Patronage in the digital age + fox sounds, tasty cheese

Updated 9.9.13, 10:54 a.m.

I'm a little short on links this time, but because of a couple recent crises at two important arts-and-culture publications, I wanted to write you all nonetheless.

It was probably during my time in New York that I first heard people talking about the ordinary individual's role as a patron of the arts. At the time, I was so broke my church had to help bale me out at one point and even after I stabilized slightly, I could hardly afford to buy meat or alcohol. One week when I had less than $20 for groceries, I even supplemented my diet with better-quality non-perishables someone left out on their Brooklyn stoop.

Patronizing the arts in those days mostly consisted of taking in the free concerts offered on muggy summer nights and hoping for "patrons" willing to buy the book whose writing consumed most of my free time.

But now, after a long period of professional and financial stability on the West Coast — and the explosion of digital media — I see patronage differently. Many of the art forms and outlets I enjoy will never achieve mass appeal, and if they did, I would probably suspect they'd somehow sold out or lost their way.

Part of that may be the kind of avant garde elitism early Apple customers enjoyed, but I think there's something deeper. Despite their diversity, the art forms and institutions I most enjoy and appreciate share a commitment to doing things for their own sake more than for external (and especially financial) rewards. Certainly they don't spurn money — any artist would be a fool to do that — but money does not provide their ultimate motivation; love does.

Yet, precisely because love can bring out the best in us, it can also cost us immensely. Thus, many cultural institutions survive on a combination of ticket sales or subscriptions, supplemented by patrons who help fund the organization itself, rather than any particular article, season or performance.

I know we're all in various places, financially and otherwise, but I would encourage you to start thinking of yourself as a patron and not just a customer of at least one or two of the arts institutions you enjoy most. If you want them to be around and flourishing five, ten or twenty years from now, why not help ensure that continued existence? You might be surprised how many projects owe their existence or survival to small donations rather than large ones. By the same token, your or my unwillingness to support the arts in even a small way — when multiplied by dozens or hundreds — could be the difference between an artist or institution's continued ability to produce work that nourishes and inspires.
  • If you ever enjoy the jazz programming on our local, commercial-free station, KCSM, you can make a donation during their current pledge drive.
  • On the reading — and writing — front, a fine intellectual journal defined by strong writing, a broad topical scope and, yes, an evangelical commitment could be shuttered at the end of this year without new patrons. Books and Culture, which gave me one of my first significant publication credits and has published a host of wonderful writers and essays, came very close to ceasing publication after the November/December issue. They were able to raise the necessary pledges by their Sept. 9 deadline, but they could still use your help. Donate now.

    I confess I'm still ambivalent about reading periodicals in paper vs. online, but I'm very grateful for both the opportunities Books and Culture has given me, and the many great essays it's commissioned, including a wonderful Andy Crouch piece on shaving and fatherhood I always come back to. Whatever the format, I want this publication to continue introducing new essays and writers into the larger conversation. If you haven't previously discovered the magazine for yourself, why not try a subscription? They offer both print or online versions for as little as $30/year.
  • Though Image journal met its recent fundraising goal, they're still recovering from a vendor's shorting them $65,000. Support them by either making a one-time donation or subscribing to the publication.
  • Wherever else you encounter artists or institutions doing important work, think about how you can support them. Maybe you refer someone for a project you know about or commission them to produce a work for you or a fortunate Christmas-gift recipient. Or maybe you make your next book or music purchase from a store that doesn't have the cheapest prices, but curates a selection unlike any chain store's. But if they produce work you value, why not show that value in something more tangible than an emotion or verbal praise?
:: tunes ::
  • On a much lighter note, some are claiming this music video on "What does the fox say?" should be the real "song of the summer." I'm not sure I disagree. Hilarious.
  • I missed this somehow, but the musician J.J. Cale died last month. If you don't know his name, you probably know some of his biggest hits, via Eric Clapton -- "After Midnight" and "Cocaine."
:: your stuff ::
  • Josh has a very nice review of a new Dag Hammersjkold biography in the latest Books and Culture (subscribers only). His introduction — a meditation on the phrase "a man for our time" — showcases exactly the sort of writing that makes the publication such a joy to read.
:: visual art ::
  • I had never heard of this until a friend shared the link, but apparently a small group of passionate Photoshop experts are painstakingly colorizing historical photos — with some fascinating, beautiful results. There's still nothing like the depth of a beautiful silver-gelatin print, but I really enjoyed some of these.
:: food ::
  • I've been enjoying the tastes of summer lately, which — thanks go a Labor Day road trip north — have included Tillamook rocky road ice cream and fresh-picked huckleberries from the bushes on my grandparents' property (I hope to make a micro batch of jam today). If you don't know the Tillamook name, try out one of their cheeses the next time you're at the grocery store or Costco — or, better yet, tour their factory if/when your travels take you along the Oregon coast.


Seuss hats, pink's history, rare Hitchcock silents

Some of you know that I got my car Rosco because, five years ago this September, I had the great privilege of speaking at a small retreat Charlie Peacock organized for young musicians. I'm still not quite sure how I wound up there, but it was an experience I'll never forget, and the start of some special new friendships.

About 60 musicians attended the retreat — some you've probably heard of and many you haven't, but should. One of them was a man from L.A. named Will Gray. Earlier this month, I got the shocking news that Will recently died of a cancer only discovered this past fall (2012); I believe he was in his early 30s.

