Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love Words: Gimcrack

Word: gimcrack

Pronunciation: \JIM-krak\

Function: noun

Etymology: origin unknown

Date: 1676

Definition: a showy object of little use or value: gewgaw.

I love that “gewgaw” is part of the definition. Strike that. I love that gewgaw is even a word. And thinking of this word makes me think of a Gaelic word my Irish friend uses from time to time - craic, which is pronounced crack and means "fun, enjoyment, abandonment, or lighthearted mischief, often in the context of drinking or music." I love the story she tells about when she first came over from Ireland and was telling one of her new co-workers about the great craic she had the night before and was met with gape-mouthed astonishment.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Matt and I have been getting in the habit of going for a walk if he gets home early enough from work. It’s one of our favorite things to do. And it’s not just good exercise. I swear, we have some of our best conversations while on our little jaunts, and we get to know our neighborhood and neighbors a little better too.

Yesterday, on the homeward-bound leg of our stroll, we came upon a small group of little kids (the biggest probably no older than five) laughing and chasing each other on one of the walking paths that separate several nearby cul-de-sacs. I smiled and waved to them which must have communicated that I might just be an adult with some childlike play left in her because one little boy, with no shirt or shoes on and his socks getting dirtier by the minute and falling off, and a little girl, with her hair in a complete disarray and her sun dress all twisted, got very excited and ran over to claim us as their new playmates. When they got in front of us, all breathless and convulsing in fits of giggles, they threw their arms straight out to their sides, yelled, “RED LIGHT!” and looked up at us expectantly. Aaah! What fun! Instant memories of second grade recess came flashing back. As hungry as we were (and, so, eager to get back home to make some dinner), we stopped to play with them for a little while and found ourselves giggling just as hard as they were, our ear-to-ear grins lasting the rest of the way home.

Whatever you do this weekend, find some time to play! :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jazz on the Brain

Back on March 2, Matt and I took in the L.A. Philharmonic’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since and am just getting around to it now.

I didn’t expect to love the show. In my mind, the artists voluntarily inserted themselves in a “damned if you do/damned it you don’t” situation: either I would hate it because the singers would try to replicate Ella’s signature singing style (a la a cover band) and just not be able to hold a candle, . . . or I would hate it because they would depart so far from her style with their own interpretations of the songs that it wouldn’t really be a tribute. But, dear Matt, knowing that I love Ella, got the tickets as a special gift, so I was determined to go in with a more open mind.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is set up as a theater in the round. Unfortunately, the stage was set up so that the performers faced in the opposite direction from our seats, so we spent the majority of the night staring at the back of everyone’s head. Luckily, the theater is, of course, also set up acoustically so that the sound is good wherever you’re sitting.

Taking the stage were the singers T.C. Carson, Ann Hampton Callaway, Ledisi, Mark Murphy, and Janis Siegel, backed up by the L.A. Phil and lead by Patrice Rushen. Rushen, whom I found delightful, hosted, directed the musicians, and supplied some masterful piano accompaniment. Each singer sang individually, belting out 13 songs in all, and then joined together for the finale.

T.C. Carson and Ledisi were quite amazing, truly talented, and they both exuded an ease and pure joy that captivated me. Carson, also an actor and dancer, really wowed us with his barefooted song and dance interpretation of “Summertime.” Brought the house down. The other performers, however, were annoying in one way or another. While Siegel and Hampton Callaway had decent range, the delivery and stage presence of each seemed more akin to what I’ve seen of wedding and lounge singers. Rushen hyped Murphy as a legend in his own right, but I was none too impressed with him either. Perhaps he was something to see/hear in his prime, but the bloom has long since fallen off the rose. He seemed a little too impressed with himself, self-indulgent in his name-dropping asides, and lacking in the elocution and energy department.

One of the things for which Fitzgerald is most remembered (besides her peerless voice, of course) is her scatting ability. As you might imagine, the performers did a great deal of it throughout the night. Unfortunately, as much as I really like the concept of improvisational jazz and, therefore, scatting as the vocal form of it, I just can’t bring myself to like how it actually sounds. From Ella, I can stand it. These guys? Not so much. Siegel, in particular, had me cringing. She had this signature, high-pitched “trumpet” (pew-WEEE!!!) sound she really enjoyed making (often) that had a similar effect on me that nails on a chalkboard do.

The night was not a bust though. As I mentioned, Ledisi and Carson were excellent and worth the price of admission by themselves. And, besides that, Matt happens to make a great date. We had a lovely dinner and great conversation about jazz, music in general, and other art forms. And then, the next day, I came across this John Hopkins article about jazz, creativity, and the brain and found it really interesting to read as I reflected on the previous night’s performance.

This is a “making-of” clip of the Verve recording of a tribute to Ella album. It includes a few snippets of Ledisi. Amazing.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stylo à Trois

Matt bought me a Cross Tech 3 (black pen/red pen/mechanical pencil all in one) a few months back, and, I have to say, I am IN LOVE. Worth every penny (the pen & the marriage license).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Art Walk at the Brewery

The Art Walk at the Brewery was a lot of fun. Although there were over 300 studios that were open to the public, we had to drive almost 10 blocks away to find a place to park, and the halls were teeming with people, it still felt like an intimate affair because many of the lofts also doubled as the artists’ apartments. It was a special privilege to get a peek at not only their artwork but their homes. You got the overwhelming sense that these people are really living with a capital “L,” pursuing their dreams. Inspiring. So many mediums, so many styles, so many levels of talent. I wish I had a little more (read any) disposable income right now; there were so many pieces I wanted to take home with me. I did scrape together enough money for this great necklace by Retimade though. The design is called "Crosstown Traffic," and, no, I can't get the Jimi Hendrix song out of my head now either.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Counting Calories

Yes, I’m going to wipe my finger along the inside of the entire bowl of my Weight Watchers Smart One frozen meal to get every last bit of cream sauce. You see, I’ve already counted the calories. There’s no escaping! They’re MINE!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Love Words: Omphaloskepsis

Word: omphaloskepsis

Pronunciation: \äm(p)-fə-lō-ˈskep-səs\

Function: noun

Etymology: New Latin, from Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (examination)

Date: 1925

Definition: contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation; also: inertia

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Brewery Art Walk 2008

The Brewery Art Walk is a two-day open-studio event at the world’s largest art colony. Twice a year, over 100 resident artists participate. It’s a nice opportunity to see new works, meet and support local artists, purchase original pieces at studio prices, and dine at the on-site restaurant. Admission is free and so is parking. Matt and I will probably be going this weekend, although we haven’t decided whether it will be Saturday or Sunday. (Our favorite cooking instructor operates out of the Brewery - more on that later.)


April 5th and 6th, from
11:00 am - 6:00 pm


2100 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031