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Sunday, August 31, 2014


What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s restaurant review took me to upstate NY’s eastern edge, not far from Vermont, where an excellent tavern lurks.


YES, THERE’S A MAN OF KENT, says owner John Bombard, who started the restaurant in 1988, but whose journey from his native county (it’s southeast of London) included stints as a seaman, a shepherd, a miner and even a model. John Stoate sold the business to Bombard seven years ago, but is still a presence at the tavern.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
And it took a sense of adventure to open back then on a middle-of-nowhere stretch of Route 7 between Troy and Bennington, but a quarter-century later, that decision is vindicated by the long line that often stretches out the Man of Kent’s door.

“You were lucky today,” said Julie, the pleasant young woman who seated my wife and me during our recent weekend visit. “Most days like this there can be up to an hour’s wait.”

The tavern takes the guise of a blue one-story house fronted by a parking lot in which cars and motorcycles commingle. A large sign in front recalls an English countryside pub. So does the inside. The ceiling is obscured by beer towels, gimme caps, pennants and football club banners. The bar stretches almost from front to back, and a few tables are scattered beside it. Our pleasant surprise was the back deck, also with tables, and that’s where Julie was happy to place us.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Benny Rides Again - Again!

Following up on yesterday's post, here are Benny Goodman 
and his orchestra with Eddie Sauter's delightful "Benny Rides Again."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Benny Rides Again

From the Turntable Dept.: Mosaic Records continues to issue beautifully remastered sets of classic jazz artists – and I don’t at all mind that they recently snuck a Rosemary Clooney set in, because she deserves the attention and – but I’ll be writing about the set shortly. Meanwhile, let’s revisit the review I wrote of a Benny Goodman set that collected his thitherto hard-to-find Columbia sides.


ALONGSIDE MOSAIC’S MISSION to present older jazz recordings in the best possible sound with scholarly annotations has been a dogged pursuit of completism. Which is great for an obsessive collector like me, who wants access to every scrap of a particular artist’s output.

This has drawbacks. So much of my Complete Glenn Miller (Bluebird, not Mosaic) is made up of shitty vocals that I rarely revisit more than a few terrific instrumentals. Few big bands went unfettered by such dreck.

Mosaic has taken this into account and revised their mission slightly. The new Benny Goodman set, covering recordings he made after his glory days at Victor, brings to light seven CDs’ worth of material the clarinetist recorded for Columbia (and its cousin, Okeh) between 1939 and 1958. There are chronological gaps: the early-40s recording ban, a jump to Capitol. There are format elisions: the small-group sides, well covered in Charlie Christian sets. And now, with use of “Classic” instead of “Complete” in the box set’s title, there are interstices of discernment: the vocal sides, which featured Helen Forrest or Peggy Lee, and which, as the producer notes, already are CD available.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Ambitious Fox and the Unapproachable Grapes

Guest Blogger Dept.: More from Guy Wetmore Carryl’s Fables for the Frivolous, with a strong moral lesson for you miscreants.


"The Fox Retreated out of Range"
Drawing by Peter Newell

A farmer built around his crop
A wall, and crowned his labors
By placing glass upon the top
To lacerate his neighbors,
Provided they at any time
Should feel disposed the 
    wall to climb.

He also drove some iron pegs
Securely in the coping,
To tear the bare, defenceless legs
Of brats who, upward groping,
Might steal, despite the 
    risk of fall,
The grapes that grew upon the wall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker-Jack

From the Vault Dept.: In 1983, the Albany A’s, an Oakland affiliate, began playing at Heritage Park in Colonie, NY. Two years later, they became a Yankees franchise and played for nine more years as the Albany-Colonie Yankees. After the last ballclub left the park in 2002, it stood vacant for seven years before being demolished. But the food that was served there in 1987 is an even more distant memory, as my vintage review will remind you.


