Thursday, October 16, 2014

Columbus picture opens a new world

Since I mentioned my print of Christopher Columbus finding the New World, people who know about art have told me that it was painted by N.C. Wyeth. That is Mr. Wyeth pictured above!

One Facebook friend, the esteemed artist Michael Gelen, told me that. And another Facebook friend chimed in and said that N.C. Wyeth was the father of Andrew Wyeth.

Do I know quality when I see it or what? Just like I know quality when I hear it, as in the case of Leonard Pennario.

The picture of N.C. Wyeth does seem to suggest he had something of a fevered imagination. Wikipedia says that he illustrated books including "Treasure Island." You know what, I think that was the book my father read to us from when I was little. It had fevered illustrations that now that I think of it, remind me of the picture of Columbus on the high seas.

The best artists are the ones described as illustrators, you know?

A neat observation from Wikipedia: "Wyeth's exuberant personality and talent made him a standout student. A robust, powerfully built young man with strangely delicate hands, he ate a lot less than his size implied. He admired great literature, music, and drama, and he enjoyed spirited conversation."

"He ate a lot less than his size implied." That is priceless and cannot be said of me.

I eat a lot more than my size implies!

Here is something terrible and tragic. In 1945, "Wyeth and his grandson (Nathaniel C. Wyeth's son) were killed when the automobile they were riding in was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home."

All these things we are learning. Some of them funny and some of them sad. Like Columbus we are discovering an uncharted world. Uncharted to us anyway.

Oh, man. This is something that hits home for me. Wikipedia also says that N.C. Wyeth painted the pictures of Wagner, Beethoven and Liszt for Steinway and Sons. I have been to Steinway Hall in New York and seen those paintings. Even if I had not visited Steinway Hall, I would know them from books. That is amazing! I had no idea. I will have to explore that on my Music Critic Web log.

Anyway we can all see now where Andrew Wyeth got his talent. Why is he so much better known than the old man, is what I would like to know.

No justice in the world!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beyond uncharted seas...

In honor of Columbus Day I found myself contemplating a picture on the wall of my breakfast room. Well, the breakfast room that has turned into the cat room. The cat likes it back there with his toys and his food and his scratching post.

But once upon a time it was my breakfast room and after I went to Monet's house in France, I did what Monet did and painted it yellow and covered the walls in pictures. They were pictures people gave me, or the work of local artists that I bought, or things I bought at sales.

And at one sale on Symphony Circle, or thereabouts, I bought this print that was titled:

"Beyond Uncharted Seas Columbus Finds a New World."

Beneath that caption is written:

"Into the Setting Sun, Conquering Tempest, Mutiny and Terrors of the Unknown, the Great Admiral Steers his Tiny Caravels to Give Civilization a New Hemisphere - and Gain Fame Everlasting."

Who could resist such a print? Not I! That is a picture of it up above although I got it off the Internet because it is easier than taking a picture of the one on my wall.  My print is framed I will have you know.

Now I am glad I have that picture because I am writing about another famous Italian, Leonard Pennario. Pennario was a Columbus fan and so am I. And one house where Pennario's family lived in Buffalo is on Columbus Parkway, bringing this conversation full circle.

Let my Columbus print be a lesson to all of us.

When you see something you like at an estate sale, for whatever reason, do not question your judgment.

Plant that flag.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Me and my bad taste

There is bad news about the Paul Hume book on Catholic church music, the book that arrived with the mysterious holy card.

It appears that Paul Hume, former Washington Post music critic, fan of Leonard Pennario and all around brilliant person, and the man in the above photo, used to be Presbyterian before he became Catholic. He has stringent views on Catholic church music and in this book, he makes the case that Catholic church music was in crisis. He appears to be trying to purge the Catholic church of bad music and hymns of bad taste.

Imagine, in the 1950s!!

Little did he know that he was in the kiddie pool!

I would love to know what he thought of some of the songs I grew up with. I am just saying. Mr. Hume, sir, what do you think of "500 Miles," the Peter, Paul and Mary number, sung at Mass? How about "Blowin' in the Wind"?

