Sunday, December 31, 2006

Funereal World: New Jersey

Thanks, all of you, who have contacted me via email or blog--I appreciate all the comfort.

Of course, knowing me I have to resort to dark humor for everything, even upon such a loss. It doesn't help when the funeral home bills itself a "life transition center," and I have to stop myself from asking, "If we bury my mom in a coffin for two, can she use the diamond lane to get to heaven?" Even going somewhat cheaply on what euphemistically gets called "the merchandise" (i.e. the coffin), it's not cheap to die, so be sure you have an extra $10 grand to blow, and my mom already had a mausoleum space purchased. Speaking of that, the crypts seem so odd, like you're filing away your loved one's remains. At least my mom is top drawer for eternity. I just wish the cemetery didn't have the weird, if probably chemically necessary, need to cover the casket in plastic, so it looks like some grandma's impossible to stain sofa.

One final bit of advice to those attending wakes--don't do what a friend of my sister's did. Somehow after hugging saying, "Tomorrow will be the worst day of your life," isn't exactly comfort.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


My mom passed away Christmas morning at about 1:25 am. I'll get around to a proper send off for her once I get back to CA.

Thanks to all of you who have offered her best wishes through her struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Random Holiday Ten

In an attempt to be light, of the season, jovial, and not pretend the song I most want to live is Mott the Hoople's "Death Might Be Your Santa Claus," here's a random 10 for Christmas Eve:

The Blue Hawaiians "Mele Kalikimaka" Christmas on the Big Island
Mabel Scott "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" Hipsters' Holiday
Dean Martin "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" Ultra Lounge: Christmas Cocktails
Diana Ross & the Supremes "White Christmas" A Motown Christmas
Diana Ross & the Supremes "Joy to the World" A Motown Christmas
Spike Jones "Happy New Year" A Christmas Party
Johnny Cash "O Come All Ye Faithful" Christmas with Johnny Cash
The Monkees "Christmas Is My Time of Year" A TV Family Christmas
Vince Guaraldi "Skating" A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Chipmunks with David Seville "Twas the Night Before Christmas" A TV Family Christmas

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes "Joy to the World" A Christmas Party

Oh, well, guess you have to be in California to get it to pop in the El Vez or Esquivel.

Best to all of you, and here's to a holiday of peace in every way for everyone.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Fade to Red

Short of the self-inflicted genital mutilation, it's been a very Cries & Whispers week.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Get Your Big Asp Off the Bed

For Friday Dog Blog Eve: It's hard to keep a tidy bed with snakes in the house.

update: See Mike's comment for a great line, but it's best kept a mouse-click away (guess who's staying in a house with his 7-year-old niece?).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sue, A Lawyer Pulling Threat

So Wendy McCaw has decided there's an "I" in the First Amendment, and she spells the whole thing Fir$t Amendent, deciding it only applies to her and her money. Can we even count all the ways she's tried to deny all the elements of the essential first part of the Bill of Rights? She's told her employees they can't speak and can't assemble, either to deliver a letter or join a union. She's insisted businesses can't speak, at least not put signs in their windows about her. (My suggestion for the new poster: "Hey Wendy! It's Your Morals that Are Bendy.") She's tried to shut down freedom of the press in her own paper, which she can at least argue she owns, but also in three other publications now--the Independent, the Daily Sound, and the American Journalism Review. She's tried to put the chill on lawyers willing to defend her ex-employees and the clergy willing to say she should consider changing her ways. My guess is soon there will be lawsuits for everyone who has cancelled subscriptions, claiming by doing so they are defaming her business.

Notice she didn't try suing Vanity Fair, but that's because their article cut all the good stuff...for fear she might sue them. Then again, they also completely sucked up to Tom Cruise in that very same issue, so lapping tuchas isn't an odd thing for VF. Still, pairing Tom Cruise with Wendy is more than fitting--both believe in things no one sane does (Scientology and the vast conspiracy of everyone v. Wendy McCaw)--and both leave us wondering--how did Tom and Katie wind up with Suri? How did Wendy and Arthur wind up with the News-Press? Will either "child" survive?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where I've Been

It might be the pint of Liberty Ale at 1:30 pm on what should be a work day. It might just be California, where I am so sure I belong, what with an Anchor Brewing Co. bar-restaurant across from a Peet's Coffee in a lousy airport. But most likely I want the world to be very tender, as I am rushing back to New Jersey to see my very sick mom. The help at the Anchor Brewing bar are all oohing and ahhing over a little bar-top Christmas tree, and one of the employess proudly beams, "I did it--I made these," fingering Anchor coasters she's hole-punched and beribbonned into ornaments. And the tree is beautiful in a way no stupid two-foot tree decorated with beer ornaments can be and the woman, who is now back washing glasses, just doing her job, is nearly full of more Christmas than I can bear.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Walk and Roll Animal

For Friday Rockin' Dog Blog Eve: Nigel does his impression of two of Santa's reindeer at once--he's both Dancer and Prancer.

