Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ole, Posole and grant me one storaay

I found an unbelievable easy and awesome recipe for posole a few months back, and I now cook it at every turn. It's so simple, and yet it makes me feel whole and at peace with the universe to delve into the starchy goodness that is hominy. I can't even begin to express how deep my love for hominy is. It's as deep as that trench in the ocean that's really frickin' deep, and as wide as the widest of widths. How witty?
I'm feeling storytellish today, and not a little foolish: but in the reveling way, not the hangdog way.
I used to cook soup for a coffee shop in Memphis for a several months. This coffee shop, The Map Room, was the center of my social universe for the first year I lived in Memphis. This was 1998, and the indierock thing hadn't yet become so unbearably ironically hip, at least for me. The whole thing was very new to me anyway. I listened to a weird eclecticism of Motown, hardcore, and reggae, with a little early Elton John thrown in for whatever measure when I was a teen, and I didn't know anything about anything. I was more obliviously self-conscious then than I am now, and that's really saying something.
Anyway, downtown Memphis at that time, was a admixture of touristy Beale St., gov't stuff, and semi-abandoned buildings that you could rent for a song. I knew many people living in huge apartments with jury rigged bathrooms, kitchens, and light fixtures for 200 bucks a month. You could live the real bohemian life in that place, and several did. 1998 was probably the pinnacle of that and soon after things started to gentrify. It was only a few months after I moved there that the Parrallax Theatre, which was home to some twenty drifters and various characters, got shut down. They would throw huge parties every weekend with bands and whatnot for a few bucks to make rent. It was one giant indiestyle rent party, until of course they all got evicted for being generally crazy, noisemakingly obnoxious. It was all in the spirit of fun, but try to tell a landlord that.
Okay, so I've gotten away from my story here. Let's resume:
Every morning I would come home from work usually around five in the morning (graveyard, all the way), and start cooking soup. Sometimes I would have to traipse off to the grocery store, which in Memphis are all 24/7 operations but also at that time all the way out in Midtown. It was a gas: collecting soup recipes where ever I could, trying out new ones, always having to quintuple the serving sizes to make five gallons. That's right I would make five gallons of soup a morning.
Through the winter months it really was just a lot of fun. Generally big batches of beany concoctions got thrown together fairly easily. I could sit and drink a quiet glass of wine with John Coltrane or Miles, and eventually watch Martha Stewart as I was putting the finishing seasonings into the mix. I had a spice collection that you would not believe. It was the pride of my kitchen.
Then I would head over to the spot to bring in my wares and drink beers with the early morning coffee crowd. It was a tremendously good time.
As the spring became the unbearable heat of Memphis summertime and cold vegetable soups became the thing, the project started to sour. Chopping five gallons worth of veggies is not a little bit crappy, I can tell you. No more sipping lightly at the broth with my glass of wine, it turned into a dicefest, and I admittedly gained great skill with the knife. Still, one tired morning, as I chopped the eighty-seven thousandth tomatoe for a gigantic batch of Gaspacho at the speed of light: PHLAMM! Off went a huge chunk of my thumb, and my blood and flesh got all mixed up with tiny pieces of tomato.
That was about the end. After that, given that I had then sacrificed the nerve endings in my thumb for my craft, I lost the feel for the whole thing. It just wasn't the same, and when I was offered a job mentoring kids for an arts program for the summer, I jumped at it. Still one of the greatest compliments I've ever recieved came at the hands of one of my soups. After cooking up a batch consisting of Great Northern Beans (one of the greats of the bean world) and ham hocks among other unremembered things, someone told me that the soup tasted like the woods behind their grandmother's house (a grandmother who lived in rural Tennessee). I have never been so proud.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just my imagination, once again

I've already built a shrine in my imagination to the new Gnarls Barkley album. It involves Andre the Giant in a green and purple fedora and a black leather trenchcoat doing the moonwalk around a large Oaken table where the Buddha, Shiva, Jesus, and Zeus are all playing a no holds barred game of pinochle on the back of a red and yellow striped flying zebra as she flies through a reverse wormhole into a New York City speakeasy in 1926. Needless to say, the album is pretty durn good.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sean Penn is just plainly talented

