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>Soft Drink Surprise

15 Jun

>Came home last night to be told, “Ron sent you something.”

So I’m runnin’ through every “Ron” I know (three), trying to figure which one would have have done that, when Tam names the one I had not considered, “Ron at Locally Grown Gardens!”

H’mm, he’s a first-rate guy but I try to spend money at his place, figuring if we all do that, he’ll stay in business: when you have (within an easy bicycle ride!) a farm market that also serves wonderful prepared food, owned and operated by a genius chef, that’s something you want to support.

One of his sidelines — along with eggs, butter and a selection of remarkable spices, flavorings and condiments that can be found nowhere else — is soft drinks. Soda pop: a huge selection, all of it good, most of it obscure or brands I’d thought forever gone. One of the very best of the relatively unknown brands is Fentiman’s, a British marque over a hundred years old. Their sodas are “botanically brewed,” and they are slightly more fanatical about purity of the ingredients than a German brewer; with their preference for very old recipes, the result is a unique line of soft drinks that appeal to adult palates. When the first couple of flavores showed up at Locally Grown Gardens, I was moved to go online and learned there were many more, including Victorian Lemonade and Dandelion and Burdock soda. I happened to mention this to Ron and next I knew– He’d stocked the entire range!

Dandelion and Burdock is particularly good. It tastes like summer; it tastes like what Bradbury describes in Dandelion Wine (IIRC). But they’ve come out with another one, so new you can’t find it on the North American site yet: Rose Lemonade!

And Ron, knowing my tastes possibly better than I do, made sure to send home a couple of bottles with Tam when she stopped by to pick up some vegetable starts for the garden here at Roseholme Cottage.

…Words do not describe the floral, lemony and pleasantly tart taste, with a hint of ginger under the rose petals. The very thing after a long day!

We will be buying more.


Small Family World

5 Jun

So, we celebrated Mom X’s 80th yesterday (and many happy returns!). A lot of friends and family stopped by, good food was enjoyed by all (I do okay in the kitchen but believe me when I say I’m the least-skilled from a family of gifted cooks) and, in the festivities, some of Mom’s extensive collection of photo albums were out to be looked through.

When I was growing up, these snapshots (and the occasional professional photograph) were scattered through many boxes; I don’t suppose I ever saw them all. One of the albums had pictures from about the time my parents got married, mostly the years right afterward. I leafed idly through, marveling at how young they looked (and how much their faces are reflected in those of their children and grandchildren), when the settings and background of one series of images caught my eye: it all looked hauntingly familiar, despite being decades before I was born. Turned the page and there, in a bumper sticker and a sign, was the answer: they were at the House of David’s very own amusement park and resort!

I’ve blogged about them before, a fascinating bunch; if you want to think of them as sort of a fun version of the Shakers, you won’t miss by much: the same traits of self-reliance and inventiveness, but with a flair for showmanship and entertainment as well. Their Eden Springs Park was a popular Midwest tourist destination from early in the 20th Century through 1971. But I never knew my parents had been there.

Looks like it was a lot of fun.

>Music: Stu Brown Gets It

30 May

>Hi. I’m Roberta X and I’m a fan of Raymond Scott.

–So are you, probably, if you ever enjoyed animated shorts (no, no, not that kind, the movies); his work is used so extensively (in everything from Bugs Bunny to The Oblongs) that you can’t avoid it. Given his success at doing what his 1930s bosses claimed was impossible, writing music most people liked the first time they heard it, you wouldn’t want to. (Even Rush quotes a Scott tune).

The best examples of his pre-electronic work are his own recordings of his band. An awful lot of his compositions* deliberately quote natural sounds — a ticking clock, seagulls and buoys, an auctioneer, steam engines at least twice — and it’s not an easy feat. Other times, he’s creating the sounds of things more fantastical: dancing wooden Indians (yes, cigar-store statues of Native Americans, who certainly ought to get a night off now and then), water bubbling in a cannibal’s pot, ghosts celebrating New Years Eve. This stuff is hard to play; you can get all the notes right, be right on the beat, and still miss the sound.

Otherhandedly, the recordings Scott supervised are decades old; most precede magnetic tape. The noise floor is high and the dynamic range limited. Transient response is slow and tends to “grit.” Oh, they are excellent work for the day and have been remastered with affection and respect, eminently listenable.

