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Archive for October, 2011

Sitting at my friend’s house–beautiful, full of windows–looking out onto the snow-covered conservation land behind the house, the railroad tracks. We’re going into our 3rd evening without electricity, but they’ve got full power here (hence my ability to post). Some people have wood stoves, some have propane fireplaces, some have natural gas to cook on. We’ve got none of it, but Hubby pulled out the camping stove and we’ve got 3 small propane canisters. The stores are sold out for now. We’ve still got phone service because my land line is not cordless. No internet. We’ve got water, which is nice. Some friends haven’t got water. It could be until the end of the week until we have electricity. The temp went down to about 20 last night and the house is still chilly. There’s a line down under some huge pine branches at the edge of our property. Can’t communicate with my 78-year old mom who’s only 8 miles away because her phone lines are down and she doesn’t have a mobile. She wouldn’t be able to charge it eventually anyway.

It’s not terrifying to be without power, but annoying, depressing and this adult’s idea of scary enough on Halloween. The town has postponed trick-or-treating until next Sunday, thus dashing children’s hopes of candy, but also leaving parents more time to help out with costume details.

The first I’d ever heard Nina Simone was in the opening credits of the movie “Shallow Grave” (at least I think it’s in the opening credits. I have a vivid memory of it). I’d heard of her, but didn’t know a thing. I thought it was a man singing due to her deep voice. I mean, deep, people, not just her vocal range, but the quality of the emotion.

I’ve been falling in love with her ever since. Shallow Grave is not a horror flick, but it is a GREAT thriller and an extremely well-made movie. Highly recommended and could work well for Halloween night (not for kids). Directed by Danny Boyle, it predates Trainspotting, The Beach, and 28 Days Later (Slumdog, too, but let’s not go there).

Anyway, here she is, singing the Halloween-appropriate I Put A Spell On You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (sung by the man himself in Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise”):

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It’s a funny phrase, methinks, and though not in my word-vernacular, it was a practice of a friend of mine in high school; not quite clear any more which friend because, you see, by 11th Grade I was drinking and smoking a lot of pot. If it’s the friend I think, she was already a senior. Figures.

Maybe alcohol is a gateway drug to losing your need for skivvies.

For you men who’ve never worn a hippie-skirt at a Grateful Dead concert with the opportunity to be bare underneath, I can say you are missing out, at least from this twinkly’s perspective.

It does remind me of my love for a man in a kilt. I’m getting weak just thinking about it. Maybe time for my Big Blue coffee drink to stave off this light-headedness.

That’s better. I’m no longer falling off my chair.

I just think it’s a funny way to describe not wearing underwear. Unfortunately, the person who posted this photo has marred the man’s beautiful legs by writing all over the bottom of the picture. But hers is a fashion-related blog and that’s not really what I’m looking for here.

Anyway, I’m thinking going commando can be applied to anything that’s not candy-ass, a la O’ Brien.

Here are a few commando things:

cleaning each tooth at its juncture with other teeth or gums with Stim-U-Dents

flossing

wooden toothpick dispensers

The last one of these I saw was at Trecaso’s Restaurant in Akron. This is not exactly like the toothpick dispenser I remember at Trecaso’s. Theirs was, if memory serves, made of oak and was more squared-off at the top. Maybe that’s just a fantasy embellishment on my part. Does anyone from Akron/Kent or even Ohio at all know if Trecaso’s is still there? I loved that place. Fried zucchini and lasagna were my stand-bys. It was the best fried zucchini in the world. Not greasy. Not some junk-food version of vegetables. Thinly-julienned strips of fresh zucchini, lightly battered and quick-fried to crispy perfection.

No trip to Trecaso’s was complete without an ice cream at Mary Coyle’s afterward. I always got three scoops of their very-creamy coffee ice cream with hot fudge on top. The bright red, neon lights made it almost impossible to see your date in the glare.

I have fond memories of the Highland Square area. It reminds me of my earliest days with Hubby; an old Ohio pal who I saw a John Sayle’s movie with at the old theater with worn, red-velvet seats and gold, braided ropes to cordon off the unuseable balcony; a yoga class on the second floor of a nice old house with an older, roundish teacher; and the Akron Goodwill which was not in Highland Square, but downtown. Somehow, I associate it with that area.

