Last month was full of the arts...
Music: Sat 4 Jun we went to see ATL Collective performing OK Computer at Terminal West. Notable was the harp showcased in several of the songs and the choir of eight or so accompanying. It was a good balance of authenticity and variation. Next Sat 11 Jun was the ASO season finale with Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Brahms Symphony No. 2. Andre Watts was to have performed the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto but canceled due to back problems. I have great guilt about not going as frequently as we used to (~10-15 shows a season), and this concert made me wish I'd act on that guilt. Next season!
Cinema: The week of the 12th started with The Lobster [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] at Landmark. The Greek director, Lanthimos, made one of my favorite films, Dogtooth, and this was cut very much from the same weird. Next were two older "classic" films at the Plaza: Zardoz and Showgirls (which I had first seen only a year ago). Zardoz was... both horrible and smart-ish? It reminded me of The Man Who Fell to Earth with its mix of bad acting yet original ideas. I had seen Man Who Fell recently at Landmark and, in my post-research, got interested enough in the author Walter Tevis that I got two of his books: The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mockingbird. The latter depicts a future in which
robots rule over the drugged, illiterate humans. Cf. Bacigalupi's story "Pump Six" depicting a similar and similarly bleak future.
Theater: We lucked out finding out about a staged reading of James Joyce's Ulysses at Shakespeare Tavern on 15 Jun, performed by Aris. Years ago I got a couple hundred pages in the book and failed, so seeing this was a cheat but very rewarding. If they don't perform it again, it is worth seeking out elsewhere. The last speech by Molly Bloom was emotional and outstanding. Also lucky to hear about West Side Story at Cobb Energy Center on 26 Jun, performed by Atlanta Lyric Theatre. My first time seeing it live! There's such social relevance in this today--immigrants treated as troublemakers, poor people pitted against minorities, police abusing power, and an overloaded social net)--that it should be performed more frequently.
On Saturday April 16th I went with Matt to Mojo in honor of the 9th annual Record Store Day. My intent was to just hang out, but soon found an excuse to join the fun (even without a turntable). When I got home I ordered the Audio Technica LP60 with USB.
DSotM is a good re-interpretation that should get more attention. Not great, but entertaining. ItAOtS was purchased blindly simply because Neutral Milk Hotel always comes up on lists of Best Albums Ever and one of those lists was fresh in my head. It came with a digital download and has gotten heavy rotation so far. Really love "Two-Headed Boy" and the distorted (overdrive?) vocals. The Art Tatum (listed as "Masterpieces, Leonard Feather Series MCA2-4019, MCA, 1973" in his discography) is a nice complement to the two volume CD The Complete Capital Recordings I've had for forever. The Star Trek stories (good details here) I have not yet listened to because it's in such awful shape I'm terrified it's going to destroy my needle. Some major clean up will be required.
Last weekend, after meeting up with Lisa and the gang for lunch, they went back to Shaky Knees and I Vespa-ed over to L5P to go to Criminal Records. On the way, Wax n Facts intervened with memories of visits driving in from West Georgia College in Carrollton and purchasing my first Sonic Youth album blindly just to see what all the fuss was. Listening to Daydream Nation for the first time was as powerful as reading Gravity's Rainbow for the first time.
I've had a long time nagging need to dig into classic hip hop (inspired in part by the Reddit discussion What are Masterpiece Rap Albums?) and this made for a good opportunity. I knew Kool Keith from Dr. Octagonecologyst and had heard of J Dilla but never listened to his stuff. Still absorbing both albums (well, four albums with a total of seven sides), but J Dilla seems to have more of a groove and KK more abstraction and complex rapping. The Savages purchases came from Lisa and Matt raving about them from Friday's festival. Chick punk band whose performance blew everyone away. I was expecting updated Bikini Kill but got more of an updated abrasiveness of Lydia Lunch. Great lyrics. Would love to see them live some day. Like everyone else, I have the Herbie Nichols complete Blue Note recordings on CD (comprising The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vol. 1, The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vol. 2, and Herbie Nichols Trio; his first three albums), and this 2 LP set is the same in album form. I think of him, inelegantly, as a Thelonious Monk but with impeccable technique.
Sunday tickets for Shaky Knees with the hardcore concert-goers. My only reason for being there was to see the closers: a reunited At The Drive In!!1! Line up until then was Ought (Canadian post-rock that reminded me of The Lapse), Atlas Genius (a little too poppy for my taste), Frightened Rabbit (fun!), Eagles of Death Metal (so much fun!), Nothing (very young emo/punks), Explosions in the Sky (moody with a hint of rock), and then ATDI. Damn they were good. Have put Relationship of Command back in heavy rotation since then.
Send transmission from the one armed scissor
Recent posting of Alarm Will Sound performing "Revolution 9" live with no recorded sounds:
I had, coincidentally, relistened to The White Album a month or so ago right before George Martin died and loved rehearing this. The AWS performance reminded me of when I went to the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville in 2010 and saw Bang on a Can All Stars perform Brian Eno's Music For Airports. Highly recommended.
What excesses happened in December?
Movies: We started with Krampus [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] on Sunday the 6th to remember the reason for the season. A goofy, garish horror flick that re-frames X-mas in the same way that any recent Grimms' stories attempt to honor the source material. Watch if you like Evil Dead or Rare Exports (another seasonal flick) or maybe Troll Hunters (haven't seen tho). End of the month was of course Star Wars: The Force Awakens [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. We went Sunday the 20th and revisited Saturday the 26th. I was surprised that for all the flaws, it was still so emotional. I didn't have a big problem with the many dramatic parallels it has to the original movie. With the time that's passed, the re-emergence of the original actors, and the purge of George Lucas, calling back to the 1977 original felt a useful touch to clean the slate. Tarantino's 8th, The Hateful Eight [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] was a couple of days later on Monday at Atlantic Station during the 100-city tour with 70 mm film projectors and surprise guest Walton Goggins to introduce. Jennifer Jason Leigh's and Goggins' characters were the absolute best and worth a rewatch just to see their performances again. The 70 mm was impressive and reminded me of watching the re-mastered Lawrence of Arabia last April at Landmark. Next up: more violence with The Revenant at Lafont in Sandy Springs.
Childhood obsession I found a few years back when cleaning out my parents' house.
A gift from Lisa!
Music: Friday the 18th was Yacht Rock Revue's 70s Holiday Party at Venkman's. Not much X-mas music but lots of AM fabulousness with the musicians dressed as Star Wars stormtroopers. New Year's Day +1 we went with a co-worker and friends to Smith's Olde Bar to see Puddles Pity Party to continue the 70s theme of YRR. We first saw him by chance at The Goat Farm for a Halloween party in 2014 where he performed in front of a huge screen projecting video from a drone that was flying around the stage. It broke our brains with craziness and was as enjoyable a second time. Schmaltz pop songs performed by a sad clown with a booming tenor voice. Is he respecting the songs or mocking them as if channeling a McSweeney's detachment? Or is this the apotheosis of karaoke (or American Idol) with concerts consisting of a singer singing covers against a pre-recorded backing band? Cf. also Peaches etc. singing originals against a sequencer or Girl Talk etc. performing with a laptop. Next up: more cover songs with Yacht Rock Review performing a Led Zeppelin vs. The Who battle of the bands tonight at Venkman's.
Jeff Lynne battles the force
Events: my first company holiday party Friday the 11th at the CFO's house/mansion in Buckhead. Wine at the basement bar/piano lounge and food from the ginormous food truck out back. Our Uber driver said that Tyler Perry lives nearby but we never saw him. X-mas proper in Knoxville with Too Much Good Food. NYE proper at Gun Show for the second year in a row with more Too Much Good Food. Next up: dieting.
ATL Collective is a group of local and regional musicians that get together to re-create classic rock albums live [ Web site | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr (outdated) ]. I had heard about them many months ago from Michael H., a previous co-worker, but only decided to go see them when I got the notification about their concert on Sun 31 May for Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. Flyer for the concert: front and back. It's a double album written after he reversed his decision to retire and go into charity work in Africa, and it contains several huge and hugely recognizable hits. ATL Collective had maybe 10 or 12 musicians total throughout the evening, with multiples for every skill: vocals, keyboards, guitars, drums, horns. Sometimes all would be on stage and at others just one or two. It was an amazing concert and perfect at that venue.
