Secular Music Friday: Turn Turn Turn

Be sure to note Roger McGuinn’s tribute to Pete Seeger before he launches into the standard Byrds version. Thank you for this, Beth!

remembering Pete Seeger

PeteSeegerAfter Pete Seeger’s death I paid tribute in Sacred Music Friday, but I didn’t write anything. Certainly I admire Pete greatly, but I couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound trivial and a repetition of what everyone else was writing. Then Terry pointed out Leah Garchik’s tribute in last Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle, itself somewhat belated because she was in Europe at the time of his death. I never had the privilege of seeing Pete in person, but Garchik did. She writes about seeing Seeger at summer music camp when she was thirteen.

quoteWhen we responded to his irresistible invitation to join in and sing, our individual voices were swallowed up in the full sound of the chorus he’d created. The thrill was not only in the sound, but it was as though the sound was a metaphor for the whole Seeger ethos, his social and political idealism; yes, we can all do this together.

She concludes the tribute by telling us:

quoteYears later, as adults trying to pass along some of his magic, we took our kids to hear him at Stern Grove. Not much had changed. Fans listened to Seeger, loved him and walked away from his performances a little more optimistic about life’s possibilities.

That’s it. I walk away from hearing Pete sing a little more optimistic about life’s possibilities.

Thank you, Leah.

And thank you, Pete, for all you gave us. We miss you.

team effort in the kitchen

When it comes to cooking, generally it’s either Terry or me in the kitchen. There are exceptions. Certainly both Thanksgiving and Christmas are team efforts. On a typical Saturday morning, I squeeze the orange juice and cook the country sausage and then Terry takes over for the eggs.

We’ll also do “surf and turf” for a Saturday dinner. I’ll have my halibut or other seafood and Terry has steak. I get the baked potatoes into the oven and then prepare the marinade for my fish. I then get out of the way and let Terry take over. It works out well

For breakfast last Saturday I had, earlier in the week, suggested huevos rancheros. We had in the freezer country sausage from Rocca’s, leftover Tri Tip from our local barbecue place, homemade refried beans from when I had made tostadas, and leftover guacamole from a pervious meal. We always have generic brand Egg Beaters on hand and Terry usually has her eggs in the fridge. All I needed to pick up were the tortillas.

Saturday turned out to be wet and rainy — perfect for such a breakfast. I took care of the orange juice, and then fried the sausage, warmed up the refried beans in a sauce pan, and heated the Tri Tip in the microwave. I stepped aside. Terry fixed scrambled egg beaters for me and fried egg for herself then assembled everything.

A perfect breakfast for a wet, rainy morning.

reading a novel

novelsAn article which stated that “being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading” was making the rounds on Facebook in January. Since I have been reading strictly nonfiction for quite some time now I paid attention.

The last time I read a novel was when I had a physical Kindle. Being an iPad user with its Kindle app since August 2011, it’s been at least two and a half years. It’s probably been longer than that, because if I recall correctly the last several books I read on my physical Kindle were nonfiction.

I’ve had a few novels among my Kindle samples for quite some time, but when it came time to read the next book, I kept selecting nonfiction. That has changed. I recently saw a reference to The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch. Perhaps that article had some influence on me, but what really grabbed me was that the setting of the novel is the campus of Oxford University.

So once again I’m reading a novel. I’m enjoying it so far.

We’ll see if this creates a new pattern.

The Greater Journey

GreaterJourneyThe Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
David McCullough
Simon & Schuster, 578 pages
Kindle Edition $12.38, Amazon Paperback $14.66

This book delivers what it promises. It recounts the story of Americans in Paris. In particular, it is the story of Americans in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century. McCullough writes about Samuel F.B. Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, the painter George Catlin, P.T. Barnum, and many others who spent time in France. I certainly learned a number of things that I didn’t know, including the fact that Samuel F.B. Morse was first a painter, and only gave up painting when the telegraph caught on.

France in the second half of the nineteenth century wasn’t necessarily a stable place politically. The government underwent multiple coups and revolutions in that period, and McCullough necessarily describes those events and how they affected the Americans living in France when they occurred. Which brings me to the question of why I read the book in the first place. The political history of France doesn’t much interest me, and the expatriates living in Paris about whom I want to read are those who were there in the twentieth century between the two world wars: the Ernest Hemmingways  and the Gertrude Steins.

I suppose I had this feeling that I “needed” to read a David McCullough book. Certainly McCullough has a clear, solid prose style, but it’s not writing I admire for the writing’s sake. The book is well-researched. It may appear intimidating at 578 pages, but perhaps forty percent of the book is the back matter. There are also several places where the text is interrupted for several pages of pictures.

Still, if the subject matter interests you, you will not be disappointed. As for me, I’ve read my McCullough and I’m moving on.

