BAND PROFILE: HARRY AND THE POTTERS
Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge (and sometimes drummer Ernie Kim) are a self-labeled indie/punk/progressive band called Harry and the Potters. According to their website, the band’s basic concept is Harry Potter from Year 7 (Paul) and Harry Potter from Year 4 (Joe) starting a rock band. But for a band that takes its main creative influence from a fictional wizard, Harry and the Potters boasts clever lyrics and catchy tunes, leading one to suspect that the quirky Massachusetts-based duo just might make it big.
The brothers started Harry and the Potters in the summer of 2002 when all of the bands scheduled to play in their backyard “rock show” canceled. Paul proposed his long considered idea to Joe as a backup plan. Then, “in the course of an hour, Paul and Joe wrote seven songs,” practiced them for less than half an hour, and finally performed them for six people.
With songs like “The Human Hosepipe” and “Save Ginny Weasley,” Paul and Joe give a witty twist to serious situations in the Harry Potter series. Another song, “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe,” from their third CD, will undoubtedly get your attention with its happy melody and danceable beat. Other songs portray the world of magic and Hogwarts through the fictional eyes of Harry.
With such emphasis on wands, broomsticks and witchcraft, it may prove difficult for non-Potter fans to enjoy the music, and there is also no question as to whether the band could use some improvement. The lyrics are the main focus of their songs, amply displayed by the second-rate vocals drowning out the rest of the melody. While the music is likable enough, exuding a homey basement feel, it could use a little work. Of course, the band is mainly counting on a little help from Harry Potter fans: for those who have read or reread the books, the music is quite amusing and entertaining.
The band’s website, http://www.EskimoLabs.com/hp is just as humorous as the songs themselves. Add “/goblet.htm” to the end of the previous address and you’ll find “Top 5 Scenes You Won’t See in the New HP Movie,” a compilation of crazy would-be happenings in the magical world like “Break-dancing Lessons with Dumbledore” and a “Flaming Lips Concert at Hogsmeade.” There are other links to click on, such as http://www.WhatWouldDumbledoreDo.com. Paul and Joe post a blog and tour diaries to give fans the latest in band news, and there are links to articles that other newspapers have written about the band.
So far Harry and the Potters has self-produced three CDs, entitled “Harry and the Potters,” “Voldemort Can’t Stop the Rock,” and “A Magical Christmas of Magic with Harry and the Potters and Friends!” The latter includes tracks by other Potter-themed bands like Draco and the Malfoys. For upcoming show and release information, go to the band’s MySpace page at myspace.com/harry_and_the_potters.
FOCUSING ON THE DETAILS: DEAN LERNER
As a history professor, Dr. Michael Lerner teaches his classes with a reverence for the BHSEC philosophy, taking time out of class to explain to ninth graders the importance of writing, analytical thinking and what it means to be a student at this school. In his new position as Associate Dean of Studies, Dr. Lerner continues to carry out his duties with the same respect and support for BHSEC’s mission.
Sitting comfortably in his fourth floor office, Dr. Lerner explained his job and his preferences for carrying it out. Most importantly, he is hesitant to impose his own personal vision on the school and is quick to point out that the BHSEC vision is already strong and does not need to be modified by administrators. “The last thing that you want to do in a job like this is come in and redo everything,” he said. “What you want is continuity and growth. You need to have consistency. You want to make sure that you are staying true to your mission and the school’s program. I don’t think the right approach to that is to come in and do tons of new stuff all at once.”
As Dean, Dr. Lerner deals with the curriculum and its many intricacies. Although he does work to coordinate future classes and schedules, he spends a good deal of his time advising individual college students on their schedules. “This job is about looking out for the details,” said Dr. Lerner, “because the details make an enormous difference.”
Beyond issues relating to the school curriculum, Dr. Lerner also does outreach with various arms of the school’s administration. These duties vary from attending a meeting every morning with other administrators to accompanying visitors around the school. Many students have observed that Dr. Lerner is possibly the most visible administrator after Mr. Peterson. He can be seen hurrying along the fourth floor hallways, sitting in his office with a line of students stretching out the door, or introducing a high profile speaker in the auditorium on a Wednesday afternoon.
One issue of personal interest to Dr. Lerner is school culture, which he considers to be an integral part of BHSEC. Dr. Lerner believes that culture is closely related to the way students view and approach their studies and the way they are treated in turn. “We go out of our way here to treat students like young adults, to give them respect and freedom, because that’s what we know they’ll have in a traditional four year college.”
