Sunday, December 01, 2013

Will it be Food Pics or Cat Pics that Take Over the Internet?

I've noticed that there is some annoyance out there in the social media world towards people who take pictures of their food and share them with the rest of the world.  I understand.  Your life is too full of real things to care about what someone you hardly know had for dinner.  And as is the case with most social media - you didn't ask for the picture - it was thrust upon you as you were innocently scrolling through pictures of babies in their first suspenders and cats who have not only made their owners work for them, but have started a campaign to take over the internet.

I take pictures of my food.  I do so with glee.  GLEE.  And when I post a picture of my food, it is because I'm still savoring it.  I feel like, for me - what my meal looks like represents my current life or state of mind to a certain point.  There are times, honestly, when I think my best foot forward or my most photogenic side is the meal I just created.  It might represent something just for myself - how colorful, or fresh, or gloopy I'm feeling.  And it might represent what I want to convey to the people I'm cooking for - "I'm comfortable with you," "you make me feel warm," or "our weekend is going to be zesty/fiery/rich."

What we eat says so much about us already, and if we're proud or excited to share it, I think those of us that do are sharing something significant of ourselves.  So, go ahead and post those pictures!  (Not like anyone can stop those of us that do!)  I want to see your fancy gougères that you put so much time into.  And I'll probably even give you a thumbs up/heart/like for your peanut butter toast and iced gin at 9pm picture because it says a bit about your day and how you've chosen to celebrate it/wallow/comfort yourself.

So, cheers!

You can find more of my food pictures on instagram and twitter, though I must warn you - I'm also one of those annoying people who posts copious pictures of her dog.

See?  It's because she's SO CUTE!  And I'm sure you think so too!  Right?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Mode - Knoxville: Summer of 1915

I recently went to a somewhat unusual event at the Ruth Page Center for Music and Dance.  The Mode Ensemble - a collection of a dozen or so talented musicians put together an evening of Early American and Civil War Era music in a constant flow of ever-changing ensemble on stage.

Offering era-appropriate food and very sweet cocktails while performers and audience members dressed the part, the evening was a lot of fun and felt transportive.

Ashlee Hardgrave did an excellent job with Alan Louis Smith's Covered Wagon Women Vignettes, and the Prairie Spring, Haymaker's Hoedown and Banjo & Fiddle performances at the end of the first half were energetic and skillfully played.  The second half of the evening though was where all the emotion came out.  Anthony Plog's Songs of War and Loss, sung by ????? (performer's names were not included in the program) was intense and it was followed by a dark reading of a Civil War Soldier's letter over Jay Ungar's Ashokan Farewell (from Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War).  Copeland's Quiet City and Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 made a fantastic end to a really well-rounded and enjoyable show.

The program could have been more complete and the initial words about the final piece, which lasted a good half hour, could have been left out, but the music was really the important part, and Mode knocked that out of the park.

Happy Birthday, Verdi!

Thursday marks the anniversary of the 200th year since Italian Romantic Operatic composer Verdi was born.  He is most known for his prolific opera composing (averaging one every nine months for a good decade of his life).

His operas are known for their grandiose style with prominent use of the chorus.  He also experimented quite seriously with developing a style of realism or verismo in his music composition.  He did experiment with all types of Italian operatic writing at the time and this can be seen throughout his works.

Many colleges, music festivals, and city orchestras are celebrating Verdi's oeuvre this season with performances, and I recommend checking a couple of them out!

If you're in Chicago, you're in luck.  Yet to be performed is Verdi's Requiem Mass (Thursday @7:30pm, CSO), which can be watched that evening online at (I'm definitely doing that with a glass of wine after work).  The Lyric is doing Verdi's Otello - my favorite of his operas (opened Oct. 5) and La Traviata - another of my favorites and one of his most well-known operas (Opens Nov. 20).   So, Chicagoans - GO!  (For opera neophytes, these are both very accessible and a lot of fun.)

Chicago musicians have been hard at work already though -

I had the pleasure recently of seeing Joan of Arc, performed by the Chicago Opera Theater.  The production was creative - a sect of fundamentalist Christians putting on a play of the famous story,
making the piece more apropos for today's audience.  The baritone was fantastic and the writing for the chorus was perfect and made sense given Verdi's penchant for grandiose declamatory choral writing.  I was having such a good time that I forgot to take notes and the time just flew by!

I also recently had excellent seats to see Macbeth performed without set by the CSO.  Aside from a very strange offstage recording at certain points of
the opera, I was enchanted.  Verdi writes soprano emotion so well - that even without costumes and a set, the listener could feel the palpable anxiety from the vocalists and the orchestra.  I have never heard a better performance of this opera - the cello solo in the third act, the beautiful chorus, and the exquisite and glittering orchestral playing - not to mention the voices made it an amazing evening!

If you've missed the above performances, the CSO, the Chicago Opera Theater, and the Lyric are always top-notch and you can't go wrong in attending a concert.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Picasso and Chicago

It is only on display for the next couple of weeks, but the Art Institute is currently showing a special exhibit on Picasso's works.  Though I wasn't quite on board with the way the exhibit was organized and thought the idea of Picasso's connection with Chicago as a thread through the exhibit was tenuous, you should go.

There were some well-known paintings and sculpture, but a lot of the exhibit was of Picasso's drawings.  Here are some of what I thought were the highlights:

Drawings of a Bull.  There was a big collection of drawings of animals - many of them in a calligraphic style. 

Picasso used typical household goods in many of his works.  This sculpture is created from pots and pans and cake forms.

Lots of drawings with a pastel wash.  I'm particularly fond of the rooster in this one. 

Folk Art - Picasso style!

In the book Gertrude Stein wrote on Picasso in 1938, which I read this week, I learned the following funny story about Picasso:

When he was a young artist, he used to say that it would be so incredible if he were burglarized and someone stole his paintings and drawings (meaning his artwork was worth something).  And so, later on, when he was not an unknown artist, he was in fact burglarized, and the thieves thought only to steal his linens and left his artwork behind.  Fools.

Aside from just the artwork on display, there was a room in the exhibit that included information on learning about authenticity of, history of and the quest to discover the materials used in some of his artwork.  Descriptions of how art experts found out a lot of these things using various x-ray techniques, UV light and such fill one room of the exhibit and made some of the work that these curators do really exciting.  It also reminded me a bit of White Collar, which was fun.