Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tips from the Times

New York Times writer Anne Midgette had an excellent piece in Saturday's arts pages that any lover of live music should read - particularly those of us who aspire to one day become critics or arts writers. It's not groundbreaking stuff - it could be common sense, even - but it's definitely something that critics and audience members need to be reminded of. Check it out here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A classic ATL snippet

El Azteca (aka Jose's) on Peachtree, with Mary Jacob, Jo and the family Buckley (minus Kara and Jenna, the bread of Buckley-sister sandwich). Post-dinner discussion turns to Saddam; Krista wonders when exactly he is scheduled for execution. Once the topic of capitol punishment has been exhausted, Mary Jacob continues the line of conversation with famous dead people:

"Did you know that former president Harrison Ford died?"

[beat. mild befuddlement.]

I suggest, perhaps she meant Gerald? (though the whole table nodded in acknowledgement of the fact we knew to be true.)

Hilarity ensues, and MJ comments, amid the laughter, "Somebody must have spiked my Diet Coke!"

(photo c/o Wikipedia)

[A little context so those non-Atlantans don't think MJ is totally vacant (or, if she is, she's not alone): when our friends went to see Star Wars re-released into theaters in Jr. High - was that 1997? - MJ and I were not so well-versed in Star Wars lore. I turned to my neighbor at one point and asked, "Are they going to the real planet now, or the big metal one?"; Mary Jacob famously inquired, "Has Luke joined the Force yet?" We are awesome.]

Monday, December 25, 2006

Too hot in the hot tub :(

As you surely have read by now, James Brown passed on early this morning here in Atlanta. In remembrance of the Godfather of Soul, please enjoy this classic SNL clip, courtesy of YouTube:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I have lost my voice (and part of my soul)

"I can't talk - I lost my voice. I put a book on reserve for Kathleen Poe - Cornbread Nation 3 - so I just need to pick that up."

I placed the note, handwritten and torn from a yellow legal pad, on the glass surface of the checkout counter, along with my 30% off internet coupon and my Borders Rewards card. The cashier looked at me, looked down at my note, read it, laughed, smiled and said "Thanks" before wandering back to the reserve shelves to find my book.

When he returned, he laughed again and pointed to the last line, chuckling at my inclusion of such a clearly understood (and thus extraneous) fact. "How'd you lose your voice?" he asked, concurrently realizing that I couldn't really respond. I smiled back, lifted my shoulders in a shrug and made the talky-talky gesture with my left hand, rolling my eyes.

He scanned in my coupon and announced my total of $13.76. As I handed him my Visa card, he thanked me again, presumably for providing some comic relief in the middle of what promises to be a long-haul of a day...

I couldn't help but laugh out loud - or, as loud as is vocally possible, at this point - as I left the store. I'm not sure how or why my voice decided now was a good time to take a vacation, but it couldn't have picked a worse time. Any effort to rehabilitate my ailing vocal cords in previous days has been utterly thwarted by holiday parties and friends - first, the DuPriest's annual gathering of Westminster faculty, family and friends; then Thursday's class of 2001 5-year high school reunion; and finally, the annual Poe Christmas bash, for which I am a hostess (with the mostess, I might add). All of these events have led me to talk far more than any sane or smart person would on a throat that really didn't want to be involved in that at all. In fact, Friday night I sounded nothing like myself - many of my friends told me they couldn't take me seriously when they heard me - but instead like a chainsmoking, booze-soaked sorority girl (Winston's ubiquitous "Sorostitute") yelling into her cellphone on a street corner. (In fact, we got a good few laughs out of that one - pretty much anything I said became comedic gold.)

So now it's Sunday, Christmas Eve, and I have no voice. I whispered my way through yesterday morning (yes, I know whispering is worse than trying to speak, but I had a guest to entertain!) and have since resorted to note-writing and head-nodding. Depending on the hour and my mood, I may or may not start crying out of frustration at the fact that I can't speak. I'm sort of dreading church tonight - I was supposed to sing at the church where I worked last year and later attend a service at the church in which I grew up, but I'll probably just go with my family to Peachtree at this point (we fear change!) - because I have been so looking forward to Christmas hymns, which are my favorite. And I can't sing them! Boo hoo :(

It's only been a couple days, and I've been somewhat surprised (though, in thinking about it, not really) about how frustrating and genuinely upsetting it is to not be able to speak or sing. So I've shut up, for once, in the interest of recovering my ability to do these things I so love to do as soon as possible. I can at least take comfort in the fact that I made the dude at Borders smile and laugh amid the last-minute holiday rush...

So Merry Christmas, y'all! Sing out extra loud on O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (descant, too!), It Came upon the Midnight Clear and Joy to the World for me...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

An oh-so-timely Thanksgiving blog

There comes a time in the life of every family when the older generation passes on, leaving their bewildered kin groping to establish new traditions while maintaining some semblance of the old ones. At no time is this more keenly felt than the holidays. This year, for the first time in my life, my family did not go home for Thanksgiving.

Home, also known as 208 McTeer Dr. in Kingsport, Tenn., has been slowly but surely purged of all those familiar physical elements that, collectively, established the feel of Thanksgiving, even in my grandparents’ absence. (Pieces of Grandma Jean’s kitchen are far-flung across the country, from Athens, Ga. up to Syracuse, N.Y.) So, with no orange-and-white checkerboard UT flag to greet us, no orange rocker pulled up to the big screen, or cobwebby, plaid La-Z-Boy in the basement corner, no Cheez Doodles resting on the pass-through counter, the Abernathy clan reconvened in Chattanooga this year, at uncle Mike and Paula’s new digs.

When attempting to create a new tradition, one that will hopefully, over time, become as hallowed as the former, you have to be flexible and willing to learn from your mistakes – because, as many of us can attest, when suddenly left to one’s own devices, things don’t always go as swimmingly as one might like. This year’s turkeyfest offered many lessons, despite the fact that this family isn't exactly a bunch of amateurs when it comes to cooking, partying, and eating.

For the first (and most egregious) error of this holiday, I blame my mother. Bless her heart. She means well, and I will say that I generally consider her to be one of the most brilliant people on the face of God’s green earth, but her (ludicrous) suggestion of appetizers before the Thanksgiving meal has got to be one of the worst ideas in all creation. (Sorry, mama.)

The faulty logic here is pretty apparent and hardly necessitates an explanation, so I’ll just assume we all understand each other and move on to the second lesson. Unfortunately, this one is more difficult to remedy; but, with the elimination of problem no. 1, perhaps problem no. 2 won’t be such an issue next go-round.

The beauty part of Kingsport Thanksgivings was that the kitchen, constructed sometime in the early 50s, could hold one cook and perhaps a spectator or two to keep company. In the meantime, the rest of us would loll about in the basement, poring over catalogs and mindlessly eating various incarnations of Hershey's kisses from covered glass dishes. This clever design effectively kept everyone's paws off the goods until it was time.

Matt ponders his Christmas list (aka meal ticket)

Lovely though Uncle Mike's new house may be, it has no such advantage. Christmas-list-makers are relegated to the kitchen table (yikes), in extremely close proximity to aforementioned appetizers (seriously?). Again, no need to spell that one out. But that's not problem no. 2, oh no. Problem no. 2? The ISLAND.

Where in Kingsport it was physically damn near impossible to get at the food, Mike's spacious islanded kitchen seemed like an invitation. So not only did we clean out the appetizers (darn you, Emily, and your delicious crab dip! Even if it was from Cooking Light...), we tucked into the turkey early as well.

The following pictures should pretty well illustrate the issues precipitated by this unfortunate architecture....

"Hands off the goods!" Emily tells Steve...

