Saturday, March 13, 2010

CD Pick of the Week: The Chieftans and Ry Cooder

Multi-grammy winners (and elder statesmen of Irish music) the Chieftans team up with world music's favorite chameleon, Ry Cooder on San Patricio. As if that weren't enough, they include guests like Lila Downs and Linda Rondstadt, plus Liam Neeson doing the narration on one track. This release combines the music of Ireland and Mexico in a tribute to the little-known San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish immigrants who deserted from the US Army to fight for Mexico in the Mexican-American War. This outstanding CD includes mariachi music backed by bagpipes, and Irish seafaring ballads with a touch of cancion guitar.

It's releases like this that make me so happy to be a world music DJ.
Photo of the day: One Line, One Grain

I love the line across this rock, and the one grain of sand balanced on it. It's almost Zen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photo of the day: Hold On

If you don't put your hands on this exact spot, you're likely to fall.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photo of the day: Curves

Proving once again that nature is the best set designer of all.
Look At Me Being All Proud

Kittie, author of the wonderful The Block has just graced me with an award. Well color me proud! Considering I have all of three readers (ok, maybe five) I'm all twitterpated. (No reference to Twitter intended.)

The instructions are to pass on the award to some of my favorite bloggers so I picked my top two.
To Finny at Finnyknits. A does of gardening. A dash of cooking. Three large cups of snarky humor. Finny is ever-hilarious, frequently instructive, and a laugh-out-loud hoot to read. She is also, I'm proud to say, a dear friend. And I hereby publicly proclaim my love for her.

To Duke at It's a Noir World. A newly-discovered blogging treasure. He writes on movies, politics, social issues. It's thought-provoking, intelligently written, and a gem for people who like to think and learn.

Thank you both for enriching my life. And thank you, Kittie, for the generous award.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lost in Coventry

I randomly picked up a copy of Coventry by Helen Humphreys. I'm one of those "judging a book by its cover" types of people and I saw it on display at my favorite independent bookstore, Keplers. Something about it had me picking it up and reading the back cover. And something there had me adding it to my pile of treasures. I don't know what or why, but it appealed to me and so it became mine.

I started it last night, finished it a few minutes ago and actually feel like I want to read it again because I think I read so fast that some of its beauty might have been missed.

It takes place mostly on one very long night, November 14, 1940, when the Germans bombed the English city of Coventry to destruction. During that night two women, connected by one young man, deal with danger, reflection, and thoughts of life and death while their world goes up in flames. Do you stay and help the wounded? Do you seek safety? Do you flee your home in terror or sit determined in your own home, feeling that being where your loved ones can find you is more important than being away from harm?

Coventry is a short book, just 177 pages in a trade paperback size. But it is intensely powerful and so beautifully written that it's like poetry. It's liquid, moving, with flashes of quicksilver brilliance. An example:

How would I describe the world? By describing something, doesn't the thing itself cease to exist? How would I decided what to marry -- this shade o grey with the low-slung clouds of November. Not precise enough. This shade of grey is cigarette ash. That shade of grey is water running over clay. Not vivid enough. That shade of grey is old mortar between old bricks.

Wow. How do you describe color? You can only do so in comparison to something else, and it's never quite right, And other literary problem children -- how does a person deal with loss? How does someone who loses everything go on to make a life? It's handled with subtle grace and breathtaking prose.

This is a beautiful, warm gem of a book that completely captured by my imagination and my heart. And makes me wish I had Ms. Humphrey's gift with words. Why, oh why can't I write like that?
Why I am Not a Drug Addict

Because I don't know where to buy them.

OK, there's more to it than that. But really I am so out of the drug-taking scene that if I suddenly decided that I wanted to get stoned, I would have no idea where to buy some pot. (I know, I'm a DJ at a college radio station -- wouldn't be that hard.)

What prompted this is the other night is I was watching a British mystery and part of the plot was that a group of men, otherwise law abiding, upstanding citizens, found themselves in a situation where they drugged a woman with Rohypnol so she would forget witnessing an accidental murder.

