Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I've Learned, Section 347, Part 112.7

--o-- We have a neighborhood woodpecker who announces himself on any given morning by rat-a-tat-tatting away at the side of the house. I wondered what would possess the feathered beast to do this, so I consulted the website managed by the good folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. When a woodpecker simply 'pecks', he's probably looking for food but when a woodpecker rapidly drums away at your house, it's a male trying to attract a mate. It should end some time in late spring, but here we are on the first day of summer, and this guy is still lookin' for some.

--o-- There's a pizza place in Jersey City that features not only their own dough, but they use the naturally occurring 'airborne' yeast in the kitchen for the starter. The guy also churns his own butter (and, rightfully, charges $4 for a plate of it with his house-made bread). And he makes his own mozzarella. This sounds like the sort of place that would never answer their phone, "Hello, every pizza place!"

--o-- There is a brewery that officially started brewing in the year 1040. Yes, the Weihenstephan has been in operation for almost 1,000 years. And I'm happy to report, with all of that practice, they've gotten pretty darn good at it. I especially like the product they call, simply, "Original", which is a a Munich-style lager. I suppose few other products can be labeled 'original' unless they started being made when the world population was about 350 million, Macbeth succeeded Duncan as King of Scotland and woodblock printing was invented in China.

--o-- And finally, an update on one of the 'Scat's favorites, the United States Post Office. They've finally started delivering those fancy new trucks to the letter carriers (who are more like package haulers these days). And now that Amazon just bought Whole Foods, who knows? Maybe the USPS will install refrigerators on some of these little rigs so they can join in on the upcoming rush of home-delivered quinoa and coconut milk.

Friday, April 28, 2017

This World Over, indeed.

XTC: This World Over. The more things seem to change, they really don't change at all. One agenda, in continuous operation at least since Dwight Eisenhower left office. Or since Jesus took his last steps on earth before saying sayonara for the second time. As I post this, we're being pestered yet again by the fine people in Pyongyang with their unauthorized, internationally-prohibited launches of nuclear-ready missile tests. And the 'nuclear football' will get its very own posh apartment in the sky at Trump Tower when our version of Kim Jong-un is in town. And last week, it was featured in a photo, posted on Facebook no less, by one of his dinner guests at that other palace of tackiness, Mar-a-Lago with the military aide in charge of it being identified by name. Yes, it is very much 'this world over', over and out...

Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins 
Will you smile like any mother
As you bathe your brand new twins?
Will you sing about the missiles
As you dry off numbered limbs? 
Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins
Oh well, that's this world over
You sadly grin 
Will you tell them about that far off and mythical land
About their leader with the famous face?
Will you tell them that the reason nothing ever grows
In the garden anymore
Because he wanted to win the craziest race
That's this world over 
Will you smile like any father
With your children on a Sunday hike?
When you get to a sea of rubble
And they ask 'What was London like?'
Oh well, that's this world over
Oh well, next one begins, it begins, it begins
Oh well, that's this world over
You sadly grin 
Will you tell them about that far off and mythical land
And how a child to the virgin came? Whoa
Will you tell them that the reason why we murdered
Everything upon the surface of the world
So we can stand right up and say we did it in his name? 
That's this world over
Or so it seems
But that's this world over
The end of dreams 
That's this world over, over, over and out
That's this world over, over, over and out

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Update, this just in, and other ephemera

For starters, let's talk about this photo, taken by my wife just the other day. It happens to be one of the few taken of me that I've actually 'approved' for use. Like many guys aged 56 years, I feel as if my looks and vitality are starting to show signs of wear. Oh, I'm fit as a fiddle and I maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle but I've more wrinkles and hairline recession than I'm comfortable with and this photo helps to disguise some of that. Nothing like a jaunty cap and a pair of trendy eyeglasses to hide some flaws!
My beloved Spurs not only lost their FA Cup semi-final match to Chelsea on Saturday (which was a stunner), hated North London rivals Arsenal won theirs against a slumping Manchester City on Sunday, so the sting of our exit is more keenly felt. They let one slip away, but watching this entire match clearly illustrated the superiority of a Chelsea team that established themselves at the top of the PL table by the end of last August and have stayed there since. A combination of a slip in form by Chelsea and a surge by Spurs now has us only four points adrift (at one point the lead was 14), but any serious contention for the title will require nothing short of brilliant form from us and more than a few missteps from Chelsea along the way. Fingers and toes crossed.

