Friday, October 31, 2008

boo (hoo)

Even though Halloween is a holiday that I generally and conceptually appreciate, I don't have a particularly good history of Chicago Halloweens. Memorable highlights have included getting chastised (at length) by a surprisingly angry drag king about my lack of costume, multiple multiple multiple Civic concerts (that's not bad actually; it's usually one of my favorite concerts, but it is time-consuming), and a breakup. It hasn't all been bad, but there hasn't really been anything really awesome, at least on the day of. Also, I've never dressed up beyond the bare minimum required for the previously mentioned concerts, mostly through laziness/lack of preparation.
But this year, I'm ready with a costume and at least one party to go to tonight, and I'm actually pretty excited. I like my costume (especially the fact that the most expensive part of it was some baby's breath from Jewel), I'm seeing people I enjoy being around, and there should be plenty of good photo opportunities. So here's hoping for a redemptive Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ms. thesaurus

My parents sent me a box of Halloween candy, which I finally managed to pick up from the post office today. Unfortunately, many of the peanut butter-filled eyeballs had melted or been otherwise harmed during transit, so it's kind of a gooey package. But still, they sent me pop rocks! and pixie stix :)
But now on to what I really meant to talk about: big words. Apparently I use them a lot. At the end of a rather boring day at the flower shop, my somewhat overworked co-worker briefly lost control of her mocking impulse and made fun of me for using unnecessarily big words, and specifically the word "disconcerted."
Although it is admittedly a little shocking to be mocked to my face ("My name is Ammie! I use "disconcerted" aaaaaall the time!" is more or less what I remember), mostly I'm just kind of... See, disconcerted would work perfectly there, right? But really, now I just wonder if this really is something that many people think about me, and how I feel about that. I don't really see the point of not using big words, but now I can't decide what constitutes "big" and what is merely "larger-than-small." Or, if you prefer, "excessive" as opposed to merely "sizable." Or something.
It reminds me of a story my dad likes to tell about me: When I was a kid, maybe in third grade, I told my parents that I had to try not to use big words so that the other kids could understand me and I would be able to make friends more easily. Is a large vocabulary really that off-putting? Does it form more communication barriers, at least sometimes, than it expands? I'm not planning on dumbing myself down this time, but perhaps I'll be a little more wary of "disconcerted" and keep my ears open.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I think I got more than six hours of sleep last night, although in order to pass that mark I'm pretty sure I have to include the nap I couldn't resist taking before actually going to bed a few hours later. Note to self: an hour-and-a-half nap at night will lead to me not falling asleep until after 2 AM, no matter how tired I was to begin with. But regardless of how the hours broke down, I feel much better today. Yesterday I was actually slightly nauseous at work from lack of sleep, and today I feel pretty bright and shiny, albeit unwashed and lazy.
And that's all! Being incredibly tired doesn't lead to good stories or the sort of thought required to talk about books or movies or even food. Too bad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

adult sex ed

It really does seem like my gender studies (self) education is going mostly towards correcting misconceptions of straight guys in bars lately. There was the porn discussion two weeks ago, and last night the topic was first sex toys (how many women own them? really?!?!) (actually I have no idea, but most people I know anyway) and then whether or not women are really more difficult to bring to orgasm than men (sigh). Is it because I'm totally willing to talk about these kinds of things? Are other people not? Is it because I'm queer? Is it because I'm getting hit on? (My friend Matt claims that if he were single and initiated a conversation about sex, it would definitely be him making some sort of move, which I guess makes sense. And boys do seem to have a thing for me lately.) Some of the above? None? I don't know. It's fun, but getting a little predictable.
In other news, I found a twenty on the floor of my store yesterday and a new bookshelf (much needed!) on the way home from work. It was a good night.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

look me in the heart

Sometimes I hate it when the internet pins me down so precisely and heartlessly. This is an email from the "compare people" function on facebook. It's my most-voted weak point that gets me.