My problem? Where do middle-aged, usually honest, upright British gentlemen get their hands on the date-rape drug? Murder drugs seem less of a problem. I mean go to your local hardware store, pick up some weed killer, and you're one step away from ridding the world of Lord Bittwell.

But you hear about people who are addicted to Vicodin or Ambien. I have prescriptions for both drugs and getting them is a tightly controlled process. Now, of course, I'm not breaking the law. But where do people get their hands on these things? One of my fellow volunteers said her sister has ordered both, without a prescription, from internet sites and ended up getting useless fake pills. So what do addicts know that I don't about getting access to real drugs? And yes, this is a rhetorical question. I don't want cocaine, nor do I want illegal Vicodin. I'm just actually, honestly curious how people find this stuff without getting arrested, ripped off, or dead.
Photo of the day: Guardians

I hope you aren't sick of the ocean yet because I took a lot of photos last week. And I was sore for three days following the trek back up the cliff after we hiked down to the beach.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I'm sure by that title you're thinking this is one of those serious "I'm going through a life-changing event" posts. Well it isn't and I'm not.

By transitions i mean moving from one thing to another, a trick you need to learn when you're a DJ or your show will suck. So I try not to jar people by bridging two wildly different pieces of music. I will definitely switch from country to country or style to style (following, say a Brazilian samba with a warm bit of French jazz) but I try not to follow a high-energy dance track with, for example, an Irish war ballad. I will go from uptempo to midtempo, but not uptempo to downtempo. It's just a quirk of mine.

And I appreciate it when others who are in the position of programming transitions also do the same. Which was why I was amused to see the TCM schedule for tonight. They're in the process of showing five movies by Japanese master director, Akira Kurosawa. The last film will be Donzoko (English title The Lower Depths). The film is based on a story by Maxim Gorky. When you combine a director as artistically serious as Kurosawa and a writer as depressing as Gorky, you know you've got something of a dark masterpiece on your hands. Not a lot of laughs. It's apparently about a group of thieves and prostitutes living in squalor in a flop house, reflecting on the miseries that brought them there.

And then they're following this particular bit of Japanese misery with Meet the People, a lighthearted musical starring Lucille Ball and Dick Powell.

How in the world do you go from Kurosowa to Lucille Ball? That is one seriously odd transition.
Photo of the day: Jetsam

A long wand of kelp washed up on the shore. I thought it was interesting the way it stretched across the sand to the ocean, as if pointing the way home.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Scenes from Silver Creek: Poplar Street

If eccentricity had a home in Silver Creek it lived on Poplar Street. Known as “Popular Street” it was a tree-lined lane only one block long but absolutely unique.

Every house on Poplar Street had a personality. And a name. Names usually found only in Agatha Christie novels and most rare in the colonies.

When the town was first founded, the houses clustered on Poplar Street made up the bulk of the residences. Their age and the wealth of their builders rendered them free from the dull taint of the tract homes and 50s style ranches that populated the majority of the city. They were, and are, fascinating structures full of whimsy and unanswered questions.

On the corner of Poplar and Lincoln was “The Lilac Bush.” This was the first and only house I have ever seen painted lilac. With purple trim, yet. It was a big, square, boxy place with a wraparound porch on the ground floor and a widow’s walk on the roof.

The Lilac Bush was the home of the Barrow family. For my entire childhood, Mr. and Mrs. Barrow were about 100 years old, but never aged. They remain somewhat fuzzy in my memory, with the exception of their corduroy-covered rumps, perennially up-ended over their flowers. They weeded a lot. Their garden was their pride and joy and full of color and scent though never, oddly enough, lilacs. And they were never seen sitting on the white wicker rocking chairs on their porch, though Mr. Barrow was once observed sitting on the front steps, most unexpectedly eating watermelon.

Next to the Lilac Bush was “The Cattery.” This all-female establishment was a bright canary yellow A-frame with a rotating army of cats sunning themselves on the lawn. It was home to, at any one time, between 5 and 7 women, all of whom were members of the Honnering family. These sisters and cousins were, sadly, completely interchangeable and nobody ever bothered to learn their first names – not that anyone would dare call them anything other than “Miss Honnering.” Aside from being safe (not risking using the wrong name) it seemed entirely appropriate. They were the most Victorian of women, wearing skirts down to their ankles long past the time it was even remotely fashionable.