Also important to Dr. Lerner is student awareness of the unique aspects of BHSEC. “There is nothing more disturbing for me to hear than students saying, ‘this is just a high school,’ he said, “I think that by saying that, they are undermining all of the work that people have done– and are still doing–to make this a nontraditional high school program.”
Awareness of BHSEC was a major theme in the last Community Day, which Dr. Lerner helped to plan. He explained the events of the day–which included photographing places around the building and a scavenger hunt–as efforts to open up the eyes of students. “It’s not about the building. It’s about noticing the building. We want people to be aware of who is around them and what is around them. It’s about noticing where you are everyday and thinking about it.”
Dr. Lerner’s support for BHSEC’s mission is evident in his concern for students taking note of their peers’ and professors’ ideas, as observations such as these are key to the liberal arts education offered here and in the many colleges where students will continue their studies. His job, simply put, is to do everything he can to “support the mission, keep things running smoothly, and make sure the students and the faculty are getting the support and the services that they need.”
MOVIE REIVEW: TRISTAN AND ISOLDE
For all the romantics and history buffs out there looking for a film to enjoy, you should definitely take a trip to the theatre and see the historical love story Tristan and Isolde. This drama takes place both in England and Ireland and is set during the time following the fall of the Roman Empire. It is about a young knight, Tristan of Britain, who is orphaned as a child and raised by Lord Marke, (played by Rufus Sewell), a friend of the family and leader of the English. Tristan is a gifted fighter, and wins many battles against the men of the Irish King Donnchadh (played by David O’Hara). In one of these fights, he gets poisoned temporarily and falls unconscious, yet his men believe him to be dead. They place him on a funeral boat that eventually washes up on the Ireland shores.
Donnchadh’s kind daughter, Isolde, finds Tristan and heals his wound and cures his sickness. She conceals him from her father, and makes trips to see him everyday. She lies about her identity at the request of her anxious maid and lies about her name. The two eventually fall in love (of course) unaware of each others true identities. Even though Isolde knows Tristan’s name, she does not know he is with the British, her family’s enemy (here enters the Romeo and Juliet comparison). Because Isolde’s father has found out about him, and sent soldiers out looking for him, Tristan unwillingly goes back to Britain, welcomed by his family, who thought he had been left for dead.
Back in Britain, Tristan learns that Isolde’s father, the Irish king, has offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winner of a tournament he is throwing. He says he is doing this to try to unite both Britain and Ireland, yet what he secretly wants to do is try to stir up political fights between the British lords. Hearing about the tournament, Tristan volunteers to fight and wins the Irish king’s daughter as a wife for Lord Marke. (Keep in mind that he doesn’t know the daughter is actually Isolde).
Tristan is then crushed when he learns that he has won Isolde for another man who has always been like a father to Tristan. The rest I won’t divulge, but the two secretly have an affair that leads to many twists and turns and ends with a surprise
But remember, what is considered romantic to some can appear cheesy to others. If you’re the sarcastic type, this flick might make you groan at all the “dreamy” lines like, “How many have you loved before me? None. And after me? None.” If you’re the mocking kind of person, you might want to skip this movie. Also, since the theatre was filled with mostly girls (just like BHSEC’s population), I’m not sure if guys will be able to appreciate it as much.
James Franco, who rose to acting fame with his convincing role in the 2001 biopic James Dean, definitely has the charisma of a leading man. His portrayal of the young, teenage soldier Tristan is altogether moving, romantic, and even at times, devilishly witty and funny. His comedic charisma shows when Isolde is stitching his wound and tells him, “Don’t be shy, I’ve already seen all of you.” During that time period, this candor between a woman and a man who are unwed was unheard of, which is why her maid was shocked and left the room when Isolde said this. Franco ends the scene by quipping, “I think she really likes me.”
It’s nice to know that Franco can do more than make girls gasp at the sight of his bare chest (which isn’t exactly a horrible view). The actress Sophia Myles, who plays Isolde, does not deliver a great performance like Franco, but she did not ruin the film. Her attempt at an Irish accent was a bit weak, and she butchered some of the-would-be romantic lines with melodramatic overtones. All in all, Myles’s performance was tepid, yet the movie really belonged to Franco.
While watching “Tristan and Isolde”, I was a bit surprised to find that a significant chunk of it was historically based and contained a large amount of fighting scenes. While viewing the trailer for this movie, I thought it would be mostly a chick flick with a historic background, like “Shakespeare in Love,” yet a lot of it was focused on politics, war, and political figures. Since “Tristan and Isolde” is set in the Arthurian times, war and battle scenes were a noteworthy element of the tragic story of these two lovers.