Jason pays no mind - who could resist this delicious fried turkey?

By the time actual dinner rolled around, I was pretty well stuffed - as we all were. This is a problem. It's no secret that food equals happiness, but when you're starting an amazing meal already uncomfortably full, no good can come of it.

By the end of the night, I think most of us felt a lot like cousin Peyton here:

It's a pretty apt photographic summation of the evening, I'd say; gut-busting deliciousness, but you just can't stop!

So, by next year, I hope Uncle Mike and Paula will have reconsidered the design of their newly minted kitchen - either that, or I'll have developed even the tiniest bit of self-restraint. (Shyeah, right...)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Grammy noms!

Yesterday the powers that be announced nominees for the 2007 Grammy awards. The list of pop and rock nominees is pretty unoriginal - and I must say I find it unfortunate that James Blunt got so many nods - but there are a few interesting ones stuck in there...

But my real point in this post is about the classical nominations. My former choir director and dear, dear friend Pam Elrod is featured on not one, but TWO nominated recordings! Conspirare, an Austin-based choir that brings together professionals from all around the country under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, was nominated for best choral performance. This same recording, along with the ASO Chamber Chorus' recording of the RVW Mass in G and other a cappella delights, was nominated for best classical engineering. Sweet!

In addition to that, the women of the ASO Chamber Chorus were recognized for their recording of Golijov's Ainadamar in the opera category, and Robert Spano's name was all over the list of nominees as well, notably as a champion of new music.

Unfortunately, all of these ASO recordings were made just before I joined and I was unable to participate. But I'm so excited for the hometown crowd, and especially Dr. Smelrod (aka the aforementioned Pam). Now the waiting begins...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

too much of a good thing

Last Wednesday, my friends and I went to see "For Your Consideration," the latest from Christopher Guest and his cohort. Though I didn’t know too much about the premise going in, I consider myself reasonably well-versed in all other things Guest, and so was expecting something to measure up to that lofty standard. What I did know of the film seemed promising – I mean, how could you go wrong with this troupe handling a movie within a movie called “Home for Purim"?

Well, somehow they managed to. They didn’t actually go wrong, per se; they just didn’t go right. The movie never really got off the ground. Instead of gaining momentum over the rougly 90 minutes, the plot merely sat, inert. Though there were a few good laughs (albeit far fewer and none so hearty as those in other films) and one or two hilarious characters, the film, as a whole felt underdeveloped.

Catherine O’Hara, as the actress Marilyn Hack was, in a word, TERRIFYING. I mean, truly. The central plot point in the movie is that someone, somewhere on the internet has mentioned her name and “oscar-worthy" in the same sentence (not a strong jumping off point in the first place, given the impression everyone watching must get that “Home for Purim” is a total piece of schlock). Months after filming has wrapped, Hack awaits the announcements of oscar noms. In the interim, she has undergone a facelift so unforunate it can only be described as grotesque. It was hard to look at. Extremely difficult.

Jane Lynch, as the host of a fictional Entertainment Tonight-inspired show, gives the movie its finest moments, and Parkey Posey, as usual, is in fine form. But in general, this half-hearted attempt at Hollywood satire fails to get off the ground. Maybe next time - if there is a next time - we'll see a return to form from Guest & co.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wanna be a movie critic? Well TOO BAD.

Romenesko linked to a blog posting from the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore about professional movie reviewers. In so many words, he tells all those young would-be critics to give up now because they'll never be able to find a job, or, if they do, it won't last long.

It makes for interesting reading, especially in light of the fact that the Syracuse Post-Standard, where I'm currently an intern, just last week announced it could no longer sustain such a large newsroom staff and would be offering buyout options. Inevitably, this will have an adverse effect on arts coverage, in a town where there's already too little.

There are some other nuggets of wisdom in here as well - check it out here or copy and paste the link below:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to build a nook!

Last weekend I had a story in the Post-Standard's Home & Garden section on how to make yourself a cozy spot in your house/apartment, conceived and written in anticipation of the bleak Syracuse winter ahead. To the right, you can see my own attempt to craft a comfortable nook in my apartment where I can read and do productive things - a project which has actually met with some degree of success. I can only hope that the more time and effort I invest in enhancing this corner, the greater my productivity will be...

And below is my Post-Standard story. As ever, enjoy!

Find a cozy nook to while away winter's chill

Saturday, November 11, 2006
By Kathleen V. Poe
Contributing writer

The days are getting shorter, the evenings chillier, the wind more biting. It's almost enough to make you never want to leave your house again - and it hasn't even snowed yet.

Once winter arrives in Syracuse in full force, you might be inclined to hunker down at home with a good book or movie, or cozy up by the fireplace to shut out the frosty weather. After a few weeks, though, you could start to feel a little stir-crazy. Instead of letting the walls of your home close in on you this winter, why not fend off cabin fever by creating a comfort space?

"People always seem to go to the coziest nook in their house," said Carolyn Sollis, style director for House & Garden magazine, before speaking to a crowd of more than 150 at the Fayetteville Stickley showroom Oct. 26. "I think people like the idea of vast spaces, but in fact they really feel more comfortable in a little enclosed space. They feel protected."

Her decorating philosophy rests on the intangible sense of how a space makes you feel. The five things every space needs, according to Sollis: character, comfort, color, contrast and change. These principles apply on any scale, whether it's a college apartment or a new house.

"You have to figure out what you love and what you respond to, because if your house reflects that, then you really feel great," Sollis said. "You don't need to look down the road and see what your neighbors are doing, because that's not necessarily for you."

Here are some tips for creating a comfortable space where you can while away the hours:

- It's important to remember that even a small change can have a big impact. Sollis looks to accents and accessories to enhance the cozy feeling of a space without breaking the bank: new pillows or a throw for your favorite chair, or a small area rug for cushioning underneath.

Candles and accessories that have an interesting texture, like baskets or things made of twigs, make especially nice wintertime decorations.

"It sounds silly, but if you put one collection of something in a big bowl rather than a lot of different kinds of things, I think it has a great look, a great impact," Sollis said.

And, of course, lighting is of utmost importance.

"Good lighting makes a big difference," said Sollis, who changes her lampshades seasonally. "I have great red lampshades that I put on in my living room (for the winter), and just changing the lampshades makes a huge difference."

- For those nook-seekers who have limited space, "I think you have got to find a wonderful chair," she said. "That would be the key."

A single chair can be the linchpin to a comfort space where you can read a book, watch TV or otherwise relax and set aside the stress of the day. But as comfortable as your favorite chair might be, Sollis stressed that you might want to invest in the area around it as well if you plan on spending a lot of time there.

"When you sit down in your chair, you need a table right next to it, so you can put your drink down; you need a good light, so you can read; you need a rug to help it be quiet," she explained.

"Even in a small space, you can organize it really well, have a place for everything, and I think that makes you feel comfortable. In a small space, if it's messy, you feel crazy. When things are in their right place, you feel like you can breathe."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A night at the symphony

Last night I went for the second time to hear the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra at the civic center. The centerpiece of the evening was Mozart's Requiem, performed after intermission by the Syracuse Oratorio Society (Dave, my AJ comrade, is a tenor in the choir).

The first half of the concert consisted of a piece for percussion ensemble, the primal, propulsive Ogoun Badagris (1976) by Christopher Rouse, and Bela Bartok's haunting (and somewhat soporific) Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, from 1937. Both pieces were competently rendered, but packed little punch to keep the audience engaged in the toasty auditorium.

