MJ Monday-Music: Aria 2

Many years ago, a friend gifted me with a CD called Aria 2The compilation is one of the most relaxing collections of music I’ve ever heard. Very few of the cuts are in English, which makes the songs unobtrusive. It’s difficult to be distracted by lyrics when you don’t understand them.

I love the CD. Even the synthesized percussion somehow make the music approachable. And the vocalists, particularly the females, sound relaxed.

But sometimes I’m a little slow.

Several years later, my husband and I were at the Glimmerglass Opera for La Traviata. Not being a true opera fan, I was shocked when I realized, “Hey! I know that song!” But I had no idea how I was familiar with the melody. Several hours later it came to me: it’s on my Aria 2 CD. With that insight, I also realized the CD was opera arias. Until that moment, I had no clue. Did I mention I can be a little slow?

But the performances on Aria 2 don’t sound operatic. They are … comfortable. I tend to find opera singers sound as if they are in pain while they are singing. That’s not the case on Aria 2. There is almost a folk music type of ambiance to the CD…if a CD can have an ambiance.

iTunes has a download of the CD. I’ve read where you can stream it on Spotify. Not sure about Pandora. But you should check it out.

Digging in Upstate New York

Digging things up was a minor trend in upstate New York back in the 1800s.

Joseph Smith Jr started it in 1823, when he dug up a buried book written on golden plates near Palmyra, New York. This discovery led to the establishment of the Mormon religion. 

Throughout the summers of my youth, local TV stations ran a Public Service Announcement for the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a reenactment of Smith’s adventures on the hill. Once, at a writing conference, an editor said to me, “Oh, I’m from upstate New York, too, a small town outside of Rochester you’ve probably never heard of. Palmyra.” I responded “Hill Cumorah Pageant.” “That’s the one,” she replied.

Twenty or so years after Joseph Smith did his thing, George Hull and his cousin Stubbs Newell decided to play a hoax on the American public. Hull commissioned some folks in Iowa to create a “petrified giant”, which he then buried on his cousin’s farm in Cardiff, New York.  A year or so later, his cousin commissioned a couple of people to dig a well on the spot where he’d buried the petrified giant.  And thus one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public came into being: The Cardiff Giant.  PT Barnum, when he couldn’t buy the original, commissioned his own and made a fortune off it.

The Cardiff Giant isn’t nearly as well known as Mormonism–but it does have a niche following, and people tend to co-op the name on a regular basis. There’s a baseball team in Cooperstown, NY (where the real giant currently resides, a folk-rock band out of Indiana, a wrestler, a winery, and a bar in Brooklyn.

Yet the place where he was disinterred barely rates a roadside marker, unlike Hill Cumorah.

I know, because I grew up next door to the farm where the giant was unearthed.

 

MJ Monday: Movie-THE REWRITE

The first time I saw THE REWRITE was with my husband who thought I’d like it because it was about a writer. He wanted to see it because it takes place at SUNY Binghamton, where he went to college. Starring Hugh Grant (eh) and Marisa Tomei (I’m a fan), I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the movie. We watched it. I recognized other actors–Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Chris Elliott. I thought, Oh, this is a cute movie.

Fast forward a year or so, and one of my critique partners found the DVD in the library and brought it on our semi-annual writing retreat. I didn’t hate the idea of watching it again; indeed, I enjoyed it more the second time around (but that may be because of a more sympathetic audience).

Hugh Grant plays a washed-up screen writer whose sole success was 15 years earlier. The only gig his agent can find for him is Writer-in-Residence at Binghamton University in upstate New York. The plot is predictable. He’s resentful, sullen, and selfish until the eternal optimism of an older single mother with two children who happens to be taking his class turns him around.

Three stars–Janney and Tomei are worth the watch.

Book Review: Linda Howard-Open Season

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors of all time. I love a great romantic suspense story. This year, I’m going to review my top six favorites Linda Howard novels, starting with OPEN SEASON.

The main character, Daisy, wakes up on her birthday and decides her life is boring and it’s up to her to make the changes. She starts with a makeover. I love makeover stories. Not only does she change her looks, but also her habits, and attracts the attention of the new-in-town chief of police. That’s the romance, and it’s a great one.

The suspense comes in when ditzy Daisy, the town librarian, witnesses a murder. She doesn’t realize what she’s seen. There are plenty of twists and layers to the suspense plot, including crooked politicians, date rape drugs, international sex trafficking, and spousal abuse.

One of the things Howard does so well is show us the inner workings of her character’s minds. Daisy may come off as scatterbrained, but her once the reader follows how her thought process works, everything makes sense. Naive doesn’t mean stupid.

Howard also has a great sense of humor that doesn’t always show up in her books, but there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in OPEN SEASON.

I highly recommend this book.

 

MJ Monday-Meals: Produce

No recipe this month, but rather, an observation about food.

My local supermarket has a program where they’ll shop for you and deliver to your house. My main concern with concept has always been produce. I like to pick out my own.

I like fruits and most vegetables. However, I find vegetables a pain in the butt to cook. And fancying them all up with sauces and cheese and whatever tends to render the healthy aspect of eating them pointless.

But my biggest issue with produce is it’s propensity to go bad.

I food shop once a week. Maybe if I shopped daily, spoilage wouldn’t be an issue. When the children were small, my weekly menu was pretty much set in stone, with only a little room for deviation. Rotting food wasn’t a problem. Now that there are only the two of us living here and our lives are more flexible, me cooking a weeknight meal with the two of us sitting down together is a rare occurrence. So even though I know we should eat more fresh vegetables, I hesitate because I so often have to throw them away before I get an opportunity to cook them.

Yes, I know “they” are doing amazing things with frozen veggies these days, and yes, they are convenient. But some veggies simple don’t freeze well, no matter how amazing they are treated. Winter squashes come to mind. Greens are another.

I’m lucky. My supermarket sells fresh veggies that have been prepped: precut butternut squash, shredded Brussels spouts, chopped Asian “salad” (which is wonderful stir-fried). Doing the prep makes incorporating fresh vegetables into our diet easier.

Now if there was some way they’d stay fresh in the refrigerator.