Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It's the same old South

You gotta dig any song that rhymes "Niagara" with "pellagra"...
Not to mention:
"It's the same old South,
where the bloodhounds that once chased Liza,
chase a poor CIO organizer,
it's the same old South."
Some truth in that, it seems...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Today's experiment

Country loaf with sprouted pumpkin seeds and manchego cheese. My kind of empiricism!

Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at Stanford

A friend gave us tickets. No fan of musical theater am I, but how can you pass this up? And I must confess, it's a great show: a dynamic yet intimate songfest by two consummate pros.

The program leans heavily on Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein, with a couple of obligatory Evita crowdpleasers, a welcome smattering of Jerome Kern, and some songs I'd certainly never heard of, such as Murray Grand's amusing "April in Fairbanks." As a jazz fan, I prefer my Rodgers with Hart, but there's no question RR saved some of his best melodies for Oscar, including "If I Loved You," performed here. As for Sondheim, I can't figure out how mere mortals can sing some of that stuff, but here's proof that it can be done.

The minimalist staging fully exploited the theatre-in-the-round of Stanford's new Bing Concert Hall, and included a smidge of audience participation and a cute dance sequence on rolling desk chairs. On the down side, once again, the Bing's acoustics: What kind of music would sound really good in this beautiful but finicky hall? From where we sat the voices were over-amplified and came from the speakers somewhere overhead rather than the stage. You have to wonder whether performers with the pipes of these two really need amplification. Anyway, that amounts to a quibble. If they pass through your town, you should go!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Florida's springs

I suppose when most people think of Florida's natural beauty, the powdered-sugar Gulf coast beaches or palms swaying in the Keys are what come to mind. But the state's inland freshwater springs are a real contender. The State, in its wisdom (?!), has been acquiring many of these great gushers and commissioning them as state parks--in a number of cases buying out defunct tourist resorts that were driven under by Disney or just changing tastes. A great example is Silver Springs, in Ocala. This venerable tourist destination (indeed, Florida's first tourist attraction, according to Wikipedia) was the home to a well-known fleet of glass-bottom boats that plied the spring and the Silver River, which runs for just five miles from the spring before emptying into the lovely Ocklawaha. After the state bought the attraction, it continued to operate as a concessionaire with the boats and a small zoo, until just last year.

The glass bottom boats still run. When I visited last weekend with my parents, we elected not to take one of those rides, but walked around the tranquil, grassy grounds. The zoo is being dismantled, at the expense of the former owners, but it was a day off and the place was peaceful, just starting to fill with strolling families and a small stream of customers for the boat rides. The tourist center, set back from the boat dock and arranged in an arc that echoes the spring's pool, was designed by Victor Lundy in the 1950s; it is a wonderful piece of understated postwar modernism that fits its surroundings perfectly and won an AIA merit award. Here's a picture from the June 1959 issue of Florida Architect:

The water that flows from the spring is really clear. In fact, "clear" does not do it justice. Underwater photographers often staged whimsical scenes to give a better idea of the clarity. Here's one:

(Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/8878)

I took some pictures with my phone, but I failed to capture the watery color and play of the light. I did get up close and personal to this fine leathery person. She or he has probably witnessed the changes at Silver Springs with general indifference. The fishing is good, and one enjoys pleasant fantasies of grabbing a tasty little Bichon Frisé, should one stray too far from its owner...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shorter Thomas Piketty

"The only safe route into the future seems to be to already have a lot of money."
-Eduardo Porter in NY Times.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My son Alexi seems to think...

... that Schubert's G major quartet is possibly the best piece of music ever written. I have learned not to question his judgment on musical matters. If you can get to NYC, you can hear him perform it on Tuesday. See you there!

Dear State Farm,

After we moved into our new place, the wall... well, it just... bloomed! The kids barely fit anymore. I presume our policy covers biological disasters of this nature...

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 42

My favorite SHO track. I couldn't cha cha cha if my life depended on it... too bad for me! If I go to heaven, God will let me play trombone or bari in this band... Wishful thinking, I know...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


We went to see the exhibit, "Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George," at the de Young today. She made some very pretty paintings, but nothing that made me gasp, like the Goldsworthy or Richter pieces that greet you when you enter this museum. In fact, Laura and I agreed that Alfred Stieglitz's photos of O'Keeffe were more compelling than most of her work. We also checked out the galleries of American landscape artists... so many paintings, and most of them quite good. But I still find it surprising that the very best painters in any genre are a good notch or two above the competition. In the landscape business, consider M. Corot...

Your FSA/OWI Photo of the Day

Some people believe this is your best apple variety. When it's an early Mac fresh off the tree... I can't disagree. And at 25 cents a basket... is that a good deal? Well, 25 cents in 1939 is worth about $4 today using the CPI, or about $11 using wages ... yeah, I'd go for it.

McIntosh apples displayed at roadside stand near Berlin, Connecticut. Russell Lee, 1939.