Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hearing the End in Sight

It's funny what sounds accomplish what work. I just put Maire O'Keeffe's album Coisir on while I race to finish the more mundane parts of this grant application, and suddenly I can smell summer in the Blue Ridge, feel the wind of Spanish Point on my face, and just generally think of having fun. I love this album--it's rough in nearly every way: the recording quality isn't spectacular (but it beats the hell out of Mary Custy's cd with the picture of herself and Eoin O'Neill in Doolin on the front--can't remember the title right now--but another album I love), and sometimes Maire's intonation is a little dodgy. But the spirit is all there, and the drive, and I love the Cape Breton-y piano accompaniment, and--well, it's great altogether. (And it's a good thing I think so, as Donal O'Connor tells me my playing reminds him of Maire's, as once also did Paul MacDonald in Cape Breton, who played on the album!)

Now if only Maire's little sister Aoife (who's my age) would do an album of her own. Aoife's one of the loveliest fiddle players I've ever met, and whose praises should be sung from the rooftops of the trad world (more than they are already).

And now I'd better get back to work.

(Yes, someday I'll learn how to do fadas in HTML.)

Secretaries rock.

So I think I just got my sorry ass bailed out by our wonderful departmental secretary, who is letting me take my official transcripts from applying to grad school to send for the grant. Big sigh of relief! So off I go to priority-mail them....

I will definitely have to get her flowers or chocolate or something.

The Books I'm Not Reading: too numerous to mention.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another quiz.

Little Friend, this is for you:

You're a Llama!

Wild and woolly, you are not above kicking and spitting for what you believe in. At the same time, you can be soft and warm to those you know and trust. You really enjoy the rarified air of the highest places in life. Your favorite computer game of all-time is SimCity. And no matter how many times you tell them otherwise, people keep insisting that you're enlightened.

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I Want to Go Hide Under a Rock.

Oh, bitter Fate! Oh, cruel Irony! Oh, goddamn Small Print!

After all that work on the grant proposal, getting next to nothing else done this weekend, and going through a painful existential crisis about it--and ultimately coming out on the other side of misery with the whole damn thing--

I found out that I needed to request an undergraduate transcript from William & Mary. I THOUGHT I had read the small print carefully to find out whether I needed one. So all that work--and asking my two very fabulous and fabulously busy advisors for letters of recommendation, which they took the time to write--all for nothing.

I guess the only thing to do right now is what I'm doing: listening to, ranting about it, petting Kitty, and soon I'll watch an episode of Moonlighting. And tomorrow, wake up and start reading for linguistic anthropology. Again.

The Book I'm Not (Re)Reading: J. L. Austin's How To Do Things with Words.

Too funny.

I just took this quiz (thanks, Qwags, for sending it along):

You're Mrs. Dalloway!

by Virginia Woolf

Your life seems utterly bland and normal to the casual observer, but
inside you are churning with a million tensions and worries. The company you surround yourself with may be shallow, but their effects upon your reality are tremendously deep. To stay above water, you must try to act like nothing's wrong, but you know that the truth is catching up with you. You're not crazy, you're just a little unwell. But no doctor can help you now.

"I'll buy the flowers myself," I said.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Hate Stuff that Sucks

Grad school sucks sometimes.

...but it's Monday, which means salmon!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Good enough for prime time

Hidden in a comment a few posts ago, Rob posted these links to video clips of "My Lovely Horse" on YouTube:


Good men yourselves, Father Ted & Dougal.


I think my grant essays are now imprinted on my retinas. I may not get the money, but I suppose it's a good exercise to have written this stuff.

Nevertheless, I found this a silly website last night whilst procrastinating: 16822 Cat Names. I wasn't in need of enough distraction to go through all 16,000-odd, but I did find a good handful of howlers, including "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love" (I shudder to picture the bearer of that name) and, inexplicable but rather endearing, "Helper Kitty." (Is this a seeing-eye cat who's only good for showing the way between where the cat food is kept and her food bowl?)

Nicol pointed out another good one: Cute Little Kittens. It's just what it says, although some of them are neither cute nor kittens.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Game!

I decided to change the sheets tonight. Kitty wanted to help.

"Hey! Beasties live under there!"*

"Wait...where'd they go?"

"Oh, well--guess I'll just roll around and look cute, then."

* We don't really have beasties living in our bed, aside from the invisible ones that cats chase....

Article about Padraig O'Keeffe in the Irish Times

This from today's newspaper, and thanks to Paul Keating for sending it along to me. It's great to see both Padraig and Matt in the news. Now to get Julia Clifford in there as well....

Fiddling with the rulebook

Thu, Feb 22, 2007 – IRISH TIMES

Sliabh Luachra musician Pádraig O'Keeffe's unique notation system revolutionised fiddle playing, writes Siobhán Long.

If even a fraction of the tales told about iconic Sliabh Luachra fiddler Pádraig O'Keeffe (born 1887, died 1963) are true, his induction into Irish music's hall of fame is long overdue. O'Keeffe, who died on this day 44 years ago, eked out a living as a player and fiddle teacher across the length and breadth of Scartaglen, Gleanntán, Castleisland and quite possibly, as far afield as Ballydesmond. O'Keeffe's reputation as a master fiddler grew out of his plaintive Sliabh Luachra playing style.

