Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Random Ten

Muzsikas "Fuzesi Ritka Magyar" The Bartok Album
The Replacements "Shooting Dirty Pool" Pleased to Meet Me
Ryuichi Sakamoto "Risky" Neo Geo
Bruce Cockburn "Great Big Love" Nothing but a Burning Light
Robert Fripp & the League of Crafty Guitarists "The Moving Force" Show of Hands
Spanish Harlem Orchestra "Gran Dia en el Barrio" Across 110th Street
Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" (demo) D.I.Y.: Amarchy in the UK--UK Punk I (1976-77)
Jimmie Dale Gilmore "Your Love Is My Rest" One Endless Night
Alan Feinberg "Silhouette" Fascinatin' Rhythm
Vera Beths, George Pieterson, Anner Bijlsma, Reinbert de Leeuw "Liturgie de cristal" Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps

Eliane Elias "Song of the Jet" Eliane Elias Sings Jobim

You can't get much more all-over than that.


Happy Dog Belting Birthday

For Dog Blog Friday: Singing by the pups, photo by Amy, getting old by yours truly.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thwacked in the Head by a 44

I've explained before that I still make mixed tapes. No, not playlists--mixed tapes. Those funny plastic things with stuff spooled inside. Sure, random is fun, but why not have a bit of control over things now and again? I especially like to make birthday tapes, so here's this year's, a bit more mellow than I would want to say is a reflection of me. At least I'm better off than last year, when it took me until July to make the birthday tape.

I Don't Care if Forever Never Comes

side A

Andrew Bird "Heretics"
New Pornographers "The Bleeding Hearts Show"
Portastatic "You Blanks"
Mott the Hoople "All the Young Dudes"
Drive-By Truckers "Gravity's Gone"
The Hold Steady "Hot Soft Light"
The Pooh Sticks "On Tape"
The Futureheads "Favours for Favours"
Gothic Archies "How Do You Slow This Thing Down?"
Dean and Britta "Words You Used to Say"
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?"
Camera Obscura "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken"

side B

Of Montreal "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger"
Beck "Strange Apparition"
Yo La Tengo "The Weakest Part"
T Bone Burnett "Trap Door"
Guster "The Captain"
Neko Case "That Teenage Feeling"
Lucinda Williams "Mama You Sweet"
Handsome Family "After We Shot the Grizzly"
Lambchop "Crackers"
Eric Bachmann "Little Bird"
Peter Blegvad "Swim"
The Decemberists "The Crane Wife 3"

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday Belgian Beer Party Blogging

Saturday we attended The 12 Hour Belgian Beer Party, were there for 3 hours, and left in a fizzy. Hosted by Pizza Port Carlsbad, which makes some brilliant brews all on its own, Belgian style or otherwise, the event was one of those overload things that actually makes you glad your entrance fee gives you a limited number of drink tickets (which you could buy more of, but we're talking Belgian beers, which often have a higher alcohol content to help the monks see God and all that). With 90 beers to chose from (20 on tap), it was a crazy cornucopia of yeasty delight.

And hard to know what to taste. A bunch of local brewmasters flitted through the crowd (OK, the one bigger guy decked out like a monk was too large to flit, but you know what I mean), dropping suggestions that got passed around like grammar school "who's got the cooties" gossip. Alas, it seems many of those beer snobs (it's not an oxymoron!) are like the people who try to get you to eat the oddest thing on the menu at an exotic restaurant. For while Belgium offers more beer styles than a country that's half the size of San Bernadino County should rightfully be able to create, that doesn't mean all the styles are equally delicious. There's a style I'm not smart enough to pinpoint or name, but it has something to do with making your mouth pucker. We're not talking unripe Hachiya persimmon astringent, but it's not the most pleasant of mouth events (really, it's not just a taste thing--it does stuff to your tongue's surface, too). Given we (Amy, her father Larry, and I--thanks, Debby, Amy's mom, for being designated driver) tried to split up what we tasted, of course we hit on a few of these sourpusses, like Petrus Aged Pale, Saison Pipaix 1995, Cantillon Iris, Geants Saison Voison, and from the US in Belgian-style, Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (but the dog label is mighty cute) and, sadly, Russian River Supplication, given that brewery up north is one of our favorites. Looking at the list right now, it hit me saison isn't the thing for this Jersey boy. (There's a joke there, I promise.)

So what did we love? Gouden Carolous Ambrio, on tap, and full of that Belgian yeast (bready, banana-y, belicious)(OK, even Cole Porter wouldn't try to get away with that one); Liefmans Frambozen, with just enough raspberry to cut its bitterness; Rochefort 10, which was about two levels better than Maredsous 8; Malheur Black Chocolate, which was, um, chocolate.... For a US version of the Belgian style, nothing beat Craftsman Honesty Cherry Ale, another fine balancing act between the cherry sweetness and the beery bitterness.

One bit of fun was waiting for the 3 liter bottle to be opened at the top of each hour. Just the ceremony of it was exciting, as was the long arm reach hoping to get your share. I assume brewers believe beer, especiallly bottle conditioned beer like so many Belgians (that means it's still got active yeast in the bottle, keeping fermentation, and flavor-making, alive), ages better in larger formats, just like winemakers claim about wine. From what we could tell this seemed true--a Chimay Blue 1995 was rich and creamy and moving towards something profound, while a Russian River Damnation still seemed freshly alive in the mouth. And where better to end 3 hours of Belgian beer than with a bit of Damnation?

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My Beef with Bush's Beef Bull

Since I ragged on the local rag yesterday, it's only fair that I point out the LA Times doesn't always hit its editorials out of the park, either. I actually missed this editorial that ran on March 12, but when President Bush goes and quotes you approvingly, you pretty much have to assume you've done something really really bad. In a speech today to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (who you'd think would know about all hat and no cattle, but I guess not), Bush said:

I want to read to you what a major newspaper editorial page said -- and by the way, this editorial page, like, generally not singing my praises -- (laughter) -- "Imagine if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to adhere to a congressional war plan in scheduling the Normandy landings -- or if, in 1863, President Lincoln had been forced by Congress to conclude the Civil War the following year. This is the worst kind of congressional meddling in military strategy."

Then I heard Senator Mark Pryor (D, supposedly), who voted against the timeline for a pullout from Iraq, use the same analogy on a news clip on NPR this afternoon.

So, to set the LA Times, the President, and Senator Pryor straight....The war in Iraq is not WW II (which also means Saddam is not Hitler, but nice try resurrecting that one). An invasion is not a strategic withdrawl. In one case you're moving into territory you don't occupy (can I say occupation here?); in the other you're already someplace and decide to leave. It's hard to leave by surprise--people usually see you packing up, unless you just abandon all your posts and run pell-mell. So even if we kept the pullout date a big secret, Iraqis would figure it out pretty quick. Also, we were fighting one enemy in Germany, and it was Germany. In Iraq it seems everyone gets to fight everyone, but when in doubt, take out some Americans. Don't forget to do so not wearing any uniform, either.

One last item on this silly D-Day and Iraq comparison: we had to fight WW II, and were attacked first (maybe while pretending not to know we were to be attacked, but let's not quibble over conspiracy theories). We attacked Iraq first, for a series of reasons that have all amounted to no reason, and haven't made the world safe for democracy in the process.

P.S. Comparing Bush to Lincoln, FDR, and Eisenhower does not do Bush any favors. Might as well put Eddie Gaedel, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays in the same sentence.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Paper Bags Are Safe: Travis Armstrong Is in Town

Travis Armstrong strikes (well, that's the wrong word given how he feels about unions) again in today's paper that used to be the News-Press with an editorial coyly titled "More union strife ahead?" as if he even begins to mean that as a question. (No link, as the N-P doesn't feel it's part of the internets and makes you pay for everything.) Armstrong calls Santa Barbara a union town "more than what's good for it," which might just mean he conflates WendyMcCaw with Santa Barbara--I guess she contains multitudes, they just better not walk on her beach.

Actually, conflation seems to be a problem for Armstrong in many ways, for the editorial--all 451 words and 14 paragraphs of it--jumps about more than a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, but it lacks the wit. For instance, his major goal seems to be to tar every union with the dreaded Teamster brush, and therefore immediately goes from discussing the looming grocery workers' strike to this:

Teamsters organizers from Los Angeles want to represent certain News-Press newsroom employees and have brought disruptive tactics to our community. No doubt, the Teamsters next will set their sights on other employers in Santa Barbara.

The union historically is known for its past ties to organized crime.

