Friday, January 30, 2009

This Little Piggie Went to Lip Gloss

You might not be able to put lipstick on a pig, but you can put the pig on your lips, it seems. Rumor has it this was all the rage at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Somehow it's both vegetarian and Kosher.

We live in a strange and wonderful world.


Wait, Wait Don't Walk Me

For Dog Blog Friday: This is the "Are we ever going to go on our walk?" pose.


Friday Random Ten

Freakwater "Out of This World" Old Paint
The Minus 5 "Leftover Life to Kill" The Minus 5
Blake Blind "Diddie Wah Diddie" Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues
Bill Nelson "Dangerous Lady" Chimes & Rings
The Decemberists "The Legionnaire's Lament" Castaways and Cutouts
Jay Farrar "Doesn't Have to Be This Way" This Is Americana
The Velvet Underground "I Can't Stand It" Peel Slowly and See
Jon Rauhouse "Untitled Pedal Steel Guitar Riff" Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records
Grant Lee Buffalo "We've Only Just Begun" If I Were a Carpenter
The Damned "Neat Neat Neat" The Big Stiff Box Set

TV on the Radio "Love Dog" Dear Science

So am I the only one to think TOTR sounds like Peter Gabriel for the 21st century? Otherwise, the usual all over, if a bit death obsessed early on.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Loose Lips Sink Ships, or Something Like That

It was 219 years ago Friday that the first lifeboat was tested at sea. The original lifeboat tests on land had been such a great success, folks figured, let's live a little (hence lifeboat). For hundreds of years prior the vessels were called deathboats, and oddly enough, were rarely called into service. I promise I'm not making this next bit up--the official inventor of the lifeboat is Henry Greathead, who you think would be too occupied to create things. But that's not how things went down. Although he almost blew it, his design finally licked his competitor's, but it's a shame they both couldn't have come together as that could have been called the Wouldhave-Greathead boat. No doubt that would have inspired a cheesy 1970s TV show featuring Gavin MacLeod as Captain Schtupping. OK, that last joke was hard to swallow.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Uncovering a Home Creepo

As you probably know, one of the most frequently trotted out arguments against unions is that they take members' dues and use them to lobby politicians, and the members have no say in what happens. This is a problematic argument for a bunch of reasons, not the least being unions lobby politicians to make laws favorable to union workers, so in essence they shouldn't have anything to complain about. But big business and employers are all about choice, after all. They own the company, so it's their choice to hire complaisant people, to pay them whatever they want, to insist on bad working conditions. That's what capitalism is all about--freedom is bought by the dollar.

All this is a long-winded introduction to just the latest outrage from the Bush Bailouts (e.g. "I give my rich friends more of your money as I leave DC, hehe"). According to the Huffington Post:

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

So that means our tax dollars, in the form of the bailout, are going to companies who, without any oversight by us, will use that money to fight labor. Which is us, btw. (All apologies to the many extremely wealthy people who read this blog, or have it read to you by peons.)

The story gets "better," to the point where you almost imagine Wendy McCaw had to be on the line too:

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it."

I missed the part in Edward Gibbon about unions, but maybe I wasn't reading too carefully. OK, Marcus didn't say "empire" he said "civilization," but we live in an age where "democracy" is defined as "capitalism," so excuse my perhaps slippery equivalencies, I'm just trying to mirror what I sense around me. While Marcus can see an increase in unionism as the end to civilization, someone like Robert Reich sees it as the end to the recession.

I love this passage, though:

Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars were needed, it was argued, to prevent America from turning "into France."

After all, there's no place where civilization is less evident than France. Damn them and their Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and fine food.

At least we have some action points. Although he's retired, no doubt he has plenty of Home Depot stock, so in honor of Bernie Marcus, we all have to stop shopping there. And as for Bank of America, everyone has to start banking elsewhere.


The Man in Black (Pajamas)

Sure, the actual scheduling of films at a film festival isn't easy, as most try to cram in as much as possible to leave cinephiles bleary-eyed as long as possible. But this just seems perverse to me--SBIFF today screened Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison at 8:15 am. Was the theme Cash instead of coffee? If anything seems best suited for a late night slot, it's a film that has to rock. (And I know Cash is country if we want to play genre games, but one reason he endures is his rock sensibility, more than many "rockers" ever had.)

Maybe parolees get released at 8 am? Or the prison guard shift switches in perfect time for that screening?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boehner and His Boys Fluff that Stimulus

I'm far from the first to point out that too often the government is a man's man's world. And that trickles down enough to leave folks pissed, as men can get health insurance for Viagra but women are denied benefits for birth control. But now, it seems, this age old paradigm is getting played out in the perhaps far-too-well-named stimulus package. We want to erect things. Money for other causes, however, isn't so important.

Take, for instance, the debate over the portion of the package to support family planning. The amount is a mere $200 million, a paltry .025% of the overall total stimulus. But it's become a battleground as John Boehner (and what else could the leader of the dying way be called? you'd get thrown out of a writing workshop with a character named Boehner for clumsy symbolism) wants to claim it's all about contraception. Of course, the Republicans (and, alas, as Crooks & Liars points out, the ever gullible, ever after opposition press) focus on one small part of the issue. The Republicans assume, perhaps correctly, that all their anti-choice folks are really anti-sex except for procreation. So jumping on this as a pork barrel full of condoms seems wise to them.