The next concert was on Thu 25 Jul for Jeff Buckley's Grace album. I knew him only from his posthumous album Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. I picked that up after hearing tracks on an indie Internet station run by two guys in Texas. I listened to them frequently at around the time that album came out in 1998 (?!) and from their broadcasts also acquired Durian's Sometimes You Scare Me, Faraquet's The View from This Tower, and Don Caballero's What Burns Never Returns. Obv. heavy math rock fans. Anyway, Grace was an equally amazing concert with a guest vocalist from Nashville (the Google-friendly named Landon Pigg) who hit JB's vocal style perfectly.
Sadly, I missed their previous performances of This Year's Model and Led Zeppelin IV. On my radar for future gems.
Off to Prague to meet Lisa and Danice and Theresa after their week in Croatia. First international travel alone in, ever? Oddly nervous. While weighing my luggage at home, I found out I weighed twenty pounds less than a few months ago. Weird, if true. This trip should change that.
Atlanta to Paris to Prague. Ended up going through a different security area and am not sure how. Being alone sets you on different routes for even the simplest choices. Lunch at Ecco: Gruner Veltliner and chicken panini. Read: "Charlie Hebdo and the previous question" (brilliant examination of racism, heroics, and humor), "Love songs, RIP" (rap is killing the love song), "The happiness industry" (uninspired rant against policies that nudge people into better behavior). The Charlie Hebdo article pointed me to the hilarious/informative site Understanding Charlie Hebdo cartoons. And, of course, sitting next to French travellers waiting for the flight to CDG. Gate F12 Paris; gate F14 Knoxville.
On the flight, sat next to Roberta From Tampa and, as I leafed through my Czech language book, we realized our destinations were the same. Her friend's daughter is in cinema school in Prague and she planned to stay a few days then meet her husband in Bologna. She's Italian with absolutely no accent.
Watched: Jupiter Ascending (all it had to offer was spectacle, so an airplane screen was the worst possible option), Project Almanac (childish, avoid unless you have a desire to see Piedmont Park), and Episodes (recommended by a coworker, good).
Follow the crowd off the plane to the only possible destinations: ATM and luggage. English signs everywhere, yet airports are confusing in their base genetics. Eventually made my way to the bus stop and was given 24Kč by a Kind Stranger to get a train ticket since I only had large bills. After several false starts I eventually joined the last people remaining. No ticket needed, it appears to be only circling the airport. Rats. Finally, it ended up at an entrance to the underground Metro. Success!
Drop the bags early at Hotel Josef with Filipe who had an awesome Gant watch that I Simply Cannot Find Available Anywhere. Snack and coffee at cafe Opapa waiting for room 114. Unpack, sleep, shower.
Dobre rano, Hotel Josef!
Girl-free until tomorrow night, so today is museum day. First stop: as 20 minute walk to Veletrzny Palac at The National Gallery. Started on the 4th floor and went down. Czech art from the 1850s on, then European art from the same time, then late 1900s and 2000s Czech art. Czech cubist artists would quote Picasso, Cezanne, impressionism to the point of plagiarism. I was kindof shocked. Beautiful late-romantic large-scale canvases. Very good 60s and 70s minimalism and the there was good balance in the present-day styles, presented with "what's next?" uncertainty. I recognized very few of the artists throughout the exhibits. Big mistake not taking notes. Rushed through the Kokoschka exhibit due to tiredness and I'm not that big of a fan.
Leaving Veletrzny as Roberta and her friend Sue were entering. Ha!
Light-filled atrium at Veletrzny Palac. Unrelated, but equally awesome, Mr. HotDog (coming soon).
Next: back near the hotel to the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. Hard to find even with GPS and Google Maps. There are no two streets that are parallel. The current show is Medieval Art in Bohemia and Central Europe. Painting and sculpture from 1350s to 1450s with notable transitions to the international style. Nice complement to the moderns at Veletrzny.
Late afternoon and time for drinks and mussels from Nadeem at the bar at Chez Marcel. One of the many times I'd get a bonjour instead of a dobre den.
Brain reset and got a recommendation for a local kavernu for beer and Czech food. Ended up at VKolkovně ("v" is "in" and I'd see it sometimes with street names or locations; usually street signs will start with "U" which is short for "ulice"/"street"). Sausages in gravy with onions and peppers and a basket of heavy bread and Pilsner Urquell. Manhattans after at the bar at Tretter's. Minor people-watching and reading as I wind down (The Vorrh by Brian Catling).
Late start and finally get out at ~10. The nap did nothing! Coffee at Opapas (again). They serve coffee with a small shot glass of water. Not sure if Viennese or Czech tradition. The morning itinerary is walk around the old city squares. I see: Church of Our Lady Before Týn and Prague Astronomical Clock. I avoided tours since I wasn't sure what the girls would want to see. My mistake because I never got to go to the top of the clock tower. Wandered old neighborhoods randomly and saw many cool things that I would never be able to find again because of the aforementioned non-parallel street chaos. There were several instances of "oh, I was here before!" later in the week.
Church tower: stack it to heaven, I say!
Approaching the old city square.
Lunch at La Veranda (bonjour!). This was included in a list of recommendations the hotel concierge provided when I emailed them before the trip. I actually made reservations just because. French. Sauteed calamari, pea risotto with scallops, limoncello ice and espresso. Very nice wine recommendation. Even the nicest restaurants are so inexpensive here.
Jog. The weather is perfect and continues that way throughout the week. The hotel provides a jogging map with three routes. Neat! I take it and promptly get lost on the first turn. Again, non-parallel streets. I get back on track and wend across bridges and through parks and through the city. It's a nicely joggable city. I'd been worried since Lisa S. went for a jog in Rome and said it was unpleasant. Prague reminds me of Florence for its mix of age modernity and its narrow streets. Lisa S. had a good jogging experience there.
Back and clean up and then drinks and reading at Vino di Vino (ciao!). Picked up bottle to take home to Atlanta (yes, we eventually drank it in the hotel). Amazing wine cellar.
Throughout the trip, Lisa and I had been using an IM account via Trillian to talk. Alternately, she and the girls used WhatsApp to chat when they went their separate ways. The world needs a unified IM protocol. Anyway, at VdV she messaged that she was in the room. After meeting up for drinks at the hotel bar we wandered around the city and ended up for dinner at an Italian restaurant (ciao!). Completely forget the name. I had roasted pork knee with mustards (traditional Czech), Lisa grilled pork with hot peppers and mushrooms. The knee was a complex combination of bones and fat an very, very tender meat. Drinks at Tretter's (again).
Crossing the Charles Bridge to get to Prague Castle.
Looking down at the small people from on castle high.
Detail of the solid silver tomb of John of Nepomuk inside the cathedral.
After castle, met back up with Danice and Theresa and stopped at V Laznich traditional Czech restaurant after we saw pretzels hanging on wooden stands at each table. Neat. Had sausage and potato pancakes. Then further wandering in the area to see Lennon Wall filled with graffiti with both peaceful and trolling, war sentiments, and the Memorial to the Victims of Communism.
Dinner at the Michelin Starred Alcron. Four courses with wine pairings. Excellent. At the end of the evening the chef created an elaborate food painting for newlyweds at their table.
Meet Theresa and Danice at Cafe Louvre. Their tour guide Marcus had given them a 2 hour tour in the morning, so he joined us for a late breakfast. Vienna sausages and horseradish. Although very knowledgeable about the city, Marcus answered a question of greater importance: the cartoon character we had been seeing all over the city is the lovable Czech mole Krtek! The rest of the day involved walking around the Nove Mesto area to see the Dancing House and the Church of St. Cyril and Methodius and Upside Down St. Wenceslas (first Czerny of the trip).
Cross the city to visit the National Monument in Vitkov to see the gigantic sculpture of Jan Zizska on a horse. Met Samuel on the way who gave us directions. He moved from St. Louis to teach English a year and a half ago and is now drawing caricatures. Fun fact: you don't need to know Czech to teach English there. Photos and drinks at the top floor cafe. Off in the distance, Babies Climbing the Radio Tower (second Czerny).
Communists really know how to build a monument!
No selfie-stick necessary.
Return walk stopped at U Medvidku for X33 beer and bought a bottle to take home (drank it with Matt and Tedra and Bill at Meehan's after Mad Max the Sunday after our return). Stopped at the small Cafe Bar Archa U Prokupku: calimari and my first Staropramen ("old spring/fountain") beer. Hanging Freud (third Czerny of the trip).
