If you like books and/or breakfast, come to the Alumni Authors Meet and Greet on Sunday, October 15 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. In Stanford’s Arrillaga Alumni Center lobby, you can enjoy a continental breakfast, browse and buy books from a variety of Stanford alums, and even chat with writers (including yours truly). Since I will be boarding a VTA 22 bus at an ungodly hour to arrive there, the thought of a few friendly faces would cheer me immensely. You’ll be on campus anyway, so why not go? See you then!
(Confidential side note to my beloved San Jose Sharks: I will be attending your game against the Islanders the night before this event. Please have mercy on my nerves. Thank you.)
I’d always assumed that this 2004 track by A.C. Newman (previously known to Zumpano fans as Carl Newman) was a miniature New Pornographers side project. Turns out I was only half right. While the band’s John Collins did produce the record, the female vocals are performed (with aplomb!) by Sarah Wheeler, not Neko Case. At any rate, the minor turns and strangely foreboding piano lines brilliantly offset the loping melody and lovely harmonies.
As Hollywood occupied itself with the Emmy Awards last Sunday, San Francisco feverishly prepared for a different ceremony. Each year, the Good Food Awards honors artisanally-made American food products that exhibit high standards of taste and ethical, sustainable manufacturing practices. Chocolate committee chair Sunita de Tourreil (founder of Palo Alto’s amazing The Chocolate Garage) sought volunteer help for the weekend’s operations. So, bright and early, I headed to the Mission District’s Impact Hub coworking space, finding it transformed into a buzzing food mecca for the day.
I settled in to my duties as a chocolate bar chopper, getting up close and personal with the day’s nominees before arranging the chocolate squares onto numbered plates for the judges’ tasting flights. The chocolate itself was often patterned with logos or designs, but these had to be turned face-down so as not to reveal anything to the market-savvy judges! Likewise, we were not to show any bar packaging in personal photos to be posted (such as the one above). While the often gorgeous boxes and wraps would entice me as a consumer, they annoyed me as someone who had to get the chocolate denuded and diced in a hurry. (The worst offenders were the bars in cardboard boxes with adhesive stickers sealing them shut. They would be Christmas in September for some lucky person in a store, but not for me in a work kitchen.) Roughly 80 percent of the entries were dark chocolates, with milks, dark milks, white chocolates, and inclusion bars (that is, bars with nuts or other ingredients added) rounding out the mix. I vowed I wasn’t going to sample any wares, but naturally my resolve wore down as the day wore on. (Since I have an entire chapter devoted to the Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival in Going Coastal, I should have known myself better.) Normally I’m a dark-chocolate purist, but perhaps it was palate fatigue that had me enjoying two inclusion bars best : the Browned Butter bar from Portland, Oregon’s Creo Chocolate, and the Bananas Foster bar from Brooklyn’s Raaka. (Speaking of palate cleansing, I learned a trick that will be useful for those organizing chocolate tastings in the future. We supplied the judges with bland crackers and slices of baguette, but kind souls at the confectionery tasting table informed us that slices of jicama clear the palate more effectively. They were right. Who knew?)
Eventually, the 150 chocolates were narrowed to sixteen (as I recall) finalists. Who won, you ask? No one will know until the awards ceremony in January, since all high scorers have to be vetted for ethical production practices before the results are finalized. I’m really curious to learn who won, since I know the judging could not have been easy! It was an honor to participate (even in such a small way), and I’ll enjoy seeing what the Good Food Awards have to offer in the future.
My penchant for Neil Finn‘s music is no secret, and when older brother Tim Finn is involved, so much the better. As much as I enjoy the siblings’ classic Split Enz and Crowded House sides, my favorite is “Angels Heap” from their 1995 debut as a duo. (In Australia and New Zealand, both band and album are called Finn, while elsewhere they’re known as Finn Brothers. Go figure. I’m still shaking my head over all that London Suede business that I refused to acknowledge a couple of posts ago, so I’m not one to ask about regional differences in nomenclature.) The spare arrangement and spellbinding harmonies play off each other gorgeously. “Angels Heap” doesn’t demand your attention, but will have it over and over again.
Nine miles north of Santa Cruz, you’ll find the town of Davenport. This hamlet is famous for its art, hand-blown glass, whale sightings, and a thriving family-run bakery and cafe. In “Sweet Success in Whale City,” found on page 40 of the Summer/Fall 2017 issue of Santa Cruz Style, I interview Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill manager Kristen Raugust. He traces the bakery’s evolution from 1970s mini-mart to longtime Davenport fixture, and explains how a family of artists became restaurateurs. Free print copies are available throughout Santa Cruz County here. The online edition appears here.
Here’s a classic track by former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock’s other punk-era band, Rich Kids (also featuring future Ultravox singer Midge Ure). People tend to lament what might have been when discussing Rich Kids, since the band had only one UK Top 40 single in 1978. “Ghosts of Princes in Towers” was not that hit, which astounds me. The song begins in classic mod fashion before the guitars careen and lurch into a soaring vocal. Then the Kids take it to the bridge, the bridge! Ahh…
I vaguely remember reading a Stanford Daily interview with Suede lead singer Brett Anderson during my freshman year. He asked the interviewer if she knew who Chris Bell was. Anderson told her that the band loved Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos” enough to cover it as the B-side of an early single. I’ve been searching in vain for the Suede version ever since, and have never seen it mentioned anywhere. (Why didn’t I ask someone at the Daily, or for that matter, KZSU? Why didn’t I write to one of the UK music magazines for the answer years ago?) It may have been a different Britpop band altogether, but I remember the whole thing sounding just incongruous enough to be perfect. If you know, please post a comment!
Anyway, on to the song at hand. I’ve always been partial to the Bernard Butler era of Suede, and his scouring yet slinky guitar lines here are downright glorious. Throw in some handclaps and the brilliant line “Oh Dad, she’s driving me mad!”…well, just try to resist. I dare you!