listening to this. These guys kick the Jonas Bro's collective arse.

Switches "Lay Down the Law": More well-crafted Brit pop/rock, reminiscent of Kaiser Chiefs and the Coral and Franz Ferdinand. Every track keeps it moving along.

Wolf Parade "At Mount Zoomer": Very alt, Reminiscent of the Shins and Interpol, with similar twang and depth to the sound. Crunchy.

Moby "Last Night": Pleasant, not spectacular, a bit heavy on the 'ludes.

REM "Accelerator": Middle age sucks. But they can still write melodies that sound like the 80s.

The Pete Best Band "Hayman's Green": Sounds like a "lost Beatles album," a tuneful 60s memoir in music. Reminiscent but not derivative. Sweet and thoughtful.

Black Francis "Svn Fngrs": Pretty much what you'd expect from Frank Black's more Pixie-ated alter ego. Hard sounds, growling/howling vocals and weird lyrics. Fun!!

Nada Surf "Lucky": A pleasant mellow set of semi-memorable pop songs that sound older than 2008. That's all. Not a bad thing.

Fleet Foxes "Fleet Foxes": I didn't expect to like this but I do. Alt folk? Alt choral? Late-night bad dreams music. Listen with the lights on.

Stephen Malkmus "Real Emotional Trash": Moody and strange. Might be dangerous. I like it!

Counting Crows "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings": No surprises, and that's a good thing from this band. Only 1 or 2 cringe-worthy tracks.

Carbon/Silicon "The Last Post": No surprises from Mick Jones' latest project, but a good beat and you can skank to it.

Vampire Weekend "Vampire Weekend": A few great tracks with great hooks, the rest meh. Gotta love the "M79" fave bus!

My Morning Jacket "Evil Urges": I HATE the 2 singles "I'm Amazed" and "Touch Me" so I trashed them, but I like the title track a lot, and a couple of the quirkier other tracks. I liked their old album Z more. Still, I'm glad they're getting lots of attention.

Death Cab for Cutie "Narrow Stairs": A few memorable radio tracks, the rest ain't bad either. A more diverse set of sounds for them. Nice pop hooks.

Snow Patrol "A Hundred Million Suns": see above.

Coldplay "Viva la Vida": see above. Brian Eno must be stopped.

Haven't listened yet:

David Byrne & Brian Eno "Everything that Happens will Happen Today"

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds "Dig Lazarus Dig"

Bob Dylan "Tell Tale Signs - Bootleg Vol 8"

The Stills "Oceans Will Rise"

The Killers "Day and Age"

2008 Music #1

There is obviously no such band as The Chesterfield Kings. "Psychedelic Sunrise" (from Wicked Cool Records) is obviously a collection of unreleased Rolling Stones tracks from 1966 - 1971. "Inside Looking Out" for example was probably going to be the b-side for "Lady Jane." "Yesterday's Sorrows" should have been on "Exile on Main Street." "Up and Down" was an alternative version of "She's a Rainbow." That said, it's a hell of a lot better album than the stuff the Stones released between "Exile" and "Some Girls." Andrew Loog Oldham's album notes are just a tip-off, a wink if you please.

Beck's "Modern Guilt" came up next in the CD tray. Not a bad segue.

Catasetum Success

So my encouragement post worked, and Catasetum atratum is blooming again! And this time I'm paying much better attention. After being open 2 days the 5 flowers are definitely fragrant, a sweet generic honey-like aroma. Dunno how I missed that before. I wish the flowers were better organized instead of pointing every which way, but with flowers this odd that's like complaining my cat only drives me crazy half the time.

I need to take the plant out of its plastic "pot" and snip away the dead oldest roots, maybe remove the very oldest pseudobulbs too. I'm quite pleased that this season's growth is one of the most robust yet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Believe in You

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying holds up remarkably well. I never noticed before that the executives all speak Westchester-ese, and the secretaries all have broad Bronx-Brooklyn-Queens accents, especially when singing.

Best quote: "I feel sorry for men who don't knit. They lead empty lives."