Although he worked as a teacher, the constraints of full-time, paid employment held little appeal for him, so he spent most of his life as a travelling fiddle teacher and player, welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm across the Rushy Glen. Still, his highly expressive style of playing continues to spellbind listeners four decades after his death, and many musicians believe that without Pádraig O'Keeffe, the music of Sliabh Luachra may not have travelled past the Cork and Kerry county boundaries.

Matt Cranitch, fiddler, teacher, scholar and author of one of the touchstone texts on fiddle playing, The Irish Fiddle Book, has spent many years studying the playing style and idiosyncratic teaching methods of O'Keeffe. He recently received a doctorate from the Irish World Music Centre at the University of Limerick , for his thesis, Pádraig O'Keeffe and The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Tradition.

His doctoral work grew out of a seminal moment, which occurred on February 5th, 1978, when Mick Duggan, one of Pádraig O'Keeffe's former pupils, gave Cranitch his O'Keeffe manuscripts.

"I was interested in exploring what I saw as two main pillars of Pádraig O'Keeffe's music," Matt offers by way of introduction.

"One was Pádraig's musical notation system, how he used it to teach music, and the second was to examine the question of what is it that fiddle players do to make the music sound the way it does."

In O'Keeffe's heyday, house dances were still in vogue and there was many a Sliabh Luachra dancer who could dance a slide on a sixpence. Pádraig played extensively, to dancers and listeners, and he maintained a stable of music students worthy of the busiest conservatories.

It was said that at one time, he had 200 students in tow, and that because he used his own particularly idiosyncratic style of music notation, he was a law unto himself: teaching his own musical dialect to his students who were thus bound to his methods, unless or until they ventured forth into the world of standard notation.

Cranitch undertook a forensic study of O'Keeffe's bowing patterns because he'd long been of the view that "the key to understanding and playing this music is to look at the rhythm and how that's articulated by the phrasing and the bowing".

Having studied O'Keeffe's style, Cranitch concluded that while his tunes adhered to the formats of reels and jigs, they often engaged in complex regroupings of, for example in the case of a reel, eight notes in a bar so that these notes could occur as '3, 3, 1, 1' or '3, 5' or '5, 3'. Like a mathematician at play with figures, Pádraig O'Keeffe relished the intricate patterns that could be conjured out of each tune type.

"There are patterns of bowing, just as there are patterns of speech," Matt argues. "People talk a lot about melodic patterns or motifs, but I believe that there are bowing motifs that the average listener doesn't necessarily hear, but take them out (of the music) and the thing doesn't happen. That aspect of the music is almost more crucial to creating the swing, the mood or the vibe than the notes themselves."

Pádraig O'Keeffe was a contemporary of famed Sligo fiddlers Michael Coleman and James Morrison, but Coleman and Morrison emigrated to the US , where their playing style was seen by some as flamboyant and as reflective of the diverse society in which they lived. O'Keeffe paid close attention to the recordings that Coleman made, which Cranitch explored in some detail.

"O'Keeffe transcribed Coleman's tunes, note for note, off the 78 RPMs," he says. "The way Coleman bowed them was the way he played them himself, so in effect, Pádraig was translating the tune into his own vernacular. I think that's a powerful thing that musicians do. They can take something from one dialect to another. They're not copying it, but instead taking some of the traits of the music and superimposing their own voice on it."

Cranitch doesn't subscribe to any romantic notions that the distinct regional differences to be found in traditional music are influenced by geography. The defining influence on the music will be the purpose for which it is played. It is this, Cranitch suggests, that bestows an intrinsic bounce to Sliabh Luachra's polkas, slides and reels.

"The vibrancy and the rhythmic vitality of the music is there because it's always been linked to dancing," he declares with a characteristic flourish.

And while many Sliabh Luachra aficionados would dispute the fact that Pádraig O'Keeffe did, in fact, play in a style reflective of the region in which he lived (arguing that his style was wholly individual), Cranitch is quick to finger O'Keeffe's lasting legacy to the music and to the region.

"He taught a hierarchy of players. At one end of the spectrum, he taught Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford and Paddy Cronin, who went on to inhabit the upper echelons of fiddle players. He also taught a lot of local people who played for their own communities and that was another very important aspect of what he did."

Pádraig O'Keeffe left behind an idiosyncratic system of musical notation which, Cranitch muses, had to be influenced by the teaching methods he learned while in teacher training college.

"In some of his manuscripts, he wrote out a system of rules regarding bowing," explains Cranitch, "and I haven't seen that anywhere else. What they show is his understanding beyond the elemental teaching of a tune. He wanted to cultivate the student's fiddle playing as well as teaching the tune. For example, he had a particular method of teaching a difficult ornamentation which he called a 'trill' - which we now call a roll. His system was governed, I believe, by the rhythmic aspects of the tune. So if the 'trill' came off the beat, they were notated fully, if they were on the beat, he used a capital 'T'."

It's easy to see where Cranitch's fascination with Pádraig O'Keeffe's music is rooted. As a teacher and fiddle tutor author, he's enjoyed a longstanding attraction to the art and act of fiddle teaching.

It was only when he embarked on his doctoral study of O'Keeffe's music and methods though, that he saw how similar their approaches to fiddle teaching were. Small wonder then that O'Keeffe's musical hieroglyphics held such fascination for him.

