Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Birthday to Anne-Sophie Mutter

Since becoming a student violinist, my world has grown in leaps and bounds. Learning about the history of the violin as well as those who play the instrument has been quite a joy for me. Today is the birthday of German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and this student wants to wish her great joy today!

Matcha In The Morning - Frank O'Hara

Yesterday, while looking up the history of Gauloises cigarettes, I discovered the poem The Day Lady Died by Frank O'Hara. The New York School was quite avant garde and most of the jazz I listen to comes from this period. Enjoy!

The Day Lady Died
By Frank O'Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Memphis Highlights - Vito's Cucina

One of my reasons for my frequent travels to New Orleans, my second home, is for the food. Po Boys, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya and beignets is more than enough for me. I love the smell of freshly made beignets coming straight from the fryer, dusted with powdered sugar and served on a plate with café au lait while I have many napkins to catch the sugar from flying all over the place as I bite into the doughy goodness. I used to think that I could only purchase beignets in Louisiana but no more. Vito’s Cucina located on 2886 Walnut Grove in Memphis serves beignets as I found out through an office associate. Thinking myself to be the beignet expert, I had to try them for my own sake. One order of three beignets costs about $2.95 plus tax and once you order them, they are made right on the spot! I took my fried goodies home to be enjoyed in private and found them to be quite tasty and a very good replacement for the New Orleans ones. Their menu also offers other Italian delicacies for decent prices that I know I will be trying very soon. I am won over by their beignets and will make them a part of my Saturday routine. Thanks to you, Vito’s, for making my beignet dream come true!

My Dog Tulip - An Animated Film Worth Watching

The Brooks Museum, one of the art museums in Memphis, Tennessee, shows movies every Thursday for the discerning viewer. I had the pleasure of watching the movie My Dog Tulip this past Thursday, a true story of the life of author J. R. Ackerley and his 16 year relationship with his rowdy and feisty German Shepherd named Tulip. Set with the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini, this animated film was quite a gem. The animation was very surreal, almost Yellow Submarine-ish, enhancing the main characters' qualities to a new level. I especially loved how Tulip sometimes appeared as a young lady with a dog's head, for it showed off her crazy antics and her unconditional love for Ackerley right on the spot. Although I had not read the book beforehand, I know it will enter my library very soon. For more information regarding the movie, please click HERE for details. The DVD will be available on 26 July 2011.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creative Spotlight - Laura Garabedian

In being a guest at sci-fi and fantasy conventions, I do have the pleasure of meeting other guests, artists, writers and other colourful people from time to time. While attending Duckon in Schaumburg, IL this past weekend, I met one creative and highly talented artist – Laura Garabedian. As I walked by her booth in the Dealer’s Room, my eyes instantly went to her wide array of colourful mugs, magnets and prints. I immediately purchased a magnet with a teapot and beautiful bird painted on it as well as a delightful mug to satisfy my tea enjoyment (photo above). Ms. Garabedian was quite pleasant and nice to talk to and I know I will be purchasing more of her work in the not too distant future. Click HERE for her website and enjoy!

Book Review - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

And so, the Pott family with their big green Paragon Panther with license plate GEN 11 travel from one adventure to another in the quite exciting book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, the same author who wrote all of the James Bond novels. This short novel gives children and adults just enough drama and suspense, action, wonder and fantasy to entertain the reader over and over again. Thanks to the eccentric yet loving Pott family, they rescue an old worn down car and bring “her” back to life while giving her a new home. And, in return for their generosity, GEN 11 takes them from an island near their home in England for a sunny day of fun to the coast of France to stop smugglers and their lives of crime. To the Potts, adventure is soon their middle name!

