Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tracking the Day's Music with The New Yorker

The October 24th issue of The New Yorker arrived today, always the first thing I look at at the mailbox, before I take anything else out of the cubbyhole and out of the parcel locker. I get news of the contents of the week's magazine in my e-mail, but I skim through it. I always like to see it in print because it's there, immediately accessible. No waiting for anything online.

The most promising issues to me have a review by Nancy Franklin, my favorite TV critic, and a review by Anthony Lane, one of my two favorite film critics (Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly is the other). This issue had both. All it needed to make it potentially perfect was a restaurant review by managing editor Amelia Lester, since she's the best at it. No luck. The review, of St. Anselm in Brooklyn, was by Hannah Goldfield, but now I will be looking for her name in these reviews just as much as Lester, because of a very funny three-quarters of a paragraph about the desserts offered at St. Anselm:

"St. Anselm (with whom Carroll's grandfather shared a name) was a Benedictine monk who made the first ontological argument for the existence of God. St. Anselm's dessert menu makes a less than convincing argument for the existence of a pastry chef. There is little appealing about a half-full jar of peanut butter surrounded by chunks of chocolate (unless, of course, you're stoned), and a plate of marshmallows, strawberries, and crumbled graham crackers drizzled in chocolate sauce looks like what happens when a four-year-old is left alone in a pantry."

Also stocked in this issue was an article about premature births and the methods taken to save babies who are prematurely born, a piece by David Sedaris about summers in the '60s spent on swim teams, and a profile of Jill Abramson, a veteran of The New York Times who was named the new executive editor.

This particular issue also served another purpose. Every day during the week, I have a purple index card next to me on the couch, and whenever I hear music I like on the Spa channel on XM Radio, I write it down and look it up either on YouTube or elsewhere to listen to it more closely and decide if it fits the desert soundtrack I'm creating (More details here:

The XM Radio in the living room was on when I came out after getting up at 11:20 this morning, and the mail came not long after, so I had this issue in front of me, but no purple index card with me. Two at the computer are still not all filled up, so I could have used those, but I didn't feel like getting them. Mom was on the computer anyway.

I had a pen with me for the purpose of circling those names that interest me in the "Contributors" section on page 2 to look up later (Their books especially), the plays that are listed under "The Theatre" that I want to read, if they're published, and anything else that I want to look up later, including references to some books in the Jill Abramson profile.

And then, while circling names in the "Contributors" section, I heard a flute piece that sounded familiar, that I probably had heard before on the Spa channel. I got up to see what it was, and it was, as listed, "The Dreams of Ch", by Shadowfax. I found out just now that the full title is "The Dreams of Children." It seemed like a bit of the desert to me when I heard it on XM. Listening to it now, it's less so, but it conjures up populated desert streets while driving to Henderson from Las Vegas, not far at all, and farmer's markets I've heard about in the area, that I want to go to.

Later, on page 34, in the middle of the piece about premature births, I heard "Fruits of the La" by Shinji Ishihara, very familiar to me. I hear this one at least twice a week on the Spa Channel. The full title, via YouTube, is "Fruits of the Land," and it feels like it fits the view of that ocean of desert seen from the large rock ledge near the Hacienda Hotel and Casino, the rippling of the heat that made it seem like it was coming closer and then receding, much like the actual ocean. Unfortunately, a search on Amazon and on Google reveals no way to download it. I need this in my desert soundtrack.

And so it went, also through page 44 ("Hakusha-Sonso" by Wall Matthews) and page 55 ("Come My Way" by William Aura). There are weeks when "The New Yorker" totally captivates me, and this came close with that first piece, David Sedaris' appearance, and the Jill Abramson profile. It rests on the steps to that Pantheon of New Yorker Perfection because of being right there when I needed space for music.