Because, of course, they're idiots. Family planning means lots of things, a huge part of which is education. That's how pro-choice people are most pro-choice--they want to see everyone have a full range of options. That means education so you know what sex is, how it is, why you might not want to have it, how to have it responsibly. Then, yes, it's good to be able to get free condoms. Fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abortions then (imagine that). Fewer STDs. It's called preventive medicine. That's always cheaper, so it helps the economy.

Of course, family planning is most important for women, as they're the ones who wind up pregnant without it. And it's most important to poorer people, as they're the ones who hurt the most if they have too many mouths to feed. So, of course, it matters little to the Republicans.

But then there's this, from the SF Chronicle (hat tip to IIRTZ):

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana pointed to a $50 million outlay for the National Endowment for the Arts - an agency that conservatives have long criticized - to help arts groups hit by a drop-off in philanthropy.

"This is stimulus?" Pence asked.

Note first that $50 million is only a quarter of the family planning money that was only .025% of the entire stimulus package. So the amount would have bought you a third of Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 the last time it went up for auction.

But, of course, the NEA has long been a bugaboo for Red Staters, who conveniently ignore Dana Gioia's Republican-friendly leadership since 2004 and instead like to scare folks with Robert Mapplethorpe's photos of naked gay men and Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, a work that's only become more true as rightwingers twist Christ's words into ways of hate (Rick Warren, you're soaking in it).

But I think there's something deeper than a distrust of the arts (which, it must be said, distrust government even more, if with good reason). I think it's that the arts tend to be thought of as women's work, decorative, pretty, and unnecessary. Men build, women draw.

So basically the things the Republicans most dislike in the stimulus package are the things that aren't manly enough for them.

As Katha Pollitt wrote back in December:

The economic stimulus is a great place to start addressing gender inequality. In a recent Boston Globe op-ed, "The Macho Stimulus Plan," economist Randy Albelda points out that the jobs Obama talks about--building roads, bridges and schools, developing eco-friendly technologies--are overwhelmingly held by men. It would be nice if suddenly half of construction workers were female, but given that they're now 2.7 percent, realistically that is not going to happen. Even doubling or tripling the small number of women in the relevant job categories would be a stretch. Albelda proposes an additional stimulus plan, for the female side of the economy: "Caring for those who cannot care for themselves, healthcare, and primary education are the very foundation of a civil society. Investing in these outcomes is as vital to our long-term economic health as airports, highways, wind turbines, and energy-retrofitted buildings." Not only do these jobs disproportionately employ women, she points out, but "investments in direct care, education, and healthcare would also go a long way in alleviating poverty."

As for the poverty of the Republican attack dogs and the media that loves them, that bailout will be a long time coming.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Is There an Author in the House?

While Saturday's Writers Panel at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival might have suggested only white males wrote screenplays (at least moderator Anne Thompson from Variety was a woman), it did manage to hit 4 of the great screenwriter stereotypes. Robert Knott (Appaloosa) was the cranky, cynical drunk, Tom McCarthy (The Visitor) was the spacey artiste, Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) was the populist/humanist, and Dustin Lance Black (Milk) was the wide-eyed youngster. Add it up and it was an entertaining and informative 90 minutes, as these panels tend to be--writers are the ones good with words, after all, so coming up with a quick quip is easy compared to creating believable characters and charting story arcs we find compelling.

So there were the tidbits of filmmaking stories, like Stanton came up with the initial idea for Wall-E in 1994, before Pixar had even made Toy Story, and that Steve Jobs didn't like the title. (But, as McCarthy joked, "What does Steve Jobs know about marketing?") And that Dustin Lance Black wrote an entire sequence about the 1975 San Francisco mayoral election that Milk had to scrap for focus; Black said it would make a great movie all on its own, with characters like Dianne Feinstein, George Moscone, and Jim Jones. (McCarthy joked, "It should be an animated film.")

And there were the moments when the panel stressed how much work writing was--McCarthy talked about over 20 drafts of The Visitor; Anne Thompson said, "If you just want to write and not re-write, blog;" Stanton explained that "my motto is to be wrong as fast as you can...I assume my first five or six attempts will suck but it's like puberty, you have to go through it to get to the good stuff."

And then an audience question, as always at these events, was "How do you make it in the business?" which really meant "how do I make it in the business?" for the guy even had his screenplay in his back pocket.

There was the gooey, the obvious is said and we all appreciate how it moves us so moment, too. Stanton, discussing the themes of Wall-E, actually said, "What's the point of living but to love one another?" And people, of course, applauded. We love thinking we're so loving, after all. Ah, people are good.

As one last side comment, something really needs to be done about the pricing for these events. The base ticket cost $39, which is steep enough given that the hour and a half had a sponsor (Pacifica Institute). Such a cost probably helps make the audience demographic reflect that of this particular panel, at least. But then on top of that $39 the Lobero charges both a $4 fee and a $5 fee--that's $9, or over 20%. For a will call ticket ordered via the web. For that much money, Dave Asbell should shine my shoes personally. Or they should hire out to Ticketmaster, since everyone hates them and then our rage can be focused on a long-time enemy.

Update (5:06 pm): Alas, the economy comes a-calling and it's got its sickle in tow--Anne Thompson was one of 30 people laid off from Variety today. It's ugly and getting uglier.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Mookie & Nigel Ask: "And We Don't Come Here Every Day Why?"

For Dog Blog Friday: We're in a spate of rain, which we really need, but this has been one gorgeous, warm winter in Santa Barbara. And not just because the boys beautify the beach so.