Your friends have voted on your strengths and weaknesses:
best travel companion
most loyal
best mannered


dreaming of feta

I'm too tired this morning for too much in the way of flowery language, at least most likely. I've been averaging about six hours of sleep a night, which has actually been just fine until today. It's been relatively easy to fall asleep (around 1, usually) and wake up (usually around 7), and I haven't felt particularly tired or cranky. But this morning, my brain is a little slow, and I'm thinking tomorrow is the morning to sleep in until 8 or even (gasp) 9 and hope it doesn't throw my whole schedule off again. This is actually almost exactly what my high school sleep schedule was like, and that gives me less faith in the wisdom of sleeping in than I'd like to have.
Last night Madeleine came over in the rain and bearing a lovely bottle of red wine, and we made a slew of new recipes. Here's the menu:
Green salad with lemon dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of sugar)
Basil-feta-pine nut muffins
Spaghetti squash with red sauce, walnuts, and mozzarella
Lemon tofu pie with raspberry coulis (made from raspberries I picked in Michigan!)
And happily, even with all of the new recipes, everything turned out well. I was, however, particularly pleased with the muffins, because I modified a recipe and was completely happy with the results.
When I was in Alaska, I bought a pesto pine nut muffin (or something like that) and was kind of disappointed by how dry it was. (Sorry, Black Bear. But my muffins kicked your muffins' asses.) But I'd been scheming ever since and finally decided to give it a shot. I found a recipe online for sundried tomato muffins that could be modified, so I messed with it and here's the result.

Basil-Feta-Pine Nut Muffins

1/2 cup plain cottage cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup flour (this can be made with soy flour for gluten reasons, but I just used all-purpose)
1 cup almonds, very finely ground (I used almond flour, but you can apparently just whizz up some almonds in the blender)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Just mix it all together and bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes until set and golden on top. Makes nine muffins. Let them cool before eating. So moist and delicious and tangy! I'm definitely going to try this base with other ingredients.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

love, theoretically

Lately I've been thinking a lot about love. I will admit, some of this has been spawned by the vampire romance books; I mentioned love nostalgia the last time I wrote about them, but really it's something that's been on my mind for a while.
To be clear: I am pretty happy being single, at least for now. In fact, I think that the mere fact that this subject has been preoccupying me is reason enough to stay completely single for a bit longer. I feel almost like dating would be dangerous. Because... Okay. It's not to say that I don't miss T, because I do. But in many ways, the reasons that we broke up have made that part of things a little easier than I'd like to admit. And also, after a certain amount of time that type of missing is obviously going to start to fade away as I begin to move on and re-form my life in, if you will, my own image. That makes sense, and that's essentially how it's been playing out. Anyway, as much as I miss her sometimes, I'm increasingly aware that I also miss plain old love, and that doesn't seem to be fading away. I am nostalgic about it, for gross mushy stuff like the way it feels to kiss and be kissed, for the joy of seeing somebody I love romantically and the way it makes me feel all sparkly, for those first few months when I'm sure everybody on the bus with me knows I'm just sitting there thinking about sex. But I want to fall in love the next time because I meet somebody excellent, not because I want to feel sparkly. What I worry about is that the desire for those things, the longing that intellectually has just more to do with me myself than with the person who helps me feel them, will influence my actions and make it harder for me to retain my clarity and my single-ness. Which is what I want, really. I swear.
I'm frequently in the position in my life where I feel like I can see and analyze what I'm thinking fairly clearly, but it's a source of eternal frustration to me that it doesn't necessarily do me any good. I can see the love nostalgia nesting in my brain and I know that's why, for instance, I'm reading a vampire romance novel and giggling (yes, nostalgically) at the cheesy, cheesy dialogue. It also means that I recognize that partly this is desire for external validation (which is something that happens but which I would rather not have as my driving force for so many actions) and partly it's a desire for safety and partly it's hormones and on and on. But that doesn't mean I can make it go away. And until it does, I'm somewhat hesitant to try my hand at even casual dating, despite the fact that I feel otherwise pretty together and fairly capable of not moving in with somebody in the next two weeks. Perhaps I'm just over-thinking? It's been known to happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

