Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Floating Minion

So I was walking down Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena one day and I noticed something floating aimlessly in the sky near a cellphone tower.  At first I thought it might be a distant helicopter.  Then I realized . . .

It was a balloon in the shape of a minion - those goggley-eyed yellow twinkie-shaped sidekicks from some heart-warming animated movie or other.  Because it was filled with helium it floated aimlessly on the air currents.  Helpless.  We can all relate to that.

Somewhere, I surmised, there was a small child who was disconsolate - bawling his or her little eyes out and being told by its parent that they had been told not to let go of the string and no I'm not going to buy you another one.  Easy to relate to that as well.

Google reveals that minions are not to be confused with minyans.  It would take 10 minions to have a minion minyan.  Try Googling "anti-semitic minion" and you'll find some people with strange ideas who are not amused by minions.  One has to wonder if every possible word is paired with the adjective "anti-semitic" somewhere on the Internet.

Anyway . . . as this particular mylar minion meandered past I captured it on video. You can see some trees and traffic lights and a few birds.  Those are the San Gabriel mountains in the distance.  After a minute and a half the poor thing passed out of sight for good.  No doubt it eventually was caught on some electrical lines and caused a power outage; one last bit of evil - and an honorable death - for the floating minion balloon..  I've added some aimless floating music to its aimless bobbing and weaving.  Enjoy.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Toy Drum (Summer 1953)

Few people remember that I began my musical career as a percussionist.  In fact, even I had forgotten this fact until just recently.

I was reminded of this when I had a pile of old family home movies converted to video.  These date from the late 40s, when my father must have purchased a 16mm camera, to the early 60s, when - given my absence in the action - I must have been old enough to be entrusted with the role of cameraman.

If these videos prove anything, it's that I am descended from a long line of cinematographically challenged ancestors.  Exposure is random and framing is laughable.  There are countless shots of people without heads.  Also occasionally heads without bodies.  No sound of course.  Lots of classic home-movie embarrassed movement.

Here's a photo of one of thsee film reels and the box it came in - this one is labeled only "Summer 1953".    It says Kodachrome Daylight Type Double 8mm Magazine - which held a whopping 25 feet of film.

The transferred video has 3 minutes and 48 seconds of nostalgic action.  I appear the most often - making me the nearly 2-year old star.  Well, I was cute, wasn't I?  There are also shots of my parents, my Grandmother and Great Aunt Kate, my uncles Ben and Carl and Carl's wife, my Aunt Esther.  (I had two Aunt Esthers.  How many did you have?)

Fear not, brave Mixed Meters reader.  I am not posting the entire video for you to endure.  I have excerpted a few scenes.  The first is an unusually high quality shot of  me with my parents outside their apartment in Sioux City Iowa.   Here's a still.

(The brick apartment building and the wooden one behind it are still visible in Google maps.  Pan the street view shot to the left and you can see my eventual high school - complete with stone turrets - up the slight hill.)

The other shots in this following video show me with what was apparently my first musical instrument - a cute little toy drum and cymbal combo supported by a neck strap.  And I appear to be having a great time banging away at it.  Yes, I was the center of attention when I was hitting that drum.  Ah, lost youth.  Cute and talented!

In the last scene you'll notice a huge drop in video quality.  It was very underexposed, almost solid black.  I adjusted it as best I could because I wanted to include the final frame of the film - my father, looking plaintively at the camera and covering his ear with his hand, as if to say "Take the drum away from the boy, please."   Or maybe he was unhappy being pigeonholed in conversation by my Uncle Carl, whose suit-coated wrist can just barely be seen.

Oh.  I also added some music and titles to the video in a futile attempt to enhance the home movie experience.  You should prepare yourself in coming blog posts for more blasts like this one from my early history and even pre-history.

Here's an early MM post about my Mother and Ronald Reagan - and her last pack of cigarettes.
Here's an MM post called My Mother, My Worm.
Music in Sioux City, Iowa?  Here's a post called Me and Mahler, Me and Iowa (there's a picture of me and my Dad)
You could also read Forty Years in California - there's another pic of me with my Father.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Most Iconic Image of California

Quick! Pick an image you think best portrays "Southern California."  We're looking for a single shot that says it all.

You might have chosen the Hollywood sign.  Or maybe an inviting, curvaceous, nearly-nude young woman sitting on a pristine sandy beach while hunky guys surf near their Woody, which is parked in the distance.  Or a self-involved conspicuously aging big shot lawyer (or businessman or actor) with Donald Trump colored hair obliviously driving an expensive car, ignoring stop lights and pedestrians, and talking on a cell phone.