Friday Random Ten

Bobby Bare Jr. "Borrow Your Cape" Bloodshot Records Sampler 7
X "Motel Room in My Bed" Under the Big Black Sun
Tony Furtado "Song for Early" Roll My Blues Away
Sonny Rollins "Tell Me That You Love Me" Silver City--A Celebration of 25 Years
Tom Waits "Hoist That Rag" Real Gone
Rodney Crowell "U Don't Know How Much I Hate U" The Houston Kid
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin "It's My Party" The Big Stiff Box Set
Kate Bush "Under Ice" Hounds of Love
Pere Ubu "Goodnite Irene" Worlds in Collision
Liz Phair "South Dakota" Juvenilia

Frank Sinatra "It Never Entered My Mind" In the Wee Small Hours

While the best song has to be the X, this isn't a bad list of surprises, especially sitting in a list with all the other oddballs. And now I'm dreaming of that David Thomas-Sinatra duet, or Sonny Rollins backing Kate Bush.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Little Entry on the Republican Shadow

When righties try to claim George Orwell as their own, you know they might not be too good at things like context. But an editorial by J.R. Dunn on RealClearPolitics entitled "Bush and the Bush Haters" that tries to claim Orwell for Republicans also manages this stunning paragraph:

Bush hatred involves a number of factors that will be debated by historians for decades to come. But one component that cannot be overlooked is ideology, specifically the ideologization [sic] of American politics. It is no accident that the three most hated recent presidents are all Republican. These campaigns are yet another symptom of the American left's collapse into an ideological stupor characterized by pseudo-religious impulses, division of the world into black and white entities, and the unleashing of emotions beyond any means of rational control.

It's hard to know where to begin with everything that's wrong in this passage, it's sort of a cornucopia of dumb. For a rightwinger to insist that the three most hated recent presidents are all Republican means, I guess, he's including Clinton as a Republican--there are a mere 2,630,000 entries on Google for Clinton hatred. (True much of that's aimed more at Hillary than Bill, probably, but that just means misogyny is a preferred brand of hate--note we elected an African American president before a female one.)

But it's that last trio that amazes me in its projection--J.R. Dunn thinks those items are seen in the Democratic Party? The Dems became a party of ideology? To which I ask: Sarah Palin was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee why? Oh yeah, she was the most qualified.

J.R. Dunn needs to go back and watch the video tapes of the Republican convention, an event full of "psuedo-religious impulses." What with the endless USA chants you'd think it was Herb Brooks and not John McCain leading the Republican charge. That connects directly to the see the world in black and white issue. A term like "axis of evil" isn't created to make people feel the nuance, Dunn. Selling folks a war on terror, and at times draping it in the outmoded theory of a Samuel Huntington, well, that's rightwing talk. The left, instead, tends to see every point, which is why it's often so ineffective as a political party--we're very good at picking each other apart. I thought one of the arguments with the left is that we are too willing to mollycoddle. (I can imagine Dunn's response--"exactly, the left sees America as always the bad guy." To which I reply, "Not all of America, just idiots like you.")

But it's "the unleashing of emotions beyond any means of rational control" that I'd argue is all the Republicans have left. The "God, guns, and gays" way to victory isn't exactly an attempt to turn the country into Mensa-ites. You'd think J.R. Dunn didn't know a Rudy Giuliani exists. Or that there was an Evil Empire or a Cold War or "America love it or leave it," a phrase so many hippie longhairs yelled at the cops in Chicago in 1968.

Here's why Bush angered so many so--he tossed what we most loved about the United States away to make his rich friends richer. On Inauguration night we had a party and each attendee wrote what they most wanted to see go up in smoke from the past 8 years, then drop that slip of paper into our chimnea. There were about a dozen of us and we could have tossed slips into the fire all night. I tried to sum it up with this phrase: "Incuriosity matched by unwavering certainty."

But there's no getting back the 8 years of environmental degradation we could have been fighting, no getting back the sections of New Orleans we can miss as they were the poorest neighborhoods, no getting back the over 4000 US military dead in a war fought for no reason, no getting back the 100,000 to 1,000,000 (why bother to count?) dead Iraqis.

And then someone has the nerve to suggest there's no reason to be angry?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Republicans Hate the "Bill" of Rights as It Reminds Them of Clinton

Staffers for President Obama were shocked today to discover the state of the White House upon the transfer of power. Those with good memories may recall that George W. Bush's staff were outraged at the pranks supposedly pulled by the outgoing Clintonites, including the removal of the letter "W" from all keyboards and typewriters.

The Bush crew one-upped that prank, however, removing the first and fourth amendment from the Constitution. They did leave a video of the President himself looking under a piece of furniture in the Oval Office, at which point the president remarked: "Those Constitutional rights have got to be here somewhere." Later in the video Bush is scouring the corner of a room, saying: "No, no first or fourth amendment rights over there."

It seems the pranksters were also at work in the White House library, where the copies of the Bible, including the megaton, printed on the actual skin of dead saints edition that Joe Biden was sworn in with on Tuesday, were also defaced. If one turned to Leviticus, the only verses not redacted were 18 and 20.

In other news, President Obama has had to hire an extra janitorial crew to clean the marble floor where Vice President Cheney wrote "go fuck yourself" in skidmarks from his wheelchair.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling)

Look I'm the kind of guy who makes jokes at funerals, even, especially, those of my parents. I'm utterly distrustful of mush and generally my cynicism is sharp enough to make a Ginsu seem like a plastic picnic knife.

