A Song for Canada…I Think

(Many thanks to Sandra and Helen  for the inspiration)

 

Today is July 4. We are keeping it quiet, low key, and close to home to avoid the ones let out of the homes for the rude and the lacking in common sense today. Hubby’s doing yard work. Oakley’s dozing in front of the fan. I’m planning on grilling chicken for dinner.

This last weekend  July 1 brought the birthdays of my sister, a dear friend, and Canada’s 150th. Two awesome humans and an awesome country all on the same day lead to much reveling. I went to the friend’s party. My sister went for a lovely lunch with her husband. Cities large and towns small celebrated Canada’s 150th without untoward incidents. Everyone looked as if they were having a great time in the pictures on the CBC website.

In honor of the sesquicentennial (type that without autocorrect flipping you off), Ontario’s government released a video with the provincial song updated for 2017 to reflect the growth and change  of the population since the centennial in 1967. Pretty awesome.

The 1967 version of the song was pretty awesome, too. Until recently when a couple of my comrades in social media who live in Ontario posted it a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know that it was a song. I thought that the “On-tar-i-ar-i-ar-ohhHHHH” part was a jingle for a tourism commercial released in my home state of Michigan.

And a beautiful ad it was: the image of a honey colored setting sun transforming a lake into a pond of gold with a soprano singing the province’s name as the image faded out.

As with many things of beauty, it became dangerous when it fell into the wrong hands. Or vocal chords in this case.

Such as the ones of lower elementary and preschool children. Mine, and Laurie’s and her little sister Becky’s, and Janie’s. We lived within a few doors of each other. On a slow summer morning, we circled ourselves on a lush lawn; I can’t recall whose. It was one of those childhood things that just happened. I don’t remember how. It just did.  At first everyone took a turn singing “On-tar-i-ar-i-ohhhh,” and then that went up the scale to the point where we plugged our own ears.

“ON-tar-i-AR-i-AR-i-O-OHHH!” Giggles. Up a few more notches.

And finally, “ON-TAR-I-AR-I-AR-EEEEEE-O-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Becky was the youngest. I think her ability to hit that note at age four that made the neighbors think a murder was in progress. Dogs in a two-block radius started going berserk barking back at us. Had car alarms been the norm, we might have set off a few of them as well.

On cue, all our moms flew onto their respective front porches and as one shouted “FRANCESLEIGHLAURAJEANREBECCALEEJANEMARIE! Will you PLEASE stop screeching?”

We all mumbled a short apology, then as Janie’s mom closed their front door, we looked at one another.

Very quietly, but at the high end of her range,  Becky sang “on-tar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o-ohhhh….”

 

 

Sunday Notes of the Musical Kind

Been listening to classical, jazz, and folk lately on the radio. The classic rock station that I loved (note past tense) was bought out by some entity that started running feed from Fox Sports on Sunday afternoons. As if changing the morning show format to the same zoo crew that can be found on any other station between five and ten a.m. wasn’t bad enough, that made it worse. As FM stations had in the ’70’s, they played music, more music, a little news, even more music, perhaps a promo for a concert. But then came the new owners, and there went the broadcasting neighborhood.

There was also the problem of only playing one or two songs from a band’s body of work. The Beatles did so much more than “Hey, Jude,” and The Police have many other songs than “Roxanne” and  “Every Breath…” but someone didn’t get the memo about that.  On the contemporary stations, everything sounded alike, except for Lady Gaga’s work and “Uptown Funk.” The rest sound as if written by lyricists who had eaten cheesy self help books for breakfast or to appeal to people between the ages of eight and thirteen.

I started making more use of my car’s CD player and listening to more NPR and the progressive talk station. That and programming the classical and jazz stations into the radio helped lift my mood. It also stopped the pervasive feeling of being in a time warp brought about by oldies stations.

Inside the house, we have an internet streaming system. It bridges signals from the wireless router to our stereo system. Despite my initial impression of it being another of Hubby’s high tech toys, it has proved useful in so many ways. We get a ridiculous number of stations from around the world, ranging from the various flavors of the BBC to Bollywood (helps me to get moving when I need to clean) and everything in between.

