Archives for posts with tag: Mostly True Stories K.D. Norris

You know you’re a cultural noob when the Librarian of Congress is hipper than you are.

I mean, I thought I was updating my cool quotient last year when, as part of my work as an A&E writer in Western Michigan, I got into Moby by accident and String Cheese Incident on purpose – while doing a preview of Electric Forest.

Neither are new to The Forest, but they were new to me when I caught them live last year. Moby’s EDM set took a little work – and a little, shall we say, ambiance – to get into, while the SCI set took me back to my Deadhead days. (Both stories for another day and different post.)

But all my updated coolness façade crumbled this week when Radiohead’s 1997 release “OK Computer” was selected for induction into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. The album, according to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, was recognized for its “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.”

Not that it matters to me, nor probably to you, Radiohead was joined on the registry list, now 425 recordings deep, by the likes of Joan Baez’ self-titled first solo album, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1955 “Sixteen Tons” and “Sesame Street: All-Time Platinum Favorites” – believe me, it just gets stranger from there. Another registry addition, 1967’s self-title debut release by The Doors, was on my cassette player back in the ‘70s; I just don’t usually admit it.

As far as “OK Computer” is concerned, the Library of Congress’s getting into Radiohead before me forced me to face the reality of my noob-ness even though my wife and I last year cut the cable and I started getting into Radiohead audio and video on Hulu. I caught some of the tunes off of “OK Computer” via YouTube and thought: “Wow. How could I have missed this stuff back at the turn of the new millennium?” And then I remembered – Oh, ya, I was deep into such safe choices as U2, REM and Phish, and experimenting with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. (Ya, I know. All a little dated now when compared to, say Radiohead; but I still love and often play “Achtung Baby” and “Automatic For the People”!)

Anyway, as part of the Library of Congress induction of “OK Computer”, the music was described in an official press release as “an information-age dystopia characterized by psychopaths, corrupt politicians, ill-behaved consumers, tyrannical robots, airline disasters, car crashes and failed safety protocols. For the album, the band had mostly stripped away such alt-rock signposts as personalized lyrics, sinus-clearing guitars and thunderous bass and drums. The ghosts of the Pixies and Nirvana have been decisively exorcised. The presence of fin de siècle electronic dance music, jazz, 20th-century classical and dub are all palpable. While these bold moves risked alienating the band’s sizable audience, they paid off with more than a decade of critical praise including two scholarly philosophical works on the band. The band used guitars — both searing and angelic — mellotrons, laptops, samples, fat synth lines, machine-like drums and drum machines to produce a dense topology of sound, music and public service announcements that incorporates various influences including Miles Davis, Krzysztof Penderecki, Lee Scratch Perry, Steve Reich, the Beach Boys, DJ Shadow, William S. Burroughs, and the Beatles. The album has endured as a statement and a cautionary tale for the digital age.”

Oh, I wish I had written that. And, more importantly, I wish I had the plumb job to write stuff like that for the Library of Congress because the Librarian of Congress, the aforementioned Mr. Billington DID NOT write that.

My own opinion of “OK Computer”, which I shall keep short as not to show any more of my weaknesses, is that there are several great songs – “Paranoid Android” and “No Surprises” leading the way but also including “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, “Let Down” and “Climbing up the Walls”. I would say the only song I don’t like is the lead track “Air Bag” – probably tracked there to scare off people like me – and I simply think “Fitter Happier” is just plain strange.

And while Radiohead will not be playing at Electric Forest 2015, nor anywhere else in the foreseeable future, I am still hoping to that Motion Potion – a San Francisco-based DJ (aka MoPo; aka Robbie Kowal) known for playing some great Radiohead sets – will give us taste of what they must have been like live this June as part of his scheduled sets in the EF Silent Disco.

Of course, considering I just heard of MoPo about five minutes before I wrote this, I will still be a noob.

K.D. Norris/March, 25, 2015

(Photo caption)
The modern harbor area of Ponta Delgada hosts not only cruise ships and commercial vessels, but is also the home port of the Portuguese navy?s tall ship. The three flags flying are, from left, those of the European Union, Portugal and the Azores. (K.D. NORRIS)