Nearly Friday Totally Random Ten

Tom Waits "Spidey's Wild Ride" Orphans: Bastards
Big Audio Dynamite "Sony" This Is Big Audio Dynamite
Future Bible Heroes "Viennese Lift" Eternal Youth
Eddie Palmieri "Columbia Te Canto" Mas Mambo Mania
Cesaria Evora "Beijo De Longe" Cafe Atlantico
Fenton Robinson "You Don't Know What Love Is" The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection
Michael Nyman "Dreams of a Journey" The Piano
John Foxx "20th Century" Modern Art
Taj Mahal "(Clara) St. Kitts Woman" The Essential Taj Mahal
Ralph Stanley -Tim O'Brien "Let Me Love You One More Time" Clinch Mountain Country

Life without Buildings "The Leanover" Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk

What a weird assortment this is. Saddest part is it usually spits out a favorite, or at least favored, song or two. Not really, this time. Maybe it's upset it's getting posted so early.

When lands were disputed and misgoverned
Came ministers commended as loyal
--Lao Tzu

Newspapers seem to be going crazy all across the country (must be that politicians-developers-unionists cerberus wants to end all newspapers as we know them!)--the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal--all of them have labor-managment tussles of one sort or another going on right now.

Still, none of them have resorted to demanding a loyalty oath the way Wendy McCaw has done recently at the News-Press. You can read the entire missive that she sent to her employees dated December 5, but here are the key sentences:

We are also going to protect our management right to expect the loyalty of our employees. Public disparagement/disloyalty of the management of Santa Barbara News-Press and/or the newspaper it produces will not be tolerated, and appropriate discipline will be imposed.

Those "/"s are doozies, no? Yeah, it's probably not best to talk about how bad your place of work is, or to belittle its product; when things stink that much, you should change things, or in the case of immovable management, get out. But disloyalty of management sounds like some kind of regal fealty. The second slash sets up some weird separation between the idea of--perhaps the business of--the News-Press and its product, oddly enough also called the News-Press. If the News-Press didn't put out a newspaper, would it exist? (Hey, no jokes about whether it really exists right now.)

It's pretty simple, as any parent, teacher, coach, heck, even lover learns, you can't demand loyalty. You have to earn it. Do a little something that makes people think you've got their ass covered, too, and you'll earn undying allegiance. Barking, "Be steadfast, or else!" tends to only work if you're trolling for bottoms and insist you're a top, and I'm paraphrasing Village Voice personal ads, not Cole Porter.

From the "there are other ways department" we have this story in the New York Post about the goings-on at Newsday:

More than 100 Newsday reporters and editors signed a letter of protest blasting Tribune boss Dennis FitzSimons for widespread cuts that have sliced about one-third of the paper's editorial staff over the past three years.

"In its six years of ownership, Tribune has damaged Newsday as an instrument of public information and accountability and, for that matter, as a business," the letter said. The protest was organized by the rank-and-file editorial workers.

Newsday Editor-in-Chief John Mancini, who was not among the signers, pledged there would be no retaliation against the 113 newsroom employee who signed the letter. They amount to about one-third of the total.

"That has never happened here and it won't happen here," Mancini told The Post yesterday when asked about potential for retaliation.

What's more, further down the article Newsday Publisher Tim Knight said, "We'll continue to discuss these issues with all employees in open forums."

Open forums? No retaliation, let alone "appropriate discipline"? And to think it's New Yorkers who have the reputation of being pushy and high-strung and Santa Barbara is supposed to be the capital of the laid back life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Plaschke No More Questions

Welcome to whack the LA Times Day at INOTBB. Of course, this whacking is of Bill Plaschke, which is more or less shooting a columnist in a barrel. In today's sports section Plaschke began with the obvious--"Gagne over"--and then moved to the ridiculous, as he tried to figure out how Gagne burned so bright, so fast. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I must fess up that I had Gagne on my fantasy team in his dominant years, and he helped me win. Bonds was also on my team those years. You can decide what that means about steroids rumors about the two of them, although I never really saw them palsing around in the fantasy clubhouse. And why, yes, my head has always been this big.)

Actually, Plaschke does let the steroids rumor into his piece, only to dismiss it by writing:

A more definitive reason for the breakdown is his prolonged use at the end of the 2004 season, after then-general manager Paul DePodesta traded away his setup man, Guillermo Mota, on July 31.