The Bartok fared pretty well, minus a few ensemble issues - I find the SSO is best when they leave out the brass, which, in my experience, has always been the weakest section. This was the case at my first SSO concert - a program with Christopher Theophanidis' lovely Rainbow Body (2000), Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, and Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra (where the deficiencies of the brass section were made painfully clear) - as well as at the Syracuse Opera, where the SSO accompanied.

My biggest issues on the first half were with Maestro Hege, who seems to make very little effort to connect with his musicians while beating away at the patterns - surely the root of the unification problem across the group. Stolid and stiff, his conducting is almost entirely without nuance.

I also noticed, nearly immediately, that Hege's tuxedo seemed to be made for someone a good 3-4 inches taller than he. Either Hege's lost a considerable amount of weight or shrunk a few inches, but his is one of the most ill-fitting tuxes I've seen on a musical director in a while - and there's really just no excuse for that. His tails reached below the backs of his knees, the coat was loose at the waist, and the extra fabric of his pants legs puddled around his ankles. After his conductorial exertions, he turned around to acknowledge the musicians, revealing a shirt that was nearly untucked (from waving his arms, understandable); but the shirt was so large and starchy that it formed a hollow shirt-belly that protruded over his cummerbund. Ever heard of a tailor, maestro? I know Syracuse's is a small symphony in a small city, but we're trying to improve our reputation here, so every chance to maintain an air of professionalism should be taken and taken seriously. If you're trying to win people over, this is not the way to do it.

But enough ranting about fashion (I won't even mention the mezzo soloist's matriarchal concert attire).

On the second half, the Requiem was pretty good. The Syracuse Oratorio Society, comprising more than a hundred students and community members, is an excellent choir to have around, in the absence of a resident SSO Chorus. They handled Mozart's swift melismas and fugal passages deftly, generally speaking, and could deliver a big sound when the time came. However, I found myself wanting a greater contrast in their pianissimo, and more dynamic variation across the board.

The solo quartet left much to be desired. Of the four, baritone Timothy Lefebvre gets my vote for best all-around - his "Tuba Mirum" demonstrated a smooth, lyrical voice well-suited to Mozart's music. Dave had mentioned to me before the performance that the soprano sounded young for her age and the mezzo, conversely, old for her age, which was a good assessment - though, in the end, mezzo Stacy Eckert came out on top for me. Ann Monoyios, a baroque specialist, lent an anemic and, frankly, boring soprano to her solo and quartet passages, which only highlighted the vast difference in the much heavier mezzo timbre Eckert brought. (The problem begins, of course, when you decide to pair a baroque specialist with an opera singer who most recently covered one of Wagner's leading roles for Lyric Opera of Chicago...hmmm.) Tenor William Hite was fine, but unremarkable - his best moment came in one of the final movements, when he was either singing in his glory range or just started to feel more comfortable.

Again though, my big problems with the performance came from the podium. Hege's bombastic motions in no way mirrored what he was getting back from the choir and orchestra - but I don't think it was their problem. Maybe Hege figured that the more people he was in charge of onstage, the larger his gestures must be to communicate...not so much. At any rate, it looked odd from the audience.

There were passages where I felt the rhythm was a bit lazy, such as in the double-dotted rhythms - I think this was in the "Rex Tremendae," but I'm still jumbling the Mozart and Verdi Reqiuems in my head, since I performed the latter most recently.

But Hege's most egregious offense came in the "Lacrimosa," indisputably the most achingly beautiful and heart-wrenching part of the Requiem. My heart jumped in anticipation at the first nanosecond of the first chord of the movement, but that sensation quickly turned to horror as Hege ran away with the tempo, conducting what appeared to be a lively, lilting Viennese waltz - not a lament. The translation in the program goes something like this: "Lamentable is that day on which the guilty man shall arise from the ashes to be judged." Hey, who wants to dance?

I had been looking forward to the "Lacrimosa" all evening, and this gross mishandling made me sort of angry, actually. However, I refrained from passing final judgment on Hege until I could check out the score and confirm my memory that the movement should really be much slower than he conducted it. Sure enough, plain as day: Larghetto. Italian diminutive of largo, or very slow in tempo, and therefore a tempo slightly faster than very slow, according to the Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music. Maybe I'll buy Maestro Hege a copy for Christmas.

For me, the entire program suffered on account of the building. Aesthetics aside - and Lord knows there are troubles on that front - our seats were in the second-to-last row on the main floor, under the massive concrete balcony. It seemed as if the entire concert was being performed behind an invisible curtain that absorbed the core of the sound before it got to us. I'm certain there was more sound coming from the stage in all of the works than made it past the balcony - so that was unfortunate. (Note to self: never sit past row P on the main floor.)

But overall, it was an evening well-spent. The Syracuse Oratorio Society showed that they have a lot to offer, so I'm very much looking forward to their performance of Handel's Messiah on December 10. I'm hoping Hege will have reviewed Handel's score with a bit more care than he did Mozart's on this occasion.

And who knows, maybe he'll have bought himself a new tuxedo at the post-Thanksgiving sales.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New York Times, here I come!

The New York Times ran Bernard Holland's review of Tuesday night's stateside premiere of "Ecce Cor Meum" in yesterday's paper - and I must admit, I was pretty excited to read it. It seems Holland and I are on the same page with regard to Sir Paul's classical endeavors; he wrote exactly what I was thinking, only it was articulated a bit more elegantly. At any rate, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling of validation inside - it seems I do know what I'm talking about after all!

See Holland's review below:

Behold: McCartney as Classical Composer

Paul McCartney is known, to grossly understate his reputation, for songs of graceful melodic equilibrium, a plaintive quietness and above all a civility uncommon to either the rough edges of rock ’n’ roll or the pervasive cruelties of postwar classical music.

From time to time he has tried to transfer these talents to bigger, heavier old-school formats, the latest example being “Ecce Cor Meum,” a kind of oratorio for mixed choirs, soprano and orchestra written in memory of his first wife, Linda, and played at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night. From a center box, surrounded by fellow celebrities, the composer acknowledged the hoots and cries of a camera-crazy, banner-waving full house that seemed almost reluctant to turn its attention to the stage.

Someone who has done as much for music as Mr. McCartney deserves to write any piece of music he wants and have it respectfully listened to. In “Messiah” land, however, he finds himself occupying alien territory. The bigness of the McCartney sensibility lies in its smallness. Increasing the weight it carries does not make it deeper in quality. Rather it sinks both music and message into a kind of viscous sentimentality.

Using a vocabulary of singing strings, pounding timpani, brass flourishes and virtuoso outbursts from the organ, the Paul McCartney we value translates poorly. The native wistfulness becomes portentous, the irony oratorical and overly sweet, the brevity of song form stretched beyond its bounds into tedium.

Mr. McCartney has too much sense, and has had too much success, to aspire to classical forms as did — and I think to his detriment — the great Duke Ellington. The composer of “Ecce Cor Meum” (“Behold My Heart”) should be happy in the knowledge that his popular songs outweigh by virtue of their lightness all the groans and teeth-grindings, for example, of late-20th-century German opera. Meanwhile, if he chooses to take up hobbies like double-fugues or sonata form, I’ll be there to hear them.

“Ecce Cor Meum” is in four movements and one interlude. It featured an ardent, well-equipped soprano in Kate Royal, the competent singing of the Concert Chorale of New York and the American Boychoir, the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a handful of its principal string players who stepped out of the ranks as the Loma Mar Quartet.

The last provided gentle accompaniments for much of the evening’s first half, which included songs like “My Love” by Ms. Royal and “Calico Skies” sung together with the elegant light tenor of Andrew Staples. Even with Ms. Royal’s operatic delivery there was here a sense of scale that most of the oratorio exceeds.

