Friday, August 31, 2007

Kennedy Center Gig

We kicked ass. We rocked. We ruled. And we looked really good too.

I've been trying to figure how to embed the video, but I don't think I can. So go here and click on "Play This Performance" under August 29, 2007.

Olbermann on Craig

Keith Olbermann's Countdown here presents the sad, sordid, and unfortunately hilarious tale of Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, in a dramatization lifted directly from the police report. Riveting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

(Via Alternet.)

Update. Also from Alternet: Why the GOP's Gay Wing Is Forced to Hide in the Bathroom.

I confess to some fascination with this. Mark Foley, Mr. Anti-Child-Sex-Abuse, cruising for congressional pages. Now Larry Craig, well-known right-wing homophobe, hustling for an anonymous quickie in a men's room. Anyone else notice a pattern here?

I love it when stuff like this happens, and not only because it's a beautiful thing to see hypocrisy exposed. I think -- I like to hope -- that as a culture we're slowly learning that people's appetites are more complicated and interesting than we might think. Also that when someone preaches intolerance, the first thing to do is to consider the motives of the preacher.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

White! Whale! Holy! Grail!

The NPR show Fresh Air is doing a series on heavy metal this week. There are interviews with James Hetfield and Rob Halford here, and Robert Plant and Steve Perry here. I also found this All Things Considered piece from last February on current trends in metal, featuring my beloved Mastodon. Very cool stuff!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Meat and Me

In his online chat yesterday, Gene Weingarten asked his carnivorous readers to assist him with a project he's doing by to emailing him and telling him their views on the ethics of eating meat.

What I sent him, roughly, was this:

I'm a Buddhist, so I really should be a vegetarian because we have a precept against killing. I tried it for a couple of years, and I noticed two major things about myself then:

(1) I talked about being a vegetarian all the time. I beat people over the head with my herbivorousness. I became indignant when restaurants didn't offer a range of choices for my particular dietary restrictions. I cheerfully told my dining companions how disgusting, immoral, and unhealthy their meals were. In short, I became an insufferably self-righteous pompous bore.

(2) I craved meat. Deep in my ape-brain, I wanted cheeseburgers, bacon, sausages, and pork chops constantly. And I was hungry all the time because all the tofu and bean sprouts in the world couldn't satisfy my craving for flesh.

So ultimately I decided to get off my high horse and give my body what it wanted. These days I try to mitigate the karmatic burden by sticking to organic and free-range stuff as much as I can and by trying to cultivate an awareness of where what I eat comes from. I've never seen a hog butchered, let alone done it myself, but it's something I'd like to experience.
Shrug. I admire people who have no apparent difficulty being lifelong vegetarians and not being all ego-assertive about it (looking at you, Patrick); it's just not something I feel equipped for. I'd be interested to hear what the rest of you think about this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fond Memories of America Mix

  • I just read that the Secret Service has issued warrants for the arrest of AU students who, in cold blood and with malice aforethought, mooned Karl Rove's car. Not the campus police, but the Secret Service. In America, land of the free, where we used to have constitutionally protected rights to assembly and free speech. I guess we should be happy that nobody got shot.

  • Top Chef: I'm hugely disappointed that Tre, the coolest, most professional contestant of the bunch, totally blew it with a truly horrifying dish of beet-cured salmon with pesto and grapefruit. Seriously, look at this recipe and tell me this is something you'd want to put in your mouth. And Casey's knife skills suck. I'm no longer pulling for her. I predict the final round will be Howie vs. Sara in a cage match, and there won't be a winner because they'll strangle each other.

  • I got a new guitar amp this past weekend: a 50-watt Vox Valvetronix modeler. What a fantastic tool it is. It digitally models 11 different amps, has a whole load of onboard effects, and you can program 3 channels and switch between them in-flight. It's the amp of my dreams. When I got my first really good flute after a few years of suffering along with a really awful instrument, I remember feeling absolutely liberated. No more hardware problems: the only thing between me and becoming a really good player was my own willingness to work really hard at it. This amp is kind of like that.

  • The temporary structure where Eastern Market will operate till repairs are finished is now open. I'm looking forward to checking it out this weekend.

  • I'm playing tomorrow night with Maggie Sansone at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Come see us (it's free!), or watch us online.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day...