Two days after that trade, Gagne pitched three innings. A few days later, he pitched 2 2/3 innings. The Dodgers rode his back to the playoffs, but he was never the same.

Now, if you read Plaschke, not only do you have my sympathy, unless you like your brain hurting, but also you have to know that everything bad that has ever happened to the Dodgers is because of Paul DePodesta. He is for Plaschke what Bill Clinton is for Republicans. And DePodesta's Monica Lewinsky is Paul Lo Duca. OK, so the metaphor not only breaks down, but it leaves you with one nasty image in your head. But for Plaschke, the trade of LoDuca, Juan Encarnacion, and Mota to the Marlins for Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi was the downfall of everything truly Dodger-rific. You might as well have handed over Tommy Lasorda's Dodger Blue testicles along with Lo Duca, who was the Dodger's heart.

It's never quite clear why Plaschke hates DePo so. Maybe because he was younger than Plaschke, or because he was smarter, but then most of us would have to hate the LA Times scribbler. But it's not a coincidence that Plaschke most complained that DePodesta was a stat man, and the thing he did most wrong was trade away an intangibles player like Lo Duca (who I've come to appreciate this year as a Met, even if he cheated on his Playboy model wife with a 20-year-old, and even if he shouldn't bat second--that's a baseball reference and not a follow-up to the affair issue).

What's most sad is that Plaschke can't even get the facts straight in his endless drive to take down DePodesta and use him as a proxy for all folks who are interested in learning what stats can tell us. Here's what Will Carroll (the info is in the pay-for-play section, sorry) of Baseball Prospectus wrote as the Dodgers headed into the playoffs in 2004:

Gagne followed his singular 2003 with another dominant campaign. An increased workload was dropped on him after the trade of his set-up man, Guillermo Mota, and the subsequent injury to Darren Dreifort. Gagne's "tired arm" shouldn't be a problem--he was able to pitch just a day after the diagnosis and he's thrown only one inning in the last week. Yhency Brazoban has emerged as Mota's equal, giving him a chance to be this year's K-Rod.

But wait, there's more, if you think it's unfair of me to trot out a BPer to defend DePo. I decided to look up Gagne's 2004 season in Retrosheet, the amazing archive of boxscores, and it turns out Plaschke doesn't tell the truth. First, Gagne pitches those 3 innings the very night after the Mota trade, not two days later. He got the win, and was 1 of 5 pitchers in a 12 inning game. A pre-injury Dreifort got the save, ironically.

As for that 2 2/3 inning stint, it never happened. Gagne had some 2 inning appearances the rest of the way, but only tossed 34 1/3 of his 82 1/3 total innings from July 31 on.

OK, I'm nitpicking, but to me it's pretty clear who's the nit here.

Wendy's Not the Only Witch of the West

Please also know that because of the federal labor laws regulating the organizing drive, I can't make any promises to you. What I can tell you is I came out here with the mission of keeping The Times a great newspaper, and changing it and making it better - and doing that working with you as a team. I believe we can do that best by working together and communicating directly with each other - and not through some outside third party. So I am personally asking you to vote "no" to the Union.

Bet you got to the part where it says The Times and it threw you, no? For today, instead of examining the latest in the News-Press Mess (and there's always a latest--go check out BlogaBarbara and see the paranoid ravings of "Neville Flynn" if you want a laugh), INOTBB will turn its cyber-eye south to see that no paper wants to deal with the Teamsters. But the LA Times, being a big paper and all, has opted to create an entire website to decry union involvement.

Of course it's little surprise that the paper once run by Harrison Gray Otis, one of the fiercest anti-union figures the world has ever seen, hasn't shifted far from its early 20th century open shop roots. Otis was so hated/feared that people tried to blow his house up (alas, some radical unionists did bomb the Times building, setting back the labor movement in LA for decades). But it sure wasn't because Otis wanted to "work together as a team."

Owners, whether Otis in his day, the Tribune Company with publisher David Hiller as its factotum today, or old what's-her-name here in Santa Barbara, they don't want to develop a team, or camaraderie, or an environment where smart people work hard because people value their ideas so they then come up with even more valuable ones. They just want everyone to do what he or she is told and shut up. Workers must be loyal to the employer; the employer must have the right to fire anyone for looking cross-eyed at the wrong time. All they feel they have is fear (sure enough, Otis motored about town in an armored car with a machine gun bolted to the hood).

Today's Times holds a different kind of gun to its employees' heads, writing:

Bargaining is a two way street. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that the following statement was a factually accurate observation regarding a possible negative outcome of collective bargaining.

"In collective bargaining you could lose what you have now."
-- Wild Oats Market, Inc., 344 NLRB No. 86, slip op. at p. 1 (2005)


If the Union were to win, The Times would bargain in good faith. And after bargaining you could end up with more - and you could end up with the same (but be paying union dues to keep it) - but you COULD also end up with LESS (and still be paying union dues).

