Skip to content

Monthly Archives: September 2023

Music soothes the skittish cat

Lily listens to Herbert Blomstedt conduct Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphoses.” The television doesn’t always terrify my cat, Lily. It depends on what’s on. Long ago I started using headphones when I watch television, to accommodate Lily. Loud blockbuster movies scare the living daylights out of her. But she likes music. Last week, after we watched the […]

David Brooks’ airport hamburger

Yuck. The whole world is laughing at David Brooks, the conservative columnist for the New York Times who sees himself as a great moral oracle and moral leader. Brooks posted a picture on X (formerly known as Twitter) of the hamburger he had bought at the Newark Airport. His tweet said: “This meal just cost […]

The Name of the Rose

1986 While scouring for watchables, I recently came across the 1986 film version of The Name of the Rose, on Netflix. It’s truly a classic film and always worth watching again. Back in the 1990s, I read Umberto Eco’s novel on which the film is based. The novel, too, is worth reading again, now that […]

Brown = umami = Maillard reaction

It would be easy to believe that the secret of cooking Chinese at home is as simple as using too much salt. That’s not it, though Chinese dishes certainly like salt. The real secret is the brownness. That’s where the umami flavor comes from. When foods are browned during cooking, that’s the Maillard reaction. Whether […]

Orchestras hate it, too

Jörg Widmann thrashes to try to help the orchestra detect a beat. Why would anyone pay up to $90 a seat to listen to someone beat on the back, the sides, and the neck of a violin, tunelessly sawing and scraping the poor thing when not beating it? Lots of people won’t, which is why […]

A new edition of Tolkien’s letters

A new edition of Tolkien’s letters (from William Morrow in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the U.K.) will be released in the U.S. on November 14, and in the U.K. on November 9. The new edition, in hardback, contains 150 new letters since the previous edition of Tolkien’s letters in 1981, bringing the total number […]

Two short drone videos

I’m a long way from making any thrilling drone videos shot in exotic places. For one, I’m a drone newbie. And for two, I’m still so pinned down by the late-summer heat that it’s miserable to venture outdoors except in the mornings. One socially useful thing to do with a drone is to take videos […]

Not a book for the squeamish

Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land. Jacob Mikanowski. Pantheon, July 2023. 378 pages. If some perverse god created the earth, then it’s almost as though that perverse god reserved Eastern Europe as a place dedicated to the relentless refinement of human misery. The book describes how life there has never been […]