"Pádraig had two main systems: one for the fiddle and one for the accordion," Matt explains. "He used the five lines of the stave, with the four spaces in between representing the four strings of the fiddle. He used numerals to represent the strings, and a slur sign above the numeral indicated the playing of two or three notes at the one time, whereas a slur underneath indicated a halving of the notes."

In practical terms, the devil wasn't so much in the detail as in the listening.

"For people growing up in the area at that time, this was the pop music of the day," Cranitch continues, warming to the social aspects of his research.

"They heard this music so often that they didn't need everything notated anyway. They knew instinctively how to interpret the music and how it should sound. His notation simply acted as an aide memoire rather than anything else."

People with an appetite for Sliabh Luachra music speak in reverential tones of its polkas and slides. Ironically, reels surpass polkas in the recorded music of the region, but when it comes to the dance itself, polkas are the heartbeat of the music. Even the most rhythmically challenged can hardly resist the temptation to hit the boards when musicians kickstart a polka. It's as if the body's hardwired for the tune. Slow airs too, featured heavily in O'Keeffe's repertoire and that influence is still tangible, as anyone who's heard Jackie Daly's sublime reading of Turas Go Tír Na nÓg will attest.

But for those sturdy of spirit and fleet of foot, the Sliabh Luachra mecca is Dan Connell's pub in Knocknagree, where many moons ago, this writer struggled in an effort to keep pace with the proprietor, who could dance a polka on a pinhead, fuelled by the incandescent box playing of the late Johnny O'Leary.

O'Keeffe died in Tralee hospital in 1963, having been castigated by many for his drinking and his nomadic lifestyle. In many ways, Pádraig O'Keeffe was a prophet not recognised in his own land, but some, like Aogán Ó Raghallaigh or Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin saw him as a true artist following an inner calling.

"Had Pádraig stuck with the chalk and blackboard, chances are we wouldn't be talking about him today the way we are," Matt says. "He had guru status among musicians locally, and many talked lovingly of him. He was seen as a genius, who attained a level of knowledge and understanding of the music which his students could only ever aspire to."

Pádraig O'Keeffe, Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford: Music From Sliabh Luachra Vol 1: Kerry Fiddles (Topic Records, 1977); Pádraig O'Keeffe: The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master (RTÉ, 1993)

New Alien Loves Predator is up

...and it's a laugh-out-loud one. We sure waited long enough for it...but better late than never.

Have a look here. The back story is that Corinna has decided to work at home, hasn't showered for weeks, and her body odor has become a sentient being. Abe has been trying to teach it to pick up chicks. Now...well, have a look for yourselves!

Orange is *not* the new black.

My only real breaks from doing schoolwork today were a brief walk out with J to get some basil for pesto and watching "Top Design" on Bravo. I can now confidently say that if I were a contestant on that show, I would come up with an intentionally bad design just so I could leave!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


In the immortal words of Beavis and Butthead, "This suckth like nothing has ever suckth before."

Ireland has chosen its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. Follow the links here on the RTE website to watch a video clip of Dervish singing it. Dire, dire, dire. I won't even go into all that's wrong with this--not, mind you, because I think this is beneath Dervish. I don't think it is, and yes, I do think the song is shite, and I'll leave it there. It's just a conglomeration of badness that makes me wonder if this isn't a "My Lovely Horse" situation...a Father Ted episode when Ted and Dougal's ridiculously awful song is selected to make sure Ireland loses the contest to avoid the expense of hosting the next year's awards. Sure, viewers supposedly select the winner, but if all the choices are bad....

a sound clip of Dougal and Ted writing the song.

And how about the haircut on Cathy Jordan?!?!? Ick city.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


That says it all, doesn't it? Overworked, and the Februaries have taken hold. Makes me want to make cookies, but no time for that, alas.

In other news, I'm not allowed to write about which rapper got eliminated on The Show That Shall Not Be Named--J was at a concert at Yale and missed it and doesn't want to hear what happened until she can see it. But since I think J & I might be the only ones in this crowd watching the show I'm sure that's not much of a hardship to the rest of ye!

Off to finish reading Language Shift, and then I must write a paper about it. Maybe I'll talk about how I learned to say "thanks a million" and "grand."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Irish Music in Charlottesville

This morning, I discovered that "214," the building formerly known as the Prism Coffeehouse, now has its own events website. I'm really glad to see this project grow--it's always been a great space, and I'm really glad BRIMS (the Blue Ridge Irish Music School) was a primary instigator.

A lot of you have known about BRIMS since its inception in 1999, when Sara Read and I started working toward a more cohesive Irish music scene for our students. There's a lot of history there, and I miss BRIMS and the C-ville crowd ferociously, but I'll leave it at that for now, and attempt to corral my thoughts into some of the work I should be doing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Music & Torture Installation in Madrid

Check it out.

Just like chicken pot pie--without the pie.

Yesterday I decided that the chicken thighs in the freezer were lonely. Not coincidentally, Jenny's in Michigan (she's vegetarian) and I had Lauren coming over for dinner before we went to the big CCE Hall of Fame ceili out in Long Island.

So, what to do with those suckers? I thought of coq au vin first, but we didn't have any wine in the house, and my primary constraint was that I didn't want to have to go shopping, so that was out. The fridge was (and still is) fairly empty at this stage--last week I forgot to put a bunch of stuff on Fresh Direct order--but I did have a few staples. (Mmmmm, stapled chicken!) I had the makings of roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, a parsnip, and garlic, with rosemary on top--just your average tray of roasted veg), so I fecked that into the oven first.