On regular intervals a contingency of Misses Honnerings would all pile into an ancient black Cadillac and drive out of town. Nobody ever knew where they went and nobody dared ask. But speculation was both rife and ribald; each suggestion more outrageous than the last. They were strippers over in Hampton. They had a secret gold mine in the mountains. They were in the mob.

The rotating cast of Honnerings was also a mystery. One Miss Honnering would appear in town for a few years, and then she would be gone and another in her place. No questions. No explanations. Never any sign of a moving van or a hearse to resolve the mystery of the disappearing Honnering. They were the Stepford family. In retrospect, this seems more than a little disturbing but at the time it was just another weird Silver Creek entity.

The fence that divided the Cattery from its neighbor was unique for being white on one side (the Cattery) and black on the other (Mole House). Yes, you read that right: Mole House, which was named for…..moles.

Not a family named Mole. Not the gopher-like creature. No, Mole House was named, disgustingly enough, for moles on the skin. At least that was the story told by the Flannering family. Legend said the builder of the house was a man named Dr. Watson (shades of Sherlock!) who made a fortune on patent medicine designed to burn moles and warts off the skin of the gullible. However dubious this provenance, and despite the creepy name, Mole House was the most cheerful black house ever.

I remember my father once asking Mr. Flannering why he’d painted the house black and received the reply “what other color would you paint a house named after a skin growth?” Good point.

Mole House was warm and welcome thanks to a rainbow of flowerbeds outside and the sweetness of the Flannerings inside. They were a sweet and generous duo who offered a shoulder to any friend in need and who welcomed every stray dog and cat in town as if the SPCA had given the critters a map.

There were a half dozen or so other houses on the street. “The Birdcage” which looked like…well, you know. “Bluebell,” which was a Jane Austen-worthy cottage that had never been painted blue to anyone’s memory but which was noteworthy in having four chimneys in spite of its small size. “Magnolia” boasted six magnificent flowering trees that every winter rained white petals down upon the street to the point where the yard looked covered in snow. And “La Paloma” was a sedate, yet graceful dove-gray structure with bright red birdhouses hanging from the rafters and trees.

The one oddity on the street was the house with no name. It was just 7 Poplar Street. A nice enough house, but I always felt sorry for it and always wondered why the owners didn’t give it a name. The other houses all had plaques or signs with their name on it. But 7 Poplar Street just had a sign that read “7 Poplar Street.”

How inadequate that little house must have felt.
Photo of the day: Falling Water

More from Davenport.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

ER and Pie
My day started off with poor Husband waking me with that dreaded phrase "I think I need to go to the hospital." He's been dealing with a kidney stone (his forth!) and today the pain was pretty unbearable. So off we went to our local ER.

A few years ago when I was sick with the mystery illness, we spent far too many hours in that ER. It got to the point where we knew the nurses on a first name basis. And today, with Husband, we had my favorite: Claude. He's an adorable French guy with a dishy accent and a very sweet, caring nature.

We got lucky today. We were taken right away and in and out in under two hours. That's a record. There's been times when we waited nearly that long to get seen. Today there was nobody waiting, there was an empty room, there were nurses that weren't busy, and a good doctor. Husband was taken in, given a CT scan, and given some lovely drugs....then released, all in two hours.

He's home now and in bed, doing fine. The lovely drugs have made him sweetly dopey and the CT scan shows a stone that's small enough to pass naturally (if anything that painful can be natural).

And, as compensation, I'm making an apple pie. So tonight it's apple pie, the Oscars, and pain drugs if needed.

But the adventure confirmed one thing for me: It's much easier being the patient than watching someone you love in pain. Not only is it harder to bear being powerless when the one you love is sick -- it also sucks when you're not the one getting the fun drugs.
Photo of the day: Machinery

Parked on a railroad siding.