I decided to participate this year in the Cincinnati Library’s Summer Adventure. You probably know I read a whole lot, like, maybe egregiously, if that’s possible. But I haven’t done a summer reading program since I was a child and visited the Mid-Continent Library in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Then and there, if you read twenty books, you could choose a free one of your own to bring home. The first year I did it, my mom wrote the titles for me, because I could read far better than I could print. Mom got tired of returning to the library so often because of the book checkout limit, so they lifted it for us, allowing me to bring home great stacks at a time. And I received five free books that summer.
In the summer these days, I tend to read what some people impolitely call trash, because they’ve got no sense of balance, and also are snobs about things they haven’t bothered to examine in detail, or that weren’t listed in the articles they skim over in The New Yorker. Because what is summer for, if not to indulge in a bit of light-hearted pleasure? Mine usually takes the form of “cozy mysteries” and historical romances. But I do try to add in some “improving” material, as well. (Isn’t it funny to realize you can do a doctorate now on authors whose material was featured in weekly penny papers 150 years ago?)
I thought a good way to do that this year would be to follow this eight week program. (Click pic to see details.) So at least one of the books I read each week will relate specifically to the week’s theme, and I’ll do a few of the suggested activities, as well. Then I’m going to write a weekly update in this blog. I might briefly review the books, and I’ll include a photo or three of whatever else I did on the list.
For a long time, I thought a summer reading program for adults might be really dull, like you’d be made to read those heartstring-tugging books about a sister's death, with discussion questions at the back of them, or something worse, like I don’t know, memoirs of baby boomers who take motorcycle trips across Indonesia to “find themselves.” (Again.) But this one isn’t like that at all, and I intend to have fun with it. It starts on my birthday! I think it’ll be an amusing way to start on my second deck of cards.
I want about six minutes of your time to listen to a song, really listen, but first I’m going to witter on about this and that for five minutes because it’s what I do. Pretend I'm telling you all about our vet visit before finally posting the cake recipe you Googled.
I’ve been unwell again this week. The flu we all caught at Christmas passed along, but left me susceptible to every other living thing managing to hang on through the insane temperature shifts, and I haven’t been able to shake them all off very well.
So I’ve spent more than a tasteful amount of time lolling around reading books and watching movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries wondering if Kavan Smith, a chief resident of the Hallmark stud barn, can even tell any of his leading ladies apart anymore, or if they’re all just a vague blur of pert light brown-haired self-sufficiency with a sensitive backstory. As well, I developed an odd pash for The Joey Bishop Show, which is on Antenna TV every weekday at 1 pm just now. More on that, or not, some other time.
This past weekend I was feeling pretty well, so I took a break from all that, and on Saturday, the man and I planned duel enjoyment of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Symphony, to which I have subscribed for four years.
The museum was packed, because it was the final weekend of their special Van Gogh exhibit, so we inched along the drive toward the parking lot for quite awhile, taking our ease, when off to my right striding swiftly along the sidewalk, I saw a pair of really stellar ochre corduroy trousers. I mean, they were being worn by an entire person doing the striding, but that was secondary at first, until the man, who was driving, said, “Isn’t that Louis Langrée?”
And indeed it was. We thought that was a neat bit of serendipity, since we’d see him later that night conducting the symphony. And I enjoyed his pants very much. But then, you see, I always do. I enjoy tilting my head at his charming aspect as he enthusiastically conducts the music, though I don’t have quite the same level of passion for him as my neighbor across the road, who is about 15 years older than me, definitely the nicest person I know here, and definitely very into Louis. She will gush, if asked. C’est compréhensible. He has true presence, that one, n’est çe pas? Et il porte bien son pantalon.