While that was cooking, I sauteed a leek, carrots, and celery with garlic, oregano, and thyme, and browned the chicken in a combination of butter and olive oil. Took the chicken out, made a roux, and then tossed in the sauteed vegetables and the chicken, plus some vegetable stock (from a cube, alas--no time yet to make new stock). At some point I discovered some mushrooms and put them in as well. I let that cook down into a gravy, and there was dinner! Lauren and I decided that it was just like the innards of chicken pot pie, but without the crust--and that the crust would have made it even better. Thinking about it today, the other thing it was missing was peas (were peas?).

In the meantime, Lauren made a nice salad with Boston lettuce and endive, with a balsamic/oil/grapefruit dressing. Fennel was supposed to go in too, but the shop didn't have it.

Now I wish I had leftovers of the chicken...which means--you guessed it--I might be making this again tomorrow!

The Hall of Fame ceremony was nice. Don Meade spoke about Dermot and Mary Coogan talked about her father Jim. I was particularly amazed by how well-spoken Mary was, and her father only these two months dead. They showed session footage of both Dermot and Jim--we missed the clips of Dermot, having arrived late--but it was a nice remembrance of both of them. Though, as several folks pointed out, it's a shame they weren't inducted into the Hall of Fame while they were still alive. Of course, Joanie Madden accepted her award herself, and I believe she's the first woman to receive the award while she's still alive. Her speech was short and sweet--a good thing, as everyone was getting antsy by then--especially the dancers.

A sizeable crowd, a newly-renovated hall (the Irish-American hall in Mineola), and some fun chats with people, including Rose Flanagan, Jimmy Kelly, Paul Keating, and plenty more I'm just not thinking of at the moment. At some point, we discovered Mike Rafferty, Willie Kelly, Felix Dolan, Donna Long, and Laura Byrne upstairs having a quiet tune. Tim Collins was around as well, but wasn't in the session at that moment. I didn't take the fiddle (yes, I know--it's probably a first, me not taking the fiddle, but I knew I wasn't in for the long haul), so no tunes for me, but I was very glad for some lovely subtle mellow music to balance the high-energy ceili band stuff downstairs.

The Book I'm Not Reading (but will very soon): Don Kulick's Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization, Self, and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinean Village.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A new tack...

Not to upstage the kitty story so soon, but while it's on my mind....

I was just checking out Sydney's blog, and she's got a picture on there of tobacco in the Dominican Republic, which led me to commenting on her blog that we didn't tie our tobacco like they do down there. That led me to investigate the internet to see if I could find any photos of our way, and it occurred to me that in addition to rabbiting on about food and cats I could also use this blog to write down some of the stories I seem to tell less and less.

Anyway, it's hard to tell exactly what's going on in the photo, but it seems to me that they've got the tobacco tied with string. We never did that: we'd use the smaller leaves to bind the larger leaves at the stem, so they hang over the tobacco stick as shown in the picture (no photo credit given, by the way). For a few years--from about when I was 9 until I was 11 or 12--tying tobacco was one of my wintertime jobs around the farm. I had nimble fingers and was good at various sorts of handiwork--and perhaps most important, I didn't have arthritis like my grandmother. Granny, Pa, and I would sit around the woodstove in the "packing house" on the farm--a cinder block building built on the side of a hill. The downstairs door faced the pond, and the upstairs doors opened onto a covered area that would fit a small tractor and whatever was attached to it.

Upstairs in the packing house was dark and fairly creepy, and I don't remember going in there very often until I was 12 or so; downstairs was basement-y, and had two rooms: the back room was used to store the tobacco once it had been tied--and, for all I remember, something may have been done to the tobacco there. For me, though, that room's primary "feature" was its large cricket-spider population.

The front room was the room with the stove, and that's where we'd sit to tie the tobacco. My fingers would get chilly, but the stove helped.


Through a strange twist of fate, Giblet's coming home!

This morning, our friend Megan (the go-between between us and Giblet's owner...long story why her owner didn't deal with us directly) came to collect the kitty, and so I--sad and feeling very much like I was sending Giblet to some version of doom--got her in the cat carrier and out to the car. (Incidentally, this enterprise is much easier with a declawed cat, as horrible as I think declawing is.) Soon they were off--I think Giblet was going to hang out at Megan's house until her owner got off work.

So there I was, sitting in my therapy appointment this afternoon, already having talked about how sad we were to see Giblet leave, and my phone rings: Megan. I silenced it the first couple of times, but picked up the third time, thinking it must be important. And indeed! Apparently Giblet was in the car, ready to go to Iowa, and Megan said something about how well she thought we'd been treating Giblet, and the owner asked if we wanted to keep that's why Megan was ringing me: to find out whether we really did want her. Between the first and the third times she rang, Megan had had to make the executive decision that we did want Giblet, and so I think she was fairly relieved when I answered and said she'd definitely made the right choice.

So this evening Giblet will be coming back to her beloved box, her Doc Marten shoestring toy, and us. (We hadn't sent those things with her, assuming that they'd just be thrown out anyway.)

Now all she needs is a new name, because Widget/Giblet are not suitable names for a nice kitty.

