Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Squid Mixes: Cold Whiskey Punch

This is my first drink recipe from Imbibe! by David Wondrich.  I will write a more complete review soon.  Suffice to say for now, it's a history of cocktail evolution in the 19th century and includes lots of old recipes.  One of the first important steps in that journey was punch's conversion from a communal bowl to an individual serving.  This mixture combines rye with bits of rum, sugar and the juice of have a lemon. 

As always, the citrus is the flavor heavyweight.  It's a tasty beverage and strong.  Old punches generally were.  There is a funky aftertaste - kind of like cardboard.  I realize that makes it sounds worse than it actually is.  I think it comes from the rum, which makes me wonder if one could just as easily do without.  Could be a worthy experiment.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Window Above: Airbag

Song: "Airbag"
Songwriters: Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Ed O'Brien and Colin Greenwood)
Original Release: June 16, 1997
Album: OK Computer

Radiohead - Airbag [OK Computer] from faustidioteque on Vimeo.

In the early days of the current century, my wife and I lived in New Jersey.  I was in graduate school and she was commuting into New York everyday.  Since she left earlier than I did, I always had some time in the morning to myself before heading to class.  I began every day essentially the same way, by turning on the computer and checking my email as I ate my breakfast.  For what must have been several months, Radiohead's OK Computer CD was loaded into our iMac and would come on whenever we turned on the computer.  I began every day with "Airbag."  I won't go so far as to say it's even the best song on the album but it's the first song I think of when I think of Radiohead.  Can't deny it also reminds me of a quieter, simpler life.

I never got into the band the way some of my friends did but I admire Radiohead immensely.  Few bands of any era have been so eager to challenge their audience, each new album bucking any sense of established formula.  OK Computer was their third studio album and the most successful of the bunch, both commercially and critically.  The song was inspired by a car crash Yorke and his girlfriend had survived several years earlier.  It is intended as a celebration of a life saved.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

On the Coffee Table: David A. Sousa

Title: How the Brain Learns, Fifth Edition
Author: David A. Sousa

Yet another book from my Master's program and the title is self-explanatory.  While the first chapter covers basic form and function for the human noodle, most of the book explores the ins-and-outs of learning.  Obviously, it's a big topic and crucial understanding for a teacher.  I'll spoil the ending: it turns out we don't usually teach in the best way for the brain to learn.  And "we" doesn't mean my Master's cohort.  It means our entire profession - across subjects, age groups, nationalities, etc.  Fortunately, Sousa offers many suggestions for alternative approaches.  The book is highly readable as textbooks go and it's not all theory either.  Each chapter culminates with a "Practitioner's Corner": materials to use in the classroom.

A few sections of personal importance for me:
  • Math - My daughter has started high school this year.  While she's mostly doing well, math is giving her a run for the money.  As mathematics was my best subject in school - better than music, even - it has fallen to me to help.  It can be rough going some nights.  Sousa offers plenty of insight as to why people struggle with math.  I may actually have my daughter read the section on math anxiety to see if any of it rings true for her.
  • The arts - Sousa is a strong advocate for the arts, trumpeting all of the benefits to the brain, especially from music.  While the Mozart Effect is a well-established exaggeration if not outright myth, there are other proven benefits, especially from learning to play an instrument.  Parts of the brain actually grow from the experience and the advantages are long-term, even if you stop playing.  For those of us in music ed, arguing for our right to exist is part of the job.  Sousa provides plenty of fodder.
  • Bloom's Taxonomy - If you've ever taken an ed class in your life, you probably know Bloom's, essentially a hierarchy of intellectual challenge.  Once you can remember new knowledge, you can begin to understand it.  Once you understand it, you can apply it to new thinking.  And so on.  The taxonomy itself has evolved since its initial introduction in the 1950s.  Some of the steps have switched places and the whole structure is more fluid than it was in the beginning.  It is an excellent means for adding ever-increasing challenge for one's students, something I am actually thinking about a lot in my own current practice.  Good timing.
The book is definitely intended for teachers but much of it would still be interesting for the general reader.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Squid Mixes: Palmetto Cocktail