The Akron Goodwill was a favorite destination for me when I had babies. I used to go and comb through the children’s books. They had the best selection of any Goodwill/Salvation Army I’ve ever visited. Not so great for clothes. Sometimes the occasional cool furniture, but the kid’s books were the bomb. They apparently got all of the discards from the Akron Public Library. All sorts of cool out-of-print things with bad bindings and deteriorating paper. I used to let the woman who worked in the book area hold Violet so I could browse. She loved holding her, I loved the break and the shopping. I miss that Goodwill.

driving on Rte 9 through Hadley, Mass, on a Saturday afternoon of Halloween weekend with the beginning of the first heavy snowfall of the season (10-12″ predicted by the end)

Allowing yourself to wait at a light, though still green, because you can see that it will soon turn red and if you go forward through the intersection your car will effectively block traffic in all directions. I know it seems like the commando thing to do is to plow forward into the middle of the intersection though the traffic in front of you is moving at a snail’s pace. Driving with gusto, running through a red light, etc would seem commando. But trust me, moderating your pressure and tempo yields the sexiest results and is the true commando way. Be brave of heart and let that foot up off the gas pedal.

the blues

piano players and singers who moderate their pressure on the keyboard and keep good time

the hip beat

the square beat, when determined by your cultural-musical evolutionary heritage

Oh, back to kilts….Alan Cumming. Remember him? He’s Scottish. Like Ewan McGregor. And I’ve seen photos of each of them wearing kilts. And I’ve seen a lot of films in which Ewan McG is not wearing undies or anything else for that matter, forget about the kilt.

I’ve been taking an Improv I class down in Hartford (one hour drive…ick) and one of the first things I’ve been told is to “make bold choices.” So when I watch actors who are really good, I see this in action time and again. Who cares if you haven’t got the best voice, the most beautiful face, if you are not the tallest, longest, biggest, curviest, buxomest. If you are bold in front of an audience, you’ve done about 70% of the work that needs doing. The rest is gravy. Go commando every time.

Lady Gaga–she’s not exactly pretty, she doesn’t dance well, she doesn’t have a pretty voice. But she’s got balls. Judi Dench. Well, she’s got it all–the classical British theater-training, the vocal control, the beauty. But it’s her solid brass quality that is most scene-stealing. Alan Cumming, same thing–great training, excellent vocal control, beautiful, present, dimpled.

Here, he’s doing the whisper-singing technique of protecting his voice, which tells me his vocal folds are shot. But I think it’s the mettle that keeps us watching.

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(Buckle in, it’s a long one….be brave, take your time, know that if you make it through, you’ll be blessed with knowledge of an Italian song so romantic, you will be able to woo and win over even the most unshakeable heart)

In spite of the overabundance of rain (and dampness and cloud-cover), I do like to look out my smallish kitchen window at the leaves. Perhaps the most tolerable thing about all of this rain is that the leaves’ colors are more intense when they are wet.

Cat update: I have switched to a grain-free canned food (they had been on kibble) based on a recommendation from an alternative-medicine vet (I’m not kidding, people, this is the Happy Valley after all). And guess what? It is dramatically improving my fat black cat’s coat and demeanor. The other cat, Willow, well, she’s as sweet as pie and seems simply hungrier for her food than before. They both apparently love their new food and seeing them eat with gusto is satisfying. Now sometimes I wonder if I could just feed them rabbit and chicken meat (and livers and what all other organs). It would all be locally-raised and the money would go straight into the pocket of the farmer, right here, right now. Hmm…..

Socks. This is one of my great weaknesses. I love socks. I love all sorts of them–cotton-blend, merino wool, little short sport-socks with a pink collar and plush terry-cloth interior that I pad around in on the cold (and dirty, it is true) floors of my kitchen, the discount wool-and-synthetic blend ski socks I find every fall at TJ Maxx, the hand-knit socks made of bamboo that I bought at an art fair in Maine in the summer, the Sock Lady socks I bought 3 years ago at our school’s annual Holiday Fair (for my mother who didn’t like them, so she gave them back to me) made from mohair wool which comes from angora goats that the Sock Lady and her husband raise. We call her the Sock Lady and I mean no disrespect because I actually know her real name (Cynthia) because I’ve interacted with her quite a bit over the years, but really, the people who have been at the school for years and years and years and into a decade or more simply call her that because they love and crave the socks she sells. They are warm, they are colorful, they have a beautiful sheen to them, they last and last as long as you don’t wash them on hot or dry them, they make you feel heavenly because you have seen the beautiful black-and-white photos of the goats that the wool comes from and you know how much Bob (the husband) appreciates the goats and how much he loves his wife (by all outward appearances).

