Salty Bird

It’s interesting to watch trends come and go in holiday turkey cooking practices. Smoking the turkeys was in a few years ago. Then deep fried turkeys were all the rage. This year, I keep reading all sorts of articles about “brining the turkey,” i.e. putting it in a bucket of salt water in the fridge overnight, then cooking it.

The brining contingent makes all sorts of exciting claims: more tender meat, better flavor, moist and delicious, yackety yackety yack. I ain’t buying it though: brining a turkey is popular because it makes a turkey taste saltier, and in America, salt equals flavor. (Don’t believe me? Look at any manufactured food product that advertises “Now! More Flavor!” and I’ll betcha dollars to donuts that the only significant change from the old formula is . . . more salt.)

So brine them turkeys down, chiddlers, but ‘fess up that you’re doing it to sate your lust for sodium.

Movie Talk

Watched a 2001 French flick called Sur mes levres (Read My Lips) a couple of nights ago . . . . a very, very enjoyable, gripping movie, well acted and structured, compelling, kept me engaged for a full two hours, no mean feat. (I ascribe to John Waters’ theory of film length in general: no movie needs to be more than 90 minutes long).

There were definite overtones of Hitchcock in this one (and if you like him, you’ll probably like this) but Read My Lips had a far more continental flavor in cinematography and direction than Alfred’s slow-moving grippers did. It’s also a creature of its era: no shying away from the violence and lust that live in its main character’s hearts.

Looking at IMDB, I see that Read My Lips was nominated for 9 Cesar Awards (French Oscars) and won three of them (alas, it lost “Best Film” to the way, way over-rated Amelie . . . and that was truly an injustice)(however . . . Emmanuelle Devos of Read My Lips won the “Best Actress” Cesar over Audrey Tautou, which was good, although actually I think looking at the nominees, I’da given it to Isabelle Huppert of The Piano Teacher: as good as Devos was in Read My Lips, Huppert’s performance in The Piano Teacher was one of the greatest ever, in my mind)(and I didn’t mean to get off on a French flick tangent, but by golly 2001 seems to really have been a good year for French cinema, Amelie notwithstanding).

Anyway . . . Read My Lips is a very, very worthwhile DVD rental, if you’re looking for something that wasn’t an obvious big U.S. blockbuster deal.

Unrelated additional film note:

One of my students was talking about being a scary movie fan, and we had a good long talk about some of the finer points of the ooky craft. At his request, I’m loaning him my Eraserhead and Don’t Look Now DVD’s for the Thanksgiving break. I don’t think he realizes what he’s getting into. Heh heh heh.

If you haven’t seen those movies, they’re worth renting, too. Eraserhead is closest visual representation ever created of an actual nightmare unfolding, and Don’t Look Now is a slow-burner that wraps with one of the most frightening ending scenes I’ve ever experienced.

Two posts about trees

Post the first: I just ordered the 20 foot Christmas tree that we install in the Chapel + Cultural Center for the holiday season. We ordered one last year, too, my first Christmas here, and I was thinking (at the time), no big deal: I’ve purchased and installed an eight foot tree in my house before, all by my lonesome, so I wasn’t really all that concerned about getting the 20 footer up. It should only weigh about two and a half times as much as an eight footer, right??

Wrong. I was absolutely stunned by what it took to get that thing into the building and upright. I had four other guys helping me, two of them with ropes tied to pulleys up in the light rigging, two pushing up on the trunk of the tree, one holding the base to keep it from sliding . . . and it just about killed us to get it upright and balanced. I thought the battle was over when it was vertical . . . but it had really just begun, since when it started swaying at the top, it became pretty well unmanageable at the bottom.

When it was all up and steadied and wired to the wall, I dusted off my trig and geometry skills to get a sense of how wrong I had been with my “two and half times as heavy as an eight foot tree” assumption. The punchline? I was very wrong.

An eight foot tall tree whose top point is a 30 degree angle (when looking at the tree as a flat triangle from front view) would have a base diameter of about 4.4 feet.

A 20 foot tree with the same proportions would have a base diameter of about 10.8 feet.

The volume of a cone is 1/3*pi*r^2*h.

The volume of the little tree is therefore about 40.2 ft^3.

And the volume of the big tree is therefore about 611.5 ft^3.