BASEBALL CUTS TWO WAYS: you play it and stay in shape, or you watch it and get fat. As a spectator sport, baseball is inconceivable without food. The TV set allows you to get up from the couch periodically to stock up; at the park, you budget cash for the concessions.

Heritage Park, Colonie NY
So, with a pair of Mets fans up for the Memorial Day weekend, I took them to Heritage Park to see our own double-A Yanks at work. Christine and Patrick had put in too many innings snug in the boxes at Shea: time to get them, literally, you might say, back to the grass roots.

“Okay,” Patrick declared. “Let’s see how the food stacks up against what we’re used to eating.”

Even before we reached our seats, he made a beer stop and ordered us a round of Miller. “I have to admire your social conscience,” I told him, “passing up the Coors because of their bad attitude towards labor.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Market to Café

What’s for Lunch? Dept.: My review of a recent visit to a small eatery in Watervliet, NY, that grew out of a farmers’ market presence and continues to honor local cooks and suppliers.


IT STARTED AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET—at several such markets, in fact, as Heidi and Jim Flynn made the rounds with their homemade bread, cheese, and cheese spreads. After five years, they were successful enough to need a larger kitchen, and found it in a former sub shop on Watervliet’s main street, giving them not only the kitchen but also retail space—space enough in which to offer products made by their fellow artisans.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
From there it was an easy enough decision to also provide a to-go menu, and, by the time the Local Flavor Café opened two years ago, it had a few tables and a menu of snacks and sandwiches to enjoy on the premises, a combination of what the Flynns enjoy preparing and goodies made by their friends.

For example: the coffee from Lucy Jo’s Coffee Roastery in Salem has become a favorite of my friend Pete, who joined me for a lunchtime visit last week. Another source is Tierra Farm in Valatie—and both give you small-batch roasts. You can enjoy a cup or two or more with your meal, and buy the beans on your way out. Peanuts, on the other hand, are roasted by Albany-based Peanut Principle, and form the basis of the Ultimate PB&J ($5), with a flavoring of dark chocolate and a dab of Beth’s Farm Kitchen raspberry jam. Rye bread comes from Schuyler Bakery; other loaves are baked by Tim Lane at Glen Glade Farm, which meant that he was the source of the focaccia that housed the beef kabob sandwich I ordered ($7.25).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Master Director

Stage Directions Dept.: We checked in with Jonathan Miller with pieces from 1989 and 1997; here’s my report of his July master class at the Glimmerglass Festival.


“THE PERFORMING ARTS, LITERATURE, the visual arts—these are what draw our attention to aspects of our lives that we otherwise wouldn’t notice,” says Jonathan Miller, who celebrated the uniquely human ability to suspend belief during a master class in directing that he presented at the Glimmerglass Festival on July 25.

Jonathan Miller with Students at Glimmerglass.
Miller won the world’s attention as part of the 1960 satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. By 1970 he was directing Shakespeare at London’s National Theatre and began directing an acclaimed series of opera productions a few years later. Is he known at all as a comedian? I asked him during an earlier Glimmerglass visit.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s only the older people who’d know anything about Beyond the Fringe, and I don’t have anything to do with them.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Man with a Camera

First reading of Girl with a Camera, a play by B. A. Nilsson
19 August 2014 | Photo by Richard Lovrich

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writers on Parade

From the Vault Dept.: Here’s my account of an event in Saratoga Springs in 1987 at which a quartet of excellent writers were turned loose upon the public – and I’ll let E.L. Doctorow take it from here.


“‘THE WRITER AND THE PUBLIC’ is usually just an excuse to get a bunch of us together to talk about whatever we want to,” said E.L. Doctorow, speaking last night at Skidmore College. “But it’s not a subject that especially interests me.”

E.L. Doctorow | AP Photo by Mary Altaffer
Sitting in three rows of roped-off seats, the 80 students of the Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore joined a throng from the community Friday night to see E.L. Doctorow, William Kennedy, Russell Banks and Amy Hemphill speak on that topic.