FInally, the reason for this whole trip: Smetana's Ma Vlast performed by NDR Philharmonic at Municipal House. Champagne beforehand with what seemed like every nationality on Earth represented. Languages everywhere. People dressed from jeans to tuxedos, we were casually in between. The hall itself was more ornate than pictures suggested. Excellent concert and the first time I had heard the cycle in it's entirety. Perfect.
Nearing the end of the trip, so Danice and Theresa split off for independent studies. Lisa and I went to Chez Marcel (again) for dinner. Hanger steak and gratin potatoes for monsieur, rabbit confit for madame.
Who's a swank traveler? You are!
Nina our tour guide for the day picked us up early for a day trip to the fantastical city of Cesky Krumlov. Nina grew up in communist Czechoslovakia and experienced it turn into the democratic Czech Republic, so she had many stories of the social change. During the 2-1/2 hour drive, she regaled us with history and such. My only notes:
3 regions: Siletia - north west, industrial; Moravia - south east, agricultural, wine country; Bohemia - central and western (and what else?).
Drove past Archduke Ferdinand's castle. It was renovated for his wife Sophie who was not a noble, so the other nobles looked down on her. He was very traveled and educated, and so made it the most modern castle of Europe. Plumbing, electricity, the works. Nina was worried if we visited that we'd be upset by the many animals from his hunting trips mounted on the walls. She seemed very apologetic about it.
Later, she told us about Ruslan and Ludmila from Ukrainian history. Theirs is a well known love story that I knew from some Russian opera but neither of us could remember at the time (it was an opera by Glinka).
No CGI required.
Josef Vachal and Egon Schiele exhibits at the Egon Schiele Center. Excellent museum. Needed two hours and we had 20 minutes.
Open Vino di Vino bottle back at the room.
Last day rush rush rush. Jewish synagogue and cemetery. Late breakfast at the Kafka Snob Cafe: croque monsieur. Museum of medieval torture instruments at one end of the Charles Bridge. Across the bridge for beers with Lisa at Hergetova Cihelna near the Franz Kafka Museum. Piss sculpture (fourth Czerny?) in front, sadly w/out working piss.
Kafka Museum. Grew up in Prague, worked as an insurance adjuster. Overbearing father and combative family cook. Four canceled engagements. Thanks Max Brod! On the Amsterdam layover back home, I purchased four paperbacks to binge-read in the coming months (Schocken, 1998 editions).
Residual obsession from Prague arrived: set of books by their favorite son, K. The next few months will be weird. pic.twitter.com/8Iysff5zmk— Scott D. Strader (@sstrader) May 20, 2015
Is anyone else paranoid right now?
Drinks at Malestranského (mala strana, small side) Hostince (inn). Baroque concert for organ and soprano at St. Nicholas church. Amazing acoustics. [ updated 5 Jul 2015 ] Flyer for the concert: front and back. Final dinner at Paris Cafe near the hotel.
Taxi with Lisa to the airport in the early AM. Separate flights, mine was Prague to Amsterdam to Atlanta. Watched: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (w/ Kramer, very good), Taken 3 (entertaining enough), Leviathan (beautiful, depressing film with cinematography that needed to be seen on a good screen. Deals with ideas of a corrupt government and a complicitly corrupt church, echoed by Pussy Riot's closing statement. One scene has PR on the TV in the background), Louis CK (his younger daughter thinks she's always dreaming). Home and laundry and a jog to sweat out the exhaustion and flight and Marta.
Went to see Sonic Generator at MOCA this Wednesday upon prompting by Dan. I'd missed several previous performances and this made up for it. Each piece was its distinct own world. (Mostly) 21st century composition at its finest. [ updated 5 Jul 2015 ] Flyer for the concert: front and back. The program, plus several random videos of other performances of the pieces:
(The videos I picked were either from lack of option or best looking available. There may be other, better performances.)
Cinema: Army of Darkness at Plaza Theatre the 8th of last month and Texas Chainsaw Massacre the 22nd of this month. TCM reminded me of movies from the Drive-In Cult Classics collection that I had picked up back in 2011. At times, the movie was a crazy assault to the senses: abrasive soundtrack, exaggerated malevolence. Guardians of the Galaxy at the beginning of the month (!!!). Must go see it again.
Music: The Musical Box performing Selling England by the Pound at Variety Playhouse the 24th of last month. Great follow up to seeing them do Lamb Lies Down on Broadway January of last year. Was blown away when the lead singer started the narrative that I knew would lead in to Supper's Ready. Really just a wow night, and ended at The Vortex in L5P with death metal fans from a show at the Star Bar.
Travels: Lake Tullahoma, TN the weekend of July 18th. Fourth annual trip to St. George Island the end of July. Second semi-annual trip to Lake Keowee the weekend of August 15th.
Started new job in Buckhead on the 4th! Commute is now Marta and reading or Vespa-ing on nice days.
Saw The Punk Singer [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at The Plaza Theater way back on 6 Dec. I had listened to Bikini Kill during and after college, so it was amazing seeing them "live" and equally amazing seeing what an absolute intellectual bad ass Kathleen Hanna was. Added Le Tigre to rotation afterwards. Personal favorite: Phanta. It's a song I wish I would have written.
Continuing the feminist shtick: reread the Pussy Riot Closing Statements after their recent Sochi fun. Yekaterina Samutsevich's statement was brilliant.
Conversely, after reading Sasha Frere-Jones' 16 Dec review of "Britney Jean", I decided to dig into the Britney Spears catalog. Avoiding the newest and the oldest, I went with post-breakdown Britney Blackout (2007), Circus (2008), and Femme Fatale (2011). Was entertained by many songs on the first two; Femme Fatale was garbage. Recommended from Blackout: "Piece of Me", "Radar", "Heaven on Earth", "Why Should I Be Sad". Recommended from Circus: "If U Seek Amy", "Unusual You". I have yet to dig into the classic Britney.
X-Mas Eve annual holiday party dinner with friends at Bacchanalia. New Year's Eve with friends at No. 246 in Decatur then to Bill and Tedra's where, gratefully, my car did not get broken into. Superb Owl Feb 1st weekend with friends at a cabin near Blue Ridge, GA. Drinks, hot tub, so much food, a very cold river, and a self-induced black eye for Lisa.
Saw Skinny Puppy at Center Stage on 4 Feb. Fun show and the stage bric-a-brac reminded both Lisa and I, independently, of the stage for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Saw Romeo et Juliette at Cobb Energy Center with Theresa on 8 Feb. Amazing. Loved the play-within-a-play puppet show and the extended scene in slow motion when Romeo murders Tybalt murders Mercutio was brilliant. So much was happening on stage that I should have gone multiple times.
For the new year, I promised myself to start practicing piano at least once a day in order to tackle Ballade. The going has been slow since, starting a year ago and progressing, I've had odd carpal tunnel-ly things happening in my right hand. Doctor's advice a few months ago was crap and at this point I can't play some of the stuff I had once been able to. My current plan is hourly exercises described here plus anti-inflammatories twice a day.
Picking up new art today from Kai Lin by Wyatt Graff.
Hoping Matt is recovering.
[ updated 4 Jan 2014 ]
Found the flyer:
A couple of weeks back on Mother's Day, Lisa and I were driving back from my brother's and listening to Radiolab. The episode, titled Behaves So Strangely, included Diana Deutsch examining short fragments of speech. She noticed accidentally that when a few seconds of speech is repeated, its natural, tonal melody becomes more apparent and could be transcribed as a simple music motif. One of my favorite, lost recordings from college, Steve Reich's Different Trains, immediately came to mind. Reich takes interviews with people who rode or worked on trains before, during, and after World War II, and he transcribes short segments. Throughout the piece, the recorded interview segments are played over and echoed by a string quartet. As I was telling Lisa about the piece, I looked it up on Google and found that a string quartet was scheduled to perform it in Portland the following Thursday. We purchased tickets the next day.
Portland has to be one of the friendliest places we've ever visited. This was our first time visiting and the desire to go was never predicated on interest in seeing the city, but we would definitely go again. It's walkable and offers some good restaurants and, obviously, a strong art scene. And the friendly people!