I was watching, nay I had to stop watching the film The Assassination of Richard Nixon last night because it was just too much for me. The first time I became aware that Sean Penn was a pretty talented actor was maybe Dead Man Walking, and certainly looking across the scope of his career from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (written by the then young Cameron Crowe) through Dead Man, 21 Grams, Mystic River, All the King's Men, etc., in all these movies he's pretty frickin' awesome. No question. One of my only memories of Saturday afternoon television is him beating the crap out of a couple of other prisoners with a pillowcase full of RC Cola. That is all I can remember from that film, whatever it was.
All of this is well and good, he's an actor par excellance, but his performance in The Assassination of Richard Nixon is something else entirely. He's both subtle and not subtle all at the same time. How do you do that? As the movie builds towards the assassination attempt and his life falls apart their was a growing feeling of helplessness from the depths, and when he finally fully breaks down after recieving divorce papers, I just had to stop. I couldn't go any further. I was seriously afraid that my life would be irrevocably broken if I continued watching this film. I was really effected massively by the beauty of this masterfully uncomfortable performance.
Now given the fact that I'm a big fan of existential films in general this is really saying something. I loved Fellini's La Strada, Ozu's Tokyo Twilight, and most recently the film Control. None of which did I have to stop watching. I made it all the way with all of them, although I had to take Tokyo Twilight in small doses over the course of a week.
So, am I recommending this film? Yes and No. If you're not hypersensitively emotional, then I'd say get into it. It's an amazing performance in a pretty well written and certainly well concieved film, but if like me you can be maybe a little too deeply effected by films or novels, then I would say think twice. It's unbelievably powerful stuff, although admittedly I have no idea how it ends.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I've got dreams...

I just had a dream that a riot of Simpson's characters destroyed Connie Chung's Disney restaurant, and to get her revenge she engineered the marriage of Oprah Winfrey (sic?) and Bob Dole at the very sight, which unleashed some kind of potent alien force that was then wreaking havoc on the greater Orlando area, in cartoon form of course. Bart was trying to use the dead carcass of a wildebeast to somehow destroy the wedding alien in a frenzy of panic and destruction. I woke up with the words, "I can't think of the Winfrey-Dole wedding without wanting to tell the community at large to go suck it" running through my head.
That was an odd one, but it never fails when I nap that I wake up in the middle of a REM cycle and get some wierd dream remembrances. I need to nap more often.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Electric shocks, just running some stats.

This past weekend, I got to spend some time with one of my favorite people, let's call him Flagstaff (moreso because I like making up pseudonyms than any need on his part for anonymity or nonesuch), and even though he was deathly ill, he still managed to be hilarious and insightful, as per usual. Just as an example of Flagstaff's uniquely laughable nature, Saturday night he woke up feeling feverish and awful, and the way he determined that while his fever was bad it was not hospital bad was by running through some statistics in his head: national literacy rates, local D.C. literacy rates, etc. As long as he could run them without problems there was no need to go to the hospital.
This revelation the next morning led to a story about when he was in India and got a horrible intestinal virus and was given an antibiotic that has been banned in the United States and was his only option. He then, to judge his soundness of mind, created a string of ten numbers, which while remaining intact provided him with the much needed evidence that his brain wasn't going through the spin cyle of bad drugs. That's why he's one of my favorite people in the known universe.
So, we were talking about how I've joined the Ipod generation just recently, which we all felt was overdue but still in time, and Flagstaff busts out the story about when his girlfriend's (let's call her Montpelier [yes, the theme for today is state capitals]) brother (he can be Santa Fe) gave Flagstaff his old Ipod. Apparently, he was bopping out to some tunage on the metro (D.C.'s subway system), when he got an inner ear shock like a moth at a purple zapper party. He jumped around in full spazzout and yanked the earbuds out consequently making himself look very foolish in a crowded subway. I have a wonderful image of this in my head as we speak. I knew I wouldn't be able to write that as funny as he told it, but I tried (maybe just a little too hard there, purple zapper party). His assessment: God wants him to pay more attention when he's reading, so he's not allowed to have an Ipod. I think he's right.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A rambling rant and some considered observations