I like the discipline it takes for me to NOT plug in my computer on occasion so that the battery can almost run out of juice. You have no idea how compulsively I would like to plug it in and how delicious when I accomplish this goal, as per recommendations I’ve found on the internet.

Loving being involved in the Occupy movement and love watching it evolve via an email list I’m on and the weekly gatherings I attend. Democracy in action. DAMN it’s good, deep down inside.

What the hell’s a stornelli you ask? I can’t find out much more than that it is some sort of traditional Italian song played in a drinking establishment and they all seem to have a similar tempo and similar style of guitar strumming, but I did find some stornelli on youtube that weren’t even played on guitar. You can see the whole stornelli concept could be moved to a Music Monday post, but I love this so much, I couldn’t wait.

I’ve had the song for many years on the soundtrack to “Big Night” (a twinkly favorite and highly recommended). I listen in my car, melting, trying not to cause accidents due to being swept away so fully.

I found a translation for about half of the lyrics, but couldn’t find anything more all over the g-damn internet. I don’t know who wrote the song. I don’t speak Italian. I am so not Italian it shocks even me. But I sure wish I could understand the words to the rest of the song. Being somewhat familiar with many Latin roots and knowing a little bit of French like I do, I can piece out little bits, the moon, and thoughts and breath and song and the four winds, but I could also be wrong, as I am wont to be. Although it may seem like it, I’m not really a fan of Italian culture, but how can you resist quattro venti? Even italicized is Italian. Such beauty. Sigh.

E’scritto nel tuo cuore
Il mio destino,
Anche se l’esistenza m’avvelena.
Anche se l’esistenza m’avvelena
Voglio restare sempre a te vicino.

Per quella bocca rossa
e bella profumata
Ci perdo volentieri la mia vita.
Ci perdo volentieri la mia vita
Per poter dire al mondo l’ho baciata.

Se tu fossi regina
Ed io regnante,
Ti colmerei di perle dell’oriente.
Ti colmerei di perle dell’oriente
In cambio del tuo amore affascinante.

It is written on your heart,
My destiny,
Even though its existence poisons me.
Even though its existence poisons me,
I will always be near you.

For that beautiful and fragrant red mouth
I will gladly give my life.
I will gladly give my life
To tell the world I kissed it.

If you were the reigning queen
And I like a prince,
I would cover you with pearls of the Orient.
I would cover you with pearls of the Orient
In exchange for your enchanting love.

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Perhaps you watched this when it made the rounds on Facebook; 8 millions hits don’t lie; then again, it’s not 25 44 million like those talking babies, but I like it better:

I poked around for more, and found this, which is perhaps a bit more telling of their talents:

I was still curious about the song from the first video and I found that the original that the Yolanda Be Cool and DCup song samples has its own wiki page. AWESOME!

These guys rock out! I sure wish I could parlare Italiano!

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Butternut squash is an old staple crop here in the Valley, but in attempting to research it on the web, I couldn’t get a clear history (time to ply Farmer Dan for answers). Squash was part of a traditional Three Sisters garden. When my kids were each in 3rd Grade at their school, they planted a Three Sisters garden. Awesome.

You see field after field of butternut all along the Connecticut River. I know the pumpkin crop in New England was heavily damaged due to Hurricane Irene; I’m not as sure about the butternut squash. You see truckloads piled high traveling hither, thither, and yon on the roads around here. I haven’t really noticed this year.

It’s been damp and cloudy for days. I feel like I’m in Ohio except for those wild animals that were running around over there last week. Hubby and I discussed our memories, from about 20 years ago, of living in Kent and reading for weeks about someone in Rootstown who had a wild-animal farm where some little kid got attacked by a tiger. Claims of safety ensued, lawsuits and debates followed. At least I think it was Rootstown. Anybody else remember this?

In this week’s Thankful Thursday, I wrote about homemade veggie stock. I’m simply too lazy to write up a veggie stock prescription right now, but it would make logical sense to have your veggie stock ready before you cook this. Also, in keeping with being NON-CANDY-ASS, you’ll want to have soaked about a cup (or slightly less) of white beans the night before so they’re ready to go for adding to this soup.

