Mark Lanegan

I was saddened to read a few weeks ago that Mark Lanegan had died. The Screaming Trees were a huge part of my cliched-but-true grunge-fueled musical awakening, and I’d happily (but a bit gloomily, if I’m honest) consumed the scattered bits of material he released over the past couple decades. Solo material (especially Whiskey For The Holy Ghost; “Borracho” is among my favourite songs of all time, alongside the Trees’ “Julie Paradise”), collaborations with the likes of Isobel Campbell and Duke Garwood, and so on. His voice affected me in a way few could.

Reading this article, I realized that I never actually listened to his influential 1990 solo album The Winding Sheet. Nor did I realize Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic played on it, including on a cover of Lead Belly‘s “In the Pines” (aka “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) which Nirvana then recorded for their MTV Live album. So there’s a weekend project then. I’m glad I’ll get to discover something from him once again, even after so many years.

Ukraine

I am watching Chernobyl (imdb | rotten tomatoes) again, probably because Russian troops decided to fire huge guns at a Ukranian nuclear facility several times larger than the afore-mentioned one whose reactor exploded in 1986. Great idea, Russia. Why not flirt with global catastrophe whilst carrying out an illegal invasion?

I must say, while re-watching it, a line in the script from Scherbina struck me, given the current situation:

“This is what has always set our people apart. A thousand years of sacrifice in our veins. And every generation must know its own suffering. I spit on the people who did this, and I curse the price I have to pay. But I’m making my peace with it, now you make yours…because it must be done.”

Staycanndore

Since I had some Hyatt loyalty points expiring on Dec 31, I used them to book us a little staycation in the city. In fact, back in my old neighbourhood of Yonge & Bloor: a room at the Anndore House. The points bought us a loft for the night, though between a long work day yesterday and an early-ish checkout this morning we didn’t get to spend much time there. We spent most of our time there downstairs, having dinner at Constantine with a friend.

Said dinner was pretty damn good too:

  • Food
    • Lucky Limes oysters
    • Muhammara w/ za’atar, walnut, wood-fired pita
    • ‘Nduja Flatbread w/ ricotta, honey, oregano
    • Burratini w/ coronation grape puree, pickled grape, marinated cherry tomato, pine nut dukkah, focaccia
    • Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Kendall Hills oyster mushroom, chantrelle, Shogun maitake, swiss chard, focaccia crumble, grana padano
    • Lamb Cavatelli w/ broccolini, pepper soffritto, mint pesto, pecorino
  • Wine
    • glasses of Monmarthe ‘Secret de Famille’ Champagne
    • glasses of Pinot Gris and Langhe red
    • a bottle of Chateau Musar 2014
    • glasses of late harvest Riesling

I wanna be your double-axle

I don’t care at all for figure skating, but as of yesterday I have a favourite figure skater: the Russian athlete who skated to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges, won the silver medal, and then seemingly quit.

Seventeen-year-old Russian figure skating prodigy Alexandra Trusova earned a silver medal after skating to the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing yesterday. She won the free skate with an impressive routine that saw her attempting five quadruple jumps, but ultimately came in second to her teammate Anna Shcherbakova, who scored better in the short program on Tuesday.

Trusova was not happy with silver, Reuters reports, breaking down in tears before the podium ceremony for the women’s single event. “Everyone has a gold medal, everyone, but not me. I hate skating. I hate it,” she was heard saying. “I hate this sport. I will never skate again. Never.”

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

So many half-magnums

Last night Lindsay and I, and three other couples, had dinner in the beautiful private dining room in the cellar at Barberian’s steakhouse. We’d won the dinner in last fall’s Grapes for Climate Change charity auction; after not being sure what would happen throughout the Omicron lockdown we found out last week it was going ahead, and we re-mobilized.

Dinner wasn’t just dinner either — there were special guests. Beverly Crandon, one of the founders of Vinequity, and Thomas Bachelder, Niagara winemaking royalty. Thomas was pouring several of his wines to go with the meal, and we got to compare, contrast, and learn about the wines as we went. Some were the very last magnums and bottles (sorry — half-magnums) of his 2014s. At one point Arron Barberian came down and talked about the barrels of wine Thomas had made of blended wine from dozens of Niagara producers, and which he had put into more magnums, which Barberian had signed by Geddy Lee. Proceeds from the sale of those bottles also went to GfH, so…we bought six.

It was a great night, our first since this latest lockdown began. And the best part is, the winnings included a tasting at the Bachelder bat cave in the spring. Can’t effing wait.