I genuinely enjoyed this movie, and if you’re a fan of Troy (but really, who is?) or Romeo and Juliet, you should definitely make time to see it. The script was very moving and the acting was mostly well done. You’ll learn a lot of history, and Franco manages to keep your attention until the very end of the film. If you want to see something that is truly historic, romantic, and compelling, I recommend giving this great movie a try.
NOT EVERY CHILD STAR BURNS OUT: MOVIE REVIEW OF “RABBIT FUR COAT”
Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis is no stranger to side projects. She has lent her voice to many acts, including Ben Lee, Bright Eyes, and most notably The Postal Service. So it’s about time that the former child movie star (a la “Troop Beverly Hills”) had a project that was completely her own, and “Rabbit Fur Coat” doesn’t disappoint.
The album is passionate and soulful, perhaps more than any of Rilo Kiley’s earlier work. Lewis teams up her backup singers, The Watson Twins to create a nostalgic backwoods country sound. This sound probably seems better suited for the soundtrack of “O’ Brother Where Art Thou” than for one of indie rock’s beloved singers, but if anyone can pull it off, Lewis can. One might think that if a bunch of indie rockers used too many triad harmonies and slide guitars, things could get rather cheesy, but somehow they don’t.
The album is beautifully produced; its tracks are deep, catchy, and extremely melancholy – in short, it’s very close to perfection. One track in particular that deserves a special mention is “Rise Up with Fists,” a song about life from the eyes of the jaded. Lewis promises that she will “rise up with fists and take what is [hers],” which is a refreshing point of view given the pessimism that is prominent in most of today’s indie music.
The lyrics have deep reverberations. One theme, god, appears several times in songs like “Born Secular” and also in “The Charging Sky” which sports lines like “but what if god’s not there/though his name is on your dollar bill.” Coupled with the country beats and steel guitars, the overall sound is wild and ultimately captivating.
The best track on the album is undoubtedly the cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s classic “Handle With Care.” The track features Ben Gibbard and Conor Oberst, the front men of Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes. This line up is the ultimate indie-rock all-star team.
Perhaps the best thing about “Rabbit Fur Coat” is that it is not only good, it surprises the listener who expects the album to be the mediocre and overproduced work of a girl who just gets to have everything she wants, be it movie or TV stardom or indie-rock band guest appearances. Now that she has a respectable solo album, one can only wonder what gem might come next.
GET HIM EAT HIM GEOGRAPHY CONES
Get Him Eat Him’s debut album came out on July 26, 2005, and still has not gotten proper praise or publicity for such a well-produced record. Get Him Eat Him has only been spoken about in indie zines and websites.
When my friend first gave me this album, I wasn’t sure if the name of then band was “Get Him,” “Eat Him,” “Get Him Eat Him,” or “Geography Cones.” Now I know the name of the band is “Get Him Eat Him,” and “Geography Cones” is title of the CD. The vocalist, Matt LeMay, is a staff member of the indie zine Pitchfork Media, a senior at Brown University, and now he’s started a band, in which he’s the oldest member at 22.
Get Him Eat Him can be called a Rhode Island version of The Strokes based on the sound of their introductions to songs, but this is a premature judgment. GHEH’s songs do contain drawn out words, as seen in some of the Strokes’ songs. Being that this is their first album, there is obviously much room for improvement, specifically on the vocals of the first track, “The Celebration.” The singing on this song can be compared to the singing on a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! song. However I am only able to compare the vocals of all three bands on this song.
The interlude between “Separate States” and “Shirt Like a Couch” stands out in a bad way, and the only thing that makes it work is the synthesizer. The end of “Separate States” does not blend in perfectly with the two-minute long interlude due to the change from full band to sad synthesizer music. The synthesizer returns during “Shirt Like a Couch,” tying the two together and making up for the previous ill-fitting sound.
“Bad Thoughts”, the ninth track, starts off with raspy-voiced singing, but progresses into clear high pitched vocals, and then goes off into whispered singing. This song, admittedly, is my favorite, simply because of the transition the vocals go through in just the first two minutes of the song, and it shows how talented LeMay is as a singer.
A possible turn-off of this album is the fact that all LeMay sings are about leaving, which could either be a good or bad thing depending on your music taste. It’s a bad thing if you hate men talking about leaving their girlfriends because of mistakes made, a good thing if that’s what you’re into. Another possible turn off is the band’s use of SAT language – words that are too big for everyday use, but apparently seem to work in a song.