Internet streaming also brings me Folk Alley courtesy of WKSU from Kent State University and “Old Front Porch Radio” on Tuesdays from 4-6:30 central on WXOU hosted by the lovely and charming Maggie Ferguson, one of the musicians in the Detroit folk scene. It scratches the itch for good music created by real people who use their talents and passions to bring their stories to the world rather than technology to compensate for flaws in their performances and their lack of authenticity.

A few stations have servers with terminal hiccups, but the majority play for hours with no interruptions. Our local favorites are still available but now we get a stable stream via the net rather than via the antenna that gets slapped around in adverse weather, making the signal hiss and sizzle with static, or pulling in two signals on the same frequency. In the broadcasting no-one’s land between Chicago, Peoria, and Rockford-DeKalb, this happens pretty regularly whether solar flares abound or not. (You will not know fear until you have heard “Bad Romance” interspersed with an Evangelical sermon, believe me.)

The stream of WFMT‘s program of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing music by French composers is proceeding without hiccups or hellfire this afternoon. Internet radio is a far cry from when I would hide under the covers with my AM radio, seeing how many distant stations I could pull in late at night.  There’s still the thrill, the intrigue, the connection of knowing that there are other people in the world listening to the same program.

However, it’s a pleasant advancement to do so sitting up and in broad daylight rather than with a blanket over my head, adjusting the volume so I wouldn’t get caught and reprimanded for being awake after midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

Wait For It….

Just tried to get Oakley to potty. No luck. I don’t think I could potty in a 20+MPH shrieking north wind, either. At least the sun is out today. The roads are clear, so play group is in order.

Nowhere near as bad as last year, though. I can get out of my house and drive safely. I’m grateful for that. Unlike last year, the times the deep freeze have only been for a day or so with two storms requiring a call to the snow removal company. The roller coaster ride continues through next week March is supposed to be warmer than usual. So we wait.

My biggest problem is boredom right now. I’m caught between Weight Watchers and the wheat sensitivity, so cooking is not really an option. At least the things that I really want to cook aren’t. I dream of cake the way that I usually dream of Sting.

I distract myself with the yearly rerun of “The Tudors.” My favorite Ren Faire opens only five months from yesterday, so that countdown is on. Last night I checked the website to see if there was any news about this summer’s acts. No, but the memories of the green leaves and the scent of turkey legs on the grill and all that goes with it made me whimper a little bit.

In the meantime, I have streams of music from that era to soothe the ache. I can have reasonable amounts of chocolate And in a few weeks, I can have my tea outdoors.

It will be worth the wait. Really.

“A Prairie Home Companion” Turns 40

Last week brought one disturbing news story after another. Last week brought a lot of changes, some welcome; others not so much. Changes in a family member’s health were not good. Pending changes at Oakley’s day care were quite maddening. More on the latter as it develops.

One thing that hasn’t changed, thankfully, is turning on my NPR outlet at five on Saturday evenings for “A Prairie Home Companion.” Since (self-dating alert) junior high, catching up on the “News from Lake Wobegon” and the live, real, hand- and heart-made music and comedy have provided the backdrop for dinner preparations most Saturday evenings.

After a week of involuntary and unpleasant changes, it was good to eat pasta and broccoli while listening to the Wailin’ Jennys and an ad for Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, still located in the Dales after all these years.

How long this refuge overproduced music of questionable quality and news reflecting the worst in humanity will continue I can’t say. Garrison Keillor, the once and future host, still rips out the weekly scripts in about two hours as well as his short stories, novels, and essays. He is not old by any reasonable standards in his early seventies, and hopefully he won’t retire any time soon. The show will continue in some form, I’m sure, thanks to the light side of modern technology.

Perhaps in another forty years, it will still provide a touchstone, an anchor to supply some stability in the waves of change that had slap a person around, providing grounding for the week ahead.

Canine Cultural Enrichment

Dogs do like music. Oakley is partial to Mozart and the “Canine Lullaby” CD that gets played during nap time at day care. Orion liked Bach. Neither were thrilled with CD that had songs written specifically for dogs about topics like snacks, beddy-byes, and adventures at the park. Orion actually left the room in a huff when I played it.

So I stream peaceful music from the internet. Today it’s Celtic. Oakley, Hubby and I are all content with it.

Dogs also love it when you speak to them in French. Especially when you’re telling them what’s for dinner. Tu mangerai de la poulet ce soir. Tu va avoir une bisquette aussi. One of Oakley’s classmates is owned by a native speaker of German. Henry responds to commands in both German and English. Pretty impressive.  