nature's call

a quick story:
There's a cute boy who comes into the shop all the time. We all call him the Skater Boy (due to the frequent presence of a skateboard; once he picked up his drycleaning and rode away, which I suppose isn't that weird but which I appreciated). And we all, even I, have at least small crushes. He's obsessed with plants and flowers, and our first conversation involved him telling me that he thought plants were just absolutely amazing in this cute breathless overwhelmed way. Anyway, so he comes in about once a week and usually picks out his own flowers, but for the last two weeks I've ended up offering aesthetic advice and suggesting flowers. Yesterday, while this was going on, he held up a piece of veronica (a flower shaped kind of like a tall, skinny, blunt cone made out of tiny flowers, pink in this case) and said, very seriously, "What do you think this flower would sound like if it had a voice?" I immediately started laughing, and he started making this high-pitched kind of "Mreeeeehhh!" type of sound. He made the sound several more times while I laughed a little hysterically and looked on somewhat incredulously. I finally managed to say I'd have to think about it. He smiled and said that he was a regular, so he felt comfortable acting like himself around us. Indeed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

love nostalgia

So I have a new cat! I'm calling her Rita (her original name, Czarina, just seemed a little too much for me, but I still feel bad about changing it), and she's a super cute cuddly little fuzzball. She actually looks kind of like Skip but in reverse: light where he's dark, but similar fur and little smaller. She's missing the tip of one ear, which the adoption lady said meant she used to be part of a feral cat pack, but you'd never know it. She is so snuggly and loving already, and it's been less than a day. I also suspect she might be a lap cat, which would be a real change; Skip loves to be petted, and he'll happily lay next to me, but he hates being held and will run away if you try. He's still pissed off about the interloper and growling, but I'm sure he'll come around. When I get around to charging my camera batteries, I'll post a picture.
But really, I want to write about vampires. At the urging of a co-worker, I'm reading (I'm slightly ashamed to admit this) the Twilight series that everybody seems to be making such a fuss over. It's not... good, exactly, but it is very enthralling in that trashy way. For me, it's like junk food reading, which I've actually been kind of needing lately. If you haven't heard of it, the basic premise is like many a high school romance except that the boy is ... A vampire! Oooh, way to change it up! It's silly. But what the author does well, at least to my deeply romantic brain, is to catalogue some of the ways you feel when you're falling in love. It's like the book form of those first months where everything is just awesome and you feel fantastic and happy most of the time. (Or at least I do, and I assume others do too? That whole honeymoon phase concept can't have been invented by me.) Even as she writes the cheesiest actual words (the narrator refers to her vampire love as "angelic" on a regular basis, for example), the feeling is instantly recognizable. For me, still struggling somewhat with heartbreak and suffering from rather severe love nostalgia, this is extremely appealing. I spent the entire first book giggling and feeling jealous of first kisses and acting like a giant cheeseball. But now I'm into the second book and there's more actual plot (not my favorite literary device) plus heartbreak, and it's just depressing me and reminding me that the writing is not why I was reading. I'm going to slog through so I can finish and feel all gooshy again and then move onto something a bit more highbrow. But for now, once I get past this plotty bit, I'll secretly revel in my lowbrow trashy vampire romance.

Monday, October 20, 2008

i dream of driving at night

An amazing thing: I left the city. I had the opportunity to travel to Ann Arbor (where I'd never been before) to play at a stranger's wedding and hang out for a weekend. Truly a paid vacation! I was with Anna, a cellist who grew up in Ann Arbor and knows all the best places to go, and so we ate sushi (paid for by our tip money from the wedding), watched Saturday Night Live (eh, and I kind of wish I hadn't boosted their ratings), picked raspberries, and drank too much coffee (at least I did...). I also got to see Meredith, my old roommate from Tucson who I haven't seen since she moved away. She came with us for the raspberry picking and with me to have lunch at an awesome little deli/diner place called Afternoon Delight. (That's the kind of city Ann Arbor is, I think: they have family restaurants with names related to sex.) It was fantastic to catch up after so long, and reassuring that we could still connect and have great conversations. We have slight plans for her to open a farm and I, with my presumed future horticultural experience, to work there.
So visit-wise it was a good time, but it was also just relaxing to leave the city. I know I was in Boulder and Denver recently, but I didn't do much while I was there. Ann Arbor just feels more open than Chicago. You can see more of the sky. I noticed the fall leaves so much more, and that and the drive across Michigan fully convinced me that fall is in full swing in a way that the leaves and chill in the air here had only strongly hinted at. As we were driving back last night, we were witness to an actual sunset of a magnitude that I have rarely, if ever, seen here. It was a good way to end a mini-vacation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

who needs love when the sandwiches are wicked and they know you at the mac store?