Assuming the trees are of equal density, the big tree would weigh about 15.2 times as much as the little tree, accordingly. So if that eight footer that you put in your living room weighs 50 pounds, the monster we installed weighed about 760 pounds.

I will have more people to help this year. I see myself taking a supervisory role: “pull! pull! pull!”

Post the Second: In our back yard, we have a line of arborvitae trees (tall, skinny evergreens) that run shoulder to shoulder along the back fence. On the other side of the fence is a soccer field for an elementary school . . . with about a six foot barrier of brush and bracken that has grown up over the 20 years or so that the house has been there. Very impenatable, good for privacy.

Among the weeds that have sprouted on the other side of the arborvitae are several “weed trees,” things that have grown unmolested since whenever their seeds blew in from the woods at the other side of the field. A couple of them are quite nice, tall and healthy and providing good shade for parts of the yard (although one of them has its main branch growing through the chain link fence, so something’s gonna probably have to give their eventually).

And then there’s the monster tree.

It’s tall, too, and healthy . . . but its main trunk splits extremely close to the ground, with two main boles climbing to about three times the height of the arborvitae (I’m guessing 45 feet). It’s the tree that we look at when we look out our bedroom window, and in the evening, when the sun is setting to the west behind the tree line, it looks like a monster standing behind the arborvitae, reaching its arms above its head, menacing the house.

It’s got personality, it does. If anyone wants to make a movie about a haunted tree, you can use mine.

Unrelated post about bad cover songs:

Someone once said that you know you’re getting old when you hear your favorite songs in an elevator, but I think that these days, a better indicator of age is hearing your favorite songs on the radio again, but it terrible, watered-down cover versions.

I ranted about the terrible, terrible Limp Bizkit desecration of “Behind Blue Eyes” last week, and I had the (dis)pleasure of hearing No Doubt’s version of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” yesterday, making me shake my head again at the pointlessness of the cover. To be fair, No Doubt certainly give it a better, more quality try than Limp Bizkit do . . . but, still, it ain’t nothing like the original, quality and emotion wise.

While “It’s My Life” is the one song most people know by Talk Talk (if they know any of them), they were a stunningly good group, very powerful, in a quiet, unobtrusive sort of way. Their album Spirit of Eden is one of my all-time faves, a gorgeous, slow, ruminative album that builds in amazing ways, six long songs (the shortest is about six minutes long) that are as lush and atmospheric as any you’re likely to hear anwhere else.

So buy Talk Talk’s back catalog, not No Doubt’s flavor of the day disc.

Another unrelated Jethro Tull post, despite previous promises to not have any more of them:

My two disc “Best of Jethro Tull” compilation was great, but I felt like I missed too much stuff, so I made a third volume:

1. “My Sunday Feeling”

2. “Beggar’s Farm”

3. “Move on Alone”

4. “Son”

5. “Hymn 43”

6. “Locomotive Breath”

7. “Cheap Day Return”

8. “Won’dring Again”

9. “Tiger Toon”

10. “No Rehearsal”

11. “WarChild”

12. “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day”

13. “Cold Wind to Valhalla”

14. “One White Duck/0^10 = Nothing At All”

15. “Salamander”

16. “Taxi Grab”

17. “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”

18. “Acres Wild”

19. “Crew Nights”

20. “Clasp”

21. “Roll Yer Own”

I still couldn’t bring myself to include the obvious “hits” (“Living in the Past,” “Teacher,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” “Steel Monkey,” “Kissing Willie”), since I guess radio familiarity has indeed bred contempt for those tracks. Not so for “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” They’re just too damned integral and essential to leave off.

Tull Talk

Okay, one last Jethro Tull related post and then I’ll move on, before too many old proggers start hanging out here, and the young and fresh(er) people start drifting away.

Having completed by vinyl-to-CD transfer, I figured it was time to make a couple of mix discs (for private use only, of course) with my own personal faves, not having to be dependent on the whims of those who compile such things for record companies.

Goal was to hit all of the main studio records, with a couple of exceptions:

1. Nothing from Thick As A Brick or A Passion Play, because the CD versions I have are indexed as one song, and I don’t think it’s worth buying M.U. or Repeat just to get the edits. Plus, jeez, those just have to played in their entirety, and don’t really lend themselves to compilation making anyway.