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix and now has two victories of three in this young season. So things are looking up for this, the first campaign of the "Post-Bernie Era" that introduced several significant redesigns of the cars. Sunny skies over Modena!

Your 'Scatter-in-Chief is now able to catch most, if not all, of the New York Rangers' run for the Stanley Cup, thanks to something called Sling TV. My second boycott now ended, it's nice to see this team which I've been a fan of since I was 9 years old do so well over the past few seasons. (Ed. note: At the time of this post, the Rangers have defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, in the first round of the playoffs and will now meet the Ottawa Senators for the chance to play in the Eastern Conference finals.)

I've just placed an order for an obscure, long out-of-print compact disc, an anthology of Ella Fitzgerald's earliest days as a band leader, "Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight". It includes material from 1936 to 1939 and has the young woman who would later become known as "The First Lady of Song" in a bright and eager mood. The other day, we marked what would have been her 100th birthday and seeing that I had nothing of hers in my inventory of jazz music, I thought it would be a good idea to finally do so. Anxiously awaiting its arrival!

POLITICS: I'm not one to discuss politics here on the 'Scat and given the current situation we find ourselves in, it's not a good idea to discuss it anywhere. But I urge those of you who either did not vote for the eventual 'winner' nor support him to get your hands on the current issue (May 1st) of The New Yorker and read David Remnick's excellent appraisal of the Orange Menace's first 100 days. It is a singularly great piece of writing that not only accurately summarizes all that has happened (or not happened) in this first, early stage of a very troubling presidency but offers a cautionary perspective on what is coming our way, like it or not.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Robert Johnson was right

Since I've got so much free time on my hand these days, I have been looking to be more prolific, especially here on The 'Scat, than I have been over the last couple of years. My production has fallen off dramatically and I must get back on the stick, especially if I'm to reach the magic number of 200 total posts before the summer.

This particular post will take the form of an 'update', but with a few new items tossed in for good measure, so here goes...

---Shaving Chronicles, next chapter: Yes, you thought it was all over, didn't you, you thought your Scatter-in-Chief finally settled on a supplier after vacillating back and forth, back and forth. Well, here it is, folks: I've decided to re-join Dollar Shave Club. After a boycott that lasted about 10 months, initiated following the announcement that mega-corporation Unilever had purchased DSC for $1 billion, I've been brought back into the fold.

Here's why: the folks at DSC assured me that no changes in the structure of the company would be taking place, at least not in the near future. No jobs lost, no management shifts, etc. Although I found that hard to believe at the time (and, to be honest, I still do), the fact of the matter is their product is superior to those of the other mail-order services I've used since quitting (these include Harry's, which is long on style and pizazz but short on actual performance and "Dorco", which suffers from unfortunate branding and identity and the least-longest lasting blades of the bunch). DSC's blades keep their edge longer, the price is the lowest and I still admire their cheeky, clever marketing and packaging. As of this post's publication, I await my maiden delivery of handle and four shave cartridges, which, mind you, cost me a whopping $1.07 (special promotional price for 'new' members). Breaking up was hard to do, but making up already feels so good.

---Robert Johnson was right. Yep, I think the ol' boy made the right decision about selling his soul to the devil so he can play guitar so well that none other than Keith Richards, upon first hearing him, thought he was listening to three guys playing, not one. Hey, we're living in a Luciferian type of world anyway, where we all need to sell out a little to serve 'the man' and where we can't believe anything we see, hear or read so it seems like a fair enough exchange, doesn't it? I would deffo sell my soul (to anyone, mind you, not just Beelzebub himself) to get ahead right now.