I purchased the 1964 hardback from a recent library sale and was pleased to see it slightly worn and yet still intact. I love purchasing older library books with some wear and tear; for me, the wear and tear makes me think that many people read and loved this particular copy. I especially loved the illustrations throughout the book, giving the story even more depth. I could easily see this work as a “James Bond for the younger set”. Now that I’ve read the book, I can’t wait to watch the movie!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Tea Taste - Mariage Freres French Breakfast Tea

This tea intrigued me from the moment I first saw it on the Dean and Deluca website. French Breakfast tea? Of course, I had to purchase a box. Little did I realize what I was in for; the tea bags were actually cotton muslin sachets – nice touch. I also detected a hint of chocolate as I opened the box to prepare my first cup. This was going to be quite the experience and I was not wrong.

First Sip: There was a fragrant taste of chocolate while the tastes of malt and spices rolled towards the end of the sip. Adding sugar truly enhances the flavour of the tea and not make it just a sweet tea, although you can drink it without any sweetener. After allowing the bag to steep in water for several minutes, the colour of the tea is a lovely deep brown that rolls quite well on the tongue. This blend is not heavy like a British or Irish Breakfast, making it easy on the stomach if you are affected by tannins. This is a good tea to enjoy all day no matter the season.

Rating: A+

Happy Cups!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review - I'll Take You There by Joyce Carol Oates

The unnamed main character in Joyce Carol Oates’ novel I’ll Take You There is not your average woman; her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, her family ignores her and treats her as if she was the reason why her mother died and she later engages in an obsessive love with an older black man who is a graduate student in Philosophy. Add to the fact that this novel is set in the turbulent 60s and it makes for even more of an interesting story. I will admit that this is the first novel by Oates that I had ever read and I found myself wanting to know more about not only the unnamed woman who calls herself Anellia at times but also about Oates as well. There was a lyrical seduction in Oates’ words as she wrote out the thoughts of a sheltered, unloved and highly intelligent woman that simply had no identity. At her university, she immersed herself in the snooty sorority Kappa Gamma Pi, only to be ousted when it was revealed that she was partly Jewish and not “desirable” to her fellow Kappa sisters. She is reduced once more to being a blank canvas.
Then suddenly, it all changes in the form of Vernor Mathieus, a black man who catches both her eyes and heart; if he could only see her, then she would exist again. She did not care that being seen with him would cause scandals (this is the 60s after all) but only that he knew of her love. Since she never received such an emotion from her father, grandparents and older brothers, she was determined to get it from Vernor. Her father had disappeared from her life, leaving such a void that could never be filled, not even with Vernor. When Vernor and Anellia part ways, she is back to being a blank canvas until another moment changes it all for her: a being from her past rises to the surface and she confronts it, not knowing of the outcome nor caring. All she wants to do is feel and be felt but even that wish had an expiration date.
Oates’ writing is purely magickal; one cannot help but be swept up in her caresses filled with words and frayed thoughts of a mixed up woman who is stronger than she appears. After reading her bibliography of published works, it was no surprise to me to know how much people enjoyed reading Oates. She has a voice all to her own, a voice that is a far cry from the one she gave to Anellia. This is a book that I will remember for quite some time, or at least until I can get my hands upon another one of her novels. At the end of this deeply moving book, Anellia offers to “take us there”; thanks to Oates, I can truly believe it.

Matcha In The Morning - Tranquility

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Minimalism vs. Frugalism (Beyond Growth)

The website Beyond Growth is one of those sites that makes you think even when you don't want to. From time to time, I read the passages and find myself asking questions about situations I never thought existed. Their latest post, Minimalism vs. Frugalism, is one such example.