It was the final event in the New York State Writers Institute-sponsored program, releasing the students back to the public even as that very subject was considered.

And it may have been an appropriate reinforcement of the intentionally solitary work a writer performs – the panel was hampered not only by a badly-equipped hall but also by the lack of showmanship inherent in the four representatives.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Schubert: A Summer Journey

Summer Music Dept.: This year's Bard Music Festival focused on Franz Schubert, filling halls that had been emptier for the likes of Stravinsky and Berg. Here's my report of the day my daughter and I spent at the Festival earlier this month. We're eager to see how next summer's celebration of Carlos Chávez plays out.


IN THE END, Malcom Bilson was right. The distinguished pianist and early-music specialist spoke and performed during a 10 AM panel titled “Invention and Reinvention: Who Was Schubert?” and, comparing a piano from Schubert’s time with one of the modern Steinways, convincingly demonstrated that the composer’s keyboard music was intended for the particular sonority of the earlier instrument.

Franz Schubert
The day ended with a performance by the American Symphony Orchestra of Joseph Joachim’s realization of Schubert’s Sonata in C Major (“Grand Duo”), D. 812—a sweeping orchestration created 30 years after the work was written. Although Schubert intended it for two pianists, Joachim’s version seemed to employ the entirety of the orchestra at all times, each section in a frenzy of fortissimo. Combined with conductor Leon Botstein’s odd tempo changes within movements, the excess of it all grew so tedious that each of the finale’s false endings, which are amusing in the original, proved frustrating reminders that we couldn’t get away from it yet. Had Joachim crafted his version with a more Schubert-conscious orchestra and orchestration style in mind, he would have served the music better.

Not that orchestrations and other arrangements are a bad thing! Hector Berlioz showed how it can be done with his sublime orchestration of Schubert’s “Erlkönig” (which is an “elf king” and not, as the projected translation had it, an “erl king.” That’s a Texan). It blew Liszt’s orchestration of the same song (played in succession) off the map, and made mincemeat of Offenbach’s mariachi-band-like orchestration of “Ständchen” (the best instrumental realization of which was by the John Kirby Sextet).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Felicitations and Male Factors

MOST OF US, if we’re lucky, need only deal with our more distant relations at once-a-year holiday times. Libby Skala, a frighteningly talented actor and writer, turns them into theatrical material, and now has impersonated three of those relatives in three different shows.

Libby Skala and Steven May
Photo by Shirin Tinati
It’s not surprising that her grandmother, Lilia Skala, should have been the first. She, too, was an actor, first in her native Vienna, then, after fleeing the Nazis, in the U.S., garnering an Oscar nomination for her role as the Mother Superior in Lilies of the Field.

Lilia’s sister, Elizabeth Polk, was next, a renowned dance therapist whose story allowed Libby to include her own such skills – and winning her a  “Best Solo Performer” award at the London Fringe Theatre Festival.

“Felicitas,” the latest, is the story of a third sister. She shares a name with the show’s title but was known as Litzi, and she recognized early in her life that she wished to care for babies, an ambition that eventually landed her a position at Vienna’s Home for Infants and Mothers, where Dr. Leopold Moll practiced the seemingly radical notion of offering the infants in-arms care.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Little Big Bard

Treading the Bard's Dept.: As promised, my review of the two-for-the-price-of-one Henry IV now on view at Shakespeare & Co. in the Berkshires.


IT’S A STORY OF GREAT SWEEP, a David Lean epic, but, as Shakespeare wrote it, laced with comedy of the Richard Lester variety. Henry IV is one of the Bard’s history plays, which right there condemns it to neglect; that the full story required two complete plays makes it the more forbidding.

Alexander Sovronsky, Henry Clarke, Malcolm Ingram,
and Michael F. Toomey. Photo by Kevin Sprague.
Unless you’re Jonathan Epstein, working with a talented cast of friends and family at Shakespeare & Co. He had the balls to combine and trim them to a total of less than three hours, and the smarts to do so with respect for the original.

