Friday, September 30, 2005

If your week...

... has been anything like my week, then you need to watch this (courtesy cinetrix).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bollywood's dark underbelly.

Or should that be overbelly? Hard to say for sure, when what we are talking about is the replacement of guitars and horns with strings, and the taking out of flashy percussion. The effect is dark indeed--haunting, insidious, even a little spooky. But the means is surprising. Even with the inclusion of tabla, finger cymbals,an Indian trap set--this is clearly westernized vision.

But the record transforms those western instruments into something that will not surprise listeners of the Kronos Quartet's earlier recordings. They do sound like they belong there in these songs of old Bollywood. Yes, they have replaced the crackles and red-zone sound distortion with a modern richness, but they've retained something of the spirit of oldness that is transporting about the music itself.

Which is to say, the songs on You've Stolen My heart: Songs from R. D. Burman's Bollywood build a vision of Bollywood that both is and isn't. It isn't the strange smiling that often accompanies the lip-synched performance of the musical numbers in the movies. And it isn't the oversaturated colors of saris and silk and sometimes cushions and sparkly shoes. But it is the imaginative space that the films create through their stories and even more through their music.

But just listen to the first number on the disc, Dum Maro Dum. It's altogether slower and smokier and more unsettling than the one from the movie, like if you looked at all those saris through sepia-tinted glasses. It's got a low bass insistence (synth and cello?) that comes straight from Peter Gunn or Link Wray and his Wraymen.

The sound grows more complicated with the inclusion of the liu qin and pipa on these tracks--in place of such Indian instruments as santoor and sarod. And in lieu of the more simple percussive elements on some of the originals, there is djembe, talking drum, batajon. The liner notes link these sounds to "Burman's musical polyglotism," and a musical form associated with a particular nation--or even nationalism, if you think of songs like Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (not reimagined by the Kronos, alas)--is allowed to speak of its international appeal.

I was very excited to see that the album takes on the heavy-breathing numbers that I love about Bollywood--like Piya Tu Ab To Aaja. The whole song sounds like it is coming out of an old gramophone, if you could imagine not just your head but your whole body inside the horn. But the esteemed Kronos Quartet doesn't back away from the back-and-forth on that song--the breathing of the exotic dancer, the calling of her lover--even as they let their strings take on the gypsy quality that Burman's song goes after.

But how can it be that Asha Bhosle still sounds as fucking fantastic as she did back when those old classics were first recorded? How is it her voice sounds just as perfect with this reinterpretation as with the originals? I suppose I should not be surprised, when her career as a playback singer spans almost sixty years and more than 800 movies--so far (including 2 pix from 2005). It is the same way that the amazement of that sound could be embodied by so many beautiful women who mouthed her voice on screen.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

News flash from informed citizen.

So usually I just skip straight to the magazine, break out my pencil (and eraser) and start with the puzzle, but this week I thought I would try to be informed. OK, and I was sucked in by the traffic jam photo on the front page, I admit it.

But you'll want to know that inside the Week in Review section a debate is raging.

About garlic. About peeling garlic. It seems Mark Bittman set this one off earlier in the week with a report about pre-peeled garlic, and Lawrence Downes wrote in celebration of the discovery. Now I am all in favor of time-saving tips, but I have to agree with Helene Cooper, who wrote:

Any real cook will tell you there is nothing better than grabbing a big, wide knife, or meat cleaver if you like, positioning it on its side over a ripe, fat garlic clove, imagining hte face of an ex-boyfriend is that clove, and then smashing the living daylights out of it with your fist.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the real pleasure of cooking is the knives. I have a friend who always gets nervous when I say this, and she quietly discloses that she keeps her knives dull deliberately. Where is the fun in that, I say? Of course, now I am careful to wear thick-toed shoes in the kitchen, after my toes' near-miss from the guillotine that was a falling chef's knife.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What doesn't kill me, almost kills me.

Do you remember that old Cheerios commercial that showed a stick figure swimming enthusiastically, and then slowing down, and then looking completely pooped, all while a voice-over said, "This swimmer is runnnnnniiiinnnnnnggggggg oooouuuut of steam"? Well, that was me at swim practice this morning.

It turns out that I swam further this week than I have since February 2004. For four practices, totaling about 6.75 hours, I swam 18,100 yards. For you runners out there, that is a little over 10 miles. My highest recorded yardage in my adult swimming career is 19,100, and I feel confident I will surpass that this year.

