Hard Days Night

hard days night4Today after work, I finally had time to arrange some artifacts from outdoors.  Not bad.  At the same time, I parked my trusty vehicle (as you can see, it has a small carbon footprint), slipped out of my little black silk and velvet work outfit and pointy hat, and sat back to enjoy the creativity of it all.

Happy Halloween and a big *boo*!

Leonard Cohen concert

cohen poster

Yeah, it was good.

Finally I’m home unwinding from the Leonard Cohen concert in Rosemont, Illinois, after three and a half hours of music, a fifteen minute walk to the station in the rain, an hour and a half on the train, and another half hour driving home from where I parked. I finally arrived home at 1:30 A.M. and felt like baking some trout (recipe). (Most excellent, but next time must add salt, less banana, and a little more chile powder.)

“I’m so grateful” …he had started out, as he says many times in the Live in London album, but this crowd laughed before applauding politely. Cynical? Pragmatic? Or maybe seeing Leonard Cohen in concert was high on everybody’s things-to-do-before-you-die list. The couple next to me said they were from Poland: “He played in our town in Poland thirty years ago–we couldn’t get tickets.”

“We don’t know when we’ll be back this way again, so tonight we’re going to give you everything we’ve got”, he backtracked, to more applause, this time from the heart. And they did. The concert was almost identical to the Live in London album, except for three songs I had never heard before (“Waiting for a miracle?”). But every once in a while, I thought I heard some different lyrics and perked up my ears. And of course they did Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy, songs I played years ago that I didn’t even know he composed before buying my ticket. Yes, Leonard Cohen was entwined with my youth, but I never knew it at the time. The stars of the show were the middle eastern instruments, something like ouds, a large one and a small one with a gypsy sound, played by a Spaniard named Mas (I’ll google it in the morning–they were applauding too loud and I didn’t catch it) and the soprano sax/woodwind player.

They charged through the first two sets, with much more lengthy and polished instrumentals than the album, but didn’t really get into stride until the “encores”. The surprise was “Who by Fire” which is almost an afterthought on the album but was played with such freshness and a huge brilliant instrumental in the middle by Mr. Mas that it caught everyone by surprise. My personal favorite, Hallelujah, was performed almost by rote, they must have done it so many times for the videos as well…but a lot of effort had been spent on the lighting for that one, the final hallelujah a golden sunrise. Still, it got a standing ovation, and Cohen looked a little surprised, but why not, the song is timeless and yes it was still that good. For this American audience, some potentially controversial/explicit lyrics were mumbled a bit, and they didn’t play “democracy”. Maybe we’re too close to Peoria. There were two “encore” sets, and that’s when the band really hit its stride. “First we take Manhattan” was smokin’, partly because the drummer came out of the woodwork and did some rock n’ roll showmanship. Leonard toyed with the crowd over the encores, after “Closing Time”, coming back to sing “I tried to leave you”, then teasingly “are you satisfied?” Then when the band was really done, and Leonard had introduced the sound crew, the audience just stood and applauded passionately, this time not to bring him back but just to say thank you. I think he looked a little bit misty right then.

Everyone went to hear his voice of course, and they got that. Like the message someone left on one of his videos “This man can read a shoppinglist out loud and i die..” He started out with the raspiness everyone mentions in the reviews, but his voice warmed up quickly. Sometimes he dropped to one knee, and sang to the floor or to the oud player, and his voice seemed to get deeper and more resonant. The crowd got not just his voice, but a crew of extremely talented musicians as as well. And Leonard Cohen is no musical slouch either. For Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye he backed himself up on guitar, then played and sang backup to other musicians’ solos. The talent of the group though was greater than the sum of their parts, with Leonard’s deep voice winding gracefully around it all.

Okay, I know I’m not a real music reviewer and this hasn’t even been proofread, but it’s late (early) and I just wanted to record this before I go to bed. And a big thank you to the one who (re-) introduced me to Leonard Cohen, you know who you are.

The next day and rereading this I see I talked about everything except what was most important, the content, although it is only Leonard’s spoken voice doing his own work that seems to be able to make the content accessible for me. More when I get back from work.
The NPR review, with musician list. It is Javier Mas the Spaniard who plays “banduria, laud, archilaud, 12-string guitar”.

Leonard Cohen’s new song “the other blues song” on YouTube:

Feels so good baby not to love you like I did
Feels so good not to love you like I did
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.

Feels so good babe just to wake up in the morning by myself
Cup of coffee in the kitchen, fire up a little danger to my health.
It’s like the same old broken heart but it feels like it belongs to someone else.
I’ve got the same old broken heart but now it feels like it belongs to someone else.

