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...