In the course of learning about his death, I also found out that Will directed a documentary about independent musicians called Broke*. Just released in June, the film features Buddy Miller, Bobby Bare Jr., John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, Trent Dabbs and many other musicians. You can buy Broke* on iTunes. I thought the best tribute I could offer to this talented musician was to share his music and movie with all of you.
:: our stuff ::
:: special events & exhibits ::
  • Watch one or several rare silent Hitchcock films, Aug. 16-31 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. I might be up for seeing some of these, so let me know if you're interested.
  • Aug. 30-Sept. 15, the Dr. Seuss hat collection returns to the Bay Area, for a two-week run in Sausalito. This time I'm determined to see it! Petri's Fine Arts (690 Bridgeway, open 10-6 daily).
:: tunes ::
:: visual art & film ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
:: food ::
For more than a year now, I've been getting a regular CSA box -- first every three weeks, now every two. Because of the summer harvest, though, that's meant lots and lots of tomatoes (2.5 pounds in the last box alone). Last night I decided to try an intriguing "tomato casserole" recipe in my Deaf Smith cookbook. I can't find it online, but here's the gist:
  • 12-15 tomatoes (they must be small? I used 7 heirlooms = 2.5 pounds, plus a pint of cherry tomotoes)
  • 2-3 jalapenos, which I think they suggested you roast and chop (I used two chipotles, which produced a pretty spicy dish; you might want to start with one and adjust to taste)
  • 4 slices of bread, cubed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated cheese to top
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to a deep, heavy pan along with the peppers. Bring to a boil and simmer until thick -- at least 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the bread crumbs. Pour into a 2-quart baking pan (9x9) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until somewhat firm. You don't want it too soupy. Top servings with grated cheese.

I let my casserole sit a while before serving, but it was still a bit loose (the type and staleness of the bread used might make a difference). I think it would be equally good if you cooked and crumbled a few slices of bacon and stirred that in before baking. An interesting use of tomatoes, at any rate! The cookbook claimed this was an old recipe, handed down over several generations.


The Song Reader issue: 20 free songs, fiction film review + homemade ranch

Even though summer no longer means the break I enjoyed in my school and college years, there's still something about the long days that makes me want to sit down with a good book and glass of homemade sangria when I get home from work. I've been on a real sewing kick, however, so lately I content myself with reading on my BART train and while eating dinner, before diving into the dress I started sewing on my recent vacation.

I need to get back to evening writing soon, but in the meantime I'm enjoying a lively Russian comedy a friend recommended, called The Master and Margarita. It's daring and entertaining and has yet to disappoint me. Should you want non-fiction reading, here are my two latest pieces:
:: Song Reader ::
I think I practiced piano almost nine hours the week of last month's sightreading party -- just one reason I'm nursing a minor obsession with Beck's sheet music-only album. Thanks to the work of my co-worker, you can hear all 20 songs from that night -- wrong notes and all. Despite the rough nature of the performance, you can still start to hear the shape of the strongest songs. Some of my personal favorites: "Do We We Do," "Sorry," "Eyes That Say 'I Love You'," "We All Wear Cloaks" and my favorite, "Last Night You Were a Dream."

After giving the public months to make the own recordings of Song Reader, Beck finally assembled an impressive cast of musicians for a July 4 performance at London's Barbicon. It looks like about seven official videos from the show have been posted (based on what Pitchfork and Paste shared), but I was able to find about 14 of the 20 songs:
You can also hear the entire album performed by the Portland Cello Project and assorted guests.

:: events ::
  • The Mazzarellos have brought back their film-viewing series. This summer they're going through Simon Schama's The Power of Art on Thursday nights. Learn about Bernini on July 25, Jacques-Louis David on Aug. 1. Contact them for details.
:: tunes ::
:: film & visual art ::
  • Jeff Overstreet began a new experiment in film criticism earlier this year: reviews written through the form of fiction. The setting: a group of film aficionados who regularly meet up at a store called All-Thumbs Video to discuss and debate recent releases.
  • On a related note, members of the Arts and Faith online community (affiliated with Image journal and the Glen Workshop organizers) compiled this list of their top 25 films on  marriage.
:: food ::
As some of you know, I left for a "sewing vacation" shortly after the Song Reader party, which meant a week at my parents' house in Riverside. In exchange for making such a long stay with them, I offered to make dinner each night. Mom sometimes handled the side dish, though, like a simple green salad for which she made a tasty homemade Ranch dressing. When I got home, I found myself craving the same thing to go with some lasagna. I'm not exactly sure this Ranch recipe is the same one she used, but it's pretty good. Notes:
  • I was short on mayo, so wound up using about 1/4 each sour cream, mayo and milk for a half batch of the dressing. I liked the consistency with the milk, though; otherwise it's pretty thick.
  • The flavors need more than 30 minutes to really blend nicely — which Mom also said — but even so it wasn't bad on my dinner salad.
  • This recipe calls for all dry herbs, but if you prefer to use fresh chives, dill, garlic, etc., check out the Pioneer Woman's Ranch recipe. I might have to try it next time.


Song Reader party, new Civil Wars + Much Ado, zesty salad

I don't know about the rest of you, but most creative projects involve a strange emotional ricochet from enthusiastic beginnings to disinterest and procrastination, usually overcome with prayer and a decent stint of teeth-gritting, imperfect drafting that finally results in rediscovery of the initial delights and eventual, satisfied completion. Thus, today's profile of an award-winning ophthalmologist, "Choosing Marriage Over the Mission Field," began with an interview in November, progressed to a pitch in January and finally emerged from my laptop earlier this week after a long stint of stalling.

Once I got past the grinding start of the writing, Dr. Kietzman's story reminded me how much I enjoyed hearing it for the first time in Chicago, last fall. You don't always get to hear about someone's life at such length, but mine is the richer for having heard part of his fascinating, courageous journey. (See also my first story on him, for work, which focused more on the medical side of things.)

Lastly, I keep forgetting to mention this, but I recently updated the music-venues page on the artRecs blog. Though it's not a complete list, it provides a decent run-down of most major venues in the area, including nearest BART station (where applicable), parking, box office hours/tips for avoiding service fees and so on. Here's wishing you all a lovely weekend whatever you're up to!