Feels so good baby to see you smile back at me
It’s so good baby not to be each other’s VIP
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this man go free.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this man go free.

Feels so good not to love you like I did
Feels so good I don’t know why but it just did
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.

Concert photos:

from Time Out Chicago blog

better pictures from Leonard Cohen forum

Chicago concert setlist (taped to monitor):
cohen set list2


More Youtube videos are appearing from the Chicago concert:

If you want to see Leonard Cohen, forget everything else, and

1) go to his official YouTube channel and watch Hallelujah, then

2) go to the albertnoonan YouTube channel (whoever he is), and see his high audio quality videos of the Chicago concert

part of I’m your man (from balcony)

short clip of I tried to leave you

part of The Future

For all the breaking news about Leonard Cohen, check out Heck of a Guy, a great website with tons of Leonard Cohen little known songs, esoterica, and trivia, including a Leonard Cohen halloween mask (as in “I will wear a mask for you” from I’m your man).

Some more trivia: you might guess from his name that he came from a family of rabbis….”Leonard’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi  Solomon Kinitski-Klein, was a rabbinic scholar.  He was known as Sar ha Dikdook, the Prince of Grammarians, for writing an encyclopedic guidebook to talmudic interpretations, A Treasury of Rabbinic Interpretations, and a dictionary of synonyms and homonyms, Lexicon of Hebrew Homonyms…”  Now we’re getting somewhere.  I wonder if there isn’t a little kabala in there somewhere.

Looking for Leopold and Loeb’s culvert

One of my childhood heroes was the criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Beside being a notorious agnostic (and writing an autobiography that was the first book I read in the sixth grade when I was admitted into the adult library by special dispensation, having read all the books in the children’s library) he also defended Leopold and Loeb (wiki) who were convicted of murdering a child and stuffing the body in a culvert. Some time ago, when googling the Nike missile site at nearby Wolf Lake (map), where I often walk, I became aware that Wolf Lake was also where Leopold and Loeb disposed of the body in a culvert.

Yesterday I went for a long walk after transferring the new Leonard Cohen London concert album to my new mp3 player, and just for kicks decided to see if I could find this notorious culvert. Here are the clues. The location is described as being in Illinois, near 118th street, near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, and on the north side of Wolf Lake. Also they moved the body with a car. Looking at a map, we see only two railroad tracks on the north side of Wolf Lake, one accessible by 118th street and one by the access road that goes around the west side of the lake (not on the map). I have marked the two possible routes in red.
wolf lake streets map2

So now, to the park.
I have never seen this before. Why does it make me nervous?
wolf lake hunters check in

There is still some fall color, even though most of the leaves have fallen. The sumacs are the most spectacular. I wonder if this is the same sumac the Arabs eat as a seasoning.
wolf lake fall color
wolf lake sumac
I take the road that goes around the west side of the lake (red line),
wolf lake aerial image3
but when I get to the crossroads, hoping to investigate the railroad tracks nearest the Indiana border, I am met with a road closure.
wolf lake road closed
I have no desire to meet up with hunters carrying guns of any kind so I climb the hill to the bike path to the west.
wolf lake entering bike path
The book exchange is still there, but no books today, not after two weeks of rain.
wolf lake book swap
Vanishing point:
wolf lake bike path
Finally I reach the turnoff for 118th street.
wolf lake 118th st crossing

And not wishing to run into duck hunters on the north side of the lake, I head towards the western exit.wolf lake bike west to 118th
This leads out to a supermarket and a few shops.
wolf lake shopping center
Here the frost has not touched anything. Roses are still blooming as I reset my mp3 player for the return trip.
wolf lake mp3 player
Geraniums and hosta are still green here, but at my house they’re yellow from the frost.
wolf lake geraniums
The map showed railroad tracks between the lake and 118th street, but I didn’t see any. On my return trip I see what has happened. The old railroad right-of-way has been used to make the bike trail, and our infamous culvert is no where to be found.
wolf lake upper bike path
But there’s no reason I can’t do a little moss gathering. I having been keeping a lookout for moss, and here I finally find it on the west facing edge of the bike trail. Alas, it’s public land, so I will have to leave it undisturbed and enjoy it right where it is.
wolf lake moss

Posted in Green. 8 Comments »


Here is what is in my windowsill at the moment: mint cuttings with roots.


UPDATE:  a stop at my mint patch across the street, and the cut mint for my morning tea is now replenished.


mossgathering oaxaca fishAs you can see, I have also been to the local thrift shop and found a small piece of Oaxaca pottery, the kind that looks like it was made from pencil lead, and also a blue glass bowl, probably depression glass, that looks vaguely deco.

