Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Musicianship

This is manualist Gerry Phillips playing "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden on his hands. I'm in awe.

His rendition of "The Final Countdown" is also a wondrous thing to behold. This is a song that could well have been written for hands.

Friday, September 28, 2007


So this is a pretty generic cover of "Cat Scratch Fever" by the 80s hair metal band Nitro, with shred guru Michael Angelo Batio playing his double-necked guitar:

But what's cool about it happens during the intro, when the (steroid-enhanced) drummer plays one of his cymbals BY HEAD-BUTTING IT. It's pretty subtle; you have to watch for it.

By god, THAT'S what rock & roll is all about.

Martini therapy

1. Throw a few ice cubes into a cocktail glass. Add water. Let that sit while you:

2. Measure into a cocktail shaker three parts gin (I mean good gin, like Plymouth, Beefeater, Boodles (I love Boodles), or Bombay (not Sapphire)) and one part vermouth. My standby vermouth is Noilly Prat. Cinzano is fine too.

3. Add a handful of ice cubes to your shaker, put the top on, and shake it till it's too cold to hold comfortably.

4. Dump the ice water out of your glass and strain the contents of the shaker into it.

5. Garnish with three fat blue-cheese stuffed olives.

6. Drink, sitting on your porch, surrounded by your adoring cats, on a Friday evening at the end of a great screaming soul-withering bitch of a week. Notice how life suddenly seems strangely beautiful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

Worldwide one of a kind, the Vegetable Orchestra performs on instruments made of fresh vegetables. The utilization of various ever refined vegetable instruments creates a musically and aesthetically unique sound universe.

The Vegetable Orchestra was founded in 1998. It consists of 11 musicians, a sound engineer and a video artist. Based in Vienna, the Vegetable Orchestra plays concerts in Europe and Asia. From time to time workshops are given - on how to manufacture an instrument or on musical topics.

There are no musical boundaries for the Vegetable Orchestra. The most diverse music styles fuse here - contemporary music, beat-oriented House tracks, experimental Electronic, Free Jazz, Noise, Dub, Clicks'n'Cuts - the musical scope of the ensemble expands consistently, and recently developed vegetable instruments and their inherent sounds often determine the direction.

A concert of the Vegetable Orchestra appeals to all the senses. As an encore at the end of the concert and the video performance, the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup.

Jet turned me on to this. It's one of the the coolest things I've seen lately.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Well, that's it, then

Hung has won. When Andre Soltner says he'd hire you to work in his restaurant, you've won. Compared to that, whether or not you're the last contestant standing on a piddling little reality show is of absolutely no consequence. God has spoken. Hung is the man. End of story.

That being said, I'm back to rooting for Casey after this episode. If she wins in the finale, it will be a fitting and well-deserved second place.

And I have to say: this ep had the best Top Chef challenges ever. Simple, product-placement-free, and mercilessly revealing of the contestant's abilities. Here's one of Le Cirque's signature dishes; taste and replicate. Here's a chicken, an onion, and a potato; make something fantastic. You can't get any more cheffish than that. I wish the whole show were like this episode.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wahoo (mostly)!

Three reasons I'm in a pretty good mood today:

  • Today is my 43rd birthday. While I'm a little miffed at the lack of tickertape parades, fireworks, Air Force flyovers, and greased pig races, it's a good age to be.

  • Even more auspiciously, Sunday was the 10th anniversary of the day I moved to DC, thus instantly improving everything in my life.

  • September in DC. Best. Weather. Anywhere.
One reason I also feel a little self-recriminatory:
  • I forgot today is Car Free DC Day, and I've already blown it by driving to work. No wonder traffic was so light this morning. Hell and blood. I'm a bad, bad liberal.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Very Good Reason to Stay Out of Jail

Prison food.

A lot more is coming from China, yes. Their labor cost is next to nothing, you know ... The average prisoner can be fed for about $2.25 per day for three meals. We're not looking for exactly Grade A type product; yeah, Grade B, which is just fine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When Words Fail Us

In this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers, just as surely as John F. Kennedy declared himself to be a Berliner in 1962 when he visited Berlin. Indeed, just as in the gravest moments of our own history, how can we not feel profound solidarity with those people, that country, the United States, to whom we are so close and to whom we owe our freedom, and therefore our solidarity?

(Jean-Marie Colombani, Le Monde, Sept. 12, 2001)

Hard to remember how America used to be a respected member of the world community instead of the crazy uncle in the attic, isn't it?

I revisit the images on this site every year at about this time. They're a hard reminder of what's been squandered and shot to hell by the arrogance and murderous opportunism of this administration.

May we indeed all find such unity and goodwill again soon, in happier times.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Steak and Egg Fajitas

Coffee: first priority, before fridge is opened or knife is touched.

Pico de gallo: two small tomatoes (seeded), half an onion, one of those peppers that aren't jalapeños (also seeded), and a fistful of cilantro. Fine chop. Pinch of salt.

Steak: salt and pepper a hunk of leftover skirt while you melt two tbsp. butter with a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is done foaming, throw your steak into the pan and cook it for about 4 minutes on each side. Internal temperature should be between 120 and 130 degrees F. Let rest while you finish cooking.

Flour tortillas: two of them, on a plate, in a warm oven, warming.

Eggs: Fry them.

Guacamole: wish you had some avocados, because if you did you'd mash one with some of your pico de gallo and a little lime juice. But you don't, and that's ok.