If you're a Republican (yes, we still have a few of those in California) maybe you think a picture of Ronald Reagan orating in front of the Stars and Stripes still says everything which needs to be said, all in a single picture.

Okay, not many Republicans read Mixed Meters, so that last one was a just a joke.  And the other images are only imaginary; they don't really exist except in the movies.  And movies, I'm sad to report, are not even close to being real.  Even Ronald Reagan knew that.

I've known for many years exactly which image I would pick to epitomize life in SoCal.  Just recently I had my first chance to actually take a decent photo of the object in question.  The locale was a new light-rail station in Azusa.

While I admit that this object may not be unique to this area, it reeks of cheap theme parks or cheesy B-movie special effects.  Both of those say 'Southern California' quite well.

This thing imitates nature.  It does that very badly.  It might be better to say that it defies nature.  It employs all the architectural panache of a sleazy strip mall, another Southern Cal speciality.

Its purpose is to whitewash essential infrastructure, hiding it from our consciousness behind a facade which is always in plain sight.

We find this thing acceptable, I guess, because it facilitates our modern lifestyle.  It's high-tech.  It brings people together.  It gives a strong signal to all the idiots with bad hair color who text while driving.

Have you guessed it yet?

Yes, it's a cell phone tower disguised as a palm tree.   Welcome to the silly side of SoCal.

I wonder what, exactly, they were thinking in Azusa when they approved this.  Maybe: "We need to put up a tall cell tower so people can Instagram and Twitter.  Let's disguise it to look like a cheap plastic palm tree and, after a while, maybe no one will notice that's it's not real."

Cell phone towers apparently go hand in hand with palm trees around here.  I've found two cell phone tower and palm tree combos close to my home in Pasadena, about 20 miles from Azusa.

The first shows a cell phone tower disguised as a . . . cell phone tower.  It's not really a disguise but it is ugly.  It's near a palm.  It's also right behind a super sleazy strip mall.

In the second one the horribly thick flag pole is the cell tower.  It's nestled amid palms in front of a church.  The little hut in the foreground holds electronic equipment.  I guess Ronald Reagan was giving a speech elsewhere when I snapped that picture.

Personally, I think neither of these offer that much improvement over the fake palm tree.  Looking at these things is the aesthetic price we all pay to keep your smart phone connected anyplace you go.

Just imagine what beautiful or curious or bizarre sculptures which could be built to beautify cell phone towers.   Modern sculpture might be too controversial.  How about a giraffe?  Maybe a 50-foot tyrannosaurus rex?  (Note the proximity of palm trees.)

We could make our cell phone towers into huge sculptures of our famous citizens and civic leaders.   Such huge human forms have a tradition already.  They're called Muffler Men.  Cities could honor their leading citizens by turning them into cell phone towers.

Maybe a sculpture of Will Rogers holding a lariat looking back at us while we text?  Gracie Allen?  Tom Bradley?  Cezar Chavez?  Sally Ride came from Southern California.  Dr. Dre?  Cal Worthington?

And, in reality, all of them would be hiding cell phone antennae for our personal convenience.

God forbid, Ronald Reagan could become a huge plastic immovable object, gracing our skyline somewhere, his guts filled with electronics, spewing an endless stream of tweets and Facebook posts, saying things that others people wrote but doing it with great feeling and empathy.  Republicans could make pilgrimages.

Now, that is a single picture which would speak volumes about Southern California.

Maybe it would even be too much information.

They have cell phone towers disguised as palm trees in other states too, apparently.  Here's 25 pictures of cell phone towers disguised as all sorts of things.

Most palm trees are not native to California.  Neither are most of the people.  Here's a California palm history. (palmistry?)

Friday, March 11, 2016

On Flowers

On Flowers is my new video.  It's less than 90 seconds long.  I'm trying not to tax your attention span with long pieces. I'm saving those for the future.

The music is quiet, lots of noodling piano, perfect for that spare moment in your day when you want to escape your otherwise harried life.  Please don't watch or listen while operating heavy machinery.

The video imagery features our six-legged winged friends feasting on nectar from purple flowers at the Huntington Gardens, here in Pasadena.  The people going to and fro in the background were more interested, no doubt, in seeing Pinky.

