Opera Post Meets Holiday Post

Saving the best for first, here’s splendid dead French tenor Georges Thill singing “O, Holy Night” except obviously in French.

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This is also nice, though. It isn’t explicitly Christmassoise but it’s become a winter holiday opera. The evening prayer from Hansel und Gretel, starring Frederica von Stade, Kathleen Battle, and Kathleen Battle’s sleeves.

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Here’s the very greatest Marian Anderson singing Silent Night somewhat past prime. Actually, no. You know what, here’s the very greatest Marian Anderson ~20 years earlier singing Ave Maria. I’ll find another Silent Night.

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Oh and here’s John McCormack who was a Very Big Deal singing Adeste Fideles in 1915.

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In case that wasn’t corny enough, I found you a Silent Night!

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Oh god there’s a recording of Richard Tucker (né Rivn Ticker) singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” which seemed cutely Alannic but it starts out with some weirdo heavy breathing as he caresses the LP and I decided to spare you. I don’t think he recorded any Hannukah songs either, maybe because they’re all awful.

For midnight at the new year, Nellie Melba in 1905 singing Auld Lang Syne. I sneak off and listen to this every year. I am not listening to it right now because Auld Lang Syne reliably makes me weepy about 75% of the time and I am at the office.

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One day, the budding opera stars of the now will record syrupy, unidiomatic versions of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime,” replete with strings and kitschy sleigh bells. Hopefully no-one will tell us.

Happy [Various]! Enjoy your time off, your holiday beverages, and whatever good company you can round up!

Brussels Sprout Jesus

Our lord

Happy thanksgiving!

Here are some fabulous dishes for you to try out on your dinner party!







Hey, lady, you want us to fix your car?

So, I had some time to kill in the Valley the other night. I was supposed to meet a friend at 6:30 for an odd little adventure:  we were going to a talk by an “internationally recognized prophecy expert,” a the-world-is-ending, repent-or-perish type who we hoped would go on a wild rant about stocking up on rice, guns and gold. My friend and I share a fascination with apocalyptic evangelical church stuff, so this was our idea of a fun Thursday evening.

Anyway, I got there way too early, so I drove around the neighborhood looking for a suitable place to spend some time. To my delight, I found a bookstore with a big parking lot. Bingo! I parked and went inside to browse.

After about a half-hour, I walked back out to the car. I got in and spent a few minutes checking my email and text messages, and as I was doing that, another car pulled up behind me. Three young guys were inside.

“Excuse me,” the driver said. “I work for a Toyota body shop, and I can see your car has some dings and a panel is loose, so would you like for me to fix it? I can do it right here.”

Because I did not fall off a turnip truck yesterday, I knew this was a scam. “No,” I said, scowling and waving my hand dismissively. He shrugged and pulled away slowly as I looked back down at my phone.

A moment later, I watched as he pulled up behind someone else and tried the same thing. Seriously? Who falls for this stuff? I thought. I felt proud of myself for being so savvy, for not having considered their pitch for even a millisecond. Then again, I’d just had body work done on my car, so I knew for a fact that it was in perfect condition. Those guys were idiots–the least they could have done was choose a car that actually had something wrong with it.

I drove to meet my friend, and we went to the talk, which turned out to be less fire and brimstone than a lukewarm oatmeal of every boring sermon I’d ever heard growing up. Afterward, we cheered ourselves up with some barbecue from a food truck, and I drove home.

The next morning, I went out to my car to drive to the gym. As I was getting in, I noticed that the left rear panel, near the gas tank, was popped out. What the! So, those guys were right — there was actually something wrong with my car. How had that happened? Had I banged into something? So strange that I hadn’t noticed it before.




I tried to pop it back into place, but it wouldn’t go. This was going to require tools. What a pain!

Then I looked closer, at the edges of the panel.


See that yellow mark there? That, my friends, is the mark of a screwdriver. Yes, those douchebags were driving around parking lots, hopping out to damage vehicles, and then asking the drivers to pay them to fix the damage.

How do I know this for sure? Because the last thing I did before parking at the bookstore was fill my tank with gas. And that panel, which is just below the gas tank opening, was completely intact.