Steak again: before plating, slice across the grain into fajita-appropriate bits.

Take your plate out on the porch and enjoy the cool morning breeze while you eat.


Does anybody know...

...what kind of pepper this is?

I got a bunch of them last week when (W)hole (of) Foods was out of jalapeños. They're roughly the same size and shape, but lighter green, crunchier, and hotter.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Unsuccessful Catfish

My usual method with catfish is to season the filets vehemently with salt and pepper, drizzle them with hot sauce -- Texas Pete or Crystal, something mild enough to coat the filets without making them inedibly hot -- dredge them in corn meal or crushed cornflakes, and pan-fry them. Seriously basic, and one of the Best Things on Earth. With some remoulade, a bit of coleslaw or some garlicky mashed potatoes, and a frosty mug of lager, you've got yourself a feast.

Tonight for some reason I thought I'd get a little fancier and make a beer batter. I whisked half a can of Bud, 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp. each salt and paprika together in a bowl. I seasoned the filets and dredged them in flour while I heated an inch and a half of oil in my wok to 375 degrees. The flour-coated filets got a dip in the (somewhat disturbingly pink) batter at the last minute, then went into the hot oil. They were puffy and golden-brown in about a minute and a half.

They were beautiful and light and crisp, perfectly done, and you know what? I don't like catfish done this way. The character of the fish is obliterated in the thick layer of batter. If I didn't know I was eating catfish, I'd have no idea what I just had for dinner. Some fried thing, I guess. I'll try making the batter a little thinner next time before rejecting the whole beer-battering thing outright. It's pretty tasty, but as a dominant flavor it doesn't quite cut it.

For the spuds, cut a Yukon Gold potato into 1/4-inch cubes and boil it in salty water with a couple of whole garlic cloves for 15-20 minutes, till tender. Drain and put in a bowl, add a minced scallion or two and a generous glug of fruity olive oil, and mash.

Remoulade: finely mince fresh dill, fresh tarragon, capers, cornichons, and anchovies and combine them with good mayonnaise. The classical recipe calls for parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon; of those I only had tarragon on hand, and I love dill, so there you go.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Here's some interesting info about Karl Rove's father, who was apparently an early practitioner of body piercing, and a followup interview with piercing pioneer Jim Ward.

The links are not especially safe for work. You might want to skip them too, Mom.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday Evening Second Beer Mix

  • Ok, so I was obviously dead wrong about Howie. But I was NOT wrong about Casey. She has a keen intelligence for combining flavors, and her plates are always pretty, but if the basic skills aren't there, if she takes ten minutes to chop a freakin' onion, she ain't a Chef, much less a Top one. Sara's looking good. So is Hung. That cereal diorama took major cojones, though he still bitched that the judge didn't understand what he was trying to do.

    (And Padma, babe, you've got to call me soon. You're not getting any younger and I'm not going to wait forever.)

  • Philippe and I are one of eight acts that were selected out of lord-knows-how-many that auditioned for the MoCo MetroPerforms! series, and on the 20th, we're making our grand debut at the Bethesda Metro Station. The Peruvians and the alphornist got picked too, which is right and proper.

  • There's no way I can top the NOAA song for a WhaFUCK? Friday feature, so instead let me show you a true rock & roll moment. This is the Who performing in Cleveland in 1975.

    Pete Townshend is playing through two 120-watt Hiwatt brand amp heads into four 4x12 speaker cabinets (i.e. each one has four 12" speakers). This is an enormous rig. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine uses one 50-watt head into one 4x12, and he's plenty loud. I know these things because I'm a dork. Anyway. Here's the cool part: three minutes into the video, before his solo, Pete goes bouncing over and casually, almost without looking, dimes the volume on both of those heads. The volume on the stage at that point must have been unimaginable, kind of like standing under the engine of a 747 warming up on the tarmac. In a hurricane. What a guy. I mean, he's got major tinnitus now, but what a guy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

And while we're on the subject,

Something I've always wondered: how does eating meat square with Judeo-Christian ethics? I mean, you can't get any less ambiguous than "Thou shall not kill." But of the many vegetarians I've known, not one has cited the sixth commandment as a reason for following that path, and I don't think I've ever met a devout Christian vegetarian at all. In fact, mainstream Christianity is full of meat-eating, from Easter lambs to Christmas goose to fried chicken on the grounds after church on Sunday. So what gives? Is that commandment one of those cutely archaic things in the Bible that we were supposed to wink at, like the advice on how to treat your slaves in Exodus 21?

I know it's sometimes rendered as "Thou shall not murder," which is a better translation of לא תרצח. That would make it ok to kill animals for food or sport, or human beings in the course of a war I guess. But come on. Is that really all there is to the Christian regard for the sanctity of life? It can't be that easy.

Not claiming superiority or trying to start a fight here; I'm genuinely curious.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Offal Obsessive

This ethics-of-meat-eating thing is kind of on my mind a lot lately. Via Ruhlman, this is a really cool set of videos of Chef Chris Cosentino talking about offal and preparing a really delicious-looking meal thereof, with insightful comments about PETA, the USDA, and other topics along the way.

When you actually look at where your animal comes from, and you actually participate in a slaughter, it kind of changes your perception of "what is meat." And when you're holding a 45-pound lamb as she cries, and you slaughter that animal, you're going to use every last bit of it, because you'd feel like a complete asshole if you didn't.