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

-- Spc. Buddhika Jayamala, Sgt. Wesley D. Smith, Sgt. Jeremy Roebuck, Sgt. Omar Mora, Sgt. Edward Sandmeier, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, and Staff Sgt. Jeremy A. Murphy, The War as We Saw It, New York Times, August 19, 2007

The formation of "rally squads" is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand-held signs, placards or perhaps a long sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.

These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squads' task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove demonstrators from the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young Republican organizations, local athletic teams and fraternities/sororities...

Once a group of demonstrators has been identified, the advance person must decide what action to take. If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the president, or has potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken
immediately to minimize the demonstrators' effect.

-- Office of Presidential Advance, Presidential Advance Manual, October, 2002 (via Salon).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Infinite Kyosaku Project, Part 7

She hasn't been climbing up on my monitor very much lately. I think she may be getting bored with this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Donegal Bongwater, Dee D. Jackson

I can't think of anything more worthy of a WhaFUCK? Friday post than the deeply peculiar video for Dee D. Jackson's "Automatic Lover," which you may experience in all of its bewildering glory on Tes' blog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday morning wage slave coffee mix

  • Dear god. Oh, my. Ruhlman had a magnificent rant on his blog the other day on the Shame of the Chicken Caesar Salad, and yesterday afternoon he revealed his attempt to redeem the dish: the Chicken Fried Pork Belly Confit Caesar. It's an eloquent political and cultural statement, a howl against the horrific ubiquitous mediocrity and feeble imagination rampant in American culture, and it looks so damn good. See, this is why food matters. Guess what I'll be making this weekend.

  • In looking for a definition of "sockdologist," I found this Compendium of Lost Words, which has the potential to be a major time-suck. Since I've got a lot to do today, I've confined myself to A-E, where may be found such treasures as "ascoliasm" (a boys' game of beating each other with gloves or leather while hopping), "brephophagist" (one who eats babies), "dodrantal" (of nine inches in length), and "egrote" (to feign an illness). How have I gone so long without knowing about this?

  • Speaking of brephophagists: if you can stand a minute or so of looking at the jowly face of evil, check out Dick Cheney's thoughts on invading Baghdad, circa 1994:

    I think if I had that much cognitive dissonance going on, my skull would cave in. (Thanks, Tina.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What summer tastes like

Do you remember your first taste of pesto? I remember mine. It was in 1985; I was an intellectual anarchist English major, playing Irish music with one band and Velvet-Undergroundish garage thrash with another. I had spiky Billy Idol hair, and every piece of clothing I owned was black. I worshiped Shakespeare and Burroughs and Borges. I was learning to cook. And this mysterious recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook looked mighty interesting.

Forget how you can find the stuff in jars on the shelves of every supermarket in the land now. Forget what a tired cliché of the brunch menu it has become. Imagine doing what I did, viz. buying basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and almonds (because it's 1985 and you’re in Athens, Georgia and the nearest pine nut is three states away), whirling the stuff up in your food processor having no idea what you're doing, boiling pasta, tossing one with the other, and tasting, for the first time, real homemade pesto. I had been cooking a lot of interesting stuff in those days (some of it was actually good, too), but that moment, my discovery of pesto, was a great awakening. I was Prometheus.

A couple of years after that, a friend of a friend moved into a house whose entire front yard had been taken over by basil plants. I had an open invitation to take as much as I wanted whenever I wanted. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. For two blessed summers, anytime I wanted to make pesto, I could go over to Mary's and gather buckets of leaves. My memory of those lush, slow, humid days is suffused with the thick druggy aroma of basil. Sitting naked with my girlfriend on the floor, slurping spaghetti covered with the ambrosial stuff, washing it down with ice-cold Carlo Rossi chardonnay. All the windows open, ceiling fan blowing the warm air around, "Love My Way" by the Psychedelic Furs on the radio. The slow-cycling chorus of cicadas. August.

So last night, as I was leaving Lori and Kenner's house, Lori came out into her garden and snipped a big plastic bagful of basil for me to take home. I processed it into pesto this morning, and this minute I'm hoovering down the last few strands of a bowlful of linguini I tossed with it. This truly is one of the very best things on earth.