You have the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet there's that upturned chin
And that grin of impetuous youth.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.
I hear the sound of good, solid judgment
Whenever you talk;
Yet there's the bold, brave spring of the tiger
That quickens your walk.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.
And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I've but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart; I take heart
To see the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet, with the slam-bang tang
Reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.

50 American Wines

This article is a must-read for wine-drinkers. How close have I come to multi-state wine experiences? I regularly drink California, Oregon and Washington State wines, and now and then New York state rieslings and dessert wines from the Finger Lakes region. I've had Long Island wine too, but I won't rush into that. I might've had a bottle of white wine from Virginia once, but with my aging failing memory can't swear to that. (And looky, I took the trouble of looking up Gary V's book and website, as his recommendations tend to rock.)

Beer, now that's another story! I've had local brew in every state I've ever visited other than Kentucky. I've drunk beers from all the favored microbrew regions. As much as I love the idea of expanding America's wine industry past the usual suspects, maybe Kentucky should stick to bourbon and New England should stick with IPAs.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cooking Without a Map

In the process of dumping a couple years of accumulated magazines, I have to page through some of them for tidbits worth saving: a page of photos, a neat diagram, a reference to a book, a sweater with great colors...but mostly it's recipes. When I find a recipe I want, I go to the magazine's website and copy the recipe to a notepad file. Later when I'm in the mood I copy those recipes to larger formatted documents. I have hundreds of pages of saved recipes, from avocado-sour cream dip to elaborate cakes and pastries. Recognizing that I'll never in a lifetime manage to plow through a tenth of these, lately I've been deleting like crazy, and, most importantly, not adding new recipes unless they sound both very different from all others (in a good way) and are brief and simple enough to entice lazy-ass me into trying them.

Some of my all-time favorite dishes come from saved magazine recipes. Cornmeal biscuits. Sweet potato biscuits. Brussels sprouts with pecans and roasted chestnuts. Raspberry jam brownies. But most days, I just decide what I'd like to eat for dinner, and shop accordingly. Sometimes there's leftovers I build a new meal around, not wanting to waste them. I've been known to buy ingredients for soup for dinner just because the LaBrea 3-cheese semolina bread was still warm when I passed it in D'Agostinos and I just had to buy it.

This article by chef Daniel Patterson says very concisely what I experience every day in my tiny kitchen. It's also what I experience teaching inexperienced gardeners about orchid growing. You come to understand that every vegetable and every fish is different, and you have to poke and prod and taste the food as it cooks to know when it's done or how to season it; a recipe gives a hint for doneness, but after that you judge for yourself; the seasoning that caught your eye reading the recipe may need adjusting to your own taste. Likewise, figuring out if a plant wants or needs repotting or just more water or food or light becomes second nature. Recipes, and gardening advice, are very good starting points, but after a while the process should become intuitive.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yay, New Orchids!!!

My "oh noes it's mid-December and my AOS 2-year renewal $30 coupon expires in January so I have to order now before the weather gets worse" orchids from Carter & Holmes arrived today. Soooooo happy! So here's what I got.

Bulbophyllum barbigerum (tiny plant) and Bulbophyllum frostii (bigger plant, bare-root). Whee! I last owned barbigerum years and years ago. Can't wait to see those wiggly little lips again! I'm entirely delighted to encourage seed-grown Bulbos being sold.

Stenocoryne vitellina seedling, nice and healthy, at least 1 year from blooming. For a brief glorious few months about 20 years ago, I was the Stenocoryne Queen of the East Coast. I had 4 species. Four! And they all bloomed and thrived until I had a wave of bad luck, and long vacations, that decimated my collection. I'm so pleased a large nursery like C&H is distributing these!

The rest is mini-catts, some are mericlones and some are seedlings:

Lc Tiny Treasure x Slc Angel Face. Ought to be a splash-petal cutie. Nice healthy plant too.

Lc Mini Purple "Tamiami-4n" x Slc Precious Katie. C&H says these are mostly purples, some are red.

Blc Waikiki Gold "Lea" x Laelia briegeri "Star of Brazil." L briegeri hybrids tend to be fantastic free-blooming darlings, so let's hope. It's a tall plant, as expected.

Slc Precious Stones x Slc Barefoot Mailman. These have to be gorgeous red-orange stars.