Further research tells me Oaxaca pottery is purely decorative, and since a low temperature firing method is used to get the black color of the clay, it’s too porous to hold water.  It’s so whimsical though, I love it.

Walking along the railroad tracks at twilight, I found a few of the plants that ordinarily have drab fall colors take on a striking appearance in that light. Unfortunately, they don’t quite fit any of the vases I brought home.


I love seeing bits of the outdoors inside, but that project will have to wait for later.  The sun has finally come out and the garden is dry enough to work. Time to finish transplanting, before the frost they are promising for later in the week.

Posted in Green. 4 Comments »

Cohen ticket

This is what concert tickets look like these days. For an extra two bucks, you print it out on your own printer. My regular internet connection is down yet again, so I’m once again piggybacked on someone’s open router.   Made me a bit nervous to give credit card info over this, but the last two Leonard Cohen concerts sold out, so I didn’t want to waste any time.

cohen ticket

An interesting thing, when you enter the security code they use to keep out the spambots, they are using it somehow to digitize books. According to the information,

The Security check allows us to…
Digitize One Word at a Time
By entering the words in the box, you are also helping to digitize books from the internet Archive and preserve literature that was written before the computer age.

cohen ticket captcha


From a comment on the “First we take Manhattan” video on YouTube

daanjelll (2 days ago)
Poetry? Music? This man can read a shoppinglist out loud and i die..

Posted in Leonard Cohen, music. Comments Off on Cohen ticket

Sweet Potato Recipe

Here is the family recipe for sweet potatoes. This is usually served at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas too. As you can see by the clean condition of the card, I have never made this, but I have eaten it plenty of times.

sweet potato recipe from mother1

In case anyone can’t read the American measurements, # is pounds, c is cups (my mother sometimes makes a loop on the top of it so it looks like an “e”), t. is teaspoon, T. is tablespoon (3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon), 350 ° is degrees fahrenheit (the same as for cookies and almost everything else), and minutes is minutes, of course. (just pointing out there are some similarities).

Posted in Food. 4 Comments »

What Nijma is reading

omar1The one thing I haven’t got in my sidebar is one of those little widgets with a statement about what I’m reading and what I’m listening to. I’m not going to do one either, because it’s too much work.  Plus, the people who do them never change them, so it looks like they’re been reading the same book for a year.   I want to do an inventory though, so I’ll just list them.  Since I moved to a bigger apartment, I find I’m reading in two rooms instead of just one, so I’ll list the books by room.

On (or under) my bedside table:

Dorthy Sayers, Five Red Herrings

Sara Paretsky, Blacklist

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyyam tr. Edward Fitzgerald (published 1947) *

In the living room:

James Joyce, Ulysses (I found out there’s two different versions–one unexpurgated.  Don’t know which one I have.)

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (the only library book in the entire place)

Right away I’m going to admit to finishing the Paretsky book today and cross it out.  Then I’ll add a book I picked up and started reading today,

P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves.

This will go on (or under) the night stand, for sure.

The Paretsky had a surprise in  it. When I got back from Jordan I got Total Recall at a booksigning and as she signed my book, I told her about leaving her last novel in Jordan due to weight restrictions. Blacklist is the next one in line and guess what, two minor characters knew each other from “their Peace Corps days in Jordan”. I’d like to think she said hi to me in her book. Oh, and her birthday is the same day as A.J.P. Crown’s, June 8, 1947, only not the same year.

Up next? Looking at the list, I see I’ve gotten pretty far afield of my original interest in the middle east. I have a couple by Fatima Mernissi, whose insight into Middle East culture I have been impressed by before. I also now have Natalie Zemon Davis’ Trickster Travels, about the 16th century Muslim world. For theologians, I have the rogue Bishop John Shelby Spong as well as Marcus Borg. And a freshly signed copy of Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, for a look at Machiavelli’s time.

And what am I listening to? Pimsleur’s Arabic language tapes. Annie Lennox’s Medusa, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on YouTube. Over and over.

Yes, I’ve gotten *very* sidetracked into western literature, trying to see them through the eyes of bloggers who devour them, but who knows, maybe that’s not a Bad Thing.

*Update: the Rubiyat is now online. You can read all five versions, compare one version of a verse with another, and even make comments. But how can that ever compare with handling something like this–a cloth bound book that is older than I am:


Posted in Books. 7 Comments »

Leonard Cohen is coming to town

cohen ticketsPledge drive week here, but I’ve been listening to NPR anyhow, and barely caught the message that Leonard Cohen will be in concert here Thursday.  Not to date me or anything, but the last concert I went to was the late Jerry Garcia when he was touring by himself.