Sacred Music Friday: Hymn to St. Cecilia

Hymn to St. Cecilia by Benjamin Britten.the Philharmonic Chorus of Madison (Wisconsin), Patrick Gorman, director

Winter Olympics Blues

I usually love the Winter Olympics. But it’s hard for me to get engaged this year.

onlympicsThere’s the whole Russian anti-gay thing. There’s the fact that preparation for the Olympics has disrupted the lives of the locals at Soshi. Some have lost their homes. Some are having a heck of a time getting to their homes with all the construction. Some who still have homes are being told to paint them, but not being given the paint or money to buy paint.

Never mind the venue, and why the IOC selected Sochi in the first place. Look at a map. Sochi is at the same latitude as Marseilles. Not exactly Alpine.

Then there are the very real threats of terrorism. It’s not surprising that athletes are telling their families to stay home.

So it’s really hard for me to me to get excited about the Winter Olympics this year. And that’s sad. Because the real losers are the athletes who have trained so hard to get there.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

The Kitchen

Food Network has come up with a new program that is not in the reality show/competition format. Wow! What a concept.

kitchenIt’s called The Kitchen, and it airs Saturdays at 11:00. It strikes me as being a blatant rip-off of ABC’s The Chew, but that’s fine. I’ll take it. I don’t have the time to watch an hour-long food program five days a week, so the weekly format works well for me. And I like the hosts.

  • Sunny Anderson — I’m familiar with Sunny, although I have never sat down and watched any of her programs. I’m enjoying her on The Kitchen.
  • Marcela Valladolid — I loved Marcela on Mexican Made Easy, and I’m sorry that she is not making new episodes. I’m delighted to see her here. I have as much of a crush on her as I do on Giada. Probably more so, because Marcela strikes me as being more real and approachable.
  • Katie Lee — Katie is new to me, but I love her warm, cheerful presence on the program. I’m developing a crush on her as well.
  • Jeff Mauro — Jeff is probably the host I have warmed up to the least, but he still has a lot to contribute to the show.
  • Geoffrey Zakarian — I was not familiar with Geoffrey, although he has been a judge on Chopped and was an Iron Chef winner. But how could I not like a slender, grey-haired man who wears glasses? (Though he put aside the glasses in the most recent episode.)

The show is a lot of fun, and there are recipes worth saving and trying.

I hope Food Network keeps it around.

What W. H. Auden Can Do for You

AudenWhat W. H. Auden Can Do for You (Writers on Writers)
Alexander McCall Smith
Kindle Edition  $9.18, Amazon Hardcover  $15.45
Princeton University Press, 135 pages

I have been a W.H. Auden fan since college. I will grab any book I hear about that focuses on Auden, his circle, and his times. This new, thin book on Auden from the Writers on Writers series is written by Alexander McCall Smith, who is an Irish novelist and a bigger Auden devotee than even I am.

The book was for me rather uneven. Some chapters focused on Auden’s life and how his poetry reflected his experience. I found those interesting and they contained some material with which I was not familiar. A couple of chapters were abstract to the point that my eyes glazed over. A few chapters were autobiographical on Smith’s part, which I found enjoyable because they described how Auden informed Smith as an author and as an individual.

Smith discusses how Auden was often critical of his own work. I have long been aware of this. And this is why you don’t let authors compile their own selected works volumes. In an edition Auden edited shortly before his death he omitted one of his greatest poems “September 1, 1939.” Fortunately it was restored to a collected poems edition after his death. Indeed Smith tells us the poem “was photocopied and faxed around New York in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade towers.”

The poem is still relevant in our troubled world of political turmoil today.

quoteI sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street, Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low, dishonest decade …

Auden wrote that he omitted the poem from his collection at least in part because on reflection he considered one line to be nonsense. That line:

quoteWe must love one another or die.

No, not nonsense. The absolute truth.

This is not the best book I have read on Auden, but it is worth reading if you love Auden and appreciate the issues he tackled. And any book that keeps us remembering Auden today has justified its existence.

We need Auden today as much as ever.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

they were flying for us

The good folks over at EarthSky reminded me that last Tuesday, 28 January was the anniversary of the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

I was in my office at the San Jose Metro newspaper when the publisher’s wife, who worked at the paper a day or two a week, said, “The shuttle exploded.” I replied, “What do you mean the shuttle exploded?”

I turned on KCBS news radio and learned exactly what that meant. I listened to the coverage on NPR on the way home to Redwood City on the train. It was only after I got home that I saw the frightening video.

Saturday 1 February was the anniversary of the day in 2003 that the shuttle Columbia broke apart upon re-entry. Interestingly, that day in 2003 was a Saturday as well. Terry and I slept late as we normally do on Saturday and had a leisurely breakfast. Chances are that we listened to West Coast Live via the Web. After breakfast Terry got on the computer and while surfing the Web said to me “The shuttle broke apart.”

I replied, “What do you mean the shuttle broke apart?”

We remember, respect, and appreciate those brave souls who died fulfilling their passion. They were truly flying for us.