I have no words. This is just the sublimest of the sublime. “Turn me loose! We shall overcome! Where’d you get that funk from, huh?”
Throwback Thursday: “L’Elephant,” Camille Saint-SaënsStandard
Elephants are the largest animal that can also manage to be completely adorable. I once spent a very diverting 20 minutes watching a baby elephant play catch with its mother using a red ball the size of a washing machine.
Elephants are also deceptively intelligent animals despite their otherwise slow-moving, vaguely dopey appearance. They remind me of certain humans I know, come to think of it.
In any event, Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a whole suite of pieces about different animals. I have very happy memories of listening to this one as a little kid and giggling at the thought of watching elephants gracefully dancing to this melody.
Throwback Thursday: String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American,” Antonin DvorakStandard
On this day 227 years ago, George Washington was elected the first president of the United States of America. About a century later, a man from Nelahozeves, a town in the Austrian Empire, wrote a piece of music about the country. Clearly, the American experiment was somewhat of a success.
I don’t tend to like string quartets, but this is one of the loveliest and more fun pieces of classical music I came across last year. The first movement’s first 12 notes will get stuck in your head for days. The second movement (09:08) is a prime example of how to write a heartbreaking melody: keep it simple. The third and fourth movements are cheerful and lively. Whereas string quartets tend to make me feel claustrophobic, this string quartet feels like someone threw open all the windows on a spring afternoon.
Worldly Wednesday: “Traveller,” Baaba MaalStandard
Oh man – when the song fully kicks in at 1:55, I just can’t help myself. I wish I knew Pulaar so I could sing along. Maal, who is a genius musician and composer from Senegal, writes some of my favorite west African music of all time. This is one of my favorite tracks of his. This is guaranteed to turn any day into a good one.
Maal worked on this album with Winston Marshall, of Mumford & Sons, and Johan Hugo, of The Very Best. Appropriately, this is what Maal said is the main message of the album: “Life is travel. You are born, you come to the world, and you are traveling until the end. You never know what you’re going to get. When you travel you see that the world is quite interesting—all the different faces, all the different cultures, all the different food, all the different types of music. But it’s all human beings, and it’s all connected.”
A sentiment to remember, surely.
Termagant Tuesday: “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” Count Basie vs. Oscar PetersonStandard
Welp, last night was the Iowa Caucuses. Or, as we say in our household, “Involuntary Nap Night.” Honest to God – we had at least 10 browsers open full of different polling data, plus NPR on the radio. We were on it. Tracking. …Until I fell asleep in the leather chair. And by 11pm I couldn’t hit the refresh button any more so I went to sleep.
But today is a new day, Tune-Up Nation, and I for one want to see another kind of battle than the one between Clinton and Cruz, or Clinton and Sanders, or Trump and the collective knowledge of mankind. So behold the glory of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson doubling up on that old swing classic, “Jumpin’ At The Woodside.” They’ve got my vote.
Modernism Monday: “Din Daa Daa” The RootsStandard
The exceptionally funky band The Roots cover the exceptionally cool George Kranz. This track is basically a vehicle to showcase Questlove’s amazing drumming and general rhythm skills. But I love it for its spare modernism. It reminds me a lot of what would happen if Bobby McFerrin and Laurie Anderson got together. It’s an amazing and fun soundscape until 3:20 when the rest of the song drops.
Termagant Tuesday: “Let’s Misbehave,” Irving Aaronson & His CommandeersStandard
Welp, we’re on Day Three of “Job? What Job?” here in our nation’s capital. The federal government is closed, the Senate punted votes, the House isn’t voting on anything, and we’re all still trapped inside. Those of us who can get out rapidly discover there’s…really not all that much point, except going to a bar that’s open simply because it’s open. Yes, it’s a little oppressive. And now, perhaps, we can all understand why more babies are born in late summer and autumn than any other time of the year.
Funk Friday: “Fresh Static Snow,” Porter RobinsonStandard
IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING
The Feds shut down at noon today, which put everyone on the road and on the Metro at the same time, which went totally fine by the way thanks for asking (oh how it hurts to lie). But now we are ensconced in our homes, or in the homes of our friends in my case, watching the rising snow drifts and the synchronous diminution of city activity. So crank that bass up and let’s get down to business.
