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New cocktail: the Franco-American

There is, in the inestimable Ultimate Bar Book, a cocktail called The Parisian (p. 200).  It’s equal parts gin, dry vermouth, and créme de cassis.  In other words, it’s a martini with sweetness.

It was OK, but I thought it could be better, and so we now have…


  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Cocchi Americano
  • 1 oz créme de cassis
  • 1 dash lemon bitters

Stir, don’t shake.  (The rule is that if the admixture has citrus juice in it, shake.  Otherwise, stir.)

Cocchi Americano is a vermouth itself, one of those endless parades of aperitifs that will clutter your bar if you start down that path.  It’s very tasty in and of itself.

Not bad at all.  You could lessen the sweetness by cutting the cassis to 3/4 oz, and/or by adding lemon juice.  (But still stirred, not shaken, Mr. Bond.)

It pairs particularly well with a salty goat cheese, which is what we were knoshing on when I mixed this up.

3 Old Men: Labyrinth progress

I know, these are boring posts.  Listen—if I have to sit through six football fields of handkerchief hems, so do you.

Yesterday, I finished — after a tremendous false start — the northeast wall, the first “long” wall, about 108 feet long.  Here’s what that looks like:

Three more to go.  I got started on the northwest wall, but then ran out of fabric.  My new good friends Gary and Cathy Sackett had volunteered to pick up the two bolts of muslin I had, then wash, iron, and cut them into strips, so while I’m waiting on that I decided I would tackle the mat for entrance with the body paint bowl.  (This mat is to catch the spills of kaolin body paint—we’re serious about Leave No Trace.)

My brilliant idea was to make it an octagon the same size as the center of the labyrinth, so I went and got nine yards of 60″ cotton duck (like canvas), cut it in half, and stitched that together.  Here’s the 9×10 foot piece of fabric:

It’s YOOOOGE, as Donald Trump would say.  Or rather, as Wonkette would say Donald Trump would say.

The classic geometer’s tools were the compass and the straightedge, and so I improvised:

Not shown: an old 8-foot piece of 2×2.

Here’s how to do construct an octagon, given a square of the appropriate diameter:

See that in the lower right?  Using the diagonal radius of the square, swing an arc up to the side of the square and mark it.  Repeat.

First I had to construct a square, which is simple, really, just swing a couple of arcs to bisect the center seam and create a perpendicular line, then go from there.

Needless to say, my improvised tools were not quite… accurate.

I eventually got an octagon marked out, but it was very wobbly.

That’s when I remembered that I had a staff…

…which was marked…

…so that I could lay out an 8-foot square and then…

…mark the sides of an octagon.


Add two inches around the edges for hemming purposes, cut it out…

…then iron the hems and stitch them down.

And done.

Next up, figuring out the eftest way to secure it to the ground so that hippies don’t trip over it or snag it and topple the tripod with the bowl of kaolin.

3 Old Men: Labyrinth progress

Take a deep breath.

I just finished the SOUTH — OUTER wall.  That’s all the “short walls” done.

Which means…

But never mind that now.  Here’s a photo of it in semi-action:

My poor labyrinth needs rain, reseeding, and cooler weather.  In the meantime, notice the majestic way the wall marches along, especially in the furthest panels there where the stakes are the actual stakes, i..e, tall enough.

Side view:

Again, the panels on the left are being help up by the actual size tent stakes; further along the wall  is being held up by shorter stakes.

I calculated yesterday that for every bolt of muslin that I split in two, I have sewn the length an entire football field in handkerchief/rolled hems.  So far, that’s three football fields, with three more to go.  That’s just to prep the panels so I can then pleat in the pockets for the stakes.

Likewise, I have used over 20 football fields of thread so far; that will probably end up being closer to 50 than not.


Five Easier Pieces: No. 4, Tango

With the assistance of Abigail—all composers should have a Liquid Cat™ for their lap-warming purposes WHILE THEY’RE TRYING TO WRITE, ABIGAIL—the penultimate Easier Piece is done.

At least, I’m tired enough of it to publish it.

Five Easier Pieces: No. 4 (Tango) | score [pdf] | mp3

I keep thinking some sections need to be longer.

3 Old Men: Labyrinth upgrade progress report

You will recall that I received hippie funding to upgrade the 3 Old Men labyrinth from this…

…to this (artist’s conception)…


I am here to tell you that while the sewing is not difficult, it is tedious in the extreme.  I am blogging at this moment in order to avoid going downstairs and prepping yet another bolt of muslin for washing, cutting, and hemming.  Yes, that’s right, I split an entire bolt of unbleached muslin in twain, then handkerchief-hem both sides of both strips.  It takes an hour to do each strip, mindlessless folding 1/4″ hems and stitching them down, yard after yard.

Then the actual sewing starts.  I’ve been working a couple of weeks, off and on, and here’s where I am as of yesterday afternoon:


What you see there is about two bolts of muslin.  I bought two more yesterday, and they might be enough to finish the four long walls.

