Thursday, December 31, 2009

Open, An Autobiography

For a tennis fan, Andre Agassi's autobiography, is simply necessary. A huge slice of contemporary tennis history belongs to him. This is a fascinating peak into the thoughts of a champion.

I've been a fan of Andre's since before he shed the wig and shaved his hair. For a decade, I watched nearly every one of his televised matches. I got up in the middle of the night to watch live coverage of his matches from the other side of the globe.  I took time off of work to watch his matches. I preferred him and rooted for him over every competitor he faced, except Patrick Rafter when I was neutral. I believed he could win every one of the matches I watched, but now I know he did not believe he could win every one of those matches. (For some matches, he didn't even care about winning as much as I cared about him winning.)

It's stunning really to read about the degree of misery he was in and to observe the fragility of his confidence. By ALL measures, he was one of tennis' best players. There'd be some debate about where exactly he should place among the best, but no one would dispute he makes the top 15 of all time.  (He'd make most people's Top 10.) That's top 15 out of the thousands, or tens of thousands, of people who've played pro tennis. He won 8 Major titles. He was the first man to win all four majors on three surfaces (grass, clay and hard) and the only man to win a career golden slam (all four slams plus an Olympic gold).  (Incidentally, Andre's wife, Stefanie Graf, was the only woman to win a golden slam; she won them all within a calendar year.)

Surely, someone who is THAT good at what they do for a living should feel accomplished at their profession. But no, he was constantly addled with frustrations about not being good enough. His struggle to find satisfaction without finding perfection will resonate with people in all kinds of professions. This is one of the universal themes of Andre's story.

The other universal theme is Andre's search for a purpose for his tennis career, in spite of hating tennis. He found purpose and motivation when he found a reason to play that wasn't about him, but instead was about service to others. In the last years of his career, he found satisfaction in playing to be able to deliver financial backing to the charter school in Las Vegas that bears his name.

I was delighted to read about his very fond memories of his match against James Blake at the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals in 2005. (Contemporaneous news stories about it: WaPo, AP.) That match was my all-time favorite tennis-watching memory.  K and I watched at a sports bar downtown.  It was empty except for us;  in the beginning the staff peaked in now and then, mildly curious to see the score, but by the end they were watching and whooping with us.  The match was drama-packed, with Andre coming back from two sets down, and every single point was top quality tennis.

The book is missing some of the details I would have enjoyed, but that may not have been interesting to anyone else. How many hours a day did he work out? How many hours of tennis practice? Who did he practice with? What drills did he do? What did he eat? How many calories a day did he eat? His very close friend and former business manager Perry Rogers sued Stefanie in December 2008 for management fees. What's that story? What kind of deals did he have with sponsors (e.g. there were stories that in his later years, he made them contribute to his school)? He mentions that Nike dropped him along the way; was there any drama with that? Does anyone continue to sponsor him? He says they have no tennis court and that the kids will not play tennis, but what are they doing (because it'd be surprising if they weren't athletes with those genes)? His serve improved markedly after his comeback; how? why? what did he adjust?  Why meth, of all drugs? It'd have to be a multi-volume set to satisfy my curiosity.

There are lots of interesting tidbits, though:
  • Pete Sampras was comically stingy with tips;
  • Jimmy Connors was particularly douchey to Andre;
  • Jeff Tarango was a jerk when he was 8 years old (I could have guessed that. We saw Tarango play pro doubles at a tournament in Arizona and that man just oozes bile);
  • Rafter and Federer actually are the class acts they seem to be;
  • Show Andre a picture of your kids, mention that you're worried about how you'll pay for college and he'll write you a check. (Bless him; he's a trusting soul, but cynical readers will observe several people in Andre's life taking advantage of him while he seems oblivious. Still, it was this act of funding college for someone and feeling really happy about being able to do it that gave him the spark of the idea to start the school, so cheers to un-cynical oblivion.)
  • Andre is a herd creature:  he is miserable being alone and competing alone.  He needs people around him.  Oh, the irony, that his dad channeled him into one of the only sports that you play entirely alone -- with no team and no coaching breaks.  Even the opponent in a tennis match is physically remote.
  • He's still claiming that he didn't even notice Pres. Clinton's arrival during his loss to Grosjean in 2001 at the French Open.  And I still don't believe him, although I can't fathom why he'd lie about that when he's come clean about the wig and the meth.  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Photos from NYC trip

I've been meaning to post some photos from our NYC trip. Here are a few:

Lincoln Center plaza, where we saw The Met doing Tosca.