---Crossroads, while we're on a theme, that's exactly where your 'Scatter-in-Chief finds hisself these days. Thirteen years and about 10,000 massage sessions performed, and I'm ready for a change. I still get the occasional jolt of satisfaction and pride in my work but it's not enough to keep me going, sadly, anymore. I'm losing my tolerance, my patience, and, most of all, my compassion for some of my clients and when that happens, you know something's gotta give.

---Five minute hotel room workout: Here's a quick little set of five simple floor exercises you can do every morning to get the blood pumping and to clear out the cobwebs before you head off to work or school. We recently added this routine a few days a week and believe me, it's an easy and fun way to raise the heart rate and feel energized to start your day.

--- And finally, this: I ran into a former client the other day at the CVS and she tells me that she and her husband (both in their late 60's) are packing up and moving to Bozeman, Montana. She urged us to come visit and stay with them. The missus and I, since we are on the subject of crossroads, had already been considering a trip out west to scout out the location for the next phase of our lives, and we know the place we choose must have one thing: MOUNTAINS! Lord knows, Montana's got them, so maybe it was a fitting coincidence that I had this chance meeting at the CVS. After all, we've already lived in Mendham, Morristown, and Montclair and we visit Montreal often... so let's add another "M" to that list, how's about it!

Friday, April 7, 2017

What I'm up to

It's been a while since I've given the few remaining of my 'Scat faithful an update on what's going on here at TSHQ. The winter around these parts was a middling affair and ended in the warmest February on record. On the flip side, the spring has so far been crap but we still have some crocuses poking up and forsythia starting to show it's trademark yellow sprigs all over town so it won't be long until we can break out the flip-flops and cargo shorts.

I've done a lot of reading over the last few months, mostly "re-reading" I suppose: Jean Jacques Rousseau has been in heavy rotation to remind me how spot on he was about mostly everything and how most of it remains true to this day, 240 years after his death. I've also been reading a more modern philosophical tome, "Assholes: A Theory", and although decidedly less authoritative and eloquent as any of our Genevan hero's body of work, it does present a very strong argument for the predominant human personality type in the world today. I continue "The Saxon Tales", Bernard Cornwell's great stories about the early days of what eventually became England, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to get lost for an hour or so, even with all the blood and gore involved.

And, as always, I'm on the hunt for new beers and wines that y'all should seek out, as well as whatever "new" music might be of particular interest, so with that in mind, here are my current favorites being served at TSHQ...

The best draught beer I've had thus far in 2017 is "The Prospector" from the upstart Hackettstown, NJ microbrewery Czig Meister. (I'm not certain but I assume that's being pronounced "CHIG Meister", as in CZECH Republic.) Too many consonants maybe, but so much flavor, body and character from this American style amber ale, it was a pleasure from first to last gulp. Not for you masochists who love to get hit over the head with the hop-hammer, this one's all about the malty smoothness and creamy finish that only a well-made top fermented ale can offer.

The best red wine I've had so far this year is "Artuke", from a small artisanal Spanish winemaker in the Rioja district. The plots of vines are small and well-maintained and they use traditional methods  to grow and harvest their grapes. The wine is so fresh and lively yet has just the right amount of acidic tang. I loved it so much, I sent them an email to tell them; within hours, I received a big 'thank you' from Arturo, who, with his wife Keke, run the operation from their small finca. Yet another reason to keep buying (and drinking) their product.