He left, we parked and went in to enjoy the museum for a couple hours; they have a really neat exhibit right now featuring art works by employees, so if you live around here, go check it out. And then we went to Anchor-OTR for soup and little things, though to be completely honest I would rather have been at Zula across the street, but reasons and such intervened, and the Anchor is nice anyway, and then to the symphony, which is at Taft Theatre this year, and I regret each time we go having chosen floor seats instead of the balcony. We are seated near the back under the overhang of the balcony, so the sound isn’t as nice as it might be, and we have aisle seats, which are very tightly squeezed together. We always have to rise and move into the aisle for latecomers to take their seats farther in. The tech guy near us crackles wrappers the entire time, and on Saturday, a patron nearby enjoyed a bag of mini pretzels and a bottle of Coke. These noises are not absorbed well, and they irritate even when a pre-concert martini has been thoroughly applied. Though that helps. Next year at the newly remodeled Music Hall should be much nicer. I will have a commanding view, better sound, and will not covet so much one of the private boxes along the side of the theatre.
That night, a small ensemble of the orchestra and members of the May Festival chorus performed the Bach Cantata No. 150, and Langrée, now in his customary black tunic and trousers, called joyfully for an encore of the final segment of it. He spoke with enthusiasm about the Van Gogh exhibit. Then we heard Anton Webern's Passacaglia and after the intermission, Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, which is such a lovely piece of math. He conducted it at a clip, and we discussed afterwards the French tendency toward this, but I liked it fine. We ended the evening with a glass of wine at 1215 Wine Bar, and it all made for a lovely reprieve from the Endless Eight of sickness, and uncertainty about the financial outlook of 2017. gloria knee socks bass a lot of bass, tongue tied young holt flicker mix midi keyboards mantra boy
Okay, that line is my notes for the second half, but I’m not in the mood to type all that so here. Imagine it’s raining hard, but the rain feels distant inside your comfortable space with the practically new chair from Salvation Army sitting under a window with an overgrown plant next to it. You don’t have to be in a dark room to enjoy the Cure, but it helps to set a physical mood sometimes. It should be silent, the kind of silence you command with thoughts that reside just beneath the surface of your skin. Be still. Curl up and listen to this song as it tiptoes in and builds and gathers and swells and then fades away. Go on. Play it, and if you’ve heard this song before, but not the Mixed Up version, I think you’ll appreciate what they did with it.
These days we crowd our heads with music and it’s in all our backgrounds so much of the time, and we take it for granted. Sometimes it’s good to stop and let it be special for a few minutes, instead. I hate the idea that we need to occasionally reteach ourselves how to just listen, but what I witness every three-four weeks at the symphony tells me it is so. When I think of the time and effort and sweat and earnest hopes and desires that go into the composition, production, and performance of a piece of music and then I hear it over the phone, scratchily keeping me on hold while I wait around for someone to tell me to “turn it off and then back on again,” I figure the least I can do is pay some respect to all that artistic drive and effort by sharing a good piece of music now and then, channeling my dad briefly; “Shhh, listen, here’s the solo.”
You can do this with the Cure or with Brubeck or Brahms. Or somebody newer than all that, as you like.
Here are seven things I enjoyed eating this year, and three from before this year, because I was in the mood for ten.
I had these tacos last year. I was in the middle of Southern Ohio somewhere.
Here's some fettucine I enjoyed. I don't remember everything I put in it, but I know it was good because I put it in one of my square bowls.
This is some kind of bruschetta I had at a restaurant in Montgomery in 2013, at least, I was on Montgomery Road, and I don't know whether that part is called Kenwood, just east of the odd shopping center with the big Half Price Books store.
I had this tasty walleye at a restaurant near OTR last spring. It was on a corner, and I will remember the name pretty soon and add it here. They had fun odd cocktails.
This is steak tartare and ceviche at my favorite (probably) restaurant, a block from Music Hall on the other side of Washington Park. They were both very good, and we had good cocktails that night, I might edit and add that photo.
This is a delicious sandwich I made recently. Basically, I guess I like meat to be either cured or raw or for it to be seafood.
Here's some good stuff I made; pita chips, white bean dip, and bruschetta.
I don't remember everything on this pizza. I see red onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato bruschetta (from a little jar,) and probably goat cheese.
From 2014: udon noodles with hard-cooked egg, homegrown snow peas, chili-garlic sauce.
Spaghetti and eggs! My favorite lunch except for the photo above and probably a couple other photos above. This time it had leftover roasted vegetables, as well.