Edit: For anybody who's reading this because (for some reason) I'm one of the first google hits for that Amanda Palmer lyric, I did actually write a much more Amanda-oriented post after I saw her show here in Chicago on December 3rd.

I read this on some random stranger's journal over at okcupid, but it's something I think about a lot. What do you listen to when you are hurt, feeling sad and lonely and rejected by somebody you love? Alternately, what do you read or watch? The answers over at okc ranged from Jeff Buckley (which I personally can get behind, although this time I'm not as stuck on Hallelujah as on Last Gooodbye and Lover, You Should've Come Over) to Weird Al (?) to reading Dorothy Parker. I wonder if more people immerse themselves in sadness or happiness? Longing or moving on? (Somebody also mentioned Since You Been Gone.) I personally tend to opt for anger shading into sorrow and bitterness. In order: Ani (when I was like 19), Dresden Dolls and Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, and now Fiona Apple and the other Jeff Buckley. I'd like to know what other people think, if you feel inclined to comment.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

expanding tastes

It's late, and I should be asleep or at least lying in bed wakefully, but for now I'm going to write about: green beans. I grew up eating and enjoying canned green beans, and I'm ashamed to admit that I've never really recovered enough to start enjoying fresh green beans. (This goes for peas as well.) They're just so... crisp. I don't know. But it's something that irritates me about myself, and I've been thinking about it perhaps more than is slightly necessary lately.
Whenever I think of foods I don't care for, I remember a conversation I overheard/perhaps slightly participated in or commented on in Tucson. In essence: my friend said that she was trying to find at least one way to cook things that she disliked in a way that she actually liked and could eat. This concept has been simmering in my brain ever since: is there any sort of preparation that could convince me to like, say, bell peppers? I doubt it, but perhaps some of the more marginal foods, things I merely dislike instead of hating, could be more palatable if prepared differently. (And actually, come to think of it, I ate some squash with peppers in it at the candida dinner and I didn't self-destruct, so there you go.) So I've decided to occasionally put this into practice, and the first test food is green beans.
So tonight, I made a recipe I got from my friend Jesse's blog a while ago, and actually, it was pretty damn good. Definitely the most enjoyment I've gotten from fresh green beans before, so I think I'm on my way. Here's the recipe:

Chinese Style Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 Tb soy sauce
2 Tb water
1 Tb rice wine
1 Tb sugar
1 ts starch (I used corn starch)
garlic chili paste

Wash the beans and chop off the ends.In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, water, rice wine, sugar, starch and garlic chili paste.
Heat a wok and add the oil.When the oil is very hot, add the beans and cook, stirring frequently until the beans are wrinkled slightly, 5-10 minutes.Scoop out the beans and drain off the oil. Drain the beans on a paper towel.
Return the beans and the sauce mixture to the dry pan and cook until thickened

Delicious! I loved the sauce, and the green beans were a better texture for me than they are when boiled. Definitely a winning recipe for me.
Incidentally, I'm thinking of putting together another cookbook zine... I'm already thinking of titles :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

