Thursday, March 27, 2008

New York Radio: a glimmer of hope??

I only just realized there's a new New York rock radio station. (My god, advertising works! I saw the poster on the Metro-North train!)

My impression so far is that this is what the late lamented WNEW-FM 102.7 might be today if only it had survived into this century. Starting out with old Lou Reed and new REM works for me entirely. I really enjoyed the NY version of Jack FM for 2 years; I discovered a heckuva lot of newer rock and pop I'd been missing for years of not listening to radio at all (not even Q104.3). This is even better! Stones, Talking Heads, Franz Ferdinand (yay!!!!), Dishwalla, Janis Joplin, Coldplay, REM, A3, Elvis Costello, The Bravery, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Springsteen...all in happy juxtaposition!!! My god, a radio station that really is my iPod on shuffle!!!

I have plenty of issues with Jack (as I've kept listening to their 6 or 7 feeds on iTunes radio)...big issues like 99 Luftballons and The Pina Colada Song. At least they don't stoop to dull idiotic boompety boompety crud like Fergie or soul-destroying crap like Mariah Carey. (HELLO people: PAY ATTENTION. ALL her songs sound alike! You only need one!!)

I really hope this station survives. I really hope I NEVER have to hear Sweet Home Alabama EVER AGAIN. Or Captain Jack. Or Take the Money and Run. Or Lying Eyes. Why the hell do classic rock djs think New Yorkers want to hear f**ing Skynyrd every 5 minutes?? Why is 4 Dead in Ohio something people might want to hear at 10 am just as their new day is starting? Life doesn't suck enough, let's hear a rousing song about dead people and injustice AGAIN!

But I will keep listening to Q104.3 Sunday nights cos I need my Little Steven's Underground Garage fix. O yeah.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Buy My Stuff!

While I'm thinking of it, I ought to shamelessly promote my 100% merino wool handknit Orchid Hats before winter is entirely over (yes I know it's spring). They come in three flavors: cattleya, phalaenopsis and oncidium.

Shockingly successful under lights...!

This darn blog needs more pictures. So here's a picture of one of my orchids as it bloomed LAST year. (Laelia longipes x Cattleya harrisoniae) from Aranda Orchids in Brazil, I think I've had the plant about five years. I want this one to flower again darn it so here's another encouragement post. (The thought has crossed my mind that repotting the thing might help but let's not do anything drastic...just cos I've got 18 students for an orchid repotting class coming up on Saturday...)

Faster Pussycat! Knit! Knit! #2

O the deep enriching satisfaction of finishing projects! O the joy of that final snip of yarn after the final stitch of the final seam! The projects really piled up the past two years while I've been busy doing other creative things again.

Some people overeat when stressed and depressed; I'd like to think I don't do that, but please don't talk to me about Easter candy this week, while I've been suffering a sudden bizarre, disgusting and painful ailment that's required one ER visit and four follow-ups in ten days. Just don't. The Easter candy and the ailment will both soon be gone. Then we shall speak no more of it.

Some people shop; but I shop all the time, and in fact I tend to shop more when I'm happy if only because I make better choices then (as opposed to UGH I'd never look good in that My god what were they thinking Orange? I can't wear orange What's with this stupid bow?) and enjoy browsing instead of finding it an ordeal. Twenty five years ago, I didn't enjoy shopping so watching some of the women on What Not to Wear fills me with negative nostalgia; I still vividly remember walking into Macys sportswear with the cash from my first paycheck, looking around and thinking, Wow, I think I'd look good in that dress! I'll try it on! And I was right. Anyway.

Some people specifically buy yarn to cheer themselves. Four years ago, when life took terrible turns, I bought a LOT of yarn, from Smiley's Yarn Riot and elsewhere. I really went nuts. But I also knitted a hell of a lot. I made tons of baby and kids clothes and blankies for friends. I made scarves for myself. I made some terrible ill-conceived projects out of yarns I loved for their look and feel, that ended up as labor-intensive pillow covers on the sofa.

Yarn stash is a state of mind, I think, of preparedness, of anticipation, rather like a full pantry or overstuffed jewelry box. With these anchovies, pine nuts and exotic herbs I can enhance any meal! With these earrings I can rise to any occasion! With this yarn I can entertain myself during long bus trips, agonizing ER waits, dull TV shows AND end up with a great sweater! And o yeah, it's packrat disease writ large.

Two years ago I woke up from depression and shock and discovered the novel I'd abandoned suddenly made sense again. Knitting took a backseat to writing, except for travel and sf con panel situations. Now that the book's nearly done the knitting's crept its way back into my consciousness. Mostly I've been excavating the UnFinished Objects and actually finishing them. I seem to have knitters' block with necklines and sleeves. Four projects lacking only sleeves! Two projects stopped short of the front neckline! WTF??? Then I realized what happened: backs and fronts are take-along projects, but sleeves are TV projects. I stopped watching TV, or knitting while watching TV, so the sleeves never got done. I'd start projects and then leave them stuffed into a shopping bag, undone, unloved.