Baching it

This weekend, I'll be on my own--even the cat, alas, will be gone, despite an eleventh hour call to suss out the possibility that we want the cat more than her owner does. No answer to that, so I suppose in an hour Giblet will be on her way to a very long car trip to one of the states in the middle. Alas.

But in the meantime, I'll be here--reading & writing as usual, but also a little more free in my cooking endeavors, which means poultry is in! Not sure what I'll make tonight--any suggestions?

I also have a big music shindig to look forward to tomorrow night--the annual CCE Hall of Fame presentation and party. The event itself can run on and on (especially since my set dancing skills aren't up to enjoying the ceili that happens at the event)--one of these soda bread, tea, and beer functions (no complaints here)--but as with many trad events, the real fun is the party afterward. (Which is no news to many of you!) Anyway, tonight they're honoring Dermot Grogan, a box player who died of cancer a few years ago. A wonderful musician, great composer of tunes, and fun guy all around--I met him at the Catskills a couple of years before I moved up to NYC and had some nice sessions, but by the time I got here he wasn't able for much playing.

Also being honored are the late Jim Coogan, who died in December (or was it late November) of this year just past, and the very-much-living Joanie Madden. As some of you know (and witnessed!), I didn't have any time at all for Jim when I first met him, but as I grew up and mellowed out I came to really appreciate his sense of humor and nice-guy-ness.

And it's about time for me to get back into the trad world. I haven't even had the fiddle out in about a month--sad but true. I guess the question may be, "What are you, and what have you done with T????"

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Missing the kitty already

...and she's still here, over on the couch snoring. We're tempted to ask her owner if we can keep her--but as that would surely create lots of people drama, we're letting the universe decide. (And yes, kittens will be lots of fun.)

In the meantime, here are a couple more pictures--certainly immensely more entertaining to me than (most of) y'all, but anyway!

We had ourselves a time.

...ate ourselves silly on two favorite dishes (macadamia nut encrusted tuna & carrot coriander soup), plus the rest of the flourless chocolate cake, and watched several episodes from the "Best of South Park" dvds J got me for Valentine's Day. Great stuff altogether. And like many of the great things in life, it isn't terribly newsworthy--just lots of fun.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stuck inside of black tea with the coffee blues again.

...and procrastinating as I gear up to start working on my SSRC dissertation proposal grant application. But I found this blog while electronically sussing out a cafe I noticed yesterday on my journey to the post office. I've got a lot of time for people being nerdy about things in their blogs, even if I generally find excuses to walk away from such extended monologues at parties.

But now--time to get my mind off coffee and back to the truly delicious Lyons...and my grant application.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If it's not about food...'s about cats. And there were those who said to me, "Your life is so interesting! You should start a blog!" It is interesting sometimes, but I can't talk about everything, now can I?

So Giblet is getting sweeter and nicer every day that passes, and more like a cat and less like a strange crabbed old woman. She still snores, though. I know one of her previous owners treated her very well, and so I think a lot of her happiness here has been because she's the only cat, and because J & I dote on her. And, as grad students, we tend to be home a lot more than the average dayjobber.

We're looking forward to getting kittens, but we're still really going to miss this kitty when she leaves on Friday. Even if she did knock over a glass early this morning.

At the moment, though, she has turned down both our laps for the "bed" I got for her at the post office this morning:

She also has a daybox in the kitchen:

(Of course one box is from Amazon and the other from Fresh Direct.)

In other news, since we're meant to get nasty weather tomorrow (apparently heavy rain/wintry mix--we have a dusting of hard icy snow now), and since we had a fish feast last night, J & I have decided to postpone our stuffed fish plan and make carrot soup again tomorrow night. I guarantee that it--however simple--will be better than the shite a lot of people will be eating on their big romantic evenings out tomorrow!

The Book I'm Not Reading (at the moment): Bambi Schieffelin's The Give and Take of Everyday Life, about language socialization amongst the Kaluli of Papua New Guinea. I'm slightly more a fan of the Kaluli than the Trobriand Islanders (which is not difficult, with the grudge I hold the Trobrianders...long story), but this book is fairly entertaining nonetheless--since, as y'all know, I'm newly fascinated with linguistic anthropology.

How to get lots of website hits

All you have to do is mention a certain television show that airs on VH1 on Monday nights...though it feels a bit cheap to do that gratuitously, so I'm not.

In other news, today Nicol told me that NYU is sponsoring the first annual "Iron Chef NYU" competition this month--but I just discovered that the deadline for applications passed on February 5. Bummer! That could have been a hoot and a half. Of course, the website said that they wanted a focus on healthy my cooking may or may not have been eligible, depending on one's view of butter applied liberally and often.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Everybody say "Good night, Persia."

Good night, you princes of New York, you kings of the South Bronx. Persia has found a new home. Everybody say "Good night, Persia."

Good night, Persia.

There goes one of the two best characters on The (White) Rapper Show--now it all rests on $hamrock.

(Are any of you watching this series?)

Dinner In

It must seem like all I ever do is eat. And read.

There's some truth to that, I suppose. Nevertheless, some of you are clamoring for more--so I'll add to everyone's procrastinatory reading pleasure....

Tonight we continued our newly-established tradition of Monday Night Salmon. Sort of like Monday Night Football, except that nobody (except the salmon) gets hurt. Once again, we cooked it in foil packets with our now-customary parsley, butter, and shallot mixture. The only difference was that tonight, Jenny was Fish Maestro. I had my hands full with a new endeavor--more work than our beloved spuds, but well worth the extra effort.