After stemming and rinsing and draining, I had about two and a half firmly packed cups of leaves. I discovered last week that I have an absurd little one-cup-capacity food processor stashed away on a high shelf; where it came from I have no idea, but I couldn't have found it at a better time. Working in tiny batches, I gradually processed the leaves, three cloves of garlic, a quarter-cup of pine nuts, and a half-cup of extra-virgin olive oil into a thick green paste. I dumped that into a bowl and mixed in a half-cup of grated parmigiano reggiano and three tablespoons of softened butter. It's better to grate your cheese and work it in by hand separately from the rest of the ingredients. Other than that tiny bit of finesse, there's nothing to it. The magic is in the ingredients, which should be fresh and perfect, especially the basil. Save any extra sauce in a jar in the fridge, covered with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the basil from turning dark.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What I'm listening to now

...Lots of Aphex Twin. Beautiful, disturbing, darkly hilarious music. For me, this stuff shows the value of unapologetic self-indulgence. A valuable lesson for a composer.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Maggie, animals, tunes, karma

As a Buddhist, I believe that everything that has happened to me in my life has led me to this moment, and likewise what I do in this moment will have an effect, however subtle, on everything that happens to me in the future. This applies to my career as a musician as well. Every success, every pitfall, every single one of the uncountable millions of seconds spent practicing and studying and playing and listening has brought me to today, this steamy hot August day, on which I'm going to play with Maggie Sansone, Danny Noveck, and Chris Noyes at the Queen Anne's County 4-H Fair. We're on between the milking demonstration and the, um, pretty animal contest.

Speaking of Maggie, I've noticed she's got the new cd up on CD Baby, which means you can go there and hear some of what we've been doing. Also what Bobby Read, genius of producers, did with what we did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Meta Post: Popups

I just had a look at Bob DelGrosso's blog A Hunger Artist, which like my blog is hosted on Blogger, and imagine my consternation when two popup ads came up. They even made it past Firefox's popup blocker. Has anyone experienced this on my blog? Because if that's going to be how it is on Blogger, I'm going to have to find a new venue for this thing.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ingmar Bergman's Soap Commercials

Tonight I will dream of sweat droplets and bacteria in an apocalyptic battle amid a desolate, slightly hairy landscape, while soap bubbles rain down like meteors.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Long hot summer mix

Hitting a bunch of topics because I've been a slack, slack blogger lately...

  • Top Chef. I predict it's going to come down to Howie, CJ, Casey, and Tre. Everybody in the running is a good cook, which is a great change from previous seasons of TC, but for the most resolutely cheflike of the lot, Howie is my pick. I was liking Hung for a while--early on he seemed really together and professional and full of good ideas--but either the stress of the competition or prejudicial editing is making his wheels seem to come off.

  • I don't think I've mentioned this here, but 2007 is my guitar year. Time to do some serious woodshedding and try to get back the ability I had when I was 20 or so. I've been practicing and playing a lot. I've got guitars all over my house so I can play whenever I have a minute or two. I'd have one in the bathroom if I had enough guitars. I think it's working a little--yesterday my upstairs neighbor said, "hey, you were playing guitar last night, weren't you? You sound good!" Twenty years ago my come-from was classical guitar on the one hand and punk on the other. These days (as a way of honing my lead chops) I'm deepening my understanding of blues. I've just about nailed Johnny Winter's solo from "Still Alive and Well," albeit about two-thirds of his tempo. I'm thinking I'll take a deep breath and dig into some Stevie Ray Vaughan next. This isn't my usual musical territory at all, but it's the Rosetta Stone of almost any style of rock, and the most guitarish music there is. And like Irish music, it's dead easy to learn the songs; the artistry is in what you bring to the music.

  • Contrariwise, I haven't been cooking anything interesting at all. It's too hot and it's too beautiful outside, and there's no place in my kitchen to play guitar. I've been grilling steaks, throwing together pasta dishes out of whatever I have on hand, making omelettes. Plans for grinding and stuffing a batch of kielbasa are on hold till I get off my ass and order some actual hog casings; the collagen ones I got from the Sausage Source work fine from a mechanical standpoint, but they taste like collagen.

  • Next week is Restaurant Week. My favorite time of the hemiannum. I want to hit Firefly, Corduroy, Dino of course, and Philippe and Mary Duke are talking about Bistro d'Oc.

  • Speaking of Top Chef, it's been a month since Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie filed for divorce, and Padma hasn't returned a single one of my calls. Maybe there's a problem with her voice mail.

  • I just found out that various commitments are going to make it impossible for me to see any of the acts at Virgin Fest this weekend that I want to see, viz. the Beastie Boys, Modest Mouse, Sasha and John Digweed, the Bad Brains, Interpol, and MIA. I'm especially steamed about MIA because she hasn't returned any of my calls either, and we really need to talk.