Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Squid Mixes: Brandy Sour

The sour began its rise to prominence in the 1860s.  Whiskey was the most common base liquor but brandy, rum and gin sours were also popular.  I got my recipe from David Wondrich's Imbibe: brandy, water, sugar and the juice of half a lemon.  As with many older drinks, it's mixed directly in the glass, though more recent recipes call for shaking.  I prefer whiskey but brandy's nice for a change of pace.

Monday, February 18, 2019

On the Coffee Table: The Fade Out

Title: The Fade Out, Act One
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Author: Sean Phillips
Image result for the fade out act one
via Wikipedia
Comic book noir.

Charlie, a struggling screenwriter, wakes up in an unfamiliar bath tub after a little-remembered evening of drunken carousing.  On the living room floor, he finds a beautiful starlet strangled to death.  As he works to piece things together, the dark, manipulative, misogynist world of late '40s Hollywood unfolds.  Every man's a womanizer.  The studio boss has a casting couch (maybe?) and secret passages.  The more we learn, the more twisted the tale becomes.

The Fade Out is just the sort of story my wife loves so it's no surprise she discovered it first.  Act One collects the first four of the twelve-issue run, originally published from 2014-2016.  So far, the protagonist narrator is one of the least interesting characters though that changes as we gradually learn more about him, including the fact he worked with Clark Gable on his war documentaries.  The artwork is dark and pulpy, a good fit for the genre.  Definitely an R rating: nudity, violence and language.

I'm certainly in for this one through to the end.  Gotta know what happened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Window Above: I'm Going to Go Back There Someday

Song: "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday"
Writer: Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher
Original Release: 1979
Performer: Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz)
Album: The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording

"There's not a word yet
For old friends who've just met."

This song comes up at a low point in The Muppet Movie.  Our felted friends are stranded in the desert, their trip to Hollywood seemingly put on permanent hold.  In a wistful moment, Gonzo sings this song.  It's sad.  It's sweet.  It's beautiful.  It's every bit as enigmatic as Gonzo himself, the tune capturing the mood perfectly but the lyrics not quite connected to the rest of the story.  The scene and song would eventually be used as a premise for Muppets in Space, a film released 20 years later.

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, February 13, 2019

On the Coffee Table: The Magicians of Caprona

Title: The Magicians of Caprona
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Image result for magicians of caprona
via Amazon
The Magicians of Caprona is the fourth book of Diana Wynne Jones's The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series, according to the author's recommended order.  More on that in a bit.  My previous reflections on the series can be found here and here.

Synopsis: two households, both alike in dignity...  Half-joking but the Romeo and Juliet allusions are undoubtedly intentional.  Caprona is a fictional Tuscan dukedom where two magician families feud.  Furthermore, someone is playing the Montanas and the Petrocchis against each other in an effort to distract both from looming external threats.  Just as with R&J, the story is told from the perspective of the children, drawn together by narrative if not always romantic forces.  Perspective jumps around but if the story has a main character, it is Tonino Montana who is abducted along with his Petrocchi counterpart, Angelica.  As we learn over time, Tonino is a more powerful magician than he or anyone else realizes - a frequent theme in Jones's stories.

Our daughter still claims this series as her favorite and this book as her preference among the bunch.  As a result, the real-world Tuscany was high on her wish list for our family trip to Europe last summer.  While that didn't pan out, her interest hasn't waned.  I enjoyed the story but don't think I would choose it as my favorite.  Jones has a wonderful gift for drawing likeable heroes and detestable villains.  I also appreciate the prominence of cats this time.  She usually favors dogs.  However, there are way too many characters to keep track of - so many uncles and aunts!  Plus, there's a Punch and Judy motif.  That story always creeps me out.

I accidentally read this book out of series order.  I realize that might not seem a big deal to most people but it's the sort of thing that drives me crazy!  In terms of narrative, the order matters little.  Each book is a stand-alone story.  The author, though, did have a recommended order.  Unfortunately, not every publisher has respected her wishes.  The author suggested The Magicians of Caprona as #4, whereas in the edition my daughter owns, it is #3.  In my own compulsive brain, reading a series out of order is a far greater sin than leaving it unfinished.  I'll need to rectify the situation at some point.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Squid Mixes: Pink Lemonade

You're right.  It's not pink.  It smells pink and it tastes pink.  But it doesn't look pink.  Seems a crucial detail.

One benefit of the mocktail hobby is that you can add alcohol to the surplus supply for the adults in the house.  My pink lemonade recipe came from The New York Bartender's Guide: vodka, maraschino liqueur and fresh lemonade.  The liqueur is the key to the pinkness.  It's quite tasty and one could certainly add a splash or two of grenadine if anyone is likely to get hung up on appearances.

"Real" pink lemonade is a contrivance anyway.  Even pink lemons - an actual thing - juice clear.  In contemporary commerce, the color is achieved through artificial chemical magic.  If you're interested in the drink's origins, this article from Smithsonian Magazine offers some unsavory theories.

Friday, February 8, 2019

A Window Above: Wagon Wheel

Song: "Wagon Wheel"
Writers: Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor
Original Release: February 24, 2004
Band: Old Crow Medicine Show
Album: O.C.M.S.

"Wagon Wheel" has an amazing story.  Bob Dylan wrote the melody and the chorus - but no verses, at least not coherent ones - back in 1973.  He never finished the song and therefore never released it but it made it on to a bootleg recording:

The tape came into the hands of a young Ketch Secor some 20 years later when he was a teenager at Philip Exeter Academy.  He wrote the verses and when he and his friends formed the band Old Crow Medicine Show in 1998, the song became part of their standard set.

The song became bigger than the band.  It never got significant radio air play but took on a life of its own, making its way around country/bluegrass/folk circles by word of mouth and was eventually certified platinum.  Seemingly everyone learned to play it, enough that it became a popular song request at all concerts, not just Old Crow Medicine Show's - effectively the acoustic world's "Free Bird."  In fact, it became so cliche that many venues have banned the song.  In 2013, Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame released a cover that went triple platinum. 

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, February 5, 2019

Squid Mixes: Lemonade

Fresh lemonade is a beautiful thing.  I remember having it for the first time at a Ben & Jerry's, of all places, in DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood.  The recipe in Kester Thompson's Mocktails is straightforward: fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and water.  While it is simple enough to buy sugar syrup, Thompson and most others recommend making your own so I did - a little more time-consuming but easy enough. We all like our lemonade tart so a half-cup of the syrup, against a cup of lemon juice, was enough.

For the curious: 1 cup of juice required 3.5 lemons.