Otherwise, Get Him Eat Him’s album is worth your time and money. It keeps you entertained and there is an interesting transition from beginning to end of the CD. By the last track, “Early Scarlet Globes,” GHEH are almost completely changed: there are quiet vocals and loud instrumentation. It’s the exact opposite of what the earlier songs are like, and is a fitting song for the end of such a well-produced album. People who like The Strokes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Ted Leo, The Futureheads, and (dare I say) The Bravery, will enjoy this CD. Though it’s released on the Absolutely Kosher record label, it shouldn’t be very hard to find, and if so, it can be bought from the merchandise section of gethimeathim.com.
WHY DON’T THOSE SUBWAY DOORS CLOSE ALREADY?
Every morning, most of us get up and go on the subway to get to school. We ride along the 842 miles of track (672 of which are used for passengers) and finally get to our stop. Impatiently, we wait for the doors to open, push our way through the crowd of people, get off the train, and walk up the station’s stairs. Little do we know that it isn’t as simple as someone pressing the brakes and pushing a button to open the doors.
The train usually enters the station at about 25 mph, so it’s no wonder that the air from the incoming train blows your hair. When the train enters the station, there is either a green or yellow signal. It is important that the operators pay attention to the signals. With trains, the traffic signals normally warn you of what the next signal will be. Green means proceed: the next signal is clear. Yellow means to proceed with caution: prepare to stop at next signal. Red means stop: operate automatic release, then proceed with caution and be prepared to stop within vision. There are also different types of lights telling the train driver to stop and stay, or to follow a specific speed limit.
Once the train has moved into the station under the green or yellow light, the operator reverses the controller to decelerate, and then uses the air brakes to stop the train. Once the train has stopped, the conductor (who tends to be in the center car) lowers the window, and points his or her finger when the car is lined up with a mark at the center of the platform. If the train is not lined up correctly, the conductor calls the operator to adjust the position of the train. The position is adjusted before the doors are opened.
When the conductor finally does open the doors, they must stay open for at least 10 seconds. Once the conductor has made the announcement, “stand clear of the closing doors, please,” he or she closes the back half of the train doors first, followed by the front. This might explain why sometimes the doors take a couple seconds to close after the announcement.
The conductor signals that the train can proceed, but there’s still one more thing for the conductor to do, he must visually make sure that no one is being dragged by the train. And finally, once everyone is safely on the train, it will proceed to the next station.
Next time you get impatient because the train has stopped, or the doors keep on opening and closing, remember, it’s not as simple as hitting the brake and pressing a button.
ALBUM REVIEW: “THE LIFE PURSUIT” BY BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
The best way to describe Belle & Sebatian’s seventh album, “The Life Pursuit,” is that it is catchy and completely unique.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is their greatest work yet (as their album from 1999, “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” is a hard act to follow), Stuart Murdoch, who single handedly wrote and sings in a majority of the songs in Life Pursuit, puts in an excellent effort.
This latest installment starts out with an upbeat and honest tune entitled “The Act of the Apostle” that grabs and holds the listener’s attention, and then, in traditional Belle & Sebastian fashion, follows with songs that inspire entirely different moods. Some of the songs are calm, almost gloomy, others are filled with optimism and sunshine, and some are fast paced and hard to follow. However, one thing that stays consistent throughout the album and, in my view, Belle & Sebastian’s entire discography, is that each song has a great chorus.
The single, “Funny Little Frog”, is rather cutesy and likely to have listeners humming it all day long after all. “Another Sunny Day” is noteworthy for its overall perkiness, great melodies, and simple, yet striking, backup vocals, though its lyrics leave a lot to be desired. “Mornington Crescent” is the slowest of all the songs on the album, but this fact doesn’t make it any less good. It has an intriguing jazz sound, an untroubled air about it, and it is a subtle ending to a strong album.
If you’re not impressed with “Life Pursuit” the first time around, give it a second chance. It may not be the sort of album that you automatically love, but it can be appreciated after a few listens. I’m living proof of that.
This album hits stores Tuesday, February 7th.
THE IPOD CRAZE
iPods are everywhere at BHSEC. In the hallways, in the library, in empty classrooms, students are continuously plugged in to their little white earbuds, listening until their hearts content to their favorite tunes. This situation is very different from in-school musical entertainment of years past, when radios, cassette tapes and CD players dominated.
The wide variety of Apple iPods on the market has spurred a sense of excitement in the hearts of many, especially teenagers. According to media sources, over fourteen million iPods have been sold thus far and the generally stated reason for this hype is quite simple: the technology is not only advanced, but it is also easy to use. There is no need for CD players and CD cases anymore, and with the different colored versions of the sleek, shiny external shell available, iPods are a fashion statement.
