Archive for June, 2016

Summer Beaches: Beach Music

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944).


Amy Beach was the most-performed American composer of her generation – no mean feat when there were no professional female American composers of large-scale classical music before her.

Beach’s parents did everything they could to prevent her embarking on a career, but she was unstoppable! Amy Beach started out a child prodigy pianist and became a prodigy composer – the youngest member of the “Boston Six” (aka the Second New England School).

Her performing career ended at age 18 when she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a doctor 24 years her senior. As part of her marriage vows, Amy Beach agreed to live as a society matron. That meant she wasn’t allowed to teach piano, and she agreed to stop performing. So she decided to focus on composing.

Amy Beach’s husband didn’t approve of her studying with a teacher, so she taught herself to compose. When her husband died in 1910, Beach returned to performing, and became a critical hit in Europe, both as a performer and a composer. One German critic even hailed the “European quality of excellence” of her compositions.

Upon her triumphant return to America, Beach returned to teaching, and offered advice and support to young composers, especially to young women.

Beach’s work has fallen into neglect since her death, but her influence was profound in her lifetime. Her Mass in E-flat major made her “one of the boys” (in the somewhat tone-deaf words of composer George Whitefield Chadwick) as it moved Beach firmly from the world of female singers and performers into the male-dominated world of established composers. Beach was the first American woman to write and publish a symphony – the “Gaelic” Symphony, which drew on old Irish folk tunes – and her “Panama Hymn” was commissioned by the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition as the musical selection to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal.

Beach wrote more than 300 works, most of which were performed and published during her lifetime. Her songs in particular were quite popular.

Amy Beach’s legacy lives on today in this Spotify playlist. And you can listen to the Gaelic Symphony below.

Summer Beaches: Alfred Ely Beach

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

Today we remember Alfred Ely Beach (1826 – 1896).


Alfred Beach, born into a publishing family, bought a fledgling magazine called Scientific American and brought it to the level of prestige it still has today. The magazine stayed in his family for generations.

But Beach’s great passion was invention. He used his position at Scientific American to advise and assist inventors when he wasn’t busy inventing things himself. Beach was one of the early innovators of the typewriter, and patented a typewriter for the blind. But Beach is most famous for his inventions using pneumatic tubes.

Beach was the first to envision mail delivery in cities via pneumatic tubes, and this technology later became widely used. However, Beach’s big dream was the creation of a pneumatic subway system.

It was the 1860s, and the world’s first underground transit system had just opened in London. Beach saw an opportunity to apply his novel approach in New York City. Beach faced a lot of opposition, from Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall and politically-connected property owners, but, amazingly, he was able to secretly dig a tunnel under Broadway to test his system.

The tests were a success, but a combination of political opposition, the financial panic of 1873, and the invention of electric tracks prevented Alfred Beach’s Pneumatic Transit System from becoming a reality.


What could have been…

A dedicated philanthropist, after the Civil War, Beach helped establish a school in Savannah, GA to provide private education to freed slaves, and the original Beach Institute lives on today as Alfred E. Beach High School.

In 1896, the pneumatic inventor succumbed to pneumonia.

People You Should Know: Carl Schurz

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016


Carl Schurz lived through a remarkable time in history and lived a remarkable life. He was born into a feudal system in Germany in 1829 – his grandfather was a tenant farmer on the lands of a castle. Taught by his father to revere George Washington and other free-thinkers, Schurz was studying history and philology when he became swept up in the democratic revolutions of 1848. Those revolutions didn’t turn out well, so Schurz escaped to Switzerland, London, and then New York. But first he snuck back into Germany to rescue his mentor, Gottfried Kinkel.

In the U. S., Schurz became active among the growing German-American community. He settled in Wisconsin, became a lawyer, and began speaking at election rallies. An abolitionist, Schurz was an early backer of Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy for president, and was a delegate at the 1860 Republican convention.

When Lincoln won the presidency, he appointed Schurz, a 31-year-old immigrant, ambassador to Spain. But two years later, when the Civil War was going poorly for the Union, Schurz resigned to enter the Union army. He served as a major-general and took part in the Second Battle of Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga.

Schurz continued his public service after the war, touring the South for President Andrew Johnson, who ignored Schurz’s requests to fully support civil rights for freed slaves.

Schurz then became a journalist, editor, and newspaper owner.

To recap: up to this point in his life, Schurz had been a revolutionary, a political insider, an ambassador, a major-general, and was now a journalist and newspaper owner. And he was just 37.

