Thursday, June 23, 2011

Faketown Inhabitants

There was a fake dog occupying the fake doghouse at the mocked up hotel... 

The fake dog apparently has a fake cat bodyguard lurking around somewhere looking for blood...

Sometimes they go out in search of flavory fake pork chops...

being guided on the way by fake pedestrians...

This is how you know you live in Southern California in the 2000's... Practically everything is fake!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just (Not) Thinking Out Loud

Why is it so easy to sit and gaze over a lake or an ocean or a stream all day long without getting very bored, but sitting still in a car gazing at stuck traffic feels like madness beyond boredom even after just 10 minutes?

On second thought, don't answer that...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smorg's Favorite Tunes: The Last Five

Continuing from my previous post on my 10 most favorite pieces of music, here's the rest of the list:

6. Johann Strauss jr's Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (AKA Tales from the Vienna Woods):
Strauss' waltzes were my first loves when it came to classical music, and the hallucinating clarinet entrance to 'Tales from the Vienna Woods' constituted something of a first crush. I had never heard a zither before either, and spent many hours associating different sorts of trees and meadows to the various instruments while replaying the tune in my head.
A path in the Torrey Hills. This is about as wooded as it gets in Southern California.
Being 'lost in the woods' can be a jolly happy experience when you can wake up out of it anytime you want, of course. I've spent some time being semi-lost in the real woods on camping trips, though, and that isn't nearly as nice... Wonder why...

7. Bartok's Romanian Folkdances: (violin & piano arrangement) 
What can I say? I love European folk songs! If I'm not hearing Béla Bartók violin & piano rearrangement of his Romanian Follkdances in my head in the pre-bedtime hours, I'm hearing movements from Smetana's Má vlast. It sort of makes up for my current inability to hop on the plane to trek across Europe and satisfy my gnawing travel-lust. And the nice thing about this pseudo-traveling via classical-folk music is that you can close your eyes while listening and 'see' those far away countries the way you would like to see them (as long as your vision is supported by the music, of course) rather than being limited to what they actually look like now. There is really no harm in dreaming as long as you don't confuse it with reality!

8. Danse de Prêtesses de Dagon & Printemps qui commence from Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila:

Printemps qui commence,.... Spring, which commences
Portant l'espérance.............. leading in a new hope,
Aux cœurs amoureux,......... to the loving hearts.
Ton souffle qui passe.......... Your sigh that passes,
De la terre efface................ erasing from its path,
Les jours malheureux.......... the unhappy times.

Tout brûle en notre âme,..... Ablazed in our souls,
Et ta douce flamme............ and in your sweet flame,
Vient sécher nos pleurs;......come and dry our tears;

Tu rends à la terre,.......... You render to the earth,
Par un doux mistère,........ by a sweet mysticism,
Les fruits et les fleurs...... the fruits and the flowers.

En vain je suis belle!........ In vain is my beauty!
Mon cœur plein d'amour,. My heartful of love,
Pleurant l'infidèle,.......... crying over infidelity,
Attend son retour!.......... waiting for his return!
Vivant d'espérance,......... Living just in hope,
Mon cœur désolé............ my sorrowful heart
Garde souvenance.......... guards the memory
Du bonheur passé........... of past happiness.

À la nuit tombante......... As the night falls
J'irai triste amante,......... I'd go, with heavy heart,
M'asseoir au torrent,...... and sit by the torrent,
L'attendre en pleurant!.... to wait in tears for him!
Chassant ma tristesse,.... Away would go my sadness,
S'il revient un jour,......... should one day he returns,
À lui ma tendresse......... For him my tenderness
Et la douce ivresse......... and the sweet intoxication
Qu'un brûlant amour...... that a burning love
Garde à son retour!....... guards for his return.
Saint-Saëns Dalila has a lot of lovely lusty things to sing in the opera, the most famous being, of course, the wickedly sultry 'Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix'. For my slow-moving mellow temperament, though, her entrance aria here sticks longer in my intra-cranial CD player... especially when it is sung by a voice like Olga Borodina's or a soul like Vesselina Kasarova's. People like to diss Kasarova for 'pulling at the tempo' when she sings... well, at least it usually is the conductor who is dragging her out toward breathlessness. I've never heard VK drag anything out as stretchily as Olga B does when she sings the thing, but with a voice and self-possession like that she can pull and drag as much as she likes and no one in their right mind would even think of protesting. The longer she pulls, the more time you have to just soak in her luxurious notes.

9. 'Wochenend und Sonnenschein' (Comedian Harmonists):
This tune is better known in the English-speaking world as 'Happy Days Are Here Again'... The lyric is different, though, and so is the pathos. Man, if only I could get Barbra to sing the German version... 