 Coltrane performing at The Village Vanguard

Grand Central Station.  One of my all-time favorite buildings.  If I had to take just one building with me to a deserted island, this would be it.

On the outside of a fire station mid to upper West side.

Bryant Park.  Spin sponsors this free outdoor table tennis venue (in addition to having a swanky indoor club with a bar that they wouldn't let me take pictures of).  The NY Public Library is in the background.

One of my favorite NYC activities is oggling stone work.  Gorgeous stonework is everywhere.

Another sample of stonework. The Alwyn Court Building.

Maybe this is where Scrabble is played in Central Park, but it was closed when we were there so I didn't get to find out.

Tried to see the Daily Show, but it was off for the night following the Emmy Awards. The entrance to the studio is on the left side of this building.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh no. UPDATED with AfterElton response

Peggy Noonan goes after Adam for his AMA performance.

Pretty sure she's already on her Christmas vacation and just copy/pasted this from an opinion piece from the 1950's about Elvis.

Update 12/18/09: AfterElton responds to Noonan:
Noonan isn't a stupid woman and I don't really think she believes the tripe she writes here. She's part of the Washington Beltway that she and other conservatives like to pretend they have nothing to do with, and what she's doing here is classic Republican sleight of hand. Is your party mostly responsible for the worst economic collapse in 80 years? Did your party start two failed wars? Did your party run-up massive deficits? Is your party responsible for killing the health care reform the vast majority of Americans want?

Well, then you better find a way to distract the Average Joe from what's going on or they might keep you out of pwer. And what's been better at distracting folks than dragging out the tired old cliche of the gay boogeyman!

Update II 12/18/09: Steve Benen at copied me:
It was more than a half-century ago, but I suspect a similar column must have run in 1956, when Elvis swung his hips a little too much on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Happy Birthday, Michael


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time's Person of the Year (OR My dreidel spins the other way)

was not Adam.  (No, I wasn't expecting him to be; I'm not quite that delusional.) But he did make their list of People Who Mattered.
He was not the winner of American Idol. He was not even the first Idol runner-up to later make the thoroughly unsurprising announcement that he is gay. (See Aiken, Clay.) But Lambert came first in generating attention: that eyeliner, that voice — ranging from a husky smolder to a granite-splitting glam-rock shriek — and those glittered-out, magnetic performances. And there was the way Lambert treated his sexuality, which reflected the tricky path of gayness toward mainstream acceptance. Lambert never confirmed his being gay until finishing Idol, but, importantly, he never denied it. And unlike Aiken's, his performances had an unmistakable erotic charge — he was a man, not a man-child. After Idol, he infuriated some viewers with a raunchy, grinding show at the American Music Awards on ABC. Rather than apologize, he charged a double standard for gay men while keeping a smile on his face: when Joy Behar told him, on The View, that he was "not exactly a nice Jewish boy," he quipped, "I'm a little different. My dreidel spins the other way." Lambert ended 2009 out, proud — and loud.
— James Poniewozik

(It's a dubious honor, since Jon and Kate Gosselin made the list too.)

He also came in first in the Rolling Stone Reader's Poll for Top Artist of 2009.  He topped Lady Gaga, which is just wrong, and Adam would be the first one to say so.

And, as you may have heard, he was on Barbara Walter's list of the Ten Most Fascinating People of 2009. (Again with Kate Gosselin.  My disinterest in the Gosselins rivals LJ's disinterest in Adam.)

Update:  Adam is also on Forbes list of Music's Biggest Breakout Stars.