Since my bank account got decimated on my two summer trips, and my hours have been cut, concerts aren’t high on my budget list right now, but I sort of want to go this one.  It’s at the Rosemont Theater, a 4400 seat theater.

I’m certainly not used to these prices.  A $65 ticket gets you a seat on the side way in the back (or in the balcony). For more reasonable acoustics close to the center you have to pay nearly $170, and to get close up in the “orchestra pit” (?) will cost more like $250.  He just played in Chicago last May, at two sold out concerts at the historic 3,600 seat Chicago Theater.

cohen seatingWhen I first ran into Cohen’s name on a thread somewhere and checked him out, his music at first seemed a bit maudlin, too sentimental and navel-gazing, like Rod McKuen, but then it started to grow on me. The poetry does something.  When I listened to a few of his tunes on YouTube the other night, I had tears in my eyes.   I like this one, Hallelujah.

How many 74-year-olds want to go on concert tour?  Cohen has had some recent financial troubles and lawsuits, and probably needs to replenish his retirement funds. Who knows how long he will want to continue to perform.  Maybe I should just go for it.

Here’s the Trib’s review from the May concert, including a set list.

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“Machiavelli was not Machiavellian”, said Salman Rushdie today. “His writing has levels of irony and sarcasm that we have lost.”


Case in point: Machiavelli was imprisoned and tortured repeatedly, so when he wrote about whether a ruler should be kind or cruel, he (ironically) recommended cruelty, since everyone remembers cruelty but no one remembers kindness.

This might be the passage here in Chapter XVII Cruelty and compassion; and whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse:

So on this question of being loved or feared, I conclude that since some men love as they please but fear when the prince pleases, a wise prince should rely on what he controls, not on what he cannot control.

Rereading various passages of The Prince as irony, it really is quite snarky. From the chapter on “how flatteres must be shunned”:

…the only way to safeguard yourself against flatterers is by letting people undertand that you are not offended by the truth; but if everyone can speak the truth to you then you lose respect.  So a shrewd prince should adopt a middle way, choosing wise men for his government and allowing only those the freedom to speak the truth to him, and then only concerning matters on which he asks their opinion, and nothing else.

Too bad they didn’t have emoticons back then so Machiavelli could have made it clear which parts were supposed to be  sarcastic.

More Rushdie nuggets:

  • When you read a book: “a curious act of intimacy between strangers”.
  • Why he stopped writing the NYT syndicated column  1) he’d rather be “putting my energy where I wanted to put it which is making shit up.” 2) the idea of having to have a strong opinion once a month–it’s the nature of the column.  People like Friedman and Dowd who can have opinions he admires, but the column format doesn’t have room for nuanced ideas. “What they want to read is WRONG! RIGHT! YES! NO!” 3)The world’s attention span is short, you can’t write a column ahead of time because the subject is dead.  He would write his column the day before the deadline, looking in the paper for that day to find something current to write about (but a good exercise to learn this type of writing.)
  • Why Rushdie is so hard on his characters (they get tortured and die a lot) and in particular why no one has good love relationships: “Boy meets girl, they live happily ever after, the end.  There’s nothing there to write about.”
  • Writing explicit sex: Henry Miller and Philip Roth could write explicit sex without being embarrassing. Rushdie has always had his sex scenes take place off camera, but in his latest book it’s explicit, because of the explicit nature of the cultures he is writing about.
  • Dickens-admires Dickens very much, because his “surrealist elements grow out of closely observed reality“. More examples of closely observed reality: “100 years of solitude” (?) a railway train that takes forever to go past a town. The “Circumlocution Office” a government agency that exist to do nothing. (Emily Dickinson?)
  • How to finish writing a book: “if you keep beating your head against it it will probably give in in the end.”
  • The Two great tests of when book is finished: embarrassment and exhaustion 1) you’re not embarrassed to show it because you already know it isn’t right 2) you’re not making things better, you’re just pushing them around and making them different.  It’s not going to be perfect–perfection doesn’t exist.
  • The latest book The Enchantress of Florence, is based on “early crossings of what was then called ‘the ocean sea’; if you could avoid the leviathan, which you couldn’t, but if you did you would run into mud; if you could avoid the mud, which you couldn’t, but if you did, you would fall off the end of the earth.” Not written through a “narrow perspective like is it feminist or not”.  Original witches/enchantresses were old and ugly, idea can be taken from Durer painting.  Then going back in history found Circe, a beautiful enchantress, in Renaissance the enchantress was also a seductress.  Both physical beauty and the believed ability to do actual magic increases her power.  Of course, getting accused of witchcraft wouldn’t be a good idea, so she walks a fine line…
Posted in Middle East. Comments Off on Machiavellian