Much else has been sacrificed to give us this fleet and funny Henry. The stripped-down set, the nonspecifically old costumes, the cast of thirteen – it’s a chamber-music version. The cell phones, the laptop computer – more proof that Shakespeare’s plays are timeless.

And when Hotspur (Timothy Adam Venable) shoots his computer, it’s a satisfying button on an emotionally wrought scene. By this time, we’ve learned to accept the convention of having electronic gadgets on hand. Early in the play, when King Henry (Jonathan Epstein) asks his son, Lancaster (his son, Benjamin) of Prince Hal’s whereabouts, Lancaster checks his cell phone to determine that the prince is with Falstaff – an easy-to-recognize gesture that invites sympathy for the beleaguered king.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Such a Full Sea

LIVING THROUGH THE KUNSTLER ERA meant enjoying intense evening-news exposure to the events that shaped those decades: the arrest of the Freedom Riders in Mississippi, the Attica uprising, the return of violence to Wounded Knee – and the repeated efforts of the United States government to railroad or otherwise bamboozle so many defendants into groundless convictions.

Nick Wyman and Gillian Glasco
in Jeffrey Sweet's
As depicted in Jeffrey Sweet’s play “Kunstler,” the notorious attorney recounts, with characteristic theatrics – some of the high points of his history. He has been invited to speak to law students at an unspecified college (but probably Columbia, his alma mater). It is 1995, the last year of his life. There is an aural background of anti-Kunstler protests – “Kunstler is a traitor!” “Kunstler must go!” – and the hostility is shared by Kerry (Gillian Glasco), a young law student who has been dragooned into introducing the notorious guest.

Even though Kerry is well aware of Kunstler’s commendable work for civil rights causes – and has a personal stake in one of those cases that we discover only at the end of the play – she is not prepared to forgive him for taking on such hated clients as John Gotti and Yusef Salaam. Glasco resists the obvious temptation to be a militant firebrand, instead nuancing her performance with shadings to that irritation. She’s fascinated by the man she wishes to hate, and makes a very credible show of compromising her dislike of him without compromising her character’s integrity. And she excels at the equally difficult task of being an onstage listener throughout much of the show

Friday, August 15, 2014

That Can Sing Both High and Low

State of the Stage: My review of two more operas in this summer’s season at the Glimmerglass Festival.


TWO FISH-OUT-OF-WATER STORIES that nevertheless couldn’t be more dissimilar find a young Japanese woman trying to please her American lover by herself becoming as American as possible–and a starry-eyed composer forced to allow a commedia dell’arte troupe to infiltrate her new opera. Both Madame Butterfly and Ariadne in Naxos were directed by Francesca Zambello, who has shepherded the Glimmerglass Festival into its most successful seasons and yet seems to have a weakness for letting her singers run riot across the stage in at least one production.

Yunah Lee as Cio-Cio-San
This year it was Ariadne, a curiosity by Richard Strauss originally written as the finale of a Molière play that librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal had translated, later turned into a full-length piece with the addition of a prologue.

That’s the part that’s troublesome. But let’s look at Butterfly first to see how right it can go. Set designer Michael Yeargen made the little house in which much of the action usually occurs literally little, a model that goes from hand to hand as the opening scene plays out in the American Consulate’s office. Dinyar Vania, as the American officer Pinkerton, has a warm voice that’s not especially rich in its high end, but it blended well with the other principals–Yunah Lee as Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) and Aleksey Bogdanov as the consul Sharpless–and he created a fully engaging character.

Goro is the matchmaker who brings together the ill-starred lovers, and Ian McEuen’s sang the role nicely but was relentlessly (and distractingly) busy–a contrast to a chorus whose movement was a well-realized canvas of stillness or small gestures.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hall of Family

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: One of my recent restaurant reviews ties in nicely with yesterday’s baseball theme. Welcome to Nicoletta’s!