Any guesses as to what union represents grocery workers? No, not the Teamsters but the United Food and Commercial Workers. Somebody better tell Travis not all unions are the same, even if they look the same to him. If you manage to snag the Armstrong ear, it might also be good to point out that:
  1. The News-Press employees brought the Teamsters here as their only recourse to keep the newsroom somewhat sane;
  2. There was this little thing called an election (33-6) that says the Teamsters do represent the newsroom employees (I guess Travis figures if the N-P doesn't report on the election and the NLRB hearing they didn't happen);
  3. The Teamsters don't just get every possible employee in the world to unionize--different jobs actually have different representation;
  4. "Set their sights" makes them seem sort of violent, doesn't it?
Of course, nothing thrills Armstrong more than to say the Teamsters have an ugly history (note his redundancy of historical past ties, too--he can't even write well, let alone argue). I haven't seen him spend much editorial inch discussing the lamentable and often illegal history of newspaper owners and management, though. And I'm not just talking about management's glory days back in the 1910s, I'm talking about the 1990s. Here's a bit of the Detroit story from noted labor journalist David Bacon:

In 1995, management of both Detroit newspapers put demands on the table which they knew would be unacceptable to unions--replacing cost-of-living raises with merit increases, and eliminating union jobs while creating non-union positions doing the same work. The existence of a plan to force a strike was amply demonstrated by meetings between management and the Sterling Heights police department. The Detroit Newspaper Agency, a joint operation of both newspapers to share production and distribution facilities, promised four months before the strike started to compensate the department for overtime costs it would incur in shepherding scabs into the plant.

By the time the strike was a year old, the agency had paid Sterling Heights $2.1 million for police overtime.


Once unions walked out on strike, the Detroit papers were ready to replace the strikers immediately, and had contracted with Alternative Work Force to bring in 580 scabs. AWF is one of a number of companies which specialize in recruiting scabs for strikes.


To guard Detroit's scabs, the newspapers at first hired another company which has made lots of money in the newspaper wars --Huffmaster Security. [note: as far as I can tell Huffmaster has no connection to Agnes Huff, who resurfaced on the Indy Media Blog to say she's still a News-Press' spokesperson...only to then say she can't say anything] For supplying 480 guards and 580 scabs for the first four months of the strike, Huffmaster and AWK were paid $2.3 million. The guard company is suing the papers for $1.6 million more.

Huffmaster was replaced by a larger, even more notorious, security firm, Vance International, whose guards show up dressed in black uniforms and combat boots.


Standard company legal strategy during strikes rests on convincing friendly judges to issue injunctions which virtually eliminate picketing, so that scabs pass freely in and out. While there is basically no punishment for companies if scabs threaten or injure strikers, if a striker threatens a scab in any way, or even insults them, the NLRB has held that such activity is misconduct--grounds for firing. After a strike is over, videotapes become evidence used to selectively ensure that active union members are not rehired.


In Detroit, 20 Vance guards beat striker Vito Sciuto with a stick, breaking his skull. In comments to a reporter afterwards, a Vance employee said the guards wanted "to hurt people."

That's newspaper management, who might not have ties to organized crime, just to companies that bust unionized heads for a living. Seems mighty up-and-up to me.

Of course Travis finally just wanders off into the land of baseless assertion when he gets to:

We have many concerns about the spread of unionization in Santa Barbara, particularly when one considers what happens at many businesses once the organizers move in or when a union is certified. First there's strife. Next prices often go up and quality goes down.

Sure, there's strife. The owners might not get everything they want. Just imagine the strife back in the early 20th century when companies had to let workers work only 5 days a week for 40 hours. Poor owners. And where's the proof that prices go up and quality goes down? Can you give even one example?

He thinks he does by claiming that our most unionized sector is government...oh, he's wrong already. The area's biggest employer is UCSB and much of the university workforce is unionized. But is UCSB an example of "inefficiencies, bloat and lack of customer care"? Maybe in administration, but those aren't the union jobs.

Once again, we have to re-think our terminology, for what too often is billed a "labor problem" is really a "management problem."

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Force Fed by Love

So for my birthday Amy gave me that Multiple Orgasm I've been wanting for years.

Sorry, forgot the italics there--meant Multiple Orgasm by the Pooh Sticks, one of the sadly little known (the story of my musical taste, the story of my life) bands of the late 80s early 90s when people thought music sucked but that's just because they didn't know what to listen to. I've had the album on tape (which is fitting, as one of the disc's best cuts praises the joys of having rare music "On Tape") for years (thanks, Layne, if you're out there), but now I can blast it on CD and not worry that each time I listen I wear some of the fun away.

I almost had to stay in the car and listen to the whole punk-pop thing before coming into work, and even then did so humming the terribly catchy "Sex Head," hoping I didn't blurt out any of the sing-along chorus while in my cube.

As the All Music Guide claims:

The Pooh Sticks were rock's most inside joke, a monumental yet affectionate prank on the very mythology of pop music itself. Cloaked behind ridiculously-overblown marketing schemes, made-up histories and cartoon-character images, the Welsh group punctured the industry's myriad excesses, freely pilfering from the entirety of pop's past by shoplifting titles, lyrics and melodies at will; wrapping their barbs in cotton-candy sing-a-longs, their subversions worked on many levels -- postmodern cultural criticism, retro-irony, slavish imitation, and power-pop manna among them -- to forge an identity as high-concept as it was low-brow.

Gee, that last comment sounds like some project someone else might be up to. (Look up. No, the other up. I mean the one on the computer screen.)

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Is That a Crocodile Strapped to Your Waist, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

From CNN, since there was a pause in Anna Nicole Smith news:

A woman was caught with three crocodiles strapped to her waist at the Gaza-Egypt border crossing after guards noticed that she looked "strangely fat," officials said.

The woman's odd shape raised suspicions at the Rafah terminal in southern Gaza, and a body search by a female border guard turned up the animals, each about 50 centimeters (20 inches) long, concealed underneath her loose robe.

Evidently the border guard asked, "I don't mean to be rude, and it's ok that you're fat, but you look strangely fat--what gives?"

And the smuggler, realizing only the right answer would lead to her getting those crocodile leather shoes she's always wanted, replied, "I have a monkey tied to my chest."

And the guard said, "What a crock..." which led the smuggler to break down into, well, you can guess what kind of tears. And all she hoped was to hear the guard say, "See you later, alligator."

"The policewoman screamed and ran out of the room, and then women began screaming and panicking when they heard," a spokesperson said. But when the hysteria died down, she said, "everybody was admiring a woman who is able to tie crocodiles to her body."

Indeed, the smuggler has received several offers of marriage since she was arrested.

(hat tip Dependeable Renegade)

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I Bought the Gas and the Gas Won

Originally uploaded by colt911.

Someday I'll be able to tell the grandchildren that I won't have about the good old days when gas prices were under $2. (OK, I'll probably be able to tell them about when there was gasoline, too, but let's not be too depressing.)

Monday random Flickr-blogging explained.


I Came in Here for that Special Offer

Originally uploaded by fotograf.416.

At least they'll be able to take advantage of the convenience of the IQ 12 or less register.


The Longstanding Problems of Mothers and Happiness

Birthdays usually don't bother me one way or the other--we all get older, so get over it. But this birthday is an odd one for me as it's the first since my mom died, and to have a birthday without the birther as well as the birthee is something I'm not quite used to. I wish I could say my mom and I were close, but in many ways I was a betrayal of everything she wanted a child to be. I have two older sisters, and my mom and dad wanted a boy, so heard some old wives' tale that if you wait seven years you get one. They waited and got me. I was never a very good boy boy--bookish and creative and non-athletic and allergic to things that help make kids kids (milk, chocolate, pollen) from day one.

It got worse from there, at least as far as my mom was concerned (my dad's disappointments are entire 'nother blog entry beginning with my complete lack of mechanical interest or aptitude), for after going to Catholic schools through high school, even teaching CCD while in high school (albeit by teaching them about narcissistic distortion and playing them Neil Young), I left the church, don't go to church, didn't get married in the church. (It's probably a good thing she didn't realize Amy and I adapted our vows from Tony Kushner's "Epithalamion" not just because it's brilliantly beautiful but because we liked the idea of a gay man's words being part of our wedding.)

I won't even begin to discuss how in addition to religion, politics was off the table with my mom, for she took her Republicanism like her Catholicism--a whole lot of faith got her through.