Wow, Eliot Spitzer, I did not see that coming. How did you think that was gonna go unnoticed? Eighty G's going to shady places by a high placed public official. You made yr name as the Attorney General of New York by going after financial malfeasance on the NYSE, and somehow you thought that no one would notice all the money you were paying escorts'r'us. Who beat the crap out of you with the stupid stick?
So, besides the utter stupidity of this move, I'm supremely curious how this whole thing happened. At what point during his storied carrier did Eliot Spitzer start frequenting courtesans? Was it after he got married or before? Did he feel wracked with guilt? How did this affect the way he went after law breakers? I don't want to simplify the psychology here, but was it this guilt at his own culpability in an anarchic kind of lifestyle that was behind his status as a 'steamroller'? I'm just very curious about how he led this double life that's obviously been going on for a long time. You don't just hire a 4 thousand dollar painted woman on a whim. You work up to that slowly over time and destruction.
Now I'm certainly not one to moralize, and I won't other than to say that it's just a shame. Eliot Spitzer was one of the few people in positions of power that really wanted to hold the business community accountable for all their greedy, money-grubbing insanity, and now he's gone because he was a complete dipshit. It's just a shame.
I am also clearly not a very good judge of character. I saw Spitzer on Charlie Rose several years ago and thought to myself, "this is a very sharp and well put together individual". When I heard that he had used some less than scrupulous tactics against political opponents, I thought "these romours must be overblown, Eliot Spitzer isn't that kind of guy." Now it turns out that he was stepping out on his wife with a woman of the painted veils, which doesn't actually say anything about all the rest. I just did not see that one coming.
It also occurred to me when I heard that Samatha Power had to quit the Obama campaign that this was another case of idiocy. Now, Samatha Power is a Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard professor and former journalist, how could she possibly have thought that anything she might say to a journalist could ever be off the record. Even I know that's not going to happen, and I'm arguably not too smart about these things. Again this is a shame. Samantha Power is really insightful and seems to understand foriegn relations in a very meaningful way, but she is now out of the Obama inner circle and any chance of being in his White House should such a thing happen. I'm a little bummed about this, but whatever.
It just goes to show you how easy it is to say or do something dumb when everything you do and say is watched and recorded.

A turtle called dark genius

I just discovered the most incredible ancient chinese philosopher. This guy, zhuangzi, is at least ten levels of amazing. I got three of 'em, but I'm sure there were more that I didn't pick up on. His self-titled (I love that, like it's his first solo album or something) book is filled with daoist influenced philosophy, but all of it's captured in these really surreal stories. Here's just a little sample of the cool that is zhuangzi:

"The morning mushroom does not know the waxing and waning of the moon, and the Hui-cricket does not know spring and fall. This is because they are short lived. South of Chu there is a turtle called Dark Genius, which counts five hundred years as a single spring and five hundred years as a single fall. In high antiquity there was a tree called Big Spring, which counted eight thousand years as a single spring and eight thousand years as a single fall. Nowadays, only eight-hundred-year-old Peng Zu is famous, and everyone compares themselved to him. Isn't it sad?"- Zhuangzi; Zhuangzi

Now that I write this I realize there are better qoutes, but I just loved the turtle called Dark Genius and the fact that the old man is famous for being old. Isn't it sad?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Neurosociology or Social Neurology

So I wrote the following for a sociology paper the other day:

"The human mind processes experiences in terms of contrast. Comparison is a systemic part of the way we understand the world, and novel experiences because they are by their very nature highly contastive then become more accentuated. It is in this process that our collective consciousness tends to continually grade status in terms of novelty. The newness of a field of study or of undertaking tends to affect the way we view its importance and so its relative economic value. The relation of opposite, this systemic force of the human brain, also plies spectrumal understanding into more rigid categorization. The outcomes of these processes when not recognized and overcome are a continuing devaluation of the more ancient aspects of human endeavor."-Me; Hope, Status, Achievement: Classic Problems of the American Dream (Deferred).

