Archive | July, 2016

Cuban cars

31 Jul

It is a good thing that the US is normalizing its relationship with Cuba. One can only hope that the change is managed well and the country won’t collapse cause of greed or mismanagement. This shot shows two ubiquitous cars in Cuba that symbolize the Island nations alliances for the past 70 years. The car in front is a Soviet era car while the one in the back is some old American car.

Weekly Vinyl – Beethoven + Handel

29 Jul

Aus Klassik und Barock Musik Von Beethoven und Handel
Piano: Wilhelm Kempff / Schola Cantorum Basiliensis dir: August Wenzinger
When I was coming of age I listened to a lot of music. It was mostly all vinyl. Some was on cassette. (Our family never went in for that wild 8-track stuff.)
As I listened to the music I studied the albums carefully – rereading all the information like a kid reading a cereal box during breakfast. For some reason I remember seeing dates of the recording on most of the albums I listened to. Sadly, this was a false memory. Most albums do not have the date of issue and I am forced onto the internet to search for this info. Usually this is easy.
Not for this album. No information. Nada. Zilch. Nien. I found that the album does exist in other collections but the date of issue is a mystery.
I go on about this because this is a hard review to write. The album is a Deutsche Grammophon release and is impeccably made. Impeccably packaged. And the recording itself is superb. I hear about the Deutsche Grammophon albums when I listen to “classical” music on the CBC and I usually think they are overblowing the quality of the pressing, music and packaging. No They are not. This is fantastic inside and out. The Beethoven is solo piano performed by Wilhelm Kempff and the notes are so clear that one would think the piano is not too far from you – or that you are in a recital hall. My sound system is OK but it is not even close audiophile standards. Handel represents the Baroque here and the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis performsit wonderfully.
I usually skip most “classical” albums when I’m at garage sales or thrift stores but I now will be looking at these Deutsche Grammophon releases more carefully.

Weekly Wine – Alianca

27 Jul

AlliancaAlianca Vinho Verde
10% ABV
$9.05 (LCBO)

Here is a nice typical vinho verde wine. It is light, tart, refreshing and quite pleasant. It is very good chilled and even quite passable when the temperature of the wine goes down.
It is fantastic to drink on a hot day – but be wary – you will be able to put this down quickly without realising it has a robust ten percent alcohol content. You can down a bottle of this like you would a beer – but should you…
It is a good repast – perfect for sipping in the shade on a hot day. Great with a light snack of bread, cheese and well cured meat. A proper lunch on the field.
The slight gaseous nature of this wine adds to the taste experience. It blends the tartness with a light crispy sensation on the palate. There is a light fruity citrus ambiance in the taste but it is not overpowering and it, importantly, does not taste artificial.
It is very well balanced.
I love vinho verde wines in the summers. This one is great.

Conventional dreariness

26 Jul

Well the Republicans have crowned their orange leader in a sea of fear and hate and it is now up to the Democrats to confirm Hillary.
The conventions were supposed to be exciting and controversial. I was expecting fireworks and fighting. But they have, so far, been… pedestrian. A bit of minor controversy here and there – but nothing really serious. The news channels are grasping at straws trying to pump up the level of scandal – analyzing and rehashing every statement.
So Melania plagiarized a speech – Michelle Obama’s speech. Bad. Sad. Stupid. Loser-like. But not an issue for the Trumpists. Cruz didn’t endorse – same. Some of Sanders’ supporters don’t like Hillary – nothing new. The Democratic party favoured Hillary – that’s not a big deal, everybody knew that. Like most people know that most of the Republican “establishment” is extremely wary of Trump and support him for simple party unity.
The conventions ae a dud if you came for controversy.

Starry night

24 Jul


I love night photography. This was a clear night – although a bit humid. The fuzzy thing is a passing cloud with the light reflected from a nearby town. I used a small flashlight to illuminate the part of the deck.