(Pre-concert at SPACE Gallery and menacing dark tower afterwards)
The concert was at the SPACE Gallery: what appears to be ground zero for interesting artwork and, thanks to the musical program, a notable range of music fans. I can only imagine and envy what the 8-year-old thought of the performance! Music was: John Zorn's "Cat O' Nine Tails", local composer Beth Wiemann's premiere of "Minor blasts, some flurries", and after an intermission "Different Trains". Zorn's piece, written the same year as Different Trains, was madcap chaos. I can't imagine not having heard it live and if Zorn didn't exist, I don't think he could be invented. Very pastiche noise that had such physical humor that it was like few other compositions. Some Zappa works from The Yellow Shark come to mind but even he might not instruct the cellist to pantomime whipping the other musicians as they simulate ouching whines on their instruments. The Wiemann piece was a beautiful, palette-cleansing episode. It put me in mind of the clarity of Walter Piston's harmonies, another Maine composer. Finally, Different Trains. Like Einstein on the Beach early last year and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway last Fall, this was a rare opportunity that met all expectations.
Secondary culture visit was the superb Portland Museum of Art on Saturday. Many modern 20th century works on the first floor in the show The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism. 21st century stuff caught my eye up the atrium on the 3rd floor, so we hopped up there for some stunning pieces by artists I've never heard of (and should have written down). Down to the 2nd floor for a selection of Homer, Hopper, and other northern painters. Would definitely return for the modern works.
(These. Guys. Were. Everywhere.)
(The craggy coast of Kennebunkport. The dull-witted feeling you're sensing is President W's house off-camera to the left.)
Thursday, Petite Jacqueline the afternoon we arrived. One more reason why French restaurants are infallible, and the string quartet performers showed up as a bonus! I didn't interrupt their lunch, but instead stared and whispered. OTTO Pizza (before the concert) and Nosh (after the concert) for drinks and snacks. Friday, an extended nap after the four hour Maine Beer Tour, a lobster roll at J's Oyster, and drinks at Spread (hip space, drop-dead gorgeous bartender, yet inexplicably filled with what appeared to be Fox News-watching gay Republicans) had us reschedule Five Fifty-Five for the following night and instead go to the late-night Portland Pie Company (half pepperoni, half seafood). The beer tour is highly recommended. Again: friendly people and a chance to get some hyper-local beers that may never get to Atlanta. Saturday - brunch at Duckfat before a drive to Kennebunkport. Finally, the trip's fancy dinner at an upstairs table at the superb Five Fifty-Five. Sunday - donuts from Holy Donut for our drive back to Boston airport.
Another successful impromptu vacation!
My first visit to Austin the beginning of Dec for a wedding (not mine). Took Thursday and Friday beforehand in order to soak up all that is, according to everyone I spoke with there, the only city in Texas a liberal would want to visit. My people indeed run a very nice burg. Thursday night was swank, 3-course dinner night at Congress. Post bar-hopping plans were cancelled due to too much good food. No matter. The next morning was donut breakfast at Gourdough's then a walk through the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The internet speaks of great swimming holes but, even though it was too cold for swimming, the creek was bone-dry. I learned later from a local at the wedding that the drought of the last two years hit the Greenbelt hard. Still, it was a nice, alien, southwest landscape to walk through.
Continue to post-hike drinks at Trudy's (no food, still full from Congress and donuts) then on to the entertainment of the trip: a Doug Loves Movies podcast recording at the Alamo Drafthouse. Buy the podcast and you'll probably hear Lisa cackling at one point in the background! Sadly, they weren't doing their Trapped in the Closet Sing-Along while we were in town :-(. Wander the strip and people-watch until time for our second swank locale of the trip: drinks at Midnight Cowboy Modeling and Oriental Massage. Thanks to the name on the apartment buzzer that gets you into the bar, I now know who Harry Craddock is. More wanderings, eatings at a pizzeria, and drinkings to finish our undirected tour of Austin. On to the wedding.
We checkout of The Driskill in downtown Austin and drive to the Barton Creek Resort a few miles out. Beautiful, but to quote Al Czervik
Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate. The wedding proper was at a ranch a few miles away and it was the pinnacle of swank for the trip. Among the appetizers offered before the wedding were a whole pig on a spit. I got to speak to many fascinating guests including a lawyer for Texas teachers unions. Usually, I attract rabid conservatives (one of the gay guests we were chatting with declared me at first sight as Mr. Conservative, so I guess I give off a vibe), so it was nice to be immersed in a gaggle of liberals.
Sunday brunch with our only live music of the trip (I know, I know), a visit to Waterloo Records where I got a replacement copy of Tales from Topographic Oceans, then home.
Genesis tribute-band extraordinaire, The Musical Box, performed for the last time ever the seminal concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. As much as Einstein on the Beach--seen live in London at the beginning of 2012--this was an iconic work for me growing up. I'd always heard of TMB and their faithful interpretations, but never made the effort. With the range of music, costumes, and sets, this was a stunning show. Memorable: "The Lamia" where the singer was hidden within a glowing cloth tube for the entirety of the song; pulling off the metrically manic solos for "In The Cage" and "Riding the Scree"; "Cuckoo Cocoon" where the singer lies on stage with his head towards the audience during his flute solo. More than any concert, I'm sad I'll never see it again.
The Cheatham's first holiday bash in their Decatur digs; my first holiday party with my current company; A Christmas Carol at Shakespeare Tavern; our (usually) annual holiday dinner with friends, this year at The Optimist; our soon-to-be annual holiday dinner with Bob&Lisa, this year at no246 in Decatur; annual holiday party at The Barry's. Special weekend in Blackberry Farm as a gift from the mom-in-law with the Foley family. Cold days in the mountains with fireplaces, amazing food, nano-brewery tour, and a failed attempt at our first geocaching foray. Finally, a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens--my first--with Lisa and Theresa for their garden lights display.
This is the first weekend in a long time that we're doing nothing.
Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! at The Fox on Thu 20 Sep. Panelists were Roy Blount, Jr., Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca and the sharp CDC Director Thomas Frieden. After was dinner at the new Proof and Provision in The Georgian Terrace building (along with everyone else from the show). The following two days were the second annual return of Music Midtown. Our Saturday brunch till 1 turned extended into much later, but we made it in time to see Garbage. Other highlights were Foo Fighters on Friday (covered Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh?" from The Wall), Adam Ant and his band's crazy get-ups, and Girl Talk. By then, we were too tired to stay for Pearl Jam, so we ended up at Gilbert's for drinks+food. Sunday was Lisa's b-day dinner at Il Localino.
The weekend starting Thu 27 Sep was in Chicago to continue our year of music with the Peter Gabriel So concert. Too much mayhem to relate, starting with this:
Curse you, gay bar above that Armenian restaurant! We made it to the concert afterwards, but it wasn't our most shining moment. The next day, Friday, was the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA!). Highly recommended and digestible in a single visit. It will be included in any return visits. Evening was science silliness with Radiolab's In the Dark show at a beautiful old theater. Saturday was a jog along the river where I did a 53-minute 10k--personal best! Later, walking along the Navy Pier (right next to our hotel) before seeing the National Theatre of Scotland performing "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was an impulse event that caught both of our attentions and we struck gold: half of it read like lit crit cool and the other like a Three Stooges short. Five performers swapping roles and instruments as they tell a tale that both is a Scottish ballad and is about Scottish ballads. Hoping it comes on tour. Dinner at the amazing MK Restaurant. You are not as cool as us. Hell, we're not as cool as us.
[ updated 4 Jan 2014 ]
October involved Lisa travelling for LSU games, so I went out a lot for soft-serve ice cream from Checkers down the street and took pics of my feet on Marta:
More social events included Silversun Pickups at The Tabernacle w/ Lisa&Mason and the L5P Halloween Parade with Tedra&Bill. My first Halloween parade; there was so much craziness and fun that it must become a habit.
November has continued our Year of Music with the long-awaited Quadrophenia at Gwinnett Civic Center. The show and spectacle were outstanding, and we had the bonus prize of running into two of my coworkers. How random. Julia visited for a weekend and we nearly got kicked out of The Vortex (not really (well, maybe a little)). And the Monday after we late-in-the-day bought impulse tickets to Asia performing their first album at Variety Playhouse. We were wiped out but the battle of regret vs. exhaustion found us with the rest of the old folks once again in L5P. A week before, I swore that Quadrophenia was the last classic rock concert of the year and that the only thing that would change my mind would be if Genesis reunited and restaged their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. Cut to the Variety Playhouse lobby with posters advertising the Genesis cover band The Musical Box's upcoming performance of LLDoB the 12th of next month, sanctioned by Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Tickets purchased. You win, fate. Post-concert was the L5P Vortex where we chatted with the bartender who caught me trying to leave the Midtown location with a beer in my jacket two evenings prior. Yes, I am 14 years old.
