Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Squid Mixes: Shark Attack

Yup.  Next time, a shorter glass.

A shark attack was a great way to use up some of the lemonade from last week's drink (see here).  I got the recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide: vodka, lemonade and grenadine.  The recipe indicates stirring after pouring everything in the glass.  However, if I should ever make it again, I prefer the theatrical effect of the grenadine unstirred - wish I'd taken a picture.

I rather doubt I will make it again, though.  Wife's review: a little too cough syrupy. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Window Above: You Better You Bet

Song: "You Better You Bet"
Writer: Pete Townshend
Original Release: February 27, 1981
Band: The Who

"You Better You Bet" was the lead single for the 1981 album Face Dances.  It was the last Who single to make the top 20 on the US charts or the top 10 in the UK.  Lead singer Roger Daltrey claims it as one of his all-time favorites, loving the Elvis-like vocal line as he describes it.

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, April 24, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Casey Reason

Title: Leading a Learning Organization: The Science of Working with Others
Author: Casey Reason
via Amazon
This was another book I picked up for my master's program.  Fortunately for my own purposes, the book expands the idea of leadership beyond the principal's role.  Having been in my job for quite a while and having earned a fair amount of trust and respect from my colleagues (the damn fools) I have found myself in a lot more leadership roles in recent years, both official and otherwise.  Especially when our professional community is struggling, which it seems to be more often than not, I find it difficult not to take on the stress and worries of others.  Listening to people complain all the time is brutally draining.  I am always eager to find ways to turn those same complaints into a plan for action.  Reason's book offers a path.

Basically, he recommends leading others in a collective inquiry process.  As much as I appreciate the positive and constructive thinking, I may need to rethink approaching books about work as pleasure reading.  I read a bit, then start to ruminate upon unpleasant things.  I still want to read such books and may indeed try to implement some of his ideas, but maybe not the most relaxing material at bedtime.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Squid Mixes: Ginger Beer Shandy

A ginger beer shandy is a simple ginger beer, lemonade mixture in equal parts.  I got my recipe from Liz Scott's Zero-Proof Cocktails.  In flavor, the result is more a sweeter ginger beer than a spicier lemonade.  We enjoyed it but we all agreed it was not an improvement upon either ingredient.  I suggested that perhaps fresh lemonade would make a difference but my wife countered that the lemonade would still be better on its own. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Flash Boys

Title: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Author: Michael Lewis
via Barnes & Noble
In his 2014 book, Michael Lewis offers a closer look at the mysterious world of high-frequency trading (HFT).  Apparently the exchange pits one sees in 1980s movies like Trading Places and Ferris Bueller's Day Off are extinct.  Everything's online now and literally lightning quick.  Anyone trader or firm who can shave microseconds off their transaction time has the advantage. 

Flash Boys covers a lot of ground in the HFT world but primarily focuses on Brad Katsuyama and his firm, IEX.  Brad is on a mission to right what he sees as a great wrong.  In short, HFT makes the traders rich but screws the customers who, once again, are intentionally kept in the dark about Wall Street's inner workings.  IEX is a new exchange intending to keep things fair. 

In my experience, Michael Lewis is best at character sketches.  The book flies when the focus is on the people and their relationships with each other.  Brad is not exactly Robin Hood as he still wants to make money for himself.  But the fact that he and his would-be merry men are willing to forego higher salaries with other firms in order to pursue a higher-minded ideal is endearing nonetheless.  All of Lewis's business books examine the complicated relationship between morality and the market.  At least in this case, it's pretty clear the protagonists are the good guys.

It's a muddier trudge when Lewis delves too deeply into the finance stuff.   As with his other books, I can't claim to understand all of it but the people help to make it relatable.

Apparently, Netflix has a movie in the works.

Friday, April 19, 2019

A Window Above: Cupid

Song: "Cupid"
Writer and Performer: Sam Cooke
Original Release: May 16, 1961

Originally, Sam Cooke's RCA Victor producers asked him to write a song for a woman they'd seen on TV.  Then they heard her sing and were less than impressed.  "Cupid" became Cooke's song after all.  Adding the "shoop" sound of the arrow flying was his idea.  While the song only rose to #17 on the pop chart at the time, history has been kinder.  Rolling Stone put "Cupid" at #452 on its all-time list in 2011.

Not surprisingly, there have been numerous interesting covers in the years since.  The Supremes, from their Sam Cooke tribute album following his death:

Johnny Nash's rocksteady/reggae version:

"Úsvit," a Czech translation performed by Pavel Bobek:

Otis Redding:

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, April 16, 2019

Squid Mixes: Whiskey Sling

A whiskey sling is just like a gin sling (see here) but with the base liquor switched.  My recipe came from Imbibe! by David Wondrich.  Sage asked in the gin post where the sling name comes from.  While I could find no definitive answer on this, Wondrich theorizes that it comes from the idea of "slinging back" a drink.

A sling really is the most basic cocktail concept, at least before bitters enter the mix: a liquor and a sweetener.  And what better sweetener than sugar itself?  I prefer the whiskey, as I find I do with most drinks given the option.  I used rye. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Something New

Title: Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Writer and Artist: Lucy Knisley
via Amazon
This is my third Knisley graphic novel memoir.  This time, she's getting married.  While she does tell the story of the long, meandering courtship, most of the book is devoted to wedding planning itself.  As with many couples, Lucy and her now-husband John worked hard to personalize the affair.  In their case, that meant DIY decoration projects and relying on the generosity of friends, family and neighbors. 