Mushroom risotto. I don't need to wax rhapsodic over this dish, which I know is in at least several of your repertoires, and Sophie, I imagine you are able to get much nicer ingredients from Paolo's trips home to Italy. So it's a bit ridiculous to gush about my rendition, except that it tasted SO GOOD. Simple stuff: veg bouillon cubes (a particularly nice variety--I'll have to look to see what brand they are to get them again), lots of butter, onion, dried porcini, regular crimini, arborio rice--and that's about it! Again--so simple, and so good. We didn't have any white wine to feck into it, but we decided that would only be, er, the icing on the cake? I stirred some nice parmesan into mine.

Oh, yes, and we had veg. Chard with shallots, which was a nice balance to the rich fish and risotto.

In the meantime, there's a flourless chocolate cake from Fresh Direct winking at us in the fridge, and The (White) Rapper Show just started. Life is good.

P. S. Jus Rhyme needs to STEP OFF!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dinner Out

Not to join the hordes of people who blog about restaurants in New York...(as I proceed to do so!)....

After a lovely, relaxing time popping into shops here in Park Slope, we did indeed head over to the 12th Street Bar and Grill, which is a delightfully mere 2 blocks from our house (!). We were fairly early for dinner--it might have been 6:15, so we had our choice of seats, although by the time we were ready to leave people were having to wait for tables.

First of all, we were both pleased that with all our restrictions, we each still had multiple choices on the menu. I ordered pecan-encrusted catfish, accompanied by sauteed chard and a sweet potato mash; Jenny went the salad-appetizer route with an arugula, endive, pecan, and grape salad and a crabcake with cilantro aioli and guacamole. She had a glass of a sparkling white (not sure the name--I didn't look at the wine list, as I can't have any right now anyway).

The salad was a winner. Dressed with lemon juice and oil, it was nicely tart. The arugula definitely shouted "February!," but it was ok enough. The pecans were nicely roasted. Wine was tasty, but less to my taste than a nice prosecco.

Entrees: I was somewhat disappointed with my catfish. The pecan crust had been let to absorb a great deal of its oil, so although tasty it was a lot heavier and greasier than it needed to be. The sweet potato mash was wonderfully flavored, though, with an edge to it that might have been lemon zest, and it also wasn't completely pureed--a nice touch, as it avoided the gloopiness that sweet potatoes are prone to...something I don't mind in a dessert but would prefer to avoid in a savory dish. The chard fit nicely. The presentation was fine at one stage, though the fella who brought it out to me didn't take care, and jostled it so that the beurre blanc sauce looked like an accident. Oh, well. I'm less into presentation than some folks, so I wasn't that put off, but it was an odd anomaly in otherwise very good service.

Jenny's crabcake looked wonderful, and as though it had not fallen victim to the same oil-laden problem that compromised my catfish. She ate it with gusto--and perhaps will add her comments about it here later!

We were too full for dessert, so we trundled the 2 blocks home, where she read the book about NYC rats (fascinating stuff!) and I did some work.

At the restaurant, though, we did make some pretty elaborate food plans for Wednesday night--we decided to cook for ourselves rather than joining the restaurant-going fray. I'll keep y'all posted on those plans as they develop....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More soup!

Once again, I'm getting my University of Limerick cafeteria on--last night I made potato leek soup. It's so simple that it's a bit ridiculous to describe it to you lot, some of whom are able to make all kinds of crazy wonderful things that I don't have the time or patience to bother with, like pizza dough or even cookies (sad when I couldn't be bothered to make cookies!). But hey, that's why I attempt to get to all those DC-area tune parties!

Anyway, the soup: 2 sizeable leeks sauteed in butter, 6 or 7 potatoes (I wasn't counting), the last of my lovely veg stock from the freezer (it's time to make more), salt, pepper, a pinch of dried oregano and a pinch of thyme. All boiled 'til it's falling apart, then pureed with "the whoozshy thing" and a handful of parsley and watercress stirred in at the end. Once again, I added milk to my part of it but left J's vegan. Accompanied by nice bread and butter. Mmmmm, carb heaven!

Tonight, though, we're going to get all dolled up and go out. We might go to the 12th Street Bar and Grill, but haven't decided yet. We're spoiled for choice in this neighborhood--quite a change from the last 'hood, where it was fried chicken, fried chicken, and more fried chicken, served from behind bulletproof plexiglass.

The Book(s) I'm Not Reading (yet): lots of articles about applied ethnomusicology and applied anthropology.

More Torture in the Nation

More background info here....

Friday, February 9, 2007

Torture in The Nation

SEM sure is getting a lot of press over this, even as more of its members wish they'd been asked for an opinion (out of formality, I think--most people seem to agree with the statement, just not the Board's right to make it without some sort of poll). Check out what The Nation said here.

I do wish they hadn't written "Don't laugh," though.

On the SEM listserve, Anthony McCann pointed out this page of Psyop links. I haven't had a chance to explore much, but the "Psyop Creed" is certainly disturbing....