Potinara Brady Crocker (Pot. Mem. Shirley Moore x Slc. Precious Katie). Sounded good, and described as red, blooming on small plants.

Lctna Flying Colors "Mendenhall". My Otaara and other -tonia hybrids do well, time to try this. I guess I still have a weakness for splash petals.

Eplc Tinker Toy "Sprite." Always wanted one of these little pink & white cuties.

I got two bonus plants too, which totally rocks. One is (C loddigesii x Sc Beaufort), which I'm figuring will be pink and yellow. Heh. The other is a healthy young plant of Cattleya percivaliana. There is no way I can grow that thing to flowering maturity, so once I've potted it and established it some lucky pal of mine will end up with it.

Whole Lotta Ho Ho Ho

I heard on the news that the Post Office has declared this holiday season "cancelled." Nobody's mailing anything. Are they right? I was in two of my local POs twice this week, thanks to brisk ebay sales. Last year at this time, a week before Christmas, the lines were out the door at both locations. This year, not so much. In fact, I only waited in line as long as I do on any reasonably busy day. And only a few people were burdened with parcels, the vast majority had only smaller items or Priority Mail envelopes.

What's up, I think, might be that everyone who is doing gifts this year decided to go for bargains online and had those retailers ship directly. Saves effort, saves $$, what's not to like? And some of us are doing charity donations in lieu of material presents. And e-cards and Facebook hugs instead of paper cards.

All of this is fine with me. Our holiday cheer is in short supply this year. I might buy an evergreen bough for a vase on the table, and I desperately want a bottle of Sams Serious Eggnog (from the Waterfront Ale House), but that's about it. As good as I feel about the new regime in DC, this country is still so seriously f**cked-up that I'll save my cheering for January 20. And hope my friends seeking jobs will find them. And hope someone will buy my book...

I did have a personal Awesome Moment yesterday thanks to ebay: I had the rare privilege of mailing an item to North Pole, Alaska, and enjoyed the look on the clerk's face. We agreed Santa obviously really does buy stuff on ebay to re-gift.

And a Hey Lookit! moment today: 2 fire trucks bearing Santa, elves (rather fat ones) and fire fighters in Santa hats, whirring along at 86th and 3rd Ave. Awww!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Two Reislings

Rudolf Muller 2007 Riesling Pfalz.
Billed as "Rabbit" Reisling, or "The Bunny Wine" thanks to its untraditionally graphically attractive label design of a plump hopping bunny. The label is also untraditionally helpful, being in English. And the price is pretty reasonable too for a pleasant if not especially interesting German Riesling. It's light and fruity though refreshingly semi-dry, with the label-promised peaches and pears rather than more tropical overtones. Recommended dishes of firm cheeses, cream-sauced pastas, light seafood and Asian spices are perfectly suited. I'd also say light chicken and pork dishes would be a good match.

Hazlitt Finger Lakes Riesling 2007.
We "discovered" this winery's riesling about 10 years ago, and went through a case a year for several years. The latest vintage is as good as past ones. The wine is light, fresh and tasty. The label boasts peach and tangerine and I agree, there's a clear tropical whiff to the nose and palate. Nice acidity, not over-sweet, not over-assertive. The label recommends grilled trout, soft-shell crab or fruit salad as good food matches. We've drunk this wine with pretty much everything and enjoyed it every time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reading again

Two new old books this week:

The Curse of the Giant Hogweed, by Charlotte MacLeod. I read this book when it was new in 1985, as at the time my father was still hauling all new mystery books home from the library quick as they were stocked. It was delightful, one of the silliest things I'd ever read, a horticultural fantasy romp full of British myth and daunting Welsh names, and I remember absolutely nothing else about it. With a glad cry I pounced upon a copy in my library's book sale room. I shall begin re-reading it immediately.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos. Everyone knows "diamonds are a girl's best friend," and might vaguely remember Marilyn Monroe in the movie. I never finished the book years ago, so I'll be having a new go at it.