Yes, I'm like a proud papa when it comes to my scholastic prose, but then again I've been writing them for over ten years now, so I ought to be at least okay by now, but that's another story. And, yes, spectrumal is not technically a word, but if I don't get outside the bounds of dictionary sanctioned signifiers at least once a paper, I just don't feel like I'm doing my job.
Anyway, it struck me while I was proofreading this material that this was essentially neurosociology. The understanding of social forces and contexts through the functions and design of the human brain seemed like it would be what neurosociology should be all about. I didn't actually know if the field existed, but I've studied neuroeconomics and neuropychology, so why not neurosociology. I hit up the old wiki for some answers just a second ago, and they claim that neurosociology is the study of how the internal functions of a brain require social interaction for the robust expression of various of these functions (see mirror neurons).
To me that seems like it should be classified as social neuroscience: the social aspects of neurological development. What I've written seems to be a more accurately termed neurosociology, but the article did say the article needed to be wikified (I love that), so maybe I'll do some more outside research to see what the academic community has to say on the subject.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I was editing an old blog entry from access the process, and I couldn't decide if whether was the proper spelling. It seemed wrong, but I couldn't remember, so I hit up to look it up. When I typed in wether, it turns out that this actually means a castrated sheep. Also today's word of the day is inchoate, which isn't that exciting but still okay. Yesterday's was gewgaw, which is pretty awesome. I love the dictionary, but not as much as I love the thesaurus. I wonder if I would love a rhyming dictionary. I bet I would.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Meanderings and the Next Generation of ballet

I just finished reading the Hobbit, which is the first of the Tolkien books I've ever read. I found the tone to be more in line with the style of Hobbittown than the films. Now I haven't read the LOTR trilogy, and it seems like there's got to be a shift in the next three books tonally; I just noticed there was enough of a stylistic difference between what I got from the films and what I got from this book that I thought I should comment. Still, wonderful book, and I'm definitely at some point going to go all the way with Tolkien.
I'm about two-thirds of the way through Ian McEwan's Saturday, and the way he puts this clear-eyed analysis in the brain of the main character but yet doesn't allow that character to express this stuff outside of his head is masterful. I love it, and it's so true to life. His daughter is a celebrated poet whose first book of poems is being published and is mostly about her affairs with various men. It's titled, My Saucy Bark. How awesome is that name? I frickin' love it, and he even includes some of her poetry, which is well constructed and well analyzed. McEwan is amazingly knowledgeable on so many fronts that he can give it to his characters. I love the uneasiness Henry (our hero) has about his daughter's poetry.
As for Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, I'm also about two-thirds done after misplacing the book for about two weeks under a pile of papers. I got back at it last night, and he's going out from his search through his past back into the present, which is exciting. The middle section of the sorting out the lost past is wonderfully multi-media and includes all these pictures of the books and comics and so-forth that he finds in the attic of his grandfather's house. There's also some poetry here. There was this really fantasmo quote that I wanted to include, but it'll have to wait 'cause I left the book at work. It had something to do with giving up poetry to be a gunrunner.
I also got restarted on The World at War, which is a piece of historical Non-fiction: a wonderfully considered and well-researched account of the waning of the Western empires. Niall Ferguson does such an incredible job of putting together the relevant info and moving deftly from the historical to the sociological. It's just a great piece of non-fiction.

Oh, and Erykah Badu's new album, New Amerykah Part. 1 (4th World War): Badudabulous and even Badupendous (okay that one didn't work, but Badutastic seemed tired and I wanted one more). Apparently she's already recorded the next one, and it's called N.A. pt. 2 (Return of Ankh). I just can't wait.