Including our regular Atlanta Symphony concerts, this year's live music experiences have been more varied than usual. All of it reveling in older bands or bands of our past. Sorry, new guys.
Rammstein at Philips Area on 23 April was a ridiculously odd and entertaining show. The fireworks, the flamethrowers attached to their faces, the 40-foot-wide fiery wings (see below), and the skit where the keyboard player--exchanging his mirrored body-suit for leather--was cooked alive in an over-sized cauldron by the lead singer. Memorable.
The Beastie Boys tribute band Ill Communication at Vinyl at the end of May. Could have been cheesy. Was instead awesome. Over the past year or so, I've been meaning to listen to the canonical hip hop albums that I should-know-but-don't. Coincidentally, Matt turned me on to A.V. Club's recent series reviewing 90s rap. Timely.
Roger Waters performed The Wall at Phillips Arena last night. Tremendous show even though, at times, a little over-angsty for my post-teen psyche. It was also extremely political but moving. It's been years and years since a full listening, so the tracks were both unexpected and familiar. Oddly, the hits from the album that I liked less at the time the album came out shined through for me during the show. "Mother" was acoustic with video of Waters performing the song in 1980 projected behind him. I still love the quiet pair of songs "Nobody Home" and "Vera". I was reminded of the musical and structural parallels between the first and second album and realized (with the prompting of an inflatable pig) that "Run Like Hell" could have been an unreleased track from Animals. Well known trivia: the Animals tour was when Waters came up with the idea for The Wall.
Up next: Yes at Verizon Amphitheater at the end of July. Peter Gabriel in Chicago at the end of September. If I could just get Genesis and King Crimson in there, I'd have my teen years pinned down.
London last weekend for the Barbican Center's production of Einstein on the Beach. Planned a couple of months prior.
Before we get on our flight, we realize that the tickets are to Gatwick instead of Heathrow. Derp. The change was pretty harmless, and we just had to pay a little extra for an express train in. Slept maybe 30 minutes on the flight. In London proper, we passed by Battersea Power Station. Because it's used on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals, this was actually a scheduled destination for Sunday. Instead, I snapped a pic from the Monday morning train ride on our return to Gatwick.
Check in at The Metropolitan across from Hyde Park. Quite posh. We scored an amazing deal at Hotwire (but made up for the savings by closing every evening at the hotel bar). Late breakfast at The Breakfast Club; an excellent bohemian restaurant that gave me beans with my breakfast. Beans?! Our first hint of foreignness in a city that felt at first like New York. After was our shopping trip around Carnaby Street which has a bunch of hipster/Mod clothing shops. Lisa spotted a shop called The Face (Mod slang for the coolest of the cool kids) down a side street. Jacket purchased there with matching shirt from a Ben Sherman down the street. Hour 26 of our first day and my EotB outfit was achieved!
Just watched The Who's Quadrophenia on YouTube to relive all that was the Mods. Brilliant!
Prepping for our trip, Verizon told me that my new phone (HTC Rezound) wouldn't work in the UK, so I got a temporary HTC Incredible 2 for Internet and photos. Sadly, it had no SD card to store said photos, so I had to grab one at the local Vodaphone shop. Vodaphone?!? More foreignness! Vodaphone guys get the honor of IMAG0001:
Next stop: London Eye, delicious street vendor ice cream, general walking and gawking, plus our first pub of the trip: The Camel and Artichoke. A perfect little neighborhood spot that quickly filled up with end-of-the-work-week locals and presented us with our first pub questions: How do we tip the bartender? What are all these beers I've never heard of? And why do they all taste flat? More foreign madness.
Top of the world! Battersea is visible right above the British flag.
All of this walking wiped us out, so a 60-minute power nap brought me up to 90 minutes of sleep by hour 30 of our first day. Dinner was French cuisine at a two-star Michelin restaurant The Square; a short walk from our hotel and still in the Mayfair district proper. The three-course meal was insinuated with what seemed like dozens of amuse-bouches. The portions were appropriately small and the flavor was subtle and varied. We have never done wrong with French restaurants and this was the pinnacle. Walk back to the hotel with closing drinks at the bar where the more acrobatic bartender spun a bottle upside down in the palm of his hand. In bed at hour 36 of our first day, right well exhausted.
This is the day. Everything revolves around Einstein on the Beach.
First, a trip out of Mayfair and up Audley Street towards the Sherlock Holmes Museum, prompted by my interest that started seven (!) years ago. Breakfast of pastry and coffee at The Richoux on the way. The museum was three floors of miscellany and wax figures of major characters.
Left: Trying but not buying. Right: Sherlock's violin!
Nearby was our second pub of the trip: The Volunteer. Glasses were replaced with plastic in anticipation of a contentious football match later in the day. After drinks, a quick walk to The Beatles Museum a few doors down then the underground to a walk through Green Park and Buckingham Palace.
Change of the guards, change of key.
Taxi to Barbican via Fleet Street for pre-concert late lunch early dinner at Vinoteca. I had mussels and Lisa had their special of the day: hot dogs. Walk to Barbican, pick up tickets at will call, find our seats.
EotB opens with the female "leads" simultaneously reciting a different block of text, sometimes intersecting with homophones or bouncing with accidental call and response, overtop a choir singing numerals to the meter. Prior to the official start, they sat on stage intoning their parts without choir. My heart was racing for the moment and when the choir started, starting the opera, my throat constricted with the feeling that I could hardly believe where I was. 5:30 PM to 9:50 PM. At around three hours in, I finally looked at my watch and decided that an intermission wasn't necessary. There were too many moments that were genuinely unique and varied to express without the mundane "you had to be there." Music, dance, and theater. I have little sense of the meaning of the opera, but the beauty and humor and structural brilliance were enough. I may go again this fall in Brooklyn; I recommend you do too.
After was our third pub of the trip: Two Brewers just up the street from Barbican. We chatted with the owner, his wife, and the bartender after the owner playfully mocked my mod, mod Carnaby jacket. They were, perhaps, the friendliest people we met during our entire London trip, and we'll definitely go out of our way to return during our next London trip. Underground back to the, now very packed, hotel bar and final drinks. The bar was filled with young Euro-punks, flashy dressers, and families (?!?). Female DJ was awesome.
The Tate Modern is obviously a product of the same architect that did Battersea. Good omen. Inside was enormous. The Hirst show contained a stunning collection of every style that he's worked in, beginning with a reproduction of his first gallery show (although, that was the weakest piece). Photography was not allowed because--I'll safely assume--Hirst is a manic businessman when it comes to marketing his art. The most stunning pieces were The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (i.e. the shark piece), A Thousand Years, and Black Sun. A Thousand Years consists of two glass boxes. One contains a smaller white box in which flies hatch from maggots. The other contains a decomposing cow's head which the flies fed on. Above it, a bug zapper. Oddly, the the boxes appeared to be sealed directly against the wood floor of the museum so that the head bled and rotted on the same floor the visitors walked across. We were safely separated from the cycle, yet a shared surface transported us into the piece. The tactile aspect was more moving than expected. Black Sun is a 12-foot circle six-or-so inches deep, jarringly black with an undulating texture. It is made from layers of dead flies. The concept is disgusting, but the result is beautiful (much more so than its images suggest). For the Love of God was impressive but, much like the Mona Lisa, difficult to separate image from icon. The most humorous pieces were his hundreds of "facsimile pills" which were replications of actual pills, to scale.
After was a walk next door to tour the Globe Theatre. No chance for a guided tour, but we walked through the museum and discovered that an American actor championed the effort to rebuild the theater. After walking the Tate and the Globe, we were ready for our first meal of the day at around 4 PM. We ended up at our fourth pub of the trip: The Ring in Southwark (pronounced SUTH-erk, you tosser). Nothing remarkable, but I had the cottage pie and now have ambitions to make it at home. At one point, the music playing was Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move"; lyrics used prominently in EotB.
There was some further wandering around the city, resting at the hotel and packing, then a long walk through Middle Eastern neighborhoods to dinner at our fifth and final pub: The Windsor Castle in Marleybone. Thai food! Hotel bar, early morning express train, and arrival home at 6 PM Monday night. Plans to return next year during The Proms.
Places I'd forgotten about until I cleaned up my desk this afternoon:
Celebratory screening of Spinal Tap at Shakespeare Tavern on the 11/11/11 anniversary. Pair with their walk-through of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski for silliness.
Break up our Met season of Wagner's Ring with Glass's Satyagraha. This was one of the most moving productions I've ever seen. Satyagraha has been my favorite opera on score along. Seeing it, and with such and inventive set design and puppetry, was a dream. NYTimes review.