Update II: Adam was the third-most trended person on Twitter in 2009, after Michael Jackson and SuBo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tomb of Tutankhamen

Another Half Price Books purchase. I was listening to the sports talk station here in DFW and one of the morning guys was talking about his fascination when he was a teenager with King Tut. He eventually got this book at a library and was captivated by the story and the life of the man who discovered the tomb, Howard Carter. As he was talking about this book and the story, it got me interested. It took me a few months to find this. The original edition of this book was published in 3 volumes (Volume I in 1923, Volume II in 1927 and Volume III in 1933.) Those volumes were condensed into this edition that was published in 1954. The story of the tomb discovery is, of course, captivating. However, that is only a small portion of the work. The book goes into great detail describing each object found and their significance, if any. At times it is too technical and I found myself struggling to get through it. The issue, at least for me, was that this work is written in a textbook/academic type style which is very dry.

Almost as interesting as the story are the pictures - many of which were taken at the time of the discovery. Those pictures are combined with color plates of many of the treasures. If you can fight through the lengthy descriptions of beads, of mummies, of statues and of archaeological techniques, you'll be rewarded with a compelling and fascinating adventure story.

Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File

I picked this up at Half Price Books many, many months ago when I was on a Nazi kick. This book details the life of Simon Wiesenthal and chronicles some of searches for ex-Nazi's, some of whom were quite famous (Eichmann and Mengele) and some I'd never heard of (Franz Stangl and Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan). I found it intriguing how these persons were tracked down, as well as how they escaped and disappeared in the first place. Who helped them and why were they helped? Wiesenthal has his own theories, some of which I agreed with; some I didn't. It also chronicles his feuds, most famously with Eli Wiesel. Certainly held my interest as I read it (which was abnormally a long time for me) and at the price I paid, a bargain.

"Conservatives have no voice in the media"

While I sometimes find KO's rants a bit over-the-top, the last 3 or 4 minutes of this one had me laughing so hard I was crying...

(He probably shouldn't quit his day job and become an impersonator though)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Deserted island: Music Edition

Question 1: You're going to be dropped alone on a deserted island for the rest of your life with one album/CD, a device that plays albums/CDs and a magical power supply for said player that will last your lifetime. What's the album?

Question 2: Same thing, but you get 5 albums/CDs.

You're invited to edit into the post, so the answers are on the main page instead of being in the comments.

[Update] LJ: - My 1 album/CD would be U2's "U218 Singles". My 5 album/CDs would be:

1) U218 Singles - U2
2) The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East - The Allman Brothers Band
3) The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
4) The Singles 86>98 - Depeche Mode
5) Evita (1978 Original Broadway Cast)

[Update] Stephanie:  One CD:  Garrick Ohlsson's The Complete Chopin Piano Works, Vol. 3, Ballades

1) The Complete Chopin Piano Works, Vol. 3, Ballades - Garrick Ohlsson
2) Greatest Hits - Journey
3) Ballads - Dexter Gordon (coming in 2nd for the jazz slot:  Standard Time Vol 3, Resolution of Romance, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis)
4) Icky Thump - White Stripes
5) . . . and Serenity - Glenn Gould

I'll change my mind tomorrow.

Favorite Christmas Music?

Nothing says Christmas like the Roches.

Just ordered these three:

Down the Rabbit Hole

The best song on Adam's album isn't on the album proper. It's a bonus track, available on iTunes, here. Hear the whole thing here, while watching someone's attempt at transcribing the lyrics.

The mystery to me is why this isn't the centerpiece of the album, rather than a bonus track. It's funk, it's glam, it's disco. It's catchy. It's just a little bit weird. It's more Adam-y than the songs that made the album. Adam is clearly having a blast singing this. (Aural trivia: can you catch the vocal hat tip to his Ring of Fire?)

I think the lyrics in the above-linked youtube video are almost accurate, but the line at 0:31 "If it's getting high fee" should be "Hippies gettin' hyphy", I believe. Urban Dictionary defines HYPHY thusly:
San Francisco Bay Area, shortened perhaps from English dialect "hyperactive"; other sources cite a combination of "hype" and "fly." Popularized by E-40 and the Federation's song "Hyphy" (2004); first known use on record by Keak Da Sneak in 1998 (on "Cool," from his LP Sneakacidle).
1 : dangerous and irrational: CRAZY;
2 : amusingly eccentric; without inhibition: GOOFY
"They were getting hyphy up in the club Saturday night."
Also, others have opined that the line at 1:52 is "It starts in the bass and ends in the crystal ball", rather than "It starts in the vase and it ends in the crystal bowl".

Adam is a co-writer on this, along with E. Kidd Bogart and Greg Wells.

