April 25, 2005
Good Weekend in Rant Form
AEJ and I had a pretty good weekend, although this post may sound unreasonably pissy. (My apologies in advance.) I have a bit of a cold, and I think it’s making me cranky.
On Friday night, we attended “Beyond the Machine,” a concert by the Juilliard Electric Ensemble. The highlight was definitely Steve Bryant‘s new piece, Veo Lux, for string quartet and electronics. It’s pretty rockin’, but I wish there were two more movements. (It’s lone, 6-minute movement, is very hip, but I want more!)
I also liked a piece by Milicia Paranosic. It melded Bulgarian vocal singing with electronics, but I wished it had used a lot more of the vocalization. (The melding of the two was great, and I thought it was the piece’s highlight, but I wanted a lot more.) The work, like many on the program, also included projections, but I thought they were unnecessary, as the music had the power to stand on its own.
The rest of the concert, I have to say, ranged from somewhat tolerable to infuriating. I have some major pet peeves in music, and various pieces on the program managed to nail them, unfortunately. When it comes to electronics in music, I need them to accomplish something truly special. If a skilled orchestrator can get more interesting sounds out of an acoustic ensemble than you can get using electronics, don’t bother using electronics. Amplification: cool. Distortion: cool. Tape parts that are crucial to the musical success of a piece: very possibly cool.
Sound effects that aren’t very interesting and could be more interesting if made by a musician rather than a tape part or a silly computer patch: not cool.
Tape parts simply because you think it’s cool to have a tape part: not cool.
Spoken pretentious narration on top of uninteresting music: way, way not cool.
Wow, I hate Spoken Word on top of music. Ugh. I’ve heard it work, and if you’re a composer who can actually make it work and not seem embarrassing, you get some major points from me. But really, why have text that tells me what I’m supposed to be thinking? If the answer is “because the music isn’t powerful enough to tell you on its own,” then maybe this isn’t the piece that composer should be writing. If the text gives me any mental association with those old recordings of William Shatner performing “Mr. Tambourine Man” — and the composer is serious — then they’ve blown it, and I’m likely becoming increasing irritated as I sit there waiting for it to end.
Wow. I had no idea this was going to turn into a big rant. Maybe I shouldn’t blog before my coffee kicks in.
The rest of the weekend was excellent. AEJ and I had a perfectly lazy time on Saturday, renting “Sideways” (it really was a great as everybody said), and going out to dinner to a tasty tapas place just a few blocks from the apartment. The place has been open for quite a while, but we’d never tried it. It was fun to finally check it out and see that it’s truly tasty, and we’ve gained a new dinner option for the future.
When we got home after dinner, we watched “Oceans 12.” (It was a big DVD day.) I was pretty disappointed. Whereas “Oceans 11” was laid back and “cool,” “Oceans 12” was just slow. The plot was far-fetched and not interesting, and when the movie tried to surprise me, I felt like I was expecting to be surprised at that point. Watching it made me wish that I’d bought “Sideways” and rented “Oceans 12,” rather than the other way around. Oh well.
On Sunday we walked through Central Park to the East Side and did a little browsing in the stores on Fifth Avenue. Then we came back (without actually buying anything!), took a little nap, and then headed to an amazing dinner at Mesa Grill. I hadn’t been there for a few years, and wow, it was delicious. AEJ started with these little chicken tacos whose presentation was as top-notch as their flavor. They came on a glass platter with two mini tortillas, two chicken skewers, a little cup of spicy sauce, and a small stack of grilled onions. It was like a mini-fajita appetizer.
I had the shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale. Yummy, yummy. For our entrees, AEJ had what seems to be the best entree they serve: New Mexican spice rubbed pork tenderloin with bourbon Ancho chile sauce and a sweet potato tamale with crushed pecan butter. Holy wow. It was amazing. The pork was perfect — juicy and tender — and the sweet potato tamale was good and sweet — a perfect complement to the much saltier pork. The chef, Bobby Flay, totally nailed this dish.
I had the grilled red snapper with tomato-New Mexico red chile sauce and creamy green chile rice. It was tasty, but the snapper was slightly charred (on purpose), and mixed with the red chile sauce, it was a little too strongly “smoked” tasting. The rice was amazing, almost risotto-like, but I felt like the snapper was a slight misstep, at least compared to AEJ’s flawless entree.
Sadly, I have no photos of this weekend’s meals. Boy howdy, though, those two dinners were great.
After dinner, we came home and watched the pilot episode of “The Greatest American Hero.” (Yes, I bought the DVDs of the first season. I’ll buy just about anything. I like to think of it as supporting the economy.) I remember loving this show when I was a kid, but I don’t remember any specific episodes. The pilot had some problems — yes, that’s stating the obvious — but it was fun. I doubt we’ll make it through the whole first season, but we may make it further than we did on the absolutely terrible Land of the Lost DVD set.