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.

The Mix

As you may or may not know, the Goldring AJ program publishes a supplement to the Syracuse Post-Standard (the daily paper) every fall in which each student writes an article on some aspect of local culture. We worked on this all through boot camp, and I was one of a board of editors who put in work over the break and down to the wire of publication to make sure everything came out all pretty-like :)

So here's what I had to say about Syracuse this summer...I hope y'all enjoy it!

(click on it and it should get to a readable size)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Just call me Shakespeare...

As you can see from the lovely graphic at left, Waffle House is holding an "I Love Waffle House" essay contest. Since that's practically my middle name (Kathleen i-loVe-waffle-house Poe), I obviously had to submit something. How could I possibly sit out a contest that has Waffle House paraphernalia for prizes? I mean, it's not like I have a collection of that stuff already...shyeah.

Anyway, this is not your average essay contest - oh no! The Waffle House people are a busy lot - they have to be at their restaurants 24/7, after all - so they slapped a 100-word limit on the submissions. Well, 100 words does not an essay make (unless you're 5 - which many entrants in the WH Kid division likely will be), so I decided poetry would be a better medium by which to concisely convey my love of this fine culinary institution.

Having just submitted my entry via the internet, I now would like to share it with all of you. Without any further ado, here is my PR-friendly, 97-word tribute to Waffle House.

Waffles are my favorite food,
day or night, in any mood.
Than Waffle House's, none's more tasty -
eat it slow or eat it hasty.
With yellow sign always agleam,
in Waffledom, you reign supreme.

At each location, all enjoy
the friendly people you employ.
They'll mix a real vanilla Coke,
share a smile or tell a joke,
serve up hashbrowns on the side
with Southern love that's bona fide.

My home for every holiday,
the food, the folks, the "Waffle House Way"
make me forget each gripe and grouse;
That's why I love the Waffle House!

So, there you have it. The contest ends at midnight on Sept. 30, so there's still time for any of you WaHo lovers out there to submit an essay. But good luck beating this one! Nya ha ha :)

[Winners will be chosen next month some time...stay posted for the results!]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pop Musicology

So, I'm taking this awesome seminar on popular music studies with Prof. Theo Cateforis, who may well be my new hero. This class involves lots of academic reading (which is generally less problematic for this class than for, say, Media Law), but fortunately, given the subject matter, the essays are usually quite lively and interesting.

I wanted to share my favorite passage from the readings for today's class, which deals with the problems of developing an effective musicological approach to popular music, because it is amazing. Read on.

In fact, musicologists sometimes approach music with the same attitude that gynecologists (quite rightly!) approach female sexuality: gingerly. In both situations, a concerted effort is made to forget that some members of society regard the objects of their scrutiny as pleasurable. The staff historian takes the vital information (date of birth, height, weight) of the patient. Up into the stirrups goes the song. And the theorist, donning "objectivity" as a methodological rubber glove to protect against contamination, confronts the dreaded thing itself. Graphs, pitch charts, semiotic dissections, guidelines of political correctness - the Pap smears of musicology - are marshalled to detect pathological deviation, to reduce the threat of individuality to normative order. The song is buried under a barrage of theoretical insights, doesn't kick butt any longer.
- Susan McClary and Robert Walser, Start Making Sense! Musicology wrestles with rock (1988)

And after we discussed this and a more heavily theoretical reading, we analyzed the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps." Awesome.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Syracuse Rant no. 2

There won't be many of these, but this was so ridiculous I simply had to share...

Saturday afternoon, probably around 5 pm, I'm wandering through Carousel Center Mall chatting away on my cell phone with my parents, when a tubby, acne-ridden teenage mall employee, complete with red vest and walkie-talkie, gestures to get my attention and says something to me. Realizing that he is in fact addressing me, rudely ignoring the fact that I am mid-conversation, I look at him inquisitively, at which point he firmly repeats what he just said.

"Miss, you are aware that the under-18 policy is in effect right now?"


"The under-18 policy is in effect."

"Uh, yeah. I'm 23."

"I'm gonna have to see some ID."

I mean, are you serious? I got carded AT THE MALL. For WALKING. Apparently this rule is the result of some violence a few years back. Regardless, it made worse an already less-than-great day. I know I didn't have any makeup on and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but do I really look 18? For good measure, I put on a nice don't-mess-with-me scowl every time I passed a red-vested mall worker for the duration of my visit.