“Ecce Cor Meum” does best when it approximates simple songfulness, whether in a vocal line or an oboe solo. In moments like these Mr. McCartney can’t quite fly free of all the piece’s gravity, but at least his wings are in motion. Gavin Greenaway conducted.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dude, I totally miss you

I went to see Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny tonight, bringing only the expectation that it would be hilarious - and it was so, so much more. Jack Black is not only a master of comedy, he's also a totally kickass rock singer! (note to self: purchase soundtrack asap)

The songs were all classic D material, the plot was logical (by Jack Black movie standards) and interesting, and it was chock full of inappropriate and over-the-top sexual humor - stuff that, if it were anybody else delivering those lines, you'd either be offended or totally grossed out. But somehow, as ever, JB manages to pull it off and keep the audience laughing with him.

As in most movies of this ilk, there are a couple of high-profile cameos - these were pretty stellar (and included Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller and Meatloaf). But the most impressive part of the entire movie comes at the beginning, when we see Jack Black's character, JB, at home as a child. I literally thought they had somehow shrunk Jack Black down to 10-year-old size and had him playing his own childhood movie self. Troy Gentile is a dead ringer for Jack Black. It's truly remarkable. (As it happens, young Troy has previously been Black's flashback self, in last summer's Nacho Libre.) THe young Kyle Gass is also exceptionally well-cast, though the audience sees considerably less of him.

I'm not sure I can form coherent thoughts beyond these because I'm still in shock from the movie's sheer awesomeness...So I'll just leave it at this: Go see this movie IMMEDIATELY.

Because, holy hell, it's amazing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ecce Cor Meum: Behold my Ego

Sir Paul McCartney exists in that stratospheric realm of celebrity where it hardly matters what he creates anymore – an adoring public will indulge his every whim, and commercial success is all but guaranteed. Such status emboldens artists to unleash their egos on the world, often resulting in ill-advised musical experimentation.

“Ecce Cor Meum,” released Sept. 26, is McCartney’s fourth full-length classical effort. The four-movement oratorio, commissioned in 1998 for the opening of a new concert hall at Oxford, was first performed in 2001 as a work in progress and finally recorded in March of this year at London’s Abbey Road Studios.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, directed by Gavin Greenway, creates a warm, expansive sound to support McCartney’s texts, sung by the capable London Voices choir. Soprano soloist Kate Royal makes the best of her airy lines, navigating wordy passages in an awkward tessitura with a fluttering, graceful voice.

The boys of Magdalen College Choir, Oxford, and King’s College Choir, Cambridge, contribute the signature boy-soprano sound – a pure, straight tone practically required in English choral works.

McCartney packs his orchestration so full of various textures and colors that the children seem superfluous. His dense score quickly approaches schizophrenia. Within the first five minutes of the hour-long work, McCartney has already incorporated stylistic nods to 13th century plainchant and 20th century choral works like Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

It’s an oft-repeated point of pride for McCartney that he’s never completed any formal music training, but these pilfered musical conventions and ill-suited melodies betray his inexperience in the classical-vocal realm.

McCartney’s kitchen-sink approach is the root of what makes “Ecce Cor Meum” problematic; it’s as if he didn’t know when to stop adding layers, and the result is a bloated, unfocused work. Though his orchestral writing is straightforward, relying on doubled parts and parallel-motion harmonies, none of McCartney’s ideas ever feels fully developed. Transitions from one musical thought to the next are jerky and sudden.

There’s no denying McCartney’s mastery of the pop-song idiom. Perhaps this helps explain why, in classical composition, he is unable to sustain any particular style or mood for much longer than four minutes. Delineated by a full-stop caesura, an outburst of choral "ah"s or a fit of pipe organ-fueled melodrama borrowed from Andrew Lloyd Webber, these intervals serve only to undermine the continuity of the work.

McCartney’s self-penned text is equally distracted. Inspired by the Latin phrase “Ecce cor meum” – “behold my heart” – McCartney has composed what the album’s liner notes call a “spiritual confession.” But his rambling, stale lyrics are laden with hackneyed rhymes –there’s even a winking reference to “a magic mystery.” Stretched to fill long movements, McCartney’s lines smack of self-help, while others merely seem the aimless musings of an aging hippie.

On a smaller scale, though, McCartney has always been a nimble wordsmith, championing charming, concise simplicity. That sensibility permeates McCartney’s best pop melodies and lyrics – catchy, memorable, and laced with whimsy – and could be the key to his future success in the classical idiom.

McCartney’s finest moments here are pop-sized snippets of lovely string writing, suggesting that Sir Paul may yet find a place in the classical world. Were McCartney to scale back his ambitions, put on the compositional training wheels and develop his style through a series of smaller works, perhaps he would discover a classical voice all his own.

“Ecce Cor Meum” makes its U.S. premiere tomorrow night in New York’s Carnegie Hall. According to Billboard, McCartney can do no wrong; whether that notion will stand with classical audiences remains to be seen.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Support local businesses...

because they sell things like this!

Yes, today's Picture of the Day features a cassette produced by the I (heart) NY tourism agency (much like Waffle House markets its in-house originals). Robin Schade, the "NEW YORK Troubadour," per the packaging, has recorded an album of "songs of New York state country people and work."

I mean, just look at the lineup here: "Knickerbocker Breakdown", "The Drink of Love (Here's to New York Wine)", "Farm and City - Together", "I love New York State Cheese", and who could forget that timeless ballad, "(Dairy of) Distinction." Holy buckets!

I was thisclose to purchasing this cassette (even though my car no longer has a tape deck - but my stereo does), until I saw that it cost an outrageous $10. But who knows, maybe the next time I'm out in Caz for another lunch date with Joan Vadeboncoeur, I just might give in to the power of the New York troubadour...

Friday, November 03, 2006

My first real review!

I went to Oswego Thursday night to see the dress rehearsal of the Oswego Opera's La Traviata and review it for the Oswego Palladium-Times. Here 'tis! Enjoy...


Those who subscribe to the notion that New York City monopolizes high culture in this state apparently haven't been to Oswego.

The Oswego Opera opens its 28th season this weekend with one of opera's most beloved masterpieces, Verdi's “La Traviata,” presented in SUNY Oswego's Waterman Theatre at Tyler Hall.

Set in 18th century Paris, the opera follows the tumultuous romance of courtesan Violetta Valery and Alfredo Germont, one of her admirers. Driven apart by Alfredo's father, Giorgio, the lovers are reunited as Violetta lies on her deathbed, moments before she dies in Alfredo's arms.

These three main characters carry the opera, and executive director Jonathan English's outstanding leads, all returning to the Oswego Opera stage, do not disappoint.

Each singer can hold the stage as a soloist, and duet passages find the musicians exceptionally well matched, both vocally and physically. Soprano Amy Cochrane and tenor Eric van Hoven make a lovely couple as Violetta and Alfredo. As Giorgio Germont, Bill Black cuts a stern and imposing father figure onstage.

Commanding deference with his mature, warmly resonant voice, Black infuses a heartfelt performance with conviction and patriarchal pride.

As Violetta, Cochrane's effortless, effervescent coloratura in the first act gives way to impassioned legato phrasing in the latter acts. Cochrane's amorous aria, “Ah, fors' e lui,” is simply captivating. Her brilliant soprano, equally stunning in all registers, shines throughout the entire opera, and she handles the notorious, vocally demanding role with seemingly little effort.

Van Hoven fares similarly well in his portrayal of Alfredo. His lively vocal characterization is spot on, making the famous drinking song, “Libiamo,” dance. The tenor's clear, vibrant tone compensates for an initially stiff stage presence, especially in the ardent confessional aria “Un di felice,” when he reveals his feelings to Violetta.