How in the world would cutting your employees' pay, making worse their working conditions, or denying them benefits be "bargaining in good faith"? How much good faith can you expect from people who threaten you with the worst possible outcome for something? I mean, it's as if someone said to you, "You can drive to work today, and it might be a good day at work, or all your projects could go wrong, or you could even get in a huge car accident and die--do you still want to go to work?"

For what all these anti-unionists fail to see is that when workers vote to join a union, it's no longer a third party. It's not like shady characters who talk in dem-dat-dose tones fly in (first class, natch) from Jersey to run the Teamsters' negotiation team. It's a way of banding together to have one unified voice to present to the Boss. And when the Boss blithely sees over 30 employees leave/get fired and think things are a-ok, or when the Boss says, "You should trust us right now, but you never know what might happen if you trust us to bargain with you," it's time to get a union pronto.

Wednesday Cocktail Blogging

Whoever claims that there are no seasons in Santa Barbara clearly doesn't have a blood orange tree in the backyard. We, luckily, do, and the tree, pleasantly, is bearing fruit. We brought the first couple in last night, and while they are still more orangy than bloody, they are both beautiful and have great personalities taste delicious. While we make several cocktails with them, and like to reduce their juice with butter and shallots and a splash of Grand Marnier to make a great glaze for pork chops, we opted for Bloody Ritas last night. Here's the recipe:

1 oz fresh blood orange juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz Cointreau
4 oz good tequila

Shake everything well over ice. Pour into chilled cocktail glasses garnished with blood orange wedges that you've zipped about the glass edge. Makes two.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Apply Nasty Liberally as Necessary

An important discussion, if a back-and-forth is a discussion, happened in the comments to my entry about spotting Wendy McCaw and Arthur von (maybe he's a Baron of Physiology?) Wiesenberger at Lazy Acres last week. I thought it might be illuminating to make it its own entry, as I assume most of you don't wander through my comments from a week ago, so here's what transpired:

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Wendy fan, but your comments are extremely mean-spirited. The woman is imperfect, but has money, and so you speak of her as if she is not human.

Would we praise you for being so cruel to a penniless person who had trouble with her misfortune?

Think about it.

George said...

I want to respond to Anonymous 9:11 am. Gee, I'm mean-spirited. I didnt' realize I masterminded by my careless incompetence the destruction of a town's newspaper, messing up the lives of over 30 employees and their families, while ruining a town's major news source.

I'm sorry but I do hold the rich to a higher standard, especially when they choose to run something that isn't just a business but part of the public trust.

And I would hope that if you went through all two years plus of this blog, while you'll find plenty of snark, none of it has been pointed at the poor or powerless. That's mean-spirited. Making fun of the rich and powerful is really the only weapon against them we have, isn't it?

Facts All Come with Points of View

As you may know if you've been reading your Edhat, the News-Press actually got some good news on the labor front the other day, as the Teamsters withdrew 3 pending unfair labor practice charges and the National Labor Relations Board dropped a fourth (although the Teamsters plan to appeal that dismissal). Dear Dr. (not of Physiology) Agnes Huff cranked out her PR machine to claim employer victory, as usual forgetting that no one likes a Goliath that taunts, too.

But, also as usual, it's worth looking at this News-Press "victory" a bit more. First, the claim the NLRB dropped was about the paper unlawfully spying on employees--according to Craig Smith it was Wendy McCaw herself out taking photos of employees' cars that had Banish the Bias signs and/or bumperstickers. The kicker is a former employee of the N-P confided to me that she was followed, yes, followed, by one of the News-Press' security folks as she spent one morning shopping, to check and see if she was handing out anti-N-P literature at the Farmers' Market. Instead, she had to stare the guy down as he followed her into Gelson's. So maybe the NLRB has some re-thinking to do, but that's little surprise given, as the LA Times claims, "the National Labor Relations Board, the country's chief arbiter of labor disputes — remains solidly in anti-worker hands."

Huff then also insists on twisting the press release knife at the end of her gloating, writing the following:

Missing from the debate thus far has been an examination of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters history, said Sarah Longwell, director of communications for the non-profit Center for Union Facts in Washington D.C. Four of the last eight presidents have been indicted. It has long been a poster child for corruption.

I guess Huff can be excused, as she's not a journalist and doesn't know you always have to consider your sources before using them. The Center for Union Facts is, according to SourceWatch, "one of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman, who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries." That is, he's created a non-profit group to issue "research" that he can then go and claim as fact to support his arguments that not just a living wage but a minimum wage is bad for America (gee, do Berman and McCaw sound like two peas in a screw-the-poor pod?) and to argue that obesity is not a public health issue and that secondhand smoke is not at all dangerous.