And just to clarify, here's the mall's policy, copied from the website:

Parental Escort Policy
Carousel Center has instituted a Parental Escort Policy on Fridays and Saturdays between the hours of 4pm and closing.
Anyone under the age of 18 visiting Carousel Center must be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 years of age or older. One parent or guardian (21 years of age or older) is permitted to supervise up to five teens. Teens must remain within the company of their parent or guardian. Acceptable proof of age is a driver's license, state/provincial non-driver ID, military or college ID, passport or visa.
This policy does not apply to the cinemas or stores with exterior entrances.
Cinema patrons under the age of 18 are asked to use the White Commons Entrance, located between H & M and JC Penney, facing Hiawatha Boulevard, when the policy is in effect.
Thank you for your cooperation.

Get your tickets for the Gunn show

This is the second review written for my critical writing class, coming in at 403 words... Enjoy!

The Cornell Concert Series opened its 2006/07 season Saturday night with a recital by singer Nathan Gunn and his wife, pianist Julie Gunn, in Cornell’s newly renovated Bailey Hall.

Resident hunk of today’s opera world, Gunn, 35, is known and loved as much for his dashing good looks and rippling abs as for his rich, smooth baritone. Concertgoers witnessed only the latter as Gunn, fully clothed in a three-piece tuxedo, offered a program of German and American art song to celebrate the hall’s reopening.

A specialist in Schubert lieder during college, Gunn demonstrated his intimate knowledge of the genre through shrewd programming and delicately nuanced, lyrical interpretations. But the latter threw into sharp relief a jarring disconnect between Gunn’s vocal and physical manifestations of emotion. The passion present in both the texts and Gunn’s vocal treatment never crossed the threshold into the realm of visually observable expression.

Instead, Gunn shared little more with the audience than the mechanics of singing. There was an apparent and disappointing flippancy to Gunn’s performance, as he turned to watch his wife play, slipped in and out of character within a song, and conducted cadences with his head. Were it not for the formalwear and the 1,324-seat house, nearly half-full, you would have thought you were sitting in on one of the couples’ coaching sessions at home in Champaign, Ill.

Gunn’s lack of focus seeped into the second half of the program. This part, more casual than the first, comprised songs by American composers Benjamin Moore, who was in the audience, Charles Ives, Tom Waits, and traditional tunes arranged by Julie Gunn.

Nathan Gunn’s impeccably balanced tone, produced with seeming little effort, carried the evening. His best moments came during shorter pieces, such as Schubert’s “Romanze” and “Nachtviolen,” Moore’s “In the dark pinewood,” and Ives’ “Two little flowers (and dedicated to them).” The more lengthy selections suffered as Gunn’s attention dwindled toward the end of each.

Julie Gunn, however, played with elegant sensitivity throughout, doing her part to keep the songs aloft with expressive accompaniment.

Both artists are immensely likeable and capable, possessing a certain magnetism. You have to wonder where they find the time, with five young children at home, to continue to cultivate their formidable talents.

Saturday’s recital felt more like a warmup than a performance. Assuming this was an exception rather than the rule, Gunn is an artist you’ll want to see and hear again.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Correct me if I'm wrong...

but I am in New York state, am I not?


Sweet weeping Jesus! I stopped at 6 different gas stations/drugstores/grocery stores before finally striking gold at the Sunoco on Teall Ave. I feel like in Atlanta every gas station carries the times...and that's in Georgia!

The real issue here is that the New York Times, though it delivers to every OTHER Syracuse zip code, does not have any service for 13202. If only they would deliver to my building, this problem would be eliminated altogether.

Why does the New York Times hate me?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Let me bring you up to speed

Glory be!

Yes, dear readers, my computer has at long last returned to me (very little thanks to Apple, aka the Dark Lord) and I to you! There's been so much I've wanted to blog about in the last three computerless weeks, but I'll try to keep the retrospective as brief as possible so we can all move on with our lives.

In short...

1. Campus Fashion
The number of legging-clad undergraduates I encounter on my Tu-Th strolls across the quad is both astonishing and alarming...I can sort of understand the inclination to go all Flashdance and wear these things with a big sweater, or even wear them under a skirt or something - I'll even admit that I have been tempted to try some on - but my mind is boggled by the amount of girls tromping unabashedly about campus in spandex with nothing to cover their butts. Drop by any college campus and I'm sure you'll see what I mean. YIKES.

2. I-90 Westbound
Not unlike it's fairer half to the east, only minus the good Massachusetts part. Pretty flat and dull, with flat, dull rest stops that don't sell the NY Times (hello, you're in the same STATE). Again, upon leaving NY, things improved - most notably, no tolls on this side! - but I wasn't on Pennsylvania's I-90 for very long. As it happens, I-79 from Erie to Pittsburgh and beyond was remarkably pleasant with lovely, verdant scenery. Not only did I see deer grazing at the edge of the woods, a safe distance from the highway, but I also saw a horse and buggy drive across an interstate overpass. Amazing!