My new obsession is....

Not much difference between this and fresh ground & brewed (or maybe our coffee maker needs cleaning).

Friday, December 11, 2009

If you were 12, you'd be so excited about this, but we older folks can have fun with it too

There's a new website,, devoted to legally streaming professional music videos on demand.  It's having a lot of technical difficulties in its first few days of existence, partly due to bandwidth and partly because it doesn't seem like the programmers are done yet.  But give it a few weeks and I'm sure the kinks will be worked out.

Vevo allows you to search for videos (by artist, genre or time period) and it offers quite a few OLD music videos, so if you want to take a walk down memory lane to the 80's, you can do that.  (The earliest one I could find is performance video of Chuck Berry 1959 but it looks like Vevo has aspirations to go back further.)

Vevo allows embedding. [Update 12/13/09: Videos removed so as not to slow your page-loading time.]

If you find any old favorites of yours, do share!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas recipes

I'll start with this delectable desert that I've never made. How does it sound to you? T thought the addition of the chocolate chips sounded bad.


Recipe from Kathy Fowler, Spring

1 1⁄ 3 cups flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup sugar, divided use

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, combine flour, butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Beat at low speed until crumbly. Press into bottom of 9-inch square baking pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until brown.

In separate bowl, combine corn syrup, 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well-combined. Stir in pecans by hand.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot crust. Pour filling over chips and crust. Continue baking 30-35 minutes or until set. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Into Temptation OR Little girls with holes in their tights always make me cry

I'm looking through our list of posts and I see several that I started to write but didn't finish.  Such is my life.  But here's one I'll finish because now it's timely for the holidays.

We recently (now a couple months ago) saw Into Temptation. (City Page review here.) I knew nothing about it when it started, and then was surprised to see the Minneapolis skyline and lots of other Minneapolis settings, many within a couple miles of our house.

Apparently, it's a relatively low-budget indie movie filmed here. It may not make it to a theater near you. It's the story of a Catholic priest (Jeremy Sisto) trying to find a mystery woman (Kristen Chenowith) who confessed to him that she intends to kill herself. She's a prostitute, so his search for her takes him to places (Sexworld -- yes, an actual place) and into contact with people he doesn't typically come into contact with.

It's a positive, realistic portrayal of a priest, so maybe it's worth seeing for the rarity of that.

I don't want to spoil the ending, but I can say that it reminded me of something I witnessed at a work holiday party a decade ago. I told K the story after the movie and apparently I still can't tell the story without crying.

My workplace then -- we'll call it AATDEA for Ad Agency That Doesn't Exist Anymore -- invited employees' families to attend the holiday party. (This was a response to the drunken debauchery of the previous year's party that was sans families.) One of AATDEA's employees was the maintenance guy who had a 6 year old daughter.  The agency didn't pay him much and he was going through a divorce, struggling to pay a lawyer to help him with custody.  His daughter came to the party in an everyday sort of cotton dress and well-worn shoes, with a plastic barrette in her hair and holes in her tights.

Another employee's 6-year old daughter was also there, dressed to the nines: velvet dress, lacy tights, satin ribbon in her hair, new black patent leather shoes.  She looked expensive.

As part of the activities at the party for the kids, there was a story reader.  Kids gathered around, sitting on the floor in front of the reader so they could see the book's pictures when the reader showed them.  There were already many kids seated when Expensive Girl and Torn Tights Girl joined the group.  Expensive Girl walked to the front of the group and plopped down.  Kids behind her had to adjust their spots so they could see around her.  Torn Tights Girl followed Expensive Girl into the group and sat down next to her in front, but as she sat down she turned around to make sure she wasn't blocking anyone's view.  She melted my heart.

I'm wondering if the person who made Into Temptation was at the same Christmas party.

I hope life is going OK for Torn Tights Girl.  I think, though, that life tends to be harder for girls who had to go to their parents' Christmas parties in torn tights.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Four Bears

It's been awhile since I posted charts from  Here is the Four Bad Bears graph:

And here is the Mega Bear Quartet (mentioned near the bottom of the linked entry; apparently not inflation-adjusted):

And here is the Real Mega Bears (an inflation-adjusted overlay of three secular bear markets):

Friday, December 04, 2009

Testing email alert for new blog post

Stephanie and Michael should receive an email about this new post.