In general, she just wasn't an easy woman to deal with. Maybe it's some Eastern European/Slovak thing, where the glass not only is half empty, but also you can't help but fret how close it is to the edge of the table and who's going to wash the glass later, if it somehow miraculously doesn't fall off the table and break into bits that will be very hard to clean up on the floor I just scrubbed as usual on Wednesday morning? Amy and I used to joke, because what else could we do, when she'd leave messages on the phone, always proceeded by a tiny pause that you could sense was her irritation that we weren't home so she couldn't be irritated with us in person, "'s your're never home...give me a call."

Of course then she got pancreatic cancer, which it almost seems she never seemed to get she got. Sure, she'd tell people she had it, but never once did she admit it was pretty much a death sentence. Clearly, based on 77 years she wasn't suddenly optimistic, although we all hoped her faith we turned our backs on didn't turn its back on her when she needed it most. (And I have to admit her parish priest was very good with her through it all.) I just think she refused to believe she was dying. She was one willful woman and she wasn't going to let it happen. Indeed, she lasted days beyond when someone should after no longer really eating or drinking, and made it to Christmas morning so now Christmas will always be the day my mother died. Some gifts keep giving. At the wake, one of her fellow parishioners told us how blessed my mom was, for Mary takes anyone who dies on Christmas immediately into heaven. I can only hope that bit of old wifery holds true, especially as the one part of Catholicism that still fascinates me is where it becomes superstition.

After her death my sisters and I went through all the photo albums we weren't smart enough to go through with her when we still could have learned something. Now many of the photos open to mysteries, for while we recognize many of the faces, even one like our grandfather (my mom's dad) who died after a mine accident when she was only 16, others are unknown to us. Some are clearly from the Old Country, which might as well be Mars (poor Slovakia, getting bumrushed through the 20th century as part of Austria-Hungary, then the Third Reich, then Czechoslovakia, and now the country bumpkin cousin to the Prague centered Czechs).

But then there are the photos of my mom in which she might be from Mars, too. Like the one at the top of this entry, on a trip she took to New York City from Scranton, PA (yep, the town where The Office is set) with her girlfriends before her marriage. Who knows what hope she felt, how much the world seemed possible. She seems happy and should be, beautiful and young. This was before her life became obligation, even though her older brother had already told her mom that girls didn't need to go to college, so she didn't. This is long before her marriage would fall apart, and she, too Catholic, would never even date, let alone marry again.

So here's to Marge's small joys (and me calling her Marge wasn't one of them, so sorry, Mom). Manhattans, she liked those, and let's hope it's not just fanciful of me to think it wasn't just the booze but the promise every cocktail offers, none moreso than one named after New York City. To the Mets, damn them, who couldn't even get to, let alone win, the World Series for her last year. In real life Babe Ruth doesn't hit the homerun for Billy in the hospital, he's just some drunk who strikes out. I called her a lot last summer, because that's what you do--it's not like I'm free from the onus of obligation that runs in my genes. And since politics was a sure fight, and religion was, too, we talked about the Mets, to the point where she'd often give me play-by-play over the phone. And, somehow, it often seemed games would turn during our phone conversations, rallies would kick up out of the dust. She'd still be skeptical, convinced they'd give back a lead, but you could tell she wasn't just happy the Mets went ahead, but that she shared it with me. I'm going to miss those calls this season, the ones when the woman in the picture above would briefly flicker into view, the person I'm worried she too barely even knew.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Random Ten

Television "Torn Curtain" Marquee Moon
Janet Bean "One Shot" Dragging Wonder Lake
Matthew Sweet "Thunderstorm" In Reverse
The Decemberists "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" The Crane's Wife
Luna "IHOP" Pup Tent
"Sex Pistols" "L'Anarchie Pour le UK" Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
AC Newman "The Cloud Prayer" The Slow Wonder
Robert Fripp String Quartet "Blockhead" The Bridge Between
Swell "Life's Great" Particle Theory (comp)
John Cale "The Cowboy Laughs at the Round-Up" Paris S'eveille

Stephin Merritt "The Top and the Ball" Showtunes

Starts off strong and kind of peters out, but that's true for some of the songs here, too--the Sweet, Cale, and Luna all could use a bit of editing. No NJ this week, btw.

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Nigel on Nigel Action

For Dog Blog Friday (possible NSFW edition): If anyone writes a comment saying this photo reminds them of a dream he or she had with me in it, I'll have to quit blogging.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy
( read that in a bad Cary Grant accent)

The Daily Sound has a report today about a fundraiser that will go on in the sylvan foothills of Montecito this weekend for presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. At one point the article quotes fundraiser organizer David Lack who says, "He’s not coming in with an agenda, he’s coming in as a leader and manager. Just like he showed leadership of New York City, I think the country is looking for that.”

First, any manager who doesn't have an agenda is a ex-manager pretty fast. Second, Giuliani showed leadership on and after 9/11, not before, when New Yorkers pretty much hated his guts. It's not that Giuliani rose to the occasion, it's that the occasion plummeted to a level where being resolute was leadership. And heck, compared to W. jetting around the country only after many engrossing minutes with My Pet Goat, it was easy to seem stalwart. (We won't talk about how Giuliani never followed through on pre-9/11 recommendations about having the police and firemen share radio signals or things like that now.)

Beyond Giuliani, the article offered up this delicious tidbit for those of us looking for a spot for our next protest:

Lack said he plans to host White House press secretary Tony Snow and President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff Karl Rove sometime in May.

Of course, no one will be able to take any transcripts when Rove is here.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Winemaker Dinner Blogging

If you've ever had Turley touch your lips, you know what I mean when I say, "YUM!" Or, if you've suffered through Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and are dyslexic, you might sing, "Turley scrumptious, you are Turley, Turley scrumptious." You gotta like big wines (and lots of alcohol, not that you taste the alcohol with the gobs of fruit), but a Turley Zinfandel is a thing of magic, in some ways the epitome of, if not a California wine, perhaps the boldness and brashness and sheer "you're going to like me"-ability of California itself--it's a vinuous Terminator, so to speak (and to speak without any Austrian accent).

Amy and I attended, for the fifth straight year (yeah, you can hate us for it), the annual winemaker dinner Turley holds up in Templeton (just south of Paso Robles, and just north of Atascadero, which I only mention because its high school's team is the Greyhounds) this past Friday and it seems the event just gets better and better. Turley teams with Ian McPhee at McPhee's Grill for a culinary blowout. Here's this year's setlist:

1997 “Old Vines” Zinfandel
Passed Appetizers
1994 “Aida Vineyard” Zinfandel
Wild & Exotic Mushroom Ragu
with smoked tomato relish on baked polenta
1994 Moore “Earthquake Vineyard” Zinfandel
Moroccan Spiced Swordfish
with eggplant tomato jam, honey garlic aioli
& roasted vegetable couscous salad
1995 “Black Sears” Zinfandel & 1996 “Grist” Zinfandel
Oak Roasted Prime Spencer Steak
with grilled foie gras and Oaxacan Mole
1998 “Delinquent” Zinfandel Port
Chocolate Decadence Cake
with zinfandel, chocolate and fig sauce

Yes, that's 5 zins, plus their port, which is richness in a glass, with a few tasty delectables like foie gras and mole thrown in. Notice, too, they hit their library for this dinner, which warms my drink 'em young at home heart. I don't have the patience, or the good cellaring spot, to hang on to wine for too long (here's hoping that 1991 Chateau Montelena cab is still happy in its closet), so I appreciate the chance to drink wines someone has aged properly every now and then. If you're wondering, Turley Zins do change over a decade--the wines mellow and move towards Amarone, with berries turning raisiny, and often port-like themselves. But they sure paired well with the food. That "Earthquake" with the Moroccan spice on the perfectly cooked swordfish--which isn't easy, as it's a fish that dries so easily--and the essence of eggplant relish...I would have that dish daily, if possible. Plus it proves even a serious red wine can go with fish (and enough spice, not that the spice over-powered, it just perfectly perfumed).

What's more, you usually get sat with people at this event, and we had the great pleasure of sharing a table with Frank and Connie Nerelli. Frank is the grandson of Frank Pesenti, who started the Pesenti Winery and then the family sold what's now known as the Pesenti Vineyard to Turley in 2000. So he's part of three generations of winemakers from the area and himself makes a stellar zinfandel at Zin Alley, tending to 3 acres pretty much solo--it's the definition of a wine made out of love for winemaking (and dry farmed, which seems to help make zin the extracted delight it can be in its best versions). Amy and I pumped him for info and stories that he kindly shared and we're definitely never going to be winemakers ourselves--there's way too much to know and do. You have to know how dirt is different. You have to be able to tell the sugar levels of grapes just by looking (sure you can test, but are you a scientist or a winemaker?). I'd rather just drink the stuff.