:: Song Reader party June 28 ::
  • It's finally happening! Eric and Shea will graciously open their home on Friday, June 28, for musicians (and a few music appreciators, like you) to come sightread through Beck's new, all-sheet-music album, Song Reader. If you want to join us as a performer, there's a Google doc for people to sign up for songs and parts. (I'm not asking for note-perfect readings, but ideally you'll run through the chosen parts a few times beforehand.) Hope to see you there! More details to come as the date gets closer.
:: your stuff ::
:: visual art & film ::
  • Joss Whedon has a new adaption of Much Ado About Nothing out and, though I'm a huge fan of the Kenneth Branagh version, initial reviews are very good. A.O. Scott called it the "most purely delightful movie I have seen so far this year." Anyone else want to see it, perhaps this weekend?
  • Can murals curb graffiti? These SF business owners hope so (SFgate).
  • Discovered at 64: I still need to read this, but I love stories about artists getting discovered late in life -- not because I rejoice in the delay, of course, but it's nice to be reminded that life's drama doesn't contain itself to our early years and abandon us once the wrinkles set in. And who's to say what could come of works we quietly toil at, unnoticed, for years?
  • LA's Craft and Folk Art Museum gets yarn bombed (Huffington Post).
:: tunes ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
  • A fascinating look at art/restoration in the digital age: "[W]hen a Web-based work becomes technologically obsolete, does updated software simply restore it? Or is the piece fundamentally changed?"
  • This interview on comedy and faith with the RUF minister known on Twitter as Prodigal Sam provoked quite an online dust-up recently, with Patton Oswalt lashing out and so many people jumping into the plagiarism debate that Prodigal Sam later announced a break from Twitter altogether. All that notwithstanding, his comment that's it harder to be funny without vulgarity particularly resonated with me (not that I see myself as a comic writer). On a related note: this piece on plagiarism, homage and laziness reckoned thoughtfully with the larger issues raised by the controversy.
:: food ::
  • New cocktail bar Novela features menu inspired by reading. Maybe I'll try to go there for my birthday....
  • For several months now, I've been getting a CSA box every three weeks. For the most part it's great (you can choose the frequency of delivery and rule out fruits or veggies you hate), but they always bring me carrots, and sometimes radishes. Since I only use these in certain recipes, they often get gnarled and soft before I have a chance to use them. So last weekend I looked up recipes and discovered this easy carrot-radish salad -- super quick if you have a food processor to grate for you. With a light sprinkle of curry powder and a dab of hot sauce, it was quite delicious.


Oakland doc screening, summer mixtape + a retro cooking essential

If I were my uncle, I might start this by wishing you a happy Memorial Day Cain (just as Saturday was Memorial Day Adam), but that would be a lazy way to start things. Lazy could never describe the writing of Mary Roach, however, as I note in my review of her new book Gulp. My copy's currently out on loan -- should you want to borrow it -- but it made me want to read more of her books.

And in a very different kind of science review, my second piece for the Atlantic looks at a novel view of debt put forth in Mating Intelligence Unleashed: 'Overspending Has Become a Modern Form of Mating Deception.' I'll have more to come on that book.

Otherwise, I'm between book reviews, which means tonight's commute presents a choice of knitting or a mystery. Currently reading my third Cliff Janeway novel, part of a series set in the rare books world that I'm really enjoying.

:: your stuff ::
:: tunes ::
  • New First Listen: You probably haven't heard of the Spanish singer Buika, but that shouldn't stop you from giving her new album a listen. Getz and Gilberto are usually my go-to soundtrack for those summer nights when I have time for a little reading and a glass of sangria before sunset ... but they might get bumped by her album this year.
  • Yes, there are subway-busker auditions, as this piece in the Journal recounts.
  • 65 free songs! Noisetrade has pulled together an expansive summer mixtape so big, I almost feel guilty sharing it. Let it inspire you to tip your favorite artists generously!
:: visual art & film ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
:: food ::
  • As 1950s as this might sound, it's hard to beat the payoffs a good crockpot provides. Meal prep rarely takes longer than a few minutes (depending on how much chopping's involved), then you turn it on in the morning and come home to a nice, flavorful supper. This coming weekend, I plan to try this promising-looking recipe for slow-cooker chicken paprikash, since my folks will be in town and I've got a busy Sunday scheduled. 


Atlantic debut, new book, cool illuminated Bible project + Gatsby soundtrack

You know things have been a bit crazy of late when you can take a three-hour nap on Sunday and still sleep fine that night. And I did.

Talking Taboo cover
Not all my recent writing has been published yet, but the biggest piece has: my debut on The Atlantic website. Coming this fall, I also have a somewhat related essay in the anthology Talking Taboo, in which 40 Christian women under 40 explore the taboos that remain in 21st century churches. To help give the book a solid pre-order start, the editors launched an Indiegogo campaign today, to raise $14,700 for production and marketing costs, internet advertising and so on. You can support the book for as little as $7, but $20 or more secures your pre-order copy.

I confess I was a little confused at first why a book with a publisher still needed to fundraise like this, but when I think back on all I could have done to better market my book -- each part of which would have involved money -- it makes more sense.

Lastly, while this does not entail a full-fledged article, I also my first appearance in the print edition of Christianity Today last month: My top 5 books on singleness. On a related note, Mako Fujimura shared his top 5 books on creativity earlier this year. They feature a new list every issue, covering topics that range as widely as Dickens, North Korea and consumerism.

Don't miss the great short-story serialization below! And the Great Gatsby soundtrack probably won't be a first listen for long.

