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Thursday, March 31, 2011

How many people does it take to find one darn phone number?

I turned the page of my calendar to take a peek and, surprise, the Pratie Heads have a gig April 3, that's this Sunday: the first-ever brunch opening of Jessee's coffeehouse in Carrboro. (It's the building on a little spit of land, a narrow triangle next to Carrburrito's.) I called Bob to remind him. Then it occurred to me we hadn't talked to the people there for quite a while and wondered, is it still on?

So, since I was in town for my Yiddish lesson, I swung by Bob's house and a drummer friend of his was there too. We thought we'd call Jessee's. So of course we fired up his computer, but the internet was down. So we are at a loss.

I say, "Wait, didn't people used to look up phone numbers in a "Phone Book"?" Bob and Doug stare at me like uh, what? I patiently explain, the phone book, it was big and you looked in it and there were all the phone numbers.

So Bob reluctantly wanders off to see if he can find a phone book, and yes, he eventually finds one, but no, Jessee's is not in it.

So then Doug pulls out his "Smart Phone" and asks it, but for some reason it isn't speaking to him today.

We talk about Bob's house being in the Bermuda Triangle of telecommunications. I query rhetorically, "Do I actually have to drive home and look this up?"

Then Doug's phone has a moment of lucidity. We find Jessee's website, but somehow he can't manage to locate the phone number on the little screen. (Note to web designers: now that people are staring at your work on postage-stamp-sized screens, do not be coy with the important information.)

We do note that the Pratie Heads are not listed on the music list, and that in fact the site says Jessee's is CLOSED on Sunday! Not good.

I try calling my son (HE has a "Smart Phone" too) but he's at work so he can't help. I try calling my friend Paul (HE has a "Smart Phone" too!) but he doesn't answer.

Then the clouds clear from over Doug's "Smart Phone" so he calls his brother, somewhere in the midwest maybe, and the brother's internet is working, so the brother looks up Jessee's, and I write the number down on a "Piece of Paper", with a "Pen," and pass it to Bob and Bob calls and they tell him yes, we're playing this weekend.

There is something wrong with this whole scene.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some chicken, some neck: Arthur Szyk caricature (found)

An older lady in my Yiddish book club passed along to me four boxes of her father's music. This was no ordinary collection of piano sheet music - he was a composer and orchestra leader in Russia and the boxes are full of his hand-written manuscript arrangements of everything from Glinka to "Khasene in dem yidishn geto" by David Beigelman. And on the back of a picture of an English setter, this:

Of course my son got out his smart phone and asked it about Arthur Szyk. He found the Arthur Szyk website and ordered Szyk's illuminated haggadah...

Then we wondered what "Some Necks" meant. A Facebook friend enlightened me: it's from a famous speech by Winston Churchill to the Canadian Parliament December 31, 1941.
"But [the French] generals misled [the French nation]. When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken; some neck."
Interesting find in a dusty box.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I started this one before going to visit Hannah, who has sunk up to her uppermost hair follicles in History as her PhD orals approach. I knew she was trying to finish a book (or two) every day so I took my hand-stitching with me. Finished piecing on the plane coming home, pretty much; finished hand-quilting last night at the dinner table. I don't love the border at all but I like the interior portion. Thanks to Ezra for climbing on a chair and holding this up for me.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Uncle Shlomo's Pushcart: a big fancy place to lay eggs.

The previous day she laid one on the bottom of the cart, right on the plywood, so I gave her some straw.


Friday, March 11, 2011

In which St. Joseph's Indian School sends me the most manipulative, guilt-inducing solicitation ever

You had to see it to believe it.

Clockwise from upper left:
  1. "Dreams of Hope" mailing envelope (big and thick). FOUR FREE GIFTS ENCLOSED!
  2. Two pages of expensive, shiny metallic stickers, one with my address on its many labels;
  3. Dreams of Hope for the Children donation request form, specifying: Please detach and return one or more of the Gift Certificates with your donation:
    • Gift Certificate! To: A Lakota Child $8 to help provide you meals.
    • Gift Certificate! To: A Lakota Child $12 to help provide you bedding and linens.
    • Gift Certificate! To: A Lakota Child $15 to help provide you clothing.
  4. Certificate of Appreciation made out to me personally, "in recognition of your generosity to St. Joseph's Indian School and the Lakota children whose lives will be happier and futures will be brighter."
  5. Two, count them, TWO notepads;
  6. Most horrifyingly: an actual dreamcatcher, feathers and all!