I've left off Turley's website until here as there's only a homepage that tells you that they are "happy to add you to the waiting list for our mailing list." You read that right--you sign up, and eventually when enough people stop buying (unlikely) or die off, you get offered an allotment of wine twice a year. When I finally got on the list, I felt like I won the lottery (and not, as the ever more practical Amy pointed out, as if I had just got a chance to spend more money). While most of their wines are from Napa and points north, their tasting room is in Templeton and worth a visit if you're on the Central Coast. Given how exclusive the wine is, the tasting room offers no snoot. Plus the area is booming with great wine, and not just Zins--there's great Rhone varietals, Bordeaux varietals, even some Pinot. If you hit the area, try stopping in at Tablas Creek, Denner, Villa Creek, Four Vines, L'Aventure, the list could go on. And you'll get to drive on roads that look like this:

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Fantasy Been Very Very Good to Me

So I became a Snakes fan last night, as we had our draft for our fantasy baseball league and somehow I kept ending up with Diamondbacks. We'll see, but as someone joked, here's hoping that Stephen Drew got the health gene in his family. And I love me some young arms.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2007 Oberkfellows (until I cut people, trade people, etc.):

Brian McCann
Chris Iannetta
Justin Morneau
Ian Kinsler
Kelly Johnson
Stephen Drew
Khalil Greene
David Wright
Miguel Cabrera
Edwin Encarnacion
Carlos Beltran
Michael Cuddyer
Chris Young
Corey Hart
Jeremy Hermida
Carlos Quentin
Luke Scott
Johan Santana
Jeremy Bonderman
Scott Kazmir
Matt Cain
AJ Burnett
Anthony Reyes
Tim Linecum
Tom Gordon
Brian Fuentes
Jonathan Broxton
Scott Linebrink

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Grabbing the Yumminess: Impossible

(photo courtesy Edhat)

So many have emailed regarding my possible cable television appearance.... OK, most of you don't know what I look like, given I don't post photos of myself on this here blog, and of course I also find out that you readers dream of me wearing non-flattering dresses, anyway, which just hurts. All that said, there's a chance I might be glimpsed in the crowd scenes on the Food Network's airing of Dinner: Impossible tonight (at 10:30 pm on Cox channel 64 locally)*. I will be playing the part of " Hungry Mouth #247," for while Chef Robert made delicious stuff, it entered the party tent and was scarfed up instantly. Since I was doing my publicity thing I didn't get to hang out much while the chef madly worked, and didn't even get to step in for one of his usual George & George sous chefs, as one didn't make this episode. Still, it's better than the poor film festival volunteer who was handed an apron and told to wash dishes.

That said, I got to stand-by while a reporter interviewed Chef Robert after all the cooking went down and he seemed quite a nice guy, and what's more his dad was with him, very proud and very English.

*Now that I've admitted a cyber-thorn in the News-Press' side might be on the Food Network, will the News-Press drop the channel from its television listings just as it did with local cable access after they aired N-P protest footage? Even worse, Craig Smith might be in the episode, too.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oedipus Pecs

I haven't seen 300, not for any particular reason beyond I'm not even sure what the last film I saw in theaters was. But not seeing a film has never stopped my from writing about it, so I was mighty intrigued when the Los Angeles Times today ran dueling think pieces about the film by Carina Chocano and Patrick Goldstein. Chocano got to a point that's driven me nuts for years (I taught college students, remember), that she put about as well as I've ever seen it:

The interesting question is how "entertainment" has come to be accepted as a valid, irreducible argument against interpretation; how, in a broader sense, the act of putting things in context has come to be seen as inherently suspect. Whether it's the attorney general claiming lack of clarity on the firings of U.S. attorneys, or a Lionsgate executive admitting mistakes were made regarding the torture billboards for Captivity pasted all over town, it seems that no connection is too clear, no cause and effect too obvious for shocked denial and feigned surprise not to be a viable option.

That's not to suggest that anything involving 300 exists on the same plane of importance — it's just a good example of a trend that would be funny if it weren't so insulting.

Exactly why is it that we as Americans assume the only way to be entertained is to stop thinking? You'd think we'd like to think, given for so many of us our jobs are about not thinking (there's a reason Office Space is a cult favorite you know). Even in creative jobs we generally are stuck hewing to a format or style or boss who knows so much better than we do (note: I do not work for such a boss anymore). So why can't our entertainment push us a bit? Isn't it fun to have to figure things out, puzzle connections, fill in artfully left behind blanks?

I guess not, for the usually wise Patrick Goldstein takes the "the adults don't get it" tack in his essay. To drive his point home he does this:

Critics are largely shaped by the aesthetic of the cinematic past, which is why you often get the feeling they've been dragged, kicking and screaming, into a new world they describe as coarser, more superficial and less intellectually stimulating than the golden age of their moviegoing youth.

The complaints are almost always the same. "It's an epic without a dream," said one critic. "The loudness, the smash-and-grab editing, and the relentless pacing drive every idea from your head, and even if you've been entertained, you may feel cheated of some dimension — a sense of wonder, perhaps." Those words were written 30 years ago by Pauline Kael, reviewing Star Wars.

Nothing like trotting out the much reviled den mother of many critics still today--after all, her acolytes get called Paulettes--to prove how stuffy and behind the times those of us who can't just go with the flow are. (And it's taken 30 years for Kael to become a symbol of the stodgy--good things she's dead and doesn't have to hear such claptrap.) Goldstein then goes on to quote the film's director:

[Zack] Snyder has learned that film is a subliminal art, in the sense that he uses his visuals to supply the film's emotional underpinning. In 300, the sky is always dark and unsettled, as if to signal the bitter bloodshed to come. "We tried to make the sky reflect the emotion in the movie, which you can't do in a regular movie," he says. "That's what is great about this kind of green-screen filmmaking. It's not just the actors who matter. Every element in the frame supports the emotion of the moment."

First, it seems neither Goldstein nor Snyder have learned that the pathetic fallacy has been part of art way before moving pictures were a twinkle in Edison's eye. Second, are you trying to tell me no filmmaker before Zack Snyder has used every element in a frame to support the emotion of a moment? Did someone drop Andre Bazin in shoes lined with mise en scene cement into the Mariana Trench when I wasn't looking?

Or perhaps the key is the word "emotions." Snyder doesn' want you to think about 300, he wants the grunting animal brain at the top of your spine to go "WEEEEE!" And sure that "WEEEEE!" is us--to the tune of $129.2 million in just 10 days--but let's hope it's not all of us, and I don't mean that as something snooty and exclusive. I just want the rest of our brains to have something to do, too.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

You Don't Bring Iraq Flowers, Anymore

The LA Times reports:

President Bush, marking the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War, pleaded for patience, saying "there will be good days and bad days ahead."

He went on to say, "Good days for me and my friends who aren't in Iraq and don't have relatives in Iraq. Bad days for others, but I don't know them. Those people can hold out for January 20, 2009. That will be a good day for them. Heh-heh. If I haven't had Freddo Gonzales suspend what's left of the Constitution by then. You don't really think I'm going to have him resign now, do you? He's done everything I've wanted."

He also chided Congress for loading up the war-spending bill with other features, like agricultural disaster relief funds. "They have a responsibility to pass a clean bill that does not use funding for our troops as leverage to get special interest spending for their districts," Bush said of Congress.

"I mean, the Republicans never did such a thing when we were the majority. We wouldn't put Alaskan oil drilling in a defense appropriations bill, for instance. Oh, ok, we did, but at least we had a real majority and didn't have to suck up to Lieberman to get our way. He just does what we want naturally."

Bush noted that his so-called surge of additional troops to Baghdad and the troubled Anwar province is "still in its early stages," and acknowledged that "success will take months, not days or weeks." But, after a morning briefing by U.S. military officials and Iraqi leaders on secure television from Baghdad, the president said "those on the ground are seeing some hopeful signs."

"You can't expect us to fix four years in a few days--it takes about two years to fix a year, but if any part of something goes wrong in that two years, that has to be corrected, too. After all, we've only led to the deaths of 1 in 5 Iraqis so far in four years, so we've got a couple of decades to weed out all the problems."

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Splish, Splash

Originally uploaded by pinholeimages.

Clearly a Photoshopped image--no real dog would do this without a human or two within 3 feet of the spray.