Weekly Vinyl – Oliver

22 Jul

Oliver! Original Soundtrack recording
Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Shani Wallis, etc.
Most everybody knows this musical. It was a big hit in the late 1960s, is still shown on TV and children are forced to see this.
As I listen to the music I can see snippets of the movie playing in my head. I haven’t seen the movie in many years, since I tried to subject my son to watch it. He didn’t like it.
The music is very typical musical. Sappy and overblown.
The best example of this is the song Who Will Buy? It starts of marvellously. A fugue like sequence of sellers singing “who will buy my sweet red roses roses, two blooms for a penny,” countered with “any milk today mistress,” and “Ripe, strawberries ripe.” There is tension, there is passion. There is a wonderfully emotional musical moment going on.
Then abruptly the song devolves into a standard happy marching-like dance number that musically more or less craps on the exquisite beginning.
What a shame.
Nuff said.

Weekly Wine – Astica

20 Jul

AsticaMMTrapiche Astica Merlot/Malbec
13% ABV
$7.95 (LCBO)

This is the first Argentinian wine that I have had in a while.
I was conducting a very quiet boycott doe to the political situation in that country. As well, I had sampled everything under ten bucks – and even some above 10 dollars.
This wine was new to me. I did drink and review the white wine from this label many moons ago.
This wine is nice and robust. I like the spicyness that the Malbec grapes give to the wine. It has a full body and for some reason that dulls the wine a bit. It is not as lively as some other Malbec wines. It might be the way it is blended with the Merlot grapes.
The wine is fine but it does have a palate of inexpensiveness. In a blind taste test you would have no trouble distinguishing that this is wine under ten bucks.
But it is actually under eight bucks. So it is a great value wine.
It just tastes a little dodgy.


18 Jul

As a journalist and writer, I record most, if not all, my interviews.
This is a simple precaution – so I can get the quotes right. I have it set up that my phone in the office can be hooked up to a recording device very easily. I used to use regular cassettes, then I switched to micro-cassettes and for the last decade I have been using a succession of digital recorders.
Lately I have been also recording my interactions with customer service people. This has stemmed from several unpleasant instances where services were promised and not delivered – or the services were changed for “internal” reasons. On one or two occasions the person out-and-out lied.
Recording these interactions will provide me with a bit of backup if or when I will have to plead my case with their customer service again. I figure they are record me – for “quality and training purposes”, so I can record them as well.
Most likely I will never ever listen to these tapes. As I’m writing this I am on the phone dealing with a matter and it has been well over 90 minutes of mostly silence, a few snippets of conversation and a bit of music while on hold. Three agents have said one thing and now the fourth is saying that what the other agent said is impossible to do. I have not told them that I have recorded this but emphatically stated that they are to do what is promised. The fifth gives a standard apology that the first three made a mistake … I told them that I have it recorded but they don’t seem to mind. They are not denying that something was promised and now they are not going to honour that promise.
This whole conversation took up nearly two hours of my life. The file is about 70 MB.
I am sure I will never listen to this recording.

Chilling on a beach

17 Jul


This photo was taken a few years ago in Tulum, Mexico.
It was a hot day but there was a nice breeze on the beach. As I stood on a cliff above the beach there was a bunch aof people cavorting noisily on my left. This woman was having a serene moment – she was on my left.

Weekly Vinyl – Vollenweider

15 Jul

Down to the Moon
Andreas Vollenweider
This guy, Andreas Vollenweider, encapsulate new-age music in the 1980s. One would go do parties and this somnambulist music would be easing out of large speakers placed at optimal places on the floor.
It was all right.
I guess.
I just could not get into it. I like ambient music, but this was a bit too Muzak for me. A bit to refined. It was music that was calming but did not go anywhere. There really was no bite to it. No purpose. I`ve listened to this album a bunch of times to make this review and honestly you either like the genre or you don`t. To say, “I don`t really fancy this,” or to say, “I don’t really mind it,” is more or less the emotional ambivalence that this music generates.
There are swells of music here but it is not really emotion. It does not conjure up the power of waves, or the mystery of wind – the music just moves a bit here, or there.
And in effect – infuriatingly.