Les visiteurs

We’ve just wrapped a few days’ visit from some lovely friends, in from Montreal. We hung out. We relaxed. They made us dinner. We opened good wines. We played Marios, both Kart and Party. It was — they were — a welcome bit of light beamed into an otherwise grim February.

Also: yesterday while I was sitting in the office, I saw a large owl — what I guessed was a snowy owl? — take off from the roof of our house, swoop across the laneway, and perch on a nearby roof. A few minutes later it came back, and I got the full National-Geographic-style view of the owl in full wing, seemingly looking me right in the eye.

So many lovely visitors.

Wine Girl

Book #3 down, and I’m not even out of January. The latest was Victoria JamesWine Girl (goodreads) which was a very compelling but tough read. I thought it would be more about wine; it ended up being more about her very difficult childhood and experiences — both brutal and educational — in the restaurant industry.

As for what’s next, I’ve decided to switch it up a bit and finally read Dune, which my dad was a huge fan of. I watched the (new) movie with him while I was home at Christmas, and it made me want to delve into the real thing. Given the length and density I reckon this will slow my rate somewhat, but that’s okay.

The second symphony

Near the beginning of the pandemic I backed a new kickstarter project by someone I’ve followed on Twitter for quite a while named Matt Brown. I used to listen to mamo, a podcast he co-hosted. I know he lives in Toronto, maybe even roughly the same area as me. I know we’ve traded tweets a few times. I know he works for TIFF. He’s in that sphere of people I feel like I know, but we wouldn’t recognize each other on the street. Or he wouldn’t recognize me, certainly.

Anyway, he launched a kickstarter to self-publish a collection of essays about Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie I very very much liked. I backed it, and the book arrived in the fall of 2020. Because I’ve been sucking so hard at reading I left it in my living room, not in the study with the rest of the books, a victim of my best intentions to read it “next” despite my throughput being zero.

But this year, with my love of reading feeling renewed — I’ve now finished two books in three weeks, as many as I’ve read in the past two years combined — I’ve read Brown’s book The Cinema Of Survival this week and really liked it. You can read reviews and buy it here, or buy it non-Amazonly here.

[A side note: I’ve never really embraced Goodreads, but it made me think of an earlier book-sharing site which Amazon bought and folded into Goodreads called Shelfari. I don’t know why it popped back into my head, but it did.]

.:.

Cover photo from the kickstarter page

Somm

A few years ago, on a flight to London (which seems as exotic as a rocket ride to the moon now) I watched the third installment in a documentary series, called Somm 3 (imdb | rotten tomatoes). It didn’t seem to matter much that it was out of order.

Earlier this week I finally got around to watching the first installment, Somm (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Some of the faces were familiar as they appear in the third documentary, but other than that it was an interesting, and nerve-wracking, journey on the obsessive torture tour that is the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Good god. I’m hoping the second one, Somm: Into The Bottle (imdb | rotten tomatoes), is a little less harrowing.

Also: while I’m fascinated by the wine subject matter, it’s been rather difficult to watch — many allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape have been levelled at members of the court since the documentaries came out, and several characters featured in one or more of the docs were expelled. One looms very large over the whole series: Fred Dame, who the candidates revered as some sort of god and who sat at a place of honour with Jancis Robinson and the late Stephen Spurrier in the third episode. Judging by the filmmakers’ instagram account another installment in the series is coming; I hope it addresses the toxicity in which these compelling stories were unfolding.

Cover photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Berks!

After several years of reading few books, if any, I’m making an effort to get back to it instead of spending endless hours reading only feeds & tweets.

Since wine seems to be my current obsession, I’m leveraging that to keep up my momentum. I’m currently reading The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace (link), and have a few more — Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson (link), Wine Girl by Victoria James (link), and Wine & War by Don Kladstrup (link) — lined up. I might even break open Wine Folly (link) for reference a few times, as I’ve also signed up for WSET level 2 and plan to go for level 3 after that.

Or maybe I’ll alternate wine books with others…I have plenty of non-fiction, and a few fiction, in the backlog of books sitting patiently in boxes in the study while we think about how we want to redesign it.

This isn’t some I-must-improve-during-COVID thing, mind you. I don’t buy into that. I just forgot how much I miss reading books, and am figuring out that the perpetual social scroll isn’t always the most helpful activity. Plus, Lindsay’s voracious appetite for books lately has inspired me (and, probably, shamed me just a bit) so I’m easing into it, tentatively aiming for a book a month this year. Wish me luck.

.:.

Cover photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash