Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The coolest book event of 2009

Great news, Atlanta! I've just received confirmation from Wordsmiths Books, my favorite local bookseller, that David Hajdu will be making a stop in Decatur on his upcoming tour to promote the paperback of his latest book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. Hajdu is the music critic for The New Republic and currently a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Back in '06 and '07, when he still lived upstate, he was a professor in the Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University, where we got to know each other. Mark your calendars for Thursday, February 12. More details to come...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

This just in...

About an hour ago I received a press release from the City of Atlanta in my Outlook inbox, updating me on the status of the municipal budget for fiscal year 2009. Turns out the status is pretty grim:

City Hall has projected a deficit of $50 to $60 million already. In order to soften the blow, the mayor has implemented a hiring freeze, mandated a 36-hour work-week for all employees in general fund departments (that includes police), and thrown $12 million in reserves in to help plug the hole. Those measures will amount to about $40 million. Where will the rest come from?

Three million dollars will be siphoned off from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. In addition to closing or reducing hours at dozens of rec centers and community pools, the city has axed the Atlanta Jazz Festival (along with "various arts programming"). Yes, the same Atlanta Jazz Festival headlined by Herbie Hancock in Piedmont Park in 2007.

Public Works also took a $2.5-million hit: recycling and yard trimmings will be collected every other week in the future, which makes my little tree-hugging heart sad. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the more than 200 workers who are now among the jobless.

It's disheartening to watch the city I love struggle, and from so close a vantage point. I take some comfort in Atlanta's longstanding iconographic association with the phoenix. I hope that once we turn the corner on these dark economic times the city will be able to come back stronger than ever before.



UPDATE: I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with Camille Russell Love, who clarified the situation. The Atlanta Jazz Festival will go on in 2009 and beyond, with the ultimate goal of becoming a freestanding non-profit, independent of the city's whims and financial crises. This year the festival will take place in Grant Park, and as of mid-December they had already raised funds equal to the entire 2008 budget.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Doctor Atomic, revisited

For those out there who were unable to see the ASO's performances of Doctor Atomic this past weekend or catch it during its recent run at the Met, this post serves as a look-what-you-missed compilation, brought to you by the magic of YouTube. These scenes are taken from the DVD, released this September, of the production directed by librettist Peter Sellars at The Netherlands Opera (hence the Dutch subtitles; just ignore those).

Much of the casting was the same from that production to ours, but these clips feature only Jessica Rivera (Kitty Oppenheimer) and Gerald Finley (J. Robert Oppenheimer). Finley originated the role at the San Francisco Opera and has performed it in every production since: at the Netherlands Opera, seen here; with the Lyric Opera of Chicago; the Metropolitan Opera; the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; and, in early 2009, he will appear in the role of Oppenheimer with the English National Opera.

If you did happen to see the semi-staged production, directed by James Alexander, in Atlanta, you might appreciate the excerpts from the bedroom scene, rendered more coherently here -- and taking place in an actual bedroom. (Semi-staged productions are almost always at a disadvantage, and ours was no different.) "Batter my heart" remains one of the most intensely exciting, wrenching arias ever written, and it was no less powerful in concertized form. The last clip is still more impossibly beautiful singing from Finley, my new favorite baritone. I haven't included any choral scenes in this rundown, mostly because we were much better than the chorus in Amsterdam.

The first two clips compose the bulk of the bedroom scene between Kitty and Oppenheimer. "Batter my heart" concludes the first act. "To what benevolent demon" comes late in the second act, just as the final countdown is about to begin.

"Am I in your light" - Jessica Rivera



"Long let me inhale deeply" - Gerald Finley



"Batter my heart" - Gerald Finley



"To what benevolent demon" - Gerald Finley

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, beatitude!

Tonight is the first of two Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performances of Doctor Atomic, and I am SO excited. As I phrased it in an email intended to persuade my friends to come, I am Barack Obama excited about it. I have a feeling that in the wake of this concert series I might go into a bit of post-production withdrawal -- sort of like what happened in high school after a musical was over, only on a much more compressed time frame. I certainly won't miss rehearsing until 11 p.m. and beyond after a long day's work, but the sensation of being invested and immersed in a single work for such a long time (chorally speaking) is one I have not felt in a while. I've realized in these past months that I have missed that.