:: call for submissions ::
  • One of the more interesting projects I heard about at the Festival of Faith and Music was a New York-based effort to create the largest multi-disciplinary illumination of the Bible, organized by Spark and Echo Arts. As you might imagine, it's a pretty immense undertaking, but also a tremendous and very exciting opportunity. Learn more about the project.
  • Christianity Today seeks essays telling Christians' common-good stories -- and 10 winners will each get $1,000 for their story. The top essay will also be featured in the print edition of Christianity Today. Deadline is Friday, June 15; ideal length: 1,000-2,500 words. Learn how to enter.
:: events ::
  • From the Grotto: ZYZZYVA release - MAY 17 @ Diesel bookstore in Rockridge, 7 p.m. ZYZZYVA, the award-winning West Coast literary journal, celebrates the publication of the spring/summer issue. With Molly Giles (Iron Shoes), Alexandra Teague (Mortal Geography) and Aaron Jae-Ho Shin. Wine and snacks, of course. Editors Laura Cogan and Oscar Villalon hosting. ZYZYYVA release parties are always a good time—come early to get a seat and hang out.
  • Song Reader sightreading party: we're now tentatively looking at sometime in June for this low-key performance of Beck's latest album. Let me know if you'd be interested in learning part of a few songs to help us bring the album to life.
  • Author NoViolet Bulawayo will be speaking in San Francisco, May 21 at the Lone Palm (details and tickets here). An award-winning writer, her debut novel We Need New Names is due out next month. Read the first chapter, released as a short story called "Hitting Budapest" that went on to win the Caine prize.
:: your stuff ::
:: tunes ::
:: film & visual art ::
:: reading / food for thought ::
  • This series first debuted in January, but I must confess I don't read The New Yorker that often. So great, though. At a mere 28, the author is a precocious talent, lately of the Bay Area. as this New York Times profile shows.
    • Simon's Sell Out, Part One - One day an immigrant pickle-factory worker falls into the brine ... for a long, long time. When he escapes, the world has changed.
    • Part Two - Herschel grows restless depending on his great grandson for sustenance, and dreams of acquiring land.
    • Part Three: Herschel must find a place to store pickles jars for his expanding business, so he joins an exclusive artist commune.
    • Part Four: Herschel expands the business, sells it to Walmart and helps his great-grandson pray.
  • Keep your day job: a look at how other writers have balanced their art with paying the bills.
  • This is almost a month old, but the the death of storied reporter and legendary stylist McCandlish Philips prompted an unusual obituary in the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal had more on his unusual career. If I didn't actually meet Philips , I remember him from a Gegrapha meeting I once attended in Manhattan. Even then, meeting organizer Tony Carnes' esteem for Philips was evident. Read Carnes' remembrance of his friend and mentor. I must say, in reading the various tributes to him, I was really struck by Philips' work ethic and the care he put into even the seemingly dullest assignments. 
  • While most writing advice is at least somewhat helpful, I really like the succinctness and visual of this list, in which 14 authors wrote writing advice on their hands and then photographed it. Fun to see how people's personalities came through.
  • Looking to read some fiction this summer? This list of 15 "essential" novels about New York piqued my interest, though I'm still early on in the book-world whodunnits of John Dunning.
:: food ::
  • Toward the end of a recent trip, I got sick, which had me graving chicken soup soon after my return. I've never liked the taste of traditional chicken noodle soup, but this more Italian take from Rachael Ray, which adds mushrooms, stewed tomatoes and gnocchi is delicious. Even my Grandpa, a notoriously picky eater, liked it! When I have less time, I also turn to a Greek chicken soup, avgolemono.


Ebert, upcoming concerts (M&S!) + a young poetry fan

Posters my friend made for
her school's Austism
Awareness Month observance.
Read more below.
No new articles this time, but I'm nearing the end of reading for a book review on online dating, after which I turn to Mary Roach's Gulp.

We're still working out the details for the Songreader sight-reading party I mentioned last time, but if you're interested in participating, you might want to get your copy now. At $34 for 20 lavishly detailed song charts, it's pretty reasonably priced. The album includes parts for piano, guitar, ukelele, several voices (at least one song has harmony) and a few wind instruments that I'll have to double-check when I'm home. Order it from McSweeney's or, if you don't mind a trip to the Richmond District, pick up a copy from Green Apple Books. They had several in stock when I stopped by. The Pirate Store at 826 Valencia might also have a few, but call first to be sure.