Save a Mongolian student from leukemia; listen to Mongolian music

The fundraising effort for Urangoo Baatarkhuyag, the Mongolian with leukemia, has now gone viral. Her story is here, you can donate here.  In the Mongolian community, the word is being spread by the website MongolDuu.com, where you can also hear some genuine Mongolian music and also try out the blogosphere’s only Mongolian translate tool.

The websites are from “read”, a Mongolian who knows Russian and likes to read Asian literature classics, but she doesn’t have her own blog–yet.  She says if you  click on the link ‘burtgegdsen bukh duu’, there are 6000 mp3s you can listen to.  It’s in the main menu on the left, the fifth one from the bottom.  It’s in Cyrillic though:

Бvртгэгдсэн бvх дуу

It opens to a numbered alphabetical list of the tunes.   Here are read’s recommendations:

beginning from 209-212 Adarsuren, love his songs
213 Agiimaa i like her videoclip, i’ll post later when i find it
beginning from 729 Badruugan i love his songs too, 859 Bayasgalan Botgon duu is a nice song
1125 Bolormaa – Namrun ongo orloo eejee is my favourite

Here are my comments, along with more links:

  • 209-212 Adarsuren to me sounds traditional, maybe with an eastern scale (?)  The intervals don’t sound western at all, but too bad the sound quality isn’t better on this one. He seems to be a popular karaoke artist, but I think this one is actually him, also this with a title Алтай хангайн уулс. Дуучин Адарсүрэн.
  • 213 Agiimaa’s “Lonely night”, the title portion sung in English, has a club sound that reminds me of the Amman dance club scene.  (Here‘s the video.)
  • 729 Badruugan’s intro sounded like it was going to be like “Stairway to heaven” but turned into a 60s folk sound, an unpretentious string instrument that sounds like guitar backing up his solo voice. (Here he is in concert with better sound quality singing Улаанбаатарын үдэш, Б.Бадрууган “Ulaanbaatar evening”.)
  • 859 Bayasgalan Botgon–the video is a delight not just for her lyrical voice but also for its  country setting and its furry frolicking double humped camels. (See embedded YouTube below.)
  • 1125 Bolorma is a female singer backed with a very full sounding orchestra. Here is her Х.Болормаа “Намрын өнгө”. “Color of Autumn” on Youtube.
  • Here is haunting Mongolian throat singing, that reminds me somewhat of the Buddhist dual tone throat singing in India.

Oh, and if you mouse over one of the song titles you will get a “message of the moment”.  Sample messages:

“Triumph–umph added to try”

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”

The Mongolian dictionary didn’t go as well. The translation choices are Mongolian-English, English-Mongolian, German-Mongolian, and Russian-Mongolian.  I tried looking up the only two phrases on this page.  The phrase  “burtgegdsen bukh duu” means something like “songs in mp3”, but the dictionary does nothing.  The Cyrillic form of the phrase, Бvртгэгдсэн бvх дуу, goes a little further:

1. Бельгиbelgiumдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah
2. Библи сударbibleдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah
3. Боливиboliviaдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah
4. Бразилиbrazilдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah
5. Британbritian – shine utga oruulah
6. Болгарbulgariaдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah
7. Бирмburmaдуудлага cонсох – shine utga oruulah

That’s still not any of the the words.  All right, how about just “бvх”?  that gets me 30 different words, none of which mean anything.  Now I try “дуу” and get 120 words.  The second meaning however is “2. дуу чимээний, дуу авианы, сонсохын, дуулдцынacoustic“, so I think this is the “audio” part of the phrase.  Maybe that one was too hard.  Let’s try the song title “Улаанбаатарын үдэш” or “Ulaanbaatar evening”.  The first word has to be the place name so the second word must mean evening. but when I plug in the word, it tells me, ” АЛДАА: Та Монгол-Англи гэсэн орчуулгын чиглэлийг сонгоод, хайх vг талбарт Монгол vг оруулсангvй.”  If I’m trying to translate into English, you would think it would give me an English message, but I can only conclude that the thing is very unhappy and that it’s not ready for prime time.

For Bayasgalan Botgon in a larger format, here it is on YouTube:

Posted in music. 4 Comments »