Wednesday, October 26, 2005


An artist friend of mine has opened a business to sell custom-made mosaics. They are just beautiful. If you are looking for some art to decorate your home or business please check this out: DKM mosaics.


"Impress your woman with your animal instincts!"

Monday, October 24, 2005


I listen a lot to WQXR, New York City's classical radio station. Their announcers (classical stations don't have disk jockeys, they have announcers) introduce musical works with titles, composers and performers in a number of different languages. They all seem to have very good Italian and French accents, and Spanish also, I think. Some do pretty well in German, also. But whatever the language, they handle it.

So I was rather surprised yesterday to hear weekend announcer Clayelle Dalferes say, "Alternate side parking regulations will be suspended Tuesday and Wednesday this week for religious holidays that I can't pronounce." I thought she was referring to the holidays marking the end of the Islamic Ramadan, but that's not until next week. This week it's the Jewish holidays Shemini Atzereth and Simchas Torah.

I understand that Clayelle might not have had to learn their pronunciation growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana ("The Capital of Cajun Country"). But she's been working as a radio announcer in New York City for well over a decade. It's really time she learned to pronounce the religious holidays.

Clayelle, your homework assignment for this week (you wlll be quizzed this weekend): "Idul-Fitr."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another very busy weekend (w/whirling dervishes)

This week the festivities started off Friday evening with dinner with another couple at Chennai Garden, a vegetarian, kosher, South Indian restaurant--not that the kosher part mattered, it being Friday evening. We had to wait a while for a table, and just as long to have our orders taken, but it was worth it. Though none of us had their signature-dish dosas, the curries and such we did have were excellent. Who needs meat?

Saturday evening commenced with a 5:45 repeat viewing of "Good Night, and Good Luck." The friends we were seeing that night hadn't seen it, and we wanted to go again because we had missed too much of the dialogue at the New York Film Festival screening. The movie was just as good the second time--better in fact. Not only could we hear the dialogue better, we could have popcorn.

Among the trailers preceding the film was one for Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman as a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual escorting her son on a road trip across the country--he being unaware of whom she is. I missed this when it was at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The trailer looked great. I'm looking forward to the opening in December with much anticipation.

Exiting the theater we braved the rain and walked the few blocks to the Park Avenue Cafe. It really is on Park Avenue, though the entrance is around the corner on 63rd. I was a little surprised at the location--I didn't think there were any restaurants on Park Avenue that far uptown.

The decor is hard to describe. It is clearly an upscale restaurant, but not at all formal. A rack of champagne bottles filled a niche, but there were shelves of cookie jars and children's blocks on one wall. A humongous but beautiful arrangement of dried fall plants dominated the room we were in.

The clientele was very Park Avenue. Most of the people were expensively yet conservatively dressed. Most of the men wore jackets, but few wore ties. My blazer fit right in, I thought. And I think as 50-somethings we were definitely below the median age.

On the tables were little cards explaining a special deal they were promoting. After 8:30 pm, seven nights a week, you can get a three course meal just by paying your age. Everything on the menu, including the specials, is included. Now the entrées alone go above $30. Add in an appetizer (up to $18.50 for the foie gras) and a dessert (they're all $11.50), and you've got a real bargain if you're much below 60. There is a $25 minimum, and of course it doesn't include drinks or coffee, which can really run up the bill--even a soft drink is $4. And don't forget the tax and tip.

Unfortunately for us, it wasn't after 8:30. Also, I had had plenty of popcorn, and didn't want an appetizer. (And we aren't that much under 60, alas.) On the recommendation of the waitperson I chose the jumbo prawns with grilled asparagus, prepared with tomato confit, fennel seed sausage and lemon-lime salt, which was excellent. The pineapple and berries I had for dessert was first rate, as were the fancy vodka cocktail and even the bread bucket.

Outside of the fact that they lost our reservation (but had no problem seating us), and the slightly befuddled coatchecker, it was a thoroughly lovely experience. If you want an upscale dinner I recommend it--especially if you're young enough to really take advantage of the "pay your age" deal.

Sunday was a matinee Lincoln Center Great Performers concert--except that it wasn't at Lincoln Center. It was at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola at Park Avenue and 84th St. It was a very appropriate location for Music of the Spirit: Sacred Bridges, a concert of psalms. We were fortunate to have seats in the third row.

It was performed by the combined forces of the King's Singers and Sarband--the latter making its New York debut. The King's Singers are another male a capella group, the third such I've heard in the last four months. This one is only half the size of Chanticleer or the Russian Patriarchic Choir, but six voices is all they need. They are British, and sing in the English cathedral choir style, with two counter-tenors keeping things very high.

Sarband is, well, strange. It includes four instrumentalists and one singer, all in the Arabic tradition. Their goal, according to the program, is "to show all possible connections between European music and Islamic and Jewish musical culture." At this concert, at least, they did this by frequently using their Arab instruments to play Western style, with a Western scale, only full- and semi-tones. But sometimes they played in the Arabic style, with its quarter-tones.

Preceding the concert was a lecture by Richard W. Corney, a retired Episcopal priest and seminary professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. He outlined the history of the psalms, how they came to be translated, retranslated, and set to music. Actually that should be reset to music, because they were sung in the original Hebrew--but the music was lost long ago. I stayed awake through quite a bit of his talk.

The concert itself consisted of a series of psalms, or verses of psalms. Some were in Hebrew, with music composed by Salmone Rossi (1750-1630), except for one that used traditional Sefardi music. These were sung by the Kings' Singers. In between them were psalms either all in French, or French and Turkish. When they did the latter, the Kings' Singers would do a verse in French, then the Sarband singer would do the same verse in Turkish. The French parts were composed by Claude Goudimel (c. 1515-1572), or Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621), both based on the Genevan Psalter of 1562. The Turkish ones were composed by Ali Ufki (né Wojciech Bobowski) (1610-1675?).

Sometimes Sarband would accompany the Kings' Singers, sometimes they sang alone. A couple times the Sarband singer joined with the Kings' Singers. There were all kinds of combinations.

The whole thing worked very well. The Kings' Singers are excellent, and Sarband seemed quite fine, though I really have almost no experience with Arabic music with which to judge them.

Oh yes, the whirling dervishes. For a few minutes early and late in the concert the musicians were joined by a pair of Mevlevi whirling dervishes. They spun to the music in their religious ecstasy, their white skirts flaring out. I don't think I have ever seen even a film of dervishes before. Somehow I expected them to spin much faster, but it was at a moderate, graceful pace.

The only thing marring the afternoon were the hard, narrow pews we had to sit on. The next time I go to something there I'll try to remember to bring a cushion.