So, I went to see what was being billed as The Next Generation of Ballet last night, and I thought I'd include it here with a bunch of other stuff so that I didn't get too formal in my analysis. I did think the whole thing was quite impressive. Professional ballet dancers have amazing technique, and the choreography had such a keen sense of a kind of moving tableaux at moments that I would intake a sharp breath with the wonderment. There was a piece set to a Phillip Glass (I feel like song is the wrong word here) number/movement, which started with a chinese influenced samisen-like orchestration and then moved into more trad. modern classical stuff. This was the main and longest piece including a set change where the main dancers came forward of the curtain to dance while the change took place. Amazing stuff: fifty or sixy dancers with about eight primary dancers, some really killer imagery and great diagetic sense.
Still I have to make some mild yet sharp critiques of the whole thing. The technical virtuosity of the ballet can at times sideline the passion and the feeling, which might be valuable main attractions. It feels like at times the non-technically challenging movements are rushed through to get back to the virtuosity, which I feel is a mistake. Also it was clear that the choreographers were trying to move beyond the confines of the language of ballet movement, and there were definitely some successes there; there was a fluidity of movement that would show up on occasion that felt new and not a part of the trad. ballet dance palette (of course I'm not in any way an expert, I'm just going on vibes here). Still, this was just the first step in a project of opening the doors of possibility. There are miles to go before we sleep. Anyway...
So, I know that I have a tendency to blow off hyper-linking this blog in any way, which is semi-intentional and semi-lazy. In one sense, I do feel like there's too much information at our fingertips, and the value of knowledge is somehow denigrated by the fact that it's so readily available and no longer has to be sought out as much or fought for as much as in the old days (I think that makes me old if I talk about the old days). On the other hand, it's really just a rationalization for my laziness. Maybe I'll go back through and suss out some links someday. Yeah, and the Democrats are gonna suss out the soaring national debt (I really like the word suss [and also brackets]).

Monday, March 3, 2008


I just read the script of Tarantino's DeathProof last night from the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature this past year. It still kills me that the movie didn't click with the American film-going audience. I'm all about breaking out of traditional percieved artistic media boundaries, and I was hoping this was gonna be the beginning of something bigger. Tarantino said in a interview that he would be happy to make grindhouseesque stuff for the rest of his life and that they might try to make the fake previews that seque from Planet Terror into Death Proof into Grindhouse 2, but I'm guessing that whole project's been shelved based on the returns they got on the first go round. Going with the dimishing returns of sequels (altough this certainly breaks out of the trad. concept of sequelation), it wouldn't be smart money betting on a next installment, which is just a shame. Personally, I really enjoyed both films, and thought the whole thing was just a raving, Bschter-schlocking good time. I can see how film-goers might get a little antsy though, as the whole thing clocked in at like three and a half hours. As someone who has on many occasions spent an entire day at the moviehouse going from one movie to the next to the next to the next, I've got no problems with length. It's all about the quality for me, and Grindhouse gave me no pause, which is strange because I'm not into Roger Corman or Dario Argento or much of the source stuff. I did like Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry though. I dig on some car chases, but I'm getting away from myself here.
The criticisms of Deathproof tended to be that Tarantino is indulging himself too much, that the wandering dialogue was way over the top, and that he should've tightened up. I can see how that makes sense within the context of a 2 in 1 movie experience that they were trying to build, but otherwise I disagree. I thought that both films could've been tightened, and maybe that might've been worthwhile in so much as there really needed to be an intermission (w/ the let's all go to the lobby song which I think was actually from slightly before the grindhouse era, but whatever), but I think in their stand alone form, which apparently is how they're being packaged now probably as a means to try and recoup expenses and turn the whole project into a prosperous one, they could've both been given a chance to stretch their legs a little more. I for one love Tarantino's writing. I think he's not just witty, but much like Mamet's early stage work, really captured the cadences of actual speech, if from specific social groupings. Think about it. What is it that's so great about Pulp Fiction? Those conversations between Jules and Vincent about foot massages and travelling in Europe, Vincent's awkard date with Mia, Fabienne and Butch talking about their future; then there's still all the violence and craziness inflected stuff too. He takes a language of real people and then puts it through the pulp grinder. I for one, dig it.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Two seemingly unrelated things that leave me disquieted