WHAT CUISINE MARRIES BEST with America’s national pastime? You may think hot dogs, of course, but that’s merely a distraction from the game itself. In Cooperstown, a compact and charming city dominated by the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s Italian.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
The legacy of Italian-American players aside, it’s a cuisine of comfort, and it lends itself to the American pursuit of excess. While my portion of eggplant parm with a side of sausage wasn’t overlarge, it was generous enough that if I’d had any sense I’d have saved some. But Nicoletta’s Italian Café won’t let you go away hungry. It’s gained through a small Main Street storefront surrounded by memorabilia shops, but its dining areas stretch back and culminate in a charming backyard patio where we dined under shady umbrellas.

Virtually alone, I might add, but that’s because it not only was only 5 PM but also the craziness of the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremonies was behind us. By the time we left, not only did we have patio company, but the indoor dining room was nearly full. That’s because chef-owner Phil Andrews has made sure that the restaurant appeals to locals as well as tourists. It’s open year-round, it’s open every day, its menu remains consistent and, if your server doesn’t know you when you’re seated, you’re nevertheless going to have a new friend by the time you leave.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watching Baseball

Guest Blogger Dept.: Celebrating baseball season with an essay by Robert Benchley.


EIGHTEEN MEN PLAY A GAME of baseball and eighteen thousand watch them, and yet those who play are the only ones who have any official direction in the matter of rules and regulations. The eighteen thousand are allowed to run wild. They don't have even a Spalding’s Guide containing group photographs of model organizations of fans in Fall River, Mass., or the Junior Rooters of Lyons, Nebraska. Whatever course of behavior a fan follows at a game he makes up for himself. This is, of course, ridiculous.

Robert Benchley
The first set of official rulings for spectators at baseball games has been formulated and is herewith reproduced. It is to be hoped that in the general cleanup which the game is undergoing, the grandstand and bleachers will not resent a little dictation from the authorities.

In the first place, there is the question of shouting encouragement, or otherwise, at the players. There must be no more random screaming. It is of course understood that the players are entirely dependent on the advice offered them from the stands for their actions in the game, and how is a batter to know what to do if, for instance, he hears a little man in the bleachers shouting, “Wait for ‘em, Wally! Wait for ‘em,” and another little man in the south stand shouting “Take a crack at the first one, Wally!”? What would you do? What would Lincoln have done?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Royal Family

Chimes at Midnight Dept.: Here’s my preview of the production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV now being presented at Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, Mass. Review to follow at the end of the week.


MUCH AS THE ROYAL FAMILIES depicted in Henry IV celebrated marriage and consanguinity, so too does Shakespeare & Company’s current production of the play. Shakespeare wrote two plays to depict the title character, but Jonathan Epstein has combined and trimmed them into a single evening’s-worth of show. He also directed the production and plays Henry IV.

Jonathan Epstein, Ariel Bock, Ben Epstein,
and Henry Clarke. Photo by B. A. Nilsson
His wife, Ariel Bock, has the plum role of Mistress Quickly; their son, Ben Epstein, makes his Mainstage debut as Francis. Also in the cast are Henry Clarke as Prince Hal, Kevin Coleman, Johnny Lee Davenport, Malcolm Ingram and composer Alexander Sovronsky, among others.

The company lately has been featuring more of Shakespeare’s history plays, and Jonathan, now in his 22nd season there, believes that the time is right for this Henry. “There’s an audience that’s ready for it,” he says.” They just had a success with it down in Washington, D.C., but that audience is used to sitting for three hours and finding forty minutes of it enjoyable and the rest educational, because they’re used to the government.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Custer LaRue: Ballads

From the CD Shelf Dept.: One of the ways the late, lamented Dorian Recordings label tried to monetize its inventory was through “Best Of” collections with a value-added extra or two. Here are the notes I wrote for one such release, celebrating the marvelous singer Custer LaRue.