As The Nation writes, "CUF urges readers to decertify their unions. But if CUF were really a campaign for democracy, justice and the interests of workers, would instead encourage people to fight for better unions, by getting more involved in their own, ousting bad leaders by running against them in elections, and joining Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Members for Democracy or any number of other reform-minded groups within the labor movement."

Instead, the Center for Union Facts does the bidding of big business, and we all know, by now, exactly where McCaw & Co. fall in that argument. It's her paper, and she'll deny reality if she wants to. I'm just waiting for the News-Press Study Group to form.

Monday, December 11, 2006

We Three Bozos of Disorient Are

(Photo credit: Jim Young - UNITED STATES/Reuters)

Reuters runs a story headlined:

Bush consults diplomats, experts on Iraq

And in the article the President says, "But nonetheless, I will pose for a photo with the least diplomatic, least expert persons I know."

Street Walking

We took the pups on leash walks twice this weekend, thanks to rain making all the off-leash places muddy pits, plus it's good for them to walk on leash every now and then to get some practice being somewhat under control and it's really good for us because we have to walk more and walk quickly. Turns out Santa Barbarans had a good Friday night, as we saw not one but two ripped-open boxes of condoms in the gutter (one by the Y, even--insert your own Village People joke).

We are also amazed at Nigel's ability to find chicken bones in bushes--he does this with stunning frequency on leash walks. Which, of course, leaves Amy and I wondering how all these chicken bones get dumped along the roadside. Have there been a rash of drive-by chickenings in Santa Barbara? "Oh, no! I just got winged!" As they say, KFC doesn't kill people, gangs tossing chicken bones do. (OK, too much KFC probably kills people, too.)

When Will We Learn They Never Learn

The Washington Post reports:

"It seems so transparently in keeping with his modus operandi: the quest for the deal without regard for the content or the repercussions," Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Reagan administration hawk who heads the Center for Security Policy said.

Is Gaffney talking about President Bush, and his quest to invade Iraq not thinking about the chaos that would ensue?

Nope. He's ragging on James Baker. And the world has come to this--INOTBB must defend James Baker. A sign of the end times, indeed.

Gaylord Perry-Ga!

Originally uploaded by dragonsfanatic.

Kenji couldn't believe he was tossed from the Tar Pit Championship game for putting a dab of Vaseline on the ball.

Monday Random Flickr Blogging explained.

Revenge of the Jim Henson-Lover

Originally uploaded by HK James Ho.

She wouldn't have given the florist such a hard time if she knew they would then go and secretly make her bouquet look like Animal from the Muppets.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Q: How Is INOTBB Just Like George Bush?

A: We're both going to ignore the Iraq Study Group report.

Well, I was going to leave it at that, but then Eric Alterman had the good fortune to have Charles Pierce, one of the most piercing wits on the internets (sorry), drop by and write wisdom like this:

Jeebus Christmas, he said, in keeping with the season, have I grown tired of the MacGyver Theory Of Washington Politics -- the notion that, if we just pluck out of David Broder's moth-eaten Rolodex the people with the most gray mold on their careers, they will all get together and build a solution out of two coconut shells and a handful of magic beans.


Where was the instant and withering contempt from our courtier political press over the presence on the ISG of a useless old vampire like Edwin Meese, who started his career calling for detention camps to be set up to house student demonstrators at Berkeley, and ended it, two steps ahead of the law, by giving the Iran-Contra crowd just enough time to shred what they needed to shred? And, anyway, what in the name of Christ's sweet strawberry preserves does Edwin Meese know about Iraq? Why not just hire him to re-wire the space shuttle and design the new levees in Louisiana while he's at it?

Friday Random Ten

Magnetic Fields "When the Open Road Is Closing In" The Charm of the Highway Strip
Golden Palominos "Diamond" Blast of Silence
Velvet Underground "Some Kinda Love" (live) Peel Slowly and See
Billy Bragg "Days Like These" Peel Sessions
Cannon's Jug Stopers "Feather Bed" Anthology of American Folk Music
Ride "Twisterella" Going Blank Again
Kate Jacobs "Hope Is a Weed" Hydrangea
Waco Bros. "New Deal Blues" New Deal
Guided by Voices "Postal Blowfish" Brain Candy sdtrk
International Submarine Band "Knee Deep in the Blues" Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology

The Clash "Safe European Home" Clash on Broadway

That random sure likes the Anthology of American Folk Music. And it can't miss tossing out a Guided by Voices, but given there's gotta be 200 GBV two minute blasts in iTunes, they're almost unavoidable. But that's a great Syd Straw/Palominos cut, that's really the only Ride song I like, and I don't need to praise "Safe European Home," now, do I?