On Tuesday, some of us went downtown to have a look at the LST 325 tank landing ship. It is regularly docked in Evansville, Indiana, and has a tourist season during which the crew sails to various locations, using the ticket fees and private donations to help maintain the ship. One sign told us the ship is 99% original parts, and you can read more about it here. I took a lot of pictures, some of which are pretty good and some of which were hurried and not so great. Here they are with a few captions; it's really better to let the people running the thing tell the story behind it.
The ship was docked just a block from Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati has only a few tall buildings, but they form a lovely skyline along with all the bridges and the large old homes on the Newport, KY side of the river.
There was a very long line to tour the ship, but because it's so large, the line moved swiftly, and we were able to spend about an hour looking around. They suggest it will take 45 minutes, but one of us reads and reads and examines, and gets caught up in things, and it was easy to do that here.
I liked that two of the uniforms are accompanied by information about the men who wore them.
If I were on a ship back in those days, I'd want to work on the radar or radio, for sure.
This was a food storage area. We could smell lunch in the galley just above it. They were having Sloppy Joes.
Next we toured the top deck. Gun deck? It's been awhile since I paid some small amount of attention to areas of a Navy ship...but anyway, there are signs in Greek here and there. This ship was used by the Greek navy for a few decades and then it was given to the restoration group here. They left some of the evidence of Greek use as an homage to their own efforts.
The pilot room looked functionally elegant to me.
Here I imagined the main deck all cleared away and sailors breaking into a coordinated dance led by Gene Kelly...
We amused ourselves wondering what was inside here on the way to the officers' quarters. My vote was for whiskey.
As we left the ship, we went through crew quarters. Theron and I agreed one down from the top seemed least awful.
The rest of the pictures are just views from the ship that I liked. These are smaller images than the originals; I might take those and crop them for interest on my old computer; this one doesn't have the software.
Last night I went to the first of four Cincinnati Symphony concerts for which I have tickets this season. It is the inaugural weekend for the new director of the symphony, Louis Langrée. When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, I called the ticket office directly and had someone lead me through the purchase and help me select seats. I could have paid more and sat lower or closer, but by choosing the gallery, I had a good combination of view and value, and it sounds great once people stop whispering and start letting the music take hold. So I'll be in the 3rd or 4th row of section Q this season, and that suits me just fine.
Don't you like knowing there are still a few places you can call without fear of tedium, long hold times, and short-tempered or nonsensical people at the other end? It always seems like such a toss of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler.
If you haven't attended a performance at the Music Hall, or not recently, you should know that it is a thing well worth doing. It's safe and well-lit, and there are people everywhere who seem happy to help you enjoy the experience. As I recall from last season, the coat check situation could be improved, but I'll see how that goes later this month.
I had the GPS on my phone lead me right to the parking garage entrance, because I don't spend enough time in that area to remember one way navigation, especially after dark. When I got in, Dr. Maya Angelou was already on stage speaking, and I was immediately captivated by her voice, cadence of speech, and personality. She was wearing a lovely long white dress and sat in a wheelchair discussing her life and what she believes people can and ought to do for themselves. She's had a remarkable life; broad and rich and worthy of honor and emulation.
Oh, and then the orchestra began to filter in, taking their seats and warming up. This always thrills me, and makes me wish to be a part of it, because there is nothing like orchestral music that is surrounding you as you contribute to it. It isn't just the sound; there's energy and a sort of electricity that infuses you. At the same time, the auditorium seats were filling rapidly. Naturally, I was in front of a man who did not know how to keep still or tuck his feet beneath him, and his wife was a whisperer. Well, this happens. To me, a lot. Anyway.
After the concertmaster arrived, the brass section stood up and played a fanfare for the new director! It was very cool. And when he walked on stage, all stood and applauded his arrival. I felt it was odd at first, yet somehow fitting, that the first piece of music began with the amazing talent of eighth blackbird, an unusual and impressive group of musicians who played Jennifer Higdon's On A Wire. The orchestra joined in after a few minutes, and at one point, nearly every musician on stage was making a percussive sound with their instruments. It was fantastic.