A Palmetto is basically a rum Manhattan and you could probably order it that way, though as Robert Simonson puts it, "that's one extra syllable between you and your cocktail."  My books, however, offer two different recipes.  The New York Bartender's Guide has light rum and dry vermouth, 2:1 ratio with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters.  Simonson's 3-Ingredient Cocktails has Cruzan Single Barrel rum and sweet vermouth, 1:1 with one dash of orange bitters (clearly his favorite).  It was the brand specificity of Simonson's that initially drove me to the other book.  But my wife, genius that she is, suggested trying both.  Bacardi would simply have to do.

No question, Simonson's is better.  The three ingredients play together more nicely.  In the dry vermouth/Angostura option, one tastes all three components distinctly.  In the other, the rum complements the sweet vermouth more naturally and a lighter hint of bitters is still plenty.  My wife suggests that perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to turn up our noses at Simonson's fussiness.  Even the Squirt preferred the second one:

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Window Above: Evangeline

Song: "Evangeline"
Writer: Matthew Sweet
Original Release: October 22, 1991
Album: Girlfriend

Matthew Sweet was another college discovery for me.  He wrote the songs on Girlfriend in the wake of a divorce.  "Evangeline" is based on a comic book of the same name which ran from 1984-89.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Squid Eats: Juniper

Juniper Bar and Restaurant is part of the Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington.  We went this past weekend for a pre-concert dinner before a Vermont Symphony performance.  This was, I believe, my second time at Juniper and my first for dinner.  As a local hangout, I think of it more as a bar than a restaurant.  Not surprisingly, it's a little noisy for a family meal.

The food was good and the service attentive.  I had the buttermilk fried Maple Wind Farm chicken - scrumptious.  I ate the leg before I remembered to take a picture.  I have high standards for fried chicken and they were met: tasty batter, not too salty; dark meat juicy; white meat not too dry.  The breasts were boneless, too, which was nice.  Pyramid cake for dessert, also lovely.  The meal was pricey - not too surprising for a hotel restaurant but still worth noting.

As noted in my most recent State of the Blog post, I am on a quest for the best Manhattan in northwest Vermont.  No real standouts yet but no disappointments either.  Juniper's was perfectly enjoyable, enough so that I had two.  My most interesting discovery in my quest so far is that most people assume I want bourbon whereas I've always made the drink with rye.  "Yeah, bourbon's in," my wife says.  I'm sure she's right but who decides these things?  For the record, Robert Simonson offers the choice in 3-Ingredient Cocktails.  That might well be worth a taste test at some point when I have the time and no need to drive anywhere. 

The concert was nice, too, and it featured a guest conductor: Vinay Parameswaran.  His full-time gig is assistant conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra.  The opening palette cleanser was Rossini's Overture to L'Italiana in Algeri.  The post-intermission warhorse was Beethoven's 6th - not his most famous symphony but probably the most important historically as the beginning of program music.  Lots of wonderful woodwind material which pleased our clarinetist daughter.

The middle piece was the novel treat: Vijay Iyer's Violin Concerto, "Trouble."  The composer himself was on hand (though we didn't know that until it was over) and the soloist Jennifer Koh was the very violinist for whom he had written the piece.  The relationship between violin and orchestra is more symbiotic than in most concertos and Koh's transitions from showcase to ensemble player and back were seamless and artful.  Percussion is featured prominently.

A lovely evening.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Window Above: Suzy

Title: "Suzy"
Writer: Andrew Ratshin
Original Release: 1984
Band: Uncle Bonsai
Album: Lonely Grain of Corn

Game Designer introduced me to Uncle Bonsai sometime in the early '90s.  I can't say I know much about them: a Seattle-based trio with a snarky, folkish style, one man, two women.  Their songs are often raunchy, irreverent and extremely funny, though this one is rather tame.  Other titles include "Penis Envy" and "Boys Want Sex in the Morning."

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?