An Uncomfortable Topic

Today is Garten Markt Day in German Village.  It brings a lot of people to the Village to look at some of the goods for sale.

The crowds also attracted two people who had the tags that identify them as designated sellers of Street Speech, the newspaper published by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.  They stationed themselves on opposite sides of Third Street near the German Village Society building, and when Kasey and I walked past one asked me for a donation.

street_speechI often contribute to the Coalition news sellers and never take a paper.  In my experience, they are good people who are unfailingly friendly and polite, whether you decide to make a contribution or not.  This time, too, I stopped and gave one of the sellers a dollar, wished him a good day and, as usual, declined a paper.

When I was walking back a few minutes later the Coalition person was leaning against a fence, talking on his cell phone.  Wait a minute, I thought.  A cell phone?

Maybe I’m just an ignorant, inconsiderate jerk who is totally out of the mainstream of thought on this, but having a cell phone and paying cell phone bills and charges seems inconsistent with the premise that a person is at the point of needing to be a registered vendor for the Coalition for the Homeless to make a few bucks selling their newspaper.  Seeing the guy chatting away on his iPhone was a bit jarring to me.

I’m not saying that homeless people need to be shoeless and look like they’re starving before they can reasonably peddle newspapers on a street corner.  It would be good news indeed if our neediest people in this country all can afford warm clothes and cell phones and their own data plans, and perhaps I just need to trust the Coalition for the Homeless to give those identification tags only to people who are truly needy.  But boy — if I were in charge I would tell the street vendors to put away the cell phones until their shifts are over.  I think it sends a really mixed message.

Seeking Help On The Grilliousity Front

When we sold our house in New Albany in November 2014, we got rid of our old outdoor grill.  It made sense, because we were moving into a rental place for a few weeks while we were getting our new house ready and our grill was a 20-year-old Weber kettle that had served us well but was starting to show some serious signs of age.

Last summer, we were grill-free.  With everything else that was going on, I just didn’t get around to buying a replacement grill.

544fc96bc51f0_one-touch-original-22This year, though, I have an itch to get a grill and do some outdoor cooking in the backyard that we enjoy so much.  As last year’s interregnum reflects, though, I’m not one of those guys who prides himself on his grilling talents and counts outdoor cooking as one of the core foundational elements of his being.  I enjoy grilling out mostly because I really like the taste of food cooked fresh on a grill and served piping hot.  I like to mess around with sauces of my own devising when Kish and I are the only guinea pigs for my creative efforts, but mostly I stick to basic burgers, hot dogs, brats, chicken and the occasional steak.  And I’ve always gone with actual charcoal, not propane or one of the other options, because I’m admittedly anal about risk and I would always be nervous that I haven’t properly hooked up the gas tank or shut it off properly.

I’ve started to look around for a grill, but there are so many choices on the internet the decision seems almost overwhelming.  I’m leaning toward a new charcoal-fueled Weber kettle, because that’s what I know and it would make the decision a heck of a lot easier.  I’m curious, though, about any recommendations or thoughts on alternatives.

I’m not really interested in one of those huge grilling stations, with fold-back lids and multiple levels and metal tops to each side and hooks where you can hang dozens of grilling implements, because our back yard is small and my grilling efforts aren’t robust enough to justify that kind of investment.  If you’ve got that kind of complex set-up, you need to be doing more than flipping an occasional burger.  I’m thinking of something smaller, and I’m interested in getting some feedback on the charcoal versus gas issue.  Any thoughts that could help to satisfy my grilliousity would be welcome.

I Got A Kick Against Modern Jazz

steve-lehman-octet-2014-press-650x400Last night Kish and I and our friends the Soon-To-Be-Someone’s-In-Laws went to the Wexner Center Performance Space for a performance of the Steve Lehman Octet.  The group is a heralded new force on the jazz scene and is headed by Steve Lehman, a composer and saxophonist.  At the performance, I learned that even where every one of the members of a group is obviously an incredibly accomplished musician, capable of doing extraordinary things with their instrument, they can produce music that just isn’t to my liking.

The SLO has released two albums that have been as widely acclaimed as jazz recordings can be.  A Wall Street Journal article about them described the music as follows:

“The octet has a mesmerizing sound. Shimmering harmonies are densely layered, but in a way that seems transparent. There is a three-dimensionality to it that makes it seem as if there are many different lines being played at once, yet the music is surprisingly coherent. The rhythms are fluid and catchy.”

At last night’s performance, I got the densely layered part, and the three-dimensionality, because there definitely were instruments playing discrete pieces that looked to combine into a whole.  But the “catchy rhythms” part I missed.  The music was interesting and had a certain power, but as I observed to Mr. STBSIL I didn’t walk out whistling a tune that had been performed.  Instead, it seemed like the musicians were more interested in probing the outer boundaries of sounds that could be produced by their instruments, alone and in combination.  The result was just too inaccessible and discordant to my uneducated ear.

The fault obviously must be mine, because the Steve Lehman Octet gets accolades from every quarter.  I like a lot of jazz, and I found myself wishing that the group, and other modern jazz groups, would try to play more tuneful music, a la Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and early Miles Davis, that wouldn’t make me work so freaking hard.  Of course, that’s selfish, because I’m sure that gifted musicians want to push the envelope of the instruments and their sound and their own capabilities.

The sweet spot is hit, though, only when the composer and players’ desire to press forward into new territory intersects with the sensibilities of even the less sophisticated members of the audience — and not every musician is aiming for that sweet spot.