Monday Random Flickr-Blogging explained. (Here's hoping INOTBB made Tom proud. You didn't all get the email, but he seems worried about us, and sometimes us is only singular in that be nice to one loser kinda way.)


A Matter of Degrees

Originally uploaded by postbeef.

After going to Morocco, Tim never understood why the Leaning Tower of Pisa was such a big deal.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Big Electric Cat

So the next few entries will be all about food and drink and silliness because if I stop to think and try to write about seeing the Santa Barbara version of Arlington West last evening, with 3000 candles flickering on the beach, not even enough for each fallen US soldier, let alone 200 times not enough for all the dead Iraqis, I will cry on the computer and short it out. How in the world did we get into this war and why in the world can't we get out?

Instead, let's talk food and drink, and hope someday all can enjoy food and drink. INOTBB has reported several times on the Hungry Cat that's due to open in Santa Barbara in December, Winter, now the end of April. I got the word straight from the Cat's mouth, so to speak, as Amy and I took a delightful cooking class at the Cook It School with David Lentz, chef/owner of the Hungry Cat, and his all-too-young-to-know-so-much chef in charge Dylan Fultineer last Thursday. (Note to possible class-takers: it is hard to go back to work after a class, especially when a chef brings along his beverage manager Tim who will crank out utterly delicious greyhound propers [a sign!], kumquatinis, and raspberry-infused tequila margaritas.)

It seems that getting permits through in Santa Barbara is difficult (who knew?), and building a kitchen in a space that had none (gee, wonder why L'Ombretta failed) takes time. But, when the spot is finished, Santa Barbara will have what Lentz hopes is a "neighborhood restaurant," which is good, as it will seat only 45 people, many at the bar. And, if the food is anything like we ate last Thursday, we're all in for more than a treat. For instance, we've had the clams, chorizo, and beans dish down at the Hollywood Hungry Cat (note to restauranteurs--never open a Hungry Dog in Hollywood, or everyone, ok, everyone like me, will think of poor Marie Provost), but the version they helped us 15 chefs-in-training whip up this time was even better. Most likely that's because Fultineer made his own chorizo, leaner and tastier than pre-made, and found killer fresh beans at the Santa Barbara farmer's market, plus got Lentz in contact with a clam-grower from the Chesapeake who's trying to save the bay with a special clam-raising method that's both ecologically sound and makes for terrifically tasty mollusks. And that's just one delicious dish--collect them all: quick cured hamachi with grapefruit, Thai basil, and Fresno peppers salad; asparagus salad; crab cake "salad" with Meyer lemon aoli; chocolate bread and butter pudding (the only dessert the Hungry Cat has ever served, as Lentz admits he doesn't like sweets, even though he'll have a variation on strawberry shortcake available soon).

But not soon enough--I need another raspberry infused tequila margarita.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

My Own Private News-Press

Dr. (of Physiology) Laura is back at the News-Press just in time to save the world from its greatest scourge--blogs! (As you know, there's no point in linking as you have to subscribe for such wit, wisdom, and intellectual property.) Seems she's done with the "abundance of media travel responsibilities" that most honest people would call "out flogging the new book" and ready to take on all comers in Santa Barbara. She mostly complains about anonymous comments on blogs, and, of course, having actually talked to numerous anonymi, psychoanalyzes (physiologizes?) them:

It is these very types we all have to watch closely.

Can you imagine these perpetual attackers ever really having tolerance and a diversity approach? If they ran the News-Press, would they keep me, Scott or Travis? Since they spend a lot of time salivating over the demise of the News-Press and anyone and everyone involved with it -- I think they would create their own one-sided tyranny.

First, nice slip there--"their own one-sided tyranny" kind of implies there is a one-sided tyranny right now at the N-P. (It just happens that tyranny gave Schlessinger a column, so it's a good tyranny.) Now, I'm not really anonymous (after all, there must be hundreds of Georges with two greyhounds in town), but I have to admit, if I were put in charge of the News-Press, I would be tyrannical. Call me a brutish dictator, but I'd require all my journalists, editors, and columnists to be competent. To argue using facts and not hearsay and innuendo. To understand the community about which they write. They couldn't hold grudges against enemies real or made-up. They couldn't coddle friends.

They would have to do reporting, and not just tell us what they think people think. For instance, that Dr. (of Physiology) Laura column of 3/15 begins with a rant about why she will not watch Law & Order anymore. It seems it set her off that a recent episode took the sad, sad murder of Adrienne Shelly, lamented on this very blog back when it happened, as a starting point for its plot. Here's her problem with the episode:

Last December, a woman in an apartment building in New York City was brutally and cruelly murdered by an illegal immigrant from Colombia simply because she asked him to keep the noise down a bit on his construction job downstairs. He followed her upstairs and attacked her. She didn't die then. She died when he hung her to make it look like a suicide. This was major news in New York City in December of 2006.

Here we are early in 2007, and -- with their usual "disclaimer" about it not being a "true" story -- they put the exact same scenario in one of their episodes . . . except now, the white, Christian, businessman owner of the construction company is considered the murderer because he is the one to fake the suicide hanging to protect his business.

Imagine the brutal death of your family member "retooled" so that the actual murderer becomes the victim of white, American, corporate greed.

We don't have to imagine anything, Dr. (of Physiology) Laura. We could try to contact Shelly's family (she had a husband and very young daughter) and see if the episode bugged them. Of course, then we'd actually have to mention her name in our column--but why give her that humanity. For what we really want to do is use her case a complaint about political correctness. Her death means nothing to Schlessinger--it's that it didn't get used to beat up on illegal immigrants, and instead made an argument that greedy white men are bad (didn't see the episode--did it suggest all white men are greedy? I bet).

Seems she's "retooled" the murder too, doing the very thing she's accusing the Law & Order folks of doing. Probably because she believes she's the decider about what's law and order and she hates anyone crowding in on her territory. But she's got plenty of company with Wendy McCaw and Crew, for they're the same ones who accuse everyone else of bias when they don't even report on this week's NLRB finding in their own paper.

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Ugly Anniversary

If you're in Santa Barbara or its environs tomorrow, go to this. If you're not, find out where one is happening hear you.

Saturday, March 17th, Santa Barbara, CA

Power Of Peace
Cost of War
a Day of Action

Gather 11:30 Vera Cruz Park
March at Noon
Rally at Sunken Gardens 1pm
Workshops to follow

tell a friend

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Friday Random Ten

Ice T "O.G. Original Gangster" Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story
Bill Nelson "Hope for the Heartbeat" (Remix) The Love That Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart)
Sleater-Kinney "Jenny" Dig Me Out
Steve Earle "The Kind" Jerusalem
Richard Thompson "The Woods of Darney" You? Me? Us?
The Magnetic Fields "Busby Berkeley Dreams" 69 Love Songs
Speed the Plough "Napoleon" Mason's Box
Petra Haden "Armenia City in the Sky" The Who Sell Out
Sleater-Kinney "O2" One Beat
Moe Tucker "S.O.S." I Spent a Week There the Other Night

Kasey Chambers "Last Hard Bible" The Captain

The women certainly are representing this week, from Down Under to the Velvet Underground. Only fitting for 11 songs this all-over the musical map. That said, my favorite song of the set has to be the Magnetic Fields cut. (And I'll beat you to it, Mike: not only is the ever present New Jersey here, it's obscure NJ at that. But a great song.)

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Mookie Magnificent

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie is so cute that a line of several thousand grandmas want to pinch his cheeks. (I'm not really sure what that means, either, plus he doesn't really have cheeks. You try to be clever about the same two dogs every week.)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Razor Dance

Wednesday night at Sings Like Hell at the Lobero, opening act Eliza Gilkyson summed up the evening she shared with Richard Thompson with a line from one of her songs, as she sang about "a little damage and a little grace." That's the wire Thompson has walked for decades now (at one point he even made a joke about "I was in a band once, you know; I was thinking the other day that was twenty years ago, but now that other day was twenty years ago"); he was a punk in folkie's clothing even before Jeffrey Hyman and John Cummings beat on a brat with a baseball bat. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and his dry as a gin martini Brit wit, Thompson takes over a theater--you end up spending time just wondering how he makes so much sound. Part of it is he can pick and strum at the same time--I'm not a guitarist, so can't explain the technique, but I'd have to guess most guitarists couldn't explain it either, not fully. No matter, every song offers up something strumptious.