Started our ASO season with Beethoven, Elgar, Britten, and Dvorak. Orchestra left this season. Score!
Last month was many interviews and finally a new job at AutoTrader.com. Last week was my first week of new employment. w00t! No, I can't get you a discount on a new or used car.
Also last month, we began getting our new windows at home. These had been planned for months/years and our unit finally hit the schedule. We were supposed to be the first batch and ended up being the last. Not only that but also: they only replaced half the windows and don't have the other half schedule for another month or so (first "two weeks!" then "it may be three weeks" then "we haven't scheduled that far out..."). *cough* *assholes* *cough*.
Concerts were the Met simulcast of Nixon in China at Buckhead Fork and Screen (saw Rheingold there back in November, Walkuere is next). Peter Sellars was the director and it was fun to see him interviewed during intermission. Nixon's visit was in 1972; the opera premiered in 1987. Friday the 18th was Liszt's Piano Concerto #1 and Beethoven's Symphony #7 at the ASO. Jaap van Zwenden conducting; Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano. The next Friday, the 25th, was a Nicola Benedetti recital at Emory where she played one of my favorite pieces: Prokofiev's Violin Sonata #1. Beautiful! It was a very psychological recital. The Prokofiev was raw and angular; the Chausson lush and filled with pathos; the Richard Strauss (he wrote a violin sonata?!) equally expressive yet with a more formal outpouring. Neat.
DJ Shadow at The Loft on the 9th. Great show, with Pigeon John opening: an hilariously entertaining rapper working with two female rappers/DJs. Finished the night grabbing a $16 print of the Endroducing cover:
Zip line tour last Saturday outside Lula, GA with Lisa, Bob, and Sarah. Weather was cold and clear and the treetops are--let me tell you-- quite high up there. Recommended (even though they don't allow you to wear Vibrams and I had to do an emergency $15 shoe purchase at a nearby Wal-Mart)!
On Friday, went to see Venice Baroque Orchestra and Robert McDuffie at Emory perform Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos and Philip Glass's 2nd Violin Concerto. I'd never seen the Vivaldi live and they put on such a completely natural performance. The musicians--this was the last stop on their tour--were joking and chatting with each other during the performance. McDuffie, the lutist, and the first cello had an especially close relationship as each was highlighted at various points. Second on the program was the Glass piece. We'd seen McDuffie perform an arrangement of Glass's 1st Violin Concerto years ago at Clayton State College IIRC. Second movement of Friday's piece, andante, was absolutely beautiful. The musicians ended the piece with a fierce accelerando. Recording purchased in the lobby.
Saturday was Matt's b-day at Imperial Fez. My first time there and we'll definitely have to go back. The belly dancers were friendly and aren't too intrusive if you just want to sit and eat. Music can be a little loud though. Spoke with the chef and Lisa scored us some of the hot hot sauce. Great food and, later in the evening, groovy chill Middle Eastern music. I learned: Moroccans speak Arabic, shoes are removed before entering the dining area, and coffee-infused tequila is an after-dinner drink.
Back in September we went to see the fourth Resdient Evil movie (Afterlife!). In 3D (!!). The same 3D technology used for Avatar (!!!). Needless to say, you need to like this sort of thing to like this sort of thing and even then you may not like *this* sort of thing. The 3D was very attractive and the monsters were garish enough. Major marks against it for characters less endearing than in previous entries, and plot holes--in a genre that refuses to acknowledge the existence of plot holes--that were inexplicable. Still, it was everything you need in a cinema/drafthouse/3D experience.
Also at the Buckhead Fork & Screen. The Met simulcasts their operas, and with the Ring Cycle being performed this season we decided to try it out. The cushy seats and wine and light food at F&S is perfect for a 3+ hour opera, but the close quarters make reading the subtitles nearly impossible. Get there early and choose a table at the front of a tier. The backstage preview they broadcast before the performance was a nice addition. Hearing the Rheinmaidens casually riff their parts as they get comfortable with an uncomfortable set was fantastic.
Walkuere is May, but before that is Nixon in China in the middle of February!
Two Fridays ago we revisited movies at The Fox with LC and Alan plus Alicia and Dan. Double feature with Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club but we skipped out on the latter on the general consensus that it's a meh movie and went to Engine 11 for their sliders.
The next night was a great performance at the ASO with new works by Gandolfi and Higdon (those of Spano's Atlanta School of Composers). This was the first Higdon I'd heard and it was phenomenal.
Two Mondays ago, Lisa & I kicked back at Chastain for Kansas (plus Foreigner and Styx). I snapped a video of the first 30-or-so seconds of "Dust in the Wind" if you're not familiar with the song:
The only other time I'd seen Kansas was a great show yearrrrrrs ago at Music Midtown.
Just found tickets from last November at the ASO where we heard a chamber group performing Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs". Outstanding mix of jazz; one of the more respectful of his borrowings. World premiere of Wynton Marsalis's Blues Symphony. I felt it was just nice. Also Olli Mustonen performing Ravel's Piano Concerto in G maj. Prompted me to purchase the score and learn the slow movement (done, working on memorizing now).
Last Thursday, Bach and more Stravinsky (this time Pulcinella and Firebird, matching previous concerts' Petroushka and Rite of Spring). Beautiful performance of Bach's keyboard concerto by Dinnerstein with a pared down string orchestra.
Created a playlist of Marsalis discussing his symphony at the keyboard (no entry yet on Wikipedia):
March 3rd went to see the documentary on gig posters called Died Young, Stayed Pretty at The Plaza. Spoke with the director and purchased a copy afterwards. The characters were entertaining and good editing, but the subject wasn't fully examined (what are the copyright concerns? what is the history? are there regional differences?). Still, entertaining.
Shakespeare Tavern on the 10th to see a dramatic reading the Two Gentlemen of Lebowski. They did a more active read-through than expected with some bounding about the stage and frequent White Russian refills for The Dude. It worked perfectly as both Shakespeare and Coens. We, and most of the crowd, were in tears throughout.
ASO on the 12th with the Liszt 2nd Piano Concerto and Petruchka (plus a Beethoven overture). This was a nice complement to January's Rite of Spring and last November's season opener with Garrick Ohlsson performing Rachmaninov 3rd. The piano in Petrushka seemed too muted (says the pianist). Otherwise nice.
Friday the 19th was hanging out at the Cheetah where Lisa got a signed pic two years before. Only excitement this year was dropping my phone on the way home and having to replace the battery. :-/
Mid-February, catch-up edition with (mostly) restaurants:
[ updated 8 Feb 2010 ]
Found this languishing unpublished.
Listened to a bunch of Russians at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra last night. Crazy Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu [ Program | Atlanta and other stuff from HL's blog ] gave us some outstanding versions of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Glazunov's Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich's 1st Symphony:
Lisa's b-day at Dogwood just down the street last Wednesday. Nice space, nice waitress (we loved the recommendations), and great food. ++ Would Go Again. The next night, since Lisa had plans for an LSU game in Starkville over the weekend, was a rescheduled ASO concert from Saturday. All the better since Thursday was the opening night for the season. Our photo on the red carpet taken from the ASO's Facebook profile:
Tchaikovsky continues to surprise me. A composer I used to dislike, maybe my Old Age is helping to reveal a character I hadn't heard before. Also, Garrick Ohlsson on the Rachmaninov 3rd; the orchestral writing is not much, but the piano work is an outstanding show piece. How many times have we seen Garrick Ohlsson now?
I was a bachelor for the weekend and enjoyed many a movie. Other than Days of Wine and Roses, watched the Danish flick Pusher (3/5) and some less notable anime. Evangelion 1.0 is playing at the Plaza this week, so I might try to see that.
And also found the ticket for 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Fox--attended a little more recently--two Saturdays ago:
Went with Lisa, LC and her friend Alan, and Robert. We had drinks beforehand at Baraonda with my co-worker David and his friend Mark. 2001 looked great on the big screen! The Ligeti in the score (which I'm embarrassed to say that I remembered as Penderecki) was as beautiful as ever.
An attempt to list the most memorable concerts I've been to. I don't go to many concerts, so there are really only a few to choose from. Guessing at chronological order and probably--except for the first and last--getting it wrong; I wish I could remember when most of these happened!
(I can't believe I never tried listing these before...)