But I want to be someone else for 24 hours.

I want to believe America actually believes its own hype. I want to think the more optimistic, and more brusque, Declaration of Independence had something more to do with law than international public relations. (They really signed their names to pursuit of happiness?) And while even in my wildest dream I can't say I want to believe that the election of an African American to the presidency has killed off racism, I want to believe it's at least got a flesh wound.

I want to believe we're good. At least more good than not. Most of the time. And that only has to be 51% of the time.

So for one day, let's just let the happiness in, the blindness to the future only hope can bring.


Monday, January 19, 2009

When the Body Is as Numinous as Words

I've got several pat answers for why I stopped writing poetry. One of them is this--you can only write the "langauge is a tool that fails us" poem so many times before you have to take your own word for it. That said, it's the only tool we've got, if at times it's like using a bulldozer to study orchids or a flea comb to search a supernova.

Language has been in bad way these past eight years. It's not just because Bush has so little facility for it, it's that he cares for it the way he cares for the poor--he hopes some meaning trickles down. We've seen how that works, and now more of us are poor. It's got so bad we've had to argue about what torture is, and asses like Rush Limbaugh can suggest Abu Ghraib was no worse than frat boy shennanigans.

So let's hope that electing a president who can write, who can say about the work of Marilynne Robinson, "The language just shimmers," might be a start to getting language back. I hate to be all old-fashioned and the artiste, but a president who values beauty can get me almost misty eyed. I mean, a president who nails his diction with a glorious word like "shimmers"? To paraphrase another ascendant African-American politican Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, it's time to "luxuriate in America's deliciousness." How sneaky, mixing wordplay with food, but then again the best writing is the most sensuous, and we need to feel it in our mouths, need to chew before we swallow.

And on this most miraculous of MLK Days, I want to quote some King, from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," one of the best passages in American English, with that sentence that begins with "But" a lesson in the periodic sentence:

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

Here's hoping his joyous literacy is a legacy we can all share in, hoping the ominous clouds of inferiority no longer form in any child's little mental sky, that our country can put ideas into metaphor, metaphor into meaning, our words, then, made flesh.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Almost Touching, It Will Almost Do

Sometimes the iPhone does weird things--this photo is untouched. Or maybe it knew Nigel is missing Amy....


Saturday, January 17, 2009

We've Got to Carry Each Other--Covers, Covers Everywhere

Regular readers (hi, both of you!) might remember the flurry of cover version CDs that the cool gang at If I Ran the Zoo and I got to do a while back. I wrote about mine, in a usually wordy way, and then Tom at IIRTZ listed everyone's play lists at his blog, too. So that's a lot of folks doing very interesting versions of other folk's music pointed to by a bunch of keen-eared obsessives.

But now everywhere I look there's a cover I forgot. Life's like that, an endless wittiness in endless staircases that endlessly descend.

So that means, I've got a third cover CD. Guys at IIRTZ, let me know if you want a copy. And I have to admit I didn't even make it fit--2 songs have to get burned onto a 2nd CD. And that's partially because of finding covers while doing this mix, Why have people been hiding Chica and the Folder from me?


Rachid Taha "Rock el Casbah" Tekitoi (orig. The Clash)
Red Elvises "Telephone Call from Istanbul" Your Favorite Band "Live" at the Great American Music Hall ( orig. Tom Waits)
David Lindley "Mercury Blues" El Rayo-X (orig. K.C. Douglas)
Sister Carol "Wild Thing" Reggae on the River #2 (since iTunes can't bother to have the wonderful soundtrack to Something Wild) (orig. The Troggs)
Pixies "Winterlong" Dig for Fire ep (orig. Neil Young)
Yo La Tengo "Somebody's Baby" Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo (orig. Jackson Browne)
Lambchop "Beyond Belief" Loose: New Sounds of theOld West Vol. 2 (orig. Elvis Costello)
Placebo "Running Up that Hill" Meds (orig. Kate Bush)
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin "Levi Stubbs' Tears" The Big Idea (orig. Billy Bragg)
Reptile Palace Orchestra "Sombre Reptiles" Iguana Iguana (orig. Brian Eno)
Dump "Everlasting Love" A Plea for Tenderness (orig. Robert Knight)
Chica and the Folder "I'll Come Running" 42 Madchen (orig. Brian Eno)
Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoff "Sunday Morning" Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (orig. Velvet Underground)
Johnny Cash "I See a Darkness" American III: Solitary Man (orig. Bonnie "Prince" Billy)
Young @ Heart "One" Mostly Live (orig. U2)
David Byrne "Rockin' in the Free World" Hanging Upside Down ep (orig. Neil Young)
Calexico "Alone Again Or" Convict Pool (orig. Love)
Yung Wu "Big Day" Shore Leave (orig. Phil Manzanera/801)
Toots and the Maytalls "(Take Me Home) Country Roads" Funky Kingston (orig. John Denver)
Doc Watson and Dave Grisman "Summertime" Doc and Dawg (orig. you decide--it's Gershwin, of course)
Luna "Indian Summer" Slide ep (orig. Beat Happening)

And yes, it has been an Indian summer in Santa Barbara. In January. While most of the country is freezing.

Now, the rest of you DO NOT want to live here.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

They Go All the Way Up

For Dog Blog Friday: Two greyhounds and one human are quite a sight out for a walk.