Here comes a recipe for one of my favorite soups of all time. FAVORITE OF ALL TIME! That’s a bold statement:

Kale, Butternut Squash, and White Bean Soup                                                                                                                                     from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

1/3 C olive oil
2 large onions, diced
10 C vegetable stock
1 C finely diced canned tomatoes, with liquid
2 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced, appx 2 C
2 C cooked or canned white beans, well rinsed
1/2 lb. kale, shredded
grated parmagiano-reggiano

1. Heat oil in stockpot. Add onions and cook until tender.
2. Stir in stock, tomatoes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add squash and simmer. Cook 30 minutes until squash is tender.
3. Add beans and kale, cook 15 minutes and serve with cheese.

NOTES: I make this soup in all manner of batches and sizes, usually doubling it or more. The quantities of ingredients are very forgiving. Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes to no detriment, or of course (NOT CANDY-ASS ALERT) the ones I’ve roasted and frozen from the summer crop. I also sometimes use spinach over kale. Just a softer texture, not so much for the flavor. It freezes well and is a great fall soup when the crops are all in. If I use fresh rosemary, I add it toward the end of cooking. I always use my own veggie stock which I highly recommend over store-bought or bouillon.

The recipe was given to me by an old Kent friend, Abby Greer. She made it at a Play Group Christmas Party in 1998. Warm memories and post-partum depression.

For musical accompaniment, you could play “Beautiful Soup” from some manifestation of Alice in Wonderland, the best one being Gene Wilder singing it from a somewhat charming 1990’s TV movie. Or you could listen to this which seems to fit my mood today and the weather we’ve had of late, even though the video was shot in the spring.

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I’m cooking up a batch of veggie stock. You know it, baby. Smells really good. I usually make it frequently, but I haven’t all summer for some odd reason. Fall is as good a time as any so away it simmers on my stove, filling the kitchen with heavenly scents. Will post “recipe” soon.

Okay, enough screwing around. You know what happens every October? Ysaye Barnwell, of Sweet Honey in the Rock (and a musician, teacher, artist, researcher, composer, singer extraordinaire in her own right), teaches a workshop up in Rowe at an old Unitarian Universalist camp at the almost-top of a mountain. This is her signature “Building a Vocal Community: Singing in the African American Tradition” workshop which I highly recommend to all citizens. You may be able to find it right where you live, as she teaches in various places in the US.

I go every-other year; this is my year off; I’ve studied with Ysaye 5 times over the last 8 years. Study, but not the way you might usually think, because mostly, you sing and sing and sing. Ysaye is the best singer and leader (conductor) I have ever experienced. She is a force, she is brilliant, she is talented, she is powerful, she is amazing.

What I learned, among other things, and what I know, is that songs can unite like nothing else when people are struggling. Totalitarian regimes fear free musical expression for good reason.

Remember, too, that babies sing before they speak. What does this tell you about the evolution of the human voice? We are born with free voices; speech is a later, highly-evolved modification. Peel back the layers of language and you will find rhythm and song, intertwined and inseparable.

What I noticed last weekend at my local Occupy rally was a lack of singing. I suspect that younger people haven’t learned to sing in groups, to sing out loud, to sing in unison for change. So guess what I’m gonna do next time we gather? I’ll be teaching and preaching some songs.

While the Occupy Wall Street movement is not about racism per se, I think that the people’s demand for less protection of corporate interests and corporate profits can free up other parts of our society. At least that is my hope. Now, learn the rhythm, learn the tune and add some lyrics. Here are some I thought of:

Ain’t gonna let Koch Brothers turn me ’round                                                                                                                                                             Ain’t gonna let corporations turn me ’round                                                                                                                                                          Ain’t gonna let distraction turn me ’round

You can co-opt tunes, you can co-opt lyrics. You can get the “older” folks you see at your local rally to sing the songs they knew when they were trying to bring down a war and when they were fighting for civil rights. They had many hardships and many successes; they’ll remember.

If you are looking for something to do to support the movement, you could take a batch of your own fall soup to your local OSW pals who are camping out. Take home a load of laundry to return to them, clean and folded. Teach them a song; print up the lyrics. Talk, exchange ideas, gather information, disagree, agree.

Go children and tell it to the world! Go preachers and tell it to the world! Go!

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I went out to Occupy Amherst yesterday afternoon with Hubby. Yes, you can laugh at our little town. But I was heartened at what is the beginning of a movement that I believe will grow in strength and voice week by week, as it already has. You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world. So let’s up and do it.

Now that we got that out of the way, on to a song that should get the juices flowing. I first heard this when I saw “The Fighter” and soon forgot it. I take it as a song of power and since I’m thinking a lot about the people’s collective power, let’s have at it. The video is silly, but I like it.

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