The first time I heard a Jennifer Higdon piece, I wasn't sure I'd like it, because I'm never able to be pulled into what has been a too-long atonal trend in contemporary orchestral compositions. However, she uses a great deal of inventive technique that builds into what feels like an astonishing cohesiveness. Really, I'm hardly anything like an expert, but I think she's got real genius. I'm always leaning forward to take in more. She's going to be looked back on as an influence, and how great is it to be a tiny part of that? I mean, I think we haven't yet heard the best of what she can do; we're just building up to it.
Next up was Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. (Read lots about it here.) I love Copland. I'll write about why sometime. Three screens were lowered to show old photographs while the music played; images of battlefields, slaves, Abraham Lincoln, slave trade announcements, and civil rights demonstrations. Dr. Angelou was brought on stage and helped into a seat which allowed her to speak from a semi-standing position. She had changed into a gorgeous black evening gown. The music plays for quite awhile before the recitation of quotes from Lincoln, and about Lincoln and his life are spoken. She made it thrilling. One thing Copland did that I always admire when it's used well is to repeat the opening lines poetically. And it suits her particular oratory style perfectly. When the piece was finished, there was thunderous applause. I have been to some great symphonic concerts and some truly memorable rock concerts, but never have I wanted to stand with a crowd and applaud like it would somehow become some solid and lasting thing to give and to carry away. You know, manifesting it into being.
After the intermission, Langrée set Beethoven's Fifth Symphony off like a rocket. At first I thought it was going to gallop too frenetically for me, even in Beethoven terms, but then I realized that it wasn't galloping, it was rolling. I hadn't heard it played quite like this before, and I began to enjoy it. The Fifth is by no means a favorite of mine, but we played the final movement in high school (I've been trying to figure that out for awhile, I don't know,) and I do love that. It still marches through my head frequently. What I liked about last night's performance was that near the end of the scherzo, the third movement, there was this sense of almost running out of breath, and then the fourth took off again like the first. It was palpable. It's…well, it's sensual. There could be a metaphor in it. It wasn't a deep performance, but it was pleasurable.
The final ovations were enthusiastic and sincere, and I liked that. It was a great night and it's going to be a great season.
Okay, I wanted to share that on the trip to the Music Hall, which is 18 miles for me, I was listening to this goofy 90s playlist I made recently. Just as I hit downtown, Kid Rock's "Bawitaba" began. I found this hilarious for some reason. On the way home, I thought Beethoven in my head would be enough, but it took a billion minutes to get past the casino and back to 471-south, and by then I wanted external sound. Classical isn't really good in my car, and who knows what would turn up next on that playlist? The Spice Girls? So I turned on Artie Shaw, and that was a good decision. He was a gigantically egotistical ass, but he was a real musician.
Two weeks ago I went to the symphony to hear a somewhat unusual concert. Unusual for me, at least. The one playing this weekend featuring Sarah Chang is more my speed. But I wanted something different.
Watts Plays Beethoven's Emperor with Mei-Ann Chen, conductor, and André Watts, piano was the title of the program, but it also featured two contemporary pieces of music; "Poem," by Zhou Tian, and Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra, which is just a real big experience to watch and hear live. Stunning, actually. If you can listen to the fourth movement, I recommend you do so but it's actually a satisfying piece of music altogether, though possibly a bit outlandish for anyone whose enjoyment of orchestral music is firmly pre-20th century. It's also not all that complex or intellectual, etc., if for some reason that's your thing.
Here's a review of the whole concert. Afterwards, I went to Coffee Emporium for a late lunch before driving home.
Here's a little phone photo-log of my afternoon. It was very yucky out, and began snowing just as I got back home.
Today should be outing #6, but it is not to be, that is, it will be delayed a couple weeks, but hopefully not more. A sudden change in plans occurred, which I will talk about in the next post.
I hope you enjoyed my little audio post. I'm going to do a better one, hopefully this evening, but for now, here is a long "dates with myself" entry, with a few links and photos for you to enjoy. There would be more photos, but my internet connection seems to feel about as well as I do just now.
Two weeks ago I spent my afternoon at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I'd been there once or twice before, but not in nearly a year.