Sacred Sunday: “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” The Fairfield FourStandard
One of the hardest things to reconcile is your own infinitesimal insignificance in the grand scheme of the world with the pretty significant impact you can have on a group of people depending on how you choose to spend your time. The flash-to-bang ratio of the thought process that goes from “Ooh that’s a nice sweater” to “Here, have $45” can also benefit someone else.
The water in Flint, Michigan, is now so contaminated with lead that, according to the EPA, it can be classified as toxic waste. The water in Troy, Michigan, a town 45 minutes away, has lead levels of 1.1 parts per billion (ppb). That’s pretty OK. Flint’s water is up to at least 27 ppb; in some homes levels are as high as 5,000 ppb. The highest discovered by a team from Virginia Tech was 13,000 ppb. The water that pours out of fire hydrants and kitchen faucets is as brown as tea and smells to high heaven. The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible. Some children have started losing their hair.
Here is a link to Flint’s public schools: http://www.flintschools.org/ A pack of 35 water bottles on Amazon costs $20. That’s a pretty cheap impulse buy. This is where the impulse part of the brain kicks in: you know that there is a horrible happening to people in your country, and you realize that, if you were in their situation, how much you would want a bottle of water, and then it hits you that you can actually send that water yourself. So I sent a school in Flint a box of water.
Doing something, just the simple act of standing up and showing up, is how any change happens. As Dr. King said,”The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Salubrious Saturday: “S.O.B.,” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night SweatsStandard
Your fearless heroine had a, shall we say, “wet” December. The gauntlet that shoots one from Thanksgiving to New Years turned into a slip-n-slide of festive parties. The moon rose on events and the sun rose on headaches. It was a lot of fun. Until it stopped being fun and started being kind of stupid. There came a moment, around December 31st, when I woke up just felt generally unpleasant, like a washcloth that had been used too many times before being cleaned out. So Mr. Yankette and I decided that we would have a “dry” January. This means I haven’t had a single one of these drinks at all this month:
- A Blood & Sand
- A Presbyterian
- A Rob Roy
- A La Perla
- A Greyhound
- A Ginger Gold Rush
- A Gimlet
- A French 75
- Or the following drinks made by the best cocktail bar in the city, The Gibson:
- A Blue Blood
- A Cricketer
- Literally anything else (no that’s not the name of a cocktail)
I also haven’t had any of these, which are of course in the liquor shelf in our kitchen:
- Tanqueray 10
- Green Hat
- Green Hook
- Oban Little Bay
- Aultmore 12
- Santa Teresa
- John Myer rye
I’m not here to preach the gospel of dryness. Of course I feel great. Obviously I feel great. I am as clean and unblemished as a brand new window pane. I’m squeaky and practically translucent. And, this feeling is certainly nice enough to skip over what people who attempt this generally do after their dry month, which is plunge head first into a booze pool in February. I’ll go back to my pre-holiday moderation, no problem.
But. As a working professional in a busy, high-maintenance city, where networking happens around happy hours and drinks lubricate the awkward few minutes of conversation, I hadn’t fully grasped the extent to which drinking punctuates daily life. It’s the lingua franca of collegial complaints (“what a terrible meeting – is 11am too early to drink?”), and the liquid that forms the social cement (“We should get drinks sometime!”). Substitute almost anything else in that sentence and you sound batty: “We should play tennis sometime!” “We should paint landscapes sometime!” “We should take a walk sometime!” (That last one sounds suspiciously like a date.) What to do?
Well the obvious answer, the best answer, is, order ginger ale at the bar when you meet your friends. It’s not rocket science. But that won’t protect you from good-natured ribbing, which is a curious phenomenon. There is something of a wall between my friends and me that I didn’t notice until this month, and it’s entirely unexpected. Friends feel very slightly awkward drinking around me. They ask if I mind (I don’t). They ask why I’m doing it (I say I felt gross and needed a break). They consider this. Time lumbers on. It’s weird. So I can’t deny that, once February comes around, I’ll feel a little more connected.
I also can’t deny that, while watching the GOP debate last night, I didn’t long for a dirty martini (or a hammer to the head, whichever is fastest). A fun new parlor game is considering what my first drink will be on February 1st. But a habit can turn into an identity, if left unchecked, and I’d much rather be more deliberative about drinking. So my New Year’s Resolution is to only drink exquisitely delicious things, and to take my time about it, and savor it. Chin-chin, y’all.