Friday Random Ten

Ed's Redeeming Qualities "Light & Fire & Smoke & Blood & Stuff" Big Grapefruit Clean-Up Job
BeauSoleil "Zydeco Gris-Gris" Big Ol' Box of New Orleans
The Golden Palominos "Heaven" Pure
Michelle Shocked "Black Widow" Short Sharp Shocked
Maddox Brothers & Rose "Too Old to Cut the Mustard" On the Air: The 1940s
Channel Light Vessel "Bill's Last Waltz" Automatic
Jonathan Richman "That Summer Feeling" Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story
Robert Fripp & The League of Crafty Guitarists "Burning Siesta" Show of Hands
The Spanic Boys "Meant to Be" Strange World
Deadstring Brothers "All Over Now" Starving Winter Report

Gore Gore Girls "Where Evil Grows" Get the Gore

Some songs about size. Some songs by families, sort of. And all over, of course.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slipping (into Something)

Someone had to be the Father of Margarine, and that dubious distinction goes to Wilhelm Normann, a German chemist and horrible cook who would be 139 this Friday. Normann introduced hydrogenization to fats, and what that means chemically I really don't know, as the most I know about chemistry is you can test your own for a quarter at some old-fashioned arcades, but I assume socially Normann greased the skids of their meeting something like this: "Hydro, Fats. Fats, Hydro. I think you two have something in common." Then they replied in unison, "Yes, we both clog your aorta!" And thus a fantastic friendship was born as well as the burgeoning bank accounts of hundreds of cardiologists. The best part (there is one, promise) is the term is called "fat hardening," so at least I feel better about my stomach of late, knowing the flab can be hard. As with most things dealing with margarine, I can only get into trouble if I go any further, but I will add that the margarine people are still bitter they didn't get the product placement in Last Tango in Paris.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shake Some Action

So I was catching up with the Swedish newspapers, as is my wont, and what should I learn after checking out the recipes from my favorite Swedish chef in the pages of the Lantbrukets Affärstidning, but, and I hope you're sitting down, cows make lousy earthquake detectors. I didn't ask you to sit down because it's surprising that cows make lousy seismographs, I asked you to sit down because scientists were funded to do this study and it didn't take the U.S. Congress to roll that particular pork barrel (or, in this case, cow barrel).

We're talking cows here. ("Moo, moo." Although in Sweden I'm sure they say something else, at least "möö möö.") An acquaintance used to do a joke impression of a cow having sex--she'd blink her eyes, once, very slowly. And it's ultimately imperturbable animals like that the Swedes think will warn us of earthquakes. Instead, we need to find perturbable animals, like terribly inbred fox terriers or Henny Penny or Contopus sordidulus malkinus.

The results from this study also discovered cows look funny wearing GPS on their heads. The scientists working on the study claim that their parallel research is not yet over. So soon we might find out if cows are good at fantasy baseball, picking who will win American Idol, or finding their way to the nearest IKEA with their GPS devices. The good news is even after these strenuous experiments, all the bovines were very healthy and gave delicious milk. Or, as the case may be, milkshakes.

And in Norway scientists are observing a lemming named Richter that is rumored to be quite sensitive. Luckily these scientists are being careful not to leap to any conclusions following his lead.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Putting the Harm in Harmonica

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Mortimer, desperate to feel the blues, got a bit too carried away when he got past blow-blow to the suck part.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Thrice Around the Globe

So Mickey Rourke thanked his dogs during his Golden Globe acceptance speech last night. Now Mookie and Nigel are all miffed that Amy and I haven't ever won a major award on television so we can acknowledge them.


Then the LA Times fashion report finished its wrap-up as follows:

Kristin Scott Thomas (in Lanvin) accessorized her deliciously draped taupe dress with almost $1.5-million worth of Martin Katz jewelry in a brooch, bracelets, earrings and a 15-carat Cognac diamond ring. But her makeup was recession-sensitive.

"We did a '40s-style look, which is actually wartime makeup," says makeup artist Vanessa Scali, who gave Thomas a strong lip and clean eyes. "In a strange way, it's a nod to what's happening today."

In the end, being in touch meant striking the right balance of conscious glamour. If you piled on the priceless jewels, you laid off the dramatic makeup. If nothing else, lately we've learned that you can't -- in good taste -- have it all.

OK, I guess it's my fault for reading the story in the first place. But it's good to know when the economy is bad it's fine to drape yourself with a healthy Lotto's worth of jewels as long as you don't wear too much make-up. (Yeah, that probably means wearing enough make-up to make it look like you're not wearing make-up, but I was a bit too young for that Bowie phase and now too old for Carmindy to do me any good.)


So the Hollywood Foreign Press Association finally recognized what the discerning among us have known for years--Kate Winslet has a pair of Golden Globes.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fighting the Free Day Weekend

On Friday the wise, witty, and Wii playing (oh yes, I have pictures) Craig Smith ended his posts alerting us that the Daily Nexus, in a budget move, is discontinuing its Friday paper and will now be printing just four days a week. At the end of the news, Craig wrote:

If the Governator wants to find a way to trim the state budget, perhaps he should have the entire UC system shut down on Fridays.

Not assuming he was giving his seriousness a Friday off, I took this suggestion at face value, and here are 5 reasons it probably won't happen:

1) Huge crush for classrooms, at least at UCSB--one reason there are more night classes and that they're pushing summer as a full quarter. Cutting out a day of instruction would really mess scheduling up. And evening classes cut into student drinking.
2) Many large classes have their sections on Fridays, so again, scheduling would become a mess.
3) In a place like UCSB's Writing Program, there is no instruction on Fridays but it's a day for program governance, i.e. meetings. Jamming those in during the other 4 days around people's teaching schedules would be a nightmare.
4) As for staff, this suggestion means everyone gets an annual paycut of nearly a month's salary (4 Fridays a month X 12 months = 48 days of no pay). Ouch.