On Flowers by David Ocker - © 2016 by David Ocker - 87 seconds

This is the 31st music video I've ever posted to YouTube.  All of them are in one place if you're curious.  Here's an oldie you might like, called Lilypad.  The subject of Lilypad is goldfish.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Alberto Ginastera Performs Live - February 2016

Last week the Los Angeles Times interrupted its continuous coverage of the Academy Awards to run a Mark Swed review of a recent Los Angeles Philharmonic concert.  The program was all-American (unless you refuse to accept something written by a Argentinian composer as American).  It was anchored by an old Aaron Copland chestnut and included a non-film score and a piece by a native of Modesto.

The Phil will repeat the same program on tour in Europe.  Swed enthused that "Dudamel prepared to inject a dose of L.A.'s brash, even reckless, attitude toward the cautiously conservative classical music establishment."  Look out Europe, L.A. is really gonna rock your world.

Swed's review text, however, failed to mention the most interesting part.  You had to read the caption of a picture found only on an inside page of the print edition to learn this tidbit.  Here's the picture.  Click it to see it larger.  Can you spot the big news?

Yes, Alberto Ginastera will be performing his own piano concerto.  That's remarkable because Alberto passed away in 1983.  Not only is the Philharmonic shaking up the cautiously conservative establishment half a world away, they're now able to bring musicians back from the dead.  Is there nothing they can't do?  I'm very impressed.  Imagine how impressed the Europeans will be.

And it must be true because I read it in the Los Angeles Times.

There is precedent for post-mortem performers, however.  In 2008 Mixed Meters was surprised to read about a live performance by pianist Art Tatum.  Except this was in a paid advertisement in the New York Times, not an actual review.  Tatum, who died in 1956, had been dead even longer than Ginastera.

Mistakes in captions are, I'm sure, part and parcel of modern newspaper budget cutbacks.

Here's another example I clipped from the L.A. Times many years ago.  Apparently they published this on March 17, 2002 because this article is on the back of the paper.  I'm surprised to discover that I have never posted it to Mixed Meters.

Can you spot the error this time?

Yes, the man is playing a contrabass, not a cello.  Duh.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

More Musical Product Names

Yes, it's another installment of the longest running Mixed Meters silly obsession: pictures of products or companies which use musical terms in their names.   Believe it or not, this is Number Ten in the series.  (Click here to see them all.)

Yeah, some of these are stretching the point.  I am unapologetic.  Click a picture for a close-up.

This time around we start with a viewfinder for a writer who makes a living creating music and follow that with a small boneless meat flute.  Yum.  Then two musical performance techniques - one for eating on a harp, the other for groups of singers who need a place to live.

Part two begins with a cold, diary-based sequence of musical tones, followed by a shorter sequence used for interior design.  There are two variations on simultaneous groups of notes, one if you're having ear, nose and throat problems, the other for coloring the tips of your fingers.  Either a high female singer or some words in a song will sartorially leave you in stitches.

Part two ends with a two-fer: a master of achieving exactly the right frequency on a mobile musical instrument.

Part three is all drinkable.

We begin with a hot caffeinated liquid which will make you sing Hallelujah.  (This was submitted by an alert Mixed Meters' reader, the diving composer Jeff Laity.  That's a first.  Thanks Jeff.)

This is followed by a health conscious operatic showpiece for women, one which first needs to be mixed with water.  Next there's a lemon of a grand opera wearing a winged helmet and a fruity rhyming South American dance.  Then a winey high-pitched string instrument and a study piece translated into Spanish.

We end, as always, with some fast, dry bubbly.  Drink up.  As they say in old Mexico, L'Chaim.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

With Extra Butter and Naughty Last Movement

With Extra Butter and Naughty Last Movement are the titles of two new 30 Second Spots.  If you don't know what the heck I mean when I say "30 Second Spot" you might want to read more about 30 Second Spots.  (It's a really old post.)  Since I started working on The Seasons more than 4 years ago I've written very few new spots.  That makes this post sort of an occasion for me.

With Extra Butter and Naughty Last Movement started out as a single piece.  That ur-piece kept getting longer and longer.  It was getting close to two minutes!  I noticed that I had created two unrelated sections.  So I severed them like a musical Ben Carson separating conjoined twins.  I doubt that qualifies me to be a Republican presidential candidate either.