turnips and miracle brownies

Last night was our Candida dinner. In a nutshell (and hopefully I am not messing this up), people can develop major and minor health problems from an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans in their system, and in order to try and curtail that you can go on this special diet that involves no gluten, dairy, sugar or sweeteners other than stevia, and various other things. My friend Nicholas has been on the Candida diet for about four months now, and when we had our equinox dinner a few weeks ago all he could eat was this kick-ass salad that he brought with him. So we decided that we would do a dinner where everything was Candida-friendly. I remember being vegan and feeling on occasion very left out and bitter in groups, and my dietary restrictions were by choice and not necessity! Anyway, Nicholas directed me to a website with a recipe forum, I put together a menu and okayed it with everybody, and last night we put it into action.
It was kind of an experimental menu. With the exception of a squash dish, everything was a brand-new recipe to us, and even the squash recipe had been modified to exclude dairy and such. But everything turned out deliciously, much to my delight. (I've heard that you shouldn't test-drive new recipes on other people, but seriously, there's only so much time to cook...) Here's the menu: rosemary-white bean soup, turnips sauteed with plum tomatoes and garlic, spaghetti squash baked with sauce, and this amazing carob-y, gluten-free, sugar-free brownie thing that Anna and Nicholas made (with frosting even!). The brownies were a miracle, the squash was surprising (you halve the squash crosswise, scoop out the seeds and fill the cavity with sauce and veggies (and cheese and nuts if you aren't Candida) and bake it and it scoops out and looks just like spaghetti), the turnips were a first for everybody and much better and different than I would have expected. Oh, and the soup was yummy, but I wasn't so unexpectedly pleased by that :)
So here are the two recipes that were from the website. I will totally make both of these again.

Rosemary-White Bean Soup

1 pound dried white cannelini beans (although we used Great Northern beans, actually)
4 cups chopped yellow onions
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 large branch of fresh rosemary (6-7 inches)
2 quarts veggie stock (Rose-Anne made this from scratch salt-free because I wasn't sure what we'd need for Nicholas, and then we ended up adding a bunch of salt. Sorry, Rose-Anne! Also, the original recipe calls for chicken stock.)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Soak the beans, at least six hours and preferably overnight. Cook them until soft, and drain. Don't use salt or other acidic things in the water, as it will make them take nearly infinitely longer to cook (it toughens the skins). Saute the onions until translucent, add the garlic for a few minutes, and then add those and all of the other ingredients to the beans. Simmer 30-40 minutes, then remove the bay leaf and rosemary branch. Run the soup through a food processor briefly. (We actually just ran about half of it through a blender, leaving some beans intact while grinding up other to thicken the broth.) Thick and yummy.

Sauteed Turnips

I had never had turnips before, and I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. I increased many of the amounts, using five small turnips and three plum tomatoes and no pepper, but we had five people there and that ended up being almost right.

2 small young turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 sweet red pepper, diced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
olive oil

Pour a little oil in the pan and add the garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients. Saute for a few minutes, than cover the pan and cook on medium heat until the turnips are tender and most of the juices have evaporated. (We didn't do that! There was a mix-up and the recipes were dictated to us over the phone, so I actually just sauteed everything until the turnips seemed tender, then turned the heat off and covered them for a little while. But it turned out okay :) You can add a little oregano or other herb if you so desire.

Next month's Candida dinner: Indian-spiced kale, sweet potato-cilantro ginger patties, something else yet to be determined (perhaps a jicama salad I just saw), and hopefully a vanilla-coconut custard.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

concerts, porn, and busy-ness

The concert went well. Lots of people showed up and seemed to enjoy it, nothing went horribly wrong musically (one scare but nothing we couldn't recover from), and I didn't trip or knock anything over running across the stage for my percussion solo. (I had about thirty seconds to make it between a closely-spaced cymbal stand and a music stand and hit a cymbal and a tam on cue, and then make it back to my seat to finish the movement on viola in an equally short space of time.) Afterwards, we went to a bar and even though I wasn't even remotely drunk I ended up telling a percussionist I barely know about watching graphic queer porn in a room full of strangers at Northwestern. I swear there was at least a little bit of context for that, but I don't quite know how I always end up being that person at parties lately. Ah well, it was funny.
The rest of this weekend is crazy. I go to work in an hour, then straight from work to an orchestra concert, then maybe straight from there to a party for a friend who was in town for last night's concert. And tomorrow is work and then a dinner/cooking party with the theme of "things somebody with Candida can eat," which should be quite yummy. But still, exhausting.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

oopsy daisy

This is what happens when you tell a group of classical musicians to wear flair and jump up and down and then take pictures of them. (Sorry it's kind of small.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

