New mix: “days that you choose to ignore”

Here’s one for the end of 2007: days that you choose to ignore, now posted at Art of the Mix (AOTM Mix ID 116837). I’m particularly proud of the first three or five transitions on this one; afterwards it gets a bit choppy.

Copies en route shortly to the usual suspects; contact me using the link below (on the site, if you’re reading this in a feedreader) if you want to be a usual suspect or haven’t been getting copies of my mixes already. Artwork also forthcoming…

End of an era

frank susi in national geographic

I knew we hadn’t been back in the North End very often, but what really brought it home was calling the phone number at our butcher and finding that it was no longer in service. A quick Google search confirmed the worst: Frank Susi, owner of the Abruzzese Meat Market on Salem Street, had to retire earlier this year and the shop is now closed.

To say this is culinary devastation would be an understatement. As this blog testifies, sausages and pancetta from Frank’s store were major ingredients in our lives for many years. On at least one occasion, I flew the pancetta back to Seattle with me when we were living there. And there will be no fresh cotechino for New Years this year.

At least I’ve learned that Frank’s legacy lives on, literally, in his son, Anthony, who runs Sage (which has apparently moved to the South End). Who knew?

The bonus pic is from National Geographic’s “zip code” visit a few years back to the North End, and captures Frank as I remember him: jovial, and with a very sharp knife in one hand and fresh meat in the other.

Merry Christmas, several days late

When you think your coolest Christmas gift is an 11″ AllClad skillet, it can safely be said that you are a culinary geek. Especially when you then make up an excuse to use it in the preparation of the Christmas dinner.

Since I got the iPhone around the time of my birthday, my Christmas gifts were pretty moderate, though I was very grateful for my gifts: the skillet, a new pair of slippers (badly needed), and a set of brass collar stays (a gift I didn’t know I needed until I started doing a lot of traveling and our otherwise superb dry cleaner systematically ate all my plastic ones). We’ve had a quiet day just decompressing; tomorrow, with a visit to my family in Pennsylvania, it should be a lot less quiet (and a lot more driving).

Another day, another 2-3 inches

You know, I really should stop being surprised when the snow falls continuously. It is Boston in December, after all. But I’m a little bit in awe of the continuous snowfall we’re getting right now on top of the 11 inches we got a week ago and the nice ice storm we got last Sunday. I want to ask, “Is this really necessary?”

The continued snowfall makes something like the Snowscoop, just highlighted today on the Hardware Aisle blog at This Old House, look really attractive to me.

David Byrne interviews Thom Yorke

On Wired today, a pair of brilliant David Byrne articles—one an interview with Thom Yorke about the business and about Radiohead’s new album; one by Byrne about the evolving nature of the music business. People used to say Brian Eno was the smartest guy in the business, and that may still be true, but Byrne shows himself to be the smartest guy who’s still relevant in this pair of articles.

The recorded extended excerpts from the Yorke interview are absolutely brilliant as well.

Pops, done

For me, at least. Because we’re driving to New Jersey on Saturday for the Christmas holidays, I frontloaded my concert schedule and finished my personal Pops run last night with two back to back concerts. The 4 pm concert was the better of the two for me personally, and I think for the team as a whole; we were all fresh, having had a day off since our Sunday morning and afternoon concerts, and our concentration was good. The result was a luminous rendition of Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” (which rises substantially in my estimation with a full string section behind it) and of the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols. The second show was weaker in the first half—a few minor glitches that threw off the concentration of the chorus—but stronger in the second, where audience response to the Twelve Days medley made a big difference.

Two explanatory notes:

  1. There are something like 33 home performances of the Holiday Pops concert, and even if the Tanglewood Festival Chorus were all full time choristers (which we’re not), we couldn’t possibly sing all the shows without developing a mass outbreak of laryngitis and vocal nodules. So we take 250 voices and split them up into five or so teams. I sing on the Purple Team, and we had a run of six or seven shows.
  2. The program at Holiday Pops is typically structured with a more serious first half and a more “fun” second half. This year the first half was not only serious but strikingly good from a choral repertoire perspective, with the usual “Holiday Fanfare” (on Hark the Herald Angels Sing) and the “Hallelujah Chorus” being supplemented by the aforementioned Rutter and Vaughan Williams pieces, and by a suite from the sublime Amahl and the Night Visitors. The second half kicks off this year with a massive jazzy, brassy take on Joy to the World, is followed by the indignity that is “Light One Candle,” then “Sleigh Ride,” “Twelve Days,” the traditional Night Before Christmas, the “Santa Medley” (featuring the full-choir arrangement of “Santa Baby” which the Globe review compares to being seduced by a pro wrestler(!)), a singalong, and two encores. All the pieces on the second half benefit from audience feedback, and we know the crowd is going to be good when we hear them reacting to the early jokes in “Twelve Days.” Last night the crowd was clearly primed and had repeat listeners in it, as some joker in the crowd called out “Excellent!” when Keith announced the number—a reference to the appearance of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” made famous to current listeners of course by the “excellent” Wayne’s World movie, in one of the later days.