With Extra Butter and Naughty Last Movement both have unhelpful titles.  Do not attempt to relate music and title.   One of these titles was selected in the classical 30 Second Spot manner - an overheard phrase; in this case it was on television rather than at a Starbucks.  The other title was selected in the current Mixed Messages manner, using a random phrase generator.  I'll let you guess which is which.

With Extra Butter and Naughty Last Movement aren't terribly interesting.  Expect no transcendent meanings, elegant harmonies or beautiful melodies.  There are no revealing formal structures, virtuosic performances or clever twisted endings.   These are simple pleasant brief quiet musical moments for piano.  They will take less time to listen to than it has taken you to read these paragraphs of exegesis.

Click here to hear Naughty Last Movement by David Ocker   -   © 2016 David Ocker - 49 seconds

Click here to hear With Extra Butter by David Ocker   -   © 2016 David Ocker - 44 seconds

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter 2012 (short version)

If you don't know about my on-going composition project The Seasons then this post might lean towards the obtuse. Sorry. There's no time for any but the most cursory explanations right now.  My goal is to do 3 new Mixed Meters posts per month.  This is the third for January; yet another "Last Day of the Month"-er.

I'm now composing the seventeenth season of The Seasons.  That would be the first season of the fifth year.  It's called Winter 2015.  The very first season was Winter 2011.

Each season has two versions, long and short. The long versions have silences separating the bits of music.  There's one bit o'music for each day.  The short versions have no silences but identical music. You can find all completed long versions here on Mixed Meters.  Until now I only posted short versions beginning with Mantra (Spring 2013, short version).

A few days ago, out on my walk, I set my iPad to shuffle play. It decided that I needed to listen to Winter 2012 (short version).  It had been some time since I'd played it.  And I enjoyed it.  I usually enjoy listening to my old music if I don't do it too often.  Sometimes, however, it depresses me.  I figured this piece was good enough to post.  Plus, it would make an easy third post for January.

After Winter 2011, the very first season, I tried different schemes for musical unification.  In Winter 2012 there is a 12-tone row used throughout.  There are no other serial techniques; it's just a kind of melody with all twelve pitches that pops up from time to time.  For the following season, Spring 2013, I figured out how to make the daily bits link together metrically.  I've been using that technique ever since.

In Winter 2012 (short version) the musical bits vary considerably in their musical style.  The shifts can be surprising.  Hearing it now reminded me of John Zorn's For Your Eyes Only which is filled with musical quick-cuts and stylistic changes.  I wasn't aware of the Zorn piece until several years after I wrote Winter 2012.  And, of course, my piece does has no movie references.

Anyway . . .

Click here to hear Winter 2012 (short version) by David Ocker -    © 2013 David Ocker, 889 seconds

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Harp of Life

Today, January 27, 2015, would have been Arthur Jarvinen's 60th birthday. It's been over five years since Art chose to take his final bow.  His decision left a lot of baffled and befuddled friends, family and colleagues behind.  He is missed.

Saxophonist and composer Eric Barber was a friend and colleague of Art Jarvinen.  And, for a while, his student.  Last fall Eric released a solo saxophone album entitled Harp of Life in Art's memory.  Here's the cover:

Eric provided this description of the album from his Bandcamp page:
This music is a tribute to my friend, mentor, and teacher Art Jarvinen. The years we spent together eating, playing, and discussing greatly influenced my musical approach and vocabulary. After his untimely passing in 2010, I began composing the music for this project. I think Art would appreciate the music, the meticulous dedication to the recording process, and the utter lack of any marketing potential or financial return on a multi tracked solo saxophone album. I miss him and will always remember the wonderful times we shared and all that he taught me.
Eric's precise order of "eating, playing and discussing" amuses me greatly.  Any friend of Art's will understand those priorities.  Via email Eric expanded on his relationship to Art:
I studied composition with Art for two years at CalArts (97-99) and he basically turned me on to everything good... Beefheart, Rweski, Feldman, Zappa. We had a duo called We Are Not Mailmen which was acoustic sax and his electronics setup. Our band Balkanova with Randy Gloss, Milen Kirov, and John Heitzenrater was a twisted Bulgarian gypsy wedding band with Art on bass, and we played a bunch of his originals too. And I had a trio with him with Art on drums, Scot Ray on trombone and Hammond. And I played a few cuts on Invisible Guy. Most of this was between 1999 and 2004. And we had a lot of Thai food, sea bass, and saunas along with all the Halloweenie fests and pig roasts. He really was like an uncle.