fiasco averted

Here was tonight's dinner menu: a green salad with radishes, cucumber, and tomato, potato-leek soup, and squash rolls (a dish I'd been dying to try from my Moosewood). While the first two dishes went without a hitch, (as tried-and-true dishes do, at least hopefully, and really who can mess up salad?), the squash rolls presented a problem I hadn't encountered anytime recently: yeast.
I don't bake much. (Yet. Just wait 'til winter.) So yesterday I had to buy yeast because mine had all gone over, and when I got to the store everything on the shelf was Good Until Oct 08. Great. Yeast kind of scares me, at least in terms of using it. In fact, baking makes me a little nervous. I've been reminded so many times that "baking is chemistry! it's a science!" and I am no scientist. In truth, although I now use recipes far more frequently than at any other point in my cooking life, I am a bad measurer and I tend to loosely follow the directions. When I'm making the kind of food I usually make, this is no big deal. But cooking as science? Maybe not so excellent. But anyway, I was willing to give it a shot for these rolls. I bought my three little packets of quick-acting yeast and I was on my way.
But this morning, when I started prepping the yeast, there was a notable lack of action from my little bowl of lukewarm water. I'd already made the wet mix for the rolls (a cup of pureed cooked butternut squash, 2/3 cup scalded milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt), but there I was, yeastless. So I tried again. Nothing. My third and final attempt also resulted in nothing, and that's when my supplies ran out. So I decided to improvise. With baking! I added two tablespoons of baking powder, two beaten eggs, and two cups of unbleached flour and poured the mixture into cupcake tins. And you know what? They were fine. Not the best muffins ever, a little doughy and not incredibly flavorful, but passable. Whew. I haven't made something truly inedible in years, so I felt like I'd dodged a muffin bullet.

my heart beats an SOS

Last night I made an Angst mix on my computer. I didn't do this because I'm actually feeling particularly angsty, and if I did I might not even listen to this mix; I'm more likely to go for angry stuff when I'm upset. But lately I've been noticing a change in my musical tastes, and this reflects that change.
I barely listened to music for several years, which is odd because before (and since) that period I've been fairly well obsessed with many artists, songs, genres, etc. I don't know what happened. In Arizona, I was driving almost eight hours every other week for lessons, during which time I was free to listen to the same cd repeatedly if I so desired. Even after I moved here, I'd listen to certain things over and over. (Neutral Milk Hotel, anybody? How about a little Tegan and Sara?) And then I stopped. But lately, I've finally discovered what everybody else did years ago: computer playlists. Since then, I've been ripping all of my old cd's onto my computer and listening to randomized playlists (handy for exposing myself to new stuff) or personally crafted ones when I get tired of skipping songs I don't care for.
The Angst list is mostly slow songs, sad songs. I have a newfound appreciation for slow songs, something that did not necessarily so much play a large part in my music library in the past. But now, give me a nice slow PJ Harvey or Cat Power (a new addition to my collection; as always, I'm years behind) and I feel a beautiful melancholy steal over me. It's not sadness, exactly. But it can be so enjoyable to wallow in feeling, to let yourself slip into the spell of somebody else's powerful emotion, their sorrow and pain and desire and slow-burning anger. It feels decadent, voluptuous, like eating an ice cream sundae or lying in a hugely comfortable bed, except with angst. They're saying the things I've felt, and it makes my heart beat a little faster.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Today is one of those days where I've been expecting awfulness but (so far) it's going pretty well. Which is a nice change, frankly. I haven't been sleeping much (two nights ago I was up until 4 for absolutely no good reason, at which point Skip yakked up a giant hairball and I swore a lot and woke up grumpy and late the next morning), and today I had an urgent trip to the farmer's maket planned followed by a 9 AM rehearsal for a piece by Scelsi.
Scelsi was this crazy Italian hippie composer. He spent a bunch of time wandering around India after converting to some sort of religion; in his way of thinking, the artist was only a medium for a higher power to create art with. Because of this, he wouldn't let his picture be shown with his work, and he instead chose to be represented by a circle with a line under it. He would improvise wildly and then have other people listen to and transcribe his improvisations. He wrote crazy music that involves quarter-tones (so that there are pitches between each of the normal twelve tones we use in Western music) and what we call "extended technique," aka stuff we don't normally do on our instruments. The last piece I played by him made me want to die for the first several rehearsals, so I was a little worried about this morning even having done as much prep work as I could and listening to my recording and everything else. But surprisingly, it went much better than I would have anticipated, and I actually quite enjoyed myself. The music will sound great, it will be fun and inspiring to play and (most importantly) I get to play cymbal and tam during one of the movements. This involves running across the stage and praying I don't trip or drop anything, but it's worth it. It's going to be a badass concert.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