Portrait of Mookie in Red

For Dog Blog Friday: Even in 2-D, he's so cute you just want to hug him. (Of course, he sort of looks like he's in 2-D in 3-D.)

Calexico A-Go-Go

Ennio Morricone. You have to say those two mellifluous words to start talking about Calexico, but then it's very important that you don't stop. For they sure haven't, as they more than proved in a rousing, pleasing show at SoHo in Santa Barbara last night. Sure, they've got the CinemaScope western feel down pat, with pedal steel and Spanish guitar and marimba and accordion and mariachi horns, but even with those flavorings, they can swing some and sensuous or rip wild and loud. They even can send feedback a-squallin' so much they'll blow the lime well into your Corona, but they do that judiciously, and surprisingly, taking "Not Even Stevie Nicks," rather simple and sweet on CD, and sneaking a rip-snorting bridge into it that not even Lindsey Buckingham could come up with (and he's the artsy one). After all, among their covers they play the Minutemen, but Joey Burns announces, "Because they were corndogs and proud of it--I can relate," before kicking into "Corona."

Burns isn't your usual frontman, for as much as he's got guitar chops, and a variety of chops at that (stately and staccato Latino to fuzzed and frenetic electric), his voice isn't the strongest--it works best to evoke rather than emote. (Indeed, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Valenzuela took top vocal honors on his couple of Spanish numbers, including then encore "Ojitos Traidores" from the Los Super 7 album Heard It on the X.) But Burns is good at drier than the Tucson he's from patter, especially his rejoinder to a fan who was a bit annoying stage-side, "Glad to be at your party, thanks for having us."

But it was a party, and by the end even the typically tempo-challenged Santa Barbara crowd could clap in time and sway about (it was standing room only, even with the Independent holdiay party drawing away much of the show's most likely audience down at El Paseo). A large part of the rhythm comes from drummer extraordinaire John Convertino, for whom no 4/4 can't get a bit of a fillip to make it more fun. It's certainly clear why Burns and Convertino have been so in demand as session players for folks like Neko Case, or the heart to the manic head of Howe Gelb in Giant Sand for a glorious decade plus run. They don't just play anything, they play with anything, even their own songs. I have to admit their latest studio disc Garden Ruin is too much garden and not even not ruin for me--Calexico works best when cultures and chords all meet, crash, but never crash in their songs. Still, the show's version of "Letter to a Bowie Knife" from that album proves they haven't lost their rocky modulated pitch. Plus they performed songs from all throughout their career, since they don't have a career, they have a cult, and we wouldn't want it any other way. Which means, yes, they did a horn-honking version of Love's "Andmoreagain" [ed. note: it was "Alone Again Or," see comments] and it was completely catchy, corndog, Calexico.

Opening act The Broken West at first made me want to make the crack if you take the Old 97's and subtract the 88s you don't necessarily end up on Cloud 9, but then they took a turn for Wilco and didn't look back. We're talking Wilco in the Summer Teeth era, my personal favorite, but thinking about them after the Calexico set does them no favors.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Don't Follow Tinsley, He's Lost Too

Getting pissed off about the comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" is kind of like cringing while Bush talks during a press event (did you hear him with Blair today?)--you know you're going to do it but you can't stop yourself anyway. Today's strip is particularly annoying, however, as it tries, once again, to link World War II with 9/11 (gee, I'm surprised Bruce Tinsley didn't point out how much II looks like 11).

Of course, what bugs me most is the "punchline"--"And so future students don't grow up thinking that 'Pearl Harbor' was a '90s grunge band."

Bruce, that's Pearl Jam, and the odds are good most kids today barely remember them, even with this year's new album and the single "World Wide Suicide" reaching #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Jam and Harbor sound so much alike.

Of course, I really don't expect him to remember there was a musician named Pearl Harbour, who, with her band the Explosions, had a bit of new wave fame and glory back around 1980. Forget about future students having no sense of history, current conservative comics writers don't know jack, either.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Can't Cotton Gin?

Friday is the 341st birthday of Eli Whitney. He invented cotton gin during the Great Juniper Shortage of 1793. [mumbling from off camera] Um, Whitney, who went to Yale so therefore is Eli the Eli, invented the cotton gin in 1793. [more mumbling from off camera] Actually Henry Ogden Holmes probably invented the cotton gin, but Whitney patented it, after pointing all his rifles made with interchangeable parts, another idea that he stole and patented, at the defenseless and ginless Holmes. There is no truth to the rumor that Whitney formed a prototype of Microsoft. The cotton gin is a mechanical device that removes the seeds from cotton, and led Whitney to try to remove the seeds from other things, although there never was much of a market for the grape gin, the less said about the disastrously painful birth control device the testicle gin the better, and in a great irony Gallagher beat Whitney to the patent for the watermelon gin.