Well now the silly black Wendy Picasso top, the Luxor DX pretzel stitch top and the Miami Ribbon cable-neck top are freakin' DONE. My husband's burgundy fisherman rib sweater that I swore I screwed up actually fit him and it's DONE (in fact he's worn it all winter and the pills are appaling. Encore DK is not as durable as I hoped.) The I-need-an-easy-project-for-phone-calls Shiny Fluffy Black top is DONE. The baby-puke camo green top sleeves are started. The Noro Silk Garden panelled jacket is still waiting but next on the list....

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mock Cheese Steak

The last time I was in Philly in 2001, attending the World Science Fiction convention (the fondly remembered and wonderfully named Millenium Philcon), I think Rick's Cheesesteaks (in the Reading Market) were better. Were the onions always so finely chopped and slightly crunchy?? And the meat seemed gray and a bit tough, not lush and browned. I seem to recall long strands of well-caramelized onion. Well, that's the way I make my cheese steaks.

As my corner diner makes awesome NY cheese steaks that are dense, tender and filled with both onions and mushrooms, I became addicted and concocted an at-home version that's slightly healthier. Slightly.

For 2 people: Add olive oil to a frying pan. Cook 1/2 of a sweet onion and 2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced thin. When the mushrooms are done as you like, add 1/4 lb of rare deli roast beef , cut into thirds for manageability. Keep these lying atop the vegs, so they don't turn completely well-done too quickly. When the meat is warmed, mix it in with the onions and mushrooms. Then add slices of cheddar, deli munster, provolone or monterey jack cheese. When the cheese melts, serve. (Sorry, I just never do "american cheese" or that wiz stuff. Ever. The deli munster is close enough without being utterly artificial.)

I like to serve this over mashed potatoes, with a side of cooked broccoli or green beans. Or both.

There and Back Again: The Flower Show

I visited the Philadelphia Flower Show on Wednesday, for the first time in about 20 years. Wow, that looks even worse in print than saying it aloud.

On the whole I was underwhelmed by the vendor area's offerings being so top-heavy in gardening tchotchkes and lightweight in interesting plants. I suppose the Internet is to blame as with so many of these issues...

I was more pleased and amused by the New Orleans theme exhibits than my companion who has truly been-there-done-that where flowers and plants were concerned. I thought the purple, green and gold glitter, props and Mardi Gras masks were entirely in keeping with a life-affirming springtime displays. No real knockouts there either -- acres of bromeliads, plenty of tulips, lots of flowering trees -- but I thought a few displays were fairly sophisticated in recreating a feel of New Orleans or bayou country, including Waldor Orchids.

One of the top honored displays hardly had any flowers in it, but the green material painstakingly arranged around a convincing wood shack and stone paving was delightful. Every bit of moss, every scrap and leaf, just belonged. Wonderful.

I quite liked the three gigantic abstract floral hangings. Taking pictures of them was quite a challenge. The only drawback to such displays is that they force you to look up into the spotlights and then the actual ceiling. Kind of breaks the "magic space" you enter with a show like this.

The horticultural entries are always my favorite flower show thing. Lots of beautiful orchids grown by Lois & Jim Duffin. Lots of gorgeous succulents by folks like Dr Gerald Barad. Meticulously groomed rock garden treasures, lush terrariums, monstrous ferns and clivias, the jewels of the plant world presented with loving care and attention. Sigh. My plants NEVER look that good.

Having last collected and studied succulents many years ago, I was thrilled to be reminded of how odd, sculptural and wonderful they can be. This Haworthia truncata "lime" belonging to Dr Barad was just breathtaking.

This link provides much better pictures of the variety than I took...

Monday, March 3, 2008


I've been seeing bus ads around the city mentioning The Gates again, some sort of retrospective. They were here three years ago. Being made to remember, I went looking at my photos of them again.

I remember arguing with a friend of mine who refused to even look at the park from the windows of her express bus, because she thought they "defiled nature." I pointed out that Central Park was no more natural than a suburban garden, that the lakes and streams have on/off taps and drains, that the entire landscape was planned carefully and bulldozed into place (or whatever machinery was available) with the exception of the rocks. As there are already sculptures, statues, benches, lamp-posts, walkways, bridges, fountains, buildings and every other sort of park furniture aplenty, what's a few hundred bright orange Gates?

I made plans a week in advance to experience The Gates with a friend on a Friday. Then, the day before our plan, my mother passed away. There was nothing for me to do other than leave the hospital, visit the funeral home, and go home and start making phone calls and emails. She had no personal possessions outside of the few things in her hospital room and nursing home room, and they could wait. So that Friday I went to the park as planned, with my friend and also my husband. My friend had lost her mother about six months before, and now we had a shared need for life-affirming experiences.

Filling a wintry day in a bare gray and brown park with life, color and people was one of the best things I've ever seen. I felt excited, exhilarated, and privileged to be there. I wished my mother could have seen it, but there were many things she missed. We all miss wonderful things for either good or bad reasons.

Every now and then I find myself experiencing life with my camera instead of my eyes. Digital cameras make this less obvious, as you're looking at a large monitor screen from a distance instead of through a tiny viewfinder eyehole with the camera body blocking all else, but framing the picture on the monitor, instead of looking at the thing itself, all too often I'm still missing something. During my Gates walk I captured moments of a once-in-a-lifetime event but I also made sure to shut off the camera now and then and simply walk, and touch, and laugh, and be.

OK back to orchids, knitting and other stuff again.