And I am surprised to report that I am not reclined on the couch as I type this. Granted, I was hurtin' during the set of 12 x 225 that was the big set in this morning's 2-and-a-half-hour practice. The legs were still heavy from either Thursday's or Wednesday's swim or the winning combination of the two. And although on Thursday morning I felt like I was, after a lot of time in and out of the water this summer, beginning to get my aerobic capacity back, that good feeling was nowhere to be found this morning.

But still: I feel better than I felt after last Saturday's swimmeet. So this is good, right?

Good. Then I'll go lie down now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

So you want to be a textual editor?

Think again.

Unless, that is, you fancy poring over to a text, just to make sure that the person who keyed in the version you're using as your electronic text, didn't skip a period, and I don't mean the life-generating kind.

Or unless you relish the prospect of trying to find the birth and death dates of obscure folks who make brief and unmemorable appearances in a pretty important text.

Or if you're really jazzed by the prospect of explaining why you chose the text you did as your copytext, and then explaining why it is OK to correct a printer's error.

Or maybe you're the gal who gets off on checking and quadruple-checking page numbers in the annotations you put together?

The precision is enough to make your head spin.

So forget that: after a morning's work, what could be better than


This makes a big batch, working on the theory that that is one fewer dinner to worry about this week. You could easily halve it.

And chili is the gods' gift to those who don't want to fuss with exactness. Feel free to improvise to your heart's content.

Start by sauteing for about 10 minutes in a mess of olive oil: 2 chopped onions, 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 chopped bell peppers (or the equivalent sweet peppers when they're in season, which they are here, which means I found some mighty fine red and purple ones at the campus farm sale), and however many chopped jalapenos you care to handle.

Then add 2 chopped tomatoes (if you don't have any left in your garden, you can substitute those little salad tomatoes, the only thing in the produce section of the grocery that tastes even remotely like tomato), 2 15-oz cans of diced tomatoes (I like the no-salt no-added-carp variety: add your own crap), and 1 cup water.

And the spice concoction of your choice: I like 2-3 T chili powder, 3 t ground cumin, 4 t oregano, 4 t basil, 1 t fennel seeds, 2 t salt, 1 T black pepper.

Add the heating element of your choice in the quantity that suits you. Heartily recommend sriracha sauce.

After you stir all this stuff together, bring it to a simmer and cook uncovered about 20 minutes.

Then add 4 cans of beans. Why not use a variety for added color? Maybe pinto, black, cannellini, red beans. Or whatever you like really.

Then my recipe calls for 1.5 pounds zucchini, but the students are farming baby eggplants these days, and they're so fresh and nice.

And don't forget the 2 tablespoons of dill, for the added fresh taste. It gives veggie chili a little kick that makes it taste less like chili with no meat.

After this cooks a while longer this afternoon, I'll tuck it in the fridge and then reheat it tomorrow for added flavor, all in time for an afternoon of TV-viewing.

If you're a dairy fiend (who me?) you can add sour cream to your bowl: As Horvus Callithumper would say, Not bad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bring on the deep-fried chicken lollipops.

My plan was to comment on the socio-linguistic aspects of hyphenated Chinese food, but my analytical capabilities wither in the face of "Seafood soups, fried rice with pork, scallions and tiny shrimp, and chicharrones de pollo -chicken cut into small pieces and deep-fried in the Cantonese style" and "Dishes like chili-spiked, deep-fried chicken lollipops ... and lo mein topped with chunks of peppery jerk chicken."

I was going to get all Homi K. Bhabha on their asses for saying "But Chinese food has never been quite what outsiders think it is," but then I was mesmerized by this:

Questions of ethnicity, some of them awkward and others simply mysterious, inevitably come up when tracking the cuisine of the Chinese diaspora. The passionate relationship between American Jews and Chinese restaurants, for example, is well documented.

"These people love Chinese food," said Dov Kemper, a customer at Eden Wok, a strictly kosher Chinese restaurant in Midtown, gesturing at his fellow Orthodox Jews eating barbecued (veal) spare ribs and (mock) shrimp fried rice. The wontons in the chicken soup - "just like kreplach," Mr. Kemper said - are stuffed with ground beef, scallions and ginger.

So, OK, forget it. Just whip me up some of them lollipops.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Update to previous post.