So, anyway, that was my Thursday night. I’m not sure what the moral of the story is, except that it’s apparently more dangerous in bookstore parking lots than in apocalyptic-evangelical-sermonizing parking lots. Be careful out there, readers.


Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills

One of my goals when I was in high school was to go to college and smoke marijuana. I was a squeaky clean kid, mostly because my parents somehow managed to install themselves as giant floating superegos that went with me everywhere, but I knew college was going to be the land of Id, which in many ways it did turn out to be. Not that Ma and Pa Superego would have been horrified by a little toke–they both tried it in college (Austin in the 60s was hippier than you might guess) and just weren’t really into it.

I wasn’t either, it turned out. Or anyway I just did it because I wanted to be someone who smoked pot, and I didn’t do it all that much. Later I would come to find it sometimes actively unpleasant, but at the time I just remember it as somewhat neutral, a social act that wasn’t enjoyable on its own merits. It wasn’t and would never be as fun as drinking, and after college I basically stopped. A doctor asked me once if I smoked marijuana and I said “oh, maybe once a year,” at which she stopped writing and asked, “so why even bother?”

The last few times I smoked, it was a drag. Once was on New Year’s Eve in Chicago and we stayed up all night watching unsubtitled Korean soap operas until my friend made us awful biscuits from Bisquick and suddenly the holiday was officially over. It was meta-fun, like here I am quirkily watching Korean soap operas, but I felt gross and jangly-nerved and tired and never anything so nice as drunk. A few times were with an upstairs neighbor who smoked absolute acres and, when she smoked, went from a very sweet and mellow person to someone who could not stop talking and sometimes made no sense. She smoked strong stuff and it made me paranoid in a lower case way, not concerned that the government was reading my thoughts but certain that everything everyone said was a veiled jab at someone else in the conversation.

For reasons I’m not sure of, unless it was just a When in Rome thing, as soon as I moved to California, I decided I was going to give it another go. It does seem like a universal habit in Oakland. Also it occurred to me if the whole thing is on the up-and-up, it gets more corporate, and I’d probably be able to say “here is my money–give me whatever kind is just going to make me, as people have been requesting for thirty-some years, chill the fuck out.” And that’s pretty much what happened.

First I went to what we will generously term the doctor’s office. This was in an abandoned-seeming but fancy building a block from Lake Merritt, where downtown turns fully residential. I rang up, was buzzed in, and was greeted by a perky woman who took my blood pressure and told me a certain amount of her life story. She turned out not to be the doctor, but put me on skype with the doctor. Because that’s how that works.

He was kind of a grizzled old weirdo in Southern California somewhere. He asked me a few questions, nodded at my answers, and got fixated on some joke about what “now” meant. I said some stuff about insomnia and anxiety, both of which I have sometimes, and both of which I had just heard are what you say to a marijuana doctor. I have the impression I could also have said “I intend to spend the rest of my life high as a fucking kite” or simply “GIVE ME POT” and the result would have been the same. It was the very definition of cursory.

There are a million pot dispensaries in the area, so you use a website called I forget what, maybe WeedMaps. It’s pretty detailed. It tells you what strains they have at what shops and how much they cost and sometimes descriptions. I went to a place just across the tracks from our neighborhood that is very highly rated. I chose the Platinum Cookies from the menu, because honestly what the hell do I know about it? I didn’t really want to be the big nerd who walks up to the window and says “‘scuse me, mister! I’d like to do drugs! Can ya help me out?” I of course had this peculiar version of impostor syndrome: “they can tell I don’t smoke pot, at least not idiomatically” but it turns out they are really just there to sell you pot.

And so began my descent into reefer madness. I write to you now from rehab. Well, fine, not really. I’ve smoked about four times, and I am bad at it. I cough a lot. Once we watched the Herzog documentary about trappers in the Taiga. Once I listened to most of the Monteverdi Vespers. Mostly I have used it to get to sleep. I am now the only person in history to do what I told the doctor I was going to do when trying to get him to fork over the ganja. It takes the edge off a little. It is not as good as being drunk.