The page I'm supposed to return has a checkmark for "I can't help the children now, but I'm enclosing $5 to cover the expense of sending my dreamcatcher gift." I wish they had spent that $5 on a meal, instead.

My son looked up this charity: not surprisingly, it flunks the general standards for percentage of funds actually paid out to the supposed recipients, and its CEO makes a very hefty salary. And I'm not really into missionary schools. So I'm not going to be sending them money. But I feel very guilty. Are you satisfied, director Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ?


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas concert, Chapel Hill

I rarely go to live events but this one was too good to pass up. Alasdair Fraser is an amazing fiddler. I have his first album, made almost 30 years ago, with just him in that highland getup in an oval cameo on the cover, accompanied by what I identified at the time (being more of a snob back then) as a fairly cheesy ceilidh-style backup band.

He's made thirteen more recordings since then, with various partners. I loved his work with pianist Paul Machlis and treasure their recordings Skyedance and The Road North. Other pairings left me kind of cold - old-time guitarist and stickler Jody Stecher didn't do much for me backing Fraser ...

... but Natalie Haas is a goddess.

Fraser told the packed audience last night he first met Natalie when she was 11, at one of his Valley of the Moon fiddle camps. He made his first album with her in 2004 and they tour together a great deal.

Haas - a Juillard graduate who's toured with Mark O'Connor, and with fellow goddess, fiddler Natalie MacMaster, and who teachers at the Berklee School of Music - sparkled and glowed last night, young and gorgeous and strong, sitting on her throne in center stage. I loved her throne, a raised platform with a raised piano bench on it, bringing her head closer to the level of Fraser's. She couldn't speak a word (no mic) but Fraser, who had no lack of things to say (he's a good storyteller) communicated with her delightedly as he fiddled round the throne. He had a wireless mic and she plugged in from below so there were no mic stands in the way, what a great use of technology!

fiddle and cello play for Highland country dances 1700sThis detail from a 1780 David Allan painting called Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl was presented to me in the 1980s by my beloved mentor, Royal Scottish Country Dancemaster Carl Wittman, when I was first playing for him. He loved a period sound for his dances and hated ceilidh bands (think "rollicking" and you know what that word, pronounced K-lee, implies). This picture was his proof that Scottish reels and jigs and strathspeys do NOT need the involvement of an accordion.

Once in a while I've had the opportunity to fiddle with a cellist. The great thing is: the bows. Speaking together, conversing in the ancient and magical language of bows, breathing and scraping and wailing together the way only bows can. Bows are way cool.

Fraser asked us rhetorically last night: "Scraping hair from a horse's tail across cat guts - who ever thought that one up?" Fraser and Haas are both black-belt-masters of the bow - they can sound like half of the world's most wonderful string quartet as they suddenly draw down from wildness to silence. They decelerate their bows in perfect tandem and then milk the silence - wait for it, wait for it... - the audience is still as stone, we hold our breath together, drinking it that bold momentary silence.

I should also mention they have wonderful instruments and that the sound in the Community Church of Chapel Hill concert, co-sponsored by Pinecone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music was magnificent. The church used to have dreadful acoustics but they've done something marvellous to it and now it would be a wonderful place to hold a chamber music concert series.

The applause all night was deafening and we jumped to our feet to give them a standing ovation when they were finished. They dallied coming back to us - wait for it, wait for it - then loped back on stage and finished with some reels with the help of their opening act The Shamrockers. Fraser even got his sedentary audience on their feet and tried to teach the rapturous crowd to dance. There were plenty of country dancers and cloggers among us and as the musicians played the night down there were great dancers, young and old(ish), at the front of the hall and even on stage. Wonderful!


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

[Hannah]: Sweet Potato, Chicken and Kale soup

Another recipe I'm putting on the blog because I don't want to forget. From my friend Alice.

Saute a lot of ginger in a dutch oven with a lot of garlic and a lot of onion.

Slice in some bite-size chunks of sweet potato. I used 4 very small sweet potatoes.

Add a pound of sliced chicken breast, also bite size pieces, and cook for a bit.

Add some greens. I used Trader Joe's Kale/Spinach/Greens mix but any hearty winter greens will do.

Fill the pot with 4-6 cups of chicken stock and simmer for 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and greens are tender.

Then add whatever mysterious seasonings you prefer to make the soup flavor more complex. (I used home made chicken broth so it doesn't have anything in it to begin with). I used soy sauce and tiny amounts of vinegar, porcini salt, hoisin sauce.

And voila! Amazing, healthy, hearty winter soup!