Some colleges have begun to distribute iPods to their incoming classes, saying that many courses utilize downloadable materials which can be played on an iPod. However, BHSEC students predominantly use the iPod as a simple entertainment device. One tenth grade student said, “I never even thought about using it for homework. That’s lame.” With few students actually using their iPods for school related purposes, many have wondered if iPods are simply a new distraction.
Many students have their iPods on while studying or doing homework. According to one Year I student, the distraction from an iPod only depends on the type of songs she listens to. For example, when she listens to one of her favorite songs, she is more distracted than when she listens to another song. She even stated that music helps her concentrate more while doing her homework, although this would be true for music from CDs as well.
Other students have noticed that they now listen to music more often with the new device than they previously did with a CD player, because of its accessibility. This increase in distraction has affected their study habits, they say.
iPods typically cost around $300, although there are models which go for $100 as well as those that cost as much as $400. The idea of students carrying such expensive items to and around school is discomforting for some parents. The recent increase in iPod snatchings on subways and busses has prompted the MTA to use advertising space to warn riders to be more alert.
As with all computer products, iPods have become more advanced with bigger hard drives during the past few years, even though their prices have remained constant. The basic iPod has always cost $299, despite the fact that the original model had five gigabytes and the present models have thirty.
Fortunately, Apple has developed cheaper models that can still hold considerable amounts of music, and some students are buying these models. However, the lowering of cost could lead more students to buy iPods and thus alter the study habits of even more students. The lower prices can also be a positive sign for parents. Since we as a generation generally demand the latest technology regardless of the price, parents would have an easier time paying for these totems of modern youth.
CASEY’S FAMOUS TECHNIQUES FOR MAKING PERFECT POPCORN
If you think all popcorn is more or less the same, or that making great popcorn is easy, or if you don’t even think that the term “great” can apply to something like popcorn, well you’re just not paying attention.
I gained my popcorn skills from my father, and passed them along to my two children. As parents we all make mistakes, but I can look back on my career as a father and know that at least I was able to provide my offspring with the experience of genuine perfection every time I set before them a heaping bowl of fluffy, tender and delicious hot popcorn. I now pass on the gift of this knowledge to you, the noble and beloved members of the BHSEC community.
-First, it must be premium stuff, either Reddenbocker’s or Newman’s. This is a case where the advertising and hype is accurate – the fancy brands really are better.
-A gas stove is the best appliance to make the best popcorn. Electric will do, but it’s harder to control the increases of heat needed to get the finest results.
-Select (or go out and buy) a heavy steel pot, with a heavy bottom and a good lid. Without that, you’re wasting your time. Actually, the lid isn’t as critical as the bottom. The bottom should be noticeably thicker than the sides. You can use a plate for a lid if you’ve got a good pot but no lid.
-Put what seems like too much oil in the bottom of the pan; enough to make a layer of a quarter inch or so. I use corn oil. If you want to use safflower oil because it’s healthier, you should know that unless it’s the much more expensive cold-pressed variety, you’re kidding yourself.
-Drop in two or three kernels of popcorn.
-Turn the heat on LOW. Very low. You want to s-l-o-w-l-y raise the heat, so that the ENTIRE pot gets heated evenly. That means you don’t want the bottom of the pot and the oil in it to get to a high “popping” temperature before the sides of the pot – you must allow time for the air inside the pot to get to around the same temperature. So, you must keep the heat low so everything has time to heat up evenly. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Ignore this concept and I have nothing more to say to you. Heat the pot slowly.
-Eventually, in the fullness of time, the two or three lonely kernels will pop. Turn the heat off, and pour in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot, with roughly two layers of popcorn kernels. Swirl the pot so that all the popcorn gets coated with oil. Then tip the pot. If excess oil pools on the side, pour it out in the sink.
Do all this quickly. You don’t want the temperature of the pot to drop very much.
-Now cover the pot, and again, turn the flame on LOW. Wait. Once again, the popcorn will begin to gently pop, one kernel at a time. Immediately increase the heat to a “medium” flame. When the speed of the popping increases, turn it up a bit more. The popcorn should start to speak with some enthusiasm. Crank the heat on high. This should produce a virtual explosion in the pan. Ideally, as the batch expands, the lid will start jumping and the popcorn will finally push the lid askew as it fills and then overflows. Popcorn landing on the stove and the floor is a good sign. It means you have produced the kind of wild eruption that produces big, fluffy, tender bits of popcorn. As quickly as it started, the popping will slow until you hear only individual kernels snapping erratically. Shut off the heat. Don’t try to make sure that every kernel is popped. You’ll just burn the corn on the bottom. A perfect batch usually has about ten or twenty unpopped kernels. The creation of perfection is inherently wasteful.