Remarkably, none of these artists has performed these parts before. Following such auspicious debuts, though, there should be no doubt as to their qualifications in these challenging roles.

Under the baton of artistic director and conductor Juan Francisco La Manna, the accompanying Oswego Opera Orchestra has its finest moments when playing at full force, creating a festive atmosphere in ensemble party scenes.

In addition to bringing in top-notch performers from around the country, director English filled his chorus and supporting roles with capable homegrown talent. Among these, mezzo-soprano and Syracuse University voice faculty member Carolyn Weber stood out as Violetta's friend Flora.

Along with scenic designer Joseph Rial, English conceived a simple production that, though it might not translate in a larger house, is well suited to the 525-seat Waterman Theatre. Paring down the opulence of 18th-century Paris into sleek, modern dress, this production does more for the ear than for the eye; minimalist sets and costumes of mostly black and white effectively bring Verdi's exquisite music to the fore.

Oswego Opera Theatre performs La Traviata today at 4 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. With familiar, memorable melodies brought to life by a stellar cast, the Oswego Opera's La Traviata proves that you don't have to be in New York City to find quality opera.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October begone!

Since today is the end of October, which is apparently a craptastic month here in Yankeeland, you get many pictures of the day! Krista has been here to visit, so today we went to the mall to get her some interview clothes (she didn't manage to get back to ATL from Ann Arbor as planned) where we rode the carousel...

Krista's awesome horse had a leopard pelt under the saddle, plus a badass hatchet and a...broom?

And I'm just having a grand old time. I told the operator/conductor/carousel lady that this was the best merry-go-round I'd been on in a while. I also resolved to ride the merry-go-round every time I go to the mall, because frankly, this mall is pretty depressing. I mean, they card people! For walking in the mall! Plus, it's only a dollar and it's a pretty long ride :)

And last but not least, we wrapped up our Halloween with a concert of holiday-themed music (i.e. Harry Potter, Sorcerer's Apprentice, etc.) on campus, followed by drinks at Clarks and the Blue Tusk for Linda's birthday...

Yay fronds!

NYC (cont.)

'Bout time to wrap this one up, no? I'll try to do this expeditiously.

So after Kelly and I had our romantic dinner, we met up with Winny, post-show, and Kara and Shane (Kelly's boyfriend), post-work. We went in search of drinks and some dinner for Kara, and eventually took shelter from the coooold in a lovely cafe, the name of which escapes me right now. But it was lovely, at least in terms of selection and tastiness. But the service SUCKED.

Anyway, round about 11:30, the rest of the gang arrived in town: Susannah and Brock had driven up from DC/Charlottesville together after work, so they dropped stuff off at WInny's place adn came and found us, at which point we wandered to a pub down the street for a nightcap and visiting. I was damn near dead at this point (hence I ordered a pot o' peppermint tea), but it was excellent fun, all the same. How could it not be?

The next day, Kara and Sus and I went to Blondie's, a sports bar on the upper west side, to watch the NU homecoming football game with the NU Club of greater NY. They had purple t-shirts for sale that said "NU York" on the front and the Blondie's logo on the back, which, for the bargain price of $5, I just couldn't pass up. The game itself was uneventful (unless you count dominating most of the game and then blowing a 35-point lead as eventful...sadly seems par for the course in NU football), but I DID win a free pitcher of beer! I was on fire with the winning of free stuff that weekend. Sus left to go wander at some point, but Kelly, Shane, and Kara's roommate John (also NU '05) joined over the course of the game, and I ran into Katherine Kilgore, my former classmate (Music '06), so it was a good time, minus the pathetic football.

En route back to Kara's, we stopped at Dean & Deluca, where I purchased a container of mini black & white cookies and $.18 worth of candy corn, and at this great wine store where everything is $15 or less. They were having a tasting and giving out free cookies fresh from the convection oven, so it was pretty sweet.

So then I found a dinner place, this thin-crust pizza joint called...Piazo? I think that's it. Very tasty, very speedy, good meeting point for the whole crew before we went to Winny's show on E. 26th.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Syracuse Opera's "Carmen"

Combining familiar faces and new talent on the John H. Mulroy Civic Center stage, the Syracuse Opera opened its 2006-07 season Friday evening with a well-cast “Carmen,” a perennial favorite and mainstay of operatic repertoire.

Bizet’s 1875 masterpiece follows the exploits of Carmen, a free-spirited gypsy who works in a Seville cigarette factory in the early 19th century. One of opera’s most famous femme fatales, Carmen seduces the soldier Don José and falls in love, only to be pursued by Escamillo, a famous bullfighter. Entangled in her own web of seduction, Carmen ultimately dies for her freedom.

In her Syracuse Opera debut, Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah’s Carmen possessed an undeniable electricity. When she arrived onstage, the production got a much-needed jolt of energy. With a warm voice across all registers, wild, curly hair, and exotic-looking features, Nesrallah sounded and looked the part; but her characterization lacked the sultry spiciness Carmen is known for.

This Carmen manifested her power not through feminine sensuality, but by assuming a masculine physicality. At the same time, Nesrallah’s playful, frenetic energy often read more as petulant pre-teen rather than calculating, pleasure-seeking seductress.

Still, mama’s boy Don José, played by Syracuse Opera veteran, tenor Drew Slatton, fell under Carmen’s spell. Initially unimpressive, Slatton’s thin tenor developed into a fuller, richer sound over the course of the opera; as his Don José unraveled, Slatton improved in every aspect of his performance.

Artistic Director Richard McKee’s traditional production started to come together once the company slogged through the sluggish first act. A trio of flamenco dancers, led by Marisa Guzman-Colegrove, helped liven things up at the start of the second act; from there, the show found its energy.

The middle two acts of this four-act opera contain wonderfully written vignettes for quintet or sextet, which were among the opera’s finest moments. Though the full-chorus numbers never gelled in terms of rhythm and unification, the small ensemble scenes showcased well-matched voices and tight harmonic precision without sacrificing dramatic content.

The latter acts also saw impressive performances from the secondary leads, who carried the evening.

As Escamillo, Syracuse baritone Jimi James proved that not all local singers are subpar, contrary to conventional wisdom. James rose to the challenge of performing the opera’s most recognizable tune (“Toreador’s song”) with an assertive, full voice, conveying Escamillo’s swaggering chest-puffery through vocal color instead of physical caricature.

Soprano Donita Volkwijn, in her company debut, gave the evening’s best vocal performance as Micaëla, whose wide-eyed innocence came across not only in Volkwijn’s acting, but also through her full, unblemished tone. Even her shimmering pianissimo reached the back of the auditorium with pinging clarity.

Under the baton of John Mario Di Costanzo, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra opened the opera with a spirited overture and played with a sensitive ear for balancing the singers throughout.

On loan from Opera Cleveland, the sparse set, awash in ochre hues, set the tone for a lackluster first act. (The costumes’ subdued palette, dominated by the dusty mustard color of the soliders’ uniforms, only dampened the atmosphere further.) Platforms of varying heights provided a versatile landscape for the entire opera, morphing from town square to tavern to mountain hideaway by adding a few façade pieces or tables. Most effective was the second act’s set: gnarled chandeliers hung from the ceiling among textured burlap panels, creating a rustic, old-world dive bar.

But, cobbled together with costumes rented from a Toronto company, the production overall seemed mismatched. McKee’s unimaginative staging was replete with community-theater clichés that should have been left behind in college-level opera workshop class.