Visual arts are a little tricky unless the dog in question is a sighthound. Otherwise, best to stick to music and language. 

 

A Trieste on Music

A person could be deceived into thinking Midwestern winters are not that bad today. The sky is a cloudless, cliche-ridden blue. The ground is another story, however. The stiff wind bringing tonight’s anticipated storm and arctic cold from the northwest sculpts the snow already on the ground like Martha Stewart trying to get just the right ripple effect on a cake’s frosting. 

A pleasant distraction is in order. This evening’s entertainment will be “A Prairie Home Companion,” just as it has been most Saturdays since I was in high school. As I create the cauliflower-crusted pizza (http://detoxinista.com/2012/01/the-secret-to-perfect-cauliflower-pizza-crust/ and it works just as well with plain ol’ mozz in the crust instead of goat cheese–oh, and you can mix the cooked drained and dried cauliflower, egg, cheese, and herbs in the food processor), I will be listening to performers who do what they do out of love and a deep desire to keep traditional music genres alive and well.

 

I need to have music as I cook. Sometimes it’s jazz, others classical, and there’s something about folk music and Saturdays that mesh just right. Classic rock (from the Police on back) is mostly for driving. But whatever I’m listening to and whatever I’m creating, the ingredients and the tunes have to be real.

Tonight, I need a serious palate clearing. The Grammys are on tomorrow night; the last two days have been filled to the brim with coverage of Justin Bieber’s latest act of stupidity. I am left unimpressed by the artists featured in the clips promoting the former and disturbed that the mainstream media has lost its collective mind over a marketable but questionably talented teenager who’s on the fast track to be a victim of his his own excesses.  

I’ve been spoiled since college by friends who are musicians, and who by rights (extreme prejudice warning here) should have been on “Prairie Home Companion,” but some things just don’t work out they way they ought to in a perfect world. I’ve also dabbled in singing lessons here and there, and been in recitals, and I will tell you, Dear Readers, there is a lot more to the preparation and execution of a performance than looking pretty and enticing fans. 

My own performance experiences have made me quite the demanding critic, just as my cooking has made me quite the pain in the butt over restaurants. I don’t want technotronics, fancy lighting effects, or plates arranged like tableaux from art museums. Just give me the best of either, and plenty of it,  and I will be a happy girl. 

And if we can send Justin back to Canada and get Gordon Lightfoot in exchange, I will swoon in ecstacy.

The Fine Art of Passive-Aggresive Cuisine

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/jello-shrimp-frosting-photos-reddit_n_4124713.html

Thought for the day: many recipes involving Jell-o came from the thirties through the postwar era.

During that time, especially during the ’50’s, women were (and still are, but not as strictly) expected to conform to restrictive standards of behavior or risk losing everything. The frustration and angst were drowned by cocktails or stilled with pills.

All that unhappiness had to go somewhere. Could it be that the creation of some of these recipes and and inflicting them on the family could have been a desperate unconscious cry for help clothed in socially acceptable terms? 

Or could it have been a way to express one’s creativity stifled by the suffocating expectations? 

My mom had been on track to become a concert pianist until World War II broke out. Being that kind of a woman, she changed her concentration from performance to music education so she could help returning soldiers and differently-abled children after that. Which she did, and her work at a rehab hospital introduced her to my dad who worked there as an orderly. That part wasn’t so bad. 

The bad came as the post-war vacuum drew her into the hyper-domesticated world of the ’50’s. She could make Jell-o salads with the best of them. Not a great cook otherwise, but give her a box of Jell-o and she could rule the world, a trail of shredded carrots in her wake. But it was not the world where she belonged. 

Mom belonged on a stage where she could share her gift and getting loving support so she didn’t have to deal with the mundane world. She played organ and piano for our church or school events, and taught sometimes, but it never really soothed the ache in the places emptied by doing what she thought was the right thing at the time. 

Eventually, the collective heartbreaks conspired with her cigarettes and estrogen pills to end her life too soon.

Perhaps when faced at family dinners with some Jell-o creation like this over the holidays, the polite thing to do would be to eat a couple of mouthfuls, and then encourage some art or writing classes so their legacy of creativity lasts longer and gives more joy than a salad course.