And speaking of that, a change of work conditions like that would probably have to be negotiated with each bargaining unit, so there's problem #5. (See, Wendy is right--unions are a pain.)

Of course Craig then pointed out an article from the LA Times which says:

State officials say they will close most California state offices on the first and third Fridays of each month starting Feb. 6 as a cost-saving measure.

Luckily for UC employees, the university isn't quite a CA state office. After all, while it's not surprisingly hard to pin the figures down, as therefore those in charge would have to be responsible and accountable and all that, it's rumored the state provides merely 30-40% of the UC's budget anyway. Still, there could be fun ahead, if one likes to define fun as something like being locked in a recording studio with James Blunt or getting The Real Housewives of Orange County on every TV channel 24/7.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Random Ten

Alison Krauss & Union Station "Choctaw Hayride" New Favorite
The Fairfield Four "Lonesome Valley" O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions "Glory" [live] Rattlesnakes (deluxe edition)
Mitsuko Uchida "II Pour les Tierces" Debussy: 12 Etudes
Rodney Crowell "Banks of the Old Bandera" The Houston Kid
Joy Division "She's Lost Control" Substance 1977-1980
The Januaries "John Sings" The Januaries
Old 97's "Smokers" Drag It Up
Stephen Malkmus "Mama" Face the Truth
Mingus Big Band "Nostalgia in Times Square" Nostalgia in Times Square

Mirah "Archipelago" You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This

We pick up with last week's [correction: two week's ago--I have no sense of time anymore] favorite artist (if really a Jerry Douglas workout), stay in O Brother-ish land, get an ok Television cover, some Debussy, some more new country, a post-punk classic, a song that's at least fitting for the calendar, a weaker Old 97's, a catchy Malkmus, some big band fun that sort of could be about NYE (but isn't), and an artist I haven't listened to in awhile but she's still pretty fetching. All over, and out.


Paging Vittorio Storaro

For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel asks, "What's spotted, and lined, and cute all over?"


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Dork

Ben Varkentine (at his blog Dancing Girls that's all about female appreciation) tagged me and while I've been squeamish about memes of late, this one has to do with photos, so what the heck. Of course there are rules:

1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag 4 people to do the same!
5. This has to be your fourth post of the day. (OK, I made that one up.)

I'll pass on the 4th rule, as I gave up tagging as a New Year's resolution. But feel free to play at home as long as you have your parental permission slips signed. Which is more than fitting for this photo:

Guess who that pipsqueak is. My guess is this is about 1969.


A Drowning Dive and Back to the Chorus

"It's kinda like, I really love the Eiffel Tower but I have popsicle sticks so I have to make my Eiffel Tower out of popsicle sticks rather than steel but I'm still going to make my Eiffel Tower."

Just in time for my birthday--why thank you, Ms. Case.


If You Go Too Far You're Going to Wear the Scar

According to a whole bunch of sources no doubt quoting each other, Friday is the 58th anniversary of the premiere of the first film to get the X rating. Thing is, the MPAA rating system wasn't established until 1968, so how a film got rated X in 1951 is hard to say, even for someone like me mediocre at math, although I can figure out this--the film would have been 17 by the time the rating system got established, so would then have been old enough to see itself. The supposed title of the film, Life after Tomorrow, doesn't exist, even on IMDB (if a film screens but isn't listed on IMDB, is it real?). Well, there is a 2006 film with that title, but it's a doc about 40 women who played Annie, and therefore knew--VERY LOUDLY--when the sun would come out. The X version of that film must be a thrill for redhead fetishists and a horror film for the rest of us. But we know they don't award the X for terror, just for sex. (As for Daddy Warbucks jokes, I'm just not going to go there.) Perhaps it's fitting that Life after Tomorrow hasn't had a life after tomorrow; an X in 1951 more than likely meant a married couple sleeping in the same bed anyway. Of course before there was X there was W, and we all know W stands for FUBAR.



TBogg called this post funny, which is like Albert Pujols calling someone a good hitter. (Except it's a lot more fun to say "Pujols" than "Tbogg" outloud.) Go read it, but don't do it in a place where people will ask, "Hey, ____, why are you laughing so much?" Cause most people won't like hearing that _____, the suddenly very creepy person in the next cube, is guffawing about something to do with sasquatch and midget porn.

But everyone gets a free burrito.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Meals, I've Had a Few, But at Least 10 Worth a Mention

I sketched this entry out weeks ago, and then S. Irene Virbila (or Sirene as we like to call her) in the LA Times beat me to the conceit. But I'm going to do it anyway, especially as I don't know what else to write tonight. So here it is, in chronological order, INOTBB's Top Ten Meals of 2008! (Brought to you by a local gym.) This list does leave out a Thanksgiving feast starring turkey from my father-in-law's smoker in which every dish was perfection, so all apologies.

1) Square One, Santa Barbara, January 12

Foie gras. But even better Chateau d'Yquem. You can read about it in 900 word detail here. Simply put, there is stuff worth $200 a bottle.

2) Fontaine de Mars, Paris, March 24 & 29

Yes, we ate there twice in a city with hundred of restaurants worth sampling. Cassoulet can do that to a person. I've scribbled the details already here. The prune dessert took the cake, even if it wasn't one.