(photo from metopera.org)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

the wafflelectoral map

Strawberry waffles over blueberry? Really?


Looks like Texas got it right, for once. Georgia remains sadly misled.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bake for Change!

There may be a deeper chronicling of my latest culinary adventure posted here soon, but in the meantime, bask in my newfound fame as a featured baker/decorator of cakes on Yes We Cake.

Inspiration struck early Sunday morning as I prepared to sing at church - blue velvet cake for my election party!
And since Georgia is rumored to be purpling, I decided I'd make it a Blue State Blue Velvet Cake. (Thanks to Matt and Tedd Lee for the scrumptious recipe.) Time will tell if my sugary soothsaying is accurate...




(more pics of the baking process can be viewed here)

UPDATE: As it has in five of the last six elections, Georgia went red -- 52.4 percent for McCain to 46.9 percent for Obama. (Non-spoiler Bob Barr won a whopping .7 percent of the vote.) My vision of a blue Georgia was only realized in icing this year. I see no need for further analysis of the cake prep process -- only viewing and admiring of its velvety blue interior!

We decided Southwest Georgia would be the first to go.
(I mean, Columbus? Albany? Cairo? All that Alabama border? Yeah.)


Blue has never looked more delicious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Family History

This afternoon I was perusing the dozens of Jezebel articles on my Google reader and clicked on this one about Roe v. Wade. The hypertext in the second sentence caught my eye immediately, but not because it was blue - because I know Marsha and David King, the other two plaintiffs in the landmark case. They're in Atlanta now, and they're the parents of one of my oldest friends.

That link took me to an interview with Marsha. Needless to say, my mind was boggled. In principle it doesn't surprise me in the slightest, but I certainly didn't expect to learn, while poking around on the Internet at work, that my friend's parents are a significant part of our country's history.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

3 1/2 years and 7 pounds of love

Little Man, July 2005
4 months


On September 7, my cat Little Man turned 3 1/2 years old. (I've always been one for half-birthday celebrations. I blame my summer birthday.) Those of you who have met Little Man know that his is not just a clever name - I actually think I may have stunted his growth by naming him that, but, frankly, nothing else took.

Regardless of the cause, Little Man is a total runt: fully grown, he weighs 7 pounds on a tubby day. My sister's cats Bubba and Leroy (and cousin Lily Wolbe) are about twice his size.

In addition to being a runt, he is slightly cross-eyed.


Also, his front right pinky toe (if cats have pinkies, or toes) doesn't really retract, so he can't sneak up on anybody when hardwood floors are involved. Sometimes I call him Pegleg.


Little Man came into my life in May 2005, just over two months old, as an early graduation present from my parents. Most anyone who has recently finished college or experienced the early- to mid-twenties time of life will agree that these are not the easiest of years. I feel lucky that my steadfast kitty-friend has been with me through it all - and he doesn't even seem to resent me for moving him to Syracuse for a year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In which I avoid bomb-related punnery...

It's not uncommon to hear members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus wishing a Monday night rehearsal were over before it even started or cursing the intense performance-week schedule. I myself have cut back on my commitments to the group this season -- to be specific, I've dropped Chamber Chorus -- because I'm too young to be married to the chorus. Many members have been in the group longer than I have been ALIVE. This being the case, it's easy to imagine how one might take membership in this group for granted or see it as merely a routine task to be completed or a hurdle to be overcome in the course of the week.

In my relatively limited experience with this organization, though, there are always moments when it dawns on you what an amazing privilege it is to be a voice in the ASOC. To sing under Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles. To nit-pick every eighth note or quarter-tone with Norman Mackenzie, as agonizing as it is in the process. (It's especially easy for me to overlook the value of rehearsal with Norm since I see him roughly eight days a week, but he's a brilliant, exacting musical creature.) I've come away from each of our first two rehearsals with a sense of pride in my membership and profound excitement for the performances to come.

This season, as in others, we've got some old, lovely chestnuts of choral-orchestral repertoire on the docket, but the first performance of the "big chorus" will be a concert version of John Adams's 2005 opera Doctor Atomic, which makes its Metropolitan Opera debut this October. I first performed Adams last season and find the opera to be idiomatic with On the Transmigration of Souls in terms of harmony, rhythm and structure, but the libretto* is even more striking, for me, than the Sept. 11 inspired work. I love that there exists a man who hears music in these words and can make it seem totally natural that one would sing these phrases. Reading it now, I can't help but hear the words sing.