I have decided that I have to be more honest about the lead-up to that meet. Yes, I was nervous about competing with kids, even though I was really just supposed to be thinking about improving my racing techniques and achieving a better time.

But the real thing is that I have been very frustrated and anxious about my swimming recently, so the prospect of a competition, which might show diminished abilities, was scary.

I think it is the return to full-time work combined with regularly ramping up the swimming yardage--a bargain at twice the price--that was wiping me out. But you know how all that goes: you feel tired, so then you don't swim well, but then because you feel tired, you feel doubly shitty about the whole thing. And then (because you're tired) you freak out about it, and then have trouble sleeping (causing guess what).

In the best of all possible worlds, my coach would have seen all this going on and offered me some of those peppy encouraging words that coaches seem to live and breathe, but I don't think he knew what was up until I told him. Then he was very nice, but this was after the crisis had abated, because who wants to admit a crisis in the middle of one?

But in part because of the meet, and in part because of some solutions I have come up with to make all this work better, and in part because I think walls can only stand up to so much head-bashing, these feelings are passing, and I have renewed (if revised) hope for my season.

And May 11 is a long way off.

Meet Report #1

I have made it over the hurdle of competing in my first kids' swim meet as a non-kid. This is not unheard of: there are not very many Masters meets in this area, so adults who want to be competitive often have to swim in the Open Division at the USA Swimming meets. But still: it feels a little dorky to be at least twice the age of anyone else in the pool. And besides: the meet was in a 25 METER pool, and we train yards, which means every race feels about 10% worse than you expect.

So yesterday morning was the 3rd Annual Anderson Swim Club Early Season Invite, and there I was along with all the kids from our team, in my team cap and team suit. Too bad I was warming up with the 12 & unders, so taller (and wider) than anyone by quite a bit.

But once things got going, it wasn't so bad. The kids on the team were great about wishing me luck, just as they do each other. Plus, I won my heat in my first event, so that was a good start. (Too bad there were no Heat Winner ribbons!)

The bad news is that it was 5 events in about 4 hours. To race 550 yards in that amount of time may not sound too bad, but really it was. Or I should say, it was bad for me: when I saw all the kids at Frodo's Pizza (yes, I know) afterwards, they seemed unfazed. Lucky them. We'll see how they feel in about 20 years.

Anyway, we started off with the 50 free, then the 100 butterfly of death, then the 100 breaststroke, then 100 backstroke (please: I have the worst backstroke on the team, if not the planet), then (for good measure) 200 IM--which would have been sooooooooo much better at an earlier point in the meet.

I was very pleased with my time in the 100 breaststroke, which, if converted to a yards time, was about nine-tenths of a second faster than my best time in that event last year--pretty good for the very beginning of the season, especially since I trained so sporadically over the summer. I think the bonus 10% helped me in that race, since I am more accustomed to racing the 200.

Let's face it: the 100 fly sucked. The PP claims that I looked strong all the way through, but he was just being nice.

100 back? It was all down hill (if a pool can be such) after I emerged from my ass-kicking underwater streamlines, off the start and every turn.

And for the 200 IM, I felt pretty good during the fly and breast segments, but I was just too wiped out to pull out a decent free leg in the last 50.

But so it goes: it's the beginning of the season.

50M FR: 33.92
100M FL: 1:29.02
100M BR: 1:28.52
100M BA: 1:35.67
200M IM: 3:12.10

Onward to the Clemson Classic, just two weeks away.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Do you know what it means?

Tim says it's OK to keep writing about mix tapes. If you're sick of it, well, sorry: I am trying to stop.

And he posted recently about our dearly beloved drowned out city. I admit that my own experience there has been all too brief, although as a friend I was there with commented on the morning we were leaving, while we were sitting in the train station, "we did have a little conversation, and we did drink a little red wine, and we did catch a little bit of them cajun girls dancin' the zydeco."

To which the only fair response really was, "Et toi!"

But although heard some fine music that trip, that same friend never convinced us to go on the voodoo ghost tour that a former student of hers--and one who could be trusted--had recommended so highly. I wonder what that will be like, when the city reopens for tourism, which I understand is about to happen.

Anyway, last week I made (you guessed it) a mix tape (really a playlist and then a shortened CD version) with the things that I had had to pull up and listen to, even though some of them were so upsetting in a new way. Maybe it is indicative of a shared cultural heritage that I named my CD the same thing Tim named his post. Or maybe it isn't: when I finally went to post it at Art of the Mix I found that someone had beaten me to the punch, though of course I believe my mix is better.