infinite microtonal universe

Last night was dal niente's fundraising party. Our conductor often calls us a drinking group with a music problem, which is not all the way true but we do tend to party well together. We just have that kind of chemistry, or something. But anyway, the party was held at the gigantic art-ridden 12,000-square-foot loft apartment where our flute player lives; the "living room" is two stories tall and easily houses (as it turns out) a full ensemble and a fairly sizeable audience. Also a set of silks, because (with Connie, the flautist, this kind of event is unavoidable) after the group played there was an act by an aerial performer. The concert started with two pieces played by our main saxophone player, the first of which was called Beat Me and the second of which was called Hard (different composers). Then we had small groups playing Radiohead arrangements. I played with a group doing Dollars and Cents, and then I listened to another group play Nude. Then the aerial artist, and then just regular party stuff. Oh, except for Connie telling some pretty filthy jokes in front of the whole crowd over a microphone. That was a little intense. Supposedly after I left the band String Cheese Incident showed up to have their after-concert party there as well, but I bowed out early because, well, I've spent plenty of time somewhat-to-more-than-somewhat drunk with dal niente and I didn't really want to sleep on a couch and Connie lives far away. It was a good time, though, and hopefully we made lots of money. On the ride home the sax player questioned me about my feelings on armpit hair (including my shaving habits), whether I thought Sarah Palin was hot, told us all that he meets girls on Jdate (a jewish dating website, and he's Japanese), and asked the guy driving us home if he'd been circumcised. This sounds obnoxious, but in the moment it was really goddamn funny.
So that was our party. If you live in Chicago, our concert is next Friday the 10th in Curtiss Hall at the Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan) at 8 PM. We're playing a program of contemporary Italian composers including Donatoni, Scelsi, and Sciarrino, and we've been getting a lot of good press. A Tribune critic recently called us "the best local cutting-edge contemporary music group you probably never heard of" and we're going to be TimeOut's Critic's Pick for next week. Just to give you an idea of what this concert will be like, here's a rough translation of some Italian from the flute part of the Sciarrino: "Draw the audience into an infinite microtonal universe using your big mouth." Who could resist that?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

the muffin woman

Well, so yesterday was World Vegetarian Day. Rose-Anne wrote a very lovely post about vegetarianism (with a yummy-sounding recipe included, of course) over at her blog. I not only missed it, I didn't even cook anything! This week has been getting a little out of hand; on top of having a lot to do, I haven't been sleeping well at all and it's been impacting my desire to do much. I didn't even make it to the farmer's market this week, and my time there is rapidly running out for the season. Ah well.
But, in honor of vegetarian eating, I think I'd better post a recipe. An easy one, but I love cornbread muffins and it's fall and... What the hell. Not everything has to include thirty steps. From my trusty and much-post-it-note-ed Moosewood cookbook.

Pineapple-Cornmeal Muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup yellow cornbread
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 cup pineapple juice and/or milk
raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 425. Butter or put papers in a 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl, mix the dried ingredients throughly. In a smaller bowl lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the oil or butter, pineapple, and juice or milk and then add to the dried ingredients all at once. Stir until everything is just barely mixed, and then spoon the batter into the muffin tin. Put about half a teaspoon of raspberry jam on top of each muffin (this will sink about halfway down, so you end up with, essentially, a jelly muffin). Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

This isn't ideal because pineapple isn't generally locally produced, but it's good for winter when produce is scarce anyway. And so delicious! The pineapple is a little understated (I'm going to try adding slightly more next time) but still present, the muffins aren't too sweet, and cornbread just always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Now I may have to actually make these today.