And woe unto those who don’t speak French – at Friday’s performance, the supertitles were so sporadic and thin that they might as well not have been there at all. Entire scenes were reduced to just two sentences flashed above the proscenium, or not translated at all – and even with such meager material, the titles still managed to fall out of sync.

While the musical elements were mostly there, the whole production never quite cohered. But with technical and artistic improvements and continued recruitment of remarkable new talent, the Syracuse Opera can reach a level of professionalism consistent with Syracuse’s other arts organizations.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I am a domestic goddess!

I had a lot of work to do this weekend (some of which is, ahem, still in progress even as I blog). So what did I do with my precious time? I baked! As a result, you get a Picture o' the Day...

It's a bit of a slapdash garnishing job, but I gave it my best shot...

Since my first practice with the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble kept me from attending a pre-Thanksgiving thanksgiving dinner, I sent this pumpkin pie cake (and some cookies) in my stead. Just call me Martha Stewart!

And now, back to work...

The latest from the Post-Standard

This ran in today's STARS section (a weekend pull-out) of the Post-Standard - I think it turned out really well! Enjoy...

A Man for All Seasons

Sunday, October 29, 2006
By Kathleen V. Poe
Contributing writer

All his life, Cazenovia artist Jim Ridlon hated snow - until he taught himself to like it.

Determined to come to terms with Old Man Winter, Ridlon took up his brushes and started painting. The resulting collection, "Changing Seasons," is on display through Nov. 11 at the Earlville Opera House Art Gallery in Earlville.

"Changing Seasons" depicts the seasonal shifts of Central New York through 80 small, under glazed acrylic paintings. Under glazing means the painting is composed of several layers of paint and enamel, rather than completed all at once. Adding glazes between the layers of paint (usually a pattern) lends a feeling of depth and brings out the colors more, Ridlon said.

As he studied the season's first snow through sketches and photos, Ridlon discovered patterns of dark and light within the subdued palette of sepia and ochre tones. From these beginnings, he created nearly 150 small paintings.

"I really liked the pattern in them and what you could do with composition. That started (this series) . . . so I just continued. I did the first part of spring, the first part of summer, so I had this series of seasonal changes. You can't beat the colors here this time of year. It's spectacular."

Ridlon, 72, lives in Cazenovia with his wife, Katherine Rushworth, art critic for Stars magazine. He has a bachelor's and master of fine arts degrees in sculpture from Syracuse University.

Originally from Nyack, Rockland County, Ridlon attended SU on a football scholarship. He went on to play in the NFL from 1957 to 1964, first for the San Francisco 49ers and later The Dallas Cowboys.

Ridlon continued his studies in the football off-season, pursuing his master's in sculpture first at Stanford University and then at San Francisco State College. He put school on hold when he was traded to Dallas, but saw an opportunity to finish his degree if he returned to SU as a part-time football coach, lecturer and graduate student. He stayed at SU for 36 years as a football coach and professor of sculpture in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

"I think I was working probably 110 hours a week at one point," Ridlon said. "But once I got my degree, once I got into teaching, it's been the greatest life imaginable. It was really worth it."

Sculpture and assemblage (think collage in 3-D), have been Ridlon's primary media throughout his career, at least in terms of commissioned work.

He has also completed major commissions for corporations like Disney and ABC. Composed of hundreds of pieces of famous sports memorabilia such as Peggy Fleming's ice skates, Muhammad Ali's robe, and a soccer ball from Pele, the assemblage he created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" is slated to join the Smithsonian Institution as part of an interactive exhibit.

But Ridlon estimated that sports-related art, most often the product of a commission, comprises a mere 5 percent of his artistic output. These days, painting trumps sculpture as his preferred means of expression, and he finds inspiration in landscapes, flowers and gardens.

"Nature turns me on," Ridlon said, "not so much bodies bouncing off each other."

The "Changing Seasons" exhibit originated as a small-scale study for a series of larger, museum-sized paintings, which he is currently working on in his new studio space, a renovated barn outside Cazenovia.

Although he recently displayed some paintings at the Handweaving Museum & Art Center in Clayton, he has no plans for future shows. "I really want to concentrate right now," Ridlon said.

"I'm so excited about doing these big paintings and having the space to do them."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Carmen Preview

This ran in last Monday's Post-Standard - Sorry for the delay in posting it! From here on out I'll try to be good about posting my articles on my blog (at least the good ones...)

Opera opener

Monday, October 23, 2006
By Kathleen V. Poe
Contributing writer

Music to one's ears is subjective. To some, the soaring arias of a classic opera are intoxicating. To others, the mechanical melody of a racetrack abuzz with cars has a similar effect on the senses.

The New York State Fairgrounds provided a venue for both sounds last month as Syracuse Opera took up residence preparing for "Carmen" as the Super DIRT championship race raged outside.

The Syracuse Opera will open its 2006-2007 season Friday with "Carmen," Georges Bizet's masterpiece, in the Crouse-Hinds Theater at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center.

Rehearsals began in the fairgrounds' youth building nearly four weeks ago, with set pieces arranged before murals of grazing cows and a banner reading "Let the Journey Begin with 4-H." With coats pulled tightly around them, members of the opera chorus sang in the chill of the cavernous space, their voices bouncing off the concrete floor.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah created some much-needed heat with a sultry, passionate rendition of Carmen's signature aria, "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle," better known as "Habanera." Nesrallah swaggered and tossed her wild hair as she sang to the chorus, which responded energetically during the refrain. In high heels, fishnet stockings and a brown trench coat over her costume, Nesrallah was coy, sexy and convincingly Carmen - and that was just the first rehearsal.

This tune, along with the "Toreador's Song," is among the most recognizable in all of

opera. Even people who aren't familiar with the genre might recognize these melodies from soundtracks, commercials and even cell phone ringtones.

Syracuse Opera artistic director Richard McKee kept Carmen's widespread appeal in mind when planning this season's productions.

"This is kind of the hook for the season," McKee said. "We always try to have what we call a 'top 10' opera that we hope has an attraction beyond the usual opera audience."

Bizet's "Carmen" has long had a place in the canon of opera classics. Set in the early 19th century in Seville, Spain, the plot revolves around the gypsy Carmen, a free-spirited femme fatale, and her seductive exploits. Don Jose, a soldier, is one of the many men whom Carmen ensnares, an affair that proves fatal in the end.

Although he has been directing operas for nearly 20 years, McKee has staged "Carmen" only once before, a somewhat surprising revelation, given the popularity of Bizet's masterpiece and McKee's personal fondness for it.

But his first experience with "Carmen" from the director's chair was, McKee said, "not a good experience." On top of having to work with a chorus and an orchestra unfamiliar with the demands of an opera production, McKee faced every director's nightmare: his leading lady was a diva.

This time around, McKee is excited to have another go at "Carmen" with his Syracuse company. He's looking forward to working with his own chorus, and he has assembled a strong group of leads, both newcomers and familiar faces, from Central New York and beyond.

Nesrallah makes her debut with Syracuse Opera as the opera's protagonist. For Nesrallah, as for many a mezzo-soprano, Carmen is a dream role. She first played the part in 2003 with the Saskatoon Opera in Saskatchewan, Canada.

"It felt so natural and so, this was the role that I was meant to play," Nesrallah said. Instead of feeling pressured to succeed, Nesrallah said she was relieved when she finally had the chance to portray Carmen. "When it's something you've been waiting your whole life to do and you get onstage and you have that comfort, then you know your instinct has been correct."

Nesrallah's debut engagement with Syracuse Opera marks her fourth turn as the Spanish seductress. The best part of returning to a role like Carmen, Nesrallah said, is that each time you find more depth to the character; "The treasure never runs out."