IF THE SUM OF A SINGER can be found in her songs, Custer LaRue is an intelligent, introspective person who’s no stranger to the gamut of human emotion. The songs she chose for this collection don’t let you pigeonhole her much more than that – they’re songs of love and loss, of fun and deception and heroic triumph. And they all sound as if LaRue were born singing them.

Effortlessness isn’t an obvious characteristic, but it’s one of the compelling components of her vocal technique. You don’t develop this through training: you do as LaRue did, and sing since earliest childhood.

“When I was a kid, I always said I was going to be a singer,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy, but it meant I was crazy enough not to give up on the idea. I grew up listening to my mother sing, with an incredible voice, and my grandmother and great-grandmother were very well known as local singers.”

She was raised in Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands, where LaRue also found in singing a valuable retreat from childhood’s craziness. “It was one of the few things that made me feel happy and complete, energized and consoled.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sorrow in Drowning

From the Opera House Dept.: My review of the Glimmerglass Fesitval’s current production of Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy.”


POOR GRACE BROWN! She was a small-town factory worker who would have lived an anonymous life had she not drowned in Big Moose Lake in 1906. Instead, she achieved a posthumous fame that lives on through song and story.

It was her love letters to two-timing boyfriend Chester Gillette, read aloud during his murder trial that, combined with his own ineptness at covering his tracks, packed the Herkimer courtroom, and then grabbed the imagination of Theodore Dreiser, who turned the story into a massive and very popular novel, informing the characters and events with compelling texture.

The challenge for librettist Gene Scheer was to find a core to this narrative that would work as the text of an opera, which he wrote with composer Tobias Picker. The version that premiered at the Met Opera (which commissioned it) in 2005 was more discursive. What debuted at the Glimmerglass Festival is shorn of its first 20 minutes, among other changes, and opens with a starkly-lit tableau of Clyde Griffiths (based on Chester) flanked by the women in his life: Roberta Alden (based on Grace) and Sondra Finchley (a never fully identified girlfriend).

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Marooned in Ithaca

Yesterday's post reprinted a 1989 piece I wrote after interviewing Jonathan Miller about his directing debut with the Glimmerglass Opera. We spent much of our time discussing the Goon Shows. A few years later, he was interviewed for a BBC documentary about the Goon Shows, and recalled meeting a fan "marooned in upstate New York." I asked Miller about it not long ago, again at Glimmerglass, and he said, yes, it was I of whom he spoke, even if he had placed me elsewhere in the state.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hear My Song, Violetta

From the Vault Dept.: Two years after the Glimmerglass Opera relocated to the shore of Otsego Lake in the elegant Alice Busch Opera Theatre, it lured Jonathan Miller to these shores to direct aa piece for them. I met him there in July, 1989, ostensibly to talk about the production – but we spent the bulk of our time chatting about the Goon Shows. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.


Jonathan Miller
IMAGINE THE LAVISH SALONS and country houses in which the tragic action of Verdi’s “La Traviata” is set. You’ll have to imagine it, because the stage setting for the Glimmerglass Opera production of this well-known opera, which opens at 8 tonight, provides almost none of that glamor.

And that’s one of the keys to director Jonathan Miller’s vision of the piece. “People might be surprised by the stark simplicity of the setting,” he says, “but it gets stifled with upholstery and heavy representational realism. The luxury suffocates the work. I like some measure of simplicity and even abstraction.”

Miller sprawls in a lawn chair in back of the Alice Busch Opera Theatre, jeans and work shirt giving him the appearance of someone who’s just cut the grass. He waves to passing cast and crew, murmuring words of greeting to them as he considers the project at hand.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Jazz Sonata

Guest Blogger Dept.: George Antheil wrote his pithy "Jazz Sonata" (or Sonata No. 4) in 1922, and crams in to a frantic minute and a half an astounding array of trope and cliche characterizing the world of jazz and the dance hall at the time. The difficult piece meets its match in Marc-André Hamelin.