Wednesday Pot Roast Blogging

Here's our dinner Saturday (and in the distance the watchful eyes of T.J. Eckleburg?). Sure, we did it ourselves, but I can't express how good it was. You can make it yourself by following this link to find recipes adapted from Suzanne Tracht, the wonderful cook at LA's Jar. I knew I'd have to blog about this meal just from looking over the recipes, as it calls for denuded, de-boned short ribs, and how often do you get to type de-nuded, de-boned? (Alas, we could only buy ones that were bone-in, but it was easy to remove them when the meat was cooked, and now I've had the chance to write bone-in, too.) Don't pass on making the green beans--they almost taste sweetly pickled thanks to the balsamic. The salad is simple and a knockout, too: chopping up fresh herbs and sprinkling them in the greens, not in the dressing, is quite clever and makes them really pop. (We didn't make the potato pancakes, 'cause that always seems too labor intensive to me.) You won't need dessert, either. The one sad part of the meal is that the Chateau St. Cosme Gigondas was the last of the bottles of wine we carted about France and brought home from our trip last year.

Flocking Bat!

Amy (via Groucho) offers a little holiday season joke with a current events twist:

"A woman got bit by a bat in her christmas tree. What the woman was doing in her Christmas tree I'll never know."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tale of Two Presidential Candidates?

Salon reports:

As he opened his remarks Friday at a World AIDS Day summit at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback said he was feeling a little more "comfortable" than he did the last time he shared a stage with Barack Obama. "We were both addressing the NAACP," Brownback explained. "They were very polite to me … [but] I think they kind of wondered, 'Who's this guy from Kansas?' And then Barack Obama follows, and they're going, 'OK, now we've got Elvis.'"

Figuring their joint appearance at an Orange County evangelical church finally put the shoe on the other foot, Brownback turned to Obama and said, "Welcome to my house." The audience of evangelicals howled with laughter. But when Obama had the chance to speak a few minutes later, he returned to what Brownback had said: "There is one thing I've got to say, Sam: This is my house, too. This is God's house."

Jesus (if you can pardon the mild name-in-veining). How out of it is Brownback? His comparison to show how Obama goes over better in front of an African-American crowd is Elvis? Guess he wrote his comments while listening to his Pat Boone records.

Oh, nice dig, Obama. Please run.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Never Know What's in Store

I have to admit I'm the kind of person who gets excited (of the smiling inside, not the outward oohing and ahhing kind) at the prospect of Wild King Salmon, regularly at $21.99/lb., on sale for $12.99. Pan grill it with just salt and pepper and then at the table top with some mustard-chive-lemon vinagrette and thin-sliced radishes and celery, it's freshness on a fork. So I'm smiling inside by the seafood counter at Lazy Acres, one of Santa Barbara's upscale markets, and a fellow shopper goes by who looks oddly familiar. He seems tooo pleased with himself, and dressed a bit too well without really being stylish--he just seems to have dropped a lot of coin at Brooks Brothers (expensive clothing for the tasteless and clueless™). I suddenly realize it's Arthur von Wiesenberger, co-publisher of the News-Press. Then I realize he's not alone--Wendy McCaw is out shopping with him, too, like she doesn't have minions to do such trivial work for her. Makes me wonder if their shopping cart is full of basil, so they can corner the market if the News-Press predicted shortage happens. McCaw seems collapsed inward and making a "I just sucked an unripe Hachiya persimmon" face. The bad vibes just seem to emanate from her, as if she can't believe she's in a place where people not worth millions are.

Of course, I instantly think there must be some witty rejoinder I can offer, but nothing truly delicious springs into my head, and anyway, I figure if I start a biting comment, she'd have one of her lawyers present me with a restraining order before I finished the sentence. Plus I do sort of believe that people out, whether famous or infamous, should be given some space. Although when they are public figures who refuse to meet with the public or give the public any say (how many negative letters has the N-P comments page run since July?), it might not hurt to try to get a swift verbal jab in, if nothing more than a, "I have to tell you how much I like what you've done with the paper. You've helped make my blog so much more popular in the past few months...."

Alas, I don't even get a good look at what they're buying, which might be fun to report.

I check out in a different line, and then get the bright idea I have to drive my car past them in the parking lot, so they have to see my "Boycott the News-Press" bumper sticker. I actually loop about the lot to try to find them, but, of course, they are oblivious to anyone else. They did get into a brand new Volvo XC90, so Ms. Environmental doesn't mind driving around in a vehicle that at best gets 22 mpg. I guess the dinosaurs already died to make that oil, so wtf.