Gratuitous Adam photo -- to test new editor features

Oooooooo.  Love the improved image-adding/moving features in the new editor.  Can change size and move L/R/Center easily, after initial upload (instead of having to make the decision at upload).

Update:  This is a fan photo that I actually have permission to post, except I'm supposed to give attribution and cannot find the name of the person.  So I'm taking it down unless/until I find it.  But the editor is FAB.

Testing new features in the new editor

There's a strikethrough feature: handy for snarky editorial comment.

There's a jump cut.  Follow me below the cut.

Recently read

If you like or even sort of like John Irving, I can recommend Last Night in Twisted River. If you have stayed away from Stephen King because it's "horror" or "supernature" and you don't do either, I can recommend Under the Dome, which is neither. It's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" meets "The Simpsons Movie" with some great characters.

As I was saying...

McCain/Palin in a squeaker, global warming is a fraud, Ayers wrote Barry's book, and ACORN is a corrupt organization.

Three out of four ain't bad.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Emperor's Children

The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud, was excruciating painful for me and I never would have finished if it had not been a book club pick. For starters, a central character is a middle-aged male writer who's having an affair with friend of his daughter. What IS the fascination writers have with this character? He appears in roughly 50% of contemporary fiction and, as I've mentioned before, he's not remotely interesting to me. Typically, he's written by a male author and I always assume that the author is just indulging his own fantasy on my time, but this time it's a female author so I can't conjure a reason why this character needed to appear here. The rest of the characters were equally unappealing and uninteresting to me. I guess the novel operates on a metaphorical level exploring the meaning of authenticity, exposing pseudo-intellectualism, and considering the outsider experience. This is worthy territory. It made for a great book club discussion, though others generally disliked the book as much as I did.

It takes place in NYC and climaxes with 9/11, which is obviously not a coincidence. Spoiler alert: Awkwardness results from being at your girlfriend's apartment in Manhattan when you've told your wife you're giving a speech in Pittsburgh on the day terrorists strike causing all flights to be grounded and showing up at home reveals you weren't actually in Pittsburgh.

It was well-reviewed (e.g. NYTimes here) and was nominated for and won several awards, so I'm sure I've just failed to appreciate it to the extent it deserves.

Tiger on-line game

I know this is wrong...but oh so funny at the same time.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

You have been invited back

You know who you are. I think I sent the invites correctly - if not, then I'll need instruction.And yes, the whole Adam Lambert/American Idol stuff bores me and I have absolutely no interest in it/him. The only subject that would bore me more is any discussion about "Twilight".

That being said, it's not an excuse for not posting about other things....such as the disaster that is the image of Tiger Woods.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This man is terrifying and must be stopped. Before he bedazzles a child's shirt.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Adam on the AMAs tomorrow - Updated post-AMAs

I wouldn't be doing my job here if I didn't notify you that Adam will be performing live at the American Music Awards, tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 23, on ABC from 7:00-10:00 CST. There will be 17 performers (including Lady Gaga, whom I trust you now love). Adam will be closing the show. Expect scantily clad dancers and fireworks while he sings For Your Entertainment (the song).

Update 11/23: I think that was a disaster of epic proportions.

Update 11/24
: I should clarify. It wasn't disastrous because of the kiss. Or the simulated oral sex. Or the crotch grabs (his own or the stripper-pole girl's). Or the flipping-of-the-bird. Or the fall, which was amazingly ninja-like -- did not know that theater guys were rigorously trained in the tuck and roll -- and through which Adam sang well. What was disastrous to me was the batch of bad notes and overall awkward sounding vocals. I've never heard him sing a bad note, so that was shocking. It's a song that didn't translate well to a live version. It didn't help that the audio mix was bad on TV. (Reports are that it sounded better in the room.)

Update 11/24: Rolling Stone gave him a pass on the singing and loved the performance:
It’s already hard to remember what the world was like before Adam Lambert showed up, less than a year ago — but we can be sure it was a colder, drearier, and less pervy place, and moments like this epitomize why we’re glad to have this lady-stardust guy in our lives.