Out first Mahler symphony live back on the 24th. Runnicles gave a short talk at the podium beforehand outlining the major themes and providing a quick biographic background for the piece. A nice addition to the evening. Forget where we went afterwards for dinner. :-/
Star Trek on Friday the 8th of this month. Outstanding reboot of the series; everything I'd hoped. I went in enjoying the Spock and came out liking the gruff McCoy more. It was the perfect movie for a Friday nite after the work week: action and visual flair but with an engaging story. Dinner at Top Flr aftewards. We sat downstairs in a quiet little back corner booth. Nice.
Looking forward to Moon with Sam Rockwell. June 12th in NY and LA. Love the computer in the trailer:
Off to a long weekend on NYC. Flight leave tomorrow night at 7...
Again, remiss in logging my comings and what not. Quickly:
Two concerts last month. First Horacio Gutierrez effortlessly performing the Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto.
March 27th was the Sibelius Violin Concerto performed by Leonidas Kavakos. Sibelius wrote two versions, the first being more demanding, and Kavakos was the first person sanctioned by Sibelius's descendants to record it. I'll assume that's the version we heard at the ASO. Like Gutierrez's performance, Kavakos made the impossible look effortless. The concerto was more programmatic than I remember although it seemed to have more the manner of a psychological examination. The first movement had the soloist and orchestra in conflict, melodic statements were contradicted with a blast of horns. Themes echoed in each, but the orchestra seemed decidedly antagonistic to the pathos of the violin. Second movement brought more than a reconciliation. Here, the orchestra was positively sympathetic with the violin's passionate monologue, coming in at times to support and coax the story being told. The final movement brings them together in celebration and allows the soloist full reign without either rude or supportive interruption.
L & I went to the concert with Shelby, Robert, Alicia, and Dan, and afterwards went up the street to Blue Fin for drinks and food.
Last weekend (28th/29th) Lisa was in Knoxville for her first 1/2 marathon! She finished with a notable, nearly Kenyan, 2:09. I on-the-other-hand stayed in town to go to my niece's confirmation. I made the unenviable mistake of getting lost in the church's parking lot and ending up in the Baptist church instead of the Methodist. Realizing my error just as I made it to the ASO-like auditorium, I skipped out and found the next closest church. Success! Although I wasn't too late, it will be a long time before I choose to suffer through (and, Caroline, if you're reading this, first: stop reading my blog because it's usually NC-17; second: I dislike your church, not you!) another interminable 90-or-so minutes of being told (1) the only correct way to live is to live in praise of Jesus and (2) a church's primary goal is to recruit the young into the church. My only hope is that those young learn to think critically and cast off the propaganda. I had thought that church would attempt to be a proponent of community good. From what I saw, your time would be better spent actually volunteering a few hours a week at a food bank or charity organization. I'm sure churches actually do that, but the waste of time that is the weekly insistence that your sky-daddy is the one true sky-daddy only serves to perpetuate and reward ignorance.
That being said... while Lisa was gone I took advantage of streaming Netflix + laptop + TV to watch A Scanner Darkly [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I'm still not sure what to think of this movie. I never really got engaged with the characters though I'm not sure that the viewer was intended to. The author seems to be denouncing the "war against drugs" because of its symbiotic relationship with addiction itself (a position I can't really see), and also denouncing the cost of addiction. There are a few scenes that resonate: the protagonist being assigned the role of monitoring his alter ego; the constant, big-brother quality of law enforcement given too great a power; the protagonist's nostalgia for the family he may have abandoned. Ultimately, the parts didn't come together for me. Mild recommendation. Some might actually love this film.
Also watched was Dollhouse on Hulu. I've got lukewarm feelings about this show. Lots of fan service which is nice but does not continued interest provide. There are some dramatic surprises paired with some overly self-conscious Joss Whedon dialog. I'll keep watching. And I love Hulu: although the frame rate is a little low, the image is beautiful (laptop -> 40" Bravia). Kudos, I say!
Finally, I'm battling giant cockroaches in my bathroom. Four in the last month, but I think the Agent Red (Raid) I've applied is diminishing their numbers. I've begun tracking cockroach sighting on the chalkboard calendar in the kitchen. No sign of them in any other area of the condo. weird...
Trying to keep track.
Valentine's Day was dinner at home where we cooked mini-beef Wellingtons with mixed vegetables. Our first time using pastry dough, so it was wayyyy too much but still good. Paired with a 10-year old Barolo given by the mother-in-law originally intended for our 10 year anniversary but moved to two weeks later. A rare and perfect pairing. Plans were for homemade McFlurries after but as usually dinner was completed rather late and there was no need for dessert. Flick was The Rocker. Nice enough.
End of Feb was the loss of more friends from work. Claudia and Deepthi will be missed but I suspect will keep in touch. There was a flood of activity on LinkedIn during that period, but now we at least have a means to find each other.
The 21st was Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto at the ASO. She was bouncing and swaying all through the piece. The first time I've seen her in concert and very active. Audience responded well! Drinks before at Table 1280 (always recommended for hangin' out) and after was late dinner at Trois' bar--we had tried after the last concert but they were closed. Awesome bar food! I had some sort of beef tip+aus jus and thin fries. Forget what Lisa had :-/
[ updated 2 Feb 2010 ]
Was remembering another piece performed on the program: Xi Wang's "Above Light - a Conversation with Toru Takemitsu". Short and stunning piece; diverse orchestra and colorfully abstract. Her website has some clips, but unfortunately "Above Light" is not included.
The 27th was a Friday dinner with friends at Serpas, new restaurant. The chef had done time at Mitra down the street from us and the menu was as expected: every dish had unique flavor. Definitely 5/5.
Last Friday (May 6th) was a CD release party for Howlies at Star Bar. I had to miss it because of volunteer work (with which my last two months have been filled) but dinner at The Porter Beer Bar was delicious. Lisa and Shelby said the mussels were the best they'd ever had. Next day was Watchmen [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. The wait was worth it! I hope to get the director's cut when it comes out to enjoy what I hope will be a 4 hour version. Well done, even with the garishness.
New Year's: taxi to Palate and wine whilst waiting for Shelby and Robert to arrive. Message earlier from Debbie and Kevin that they couldn't make it because of work (!). Quick ride over to Feast and dinner in a big tent with ~20 others + Bonaventure Quartet (minus singer). Spent the midnight hour on the dance floor with Lisa! Rode back to S & R's and fiiiiiiinally got a taxi ride back home. Photos.
At some point (last week?) we went to see Let the Right One In [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Simply outstanding. We've been very lucky with films recently and this was no different. The love story (of sorts) was cute and unconventional. The story revealed itself and reformed any previous vague events into humorous and grotesque shocks. The snow and mood were perfect.
Symphony Friday the 9th: the great Brahms Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham [ IMSLP ] and Prokofiev's 5th Symphony. Shaham rocked, jumping all over the stage (at least, as much as you can in that space). Great to see that he had a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph during the intermission. The 5th I should know better, but even though I have his complete symphonies I haven't given them a dedicated listen. I'm just happy it wasn't the 1st. So. Sick. Of. That. Work. After, we tried to hit Trois' bar but it was closed for some stupid reason (Lisa was pissed) so we ended up at Marlow's. Eh.
Sat was volunteering at Kennesaw Mountain to clear trails. Ended early because of rain, but it was fun and will definitely be continued next month (1st Sat of every month).
We were s'posed to head over to Villa Rica for fondue with Debbie and Kevin, but their youngest got ill and plans were cancelled minutes before we were about to head out. Over the past couple of years, every attempt to go out with them has been usurped by chaos.
Other than goin' out fun, we: got a new TV for a BARGAIN (40-inch Sony Bravia), will be giving our old one to the nieces tomorrow to serve as a Wii TVii, got checked up and qualified for life insurance (kicking in the beginning of next month), and are working on a re-fi for the condo. Crazy, and expensive, month.
Busy couple of weeks.
Thursday the 23rd we went to see Cannibal! The Musical with Kevin Roy. Very funny and very, very weird at times. The best and grossest impulses of South Park's Trey Parker. Highlights: the creepy, mechanical look on the pianist's face during intermission music; the disco number sung by the cyclops on the mountain as his black and white sheep friends dance around the stage in a shall-we-say suggestive manner; the "hit" song "Shpadoinkle". Afterwards was an awesome dinner at Sotto Sotto.