Finally, we have Olafur Arnalds. Olafur (which from what I can determine is the Icelandic equivalent to "Oliver") is the master techno-synth-house-acid-ambient artist who rode the 'second wave' of great music emerging from Iceland, which has a stunning artistic output considering it's mostly volcanic rock, thermal springs and home to only 320,000 souls. Olafur's latest is actually a collab with his friend, the German producer Nils Frahm and it's a beauty through and through. If you're in the mood for some dark & lovely keyboard-and-loop, this 2-disc set should keep you satisfied for the long run.

Old man take a look at my life, I'm not a lot like you

The age-old question (pun intended): "How long do you want to live?" This very question was posed to us by one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr. McMahon, in an honors English class. I immediately raised my hand and answered, "To the point that I become a burden to anybody." I remember him telling me that mine was 'the perfect answer'.

I'm not certain what sort of wisdom or, simply, life experience, could have provided a healthy, popular 16-year old high school junior to display such eloquence but there it was. And I hold to this answer, to this very day, almost 40 years on. But at this point, I can truly say I have the experience and the knowledge, if not wisdom, to be able to offer it confidently, emphatically.

I just finished watching a documentary film about the positive effects of calorie-deprivation and fasting on the aging process. We were introduced to a fellow of Indian descent who, at age 101, was running in the London Marathon. From what I witnessed, he was mostly walking briskly through the race, but that's just quibbling I suppose. Anyone at the age of 101 who can stay on his feet for a distance of 26.2 miles deserves to be cut some slack. He was a devotee of regular fasting, for days at a time, and ate healthfully on those days when he actually did take in calories.

The film goes on to feature various experts in the fields of gerontology, nutrition and obesity, all of whom counsel the 55-year old host and narrator on his quest to improve what he perceives as his declining health. The key marker for this research and subsequent treatment is the presence of an unusually high amount of  the hormone IGF-1, which regulates our growth. Turns out those high in this compound get more cancers, more heart diseases, more diabetes and, simply, die sooner.

Fascinating stuff, this endocrinological science that seems to be behind so much of our health issues, and it's something that we, mostly, can't do much about. But we can do something about our lifestyle choices, and for many of you, that means improving them. I'm going to end this brief post by summarizing what every other fitness- or health- and nutrition-related article ends with: eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, get regular exercise and plenty of sound sleep. There's a 100% statistical probability of death but it doesn't need to be 'sooner'. Old man, just take a look at your life.

Yes, you DO have a leg to stand on.

I've been lately thinking a lot about legs, so let's talk about legs, shall we? You know, those two towers of power that get you out of bed in the morning and hold you up all day? Those long, strong, shapely and flexible works of anatomical art that keep us walking, running, climbing, jumping, swimming, standing, bicycling, and kicking.

This all started when an elderly client (let's identify her as "Mrs. P.") who has been coming in to see me almost exclusively to work on her legs expressed the fear that one day she might lose the use of them. She's had a couple of minor injuries to her lower legs and a knee but nothing serious enough to disable her. Mrs. P. maintains a very active social calendar and has many friends and connections, as befits a 76-year old woman who is passionate about art, music and the ballet. She drives into New York City at least twice a week to attend downtown gallery openings, concerts at Lincoln Center or violin recitals at some swank apartment in a doorman building. She also sits on the arts board of the local university to help make decisions about their artistic and cultural direction. La dolce vita, in other words, but she needs her legs to accomplish all of this.

I assured her that she most certainly will not lose the use of her legs, without making her feel as if her fears are nonsensical. Many of us have anxieties about 'what will get us in the end'. But Mrs. P. is in a distinct advantage position in that she has the resources at her disposal for personal health and wellness maintenance, which currently comes in the form of a thrice-weekly, in-house low-impact exercise session with a trainer and a twice-weekly therapeutic massage. Oh, if only we all could be so fortunate!

When we first met, she told me her objective was to be able to continue carrying bottles of champagne into her house from the trunk of her car. It was like love at first sight! Here's a woman who has her priorities in the right place! It's that balance between the 'finer things' life offers and the realization that it takes work to keep having them. La dolce vita, a votre sante!