:: Concerts ::
Notable shows in the next several weeks:
  • Tonight! David Wilcox at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley
  • April 24: Little Willies (a Norah Jones project) at Great American Music Hall -- I'm really hoping to go; will probably try to buy tickets before my trip next week. Let me know if you want to come with!
  • May 29-31: Mumford & Sons at the Greek in Berkeley. You can save about $10/ticket by shopping the on-campus box office (hours here).
:: National Poetry Month ::
3-year-old recites Billy Collins' poem "Litany": Somehow I missed this video when it first circulated three years ago, but it's deservedly the sensation it became. HuffPo notes that the boy, Samuel Chelpka, has also:
A commenter on the NYT blog post about the video shares more about Samuel's exposure to poetry. Here's the text of Collins' poem. I'm chagrined to say I didn't know much about his work until this video, but I certainly plan to read more now. "Litany" is wonderful.
:: tunes ::
  • The NYT recently ran this interview with Emmylou Harris, which included two delightful tracks from her recent duet album with longtime friend Rodney Crowell. Perhaps because my two maternal grandparents are in their early 90s, her comments on aging -- especially as she observes it with her 92-year-old mother -- really resonated with me.
  • One of the songs featured in that story also made Paste editor Josh Jackson's recent list of the year's 25 best songs so far, which includes several from albums NPR has featured on First Listen.
  • Gym-music sweet spot: to maximize the impact of your playlist's workout impact, WSJ says you should pick songs within a certain tempo range
  • I don't know a lot about this musician, but Audrey Assad's interview with Christianity Today caught my eye because she gets into communal singing, which has been on my mind a lot lately. She discusses why she's switched from making albums for people to play in their cars or on their stereos to a project more focused on congregational singing
:: visual art & film ::
  • Just one day after announcing he was taking a break from writing again, Rogert Ebert has died. Even with my media-light upbringing (no TV until high school), I knew his name by adolescence. The New York Times obit includes a nice slideshow, but the Sun Times tribute is probably the most thorough. A couple pieces of his that were shared on Twitter today:
  • Portraits of centenarians: pictures of 100-year-old people might not sound that interesting or attractive, but these are really wonderful. Every now and then, I encounter an artistic project -- a friend's three-person play I saw years ago comes to mind -- that rises to the level of medium-defending art. As in, you see it and think, This is why ___ [art form] exists. Nothing else can do quite this. For me, these portraits rise to that level. The photographer did such a great job capturing each person's life, vitality and personality. I liked the side shots less, but perhaps those people were more shy about direct eye contact and that, too, showed part of who they are.
  • A while back, I shared a photography project focused on people with albinism. A friend's recent effort to change the Autism Awareness Month posters at her school reminded me of that. Read the whole story on her blog. I'm so proud of Robyn.
:: the Keller corner ::
  • Work: What is it Good For? I haven't seen this video yet, but it's an hour-long discussion between Keller and his co-author Katherine Leary Alsdorf, who only recently stepped down from leading Redeemer's Center for Faith and Work.
:: food ::
  • For Easter dinner, I tried a new side this year, partly to use up some home-grown sage my aunt let me snip from her garden before I left Washington. The result: a mash-up of these two recipes for mashed sweet potatoes with sage (to which I also added some garlic). Very tasty, rich in eye-nourishing vitamin A and no gravy-making required.


Easter Dinner, John Denver, Barbershop 'SexyBack'

Blue jay breakfast outside my grandparents' dining room.
That title feels slightly sacrilegious, but I'm going to blame that on trip fatigue and press on. Though I just got back from a short trip to help my grandpa celebrate his 92nd birthday, I wanted to get this out before Easter so you all know you're invited to my place for Easter dinner Sunday, in case you don't already have plans. (Well, those in the Bay Area are invited.) I'll provide ham, mashed potatoes, rolls and water. Salad, sides and other beverages I'm leaving to guests. ;) Bonus: While you're there, you can flip through my new copy of Beck's Songreader, which rewards the reader at every turn. (Stay tuned for details on a Songreader sight-reading party, which we hope to organize in May.)

Please come! I can't eat an 8 lb. ham all by myself. Some reading while you ponder that...

:: events ::

  • March 31 - Easter dinner at my house! 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. RSVP by Saturday.
  • April 4 - David Wilcox, one of my favorite songwriters, plays Freight and Salvage again
  • May 9 - Cloud Cult @ the Independent (Minnesota-based band whose latest album Love got "First Listen" treatment on NPR)
  • June 22 - She & Him @ the Greek
  • July 21 - David Byrne and St. Vincent @ the Fox
:: just awesome ::
  • I wasn't sure how to categorize this, but the fabric company Spoonflower provides the graphically inclined with some truly amazing possibilities. For example, D.I.Y. magazine napkins made from fabric printed with scans of old correspondence. A pattern designer whose book release I attended created a fabric with her book cover and the publisher's logo. She then used it to make small tote bags that were given away to attendees as party favors. You can also just buy fabric printed with existing designs on the site, such as the 800+ options tagged "steampunk," the 80+ "roller derby" designs or the 200+ "zombie" themed prints.
:: film ::
  • I'm not super knowledgeable about directors, but I do really like Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson film is one of the maybe six movies I own). Thus, I was intrigued to hear that Joss Whedon directed a new version, due for release this year, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The trailer looks pretty good (H/T: Jeff Overstreet, aka, @overstweet, the best Twitter handle I've seen).
:: visual art ::
:: tunes ::
:: your stuff ::
  • Laura's back from her writing "dream" trip to New York (the prize she won in a Poets & Writers contest). They've posted her write-up on their site: Crash course in writerly wisdom.
:: reading/food for thought ::
  • Charlie Peacock's Art House Blog published a wonderful piece on loneliness and love last week that draws on Christian Wiman, an album about an astronaut, Paul Tillich and many more. One of the best essays I've read in a while.
  • My literary agent also has a blog, which recently featured this thought-provoking post on writerly envy -- although I daresay it applies to other types of artists, too.
:: food ::
  • I've never prepared a seder in conjunction with Lenten/Easter celebrations, but this Indian chicken recipe (prepared by one cook in a small Jewish community in the city of Cochin) sounds really good. The accompanying story is a fascinating read in its own right.
  • Blair tipped me off to this story: Church groups are increasingly tapping the homebrew scene toward various ends: evangelism and fundraising, but also to rediscover church roots, enjoy their God-given creativity and more. What would Jesus brew?


Bay Bridge Lights, new Hendrix/Ritter/Grohl streams

There are so many good things to read this week that I'll add very little of my own commentary, except to share the first of my promised online-dating ruminations:
More to come on this topic in other publications. By the way, for those of you on Goodreads, I periodically update the list of what I've read -- especially with reactions to the detective stories no one pays me to read. ;)

Don't forget to watch for the Bay Bridge Lights launch tonight!