By the way, don’t shake or agitate the pot while all of this is going on. The “constant motion” theory of corn popping is misapplied to stovetop popping. Agitation only matters when popping corn in one of those old-fashioned wire poppers that you use over a campfire. In a pot, just stand back and let the stuff blast away. Rotating the pot a couple of times is a good idea, just to make sure the oil on the bottom is evenly distributed. This is especially useful if your stove is a little uneven, which most stovetops are. Just gently move the handle to the side opposite its original position, and then back, a couple of times as the corn is popping.
-Empty the popcorn into a pre-heated bowl. Yes, a pre-heated bowl. Just do it. Pre-heat the bowl by filling it with hot water, or heating it in the oven at 200 degrees, just long enough to warm it up. Obviously if you use the hot water method you must dry the bowl (paper towel) before filling it with popcorn. If you use the stove remove the bowl with oven mitts to be sure you don’t burn yourself. It’s easy to get the bowl too hot with the oven, but it’ll cool to a just-right temperature quickly.
-Butter. You can use butter substitutes but apparently all of the supposedly healthy alternatives are also bad for you in some way or another, so choose your poison. Melt it in the pot, which will remain hot after you empty the popcorn. It may in fact be too hot, and burn the butter, if you don’t wait a couple of minutes. Then, drop in an eighth to a quarter of a stick of butter into the pot, and immediately rotate the pot to keep the butter moving so it won’t burn. If the butter pat stops melting, turn the heat on low, tip the pot to pool the butter in a small area over the flame, and melt it without scorching it. When it’s all melted, pour it evenly over the popcorn. Agitate the bowl to mix it up. Take a handful of the popped corn and drop it back in the pot, and swirl it around to pick up every bit of butter in the pot. Dump this back in with the main batch. Salt to taste, which probably means liberally.
-Serve this with cold drinks and lots of paper towels. Suspend the usual rules of polite eating, but do share.
Seal the lid on the jar of remaining popcorn tightly. Freshness matters. You may find that the very best batch you get is the first batch you make with any jar, because it is absolutely fresh.
You may notice that popcorn pops better in cool, dry conditions than it does in hot humid conditions. It does.
You may be tempted to add cheese or other pollutants to popcorn to make it “interesting”. Such abominations are not to be tolerated.
Some people actually try to save uneaten popcorn to consume later, reheated or cold. Are you kidding me? Throw out the leftovers and start over. Standards must be maintained.
And the microwave stuff? It’s not even food.
In light of the recent (perhaps current) obesity and diabetes epidemics, I have decided to impart culinary wisdom upon you all – or perhaps it is merely because I have begun to venture into the mystical, and, in my case, miniscule, world of the kitchen.
In my apartment-scale kitchen, the easiest meal of the day to compose is breakfast. I am sure that everyone is aware of the vital importance of this meal, and how it boosts test scores, provides energy, and, in general, makes you a better person, but I find BHSEC in the thrall of a sadly incorrect equation. Coffee = Breakfast is one of the worst fallacies, and one of the fast, easy, and yummy recipe ideas that I propose will equally suit the purpose of revitalizing the cook after an academic all-nighter. With regard to breakfast cereal, I have to agree with Roald Dahl:
“’Oh, my sainted aunt!’ cried Mr. Wonka. ‘Don’t mention that disgusting stuff in front of me! Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!’”
Firstly, the cereals that taste good to me (Lucky Charms, Trix) are incredibly unhealthy. If you can buck up and eat some Total or Raisin Bran, go for it, but I need something that tastes better, or sweeter. I have found a cozy spot in my heart for granola, but I do not wish to impose it on the masses.
One easy recipe idea is Yogurt Parfait, which, despite the elaborate title, is simple. Get some plain vanilla yogurt, small fruit (blueberries work best), and granola (optional), and mix. You can get into it and do lots of layers, but that’s optional. This is also a great train buddy, when transferred into a plastic cup.
Another idea, perhaps less orthodox, is fruit and cottage cheese. I know it sounds bizarre, but the tangy flavor of cottage cheese (if you don’t know what cottage cheese is, it’s cheese, in a white, mushy, tangy sort of way) works really well with the fruit. This can be attempted with any fruit, but I recommend a melon (probably not watermelon) or pineapple.
Finally, I feel obliged to put an actual recipe in here. This is a fun one that I got at foodnetwork.com – healthy, maybe, yummy, definitely. This is not a speedy process, and it requires clean-up.