It doesn't hurt he has that 40 year catalog of brilliant songs to draw from, either, and is willing to go even further back, playing the Italian song "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo" from 1590 or so (he joked about avoiding songs from the Black Death, which weren't very interesting anyway) and, fittingly, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," the Sandy Denny tune that Fairport Convention recorded on Unhalfbricking. Otherwise, the song selection was telling--nothing from his last two studio albums Old Kit Bag and Front Parlour Ballads, but a trio from his last best CD Mock Tudor, and, as a thrill for the old time fans (and aren't we almost all) two songs both from 1974's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (a rousing version of the title tune and a brittle, beautiful "Down Where the Drunkards Roll") and 1982's Shoot Out the Lights ("Wall of Death" and "Walking on a Wire"). For my money "Walking on a Wire" has to be one of the best songs of all-time, and while part of its recorded magic is that lovely ache that is Linda Thompson's vocal, live Richard sings it well, too--it's more brusque, of course, but playing the slash and howl guitar parts on an acoustic softens the music, so in essence the dynamic flips and leaves the song the most tuneful of laments. He did it as the second song in his set.

I guess Thompson is exhibit A in why you can't have grace without a bit of damage--you gotta sin to be saved and all that. Still, despite his clever between song patter that often zings--when one audience member shouted out, "Play the beeswing song," he didn't miss a second and replied, "It's called 'Beeswing,'" then didn't play it--there's a gentleness that's as powerful as the bends and wails he can get out of his guitar. He finally closed the long show with "Galway to Graceland," a tale of a woman who goes to Memphis to be with the King. She could be the object of derision; she could be a mawkish figure. But the gorgeous melody gives this woman such dignity, she becomes any dreamer thinking music might save her, and Richard Thompson does. I know it might be too much to say he does the same for all of us, but for at least a couple hours last night, he sure might have.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hippity Hoppity a Brew Pub's on Its Way

In a follow-up to a follow-up of a follow-up, I have to report that I drove by the uptown Downtown Brewing Company today to see a whiteboard outside that announced: "Coming Soon--March 30." So I guess you're all spared seeing me there dressed as a Leprechaun as they won't make their scheduled opening date of 3/17 (their website still says February, so here's hoping that doesn't mean 2008). There is still time for me to make an appearance as the Easter Bunny, although I'm not sure what the proper Easter drink is (anybody have a recipe for a Resurrection cocktail?).

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Wednesday Mojito Blogging

Those of you not in this area might not have heard, but globally warmed southern California blasted right past spring into summer this weekend as temperatures hit the high 80s and those of us with mint growing looked down and said, "Hey, that mint looks healthy; I'm hot and sweaty; it's mojito season!" I was never a big fan of rum, which was ok because I figure there's got to be at least one alcoholic beverage a person doesn't like, but mojitos changed my mind. Plus you get to muddle, and given muddling along is usually a bad thing, it's fun to redeem a word while hoisting one's drink.

Mojito ala Jorge

In a pretty glass that you inherited from your parents' swankier cocktail days, stir together the juice of half a lime and 2 tsp. confectioner's sugar. Strip the leaves from a sprig of mint (reserving the cute top leave cluster for your garni), dump into the lime-sugar, and mash with a muddler. You really want to bruise that mint and release its minty oils. Fill glass about 3/4 with crushed ice (you do have an ice crusher, don't you? you'll need one when the Derby rolls around). Add 2 oz of white rum. Stir so that the lime-sugar and most importantly the mashed mint leaves get distributed amongst the ice and rum. Decide if you need a bit more ice, as some will have melted and some will do something fantastically scientific and make the glass a bit frosty. Top off with a splash of carbonated water, and give another quick stir. Take a triangularish wedge of lime and rub around the glass's rim, then drop that in the drink. Artfully insert the reserved cute top mint leave cluster into the ice.

Try not to drink more than one.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gonzales = Richardson Ruckelshaus Bork

Josh Marshall, who deserves endless kudos for being on this story--hard--from the beginning, about fired US attorney Carol Lam, the woman who brought down Duke Cunningham just as a start:

What people tend to overlook is that for most White House's a US attorney involved in such a politically charged and ground-breaking corruption probe would have been untouchable, even if she'd run her office like a madhouse and was offering free twinkies to every illegal who made it across the border. Indeed, when you view the whole context you see that the idea she was fired for immigration enforcement is just laughable on its face. No decision about her tenure could be made without the main issue being that investigation. It's like hearing that Pat Fitzgerald was fired as Plamegate prosecutor for poor deportment or because he was running up too many air miles flying back and forth from Chicago.

Lam's investigation (and allied ones her probe spawned) were uncovering a) serious criminal wrongdoing by major Republican power players on Capitol Hill, b) corruption at the CIA -- which reached back to the Hill, c) and as yet still largely hidden corrupt dealings at the heart of the intelligence operations in the Rumsfeld Pentagon.

Nothing matters unless the investigation gets to the heart of what happened there.

This story is one of those it's hard to write about as a blogger in Santa Barbara as I just don't know enough and am too far from the action. That said, it sure stinks enough that I can miss the unholy odor emanating all the way from Washington D.C. to our sunny shore and sure it reminds me of the Saturday Night Massacre (ok, what I've read about it--it didn't make much sense to me when I was 10). The good news is we'll get a press conference when Bush says, "I'm not a crook," and he'll sound even more pathetic and whiny than Nixon. The better news is he will have to resign in disgrace at some point.

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Bye, Bye Betty

Trudy Kockenlocker, RIP.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The NLRB Levels a Message for the Mess Age

As you probably have heard, the NLRB ruling is out and the score is Journalists 4, Wendy and crew 0, zip, nada, zilch, the big goose egg. That means management has to come to the table and bargain with employees, but, of course, that can be a folding card table now, as Wendy has fired most of the journalists and editors or made it impossible for them to work for her and look in the mirror (unless one has to look at a bank account even smaller than one's soul--yes, that's what it means when one blithely says, "It's her business, she can do what she wants with it").

Of course there's still room for an appeal, and knowing Wendy, nothing will stop her, even a 22-page ruling in which all her arguments get called legal poppycock and phrases like "totally illogical" and "extreme embellishments" get leveled at her hench-people. As long as there's a lawyer who will cash her checks...and I can hear you laughing already, so I won't finish the thought.

You owe it to yourself to read the entire 22-page PDF, not only to see that a judge might as well be a blogger (Starshine "Rochelle"? c'mon, if you take weeks to make a decision, check your spelling), but for sweetly underwritten nuggets like:

SBNP's publicist characterized these legally protected activities as an "all out war."

(As Groucho would say to dear publicist Agnes, "You can leave in a taxi. Or you can leave in a huff.")

And then there's this fine series of sentences:

The Employer's arguments also assume that the unit employees absorbed every word on every blog like a sponge. That assumption also has no evidentiary support at all. Morevoer, it appears that a certain amount of the third party vilification suffered by News-Press' executives since June would have occurred even in the absence of a union representation campaign.

If only people absorbed INTOBB like a sponge. We can't even get anyone to take us intravenously. But I do know even without the Teamsters, I'd be more than up for third party vilification. In fact, I'm planning on third party vilifying like it's 1999.


Two Snouts Out

In a further attempt to corner all American markets, the Chinese are now breeding a two-headed pig so as to make Congressional pork even easier to produce and lie about later.

Non-random, non-Flickr blogging.

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Snakes and Snails and Whippet-Dog Tails

Originally uploaded by macawe.

Numerous rightwing idiots picketed the Melbourne Dog Show claiming this whippet was copying Prince's Super Bowl halftime show and didn't even have the decency to do so behind a curtain.

Monday Random Flickr-Blogging explained.


Dinah, Don't You Blow

Originally uploaded by die_nette_flutschfinga.

Bob realized, sadly a second too late to save his new outfit, precisely why he didn't want to be the inventor of the Vomit-Cam™.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Putting the Ass in Bias

For those who don't get it, here's why the News-Press is a stinking morass that has replaced a real newspaper. As you probably know, things aren't necessarily peachy-keen to our south--the Chicago Tribune Company currently owns the Los Angeles Times, and has fired an editor who tried to protect employees from what he thought were bad budget cuts, etc. Despite all of that, which is at least as difficult if not as litigious as the goings on in McCawland, Steve Lopez could still write the following today in his Points West column titled "Who has the bread for a $15 hot dog?":

Gotay, who cooked previously at Mastro's and Citizen Smith, said he wants to cater to an upscale sports-minded crowd, so he asked his meat purveyor to get him the best dog he could find. These were flown in from Chicago, Gotay said, and I almost choked on the coincidence: The Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times keeps flying wieners in from Chicago too.