–But there’ve been few modern recordings that capture the elusive Raymond Scott sound; the man drove his musicians remorselessly, knowing precisely what he was after. Technical excellence will take you a long way but it’s not enough alone.

With that for background, I’m very pleased to tell you that Stu Brown’s Raymond Scott Project gets there. Maybe it’s just Edison’s 90%/10% formula or the plain willingness to play it until their eyes bleed. Maybe they’re just that much better. But for whatever reason, here’s a band that knows what live steam sounds like, that doesn’t flinch from dancing mummies, and got it all down in digital storage.

Majorly recommended.
* Composed, according to those who were there, on the the band itself, not on paper. This is a little rough on the musicians but Scott’s notion was that, at least until the composition had taken final form, a written score got in the way, causing all involved to defer to the map instead of the territory, the abstract symbols rather than the real sound. When a Julliard grad says that, he’s not expressing a mere quirk or whim and the results he got prove him out.

>She’s Baaaack!

30 May

>Have I mentioned Planet Karen has gone active again, with new work that reminds me of Eisner? Forsooth. And she’s even dreamed up the most terrifying crossover imaginable!


(Also, if I could pick anyone to illustrate I Work On A Starship? Her. Mind you, I still want Robb Allen to do the cover graphics.) Link

>Fourth Amendment Protest Lightly Covered

26 May

>At noon yesterday, Hoosiers rallied on the Statehouse grounds, protesting the recent “no right to resist unlawful police entry” ruling from our State Supreme Court (“60% dimwit by weight!”)

AP had a bit about the protest on their wires that most media ran as sent; stories on most media websites weren’t even updated for versions timestamped after the event. One local station sent a reporter and a cameraman; the Indy Fishwrap & Steam-Powered News covered it in a little more detail. I’d like to think the others did too, but there’s no proving that with a Google search.

I guess it’s not real news when Wookies do it? (Yeah, just keep on thinkin’ that; this issue has legs way out of proportion to its actual effects).

“Hundreds” reportedly at the rally, not bad for a Facebook flash-crowd on a work day with storms forecast. I was sorry to see they spoke of removing Justice Steven David but seem to have given his fellow Constitutional criminals a pass — all three need to be replaced with folks who won’t attempt to rewrite protected rights.

Even the winning attorney, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, wants the court to think again; he never asked for the ruling and would just as soon the hot potato went back to the hands that baked it.

>Look At My Dinner…And Despair

24 May

>Big ol’ green salad with bell peppers. heirloom tomatoes, carrots, sure. But the star of the show? Morels fried in butter, sharing the plate with a slice of panchetta and a small slab of Gruyere cheese: Mmmmmmm!

So good, Tam cleared her plate, asked if I’d bought the delightful fungi nearby, and went and bought another bag. Yeah, they were cooked up and enjoyed in short order.

Even better with good company: Turk Turon, Tamara K and Tam’s new Red Vs. Blue DVDs!

>"Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty…"

23 May

>…And prepare.

Unless you bunkered up and pulled the bunk over to block the door, by now you know that Joplin, Missouri has nearly been wiped off the map; video from the aftermath bears an eerie resemblance to Hiroshima or post-tidal-wave coastal Japan.

Amid the wreckage — shattered homes, crumpled cars, a hospital turned to instant ruins — plenty of survivors. Most people made it through.

If you’re much minded of what it takes to pull through disaster, this kind of event presents a challenge: how do you prepare for events too sudden to evade, that reduce your transportation to scrap metal and your home to firewood?

Part of dealing with it is to already have some visceral inkling of the plain fact that forces so vast do exist and they can touch you. –Persons of particularly deep and secure faith generally do well with disasters because they’ve already made their peace with this notion; practitioners of extreme sports come up on the idea from the other side but it’s got to be a help.

As a practical matter, this kind of event is a reminder that a “Bug-Out Bag” can just as easily become a Bug-In Bag, grabbed as you head to the basement or root cellar. Too, it’s a reminder to ensure your emergency supplies are stored in as safe and secure manner as possible — and that you should be planning what you’d do if you had to do without.

The survivors of Joplin are up and about, doing what they can for themselves and others because they have to. Our turn may yet come; some version of it will come to each of us and when it does, we’ve got a choice: face it dazed, with empty hands and an emptier head or with some awareness of what can happen and what we can do afterward.

Your best, most flexible survival tool is between your ears. Everything else you may accumulate is useless without it.

(And the quote is correctly, “Look on my works…” for a proper ten-syllable line).