By K.D. Norris Special to the Times Union
Published 01:00 a.m., Sunday, June 20, 2010
To say San Miguel is the garden island of the Azores would be to undervalue the scenic beauty of the other eight islands, but the largest and most populated island of the archipelago, located nearly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is undoubtedly a gardener’s delight.
Everywhere you travel, everywhere you look, in the Azores you find gardens: Some are lush, large and well-known to locals and tourists alike. Others are barely 10 meters by 10 meters, little more than small front yards, but beautifully designed, immaculately kept and often accessible via secretive glances over the low walls that surround many of the island’s houses.
Taming the barren landscape of San Miguel, of all the Azores, and turning it into gardens, has been a historic struggle for the inhabitants. But visiting the islands is as easy as any European destination — it is, in fact, the westernmost point of land of the European Union, and only a four-hour flight from the United States.
Ponta Delgada is the largest city on the island and, because of its international airport, is the jumping-off point for any vacation to San Miguel and the Azores. The city offers a great sampling of gardens — or jardins, in Portuguese — with a walk down the tree-lined Avenida Gaspar Frutuoso. Start from the large, famous Jardin Jose do Canto at the Palacio Jose do Canto (Presidential Palace) and end at the neighborhood jardin, located beside the labyrinth-like public library building and the not-to-be-missed Museum Carlos Machado Center for Sacred Art.
As you stroll, nearly every yard shows the pride of an avid gardener. The island and its gardens are in full bloom in the spring but, given the year-around temperate climate, something is always blooming in the Azores. A multitude of unique plants abound, including manicured juniper trees, huge ferns, vibrant cactuses and unusual succulents. But the highlights are azalea and hydrangea variants often grown as massive blooming hedges.
Avenida Gaspar Frutuoso was, historically, the neighborhood of the rich, but gardening is not the exclusive affinity of the affluent, nor is Ponta Delgada the only town boasting fine gardens. On a narrow street of Vila Franca do Campo, a wrought iron gate in a high wall allows a view of a simple volcanic stone walkway surrounding massive cactuses, some as tall as the sun-bleached two story house. In Ribeira Grande, at the Maracuja liqueur distillery, succulents similar to “hen and chicks” have grown to the size of small European cars.
Out of Ponta Delgada
Even if you are looking for manicured gardens, an admirer of horticulture must get out of the city and journey into nature at the rugged rim, if not to the accessible center, of Caldeira das Sete Cidades in the northwest corner of the island. Sete Cidades (Seven Cities) is named for the seven dormant volcanic craters visible within the 1,000-foot-high, 7-mile-around main volcanic caldera. Any time of the year, but especially in the tourist off-season of October to March, the ever-changing weather may discourage casual sightseeing. But the gods of the mountain usually reward adventurous hikers along the dirt-road rim trail with beautiful natural beauty and often-clear moments of stunning views from the cliffs.
Also worth a visit is Logoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire), a long-slumbering volcano that is the island’s highest point, as well as the Cha Porta Formosa tea plantation on the rugged north shore, and, of course, the famous Terra Nostra Garden at Logoa Das Furnas (Lake of Caves).
Terra Nostra may be the most famous garden in the Azores, best described as an experimental garden on a grand scale. The garden dates to 1780, when affluent Boston businessman Thomas Hicking, later U.S. Consul to the Azores, placed his summer residence at the site. Attached to and maintained by the grand old Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, there is a small entrance fee if you are not staying at the hotel.
Other than gardens
Back in Ponta Delgada, in the port area, a stroll along Avenida Infante Dom Henrique shopping and dining area, from the old castle Fort da Sao Bras to the Pesqreiro salt-water swimming area, is always a good walk. For those into balmy water and sunny beachfronts, the Azores is a summer hot spot, but all year round, the weather and the water are temperate.
There is varied shopping with a distinctive Euro flair available in small port-area malls and along the narrow downtown side streets. High-end boutiques mix with local markets — check out the small grocery stores for a look at the local tastes.
An appetizing choice of lunch and dinner options abounds, of course; my favorite place for fresh local seafood was the Mercado do Peixe. A stop at an outdoor cafe for an afternoon coffee and sweets is both a tradition for locals and a must for visitors. English is on almost every menu and is spoken almost everywhere.
Evening meals at the restaurants on or near the waterfront are usually between 15 and 30 euros per person, before drinks. So a good habit is to occasionally have a meal in the afternoon at one of the luncheon cafeterias frequented by locals. A favorite was A Commercial Restaurante, on Rua Dr. Bruno Tavares Carreiro, where 5 euros will buy a complete meal, but you may need to politely point at what you want served.
Later in the evening, eat light; many of the appetizers or soups will make a complete meal. Also in the evening, many of the outdoor cafes also offer more adult drinks; try the excellent porto blanco (white port).
There is nothing quite like the experience of sipping a smooth porto, smelling the blooming azaleas waft through with the sea breeze, and planning your next Azorean adventure.