And now I keep thinking about that bizarrely self-satisfied smile the Nipper had plastered on his face. It makes me even more glad I didn't say anything to them. It's almost as if he felt like he was on parade, and enjoys his infamy; maybe he feels something akin to the opening of George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"--"I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me." Of course, Orwell is writing with the awareness of what being part of an empire means, and what it did to his soul. I wouldn't want to vouch for the Nipper's.

Master of Light or Master of Darkness?

originally uploaded by mrschuckarnett

Marla could take the devil's whipping, just as long as she didn't have to face the Thomas Kincaid print.

Monday random flickr-blogging explained.

Photographers Snip Snap

originally uploaded by sector9lboarder

Once the Piggly Wiggly Market installed the LiarLiarCartOnFire 5000™, people finally started taking seriously the penalties for trying to sneak through 11 items on the 10 items or less line.

Dish ala Commode

originally uploaded bydydy530

It's been impossible to get grandpa out of the outhouse since he put in the satellite dish.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

They've Delayed That Lovin' Feline

Thanks to my ability to use the internets, my voyueristic nature, and my tall frame, I can actually do some reporting on this website for a change. I've been patiently waiting for the opening of David Lentz's Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, as Amy and I are big fans of the one in LA, which is not only delicious, but quite close to the Henry Fonda Theater, where all kinds of great shows happen, from Yo La Tengo to the Decemberists. The LA Times reported Lentz, who partners with his wife, killer chef Suzanne Goin (of Lucques and AOC in LA) to own the Hungry Cats, was going to open a branch right here in SB, in the spot vacated by L'Ombretta on Chapala and Anapamu. It was originally scheduled to open this December.

The other night we walked by the location and decided to peek over the paper covering the windows. As I perilously dug in the toes of my size 12s on the slight window ledge and Amy supported me from behind, what I took in inside isn't encoraging--basically they hollowed out the L'Ombretta space but little has been put in. The closest hint to cooking is a microwave on a folding table, something I assume won't make it to the final stage of the restaurant. Indeed, the Santa Barbara space seems quite difference from the Los Angeles one, which is equally small (75 seats), but ultra modern to the point of austerity--visible Pompidou-esque pipes (without the art smartiness) and metal and concrete of the Sunset + Vine complex (clearly modern as it turns to math and ignores primitive languagy things like "ands" or amerpsands). As much as L'Ombretta was erratic in food and service (if a brilliant idea--small plates and big wines from one of the great lands of small plates, Venice), the spot was homey and charming, and well, warm. It's going to be fascinating to see what Lentz ends up with when the Hungry Cat is finished.

Sure enough, if you go to the Hungry Cat link above, you'll see that when it used to say "Santa Barbara--Opening December," it now says "Opening Winter 2007," which more than likely leaves us arguing what winter means in Santa Barbara. In the meantime we can dream of perfectly prepared peel and eat shrimp (the labor makes you feel noble and able to eat more). And dream of brilliant cocktails, or at least I hope they find a bartender here as good as the ones in LA, but squeezing fresh fruit and muddling mint is always a very good start.

For more, go read what I wrote about the Hollywood location back in May 2005, or read Jonathan Gold's review in LA Weekly, or read S. Irene Virbilia's in the LA Times.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Do Something for World AIDs Day

Today Bristol-Myers Squibb is donating $1 to AIDs relief every time someone goes to its website and lights a candle. It's not much, but it's a bit of light.

Go now.

(hat tip to Altercation)

Friday Random Ten

The Pooh Sticks "Susan Sleepwalking" Million Seller
The Velvet Underground "Rock and Roll" Loaded (Peel Slowly and See)
The Blue Hawaiians "Baja" Live at the Lava Lounge
Julius Daniel "99 Year Blues" Anthology of American Folk Music
Noel's Cowards "Hard to Believe" Rikky & Pete sdtrk
Tiny Lights "5'1"" Freedom of Choice
David Byrne "Walk on the Water" Look into the Eyeball
Tom Russell "Claude Dallas" Song of the West
Steve Earle "Now She's Gone" I Feel Alright
Pixies "Where Is My Mind?" Surfer Rosa

The Klezmatics "Moroccan Game" Possessed

Starting this week you get the album listed, too, given both of the first 2 cuts are on more than one album and in different versions. And as for the Pooh Sticks, funny they should pop up as I chose yesterday to do one of my twice-yearly searches for Multiple Orgasm, which supposedly got a CD release once upon a time, but I'm beginning to think it's mythic. (P.S. Notice my incredible restraint not going for the obvious joke.)

Nobody Here but Us Turkeys

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie and Nigel play reverse-Survivor and hope to get voted onto the island.
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