Moving on, here is the recipe (taken essentially word-for-word from http://www.foodnetwork.com):
12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Vegetable spray, for the muffin tins (I find baking cups make it easier to remove the muffins)
Preheat oven to 380 degrees F.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients reserving 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients and toss with the blueberries. Stir mixture for a count of 10. Add 1 cup blueberries to mixture and stir 3 more times. Reserve the 1/2 cup of blueberries. Scoop mixture into the baking cups that line the muffin tin. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of berries on top of muffins and press down lightly. Place into the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven. Don’t touch them for a while! It burns! When they seem less hot and bothered, pull the baking cups full of muffin out gingerly and have them sit on a cooling rack until they are placated.
Even I, who am cooking challenged, could do this. Of course, I always have a bit of drama with getting the gloppy batter into the lined muffin tin, but I suppose that is inevitable. Although this will take some time over the weekend, it is great to have muffins to eat all week, especially when you get out of bed 45 minutes late.
Please, send your ideas! All recipe proposals, failed cooking attempts, and extra muffins to be sent to the editors. Be sure to read the next issue: Study Munchies – friendly to your computer and your waistline!
ALBUM REVIEW: THE STROKES “FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH”
Chloe Steinhoff Smith
The Strokes, a NYC-based band that has perfected the unkempt greasiness which is characteristic of the hipster persuasion, burst into the mainstream in 2001 with their debut album, “Is This It.” The album was greeted internationally with praise bordering on reverence. The Strokes were widely hailed as the saviors of rock-n-roll, and the world waited hungrily for their next release. However, “Room on Fire,” the band’s sophomore album left most sorely disappointed. Although technically sound, the second album was written off as a duller, more repetitive version of the first. The Strokes had a long way to fall from their thrones atop rock music’s Mount Olympus, and they fell hard.
After over two years since the release of “Room on Fire,” years filled with alcoholism, weight gain, high-status celebrity girlfriends, marriages, breakups, and babies, the band is back with “First Impressions of Earth,” its satirically titled third release. “Juicebox,” the album’s first single, is rough and sinister, sending a pounding message to skeptics that The Strokes are actually capable of something new, different, and maybe even innovative. Julian Casablancas, the band’s vocalist and songwriter, chose for this album to strip away the layers of distortion that masked his voice in the previous two. This time, the raw, rasping groans are genuinely his own. This change sets the tone for the entire album, which abandons any pretense of hope or rock star euphoria, opting instead for detached cynicism and depressing honesty, moaning over a persistent drum and bass beat, “I’m tired of everyone I know/of everyone I see/on the street/ and on TV” in “On the Other Side”. This album is experimental and a little bit wild, running almost twice as long as the last two. Casablancas explores a daring variation from the band’s garage rock core, sampling everyone from Barry Manilow to Iggy Pop. Although expanding the depth of his lyrics to include some introspective contemplation, Casablancas gives in to the consistent battering of accusations that he has nothing to say, repeating in faux-orchestral ballad “Ask Me Anything” the simple assertion “I’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got nothing to say…” He goes even further in the album’s closer, “Red Light” to boldly claim that it’s not only him, but “an entire generation with nothing to say.”
The entire band has made a united effort to pull itself together, determined to defy their critics. While their complementary dynamic has always been impressive, it is now almost flawless, with nary an awkward passage or sloppy riff to be found. The chemistry between Fabrizio Moretti’s steady drum beats and the strength of Nikolai Fraiture’s bass provides a firm foundation which holds the songs together, while Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.’s perfected guitar skills serve to excite or subdue the listener from song to song, matching Casablancas’ croons and screams with a precision that is almost impossibly mechanic.
The Strokes’ seemingly very sincere efforts have succeeded in recovering at least a part of the rock god potential that they lost after “Room on Fire.” Although it may leave the listener somewhat disenchanted, one must respect this album’s humility and down to earth grittiness. “First Impressions of Earth” is ultimately satisfyingly new and definitely worth a listen.
THEATER REVIEW: SWEENY TODD AT THE EUGENE O’NEILL THEATER
A lot of people know about Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sweeney Todd” because of its ridiculous cameo in the 2004 “Bennifer” – instigated movie Jersey Girl. I have to admit that it is hard to think of the musical in any other context than an absurd one. After all, it is about a barber who turns his customers into meat pies. However, John Doyle’s reinterpretation of the play is a shocking experience for anyone who witnessed the drab “Jersey Girl” version. In fact, Doyle’s version might even wipe Ben Affleck’s massacre of the sinister masterpiece from the audience’s memory and replace it with the notion that “Sweeny Todd” is a deep and disturbing Broadway masterpiece.