I hate to think. Meanwhile, it is distressing that in this book, Paul Hume, and I have to be honest, totally blasts some hymns that I hold very dear.

Like "Bring Flowers of the Fairest," the May Crowning hymn.

I figured out that that was Irish, remember? And there it is sung by this wonderful Irish tenor. A recent comment reads: "Frank was from Clonmel, in County Tipperary, and had an amazing voice. He was called Ireland's Golden Tenor."

God rest his soul. As another commenter writes, I hope that in heaven he is singing to Our Lady right now.

Anyway. So that is one song Paul Hume, music critic and Leonard Pennario fan, derides. He also sniffs at "O Lord I Am Not Worthy."

OK, I guess that is corny. But I have memories of my grandfather playing it on his harmonica. My grandfather! When did I even ever mention him on this Web log? I do not think I ever did on account of he died when I was 9.

Sure, in the May Crowning hymn, you get lines like "As long as the azure will keep its bright hue." and I will admit that the words to "O Lord I Am Not Worthy" do run off the rails in the second and third verses. "And humbly I'll receive Thee/The bridegroom of my soul/No more by sin to grieve Thee/Or fly Thy sweet control."

But I am not the only one who loves that hymn, you know? Once my friend Peggy Farrell, the jazz singer, and I were in Toronto and we went to mass and they did "O Lord I Am Not Worthy." Proving, by the way, that Torontonians love that hymn. When they started it we kind of gave each other thumbs up and went, "Yes!!" because both of us love that hymn. I always remember Peggy in the Communion line, singing along with "Or fly Thy sweet control."

You can listen to this controversial hymn here. The video title is wrong. It is not Gregorian Chant. It is however mighty pretty, in my not so humble opinion.

 What else did Paul Hume disdain? There was another one that I really liked. I kept going, "Oh, no, Mr. Hume. Oh, no!"

All of a sudden I am a Catholic of bad taste!

I do wonder though whether being a convert, Paul Hume might not have "gotten" the appeal of some of these melodies we grow up with. Oh, I remember the other one. "'Tis the Month of Our Mother." That is an amazing Mary hymn. Sure, the words can get weird, but they are beautiful songs. To his credit, he does give the thumbs-up to "Daily, Daily Sing to Mary," "Immaculate Mary" and "Hail, Holy Queen." But he misses the appeal of the cornier songs.

Oh well. He and I certainly agree on Leonard Pennario's greatness.

That is what matters!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A river runs through it

Today, a mildly sticky river on the kitchen floor, from the fridge to the stove.

It can mean only two things, both good:

One, good thing I didn't wash the kitchen floor last week as I had hoped! Procrastination pays off.

Two, the river can mean only one thing:

The cider in the fridge is ready!

I bought this gallon of cider at the Clinton-Bailey Market a few weeks ago. You can get the unpasteurized kind there, the kind that ferments. The cider was leaking through the bottom of the plastic jug, hence the river. But the cider that remained in the jug is perfect, like champagne.

The peppy cider will sustain me as I work to tie up my project. I took a sip at 7 a.m. just to taste it and it felt delicious and illicit, like listening to Leonard Pennario playing a Nocturne first thing in the morning.

No Pennario nocturne on YouTube, alas. But there is this touching performance of a haunting Chopin waltz. I love how simply and perfectly Pennario plays it.

 Goes perfect with buzzy cider.

Taste and see!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Amazon mystery

Last week, music nerd that I am, I put in an order on Amazon for a book by Paul Hume, who was the former music critic of the Washington Post. I am a fan of Paul Hume because he was a fan of Leonard Pennario. He wrote the liner notes to a Schumann album that Leonard recorded in the 1950s.

Paul Hume is also legendary for giving a bad review to Margaret Truman, the daughter of then-President Harry S Truman. President Truman wrote him a letter to the effect of he was going to punch Hume out. That was back when people could write things like that. Hume later sold the letter for a whole pile of money. And as I understand it, he and Truman smoothed things over.

But anyway.

This book by Paul Hume that I ordered was entitled, "Catholic Church Music." It is out of print and looking at used copies on Amazon, I sprang an extra buck for one that had a stamp of a convent on the inside. Sure enough, it says: "St. Joseph Convent Music Dept."