Tenor Drew Slatton, most recently seen in Syracuse Opera's "Tosca" and "Macbeth," returns as Don Jose, the soldier tormented by his feelings for Carmen. Slatton believes he has sung Don Jose nine or 10 times in his career; it's one of the roles for which he is most frequently engaged.

"There's a lot going on in this poor man's head," Slatton said. "(Don) Jose is very interesting because he's very imbalanced, and he has a lot of psychological torment, some of which is not mentioned in the opera." Like the other principals in the cast, Slatton has read Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella from which the opera derives to gain further insight into his complex character.

And what opera would be complete without a love triangle? Soprano Donita Volkwijn, from Cape Town, South Africa, makes her Syracuse Opera debut as Micaela, a young girl from Don Jose's hometown who also happens to be in love with him.

Though they met for the first time not long ago, Nesrallah, Slatton and Volkwijn already have a rapport, onstage and off.

"We just met Sunday, and we've known each other 20 years," Slatton quipped.

But it's not just a collegial dynamic among performers that leads to a successful production. These singers contend that great art is a result of discussion and participation, evident in the Syracuse Opera.

"It doesn't happen a whole lot that we're allowed to have input into the characters we're creating," Volkwijn said. "In opera today it's a choice between a two-dimensional character or a caricature. Being able to discuss with everyone involved is quite a luxury."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Escape to the Big City: the first 24 hours

Last weekend I busted out of Syracuse to hit the Big Apple. Though I had been planning a mid-Fall jaunt to the city anyway, my best friend Winston
was in his first show - all the more reason to go this past weekend! That fact also compelled two of my other dearest friends, Susannah and Brock, to travel north, and yet another good friend from high school, Anthony, is in law school at Columbia, so the weekend turned into a mini-reunion of sorts.

But that wasn't the only reunion going on - I got to spend a lot of time with two of the best roomies ever, the lovely misses Kara Reinhardt and Kelly Nolan. Kara generously gave me shelter for the weekend, so it was just like old times! Only we never shared a bed in college...

So ANYWAY, I arrived at the Port Authority on Thursday evening, fresh from my first-ever (I think) Greyhound travel experience. I've done my fair share of bus travel (church choir tours, school chorus trips, etc.), so that held few surprises. Kara and Kelly met me at the station, and we schlepped ourselves around the 40s and 50s between restaurants until we settled on VYNL, where Anthony and Kelly's boyfriend Shane joined us for a tasty dinner. After the food, we headed south a few blocks to Mercury Bar to watch the end of the NLCS game 7, where Anthony and I furtively cheered on the Cards among the hometown crowd of rabid Mets fans (So sorry!). When the game ended, we opted for a cab up to Kara's sweet digs on the upper east side.

In the morning, I met Linda at 59th and 5th for a morning of shopping - mostly of the window variety. After a visit to the swankay 24/7 Apple store at the top of 5th Ave., we moseyed down to the Gap, where I promptly dropped $50. So much for window shopping. Anyway, I bought myself a nightgown - yay! - and this shirt from Bono & Co's (PRODUCT) RED line:

We shopped our way down the street until we got to Macy's at Herald Square; even though it was chilly and wet and trying to rain all morning, it was really nice to just WALK. That's something I don't do much in Syracuse, unfortunately...

So, we went to Macy's because I wanted the friendly folks at Clinique to match a foundation to my face and give me a free sample - I'd read about the promotion in the paper - and I was also hoping to find a replacement pair of the Alfani sunglasses that the dude who stole my car stereo back in August nabbed. No sunglasses, but I did score some free foundation that appears to match me pretty well.

As we wandered through the vast makeup section, the Benefit counter called out to us - Free eye makeup sessions! We'll teach you how! Linda and I were enticed by the notion of actually knowing how to apply makeup, so we dropped in. When I sat down, Natalie, my lovely makeup artist, had me fill out a card and took a Polaroid "before" shot, part of some "Now to Wow" promotion that was going on. Sooo, she did the left side of my face, then let me finish off the right side, and snapped the "after" photo once my transformation was complete. It was good enough to sell me on the eye palette they were hawking, so I coughed up $30 and went along my merry way.

Fast-forward to 6 hours or so later, when Kelly and I were leaving the Gap (had to purchase something long-sleeved because it had gotten FRIGID). I got a call on my cell from an unfamiliar Boston number, and when I answered, it was some random British guy. Turns out Random Brit was from the Benefit counter at Macy's, calling to tell me I'd won more than $200 worth of Benefit cosmetics! SCORE! Unbeknownst to me, I had entered myself in a contest when I had my makeup done - the "Now to Wow" contest - and of all the pictures of madeover Macy's patrons, they thought mine were the prettiest! Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. (Plus, I always like to ham it up for the "before" picture when doing makeovers - I do a really good forlorn, unkempt look (I like to call it my "day" look) - so I think that made my transformation seem all the more impressive.)

So that was pretty awesome; I LOVE free stuff. Anyway, that went a bit out of order, so back to midday now...

Winny came up from his SoHo/Tribeca apartment to meet me and Linda in Herald Square, at which point Linda went off in search of some empanadas and Winny and I trekked back south to his neck of the woods and had a delightful lunch at the Cupping Room Cafe (sought out by George "Zagat" Case, visiting the previous weekend). The sun had come out by this point, so after checking out Winny's palatial new digs, we meandered our way up to Union Square, where we hopped on the subway and headed for 42nd street. Before we put in our names for the Avenue Q ticket lottery, we went for a Jamba Juice/Tasti D-Lite snack. There was some sort of photo shoot going on outside involving Times Square, a very skinny, very cold, VERY tall model, taxicabs and a fog machine, so that was pretty entertaining to watch. Before Winny had to go to the theater to get ready for his show, we tried our luck at the lottery, but it was to no avail. Once Winny hopped the subway, I headed for the Gap in search of long sleeves, which pretty much brings us up to speed...

So Kelly met me there, and she scored a great pair of dark-wash trouser jeans for $10, and then Macy's called, so we caught a subway down to Macy's to pick up my winnings. At this point it was dinnertime, so we headed further south toward NYU. We tried to get in at Mario Batali's Otto Enoteca - listed in NY Magazine's 101 best cheap eats - but it was packed and noisy, so we passed on the hour-and-15-minute wait and wandered down Bleecker Street instead. We found a lovely place called Foccaceria, I think, and enjoyed a tasty tasty dinner before meeting up with...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Picture o' the Day returns!

Now that midterms (well, I guess I only had one, really) are over, I am reinstating the picture of the day! I hope to stick to it a little better than I did in my initial attempt. Picture of the Day will probably not actually be every day, but I'll aim for, say, 5 in a week (take the weekends off, you know how it goes)...sound good? Good.

So, here 'tis, your Monday Picture of the Day!

AJ represent(atives)! Jacque & I were T-shirt selling MACHINES at the Newhouse Masters Association T-shirt Launch Partay! But really, who wouldn't want to buy whatever we're selling?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

procrastinatory ramblings

Look, Ma! I just made up a word!

I'm supposed to be writing a paper analyzing my transcription of U2's "With or without you," but I cannot for the life of me FOCUS. And it's due in like 8 hours. Fortunately, it's about halfway I think I might be better served to hop in bed now and get up early to finish, which sadly will entail forgoing the a.m. gym trip. Maybe I'll manage to squeeze that in after class is done and before I hop the Greyhound bus to NEW YORK CITY! (Or maybe not, but it's a noble aspiration nonetheless.)