3) Petrossian, Paris, March 26

It's nice to have a memorable meal on your birthday. Especially when it gets you in touch with your Russian (OK, Ukrainian) roots. Again, the fishy, lovely details are here.

4) Le Comptoir, Paris, March 27

We ate well in Paris, what can I say? I'm leaving out a night of souffles and lots of other good stuff limiting my choices to just these 3 places. The most amazing thing about Le Comptoir, in retrospect, is that we got in at all. Google it and you'll see it's supposed to be one of the tougher reservations in Paris. Or it could all happen like this.

5) Spago, Los Angeles, June 27

A big part of this evening is that Amy and I were accompanied by my two sisters and niece on their first as-a-group CA visit (since no one ever vacations in Santa Barbara, let alone when you can stay for free with a family member). But at the end of their stay we were in LA and we wanted to do something truly LA-ish, so thought Spago. And while we are nobodies and had never been there, we were treated like stars. They even were super-accommodating to my 9-year-old niece. Oh, yeah, the food was terrific, too. This place ain't cheap, but it delivers, decades into Wolfgang Puck's fame he could so easily coast on.

6) Stone World Bistro and Gardens, Escondido, July 11

And this meal was with Amy's family, right before her dad's big 70th birthday bash. A wonderful evening of family, brew (my first taste of Stone's 12th Anniversary and Dogfish Head's Santo Palo Marron), and the most terrific clams. That's all written about here.

7) Downey's, Santa Barbara, August 6

My favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara. John Downey makes seasonal 4-course dinners each, uh, season, and they always rock. This one is the best I've been to, with a duck I not only can still taste, but I can also still read about still tasting it.

8) Our house, beer v. wine dinner, Santa Barbara, August 23

Another one of those dinners where the company is at least half the fun, but we really nailed our own 4 course dinner. It didn't hurt that each course was matched with both a beer and a wine. Oddly enough, I wrote about it. But not the next morning.

9) Nopa, San Francisco, August 31

Can't say enough about Nopa, one of those fresh is best places. Amy and I, accompanied by her brother Ken, went during Slow Food Nation and while there saw many participants, such as Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing, try to come in and eat. We had a reservation. This place nails cocktails, serves brilliant beans as appetizers, makes entrees to die for. I didn't write about it. But I still salivate. And you can to walk to it from Amy's brother's apartment.

10) Villa Creek Wine Release Party, Paso Robles, September 27

A magical afternoon, as Villa Creek opened almost all of its wines in at least a 3-year vertical. They're fans (as I am) of big and bold wines, a specialty of the Paso region (Turley is relatively a neighbor). The wine might have been enough to get them on the list, but Villa Creek Winery is also connected to Villa Creek Restaurant. Chef Tom Fundaro is a magician, as he can whip up giant (I mean 4 feet across) paellas on oak grills. A whole slew of them, each with a different feature; I liked squid ink best, but I'm murky like that. But the paella was just one part of a feast that just kept coming.

And may the food and wine and beer and cocktails keep coming in 2009.

And may I convince my body that typing is a form of all-around exercise.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

You and Your Peter Principle

My problem is I let stuff bug me that shouldn't. Driving into work today the SUV in front of me has a license plate holder that boasts: "Only the best dads get promoted to grandpa." Now, a normal person would say, "Aw, the person is proud to have grandkids" and leave it at that. But if you're a regular reader, you've already spotted the problem with that last sentence. Instead my first thought was "Some parent bought that for grandpa from the little squirt as sentiment belongs on the ass of a Chevy Suburban." After all, as someone childless by choice, if you reduce my world view (go ahead, I'm used to it), it comes down to this: Q: What will solve a world totally screwed up like ours? A: More people!

Look family is great and all, but you get to be a grandpa if your kids have enough sex without birth control. (Or sometimes with, I've heard those stories.) At the least, realize it's not about you.

BTW, it's not true that I have a license plate holder that says "Bitter driver says eat shit and die."


Monday, January 05, 2009

Epiphany Eve Auto-Cannibalization

I'd hoped to write something today and not just post a video but ran out of time having to write other things people (nominally) pay me for. So here's something people paid me for back in 2001, when I wrote a book column. It's almost seasonal. See if you can spot the post 9/11 bitterness....

Reading When You’re Feeling Sleighed

OK. I wrote the last column about holiday gift giving, so now my thoughts have curdled like eggnog left out overnight too close to the fireplace. C’mon, who hasn’t had the urge to knee a cheery-faced caroler dressed up like some Dickensian wannabe right in the old Yule log?

Luckily many authors know of our holiday pain. David Sedaris has a whole nifty little book, Holidays on Ice (Little, Brown 1997), complete with his fame-making tale about working as an elf at Macy’s, plus a sweet one called “Dinah the Christmas Whore,” plus a mock diatribe written by a splenetic reviewer about the piss-poor holiday pageant at Sacred Heart Elementary. Three of the pieces are reprints, too, so although the price is cheap, you kind of get ripped off in the true Christmas spirit.

Then there’s Lorrie Moore, whose ability to have fun with puns in no way obscures her ability to wield words like scalpels at our hearts. She seems to return to the holidays again and again, as they are a crucible of family at its most unholy. There’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Guide to the Tenor of Love” from Self-Help (Plume 1985), where love goes wrong, the cat wanders away, and people confuse “you can’t be in love with them all” with “you can’t be in love with the mall.” And there’s “Charades” from Birds of America (Knopf 1998), in which a family doesn’t even go nuclear—-they don’t know each other well enough to explode.