And there was more to come. In 1869, Carl Schurz became the first German-American elected to the U. S. Senate, where he represented Missouri until 1875. Dismayed by the corruption in Grant’s administration – as well as his abandonment of former slaves and tenant farmers (like Schurz’s own grandfather) – Schurz helped organize the Liberal Republican Party to oppose Grant’s renomination.

President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Schurz as the Secretary of the Interior, where he promoted civil-service reform, conservation (he was the first conservationist to hold a cabinet post), and humane treatment of Native Americans.

After Hayes’ presidency, Schurz continued his support of honest government as an organizer of the Mugwumps, breaking with the corrupt Republicans and supporting the election of Democratic President Grover Cleveland. He also returned to journalism, editing the New York Evening Post and The Nation and writing for Harper’s Weekly.

Schurz died in New York City in 1906, and is interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Like many active public servants, no matter how noble, Schurz’s name is a hazy memory. But you can see traces of our high regard: there is a park named after him in New York City, a high school in Chicago, and a memorial dedicated to him in his home town in Germany.

Schurz’s most famous quote has been bowdlerized by lesser lights and made to represent the opposite of his noble sentiment. Let’s take a moment to appreciate his statement as entered into the Congressional Record: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”


Søren Kierkegaard: A Signature Libation

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

We’ve been celebrating Søren Kierkegaard all month, so we decided to round out the festivities with a signature drink.

Last weekend, we assembled a crack team of drink tasters and gathered once again at Miriam’s apartment, this time to toast the great Danish philosopher.

Miriam knew she wanted to make something involving the Scandinavian spirit aquavit, so we procured two kinds: Krogstad, a clear aquavit from Portland, Oregon, and a cask-aged Norwegian aquavit called Linie. It gets its name because it is aged at sea, and crosses the equator twice! We would have gone for a Danish aquavit, but it was hard to find one. For those of you who are new to aquavit, it’s a herbal vodka-type liquor, usually flavored with caraway seeds.

Miriam had an idea about what she wanted to try, but it was a sweltering hot evening, so we decided to make something frosty and refreshing first.

We started with the clear Krogstad aquavit. Then we rummaged through Miriam’s cabinet and found some bottles left over from previous UPG drink sessions.

For those of you who have been making the drink recipes on the PhLog, you probably have 3/4 of a bottle of Bonal quinine liqueur left over from making a round of Death in Paris. We did, too.

We mixed two parts Krogstad with one part Bonal, poured over ice, and added a splash of grapefruit soda and two drops of celery bitters (left over from our inaugural drink, Anglo-Saxon the Beach).

We garnished this with a slice of lime. It was a tasty drink, not too sweet because of the vegetable-y celery bitters and the anise-heavy Krogstad. Since it was light and refreshing, we decided to name it the “Regine,” after Kierkegaard’s great love.


The Regine, with ingredients.

Next it was on to the main event: a drink, which is actually two drinks, called “Either/Or.”

Miriam was inspired by this quote from Kierkegaard: “Life for me has become a bitter drink, and yet it must be taken in drops, slowly, counting.”

The name for the drink comes from Kierkegaard’s book “Either/Or.” In the book, Kierkegaard is tormented by the specter of human choice, which troubled him as philosopher, and in his personal life (spoiler: it didn’t work out with Regine).

Marry, and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way. Whether you marry or you do not marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the stupidities of the world, and you will regret it; weep over them, and you will also regret it. Laugh at the stupidities of the world or weep over them, you will regret it either way. Whether you laugh at the stupidities of the world or you weep over them, you will regret it either way. Trust a girl, and you will regret it. Do not trust her, and you will also regret it. … Hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret it either way. Whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret it either way. This, gentlemen, is the quintessence of all the wisdom of life.

 Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part I

So, without further ado, here is our Kierkegaard-inspired signature libation.

2 parts aquavit
1 part amaro

2 parts aquavit
1 part amaro
2 parts strong coffee or espresso

We used the Linie aquavit for this one. We shook the ingredients over ice, and poured the drink into cordial glasses. This drink should be served straight up, because it is intended to be, as Kierkegaard lived his life, “taken in drops, slowly, counting.”


Making the “Either”


Making the “Or”

We thought these drinks worked particularly well, because we couldn’t choose which one we wanted to drink. Naturally, that meant we had to drink both. The aquavit / amaro combo was bittersweet, and the coffee added an optional bitterness and richness to the “or” option.


The “Either” and the “Or.”



Then we ordered pizza and read aloud from Kierkegaard’s diaries. (Warning to you future philosophers: if you keep a diary, someday people may read it aloud over drinks and pizza.)


The best way to enjoy your Kierkegaard.

For dessert, we had a chocolate / coffee “writer’s cake,” baked from a recipe found in the Kierkegaard Cookbook.