:: tunes ::

  • For just a few days, you can hear a new Jimi Hendrix album (yes, you read that right), thanks to the good folks at NPR Music. People, Hell and Angels compiles 12 previously unreleased tracks, including the seven-minute blues jam "Let Me Move You" (a personal favorite).
  • If that weren't enough, NPR also has a stream of Josh Ritter's new album Beast on the Tracks, which I'm sad to say is a breakup album penned in response to his divorce. Beautiful stuff, nonetheless. So far I'm liking the first few tracks as well as anything I've heard from him.
  • And, yes, they've got the new Dave Grohl album, too
  • Get 28 free songs! Yes, you read that right. Paste and NoiseTrade are partnering on a South by Southwest mp3 sampler featuring Ozomatli, Josh Ritter, Ivan & Alyosha, Billy Bragg, Ron Sexsmith and many more.
  • Van Cliburn -- the Texas pianist most famous for his award-winning Tchaikovsky concerto performance -- has died. NPR reports that he was the only solo musician to ever receive a ticker-tape parade in New York
:: visual art ::
  • Keep your eyes on the Bay Bridge tonight! A new light show is set to kick off around 8 p.m.
  • I think these are the coolest drawings I've seen in a while. The bird image drew me in immediately (I have a thing for birds, when they're done well), but they're all fascinating images. I'd never heard of the artist before, but apparently Pat Perry is an illustrator based in Michigan -- and his prints are for sale online at very reasonable prices.
  • This item straddles film and music, but apparently Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist, Aimee Mann, Joe Henry, Loudon Wainwright and some other folks (mostly musicians) are involved in a forthcoming film called Pleased to Meet Me. It may well be one of those insider-ish movies that don't play well to broad audiences, but the trailer intrigued me. Besides, how many films include a theremin player?
  • Paste recently highlighted several quote illustrations by a designer who's selling the images on Etsy. They feature the likes of Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo and others. My favorite's the Williams Simms quote depicted as birds flying out of a heart (sounds weird, but it's actually pretty cool).
  • WSJ has more on the narrative advantages of television. This piece looks at several books being adapted for the small screen, and the writers who've jumped at the chance to explore the medium, among them Tom Stoppard, who adapted a 900-page, four-part series called Parade's End for HBO.
  • Controversy erupts when a Banksy piece disappears from a wall in London and turns at a Miami art auction.
  • Shoes as art and obsession: the Wall Street Journal reports on an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum. This made me wish I was close enough to New York to see it as before the show closes. View more of the shoes on the museum site.
:: reading/food for thought ::
  • You might recall that, last month, I shared a New York Times piece on Afghan women who go to great lengths to write and share poetry. After I also shared it with my some of my-contributors to Her.meneutics, one of them wrote this beautiful piece on the importance of poetry. If you like Karen's writing, she also has a new memoir out called Booked.
  • I pretty much binged on this ongoing relationship feature the New York Times started last fall. Called "Making It Last," it's a series of interviews with baby boomer couples who've been married more than 25 years. Aside from the human-interest factor, there's also a lot of wisdom on what it really takes to have a lasting marriage -- often few of the things singles look for in a partner.
  • Jonathan St. Clair shared this essay on the rise of "foodism" -- a fascinating analysis of how food is supplanting the (mainly visual) arts as a source of high culture.
  • Flavorwire thinks everyone should read these 17 essays. No pressure, but they're drawn from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf and Zadie Smith (yes, it's an all-women list).
  • Not enough for your reading appetite? Fine, then Publisher's Weekly also recommends you reread these 10 classics probably discovered in high school. I, um, only read three of them in high school, but I've heard of all but one.
:: food ::
  • The other night I was flipping through some old copies of Everday Food when I came across this recipe for a chicken-butternut squash soup that involves roasting most of the ingredients in the oven first. I had to add a smidge of hot sauce to get the flavor where I wanted it, but the end result was fairly easy, very tasty and nicely different spin on butternut squash-based soup.
  • This one's for the kid in you: a recipe for homemade, gummy fruit snacks


Malick preview, new Civil Wars, a story slam + sour milk cake

Last night I stayed late at work for a focus group, which meant I didn't get home until nearly 10 o'clock. As I was unfolding my bike outside BART for the final ride home, I was surprised to realize a stranger had stopped to help me hold it stable as I hooked my two panniers on the back. I thanked her, saying something like, "I'm OK," and then realized she was still standing there, holding the handle bars. So then I asked her how her day was, and we chatted briefly before going our separate ways.

When I still walked to BART from work in the days before my bike, I sometimes stopped in for a latte at Caffe Trieste. One day, an elderly man who proved to be a jazz musician, struck up conversation with me, and I stayed to drink my latte at his table. It was gloriously mundane, our talk, yet also a kind of ideal version of what can unfold from "how was your day?" I must have confessed to avoiding some tedious task at work, for we eventually wound up discussing procrastination and the merits of just diving into something you don't feel like doing. One time I stopped by the day or week of my birthday, and B.J. insisted I take $5 to buy myself a drink. When he wouldn't take the change, I kept it and used the rest to buy some yarn and notecards at a thrift store. He later died from some kind of cancer, but I'll always remember our short, but unhurried conversations.

In some ways, both they and last night's exchange are like stones you could store inside yourself and still draw warmth from anytime you happened to draw out the memories and gently tumble them against your fingers.