Monday, August 04, 2014


Epistolary Outpouring Dept.:Here’s a letter to my wife that I just found in the archives – nice how easy it is to retain an electronic version – that describes an encounter where this young woman ... but read it and learn for yourself. It dates back four years.


YOU’LL WANT TO ADMIRE the nail of my right forefinger. It has been buffed to a fare-thee-well by a doughty salesdoll named Aliona, whose bottle-fed red pageboy and almond eyes would charm the frown off the face of even the most constipated Cardinal – but she turned her lamps on me as I hefted my way through the upper story of Crossgates Mall, proffering a takeaway packet of hand lotion and asking, “Is there a special lady in your life?”

“We’ve been married for over twenty-five years,” I said. “I don’t know if that qualifies any more.”

Undaunted (and unamused), she persuaded me to have the aforementioned fingernail polished, which wasn’t difficult as I had just jettisoned Lily and Emma from my orbit and had been admiring all the hi-there-springtime décolletage on generous view.

Although it was at times difficult to understand Aliona’s patter, she evidently having been recently Englished, I got the gist that this product, which looked like a large eraser, contained on its several sides all that was needed to knock my nails into opalescent luster, reinforced by a dab of something-or-other, impervious to the likes of acetone.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Public: Opinion

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s restaurant review takes us to North Adams, Mass., where Public Eat + Drink carries the industrially artistic look into a comfortable eating place.


MASS MoCA artfully changed the aesthetic sensibility of North Adams, teaching the former mill town to appreciate its vast brick-and-mortar expanses. Public Eat + Drink, which occupies a space a scant couple of blocks away from the museum, decorates its fine but easygoing dining milieu with exposed brick and ductwork, illuminated by hanging barn lights.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
It’s been open for nearly three years, and, if the busy-ness of a recent Monday is any indication, it has caught on with locals and museumgoers alike. The word “public” isn’t used accidentally: This is a welcoming gathering place. Owner Jared Decoteau worked for a predecessor restaurant and liked the space so much that he took it over when he got that chance. “I like its rustic artistic aesthetic,” he says, “which is what people around here are looking for.”

The menu offers plates of varying size, so that you can enjoy anything from a salad to a full-blown meal, and an emphasis on craft-brewed beer tastefully slakes that worthy desire.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Friday, August 01, 2014

Bach in Your Own Backyard

Musical Sacrifice Dept.: A kid in my Boy Scout troop turned me on to the music of P.D.Q. Bach. So much for that thrifty, clean, and reverent stuff. I attended many a NYC concert featuring Peter Schickele and his notorious discoveries, and have performed a number of P.D.Q. Bach pieces. So it was with great pleasure that I attended and reviewed a recent concert in Pittsfield, Mass., featuring these forces, and if I seem overly familiar with the subject, I’ve interviewed Schickele, reviewed his radio series, and even wrote some pieces about a 1986 appearance in the Albany area.


Peter Schickele
ALTHOUGH THE PROTEAN PETER SCHICKELE has proven himself a success as a composer of an enormously wide variety of music; a songwriter; a performer of great skill who can play piano and bassoon and, when necessary, both at the same time; a conductor; a monologuist who writes and delivers witty material with superb delivery and timing; a musicologist whose radio series Schickele Mix offered a finer musical education than any half-dozen college courses, and the indefatigable discoverer of the music of P.D.Q. Bach, one moment in particular during last Saturday’s concert in Pittsfield showed us what I believe to be his truest self.

It was a birthday ode he wrote to his mother, written when she turned 80 (on the auspicious date of 8/8/88). Because Peter couldn’t travel to the party, he wrote a piece for two voices, recorded one of them, and sent it to his brother, David, who performed the other part alongside the recording. This was recreated for us with Peter on both the recorded and live parts. It was a jazzy and impressively difficult piece requiring split-second timing to make it work. And it worked. And it was marvelous to witness just how cheering what seems to be a throwaway piece can be.