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Statement on music as torture

This week's Society for Ethnomusicology statement about the use of music for torture has reached the larger blogosphere. This posting on covers the main points:


Ethnomusicologists against music as torture

In 1989, US Psy Ops troops blared songs like "Voodoo Child" and "I Fought The Law" at Manuel Noriega's compound as an effort to induce surrender. The same kind of "acoustic bombardment" occurred at Waco and is reportedly used during POW interrogations too. According to this BBC News article, tunes from Sesame Street, Barney, and Metallica were popular Psy Ops picks in Iraq. Here's a paper on the subject by New York University music professor Suzanne Cusick that was published last year in Revista Transcultural de Música. Last week, the Society for Ethnomusicology published a position statement "against the use of music as torture." From their document:

The U.S. government and its military and diplomatic agencies has used music as an instrument of abuse since 2001, particularly through the implementation of programs of torture in both covert and overt detention centers as part of the war on terror.

The Society for Ethnomusicology
* calls for full disclosure of U.S. government-sanctioned and funded programs that design the means of delivering music as torture;
* condemns the use of music as an instrument of torture; and
* demands that the United States government and its agencies cease using music as an instrument of physical and psychological torture.


Suzanne is one of my advisors. She also rocks my world. I highly recommend her article on music and torture; in fact, the whole Trans journal is well worth a look, though much of it is in Spanish. My primary advisor Ana was this issue's guest editor--and she too rocks my world. Lots of that going around lately! This issue actually came out a few weeks ago, not last year (although Suzanne presented a version of that paper at the AMS conference in LA last November).

The Old Simplicity

I've got that pesky paper turned in, such as it was. It certainly was not my best work ever, but I did manage to work in two Padraig O'Keeffe stories....

Now, on to more important things. As I was leaving school this evening, I decided that the one thing I really, really wanted to eat was macadamia-encrusted tuna. It's no wonder--I'd only eaten oatmeal (very early, while writing the so-called paper), a stale croissant, and a drinkable yoghurt today. So I stopped by Citarella on my way to the subway, got 1/3 pound of tuna and a bunch of watercress, thinking--soup? salad? I love the stuff, but rarely get it, mainly because it tends to be limp and sad in the supermarket. This too was fairly limp and sad, but it spoke to me, so home it came.

The prep time and cooking time for the fish was short, and a good thing it was, as I was about ready to eat the cat (except that I'd probably be allergic). I pulverized some macadamia nuts, mixed in some panko, squeezed some lemon juice over the fish, and then acquainted the fish with its crust. Pan-fried that sucker and ate it immediately.

"Dessert" came about an hour later. I decided that the other thing I really wanted was a baked potato, so I fecked a spud into the oven. For that, I sauteed the watercress in a big pat of butter and dumped that over the potato. Simple but delicious, just like last night's dinner of a baked sweet potato (again, with plenty of butter) and a boiled egg. That one reminded me of my grandfather: Pa's cooking endeavors were limited to whatever could be cooked on a stick inside the woodstove, in the ashes of the woodstove, or on top of the woodstove. If you have never had a potato baked slowly all day on the woodstove, you must.

And--shout out to Niamh Parsons, whose most recent album is titled "The Old Simplicity." She also rocks my world...I wonder if she remembers that she promised to sing at my 40th birthday party.... (As I looked for her website to link to, I see that she has a MySpace page...everybody does, these days!)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

This week on Top Student...

Your challenge is to write a paper on a book you haven't finished reading for a class in a discipline you're only just getting into, with a very famous professor who almost didn't let you into the class. You have 12 hours and zero dollars. Don't look like a dumbass!

Oh, yes, and we forgot to tell you--the paper you must write is *not* on the topic you thought you were assigned, so all your previous work on the old topic is worthless.

Make it work!

Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

(Mini-contest, no prize: who, other than Jenny, can name the source of that quotation?)

So today's small moves--so far--have been these:

1. I read and made extensive notes on Bauman & Briggs' "Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power"--an excellent article, but long and dense! Of course, this took all day. That was not part of my grand plan.

2. I think I've managed to get Jenny obsessed with "Broadcast News." Woo hoo!

3. Giblet is starting to respond to the little "tik tik" noise I use to call cats to me. (I'm going to miss this kitty when she leaves on Friday week!)

Now--the next small move: writing a short 6 page paper about the ethnography of speaking.

The Book I'm Not Reading: a trashy mystery novel--and I won't get to read one anytime soon! (Claire, I'm SO jealous!)

Too cool, man. Too cool.

(Maybe I'll make this a recurring "feature" in the blog--TCMTC?)

Anyway, what's too cool tonight is that my international readership is expanding! Gotta love that. Shout out to Sophie in Ireland, and whichever of Nicol's friends in South Africa are reading. And anyone else out there beyond the East Coast. Once again, too cool, man. Too cool.

(It doesn't take much to keep me entertained.)

In other news, acupuncture today was also very cool. I didn't know those needles could stop racing thoughts, too. And Giblet hasn't growled at us in over a week now. She's almost a different cat...except that she still likes to sneeze in my face.

The Book I'm Not Reading: I'm almost done with the Basso. Tomorrow I have Bauman & Briggs' article, "Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power." Rock on.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

My bad.

Ok, the links are working now--sorry about that, y'all! Now everyone can go make carrot-coriander soup.

Damn the electric fence.

Distant Hills
The distant hills call to me.
Their rolling waves seduce my heart.
Oh, how I want to graze in their lush valleys.
Oh, how I want to run down their green slopes.
Alas, I cannot.
Damn the electric fence!
Damn the electric fence!
Thank you.]
Caption: Cow Poetry, The Far Side, Larson

Today I just want to bake cookies and watch Father Ted reruns. Alas, I cannot.