For good or bad, many creative outputs are probably far less enduring than such gemlike moments, but I'm a bit hopeful my latest two pieces for Her.meneutics (a two-part series on singleness) hold up better than usual.
:: events ::
  • March 2: local band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (recently featured on NPR's First Listen) play Great American Music Hall, with opening bands that include Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside. I found Thao's new album a mixed bag, prompting equally strong like and dislike by turns, but I really enjoyed hearing Sallie & co. when they opened for Wanda Jackson last year.
  • March 9: The Relatives play Bimbo's. The just got a very nice write-up in the New York Times, which situates their resurgence in a broader trend of "young crate-digging producers" resuscitating the careers of long-forgotten bands.
  • March 11: The Moth story slam, which I believe is the first such event in SF (Moth slams take place in other cities, too). Theme: secrets (you have to prepare a 5-minute story to deliver, including a conflict and resolution). 
  • March 20: Josh Ritter plays the Fox, and you could win tickets for two by entering Book Passage's short-story contest. Stories must involve a musical theme or concern music and cannot exceed 2,500 words. How to enter.
    Also that night: Ivan and Alyosha's show in the Mission, which I hope to catch (see below).
  • April 11-13: Dark Star Orchestra residency at Great American Music Hall.
  • May 12: Buddy Miller plays Great American Music Hall; tickets on sale Feb. 24.
:: visual art ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
  • My friend Susan Isaacs wrote a piece for Donald Miller's Storyline blog this week that I really liked. Titled "What's that big thing God wants you to do," it's a reflection on inspiration and calling that packs in a lot more wisdom and nuance than one could get in many similar pieces. Pieces like this could so easily be a bit fluffy and superficial, but I really thought she packed a lot in.
  • I found this a thought-provoking take on "platform" and its construction, from an editor at Intervarsity Press. In it he wrestles with the new book Platform from publisher Michael Hyatt -- which basically talks about current expectations and methods for marketing yourself and your work. I appreciate some of the questions Zimmerman asks. Part two of Zimmerman's series.
  • When does talent shield you from breaking the rules? This reflection on the recent suicide of programmer Aaron Schwartz is a thoughtful meditation on risk-taking, ethics and the way perspective changes over time.
  • From the Paris Review archive: 1967 interview with John Cheever. I'd never heard of him until I confessed disappointment with the stories of John Updike to Dana Gioia a few years back. I love Updike's prose (which it's almost criminal to read silently), but the narratives left me cold. Dana recommended I read some Cheever. I have lots of short stories left to read, but Cheever's certainly proven more memorable than Updike. Some favorites so far: "The Enormous Radio," "The Day the Pig Fell into the Well" and "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill." If I read any more Cheever on those evenings when the sun sets well after my return home from work, it will be a good summer.
  • Coffee-lid design probably doesn't consume your thoughts unless one works badly, but the Wall Street Journal had interesting article on one design that highlights the beverage's smell better than many lids. and other inventions on display at the Crunchies Awards.
  • Musical ability has been linked to cognitive improvement in other areas, such as reading (note that this speaks more of musical training than talent, per se, implying that music lessons pay off even if you're not that good).
:: tunes ::
  • Several months back when NPR did one of their seasonal music previews, a song called "Be Your Man" wooed my ears with its joyful, multi-part harmonies and driving rhythm. The song was from a band called Ivan & Alyosha, which apparently had no full-length album out at the time. Now they do, and NPR Music brings the whole thing to First Listen. My ears are very, very happy.
  • New Civil Wars music: Despite cancelling their tour a few months back, the duo is still working together, Paste reports, and collaborated with T. Bone Burnett on the soundtrack to a food-related documentary called A Place at the Table, due out later this month.
  • NPR has a nice assessment of trumpeter Donald Byrd's career, that looks at his commitment to education -- particularly ensuring the presence of black voices in music departments that were often mostly white and focused on European music. One of his breakout hits from the 70s was the album Black Byrd. Hear the title track.
:: food ::
  • I can't remember if I've shared this here before, but do you ever have your milk go bad before you've drunk it all? If you're inclined to toss it out, why not make cake instead? I've served this simple sour-milk spice cake at several events, and it's always a hit. (Note the tip on making sour milk if you don't have any on hand.)


Pirate songs, Dubya's bathroom portraits + Grammy winners

I wish this could open like the unexpected sighting of a Telegraph Hill parrot -- a bright flash of green across your morning -- but, alas, I'm still getting over a cold, so you'll have to encounter birds on your own. Here's wishing you a week that brings at least a few moments of gratitude, wonder and rest.

:: events ::
  • Lenten Prayer Retreat: Feb. 16-17 in Berkeley ($35). My uncle, a retired pastor, was recently asked to describe his prayer life. "Inadequate," he said, which surprised me, but probably rings true for almost all who follow God. If you, too, resonate with that, and you're not traveling over the holiday weekend next weekend, why not come to the Lenten healing prayer retreat Christ Church is hosting? Rusty Rustenbach, an author and director of pastoral care with the Navigators will be leading the two-day retreat (9-5 on Saturday, 9-1 on Sunday). The schedule will include a mix of teaching, prayer and discussion on listening and healing prayer. In my own life, a two-day prayer conference that Redeemer hosted a while back proved a very significant turning point in my prayer life and relationship with God.
  • Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale: March 2-3. If you're any kind of thrift store/garage sale/antique shopper, this just might be the event of the year. Admission is free, but parking can be hard to find (they do provide shuttle from BART). A couple things they don't advertise:
    • Everything is half off on Sunday.
    • You can do two one-day passes before the sale if you make a donation. They add a 10% surcharge, but it's still worth it to beat the crowd. Drop-off/shop hours: 10-2, Tuesday to Saturday through Feb. 23.
  • Dark Star Orchestra does a mini residency at Great American Music Hall in April, Thursday through Saturday, April 11-13.
:: visual art ::
  • I wondered why I'd seen something about George W. in the LA Times trending topics, and now I know: a hacker recently got into W's sister's email, discovering photos of some paintings in process, two of which are self-portraits in the bathroom. The New York Times has an image-free but fairly fair assessment of the works-in-progress, which includes an odd closing jab at Bob Dylan. New York magazine's art critic actually likes the bathing portraits, which he considers alongside a landscape of a church. Yes, he shows all three images. Fascinating, whatever you thought of him.
  • Dr. Seuss didn't just write about hats, it turns out, he loved them -- and often had guests wear pieces from his large hat collection during meals. Now that collection forms the basis of a new exhibit debuting -- where else -- in the New York Public Library (it's slated to visit a few other sites, I believe).
  • I still need to watch these, but Paste reports that Jimmy Fallon's been doing a Downton Abbey spoof, called Downton Sixbey, which includes quite a cast.
:: tunes ::
:: reading/food for thought ::