Anyway, point of this post is to tell y'all of my upcoming trip to the city, after which I will surely have some interesting anecdotes and many pictures of the day - speaking of which, If I'd had my digital camera with me I would have had an amaaaazing one for tonight, of the "courthouse" in East Bejesus where the assistant D.A. wasted hours of time I could have spent writing the paper I'm now avoiding by failing to show up on time to his own party. Hellooo? 3rd Wednesday of the month is always D.A. night at the Tyre Town Court, doy! Anyway, it was hilariously tiny, and I wish I could have shared it with all of you. Ah well.

Point of this pointless post is to say, stay tuned for NYC hijinks with the Georgia crew and some of my favorite roomies ever! I'm gonna shake off the dust of this small town...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

300 words of critical gold

GOLD, I say! 300 words is not a lot, so here's what I did with Mamma Mia! for class...

Unlike some of the recent spate of jukebox musicals, “Mamma Mia!” isn’t just a theatrical tribute to ABBA. Instead, it’s a story about a young woman in search of her father before she gets married. Her quest brings three of her mother’s former flames to their Greek isle home on the eve of her wedding, and the story unfolds from there – by way of ABBA’s greatest hits.

The national tour of “Mamma Mia!” arrived in Syracuse’s Crouse-Hinds Theater Tuesday night, kicking off the 2006-07 Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series.

As Sophie, the bride-to-be, Syracuse native Carrie Manolakos infused her character with naivete and spunk. Annie Edgerton and Laura Ware gave the performance its best moments and biggest laughs as Tanya and Rosie, Sophie’s mom’s saucy best friends.

Anthony Van Laast’s exuberant choreography showcased the strength of the full company throughout. One of the show’s most imaginatively staged numbers, “Lay All Your Love on Me,” had the future groom’s buddies performing in flippers and scuba gear as they whisked him away for a bachelor party.

An uncomplicated set comprising two rotating structures effectively evoked a modest taverna, and created various interiors when repositioned. Costumes, too, were simple, in bright solids and Mediterranean monochrome; blessedly, Disco-era fashion reared its ugly, glittering head in only one scene.

Telling a contemporary story through decades-old Swedish pop is no easy feat, but Catherine Johnson’s book handles the challenge admirably. Most songs fit comfortably – even logically – and some treatments verged on comedic brilliance. Rosie’s hilarious “Take a Chance on me” provided one such moment.

“Mamma Mia!” was a hit with the sell-out crowd, who sang along to ABBA’s best during the show. This production doesn’t try to be something it’s not; like ABBA’s music, “Mamma Mia!” succeeds because it’s downright fun.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

U Rah Rah!

Tonight, I procured my first press ticket ever - that's like $40 free! - and went to see Mamma Mia! at the Civic Center. And it just so happens my former NU class/studiomates Mackenzie and Adam are in the cast! So, I went to go see Mack perform (Adam wasn't on tonight, he's a swing) and then hung out at their swankay hotel afterwards. The show was really a lot of fun, though it didn't much feel like a "broadway show" - but it was a really nice escape from the stresses of grad school, even if I was taking notes. I'm sure there will be a more formal review forthcoming...

Anyway, here's the picture of the day for Tuesday (sorry, Monday didn't have much to get excited about). Actually two - apparently we didn't look friendly enough in the first one, so Mackenzie's boyfriend told us to look "less separate" or something...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If you're gonna spew, spew into this

Ugh. I have just eaten half my body weight in candy corn. Why? Because I have no willpower. Silly me, thinking that if I bought a bag of conveniently portioned trick-or-treater baggies it would keep my apparently insatiable appetite for tongue-numbing sugar creations at bay...Not so.

Live and learn, right? Or so I hope...

Anyway, much to blog about, but the candy corn brick in my belly tells me it's time to throw the towel in on the day. So I'll just play a little catch-up and give you the pics o' the weekend, from the Lafayette Apple Festival. Yumm.

Festival workers give the apple fritter batter an enthusiastic thumbs-up (and a couple of quizzical looks to the camera) - the line for these things was forever long!

We opted instead for the somewhat shorter line at the barn next door - here we have the dumpling, what looked to be two preparations of pie (one more cobbler/crumble-like), the turnover, and the über-tasty cider donut. I partook of the latter, and it was magically delicious.

Looking out over the fairgrounds...a lovely day!

Friday, October 06, 2006

[S]he does this every Friday...

This is Freedom of Espresso in Fayetteville, my favorite place to go to work (since my apartment is a vortex of counterproductivity). They have great chairs! And, I hear, great coffee, though I don't drink coffee...but I always at least buy a water or a fancy coke :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


So, my classmate Manashi and I have decided that we are going to run a 5K in Atlanta over the break - this will give us motivation to actually utilize our YMCA memberships. And Manashi found the perfect one! So, assuming our media law prof can get his act together and announce an exam date already, we'll be back in plenty of time for this one, through scenic Sandy Springs and Funwoody :)

[the t-shirt design at left is today's picture o' the day]

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I am (apparently) a material girl

So I know it's only the second or third installment of my picture of the day, but I'm already implementing a change, because I feel bad just putting up pictures of Stuff. Which is an easy trap to fall into. Not that Stuff can't legitimately make one happy (especially when the weather is like it is). So, from henceforth, I'm not restricting myself to photographable things. Just FYI.

But here's today's picture, all the same. These are my New Shoes, in case that wasn't clear.

In other, non-material news, Joan Vadeboncoeur (entertainment columnist at the Post-Standard and perhaps my favorite employee there) told me I got a gold star on the day for writing a story about Ballet Hispanico. SWEET.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

(a feeble attempt)

Here's today's picture of the day - seems like a copout, but it truly makes me happy. This is the art we bought at the Hilton Apple Festival this weekend when mama and daddy were here - it's a wallflower made from salvaged silverware. It hangs on the wall in my kitchen, and I love it!

[I actually had a great picture of the day this morning on the way to class - it was a beautiful autumn morning and the quad was quite lovely; I figured I'd catch it after class. But right as I was walking into the building, it started raining, and the day never recovered. Needless to say, it's a mistake I won't make twice!]

Monday, October 02, 2006

Helping you help me

Grad school can be a real drag sometimes, as I'm sure many of you know from past or present experience. In the spirit of my own mental health and well-being, I'm making a blog resolution - one that I hope to stick to, with your help - to post a Picture of the Day every day of the week.

This will be something cool, interesting, entirely inane, perhaps even whimsical, yet relevant - basically, just something that makes me feel happy. To kick off this series, I'll give you a couple - one for the last few weeks (Oktoberfest, at right) and then today's picture. Enjoy - and be sure to check back every day and hold me to it!

Here's today's - it's my story in the Post-Standard (yes, it even got the banner at the top of A1 - pictures of kittens can take you far in life!):

Friday, September 29, 2006

Since a picture is worth a thousand words (not including captions)

My Day at the Great New York State Fair
August 30, 2006

Um, that eclair is the size of a small child. Let's hear it for carnie food!

Entries in the gladiolus show. (They also had competitions for table settings. I shit you not.)

Sand sculpture...

What's better than sand sculpture?

The glorious Rainbow Milk Bar! The milk comes fresh from the cows every day and is processed in those big tanks - As you can see, it's only 25 cents for a cup of delicious and refreshing milk! (Needless to say, this was a highlight.)

This one's for all the fans out there...
I heart (chocolate) milk!

Ok, I gotta speed this up, this is taking forever...


Freaky Chickens!

Joan Jett!

Perhaps the grossest thing ever. (Yes, I paid a dollar to see this.)

Dr. Vegetable's Fresh Fried Veggies.
Fried sauerkraut? Come on.

Old dude doing a smithing demonstration!



llast, but certainly not lleast...

The (second) Best Llama Ever!

Gotta love the state fair.