A great passage from near the beginning:
And Mr Eisman likes me to have what the French people call a "salo" which
means that people all get together in the evening and improve their minds. So I
invited all of the brainy gentlemen I could think up. So I thought up a gentleman who is the professor of all the economics up at Columbia College, and the editor who is the famous editor of the New York Transcript and another gentleman who is a famous Sam asked if he could bring a gentleman who writes novels from England...and then we all got together...and the gentleman brought their own liquor. So of course the place was a wreck this morning and Lulu and I worked like proverbial dogs to get it cleaned up, but Heaven knows how long it will take to get the chandelier fixed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

I might as well record this for posterity. It's not my original recipe, but based on one from my fave muffin book.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Prep 12-muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Combine in small bowl: 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt. You may substitute white whole wheat flour for part or all of the flour, or substitute up to 1/2 cup graham flour.

Combine in larger bowl: 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick) cooled, 1/2 cup mashed bananas (2 small/medium), 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (not nonfat), 1 tsp vanilla extract (if using plain yogurt), 1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Before the flour is gone add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. Spoon into the muffin tin.

Bake 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be nicely crusty and browned.

These reheat very nicely in a toaster oven at 375 for 5-10 minutes.

I haven't tried substituting brown sugar, or more banana/less yogurt, but I will someday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Woot! After a long dull stretch of inactivity, the orchids are starting up some winter cheer. 4 plants in bud! Woot!

Beallara Lembaba has a nice spike along with a new growth. Mystery Oncidium Hybrid that I got from Silva in March has budded beautifully, allaying my fears that the older slightly twisted growths were typical and would bollocks future blooming. The older speciment of Bulbophyllum curtisii "Pololei" has been flowering wonderfully ever since I boosted its light levels and been more careful about watering.

Phalaenopsis Tsay's Evergreen "Fangtastic" made my mouth water first time I saw it five years ago. I bought one in February, and I've been eagerly awaiting new flowers ever since. The flowers on the old spike lasted two months, with new ones forming every few weeks. Right now it's got 2 healthy spikes and two buds showing on the bigger one. I only wish the plant didn't look so craptastic, the leaves a bit mottled. I know I let it go too dry too often the past couple months. I'm being better now. I even fed it.

And, after disappointing me last year, Catasetum atratum is back on track, with a nice fat spike and five buds only a month late compared to past flowerings. I think I might have to "repot" it next year, trimming old roots and removing the very oldest pseudobulbs before replacing it in its happy home, the CD box. I refuse to mess with success. The older Catasetum on the window got a bit too dry this fall, and I don't think I'm seeing flowers again this year. I need to repot that sucker.

I need to repot like a dozen things. Mostly phals in those crappy flimsy clear plastic containers full of dank rotting sphagnum moss. Ugh. They're all making loads of new roots. Yay!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yarn Riot!!!!

My perfect record continues, of hitting the annual Smileys Manhattan Yarn Riot on the first day. I don't think there's a prize, other than personal satisfaction, and first crack at the few items that are in Limited Quantities. Since Rowan Plaid doesn't float my boat, I settle for satisfaction.

So happy with what I got. I was so restrained. I could afford to be, having gone to Smileys Queens store twice in two months to stock up on baby yarns for my friends' babies. Now I actually have to knit up some of that stuff. I was horrified to realize that of all the dozens of yarns in my Ravelry stash, I have only used up ONE since I joined. That's inexcusable.

Despite all the yarny goodness surrounding me everywhere I go in this house, I'm feeling a bit uninspired. WTF? I think I'm burnt out. I made Good Lawd TEN charity sweaters in the past two months. Full child-to-teen-sized wool sweaters. Even the top-down raglan method takes a few days per sweater, even the littler ones. The desired goal, of Giving Back while reducing the redickulus Olde Wool Stash, has mostly been met. Mostly. Because being the freak that I am, I couldn't just knit charity sweaters that are the dull gray colors of the stash yarns (WTF I was thinking buying all that ugly gray yarn I really cannot imagine). No. I had to buy some prettier colors to mix with those gray yarns. Of course I did. Some Knitpicks, some Smileys Chaco Wool...suddenly I have a new bagful of wool to use up. Bleah. At least its prettier wool...

I did finish a couple more baby sweaters too. Now I have to start some holiday gift knitting. Stuff for, uh, six kids and two infants. And finish a few things for myself too. Cos all that other yarn ain't knitting itself.