I have visited major art museums in Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. They each have something special about them. In New York, in that massive old building, you see art you've heard about all your life. In Philadelphia you see what seems like a true richness of creativity. Lots of good examples of 20th century style; Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, etc. Detroit has some great sculpture . I remember least about Chicago but what I do remember is being completely immersed in culture. Pittsburgh is a city that is practically made of art and beauty amidst a certain amount of decay. I'd want to talk more about the contemporary art there and could write pages.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is one of my favorite places to be out of everywhere I've been. It's beautiful, inside and out. There is a wealth of treasure there, literally, particularly the Imperial Chinese collection. And it's free, so you can wander in and out as you please, as you enjoy the complete outdoor setting, most especially in late Spring and early Autumn.
So for me, the Cincinnati Art Museum has a lot to measure up to. It does, you know, in one particular area of focus I'd never seen at another museum. That is local art, and in particular, the local art movement here in the 19th century. There was a thriving art culture here, you see, and the museum has great examples of it, but especially very good education on it. You really *learn* when you are at this museum, if you wish to.
Two weeks ago I went to Clifton to see what that's all about, and to see Amour. I'm really looking forward to going back there. The movie theater is pretty cool, there are many interesting restaurants around, and little shops to poke through.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Amour for months, but then I kept putting it off because it looked so sad. But I decided I wanted to see it before the Academy Awards, so I went ahead, and I'm so glad I did. It's the best movie I've seen in quite a long time.
Before the movie, it was hard to decide what to eat, but I ended up going pretty ordinary, to a place called Olives for their breakfast buffet. I had a Bloody Mary, and was entertained by people behind me having a very joyous birthday party. These were real friends enjoying each others' company. It was nice. And the food wasn't bad. I'll go back and try something from the bar, something from the regular menu.
There's a nice park overlooking it all, and I drove up to it for a couple minutes. It will be very pretty in a few weeks. I'm going to add some links later, for now, a few pictures. And I'll probably share about today's art museum outing tonight or tomorrow, instead of waiting two weeks.
This first bit was posted to Google Plus. (Good morning. Or whatever. I mentioned last week I've been doing my blog for over ten years now. I'm going to share in this box the way I shared early blog entries. The only difference is that the pictures have to be clickable down at the bottom, instead of inserted with html.)
I slept in this morning. When I looked at the phone it said 8:51. That seemed quite like enough to be going on with. Getting older is funny that way. The sky is lazily spitting snow at us again. Most of our snow this winter has been so; occasionally it sticks together at the surface, but not with any earnest effort. Today we're going to see Parsifal through the Met's live streaming program, but instead of going to our usual big movie movie theater, we're going to our #2 spot; Newport on the Levee. That's one of the places (along with Monmouth St., such serendipity, you don't even know) I'll go to for a date with myself, but when it's warmer out. Anyway. We think Newport AMC might have better speakers for HD opera than Milford Rave. I hope so.
Oh! (Most of) You don't know this because I don't blog all the details anymore since we have "social media" and also now and then I use discretion, but a few days ago, someone ransacked my car and stole my Kindle Fire out of it! I...replaced my key battery after that happened. The oddly good news is that I have "extra" money this month, so I ordered the Fire HD and it should be arriving today. I got the same size; I like it to fit into a handbag, but it will have better sound, better wi-fi, and double the hard drive space.
It would not be easy for a typical hoodlum to break into our house, but leaving the car in the driveway, that should be safe as anything where I live. Yet it was not. I felt just creepy and awful, but a person I know online had her whole house broken into recently, and that had to feel much, much worse.
When I went downstairs to make a cup of coffee and retrieve my laptop, this enchanting message appeared on my phone:
And when I went to check notifications at Google+, I got to see this:
I have many friends at G+ and talk to them semi-privately more often than not, but when I post public links, sometimes I get responses that aren't super relevant to what I'm sharing. It doesn't matter much but you see the notification number and you're all "ooh, someone liked my thoughts...no, I guess not."
Finally, a word about March weather. March is typically very difficult for me, breathing-wise. But last year was super! Okay, it was a little creepy and "is the sun falling from the sky," and so forth, but I felt really, really good. Here are bits of data for you to look over if you can possibly muster interest.