Harp of Life has six tracks - all for various combinations of tenor and soprano saxophones.  The tracks are entitled:
  1. Harp of Life (circa 2167 AD)
  2. The Folly of Primes (Libyan Fox Trot)
  3. Repose
  4. Simantronica
  5. 49 Halves of 14 (circa 2167 AD)
  6. Sabotage (via ledgerdemain)
I sensed allusions to Jarvinen in these titles.

For example Simantronica is clearly a reference to the East European musical instrument (similar to a piece of lumber) called the Simantron.  Art was expert on all things simantronic.  He wrote this article about it.   Here's a short lo-res video of Art using a simantron to call his dinner guests to begin consuming a whole roast pig.  There are no simantrons in Eric Barber's Simantronica; it is for 3 soprano and 3 tenor saxophones.

I asked Eric what the other Jarvinen references in his titles might be.  He wrote:
Yes the titles do [refer to Art] but are not based on his music necessarily. Folly of Primes (Libyan Fox Trot) is a nod to Art's Egyptian Two Step.  49 Halves of 14 is a nod to A Conspiracy of Crows.  Harp of Life is inspired by the Hymn string quartet he wrote that was performed at his memorial.  Sabotage has a relationship to Breaking the Chink, which I got to play at CalArts as a student and was my entree to Art.
Eric added that Harp of Life is a reference to composer Henry Cowell who also wrote a piece of that title.  (Here it is on YouTube.)   While you're at it you can hear Egyptian Two Step (listen carefully for the bursts of air at the beginning) and Conspiracy of Crows.

More to the point, you can hear Eric Barber's Harp of Life on Bandcamp.   Better yet, you can purchase the whole album for the outrageously reasonable price of $7.  Talk about the utter lack of financial return.

The opening cut, Harp of Life, begins with several minutes of mournful solo tenor.  You might mistake this for the beginning of a jazz tune and expect a piano, bass and drums to enter.  Nope.  After this invocation Barber introduces a simple ostinato pattern taken up by more saxes.  The music with rich harmonies evokes a church hymn.  The relationship to Jarvinen's music is much more than in name only. Solos over the pattern search higher and higher for meaning.  

Barber's music on this album comes from the world of minimalism - often with multiple contrapuntal lines fusing into textures.  Much of the music is rhythmic but without an overall sense of meter.  As a composer Barber has an excellent feel for just the right moment to add bits of new material.

The piece Repose uses a muliple sopranos glissandoing in a narrow range.  You can hear difference tones being produced.  It would probably be devastating done live.

My favorite piece is 49 Halves of 14 (circa 2167 AD). This consists only of a series of complex chords, almost clusters, held for various lengths of time, separated by silences.  There is a great sense of anticipation.  You're forced to listen, to wait, because you never know when that next chord will explode, interrupt.

I agree wholeheartedly with Eric's statement "I think Art would appreciate the music."  And I commend Eric Barber for producing a well-crafted artistically challenging album.  He called it a "labor of love".

One way of honoring Art Jarvinen's memory is to play his music.  Another is to let Art's memory inspire us to make new music.  That's a very good thing and something Art would certainly have understood and approved.

There are many Mixed Meters articles about Art Jarvinen and his music.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winning the Lottery in 1984

Today's Powerball Lottery is worth one and half billion dollars, the biggest jackpot ever.  I bought my tickets.  Of course, I'm not going to win  -- and neither are you.  Buying a ticket doesn't change the chances of not winning. You have a nearly identical chance to not win if you don't buy a ticket as you do if you buy some.  Either way, you'll lose.  I guarantee it.

They say "the lottery is a tax on people who don't understand mathematics".  Here's a website that convinces me that I don't understand mathematics.  I say "Screw math.  The fantasy of a big win is worth a few bucks."  I enjoy immersing myself in the occasional delusion of sudden, unlimited wealth.

I wonder how big the jackpot would have to be before Bill Gates or Warren Buffet purchased tickets.  And if someone who was already obscenely wealthy won another billion dollars in the lottery, how long would it take for people to start believing that the lottery is rigged.

I'm reading George Orwell's 1984.  I read it once when I was much younger, before the year 1984.  Orwell seems to have accurately predicted some annoying features of our society.   He was even better at describing life today in North Korea.