I keep talking about the “long walls” with dread and horror and I’m not sure everyone understands what I mean.  Here is one of the long walls:

It’s over 100 feet long, and it’s one of four.  And while the lesser walls are all symmetrical and made of panels of identical size, the long walls are a mishmash of lengths as they meander inwards across the octagons, ending with those little 9″ panels at the inner entrances.

Oh well.  I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Horsefly Rag, Extended

Okay, here’s Mike Funt’s “Horsefly Rag,” extended to include the slow opening and then a quiet little waltz stuck in the middle of it.

Comments welcome.

“Horsefly Rag,” extended | score [pdf] | mp3

Back to work

Last year I wrote “Horsefly Rag” for my friend Mike Funt, who is as far as I know a world-famous clown.  At least that’s what his letters from his Asian tour indicate.

He finally got around to thinking about using the piece, now that he’s famous in Tokyo and all, and, as I thought all along, we need to add more to it to make it a viable clown piece.  I had actually left an entire measure rest in there specifically for the purpose of inserting another segment before the big finale.

He felt that as well, but also wanted an introduction to bring us into the piece, or in his words, “As though the fly is just waking up and kind of stretching [and] moving into his day.”  He suggested the opening of Rhapsody in Blue as something that would please him.

With that in mind, here’s our first pass at the opening:

Horsefly Rag, now with intro | mp3

My music

As I’ve mulled over what I want to do when I grow up, more and more I keep thinking that I would like to be a composer.  True, I’ve been writing music for a long time, but for the most part no one’s been performing it. It seems to me that if I want to be an actual composer, then someone should start playing my stuff.

To that end, and having read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I have started putting out there that I would appreciate the universe’s cooperation in getting my music performed.  This is not the same as the occasional competition that I might enter; this is pointblank asking my friends and acquaintances to take a look at my stuff and to keep it in their minds that they have a friend whose music is available for performance: church choirs, high school choirs, community choruses, chamber groups, soloists, orchestras.  I’ve done it all, although not at any level of output like a professional composer.  As I recently said to an old friend, I’m not untalented, but I’m untrained—I don’t work quickly.

Am I working on anything at the moment?  Yes:

  • A Christmas Carol has to be revamped: reorchestrated and exported into sound files that can be sucked up into QLab for rehearsal and performance this December at Newnan Theatre Company.
  • “Horsefly Rag”: Mike Funt has asked me to add a slow opening and a slower interlude before the big finish.
  • Seven Dreams of Falling: I will be getting back to work on the Minotaur’s “Rip me from this darkness” aria.  Soon.  Ish.
  • Five Easier Pieces:  I’m going to finish that before the end of this year.  I am.

So what are you waiting for?  Go check out my stuff.  And perform it.

Cocktails—a new frontier

I’ve been busy.

First of all, you may recall that I blogged about re-jiggering [see what I did there?] the recipe for a margarita calling for árbol chile tincture, among other twee ingredients.  I am now calling it “Dale’s Magic Margarita” and it’s still tasty.  I double-checked it yesterday.  Okay, I triple-checked it.  It was delicious.

I have planted an árbol chile plant in my herb garden, and it’s started producing.  The internet says that the eftest way to dry the chiles is to put them in your fridge, so I’m trying that experiment.  When the summer is over, I shall have enough chiles to make a lot of the tincture, so…

Guess what everyone’s getting for Christmas?

Side note: I ordered a dozen of the 5 oz bottles.  They’re called “woozy bottles” from the what-else-should-we-call-it cap insert, that little plastic thing with a hole in it that you squirt bitters out of.  However, I just discovered yesterday that these are just the bottles, sans woozies.  I found the woozies at, where I can see that I will be spending more money in the future as I pursue my new interest in tinctures, syrups, infusions, and bitters.

Today, I set about making a dandelion & burdock syrup.   D&B, as it is not called in Great Britain, is a soda flavor, and I found a recipe for the syrup.  Easy-peasy, and it’s done.

The reason I wanted to make this stuff is to recreate the Root Daiquiri, an especially delicious cocktail from my favorite bar anywhere, Sovereign Remedies in Asheville, NC.  Their recipe also includes sarsaparilla, but oddly that is not immediately available in Newnan, GA, so my first attempt is without it.  More work is required.

It is nonetheless quite tasty.

Root Daiquiri

  • 1.5 oz rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .5-.75 dandelion & burdock syrup

Shake, pour, and serve.

(By the way, the D&B bottle has chalkboard tape on it you guys!  You can find it—along with whiteboard tape—at Office Depot.  Besides being just cool as beans, it’s also temporary: you can remove it from most surfaces.  In the photo above, I’ve trimmed the edges with deckle-edge scissors because hipster.)

My next venture will be to create a tincture of lovage, a cool herb that is kind of a peppery/celery flavor, from which I will make a lovage bitters.  Don’t ask me how I will use it.