On Thursday the 30th, I voted! Took me ~2 hours this year. In 2004, I had a 1-1/2 hour wait. Voting this year went much more smoothly. No complaints except for the bald-faced lie that we needed to turn our cell phones off because they interfered with the voting machines. One volunteer even said that they had "mishaps" the previous day because someone didn't obey. Fuck you and your lying shit. As with how I felt in 2004, I hate how gays lost big in several states. It's odd and disheartening and gives this country a one-step-forward-two-steps-back sort of score on human rights. *sigh*
Saturday the 1st was Wicked at The Fox. Entertaining and funny (though I didn't think it was as funny as the two ladies who laughed-at-fucking-everything-to-the-point-of-annoyance did). First complaint: it needed an overture to open the piece. It started somewhat too quickly and needed a few minutes of music to warm up. Maybe that's not de rigeur for the modern musical? Second complaint: the music was (generally) standard musical style and less demanding than I'd hoped. Genre writing with few chances taken. With the potential for rich psychological examination of the characters, more could have been done. I think of the continuum of musicals going from Rent (blech! horrible, horrible musical) on one end and Sweeney Todd on the other. Wicked was somewhere in the middle. Overall, it was more buffa than what the subject matter could deliver, but still very enjoyable.
Tickets are available for the Saturday performance: go get them now. I had listened to Adam's work commissioned after 9/11 when the recording came out and was moved. It is at times chaotic in its textures but with a clear linear structure. I didn't expect just how powerful it would feel to hear it live. Notable moments: the ffff section around 2/3s through with full brass and choir, and the taped voice near the end saying "I see water and buildings." An unbeleivable performance that--I'll stress again--you must get tickets for now.
A catharsis of sorts came with Barber's Adagio performed immediately after. Oddly, anything following Adam's work, no matter how moving, become merely "moving." Not to be forgotten, the concert opened with a fine early work from Corigliano; some amazing part writing in there. Intermission and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. Lively and powerful performance. Again: go brass! It brought us back to earth and less painful thoughts. One of the most outstanding nights at the ASO that we've had.
Dinner at Beleza afterwards. Small plates of fresh fresh food. People go for the Brazilian drinks, but for me it's the food.
Friday nite at Slice in Glenwood Park with friends. Glenwood Park has a small neighborhood with walkable streets but only just a few restaurants so far (Slice, Vickery's, and Vino Libro). Friday was perfect for some patio food and wine.
Saturday was the Symphony with the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony and the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi's Garden of Cosmic Speculation based on Charles Jencks garden in Scotland. First time I'd heard the Pastoral live, and it was a very lively performance with the separate sections of the orchestra really standing out. The Gandolfi was, in places, phenomenal. He has MP3s of the work at his site, and I can only assume they are from the ASO's performances this past week. Movements I-V were outstanding with a mix of Messiaen, Reich, and a little Persichetti yet still original and at times very rock and roll. Good use of polyrhythms throughout. He lost the crowd with his Baroque pastiche in the sixth movement suite. Although well done, it didn't fit with the rest of the work. The remianing movements got back on track and the final movement, "The Nonsense," provided a spectacular ending. During the intermission, before his work was performed, we actually saw him mingling in the lobby. I had the chance to go say something, but what? After the performance I realized that an invitation to free drinks at The Vortex would have been appropriate. Maybe next time.
Afterwards was a late dinner at Trois. Nice atmosphere and great food. I had: Alaskan Halibut with pea fricassee, tender onions, and tomato confit. Lisa had: Braised Beef Oxtail with roasted scallops, butternut squash, thumbelina carrots, and pecorino. Both were outstanding. Chatted with an older couple having their last meal in Atlanta before their return home to Manhattan.
Sunday was, of course, poolside drinks and chatter up at Liz and Matt's. Many arguments were had; I got scraped in odd places while swimmin' around with the dogs; and I got schooled on various human rights issues by Matt's friend and his friend's g-friend (whose name I forget but who is in school for international studies).
Movies were: The Killing of Satan, which would be a good challenge for Joel and the robots; The Narrow Margin, an outstanding protect-a-mob-informant cop drama from 1952, smarter than most coming out today; the 1933 King Kong, which I can't believe I've never seen; and the first 3rd of Clash by Night with Barbara Stanwyck, Marilyn Monroe, and directed by noneotherthan Fritz Lang.
Last Friday: neighborhood Cinco de Mayo party OTP at Tedra and Bill's with some other ITP friends. Lisa came in second in the limbo contest (on Cinco de Mayo?!?) to the less top-heavy Shelby. I should have escaped with a giant, eight-foot-tall inflatable cactus sticking out my sun roof but can see now that it might have brought undo attention on the drive home from unwanted persons.
Saturday was the Kentucky Derby party at Mary and Andrew's. Last year, Scott took home the purse; this year, LC and I raked it in. I can't speak for her, but I spent my winnings on My Pretty Pony collectibles.
Tuesday, we went to see Sophie Scholl at Landmark. Simple and moving. I compare it in emotional impact to The Constant Gardener but less artfully filmed. Her arrest occurs relatively quickly, after a few scenes familiarizing us with the main characters and the society they live in, and is followed by a series of interrogations that make up the bulk of the film. The interrogations become a battle of philosophies between her and an investigator who is impassioned yet ultimately reluctant to sentence an intelligent and sincere young lady. Nazis are an easy target, but this film is more about an inspiring act of bravery. You'll be in tears for the last 30 minutes.
Thursday we had a new HVAC unit installed in our condo. Our old one, though only 9 years old, was installed poorly and died an untimely death. After an estimate of $4100 from CoolRay we got a second estimate of $6500, and the choice was simple. The installation took all day, but I got to go up on the roof for the first time. What a view! Although we pay approximately $1,000,000-a-month in association dues, they say it's too expensive to build a deck up there. Jackasses. Anyway, we now have a fancy new digital thermostat that keeps us below the 80-85 we've become accustomed to.
That night was The Fantasticks at Shakespeare Tavern for Alicia's b-day. I knew very little about the show except that the sheet music was ever present in the music room in high school. Because of that, I expected a silly little musical but was very very pleasantly corrected. The play is smart and the theater's directing keeps your attention. The female lead knocks everyone else off stage with her resonant coloratura flourishes--with such skill in a relatively small theater, one viewing will make you realize what jackasses those American Idol contestants are. Social criticism aside, this was such an enjoyable show I've been recommending it to anyone. It's playing through June 25th.
We got home that night--after seeing Alicia's playful new dog Jesco and having a few drinks at Milltown Arms--and drunkenly watched the season finale to The Office. We usually don't delete drunk viewings of shows, just-in-case, but that rule was forgotten and now we're downloading it for $1.99 from iTunes. Anyone know how to de-encrypt iTunes videos?
Friday was the ASO and a wonderful and varied program of Borodin (Overture to Prince Igor, clip), Berg (Violin Concerto, with Cecylia Arzewski, clip), Schubert (Symphony #8), and Liszt (Les Preludes, clip). We hadn't been in quite a while and this was a perfect evening to return. After that, we had a drink that the hip-yet-accessible Table 1280 right next door. Dinner reservations were at 11 at South City Kitchen down the street on Crescent. Too. Much. Food. So. Good.Continue reading "Where was I?"
Thanksgiving (Thursday a week-and-a-half ago) at my brother's with their friends from Tampa Lisa and John, their current neighbors Juliette and Greg, and Juliette's parents (British, but living in Spain) Chris and Alan. Add to that our parents and my sister-in-law's parents, the two nieces, and L&J's three kids and it was quite a crowd. Lisa (my Lisa) and I spoke with Alan about their travels through eastern Europe and into China by train.
This weekend, friends were in for the LSU v. UGA game. Friday night was dinner at Soho (mmm, elk) in Vinings. Always good, but we had a very weird experience. After tipping the waitress generously, we stayed at the table to talk and finish our drinks. After a little while, the waitress came back to our table and gave some circuitous explanation of why she needed to re-run one of the cards. She explained something about moving a charge from one card to another. Everyone is always very nice there so we went with it, but may be regretting our accommodating natures.
Saturday (last night) was Mollie's b-day pool party at Smith's Olde Bar (which was lousy with hot women ... not the least of which being The Wife). I spend some time talking with friends in front of the ginormous mirror that completely freaks me out. It's too ... reflective. Shelby and Robert gave Aeon Flux a good review. Rotten Tomatoes reluctantly disagrees. I was hoping for something like Blade Runner without all the rain, but I guess it's just not meant to be. Best line from critic Richard Roeper about the studio's mistake of not screening the movie to critics:
she's got a wacky haircut and a rubber outfit, what's not to like?