Our own wedding - also planned for outdoors in the woods - was 18 years ago in June.  I loved our wedding - probably the most beautifully planned and executed day of my life.  All credit to my wife who did the lion's share of the work.  I must say, though, I'm glad to have married well the first time as it's not an ordeal I'm eager to go through again anytime soon.  So much stress that, wonderful as it was, it was all too easy to wonder why more people don't simply elope.

For me, the best reason to have a wedding - rather than just knocking out the paperwork at the county clerk's office and being done with it - was the gathering of loved ones.  Due to our own life meanderings and those of our families, the people who are important to us are pretty well scattered.  The wedding was probably the best opportunity we'll ever have to bring so many of them together in the same place at the same time.  We also had our wedding in the style of the Quakers (gotta love Pennsylvania) which meant we faced our guests during the service.  I am grateful for that choice.

I suppose we have our daughter's wedding to look forward to one day.  I have no doubt that she'll work just as hard to personalize hers.  She read the book, too, and latched onto a couple of ideas: poutine and a wedding dress with pockets.

Knisley's books are always well executed.  Her material is so personal - a plus, big picture - that I am always left wondering what I would think of her.  In all honesty, I don't think I'd care for her - a bit too self-absorbed.  I think I'd like her husband John better.  Even so, the book is fun.

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Window Above: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Song: "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"
Writer: Joe Zawinul
Original Release: 1966
Original Performer: Cannonball Adderley
Album: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club"

This is one of many songs I didn't know was a cover until relatively recently.  I knew both the Buckinghams' song and the jazz arrangement as I played the latter myself in high school jazz band.  However, I was completely wrong about which came first.

Songwriter Joe Zawinul, an Austrian keyboardist who would later go on to become one of the lead figures in jazz fusion, joined Cannonball Adderley's quintet in 1961.  He played both piano and electric piano on the original recording.  Rounding out the combo were Nat Adderley (cornet; Cannonball's younger brother), Victor Gaskin (bass) and Roy McCurdy (drums).

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" was a major crossover hit for Adderley, rising to #2 on the soul chart and #11 on the pop chart.  Two different sets of lyrics were written for the song.  Curtis Mayfield wrote one set for The Mauds, who released the song in 1967.  The words The Buckinghams used are credited to Johnny Watson who made his own recording of the song with Larry Williams, released in February 1967.  The Buckingham record came out a month later.  Their version charted best, rising to #5.

The Mauds' version, performed by Blue Road:

Larry Williams and Johnny "Guitar" Watson:

Finally, The Buckinghams:

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, April 9, 2019

Squid Mixes: Saratoga

The Saratoga was named for the Hudson Valley resort town where it was invented, probably in the 1880s.  The drink combines brandy, whiskey (rye in my case), sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters.  I got my recipe from Imbibe! by David Wondrich, who describes it as splitting "the difference between a Manhattan and a Metropolitan." 

I used a simple lemon quarter slice to garnish.  "Still more decorations than my sazarac," says my wife (see here).  She's bitter...

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Window Above: In the Mood

Song: "In the Mood"
Writers: Wingy Manone, Andy Razaf and Joe Garland
Original Release: 1938
Original Band: Edgar Hayes & His Orchestra

"In the Mood" was the calling card of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the most polished - and squarest? - big band of the Swing Era.  It's loads of fun to play and a great crowd pleaser.  My daughter and I have now both played it in our scholastic jazz band careers.  Unfortunately, Peter Sellers didn't care for it (see story here).

The piece's compositional history is complicated.  The arpeggiated melody in the saxophones came from tune called "Tar Paper Stomp" by trumpeter Wingy Malone.  The theme was used again in another piece, "Hot and Anxious" by Horace Henderson, before Joe Garland got his hands on it.  Copyright laws were a lot looser in the 1930s so it was easy enough for a gifted musician to appropriate music that wasn't written down and registered.

The first Edgar Hayes recording was released as a B-side to "Stardust."  Several other acts, including Artie Shaw, recorded "In the Mood" but didn't have much luck with it.  In 1939, the song was sold to Glenn Miller who toyed around with the arrangement and struck gold.  Miller's iconic recording held the #1 spot on the charts for 13 consecutive weeks.

"Tar Paper Stomp" by Wingy Malone:

"Hot and Anxious" by Fletcher Henderson (Horace's brother):

There are lyrics, written by Andy Razaf.  The Andrews Sisters:

The Edgar Hayes original, note the bari sax solo in place of the usual alto duel:

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, April 2, 2019

Squid Mixes: Vermouth Cocktail

My recipe for the vermouth cocktail came from David Wondrich's Imbibe: vermouth (sweet), ice and lemon peel.  It's barely a cocktail, really, with the vermouth serving as both base liquor and sweetener.  My wife was highly skeptical but enjoyed it in the end.  I liked the cinnamony flavor of the vermouth.  Funny, I'd always assumed that flavor hint in a Manhattan came from the bitters alone but it would appear the vermouth contributes as well.

Speaking of Manhattans, my quest for good ones continues.  One matter I have resolved to my own satisfaction: rye vs. bourbon.  On New Year's Eve, my wife and I both ordered Manhattans, both with Bulleit whiskey.  Hers was rye, mine bourbon.  A comparison within the same brand seemed a reasonable test.  The rye was definitely better.  The bourbon was fine but the rye's sharpness added  character.

The cherry matters, too - at least as a key to the drink's appeal.  More recently, we went to Monarch and the Milkweed for drinks before a symphony concert.  I ordered a Manhattan, she a Sazerac.  She was quite disappointed hers didn't come with a cherry - totally tried to Bogart mine!