But here is something else.

The book arrived with a holy card mysteriously packed with it!

The card is to "Our Lady Of Good Remedy."

Who has ever heard of that? Not I. The back of the card explained it, that 800 years ago, Christians were being enslaved, and in 1198, St. John of Matha founded the Trinitarians to go to the slave markets, buy the Christian slaves and set them free.

The card continues: "To carry out that plan, the Trinitarians needed large amounts of money. So they held 1,000 bake sales..." Oh wait. I love bake sales and always consider them the answer to everything so I was imagining that last part. What the card actually said was, they placed their fund-raising efforts under the patronage of Mary.

They succeeded! Hence St. John of Matha honored Mary with the title of "Our Lady of Good Remedy." It goes on: "Devotion to Mary under this ancient title is widely known in Europe and Latin America, and the Church celebrates her feast day on Oct. 8."

October 8.

That is today!

Did the sender place the holy card with the book banking that it would arrive just in time? Or is this just coincidence?

Why did the sender place a holy card with this book to begin with? I did not order one.

Did the book come from the convent itself?

Whatever, it is perfectly timed for October, the month of the supernatural.

The card says: "Our Lady of Good Remedy is often depicted as the Virgin Mary handing a bag of money to St. John of Matha."

The image up above is what was on the card. It did not show any bag of money. I found this ...

... but it looks disappointingly modern.

Oh well.

Our Lady of Good Remedy ... Pray for us! Pray for me, anyway.

I need a good remedy, now and then!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tales from the Toll House

Last weekend we had a situation warranting me babysitting my little niece and nephew which is, I have to say, a pleasure. We baked cookies for Barbara's class because this week is her birthday. But we thought we should have extras for around-the-house consumption.

Ergo, something like 2,000 cookies. We made batch after batch. Luckily I had gone to Wegmans beforehand and shopped the way I usually shop, in large quantities. My brother finally walked in the door and said it smelled like a commercial bakery. Ha, ha!

By that time all three of us were settled in watching "Robin Hood." Feet up, unable to move.

Barbara has picked up an expression from me. It is "Oink!"

Because I kept eating chocolate chips and M&Ms and saying "Oink."

It is fun to bake cookies! The recipe we used is from "The Joy of Cooking." I do not have to look it up. I have it memorized. I do not have a photographic memory like Pennario, it's just that when you make 100 batches of cookies ...

... you do get the recipe in your head.

Take one stick butter, cream it with a half cup white sugar and a half cup brown sugar. Add one egg and one teaspoon vanilla.

In another bowl, mix up one cup plus two tablespoons flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. We found amazing baking soda deep in the lazy Susan. Barbara was the heroine who found it. It was in a baking powder container with a rubber band around it and a tag my mother had rubber-banded onto it reading "Baking Soda." It made me laugh, it was evocatively Mom.

You pour the dry goods into the wet goods and then you liberally add chocolate chips. I think the recipe called for a half cup chocolate chips and a half cup walnuts. Walnuts, schmalnuts. We threw in a half cup of M&Ms. And then some.

And then some.

The cookies bake at 375 degrees.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo ...


Monday, September 29, 2014

Record haul

At Amvets the other day I bought so many records that they had to bend their No Carts in the Parking Lots rule for me. They let me bring a cart to my car. They had pity on me!

The reason being, I fell victim to Great Men of Music.

That is this Time/Life series put out in the 1970s. That is a picture of them up above! They are big colorful box sets, each devoted to a different composer. And at Amvets, there was a big bunch of a dozen in a box, and I was drawn to them because they looked in such pristine condition. Then I kept finding more Great Men of Music nearby. Also the record prices at Amvets are the best of any thrift store, in my not so humble opinion.

The recordings are good, although on the Internet you find nerds arguing over the sound quality and such. This particular series uses EMI recordings so you would think they would include a Pennario recording or two but I will not hold my breath, I will tell you that right now. Pennario is always forgotten and shoved aside, fie on people's ignorance.

But here is the thing. My friend Gary hipped me to the idea that you buy box sets like these for their booklets.