Book Review - The World According To Garp by John Irving

John Irving’s classic The World According to Garp is not a simple novel. True, the book, while being very much a page-turner, does not have a simple plot involving simple characters. Rather, author and wrestler T.S. Garp, his family and loved ones share a world that is neither pleasant nor clean. It is a world filled with an ear biting dog who in turn gets his own ear bitten off, a former football player for the Philadelphia Eagles who becomes a woman, a last fling in an affair that leads to tragedy and women who cut out their tongue to support a tongue less woman who wishes to speak. It is within this novel that I found myself laughing, crying, feeling sorry for myself, anger and finally a quiet resolution, all of which only John Irving can create.
When I first watched the movie many years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Sure, it had its funny moments (who couldn’t forget John Lithgow as a woman?), however I felt as though the movie did not move me in any way. That and the fact that I was a child when I watched it. Watching the movie years later, it made a deeper impact; however by the time, I was ready to read the book. I also read reviews of the novel on and found myself at a loss for not having read it yet. So, while attending a book sale at the main library, I found a hardback copy of the novel for $2.00 and purchased it immediately.
After reading A Widow For One Year and The Fourth Hand, I knew what to expect from Irving; now I realize that those novels paled in comparison to Garp. This novel was John Irving at his finest (my own opinion) and anything else I read by him will immediately be compared to this work. From Garp’s moment of conception in a hospital to his untimely death, the readers get a glimpse of a life that was and never would be conventional. His mother, nurse for life Jenny Fields, is a strong and proud woman and yet with a hint of naïveté about the world. All she knows is what she needs to know; anything else is merely substantial.
One of the larger themes in this novel is love. Jenny Fields’ love for Garp was pure and without any taint of the outside world for she had none to give, thereby setting the stage for Garp and his attempts of being in love. He finds a sense of mothering love from Charlotte, the prostitute in Vienna, a passionate and yet restrained love with his wife, Helen, and an adoring and father/daughter love with Ellen James, the tongue less rape victim who becomes his adopted daughter. And yet, through all of these different stages of love, he still searches for something else, something that will make him what he thinks he needs to be. Is he a writer, a wrestler, or perhaps something more? Maybe something less. However, it is towards the end that he seems to have found “it”, whatever it is, only to have it flow away from him like blood from the bullet wounds in his body made by “Pooh” Percy. Roberta, formerly Robert, searches for love in all the wrong places (pun intended) only to realize just how cruel the world can truly be, both for women and men. Helen, once satisfied with her love to and from Garp, later tries to find a pale facsimile of it in the student Michael Milton (who adores her) only to have it end in the loss of her younger child, Walt, and a quite painful lesson learned.
Some of the scenes are quite graphic and yet, thanks to Irving’s hypnotic writing, one cannot pull away from the story. I found myself wanting to know what else could happen in this world where the unordinary happened to the ordinary. What will happen next? When the novel ended, I wished there were more pages regarding this family, more words to possibly add. When I closed the book, I realized that the book began with a Jenny and ended with a Jenny; both were strong women who lived their lives by their rules and made no compromises in a world that lived for such activity. It seemed fitting for this kind of work as well as this world that, according to Garp, we are all Terminal Cases.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Matcha In The Morning

For today's pick-me-up, I figured a nice bit o' poetry would do the job. Here is the poem To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful To Read Novels by Christian Milne. Enjoy!

To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels
By Christian Milne

To love these books, and harmless tea,
Has always been my foible,
Yet will I ne’er forgetful be
To read my Psalms and Bible.

Travels I like, and history too,
Or entertaining fiction;
Novels and plays I’d have a few,
If sense and proper diction.

I love a natural harmless song,
But I cannot sing like Handel;
Deprived of such resource, the tongue
Is sure employed — in scandal.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Matcha In The Morning - First Post!

One of the first things that I love to do in the morning is prepare a cup of Republic of Tea's Double Green Matcha Tea. The clean smell and the springlike taste give me enough of a lift to have a wonderful day. So, in honour of this wonderful tea, I am now posting Matcha In The Morning, little yet wonderful things to get your own day started.

So, to begin this series, I have for you the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The reason why I chose this piece is because I was able to hear it live 12 May 2011 with Joshua Bell as the solo violinist.

Enjoy and have a cup of tea on me!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My First Opera

Today is the day in which I will watch my first opera ever. Thanks to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, there will be a showing of The Magic Flute today and I am beyond excited! As much as I love opera, I regret that I have never viewed one until today. Hopefully, I will write a much longer follow up entry regarding what I saw and what I learned today. Honestly, is there a better way to spend a Saturday in June?