Here's a passage that seems relevant.  Our hero, Winston Smith, resident of Oceania and member of the INGSOC party, has taken a walk in the bad part of London, the part of town where the lower-class proles live, a place where Winston is not really supposed to go:
     In an angle formed by a projecting house-front three men were standing very close together, the middle one of them holding a folded-up newspaper which the other two were studying over his shoulder.  Even before he was near enough to make out the expression on their faces, Winston could see absorption in every line of their bodies.  It was obviously some serious piece of news that they were reading.  He was a few paces away from them when suddenly the group broke up and two of the men were in violent altercation.  For a moment they seemed almost on the point of blows.
     "Can’t you bleeding well listen to what I say?  I tell you no number ending in seven ain’t won for over fourteen months!"
     "Yes, it ’as, then!"
     "No, it ’as not! Back ’ome I got the ’ole lot of ’em for over two years wrote down on a piece of paper. I takes ’em down reg’lar as the clock.  An’ I tell you, no number ending in seven -- "
     "Yes, a seven ‘as won! I could pretty near tell you the bleeding number.  Four oh seven, it ended in. It were in February -- second week in February."
     "February your grandmother!  I got it all down in black and white. An’ I tell you, no number -- "
     "Oh, pack it in!" said the third man.
     They were talking about the Lottery.  Winston looked back when he had gone thirty meters.  They were still arguing, with vivid, passionate faces.  The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention.  It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive.  It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory.  There was a whole tribe of men who made a living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets.  Winston had nothing to do with the running of the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary.  Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being non-existent persons.  In the absence of any real intercommunication between one part of Oceania and another, this was not difficult to arrange.
"The absence of any real intercommunication"  Orwell predicted that truth was something which could be controlled.  Of course Orwell didn't predict the Internet.  Nor could he predict that the Internet would enhance the absence of intercommunication.

If you can imagine that you're in Australia, 1984 might be available to read online.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kumquat Martini Season

Here's a picture of our dog Chowderhead contemplating the kumquat bush in the driveway.

Kumquats are among the few foods Chowder doesn't like.  He does sometimes help out by watering the bush - in his fashion

As you can see we have a good deal of fruit this year and that fruit has been ripening nicely.  Experience has revealed that if I pick them in large quantity they'll go to waste inside.  So, instead, I leave them on the bush as long as possible.  That way I can enjoy a few freshly picked bursts of citrus each time I walk by.

Yes, I like kumquats.  I'm like the dog in one respect; there are very few foods I don't care for, but our opinions about kumquats differ.

And I am the reason we even have a kumquat bush.  Leslie planted it.  She has occasionally attempted to grow certain plants simply because I like the produce.  She herself doesn't care for kumquats any more than the dog does.  She planted it for me.  The kumquats have been a great success.  Not so great successes have included strawberries and blueberries, those are both ill-suited to our climate.

One thing I've acquired a taste for as I've grown older is martinis.  I noticed that these always tasted better to me in restaurants than when I made them at home.  So I set out to make a better martini.

To this end, several years ago, I took an informal martini making lesson from composer Bill Kraft.  Bill makes a great drink.  I've experimented with his method and lately my recipe has formalized.

I realize that tastes and dogmas vary when it comes to cocktails.  This is just how I do it.  If this doesn't sound good to you, at least you'll know not to ask me to make one for you.

Mix together:
  • 4.5 ounces (3 shots) of gin (Lately I've been enamored of 114-proof Few gin.  It's potent stuff.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vermouth (Yep, this is a dry martini.  I try to ignore Tom Lehrer's recipe: "Hearts full of youth, Hearts full of truth, Six parts gin to one part vermouth.")
  • A dash or two of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters (you might already have McCormick Orange Extract in your spice cabinet.  That'll work too.)
  • Crushed Ice  
Shake well.

Pour into a super-chilled martini glass.  I use a wine goblet from my Grandmother's etched pink depression stemware set.  My Grandmother was not a martini drinker.  The small size of this glass determines the quantity of gin in the recipe.

Garnish with two or three fresh-picked kumquats.  (In the off-season I settle for green olives.)

Drink up.  After all 'tis the season.  Best wishes for a prosperous new year to all three of my readers and everyone else as well.

The resulting libation looks something like this:

I've been using Carpano Antic Formula vermouth, a strongly-flavored dark-colored liquid.  I selected this brand mostly because it came in a small bottle.  I had been told that vermouths get old once the bottles are opened and you can well imagine that I don't go through the stuff very quickly.  I've started keeping it in the fridge to prolong its life.  I'll try another brand next time.

Listen to the source of Tom Lehrer's martini recipe: