Nightingale Oboe Reeds

If you play the oboe, you need reeds.  In fact, you need lots of reeds, because the oboe is a double-reed instrument.

But where to go for high-quality reeds if you are a student learning to play the oboe and find yourself in need of reed?  Fortunately, there is now an answer:  Nightingale Oboe Reeds, where you can get wonderful reeds made by somebody who is an exceptional oboist in her own right.  You can even subscribe and get reeds delivered to your doorstep every month.  (And the reedmaker can give you oboe lessons, too.)

How do the reeds sound, you ask?  Well, listen to this terrific piece by Mozart played by the Yellow Book Project, tune in to the oboe, and see if you don’t think those reeds sound great.

John McLaughlin, RIP

John McLaughlin died today.  The long-time host of The McLaughlin Group, he was 89.

I haven’t watched The McLaughlin Group for years, and wasn’t even aware it was still on the air.  However, there was a time, long ago, when The McLaughlin Group was a staple of the Webner household viewing schedule.

220px-mclaughlin_johnIt was the early ’80s, when we lived in Washington, D.C., and everyone we knew ate, slept, and breathed politics.  In those days Reagan was the President and Tip O’Neill was the Speaker of the House, and there was lots to talk about in the political world.  People would actually talk about politics at the workplace, and you needed to watch shows like The McLaughlin Group and Agronsky & Company if you wanted to keep up and make sure you were aware of the latest spin coming from the Ds or the Rs.  We would come home from work on Friday night, catch the shows, and then go on with our weekend.

The McLaughlin Group was different from the other political shows because it was, well, a lot louder than traditional shows like Meet the Press, and it actually tried to be entertaining.  McLaughlin’s trademark catchphrases — like intoning “WRONG!” if a fellow panel member offered an opinion that he disagreed with — seemed fresh and funny and edgy at the time.  But the show often devolved into people arguing with each other, and when Kish and I moved back to Columbus we just stopped watching it.  Here in the heartland, all the insider chit-chat from the likes of Fred Barnes and Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift just seemed a lot less important.

Little did we know that The McLaughlin Group would be a kind of precursor of the ultimate direction of TV news and public affairs shows.  They moved from the boring, sober discussions of the ’60s and ’70s to the more fast-moving, glitzy, and much louder broadcasts of the modern era.  The McLaughlin Group was one of the transitional programs that paved the way for the modern approach — an approach that I think is appalling and bears as much resemblance to true journalism as the “weird trick” health advice you get on the internet bears to legitimate medicine.

I wonder if McLaughlin ever regretted his role in that change.

Kitto Katsu

How does a strawberry maple Kit Kat sound to you?  Or a wasabi Kit Kat?  Or a “butter” Kit Kat?  (Admittedly, I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I don’t care for Kit Kats, but I have to say that the last one sounds especially disgusting.)

dsc02575All of those unusual flavors — and many, many more — are variations of Kit Kat that are available in Japan.  In that land across the Pacific, Kit Kat is one of the most popular candy bars around.  There are about 300 different varieties of the venerable wafer and chocolate bar that you’re supposed to snap apart and share with your friend, and each has its own brightly colored wrapper.  New flavors — like the single stick, dark chocolate, coated in gold leaf Kit Kat that was sold for a short time last December — are developed all the time, too.  Even more strikingly, every region of Japan has its own special flavor of Kit Kat that is sold only in that region.

Why is Kit Kat so popular in Japan?  Well, it’s undoubtedly a classic candy bar, but a lot of the popularity has to do with the name.  Kit Kat sounds a lot like kitto katsu, which is Japanese for “surely win” — an expression of good luck.  When Japanese schoolchildren are getting ready to take their tough, make-or-break college entrance exams, they can expect to get a supply of Kit Kats as exercises in positive thinking from their family and friends.

But purple sweet potato Kit Kats?  I guess it’s the thought that counts.