Here's a taste of the choral part, which begins the opera:

Overture
We believed that "matter can be neither created nor destroyed, but only altered in form." We believed that "energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but only altered in form." But now we know that energy may become matter, and now we know that matter may become energy, and thus be altered in form.

Act I, scene i
The end of June nineteen-forty-five finds us expecting from day to day to hear of the explosion of the first atomic bomb devised by man. All the problems are believed to have been solved, at least well enough to make a bomb practicable. A sustained neutron chain reaction resulting from nuclear fission has been demonstrated; production plants of several different types are in operation, building a stockpile of the explosive material. We do not know when the first explosion will occur, nor how effective it will be. The devastation from a single bomb is expected to be comparable to that of a major air raid by usual methods. A weapon has been developed that is potentially destructive beyond the wildest nightmares of the imagination; a weapon so ideally suited to sudden unannounced attack that a country's major cities might be destroyed overnight by an ostensibly friendly power. This weapon has been created not by the devilish inspiration of some warped genius but by the arduous labor of thousands of normal men and women working for the safety of their country.


This is going to be AWESOME.

*Libretto by Peter Sellars, drawn from original sources

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Last night... was the most incredible night of my life

By last night I mean, of course, this morning. This morning was among the most incredible mornings of my life, and not just because I successfully medicated my cat and have nary a scratch to show for it. No, today marked the grand opening of the Waffle House Museum, located in the restored original Waffle House restaurant in Avondale Estates, Ga. (just over the line from Decatur), and I was on hand to help celebrate.

Merely being witness to this event would have been enough, but by noon I had crossed another three names off my list of People I Must Meet In My Lifetime: Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr., founders and patriarchs of the Waffle House chain, and S. Truett Cathy, developer of the chicken sandwich made famous by his Chick-fil-A restaurants. Three cornerstones of Southern fast food in one day! My little heart was bursting with joy, as you can see.

Tom and me!

Joe Sr. and me, outside the restored original restaurant.
(After we took this photo, he kept his arm around me and
said to his buddy, "If I'm gonna die, I might as well die
in the arms of a good-lookin' woman!" Score.)


Truett and me inside the museum. Bonus!
(He also gave me a signed copy of his latest book,
"How did you do it, Truett?" and a coupon for a free
chicken sandwich. I have totally been doing something right.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canny advertising...

Who knew valet tags could be so useful?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yard-to-table

In case you didn't know it, my dad is a farmer. Lawyer by business hours, farmer by every other time of day. In the heat of the summer, he'll get up and tend to his tomatoes before breakfast. If there's a late freeze in spring, he gets out the tarps and space heaters to protect his peach crop. All the pains taken throughout the year ensure that we eat fresh from the garden -- even those of us no longer living under his roof -- as often as we can. Farm-to-table? Psshaw. It's all right in mom and dad's backyard...

Farmer Jim is SO ahead of the game.

Farmer Jim's famously fresh tomatoes,
in all manner of exciting shapes and colors


Homegrown apples make me happy. DELICIOUS.
Also, not the size of my head.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Glenwood: Scharko Farms summer farm dinner

On August 4, the Glenwood in East Atlanta Village hosted the first in its series of summer farm dinners, this one featuring produce from Fairburn's Scharko Farms. It was my turn to treat my mom and sister in our rotating ladies' night excursions, so I was more than happy to be checking out a fixed-price menu. Little did I know the Abernathy Lush in all of us would quickly negate that benefit.

With a set menu, you basically just sit down and they trot out the food for you. Our lovely waitress, whose name I don't recall, did an excellent job of describing each course and helping us select drink pairings. Without further ado, here is the menu:

FIRST COURSE
Heirloom tomato water with cucumber and basil ice sorbet

SECOND COURSE
Quail rillettes with field pea pistou



THIRD COURSE
Salmon on polenta, rattlesnake beans, crispy pork belly

FOURTH COURSE
Venison loin with sweet corn pudding and arugula salad

DESSERT
Raspberry napoleon with lemon verbena cream


I mean... It was all delicious, even the one that seemed dubious to me (hint: it involved cucumber sorbet). I was underwhelmed by dessert, to be honest, but courses 2-4 were pretty unbelievable. I don't believe I'd ever had quail before (pictured above), but I could eat that dish every day for the rest of my life and be perfectly content.