If Lopez worked for Wendy McCaw, Yolanda Apodaca would have ushered him out of the building by now.

UPDATE (3/11 9:30 am): It hit me after making this post last night that perhaps the thing that bugs me the most about Wendy McCaw is she seems totally humorless. And people who can't laught at themselves--particulalry rich and powerful people--irk me to no end. Why not enjoy, and not just at everyone else's expense?

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Satan 666 Revisited

It's time to return to our semi-regular feature "Who Is Satan on Earth?" The latest news from Rome tells us that Pope Benedict (or Eggs, as INOTBB likes to call him) has the answer, and what's sad is he couldn't keep his predecessor Pope John Paul II away from the Anti-Christ. It seems that then-Cardinal Ratzinger nearly flipped when Pope John Paul invited Bob Dylan to take part in a Papal concert in Bologna. (Tellingly, Joseph Ratzinger did not opt to be Pope George Ringo I.) The UK Times on line reports:

The Pope’s chief aide, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was so appalled at the prospect of the pontiff sharing a platform with the “self-styled prophet of pop” that he tried his utmost to stop the spectacle. The Pope overruled him.

The cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI, says in a book to be published next week that while he agreed with his predecessor on most matters, he did not share his liking for pop music. “There was reason to be sceptical, and I was,” Pope Benedict writes in the book, John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor. “Indeed, in a certain sense I still am today.”


Pope Benedict has said that rock music is the work of Satan and last year he cancelled the fundraising Christmas pop concert at the Vatican, which under John Paul II had run for 13 years. He may have been wary of a repeat of the 2003 concert, when Lauryn Hill called on Church leaders to “repent” over sexual abuse by clergy, or 2005, when Daniela Mercury, the Brazilian singer, was dropped from the show in case she promoted the use of condoms to prevent Aids.

Pope Benedict is known to favour Mozart and Bach, and was always unlikely to enjoy chatting – as Pope John Paul II did – with singers. He opposes the use of guitars during Mass, telling priests that “the liturgy is not a theatrical text, and the altar is not a stage . . . It is important not to become merely actors in a spectacle.”

Now, as anyone who sat through folk masses in the late 60s and early 70s knows, keeping guitars out of the church is probably a good thing. But I don't think that's what Cardinal Ratzky-Watzky had in mind. Indeed, through the magic of the internets, INOTBB has discovered that the Pope's antipathy towards Bob Dylan goes way back--if you listen very carefully, you can tell there's a slight German accent to the man who infamously yells "Judas!" at Dylan for turning electric, a moment captured on bootlegs and finally on Live 1966. Indeed, further research shows Pope Eggs has no Dylan on his iPod after The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

Finally, one must not doubt Pope Eggs when he talks about the Devil. After all, he's known him intimately, having been part of his Boy Scouts back in his early days....

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Friday Random Ten

The B-52's "Strobe Light" Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation
The Feelies "Forces at Work" Crazy Rhythms
Tom Waits "Big Black Mariah" Rain Dogs
J Church "Panama" Nostalgic for Nothing
Daniel Lanois "El Conquistador" Plus from Us
Emmylou Harris "Deeper Well" Wrecking Ball
The Band w/ Joni Mitchell "Coyote" The Last Waltz
Pere Ubu "Lost in Art" Datapanik in the Year Zero: 1980-1982
The Handsome Family "Our Blue Sky" Last Days of Wonder
Alejandro Escovedo "One More Time" More Miles than Money: Live 1994-1996

Wilco "Burned" I Shot Andy Warhol

I promise, we own music recorded since 2000 (oddly enough, the only cut later than 2000 above is the one that sounds the oldest). Still, the tiny iTune DJ spun some clever back-to-backers, as the B-52's into Feelies work a certain indie-groove, the Lanois into Harris is an easy match, and Harris to Mitchell makes sense, too.

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Nigel the Lippizan Stallion

For Dog Blog Friday: sometimes you get the ball, sometimes the ball has an odd protective forcefield. (Oh, this is from a couple of weeks ago, as now Nigel has joined Mookie on the DL--he somehow got a puncture wound in one of his paws. Fragile things.)

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Noggin on Heaven's Door

Friday would be the 249th birthday of Franz Joseph Gall. Don't guess that he's the inventor of the gallstone--that would just stick in my craw, or someplace. Nope, he is the Father of Phrenology (or is that the Phather of Phrenology?). Gall decided that it was as plain as the nose on your face that you could read a person's faculties by feeling the bumps on his head. For Gall the brain was composed of many organs (I'm hoping mine has at least one mighty Wurlitzer), and that those organs can be measured through your cranium. Indeed, many an Austrian under Gall's thrall was heard to say, "That's some organ you've got there, Franz! Now put it away before someone gets hurt." (This is a loose translation from the original Austrian, which turns out to be German, so you can see how it is confusing even to Austrians.) Gall's theory that different parts of the brain did different things got turned into quackery pretty quickly, and an excuse for racism and sexism, since there's always some idiot like Charles Murray waiting to prove "science" makes him superior, but the surest test that Gall was on to something true is that his work was quickly condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Most excitingly, Gall is largely responsible for there being a Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, which will soon open a new wing, The Collection of Hypochondriacal Maladies, if you can imagine that. Just wash your hands first.

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If there's anything the world needs, it's another list of the bestest albums of all-time. To fulfill this non-need, we get "the Definitive 200...developed by NARM, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers in celebration of the art form of the record album. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize this varied collection of some of history’s most influencial [sic] and popular albums, many of which are Hall of Fame Inductees." It might be a tip-off that they spell influential as if trying to emphasize how it sounds like influenza, something that's easy to catch as the R n R Hall of Fame grab-asses NARM, which pushes its charts while hoping to push sales--this is a marketing circle jerk if there ever was one (and the Circle Jerks don't even make the list).

There's no real point in analyzing the list, particularly given Whitney Houston (we have a problem) is the highest ranking African American woman on the list (Aretha a-smetha, I guess), but even she is 9 spots below the soundtrack to Grease. This isn't the list that I want, o, oo, ooo.

Then there's this: the Sex Pistols show up over halfway down the list, behind not one but two Green Day albums (maybe that's why they misspell influential--they don't know what the word means, either), who at least are ok, but the Pistols are also behind Def Leppard, Boston, Van Halen, Meatloaf, and Creed--it's enough to make anyone lose faith. Just to show up Johnny Rotten and the boys even more, right before them are Celine Dion and Kenny G, and so you might as well say punk never happened. That label Adult Contemporary gives being an adult a very bad name. (At least London Calling beat out Dion and G--can I call him G?--, but, of course, couldn't climb over the powerhouse that is Creed. Maybe it's all because Joe Strummer never got videotaped getting blown by groupies with Kid Rock, who is 28 slots ahead of the Clash himself.)

Of course, this list is more or less like posting a warning sign outside the caves of the Neanderthals--the album has turned out to be a road evolution has not taken. Download away, iPodicus iPodicus. Just don't think that there are 200 albums better than the Velvet Underground and Nico.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wednesday Pudding Blogging

(Ken Hively / LAT)

If you think pudding is just pudding, you haven't met my little dessert friend Budino. I've raved about Pizzeria Mozza before and will again (and as much as possible, given it's 95 miles away and a pizzeria, for chrissakes), but part of the reason for my gustatory enthusiasm is I might go there just for the desserts. Now I can make one of them at home by following the recipe kindly posted in the Los Angeles Times today. Of course, I have to whisk for pretty much 45 minutes, risk the thrilling witch's caldron boil and bubble moment that is caramel-making (twice), and then invite lots of people over or Amy and I have to consume 5 puddings each. But that doesn't mean we might not do just that.

The only sad thing about butterscotch budino is there's no scotch in there. But there is rum, at least in the recipe, not that the budino tastes of rum. As with all the fine dining takes on simple things, it seems layers of flavors make things richer and deeper and surprisingly complex--even the cream topping is whipped cream and creme fraiche (and no sugar, because the rest of the dish has sugar enough). Brilliance, ballance. As for mouth-feel (and this is a dessert worthy of wine-language), well, velvet isn't right, as cloth in the mouth is an experience a bit too hostagesque for me, and anyway it melts, although that isn't right, either, it evanesces, leaving the burnt sweetness of caramel and the wild tang of fleur de sel.

That damn Jello company has a lot to answer for.