I was very nearly tempted to challenge the Pennsylvania Welcome Center's assertion, splashed across its walls, that "You can't make a wrong turn in Pennsylvania," but I was already running late on account of the Waterloo outlets...Another day.

3. Pittsburgh
Not at all what I expected! Granted, I went in with little to no expectation of what the city would be like...but I was pleasantly surprised.

4. Pittsburgh Salad
Every bit as delicious as I remembered - and even better washed craft-brewed beer at the Penn Brewery. Basically, this consists of a salad topped with a grilleddown with award-winning meat of your choosing...topped with french fries! Gastronomic genius! (Witness my faithful recreation upon my return to Syracuse...yummm)

5. Syracuse Irish Festival
Underwhelmingly Irish...I'll be sure to let you know how Syracuse's Oktoberfest this weekend fares in comparison.

Stay tuned for photo essays of my trip to the Great New York State Fair and Fun 2006!

It's good to be back...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Review no. 1: Maria De Angelis at LeMoyne College

Here is my first review for my Critical Writing course...enjoy!

Rarely does an artist play to an audience more easily thrilled than a hometown crowd, as evidenced by jazz vocalist and Syracuse native Maria De Angelis’ lackluster performance Sunday afternoon.

De Angelis has a devoted fan base in her hometown, drawing a crowd of more than 60 people of all ages to LeMoyne College’s W. Carroll Coyne Center for the Performing Arts for a concert to celebrate the release of her fourth CD, “Hot Summer.”

Before De Angelis appeared onstage, aptly attired to her album’s title in a loose-fitting white tankdress, iridescent orange shawl, and bejeweled thong sandals, the competent trio of Michael Kanan on piano, Neal Miner on bass, and Tim Pleasant on drums warmed up the crowd with an instrumental number.

De Angelis began her homespun performance with “Day off,” the opening track from her new release. Co-written by De Angelis and pianist-composer Phil Klein, “Day off” falls short of the macabre, murder-ballad standard of “Mack the Knife” the composers were attempting to recreate, suffering from vague lyrics and De Angelis’ unconvincing delivery. The audience loved it, all the same.

They also chuckled their way through the cringe-inducing, “latin-ish” (to borrow De Angelis’ word) duet “Pretend you love me,” in which guest performer Syd Tenenbaum affected an accent reminiscent of Antonio Banderas. In one of the song’s most unfortunate punchlines, De Angelis rhymed “big enchilada” with “nada.”

From there it was mostly uphill, lyrically speaking. But the energy that so often distinguishes a live performance was simply not there. Perhaps De Angelis was too comfortable – she’s known her band for more than 15 years, and the audience appeared to be mostly friends and family – because the casual feel of the concert came across more disengaged than easygoing.

In the final song of the main set, De Angelis began in the wrong key and, laughing it off, had to start again. A rendition of the Gershwin classic “Someone to Watch Over Me” suffered from a tempo so slow as to be cruel, resulting in a lifeless recitation from both De Angelis and the trio. Throughout the 10-song set, De Angelis’ read from a music stand, and her attempts at conveying emotion consisted largely of furrowing her brow, closing her eyes, and gesticulating half-heartedly.

De Angelis is at her best in the middle of her voice, but too often she tried to sing above or below the bounds of her surprisingly small range, creating inconsistencies in tone, vibrato and vocal color.

Despite the self-penned lyrical duds and De Angelis’ deficient stage presence, the concert was not entirely without charm. Two other original songs, sung in French, were endearing and lovely, highlighting the best parts of De Angelis’ range. The final tune, “Now that you’ve gone,” composed by Klein, revealed a richness in De Angelis’ voice, leaving a pleasant final impression.

Throughout the hour-long concert, De Angelis spent nearly as much time thanking people as she did singing – but no matter what she did, her adoring audience was happy to applaud.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Friday night at the movies?

The Met announced today that they will broadcast some of this season's operas in movie theaters across the country - some live, some recorded. They haven't announced the markets yet, but allegedly at least the recorded operas will be shown in smaller markets with limited access to live opera of their very own...

For $18 a pop, I'd definitely check one out (assuming whatever market I'm in is deemed worthy) - but I'm not sure how the performance will translate on the big screen, both aurally and visually (see previous post on DVD operas). It's a big gamble for the Met, and an attempt to bring the genre to a film-oriented and tech-savvy generation while also granting greater access to the older opera-lovers who have tuned into the radio broadcasts as long as they've been around.

I admit, my initial reaction is one of excitement - but I'm not sure if simulcast/pre-recorded opera will be able to sustain whatever audience it initially attracts, young or old. We shall see!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fool me once, shame on you...