I was errantly reading a co-worker's copy of The Wall Street Journal at work the other day, and I saw two articles that caught my attention and gave me pause. The first...actually the second but less upsetting was a short article on Ryan Seacrest. As it turns out, not only is he a busy mofo, but he's one business savy mothertrucker as well. Here's the skinny. Seacrest has syndicated his morning LA radio show. Not only does he own and produce the show, but he's also selling the ad time himself, instead of the usual arraignment wherein the distributer sells ad time and sucks up more casheesh. So, you gotta give him props for that, but here's what caught my eye in the article, this comment: "Ryan Seacrest is one of the most commercially viable, advertiser-friendly personalities in Radio today." What the? I'm sorry, and I generally try to make at least the most minimal effort to avoid snarkish behavior, but Ryan Seacrest is a tool. His faux-happy smile and his painted on personality irk the shit out of me (and I rarely swear in print [but I am feeling quite at the edge today]). He really rubs me the wrong way, and essentially he is a tool, as in tool of the corporate powers that be. This is what kills me; people lap it up like puppy dogs. Seriously, middle America pick up on the ugly vibrations already.

Okay, so now that I've insulted yr average Joe and Jane America, let me turn the table and get at the other article and the sophisticated set because this is really foul and made me very, very upset when I read it. Now as preface, let me say that I get the whole runway fashion as shock and art over and against actual practical clothing, and I say fine, what the #$^% ever. It's yr world, go to town, but here's where I have to get up on my soap box and say shame, shame know yr name. Apparently this 15 yr old girl, Ali Micheal was the 'it' model of '07, but she couldn't get arrested this year because she gained 5 pounds. If you see the before and after pictures (and I'm sorry but you'll just have to get them from the journal because as of right now this is not a multi-media blog [maybe at some future date, but right now it's all about the rant]), you'll see that she goes from anemic looking to normal looking, and in the runway fashion world there can be no greater crime for a model. The designers all said that her legs were "too plump" AKA not stick-like, and apparently when questioned about this Issey Miyake just kept repeating that she was "just not suitable for our clothes."
She basically says that she knew she was giving up a supermodel career by not starving herself, but she saw so many of her peers making themselves sick, and she wanted to be, you know...healthy. This gets my righteous anger really flowing. This girl was 15, and she has to sacrifice her career for her health. What is wrong with this industry? What is wrong with you people? Jimmy Pihet, spokesman for the Federation Francaise de la Coutoure, makes the outrageous claim that "models aren't role models for young girls...actresses play that role." What fucking universe are you living in pal, because it's not this one? If this asshole, thinks that there aren't girls all over the western world messing themselves up with bulimia, anorexia, and general body dismorphic disorder because of him and his sickened industry of artistic dilentantes then he is a fool and like Seacrest, a total fucking tool.
I'm just too angry to work the connection between these two articles because I do think there is a connection, if tenuous and a bit of a stretch. I think you probably have an intuitive grasp of what I'm getting at here, and we'll just have to leave it at that. On a side note, this was all pretty harsh and swearific, but I felt the material warranted strong language. In a lot of ways that reflects my current mood moreso than anything, but that doesn't negate anything I've said. I do at times admire the art of fashion, but many other times I think the whole project is utterly ridiculous. Of course, the same could be said of me, so I'm sure the feeling would be mutual.
Anyway, here are links to the articles, and you can decide for yrself:

Wasn't Skinny Supposed to Be Out of Fashion by Christina Binkley
Next Up for Mr. Seacrst: Peddling Ads for Radio by Sarah McBride