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Why Even the Republicans I Like I Don't Like

Charles Pierce has a fascinating and brilliantly written profile in the latest Esquire on Senator Chuck Hagel, who, if nothing else, realizes the Iraq War is a total mess. But then he has to go and say something like this:

Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility. The press abdicated its responsibility, and the American people abdicated their responsibilities. Terror was on the minds of everyone, and nobody questioned anything, quite frankly.

Dear Senator Hagel, did you forget people did question? Millions, world-wide (not that we care about the rest of the world or we might not be so casual about pre-emptively waging war with it). Here's the opening of a Wikipedia entry:

The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest was a coordinated day of protests across the world against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Millions of people protested in approximately 800 cities around the world. According to BBC News, between six and ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of the 15th and 16th; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million.

Indeed, even in red Nebraska, your state, Senator Hagel, there was a protest:

Plenty of folks questioned. No one in power answered.

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Executing Justice

So the Republicans have been in a week-long landslide of their own shit: the excuse-filled sucking up to the yet-again hateful Ann Coulter, the Walter Reed is run (into the ground) by Halliburton/screw the troops scandal, the Lewis Libby lied for Cheney's sins conviction, the US attorneys get fired when they aren't partisan enough corruption.

But let's not forget how deep their ugliness runs. After all, the very justice system that helped us get a special prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald is the one that the Republicans are trying to gut by first pressuring US attorneys and then firing them when they didn't respond well to pressure.

It's always about consolidating power for these folks.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Holy Cow!

"Scooter" was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation that shook the top levels of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee. It seems he fingered the AFLAC duck as a CIA operative, thereby putting the duck and his friend Yogi in jeopardy. The good news is his other friend Pee Wee remained above suspicion, since he isn't that Pee-wee.

Most people believe the lying charge relates directly to how hard it is to believe there is a trio of men in their 80s with the names Scooter, Yogi, and Pee Wee.

In the end, jurors said they did not believe Scooter's main defense: that he hadn't lied but merely had a bad memory. One juror said, "He can remember everyone's name who has a birthday, even with runners on second and third and less than two out, but he doesn't recall these details? We're talking about a man who can describe every cannoli he's eaten since leaving the service!"

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Truth Dig My Ass

OK, that title was a bit more painful than I meant it to be, but it seems that if anyone actually read me, I'd be able to assume I've been plagiarized. For what should Truth Dig post just this Sunday but an article that begins:

Just days after former Vice President Al Gore received an Academy Award for his global-warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the United States Supreme Court handed Mr. Gore a stunning reversal, stripping him of his Oscar and awarding it to President George W. Bush instead.

For Mr. Gore, who basked in the adulation of his Hollywood audience Sunday night, the high court’s decision to give his Oscar to President Bush was a cruel twist of fate, to say the least.

But in a 5-4 decision handed down Tuesday morning, the justices made it clear that they had taken the unprecedented step of stripping Mr. Gore of his Oscar because President Bush deserved it more.

You loyal readers might recall (I say might as I know many of my loyal readers drink, just to keep up with my pace) that on Monday, February 26 I blogged the following:

In stunning news today, the U.S. Supreme Court convened for a special session and by a 6-3 decision voted to rescind the Best Documentary Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. Chief Justice John Roberts said, "First, I'd like to thank William Rehnquist for stepping down, even if he had to die to do so. Second, we determined that for the good of the nation we had to act and save them from the uncertainty we have about global warming. The best way to do that, we thought, was to prevent them from seeing anything that might make them think global warming exists. It turns out the voting in Palm Beach in particular largely went for the powerful doc Pat Buchanan's Ten Ways to a Better Bris and then there were the hanging Chads--both Lowe and Everett didn't seem to vote. Third, we had a good long talk with James Baker, who was happy to be listened to again after the Iraq Study Report."

Antonin Scalia went even further with his comments, claiming, "We're also going to take away Melissa Etheridge's Oscar and give it to Mary Cheney. Right-wing, VP-sired, Coors-working lesbians we can tolerate, but all the other ones...."

And now Truth Dig won't even post the comment I tried to leave on the site--you'd think Wendy McCaw was running the joint and not Robert Scheer.

[UPDATE: Truth Dig did add my comment. That's lefties for you--somehow I get 2 issues of the Nation on the same day, too.]

Alas, I am not an award-winning comedy writer like Andy Borowitz, who, according to his bio, created The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. That too, of course, was stolen from me, as I long-shopped the tv comedy The OG: Original George, but network execs felt that I was too black and would threaten mainstream America. To think I could have been Will Smith.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

I'm Just So-So about Harry

I've always wanted to like Harry Shearer more than I do, but (here comes the heresy) I even feel that way about This Is Spinal Tap. Both I tend to admire more for their cleverness than bust a gut over, no matter how many times people do variations on the "this one goes to 11" joke. I mean, on Le Show, Shearer's syndicated radio program, he thinks it's enough to make us hear his winks (and his voice is that good, we do, but...) as he reads the corrections from the Los Angeles Times. I guess I just hope that there's more to comedy than pointing at the absurd and to say observe. Now go do something with that observation. Shearer can do that--just listen to one of his brilliant 41 talks to 43 phone calls--for here the misspeaking of the two Bushes isn't just cheap jokes, but more like a language of privileged doofusness overheard, where the slips really do sink ships (of state). It's just that Shearer doesn't always seem willing to make that much effort or that it's beneath him to pander. Note that while he's probably most famous for superbly voicing Mr. Burns et al. on The Simpsons, according to the Santa Barbara Independent "he doesn’t like the show much after the fourth season;" note also he still collects the checks.

All that said, when he's on, he's on, so I went to see him in "An Afternoon with Harry Shearer" this Sunday at UCSB Arts & Lectures, hoping he'd be more on than not. Instead he was more all over than not, moreso than a Larry King USA Today bullet column. (As part of his show, Shearer actually screened a clip of King "singing" the rare third verse of "America the Beautiful"--Shearer collects, and has even exhibited in galleries, the raw feeds that stations put out before and after actual "real" shows.) There was a theme--you're not as dumb as they say you are--but if someone has to tell you that, either you are, or he might just think you're not the sharpest tool in the shed himself. That didn't mean he didn't score some great lines, including "the most hopeful people in America today are gay Republicans," and that he didn't even have some wiser, larger messages, including exploring the problem with an American culture aimed at 18-35 year-olds "who are just trying to get laid for the first time." As he replied when queried in the Q&A about Ann Coulter, "She's an emblem of what passes for political discussion in this country, so lame and so coarse at the same time."

I guess keen observation should be enough for me, especially when delivered in Shearer's mellifluous tones (alas, he didn't do enough voices--the only "ex-cell-ent" of the afternoon came from one of his audience questioners). It is funny, and word-alert wise, when someone points out, "Ten years ago we were worried about whether the president thought a blowjob was sex. Now we're worried if the president thinks simulated drowning is torture. [just the right pause] In ten years maybe we'll be worried if the president wonders if simulated torture is sex...or vice versa." Plus he got in one stingingly mean one-liner when asked about Al Franken's senatorial bid, "He always belonged in a profession that he was better suited for than comedy."

Shearer also related some intriguing The Simpsons anecdotes. He said, "Mel Gibson came in and seemed to get along with the Jews well that day...but in fairness it was in the morning and he wasn't drunk." The he told about the time Michael Jackson was the guest artist (yes, MJ really did do the voice in that episode about the 300 pound white man from the asylum who thought he was Michael Jackson). When it's time to record the show, Jackson does all the speaking parts, but when it comes time to sing a song ("Happy Birthday, Lisa" a take-off of "Ben"), some white guy at the table sings. Shearer leans over to Yardley Smith (the voice talent for Lisa) and says, "I guess we paid enough for the talking Michael and not the singing Michael."

And on a closing note, we did pay for the singing Shearer, and he could have kindly cut the two musical interludes that did not come close to raising a mighty wind of laughter from the audience. While Shearer as W. singing "Addicted to Oil" had a few moments (particularly the "I'm an oil man" line, just to remind us of Shearer's SNL cred), the shit-kickin' country tune "Let the Flag Burners Fry on the Fourth of July" never got funnier than its title. But it did get longer.



Originally uploaded by averytfunk.

Every year the Klemsches do their best to live up to the sartorial splendor of their ancestor Kitty Klemsch.

Monday Random Flickr-Blogging explained.


A Long and Tuffy Rhodes

Originally uploaded by xnera.

This poor boy has no idea that his parents have signed him up for a lifetime of baseball rooting woe.


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