So here it is:


Louis Armstrong, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?"
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "Amazing Grace"
Henry Ratcliff, "Louisiana"
Professor Longhair, "Go to the Mardi Gras"
Dr. John, "New Orleans"
Them, "Baby Please Don't Go"
Buckwheat Zydeco, "Zydeco tous pas tous"
Fats Domino, "Jambalaya"
The Rebirth Brass Band, "Do whatcha wanna"
Beau Jocque & his Zydeco Hi-Rollers, "Don't Tell Your Mama"
Beausoleil, "Zydeco Gris Gris"
Percy Mayfield, "Louisiana"
Zachary Richard, "Iko Iko"
Paul Simon, "That Was Your Mother"
Clifton Chenier, "Squeezebox Boogie"
Harry Connick, Jr., "Basin Street Blues"
Roy Orbison, "Blue Bayou"
David Roe & the Royal Rounders, "I Wish I Was in New Orleans"
Bessie Smith, "Backwater Blues"
Queen Ida & her Zydeco Band, "Sad, Lonesome and Blue"
Four Year Bender, "New Orleans Lament"
Arlo Guthrie, "City of New Orleans"
Doug Duffey, "New Orleans Rain"
The All-Star Marching Band, "Didn't He Ramble"
Evan Christopher's Clarinet Road, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

If you don't know the Henry Ratcliff song, it is a field holler recorded in 1959 at Parchman Farm in Mississippi--now available as part of the Southern Journey series of the Alan Lomax Collection. Those work songs, of course, represent the blending of West African heritage and North American experience that made the Blues--these are the chronicles LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) wrote about in Blues People.

There are obvious gaps: I couldn't find the version of "House of the Rising Sun" that I wanted, and there are no Neville Brothers, no Preservation Hall Brass Band, no Clarence Gatemouth Brown. Missing New Orleans indeed. And even though the all-day train I took to New Orleans was NOT the City of New Orleans, I always blend the two in mind. Earlier this week, lying groggily in bed, I fleeted in and out of an NPR story about the plight of New Orleans musicians--many of them not Nevilles or Marsalises or Connick Jr.s--after the storm. I see now there have been many such stories--many with terrific audio links.

I dare you to listen to "Blue Bayou" after all these years without getting a little tight in your chest. Last weekend when I went home for my grandfather's 90th birthday party, I took a copy of the disc for my dad. Good timing, it turns out, because having flown into the Norfolk International Airport, I had the quintessential Peninsula experience: back-up in the bridge tunnel. So we drove around downtown Norfolk to another tunnel and then back onto the interstate. The whole time we are driving in the beautiful clear air with my dad's car windows down and his fancy sunroof open and blasting this CD.

"That song really isn't about missing a woman anymore, is it?" he said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


You see what happens? I think to myself, I should really stop writing about mix tapes. I have just about exhausted that topic.

And then what? What is there to write about after mixtapes?

Well, look at the recent couple of posts. Nothing. That's right, nothing.

But let me say a word or two about what nothing signifies. Nothing could mean the things that happen when a person who has managed to escape the drolleries of the working world plunges back in, during the same couple of weeks when that person's swim coach is ramping up the practice yardage by doubling it each week. Or nothing could mean a grandfather's 90th birthday, and the required travel to attend, and thereby escaping web access to see some of the people who had attended a certain wedding, and we all know that you never get to talk to the people at your own wedding.

That place holder stands for all the time spent not only on the dumb wordgame that was for a time the pit into which my soul was poured in an almost sisyphean fashion, but also the need to read every article published about the plight of the people in New Orleans, and look at all the pictures just to make sure you don't forget, even though the media probably will.

And in place of this nothing there might have been something if a certain person's university/employer had not changed over its collaborative learning environment during that person's year away, meaning that tasks that were simple have to be relearned amidst much swearing and stomping around the room.

And do you, dear reader, have any idea how much fun it is to play with all your music once it is all happily stored there on your hard drive? How quickly you forget what all is in there? How easily those things that don't sort to the beginning or ending of the alphabet disappear, only pleading to be searched for?

Did I mention I have been swimming my fool head off?

So forgive me, please, for having had nothing to say.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005