  • As I've shared before, poetry may be the art form I most want to "get" and yet remain the most mystified by. Thus, I was immediately intrigued by this NYT Magazine piece on Afghan women who've risked their lives to write poetry. It's a longer read, but a fascinating portrait of a literary society connected largely by phone and secrecy. In some ways it's also a rebuke to the ease with which one can neglect art making in this country.
  • I have to confess, I never knew exactly where Timbuktu was until read this fascinating article (it's in Mali, home of that blues-y band Tenariwen). As the author notes, "In modern times Timbuktu has become a synonym for a remote place." It's also been the site recent conflict, however, which yet again threatened thousands of ancient manuscripts. Residents are no strangers to hiding their treasures, however, as this article recounts. Worth checking out, even if just for the slideshow. Some really beautiful images.
  • Brainpickings highlights the new, posthumously released Maurice Sendak book, My Brother's Book.
:: food ::
  • Here's a no-cook breakfast tip for a change: looking for something healthy and portable to start your mornings off? My breakfast staple is a jar of plain yogurt topped with a few spoons of homemade jam (I buy the Straus yogurt quarts at Costco), plus a container of homemade granola I stir in right before eating. You could make your own version with store-bought jam and granola, of course, but I find it a pretty balanced meal with decent staying power -- especially if your yogurt and granola are rich in protein.


Johnny Cash stamp, prison portraits, new Ritter, Bird @ Calvin

I don't know about all of you, but it's been a bit of a wild week -- though I halfway expected that after Monday began with a large runaway dog's appearance in our front yard. Pray for the Johns Day promotion kept me pretty busy until last night, when I decided I could kick back a little. Since the 30 Rock finale was on, I made the rare decision to watch TV ... for all of two hours.

The best thing I did last night was make this soup
(recipe below). Watching TV? Not so much.
By the time I was heading to bed, however, I found myself wishing I'd done something more restful and rejuvenating. Of course, sometimes my endless list of people to knit for turns into a chore, but by and large, I find more sabbath in planning craft projects, cooking or reading something that doesn't require a power plug. Maybe that's because I didn't grow up with much TV.

How might you truly rest a bit this weekend? What would that look like?

New articles:
In the next few weeks, I get to read and review a few different books on dating in the digital age. What reads have you enjoyed lately? I just finished John Dunning's Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime, which painted an entertaining portrait of radio in its WWII-era glory. I'm happy to loan it out, if any of you want to borrow my copy.

:: events ::
  • Festival of Faith and Music: I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but forget to include a link. Whoops! In any case, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., hosts the event April 11-13. Andrew Bird is one of the headliners, which just might persuade me to go. You can go as more than an attendee, too: through March 1, the festival's accepting paper proposals
  • Glen Workshop: If you're interested in attending one of Image journal's annual summer workshops, you'll want to start making plans soon. Classes fill up quickly -- especially those with popular instructors -- and often require you to submit a work sample in advance.
    • Glen West, July 28-Aug. 4 in Santa Fe. Highlights: Larry Woiwode on fiction, Wayne Forte on painting, Scott Derrickson on film, Ashley Cleveland on songwriting and more. Cost: Starts at $825, but scholarships are available, as is a commuter option.
    • Glen East, June 9-16 in South Hadley, Mass. Highlights: Lauren Winner on sermon writing, Over the Rhine on songwriting, Michael Wilson on photography, Barry Moser on life drawing and more. Cost: Starts at $925, but scholarships are available, as is a commuter option.
:: tunes ::
:: visual art ::
  • If you click through on just one thing in this email, it should probably be this article on a prison photography project. Really incredible. The interview with the photographer whose new book looks at prison landscapes as the photos from the project. Seriously, this is one of the art stories I'll probably be talking about for a few weeks.
  • On a lighter note, the French photographer Sacha Goldberger has created a substantial body of whimsical work featuring his 90-something grandmother, "Mamika." This New York Times interview gives a brief introduction to the work and their relationship or you can dust off that high school French and explore his website. Bonus: instead of arrows, you'll click on large underpants to navigate between pictures. I'm not kidding.
  • Here's a reason to think about writing a letter next time you're tempted to type a note: Paste reports (via TODAY) that the Post Office will issue a Johnny Cash "Forever" stamp later this year. I may have to stockpile those.
  • In related epistolary news, some schools are eliminating cursive instruction. I am an inveterate letter-writer, so you can imagine how I feel about that. Admittedly I don't precisely write in cursive, but I still struggle with the idea that we've passed its usefulness. Interestingly, though, this article raises the question of whether we'll even need to sign our names in the future, given the rise in electronic signatures.
  • If you fly through SFO much, you've probably noticed some of the exhibits from their museum. I've actually really enjoyed some of the shows, such as one on sewing and another with art that repurposed other materials (e.g., bottle caps and tires). Well, apparently the museum boasts an unusually valuable collection.
:: your stuff ::
  • Last fall, Steve got to do a photo shoot for Southern Oregon University. He recently posted some photos to his blog -- nice work, even if you have no particular interest in the school.
:: reading/food for thought ::
  • You could argue that this piece on a book's re-release is a little self-serving -- it focuses on the work of an erstwhile NYT editor -- but the author raises interesting questions about republication of books. In particular: what do you do when a book's claims have subsequently been discredited or significantly reframed due to subsequent research? Must you somehow bracket the new edition?
:: food ::
  • You can now get your food-truck fix every Friday night in Oakland: Off the Grid comes to the Oakland Museum of California from 5-9 weekly. And you can get half-price Museum admission if you're not already a member. 
  • I printed this Caldo Verde recipe out a while ago, but finally made it last night -- with very tasty results. It's relatively economical, too. The main expense is the chorizo (you need 10 oz.) and kale; the other major ingredients are onion, garlic, potatoes and chicken stock. Makes a little over 2 qts.