2. Nothing from Under Wraps, Crest of A Knave or Rock Island . . . because I really don’t care for those three records very much, and putting something on from each of them just for completeness’ sake, knocking off a gem from earlier or later discs seemed counter-productive.

So it boiled down to a two volume set list:

Volume One:

1. “A Song for Jeffrey”

2. “Love Story”

3. “A Christmas Song”

4. “Fat Man”

5. “Sweet Dream”

6. “Inside”

7. “Play in Time”

8. “Witches Promise”

9. “Aqualung”

10. “Cross Eyed Mary”

11. “Mother Goose”

12. “Lick Your Fingers Clean”

13. “Life Is A Long Song”

14. “Up the ‘pool”

15. “Only Solitaire”

16. “Look at the Animals”

17. “Sea Lion”

18. “Minstrel in the Gallery”

19. “Summerday Sands”

20. “A Small Cigar”

Volume Two:

1. “Crazed Institution”

2. “Big Dipper”

3. “Songs from the Wood”

4. “Jack in the Green”

5. “Hunting Girl”

6. “And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps”

7. “North Sea Oil”

8. “Dun Ringill”

9. “Something’s On the Move”

10. “Protect and Survive”

11. “Batteries Not Included”

12. “4.W.D. (Low Ratio)”

13. “Flying Colours”

14. “Watching Me Watching You”

15. “Like A Tall Thin Girl”

16. “This Is Not Love”

17. “Rare and Precious Chain”

18. “Spiral”

19. “Hot Mango Flush”

20. “Birthday Card at Christmas”

21. “Fires At Midnight”

Creative dissent or concurence welcomed (see “contact” button to the left). But if you write to me and tell me that I suck because I didn’t include “Budapest,” then I’m not writing back.

Feel the Seam

A Pet Peeve: You know how the cups of coffee that you buy at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts or wherever have a vertical seam in their paper shells, that culminates in a little folded section on the lip of the cup themselves? Well . . . don’t you think that people who are in the coffee serving bidness would know better than hand you a coffee cup with the sipping hole in the lip placed exactly above that little flaw in the lip, ensuring that when you sip, it dribbles down the outside of the cup and onto your tie? The proper placement of the coffee cup seam: exactly 180 degrees around the cup from the sipping hole, making a nice finger friendly ridge to grip, giving you smooth sipping on the drinking side.

Aughhh!!!

Picked up USA Today this morning and saw that their lead, over-the-fold story was that Notre Dame was considering joining the Atlantic Coast Conference as a full member. (See my prior screeds in the archives about ACC sports, if you’re wondering why this makes me say “Aughhh!!!”).

Please let it not be so. Please let it not come to pass. Expanding the ACC into the Midwest will turn it into just another big sports conference, although its fairly unique regional appeal has already been wiped out by the addition of Boston College.

Besides, it makes far more sense for Notre Dame to play hoops in the Big East now, since all of the power-house Midwest/Northeast Catholic colleges and universities are there with the latest rounds of pilferings from Conference USA.

Notre Dame . . . Marquette . . . Providence . . . St. John’s . . . . now that’s a conference that makes sense.

Wake Forest . . . Duke . . . . Carolina . . . State . . . . Notre Dame . . . . that makes no sense at all. Except, I guess, in an almighty dollar sense, which usually ends up carrying the day when all’s said and done.

Unrelated musical note:

I’ve always considered Too Old to Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die to be the weakest album of the classic Jethro Tull canon, but I just got the remastered version and am actually really enjoying it. I think the problem is that the whole concept of the album is naff, and the title track is turgid, and that poisons the taste of the whole package to some extent. But the rest of the songs are really quite enjoyable for the most part, far more than I remembered them being.

Another unrelated musical note:

After venting about Limp Bizkit’s travesty take on the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” a coupla days ago, I introduced my daughter to the original, and even at 12 years old she can appreciate the monstrous difference in quality between the two versions. She told me, though, that Halle Berry stars in the video for the hideous new version. Blech. I’m disgusted that a video even exits, much less that it’s got an Oscar winner it, which will ensure it gets lots of airplay, which will ensure that a generation of kids will hear Roger Daltry singing “No one knows what it’s like . . . ” and will say “Dude . . . this guy is so ripping off Limp Bizkit!”