One of many books I'm not reading: Basso's Wisdom Sits in Places.

Gratuitous trad post.

Maeve Donnelly rocks my world. Some of you already know that, but it's worth saying again and again. And the sound of her fiddle cuts through the subway noise during rush hour on the F train. Good woman yourself, Maeve!

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Boob Tube

It's a slippery slope, and I knew that when I agreed that J and I would (a) have a television, and (b) get cable. I had been one of those tiresome people who, nose up in the air, used to say, "Television? Oh, I don't have one of those!" Never mind that I would watch it every chance I got at my mom's house, devouring whatever happened to be on--but particularly those random things that most people seem to bypass, like The Weather Channel and shows about quarrying. My excuse was that I lived in the mountains and wouldn't have gotten any channels anyway without the help of a pricey satellite dish.

Now that we have a TV--well, ok--no proclamations here. But occasionally I find myself--rather, we find ourselves--doing very imprudent things, like staying up very late to watch such gems as Infarto (on Azteca; we can't understand everything that's going on, but it's rather like driving past a car accident--the urge to look is huge).

Last night, after we'd spent the day working, we settled down for The L Word. That's a Sunday night must, and a show about which I'm sure I'll blog more extensively later. Then I insisted we turn off the telly to do a little more work, and around 1am, as a way to segue out of work and into sleep, J turned on the idiot box...and found....

The (White) Rapper Show.

Damn. In the immortal words of Doc Botzer, too cool, man, too cool. It works along the lines of Project Runway, Top Chef, and all those other "reality" shows I like--the ones where people actually do something. A posse of "white" (I'm not sure how they are defining this--it seems to be construed as not-black) wanna-be rappers competing for whatever ultimate prize, and along the way competing in challenges like "Affirmative Reaction," a takeoff on Family Feud with questions about stereotypes of black people. Plenty of cheap laughs here, but it's riveting to see what the contestants come up with for the challenges, and how they construct their own images, from the irritating crazy "ethnic studies" grad student to $hamrock, with his grill in disarray.

The Talkin' Videos blog has a fun description of the "Affirmative Reaction" episode here.

The book I wasn't reading while I watched this stuff: actually, I'm good for today, though after class the Linguistic Anthropology cycle begins again.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

the song....

I meant to post some of the words to the Patty Larkin song that provided the title for this blog. Go out and listen to it if you can--it's a great song!

The full text is here.

the book I'm not reading is riveting
the book I'm not reading keeps me up at night
the book I'm not reading is better than TV
giving me insight
the book I'm not reading is history
the book I'm not reading is by some paperback writer
the book I'm not reading is a mystery
who done it don't matter

oh I need someone to read me stories
oh someone to turn the page
oh the endless quest for love and glory
oh does not fade away with age

Now--back to the book I'm not reading--still working on Escobar.

The Soup That Passeth Understanding

Ok, now I'm really getting a swelled head about my cooking. Jenny calling my salmon "life-changing" earlier this week, and another success tonight.

Lately I've been craving the soups I used to eat when I was doing my MA at the University of Limerick. Every week, the choices were fairly predictable: two or three days of vegetable soup, one of either carrot-coriander or carrot-ginger, and then usually potato-leek. The soup was the one reliable menu item, and the best value, as it came with a couple of pieces of brown bread, all for something like 2 pounds, or 3 Euro (this was the year of the Euro changeover). Along with a cup of "machine coffee" (basically an Americano--saying just "coffee" produced a murky swill that had been sitting on the burner since the cafe opened at 9am) or tea, this was my classmates' and my staple food...except on the days when we all went to the sports bar and got tanked before going back to class, but that's another story altogether....

Anyway, I'd been thinking about carrot-coriander soup, which is something we don't get here in the States at all, as far as I have ever seen. So I dug up this recipe from the BBC website, and it was gorgeous. I added a regular potato and a sweet potato to give it more body, especially since I didn't measure the vegetable stock (homemade last week from leftover bits of celery & carrot, plus an onion). To part of it I added a little bit of milk--perhaps half a cup--but left Jenny's part vegan.

'Twas a grand success altogether, and we had it with nice bread and a gorgeous Belgian beer (Tripel Karmeliet) our delightful dinner guest brought along. To finish off, we had bananas fried in butter & a little bit of sugar, with ice cream on top. Mmmmmm.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Kitty theme continued

I'm only surprised they didn't think of this sooner....

Friday, February 2, 2007

Kitty update

Just when we thought we had Giblet figured out (a female, calico version of Garfield), I discovered that she actually has a bit of play in her after all! I dug out an old shoelace from my dear departed Doc Martens, and she chased the string & me around the apartment for a while last night. We may not have her long enough to slim her down, but at least she'll have a happy couple of weeks with us. (It's not looking like her owner will abandon her with us--which is good news, since then we can get KITTENS!)

Maybe I'll catch Giblet on candid camera tonight with the shoestring. Or on audio--she makes a fearful WHUMP! when she jumps up and lands.

The book I'm not reading: Arturo Escobar's Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. I'm about to sit down with it, though. Fascinating stuff...though according to my advisor I must watch out about using that f- word. Luckily, this is a blog and not a grant proposal.