10. Mozart's concert aria KV. Anh 245, Io ti lascio, o cara, addio: (preferably sung by Vesselina Kasarova... again! ;o) )

I've always practiced low-impact camping/hiking/other things, so I really dig this sort of thinking (though I have a feeling that old Wolfie had something a bit more romantically chivalrous in mind when he arranged this music). It, like most of Mozart's arias, is of course a b*stard to sing well without self-strangling in the process. Kasarova doesn't just sing it well, though, she actually somehow manages to live it as well. All the more remarkable with this being a studio recording (which means it was probably not recorded straight through in one take -- all the harder to maintain any coherent pathos from start to finish). And darn if Sir Colin Davis and his Staatskapelle Dresden aren't some supporting partners in crime here.

So... what are your favorite bits of music?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's All In A Bun

I'm one of those eaters who sometimes doesn't want to know what I'm eating. Knowing the chemistry involved in the food-making, though, is a different matter altogether. I'm a glutton for info like this...

I'm glad she said 'burp' instead of 'fart'...

If the video on this page doesn't work for you, try going to the original source here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Food!: What's Your Home-Cooked Meal Like?

A recent discussion with a few friends revealed that fact that I had neglected to make a video of the most frequent dish my visitors have to put up with when visiting me at my abode. That resulted in a hasty trip to the kitchen to produce a bowl of Thai style Tom Yum soup that made the whole condo smell like boiled lemongrass and added a few more splatters to my favorite white shirt that will probably remain on despite of laundering. Oh well, the soup was good and that made up for many sins.

Tom Yum soup cooking being quite far from labor-intensive I had a lot of time to let my thoughts wander while standing around ensuring that no chicken part manage to escape from the stove top... And what did I wonder about? Food! What are other people cooking in their kitchen for dinner? I've seen many other world cuisine via their restaurant representation, but I doubt that those folks living in England or Germany or Greece, etc, eat the stuff I see in English, German, or Greek restaurants here everyday. Do they?

I went surfing a bit on Youtube and found a few interesting clips like the one above. Sorry to say it doesn't show me much of what Germans actually have for breakfast or snack or lunch... Here in America most people have cereal for breakfast (cold with milk or 'hot' oatmeal), or they have a bagel with sour cream or a couple of toast (white or multigrain sliced bread we get from a grocery store, not freshly baked ones from a baker), or if they are really hungry and have time to cook they might make a French toast or pancakes or omelette.

Typical American meals. Not everyone eats like this, of course, but in general we're heavy on fat and carb and should eat more veggies.
When I was a student in Missouri and lived in a dorm I loved the school cafeteria's Belgian waffle or biscuit and gravy (or rather, for me, maple syrup!) breakfast. Very hearty... and I only managed to keep from having to buy new (and bigger) clothes with that sort of diet by working so much I only got to sleep 15-20 hrs per week.

Homemade lunch here is usually a sort of sandwich. The healthier folks go with cold cut sandwich and salad while others the 'melt' sandwiches. I can have the grilled cheese sandwich for lunch everyday without ever getting tired of the thing. Tuna melt sandwich used to be another favorite until I ran into a giant one at Carnegie Deli in November of 2006 after catching Donizetti's Dom Sebastien at Carnegie Hall (Vesselina Kasarova was singing Zayda there)... To the consternation of the proprietor and other diners I only managed to swallow 1/4 of it (and that must have weighed a pound. The thing was humongous!). I remember it tasted very good then, but somehow I had never felt more urge for the tuna melt sandwich after that.

Dinner is our big meal and it ranges from macaroni and cheese to steak. The favorite dishes, especially during the football season, are pizza, barbeque steak, or hamburger (finger food, so to speak). Those who don't eat while watching sport on TV are probably having pasta. In the growing Asian-American population, however, rice dishes are served 3 times a day. Thai food is on the rise, and so is Vietnamese food. There are Pho shops popping up everywhere! My favorite dish? Simple fried eggs mixed with steamed rice and seasoned with fish sauce. It only takes 5 minutes to make (if you already have steamed rice on hand)!

By the way, here is how you eat at a Thai restaurant (or at a Thai house): Thai people like to order entrees to share. Everyone eats a lot of rice with the entree (that's why Thai food is so 'spicy' and intensely flavored. You are supposed to have a spoonful of rice with every bite of the entree). You eat with the spoon and use the fork to help stray food into the spoon. Spoon some rice onto your plate, then spoon the entrees on to the rice. You don't just eat the pasta sauce without the pasta, and you don't just eat the Thai entree without the rice!

And when you are done eating, put the fork and spoon together and leave them between 4 and 5 o'clock on the plate. That tells other people (servers included) that you are finish. It also tells the house dogs hiding under the table that it is now safe to come out to try to vie for the left-over.

So... what do you eat at home?