Todd’s greatest asset is its magnificent cast, with Michael Cerveris (made famous by his role in the TV series Fame and his performance in Sondheim’s “Assassins,” for which he won a Tony award) playing Sweeney Todd, Patti LuPone (who made her name playing the same role in the 2000 concert series of “Sweeney Todd”) as Sweeney Todd’s partner-in-crime, Mrs. Lovett, and Marc Jacoby, the only other notable cast member (who played the title role in the mind-numbing “Phantom of the Opera”), as Sweeney’s arch nemesis Judge Turpin.
LuPone and Cerveris run circles around the rest of the cast for most of the play, which helps emphasize the separation between their characters and the townspeople, but at other times this felt annoying. While some cast members tried a little too hard to impress the audience, others simply gave up.
Sweeney Todd is actually a story within a story. The musical opens with Tobias, played by Manoel Felciano, in a straight jacket, seated in a chair. The rest of the cast stands in the back of the set, holding their instruments. A large part of the hype about Sweeney Todd is the fact that the cast apparently plays the instruments as well. It’s true that the cast does play instruments throughout the show, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that there was an orchestra hidden under the stage. Regardless, having the cast play the instruments is a tantalizing feature of the play, giving the story a more connected flow.
Because they are all playing instruments, the entire cast is on stage at all times, and that means no set changes. This is pretty clear within the first five minutes of the show, and I immediately began to dread staring at the same grungy set for two acts. But after the opening song, where Tobias and the rest tell us the story of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet St., the scene changes to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, where the demon lovers first meet. The entire set change is done by closing a coffin that Michael Cerveris occupied in the opening sequence, putting a plate on it, and placing some chairs in the corner. Not too impressive. What was impressive was the changes in tone of the cast, music, and lighting. The stage was immediately transformed.
The drama of such simple set changes shows the cast’s teamwork, the excellent directing by Doyle, and how important one or two lighting changes can be. The entire show is orchestrated by the lighting. Minimal set changes are just as effective, if not more, than extravagant set designs.
The only faults of the production belong to Sondheim himself, rather than Doyle or the cast. It is sort of odd that Sondheim writes musicals, because, well, the music isn’t good. The only song that is memorable is the theme song, and it is memorable because it is annoying. Half of the storytelling in Act 1 is told through fast-paced, poorly written songs that are almost impossible to understand. As a result, a considerable part of the story is missing.
Basically Sweeney Todd is actually Benjamin Baxter, former barber, and now a convict returning from exile and searching for his wife and daughter. We find out that the daughter is living with the man that convicted him, Judge Turpin, and that his wife is dead. What we don’t learn (because the song is too confusing and fast to understand) is why he was sent away, why he hates Judge Turpin (at one point Patti LuPone, who is telling the tale, humps a nearby table, which led me to believe either Todd’s wife was raped by, or was committing adultery with, the judge). Enraged by his wife’s death and his daughter’s kidnapping, Todd is convinced by Mrs. Lovett to go back to barbering and get back at his enemies.
His first murder, of a rival barber, is incredibly suspenseful. Believe me the minimalism of the set doesn’t ruin the frightening execution of this scene. The rest of the story is essentially a string of murders that, although they keep you on the edge of your seat during the production, aren’t worth going into detail about. The conflict for the audience becomes interesting towards the end of Act One.
Basically, the rivalry between Todd and Turpin becomes a sort of “two wrongs don’t make a right” situation. What happens is that Turpin decides he fancies Todd’s daughter (whom he adopted after Todd’s conviction), and shuts her in her room while he plans a wedding ceremony. In one scene, he repeatedly exclaims how beautiful she looks in her essentially see-through gown. As you can imagine, it’s a sufficiently creepy situation. The problem is that a barber who slits his customer’s throats is pretty creepy as well. To make matters worse, distressed with her failing enterprise, Mrs. Lovett convinces Todd to let her make meat pies out of his victims. This leads up to the only good song in the entire production, which is about eating priests.
So the moral conflict for the audience is who do you like more: the cannibal or the rapist/pedophile? In the end, like most of the good things in the play, Sondheim ruins it. The book, like the music, just doesn’t carry through. The surprise ending barely deserves any mention. And while Doyle’s directing is seamless in its brilliance, Sondheim just doesn’t cut it.
In the end though, this production of Sweeney Todd survives on pure brilliance alone, from the orchestra-cast hybrid, to the amazing lighting techniques, to simple things, like the fact that after each character dies, they wear a white barber coat stained with blood. In the end, it is completely worth going just to see what Doyle has been able to do. Cheap tickets can often be obtained, but if not, $40 back row seats are worth your money. I would not recommend the cast recording however, for the above noted reasons.