3 Old Men: an update and an upgrade

It occurs to me that I have not kept everyone up to date on the goings-on of the 3 Old Men, the ritual troupe to which I belong.

First, I have to say that this year has not gone according to my plan, which was to attend beaucoups regional Burns and gather experiential data, then present my findings at The Labyrinth Society’s Annual Gathering in October.  I had planned to get to Euphoria, Apogaea, Transformus, Burning Man itself, and Alchemy again.  Hey, I’m retired.

Tickets can be hard to come by, but for some reason I am an ace at snagging them.  (Yesterday, for example, I snagged four more tickets to Alchemy even though I put in my credit card’s CVC number after I hit submit.)  I got tickets for Euphoria, Apogaea, and Burning Man, and the only reason I didn’t get tickets to Transformus is that it was my birthday and I didn’t hear my phone reminding me to stop partying and go sit in front of the computer.

However.  I was cast in Born Yesterday at the Springer Opera House and had to miss Euphoria.  (3 Old Men went without me.) Apogaea was cancelled after the organization couldn’t work out the permit situation.  Finances prevent me from heading to the Playa in August.  And of course, the whole project is moot since my seminar proposal for the TLS Gathering was not accepted.  Do they not know who I am??

So Alchemy it is, and I’m not unhappy about that at all.

As successful as the labyrinth was at Alchemy and Euphoria, there was one thing about it that bothered me and did from the very beginning: it wasn’t pretty.

If you will recall, its design was influenced by a couple of Burning Man considerations, since the original plan was to schlep it out to Black Rock Desert and back.  It had to be portable and Leave No Trace, and it had to be visible in the dark so that the hippies wouldn’t trip over it and kill themselves.

Hence, the tent stakes and rope construction:

In terms of meditative space, this is not optimal.  The colors are awful: fluorescent orange and yellow are not conducive to inner peace.  Visually, it’s confusing; it looks more like a spider web than anything, and people wandering by were often confused about what it was.  It was hard to get people interested in it unless they walked up and asked.

So one morning as I was waking up, a scathingly brilliant idea formed itself in my mind: sew little “walls” of muslin to fit over the stakes.  Ditch the rope entirely, and cover the orange stakes with fabric.  Genius!!

With my usual fervor for scathingly brilliant ideas, I set to work and mocked up the idea:

Simplicity itself.  Naturally, I’ve complicated it a bit since then: the stake pockets will have a kind of flat-fell seam on either side for additional sturdiness, and the stitching will stop short two inches from the top.  That’s so we can insert light wire into the tops at some point soon, which will be awesome.

Here’s the artist’s conception:

I mocked up several versions that included colors/shades.  Each one was striking in its own way, but it didn’t take long for the group to state their preference for the plain white muslin—which was a relief to those of me who will have to construct it.

We then presented the concept for funding from Alchemy.  (Full disclosure: I served as the web content person for the fundraiser team.  That’s actually what gave me the idea to submit our project.)

Here’s how the Alchemy fundraiser works: artists present their ideas for funding, are vetted for budget, scope, etc., and then everyone shows up at some venue with their trifold boards to tout their projects.  Hippies pay admission to the event and purchase “schwag” (cups, t-shirts, etc.), and all their dollars count as votes to be assigned as they see fit.

The event itself was actually exhilarating.  I knew all 49 projects, having created the online fundraiser webpages for each of them, but being there and feeling the energy, the dedication, the expertise of all my fellow hippies was stunning.

Of course, it looked like some demented middle school science fair:

There were food projects, light projects, sculptures, fire projects.  (I’m working on getting all the funded projects up on the Alchemy website—I’ll let you know when it’s up.)

Here’s our little backboard, with our official 3 Old Men photographer, Roger:

We spent the evening explaining the project to passersby.  You can see, right behind Roger, the mock-up I did of the fabric wall; that helped explain what we were funding.

The really great thing about the event was the number of people—nearly all of them—who knew who we were.  They’d seen us at Alchemy and Euphoria and thought we were cool.  The best was a story that I heard from three separate people, all of whom had camped across from us at Euphoria: they (Camp Business Casual) were chilling in camp one evening when Craig and Michael began the ritual.  They said they began to watch the ritual, and the conversation went along the lines of “Hey, look at those guys—they’re doing something—they’re doing something—that’s not just hippies [screwing] around, that looks important!

It warmed the cockles of my heart.  It would have warmed them further if they had felt impelled to rise from their camp chairs and go across the road to participate, but that’s another problem for another day.  (I was also told by one young lady that she was fascinated but found the Old Men scary.)

Enough people cast votes for us that we’re fully funded for this visual upgrade to the labyrinth, so yea hippies!  There’s paperwork to fill out, and then I get a check and can get started on washing, ironing, cutting, and stitching those walls.  All straight seams, but mercy—it’s thousands of yards of stitching between now and September.

Step One: go out to Craig’s tomorrow and set up the labyrinth so I can measure the walls.  Stay tuned.