All in all, I think I had more fun at Pops this year than I’ve had in the past. But I’m still glad it’s done!

Hanging out after the morning Pops performance

I’m posting this on the iPhone from the Uno’s across from Symphony Hall. The morning matinee was well attended considering the weather. I had to shovel about six inches of snow before I could get to the car, and had to take Lisa’s Highlander to get through the mostly unplowed roads.

But now I’m warm and dry, with a concert under my belt, free wifi, and the Patriots. Not too shabby.


I had to take care of sick family this morning, so I went into the office late. I left early on account of the threat of snow, and made my last grocery run on the way home. It was 1 pm when I left the grocery store, and the snow was just starting to come down. By the time I got out of the Trader Joe’s (the last stop), there was a 2-inch snow buildup on my car.

It got deeper from there. When I started the snowblower at 4:45, as the snow seemed to be slackening, we had about 6 inches. I think we’ve gotten another 5 since then.

At least this is nice powdery stuff—though that means it has already drifted our sidewalks… but at least it’s easy to shovel.

Mo’ memory, (no) mo’ problems

My first-generation MacBook Pro (1.83 GHz Core Duo model) is now running with a maxed-out complement of 2 GB of RAM. It wasn’t easy.

The MacBook shipped with a gig of memory, which I thought would be plenty since my G4 had been reasonbly OK with 1 GB. But I hadn’t reckoned on two things: the enormous hunger of iPhoto, and Leopard. Both combined to make the move to a maximum memory profile (2 GB) seem advisable.

So I ordered a 2 GB upgrade kit (a pair of 1 GB DIMMs) from Other World Computing. I’ve done business with this company since 1995, when I bought my PowerMac 7200/90 and a reconditioned Radius monitor from them. I last bought a memory upgrade from them for my mother-in-law’s iMac, and that process went extremely easily.

Upgrading the memory in the MacBook Pro, on the other hand, gave me heart failure. The process of getting at the memory was easy enough, theoretically: remove the battery, and remove the cover from the battery compartment, then swap the DIMMs. But first, I had to find a P0 Phillips screwdriver—not easy, even with a full toolbench. Then I had to unseat and reseat the new DIMMs about three or four times before the machine would boot.

But, now that it has, it’s slick, slick, slick. The Finder is more responsive; iPhoto feels snappy. Leopard loves some RAM. And at $50 for the upgrade, I wish I had done it about six months sooner.

Glee Club nostalgia trip

Courtesy fellow VMHLB the Tin Man, the other version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the audience participation version performed by the Virginia Glee Club. Some of the traditions seem to have gone away: there is no “Hens Suck Eggs” chant from the Four Calling Birds, for instance, and the traditional bum-rush of the conductor followed by champagne toast has been replaced by a skit that’s not really visible in the video. But you get some of the spirit of the occasion. And I was excited to see that it happened in Old Cabell Hall; there were some dire predictions about what was going to happen with hall availability this year that appear not to have come fully to fruition.


RIP, Anita Rowland

Sad news from BoingBoing this morning: Anita Rowland, the blogmother of the Seattle blog meetups and a longtime Internet presence, has passed away at the age of 51. Her cancer finally overcame her indomitable personal strength.

I’ll always remember Anita for putting out a welcoming hand when I first started trying to find my way in the greater Seattle community outside Microsoft. I can only hope that she’s welcomed upstairs with half the hospitality she offered everyone who met her.

If you ever met Anita, or if you ever knew anyone who had cancer and no health insurance, please consider making a contribution to her medical fund as a memorial.

Boston Pops: Sleighing them in the aisles

As I noted yesterday, last night was the opening of the Pops Christmas concert season. And you know what? It was a lot of fun—maybe the most fun I’ve had at one of these concerts in a long time. Part of it, of course, was Noah Van Neil (the Singing Fullback) and the crowd’s reaction to him (for the first time in the three years I’ve been doing these programs, the student guest soloist got a standing O!). But a big part of it was the repertoire. I mean, I don’t think that two years ago in the midst of the interminable set piece “The Snowman” that I could have imagined that we’d ever be singing Amahl or the Vaughn Williams Fantasia, but they were two substantial highlights of the program last night.

The biggest highlight is mentioned in the Boston Herald review of last night’s opening show, which calls our new “12 Days of Christmas” arrangement a highlight but doesn’t mention that it had the crowd on its feet, screaming, laughing, and clapping before we were actually on day 12. Yes, folks, we killed. Who’da thunk it? (Of course, we had a little help from the arrangement, which was well-nigh Schickele-worthy.)