I'm not sure when the next of these dinners is, but the friendly folks at the Glenwood did tell us that they will be having a launch party for the local food guide in September - that will probably be something I'll check out. And then there's always the regular menu at the Glenwood that needs to be sampled...

The Poe ladies give the Glenwood farm dinner three thumbs up!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Guest-blogging gig

Before I left for Berlin, I pitched the AJC on a from-the-road Berlin blog. At first it seemed like it might not work out, but with persistence and patience I was able to get it pushed through the night before our performances began. I will probably blog more here about the trip, but I wanted to link to my AJC debut in case you don't have occasion to visit ajc.com. Here they be!

1) Willkommen in Berlin!

2) One down, two to go

3) Alle gute Dinge sind drei

(All photos taken by yours truly. Except for that one I was in. I think Anne Marie's boyfriend David took that one...)

Friday, May 16, 2008

My favorite Scot! (Huch-hi!)

Last night at the opening night afterparty I finally spoke with Donald Runnicles, however briefly. Turns out he was music director in Freiburg for about 5 years in the late '80s! So we talked about that, though I forgot to ask if he knows my voice teacher or voice coach from my Freiburg days. Anyway, Thursday's picture is of Donald and me at the reception. I love this man. He is BRILLIANT.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fotografiert im Osten


I went out wandering Tuesday morning before our first rehearsal with the Berliner Philharmoniker (I'm here with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra chorus) in the east-side "artsy" neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. This is my favorite photo from that excursion:
yeah, hot dog!

More from Berlin later... For now, it's off to the Philharmonie!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shake o' the Irish

It's 1:15 a.m. on a Tuesday. In recent weeks I've attended many remarkable cultural events, but instead of writing about any of those things I want to articulate a personal mission, a goal to accomplish within the next week. St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching, as you know, but before the season is out, I pledge to locate, purchase and consume at least one Shamrock Shake. A post on www.shamrockshake.com informs me that they have been sighted somewhere in the Atlanta area...

It will be mine -- oh yes! -- it will be mine!

(Clearly I am a woman of high aspirations.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Suggested viewing/reading

1) "Lester Hobbs: Free Radical Hunter" in the POM Tea Video Contest

From 140 video entries into the POM Tea video contest, my brilliant friends' spot made the cut to the top 10 finalists. You can watch it here:

Now you should go immediately to http://www.pomvideo.com/ and vote for it! There are also three other award categories: Best Comedy, Most Original and Best POM Spirit. To vote for this masterpiece of short-form cinema, the YouTube username is "brockriggs" and the video title is "Lester Hobbs: Free Radical Hunter" -- this could be their big break!



2) Love is a Mix Tape, by Rob Sheffield

I read this a year ago when it first came out and loved it. I laughed a lot, I cried a lot -- the latter on a half-empty, snowy midnight Greyhound journey from New York City to Syracuse, awkwardly spotlighted by the ceiling-panel reading lamp. That was a sort of embarrassing/quite draining undertaking. Whew.

Tonight Sheffield came to Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, which is fast becoming one of my favorite places in town. He read a couple of chapters to a good-sized crowd (a few of his family members included) and then signed books as a local band geared up for an in-store set. As he read, I couldn't help smiling and laughing out loud, and I resolved to revisit Love is a Mix Tape -- just as soon as my sister finishes it, because I lent it to her as soon as I got home tonight. It's a quick, engaging must-read for anyone who loves pop culture, who has ever thoughtfully compiled a mix tape (or CD, or playlist, as the case may be) or who generally enjoys reading about the sometimes complicated, sometimes not-so-complicated lives of twenty-somethings -- and especially if you're a twenty-something yourself.

Me, Rob Sheffield and Jon at Wordsmiths

That's all for tonight... more soon.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

So this is the new year (and I have some resolutions)

sleep more
fret less
move out
laugh (heartily!)
sing (seriously)
be healthy
be joyful - seek the joy of being alive