Here's my first essay for my popular music studies class...Not the original version - because I'm a TOTAL IDIOT and God is angry with me for some reason or another and my computer froze as I had just finished writing, plugged in my flash drive and started to run spell check - but as close as I could come after copying down what was available on the screen and remembering what I'd written. I can't help but think of those few brilliant sentences were lost, but alas...I'm stupid.

Anyhoo. Without further ado, enjoy this little ditty...

As a student, performer and avid consumer of all kinds of music, it might come as a surprise to some that, on principle, I don’t listen to the radio. My radio days ended during the summer of 1999 when I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, enabling me to program the soundtrack of my days to suit my tastes – at least when I was in the car, which, if you live in Atlanta, Ga., is a lot.

My mother surely also breathed a sigh of relief when she no longer had to shuttle me and my friends around town. Though we sometimes settled on the crowd-pleasing oldies station – the soundtrack of my formative, carpooling years and always good for a sing-along – more often I’d channel-surf around the dial until I happened upon the most palatable two-minutes of “today’s hit music,” to which I would then sing along – loudly – heedless of whether or not said music contained lyrics you’d want your mother to hear you singing. (In retrospect, I don’t know how I wasn’t embarrassed or my mother horrified by this. I can safely say that the music didn’t register with me on anything more than a superficial level back then. And I have an extremely patient mother.)

My oldest friend started driving in March of 1998, allowing us sporadic reprieve from the radio’s aural assault of one-off hits, including such chestnuts as Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping,” “OMC’s “How Bizarre,” and New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give.” Other one-hit wonders of the more sensitive, downtempo persuasion were lumped together in my mind under the self-concocted classification of “’Dawson’s Creek’ music – this comprised sentimental hits like Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” (which, thanks to wedding DJs across the country and American Idol has been granted new life) and the tuneless ballad “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden (surely a contender in the race for lamest band name ever).

At the same time, the piano-bass-drums trio Ben Folds Five released the lovely “Brick” as a single off of its 1997 album “Whatever and Ever Amen.” I hated it.

I vaguely recall an initial attraction to the timbre of the piano and the chorus’s interesting melody, but as “Brick” enjoyed more airplay, I enjoyed it less. The song’s ubiquity ultimately kindled my scorn, earning the group a place in my book of irritating bands that suck, right alongside Matchbox Twenty and Sixpence None the Richer. But soon that magical summer arrived and I became master of my aural domain. My 208-CD wallet accompanied me wherever I went, and I rocked out with Axl and Eddie, harmonized with the Fab Four, and belted out guilty-pleasure Disney songs to my heart’s content, effectively keeping the narrowly-focused repetition of the radio at bay.

It wasn’t until late in my sophomore year of college that I realized I had erroneously written off Ben Folds. Now a solo artist, he had come to play at Northwestern that fall, but I’d had a paper due the next morning – and didn’t he only have, like, one popular song anyway? – so I didn’t bother to go. My friends who went to the concert returned raving about the show, which piqued my curiosity. In the summer subsequent, Folds toured with Tori Amos and I joined my Folds-loving friend for the show – I was nothing short of blown away.

The space of five years had allowed my mind to disassociate “Brick” from all the other annoying songs of 1998 and I was finally able to hear it for the beautiful, well-crafted song it is. The lyrics spoke to me at age 20 in a way they hadn’t when I was 15, and the piano ostinato under the verse was achingly beautiful and evocative. But before Folds got to “Brick” – played as an encore, naturally – he tore through an impressive catalog of piano-rock, each tune accompanied by the voices of zealous fans singing along. Folds was engaging and intelligent, evidenced not only by his wittily observant lyrics, but also by his command of the conventions of many musical styles and effortless improvisational abilities. I joined in the sing-along when I could, but later that night I couldn’t help but think of what I’d been missing out on all those years.

And why? The radio.

Where before I simply didn’t like it, I now cultivated a fervent mistrust of the radio, which I maintain today – mostly for fear that another similarly excellent artist will be ruined for me. If I do turn to terrestrial radio for entertainment, I reject Top 40 stations in favor of oldies or the now-popular catchall stations that cycle through hits of the previous four decades.

Occasionally my ignorance of current Billboard hits is revealed, and I can’t help but feel like a bit of a fraud, especially since I purport to be an ever-vigilant consumer of new, good music. I figure if it’s good enough, it will reach my discerning ears one way or another, whether through the recommendations of friends and magazines, CD samplers, television or retail soundtracks, or Internet radio sites (which boast many considerable advantages over conventional radio, most notably the capacity to skip songs and program certain artists and their ilk). But the radio has done me wrong one time too many, and I won't let it happen again.