The booklets are generous and well written and they include pictures you rarely find anywhere else. For instance one of these booklets is where Gary found his picture of Debussy fallen asleep after dinner with an empty bottle of wine in front of him and a woman in a turban next to him. I have the Debussy set of Great Men of Music....

... and  I will have to check to see if that picture is in there.

It is kind of a Collect Them All situation. There are something like 30 Great Men Of Music and I have something like 18.

The search is on!

Monday, September 22, 2014

He's my handyman

One of the many benefits of having a cat (pictured above, in a portrait by Howard) around:

Remember the fridge that I bought a couple of years ago? I was always hearing a kind of scratching sound behind it. A rustling and a scratching.

Could it be mice? I hated the thought. I have always dealt badly with mice.

So I decided it was not mice. It was this fridge, something with the mechanism. I tuned it out the way I would tune out an inferior pianist, a pianist who was not Pennario. It was just my lot in life, I decided. Out of all the new refrigerators in the world I happened to get the one that made funny noises.


These funny noises? I just realized today that they have stopped.

I have not heard them in I do not know how long!

As Howard said we do not know what the cat is up to when we are not around. It could have chalked up a kill, who knows.

Either that or the mice have simply packed up and gone somewhere else.

"Holy #$*&. You would not believe what has moved into this house."

Either that or that cat is a handyman.

He has fixed the fridge!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another Sunday in the park with George

Today I took a few hours away from the Pennario project and went to the beach with my brother George and my little niece and nephew, George and Barbara. The beach is a Pennario activity. He would have approved it.

George, George Andrew, Barbara and I were remembering last year when we did this, had a late-late-summer swim. Because today, just like last year, we went in the water.

Not only that, we went in twice!

Barbara wanted to go in three times but the second time, I am sorry, it just felt too good to be dry afterwards. There were these gale winds and they dried you in a few minutes. It was like being in one of those XCelerator hand dryers! We all stood there on the blanket and in no time we were dry.

Sept. 21 is not too bad to be doing that. Hmm, look at that date. Isn't it the last day of summer, or the first day of autumn, or something? It is time for the September Ember Days. Except for a fluke of the calendar this year they would be this week, is what I understand. Because of that fluke they are next week.

Anyway I got thinking of last year when we did our late beach run. George and I were thinking it was a little later. I found it! It was October 7.

Just like last year we built a sand castle. It is funny, this year the kids are a year older. And I find myself being a bit like my dad, thinking, stop right here! Don't get older.

Sunrise, sunset!

It makes me glad we went to the beach today. I am working like heck to get my massive project done but you need to enjoy these beautiful days, here and there at least.

Plus, one benefit of today, with the wind and the water.

I will sleep well tonight!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A bag of bargains

Son of a sea cook, I fell behind posting! We just had Talk Like a Pirate Day, hence the expression.

The cat was the problem. I could not get to the computer where I usually checked in because it is in a room where the cat is not allowed. There is too much trouble for the cat to get into including scratching my Pennario records and eating my tapes.

Ergo, no Weblog. We remedy that today with a trip to the Clinton-Bailey Market.

I went with my friend Jacquetta. As I told her myself, she kind of cramped my style but that is a good thing. Un-cramped, I buy way too much stuff. As it was, I did manage to fill the larder to overflowing. I bought ...

$5 worth of tomatoes, actually a generous basket.

$3 for beets with greens attached. That is a treat I love.

$3 for cauliflower.

$2 for a big Savoy cabbage.

$2 for a green cabbage. I am always eating cabbage for I am a kraut.

$2.50 worth of apples. Meaning, I split a half bushel ($5) with Jacquetta. They are an apple I do not know if I have mentioned yet. They are Honeycrisp!

And they are delicious. I picked one out of the sack and then Jacquetta did and we were munching these Honeycrisps for the next hour or something. One apple is a meal!

I packed a lot of this haul into a red Savers bag and brought it home and as soon as I unpacked, the cat crawled in. He is our bargain cat and so he crawled into the bargain bag! That is our orange Tom at the top of the post. I caught him yawning.

The cat then lay down in the depths of the Savers bag and let it close over his head. And he went to sleep. And I worked on my book. Peace!

And catch-up time.