But for deepest sorrow, you can’t beat Anton Chekhov. In the U.S. we know him best for Meryl Streep’s opportunity to do a cartwheel in Central Park, and indeed his plays are wonderful, but the short stories are a lesson in what fiction can be. Here I’m thinking most of “Heartache,” which I was sure took place on Christmas Eve till I just re-read it this evening. Nonetheless, it’s about unbearable grief, the need to tell tales, the invisible nature of the working class, the deathly quiet of snow, and the kindness of animals. One of the most stunning six pages you can read.

Speaking of snow, there’s Midsummer Snowballs (Abrams 2001) by Andy Goldsworthy, which chronicles his recent art project: he made 13 one ton snowballs in Scotland, refrigerated them, then brought them to London in July. Each hides its own mystery as it melts, from feathers to barbed wire, and the book is straightforward in its photos and journal-like entries in the face of this man-made meteorologically impossible. The project leads one to wonder about wonder, and reminds us art so often connects us to youthful urges.

The urge to come to CA probably isn’t necessary to explain to you if you live here. Once, however, the state had to be sold, and KD Kurutz and Gary F. Kurutz decided to compile all those efforts in California Calls You: The Art of Promoting the Golden State: 1870 – 1940 (Windgate Press 2001). Of course I wanted to scoff, not to believe the hype, but the hype is so damn beautiful. All the reproduced flyers and posters and ads glisten with promotional art savvy and style.

Although I personally would take Porter over Berlin, that choice is akin to deciding it’s better to watch a Preston Sturges instead of a Lubitsch (how obscurely artfully I can avoid “six of one, half a dozen of the other,” huh?). That takes nothing away from the mammoth The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin (Knopf 2001), which includes “God Bless America,” the current hit-of-hits that many blacklisted back in 1938 as Berlin had the nerve to be Jewish. The book seems off to an inauspicious start merely with its first song title, “Marie from Sunny Italy,” but then realize that except in the rhyming world of song, Marie would be Maria, and Berlin’s sly wit comes clear.

So have a Happy New Year.

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Caught Up in a Dangling Sting Off the Shore

The video ain't much, but the song sure is. Somehow 3 years old now, but no less beautiful.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Simple Is Not Always Best but the Best Is Always Simple

I want to be a hardened cookie, but often I'm gobsmacked with how easy I am to please. That's why I like pop music so, although what I think should be pop(ular) almost never is, and when it becomes popular, I almost instantly distrust it (democracy has taught me so). This is all a prelude to trying to explain how I can like a song that for its chorus repeats the same single-syllable word 50 times.

One of my guilty pleasures for 2008 has been Re-Arrange Us by Mates of State, a duo I hadn't known before, a husband drummer/singer and keyboardist singer/wife. Their recordings come off more textured, with layered vocals, strings, etc. so that live they seem thin--you'll see at the end if you watch the video. But on CD it comes out as small-scale Spectorish at times (and that doesn't mean they'll murder a starlet someday). I've always been a sucker for that fullness, no matter how achieved, whether by massed guitars (Perfect from Now On, anyone?) or massed mass, like the great unstoppable joy of watching the Mekons lurch about the stage, everyone singing and there's even a goddam accordion. But that's a different entry.

This is about "Now." Of course all pop is about now, and that's one of the song's tricks, as it's the trick of all rock-related songs--you get a present as a present, presently and continuously. It's not that time stops, it's that time feels, ticking like a bassline. But the Mates of State song "Now" actually makes the chorus the word now in the following pattern 7, 7, 7, 4 (a bit more drawn out), repeat. Heavenly echoed it's the prayer and prayer's answer at once. Pleasing, that.

Of course it's only pleasing as the song isn't that simple. The woman takes the lead, claims she is looking for a sign to tell her where she belongs. The person she sings to is waiting for the night to take the person far away from the singer. This is called cross-purposes. We've been trained to think this won't end well--we've heard other songs, seen movies, lived our lives. Instead we get a lot of Now.

Somehow a song this simple, and relatively short (2:39 to be exact), has a bridge, as if it's kind of embarrassed it can't offer more. The bridge suggests there's "patterns in the pain" but just leads us back to another shore of Nows. That pattern is Now. The pain is Now.

And it sounds really pretty. Now is that simple, after all, so much so we forget it all the time. That's how we get time in the first place.

Here's a video that won't quite get you there....


Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Random Ten

Suzanne Vega "Tombstone" Nine Objects of Desire
Johnny Cash "Old Chunk of Coal" Unearthed
The Beatles "Think for Yourself" Rubber Soul
X "Back 2 the Base" Wild Gift
Elvis Costello "Cheap Reward" My Aim Is True
Sebadoh "Break Free" The Sebadoh
Los Straitjackets "Here Comes Santa Claus" 'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets!
Johnny Cash "You Are My Sunshine" Unearthed
Alex Gifford "Morecambe Bay" Plus from Us
Maddox Brothers & Rose "The Girl I Love Don't Pay Me No Mind" On the Air: The 1940s

Matthew Sweet "Someone to Pull the Trigger" Altered Beast

That was odd, right down to two Cashes. Here's hoping that means money is coming my way in 2009.


Grandma Got Run Over by a Greyhound

For Dog Blog Friday: May we all hit the new year running.


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