Update 11/24: HuffPo has video that should remain available, so I'll post it here for convenient reference. I've seen a slow-motion gif of the fall that is pretty cool and I'd like to share, but it's not legally postable. Adam's younger brother Neil was proud of the athletic feat:

On another note, ABC says they got 1500 calls complaining about the performance (not sure if it was the OTT sexuality or the musical quality). That's not very many, I don't think, considering the audience was something like 14 million.

Lady Gaga before she was Lady Gaga

Although you may not recognize her without a crazy outfit, here she is:

The first three and a half minutes, in particular, are fab.

(The poster claims they have rights to post the video and they made it available for embed, so I have.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adam's album is streaming

on his MySpace page. Holy coyote. I'm not all the way through but it's just one amazement after the next.

Update: It's also streaming on Facebook here and on iLike here.

And I take it back about it sounding all like pop music. It doesn't. It also does not sound like rock. It's something else.

Update II: If you don't listen to anything else, you should try out the odd-then-glorious passage from 2:21-2:43 of Pick U Up, culminating in the "money moment", as labeled by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer who wrote the song. Pick U Up is just plain odd. It's disco. It's a show tune. It has a guitar solo. It has moments that remind me of the theme song from Greatest American Hero, "Believe It or Not".

Update III: Adam talks about what he was trying to achieve. I've heard his explanations a gazillion times, but maybe this is news to the non-obsessed:

Update IV (11/18/09): "Broken Open" is a work of art. It's melodically/harmonically really simple. It's repetitious and trance-inducing and mezmerizing. The vocal prowess he shows here isn't in fireworks but in control and restraint. The lyrics are lovely. Adam said this about the song, that he co-wrote, in a recent Rolling Stone interview:
"Broken Open” you could put it in the same category as a downtempo Goldfrapp song or even like Radiohead, there’s shades of that in there, very electronic but mellow, very ethereal. The lyrics are basically encouraging someone to feel safe in being vulnerable. “Lay here, it’s safe here, I’ll let you be broken open.” It’s about that moment where someone really opens up emotionally to you. I just wrote that from some experiences that I’ve had with certain people in my life, and I hope that it comes across that way.

And this in a USA Today interview:
Broken Open is a recurring theme in my life. I've known people who were cool socially, but when we got close, they'd fall apart. I'd think, am I a therapist? I guess I was offering some safety. The song says it's OK, break apart, be a wreck, I'll hold the pieces together.

Partial lyrics:
I know the battle of
Chasing the shadows
Of who you wanna be
It doesn't matter
Go on and shatter
I'm all you need

Broken pieces
Break into me
So imperfectly
What you should be
Lay here, it's safe here, I'll let you be broken open
Hide here, confide here so we can be broken open

Update V (11/19/09): Houston Chron's Joey Guerra likes the album.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Something else from Adam

Another track, "Whataya Want From Me", off Adam's album, For Your Entertainment, is streaming on Perez' site here. This song is quite a bit different from the first dance-y single, For Your Entertainment. WWFM is a tune written by Pink. It's total radio-friendly pop, for better or worse.

I'd like to live in the counter-melody/harmony-overlay at 2:51-2:54.

Update: Whataya Want From Me is available for download on It's also streaming there. The album will be available Nov. 23.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book club books for 2009-2010

Here are the books my book club selected for the 2009-2010 year:

Nov: The Emperor's Children, Claire Messud
Dec: Sula, Toni Morrison
Jan: Dracula, Bram Stoker (in the designated slot for a classic)
Feb: Dreamers of the Day, Mary Doria Russell
Mar: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
Apr: Three Novels: Nathan + two others, Wendell Berry
May: Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
June: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski
July: An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
Aug: The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
Sept: Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

Has anyone read Dracula?

Yes, that's right, we're reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union, in spite of what initially seemed to be disinterest in Kavalier & Clay. Though I was the only one who read K&C in time for the meeting to discuss it, many people finished it up later and loved it.

Sony, your copyright lawyers need to meet with your marketing folks.

Some kids posted to YouTube a video of themselves dancing a choreographed dance routine to Adam's first single, For Your Entertainment. The song sounds like it's playing on a boombox in the studio where they're dancing, i.e. the quality of the sound in the video is not particularly good. Adam saw the video, tweeted that he loved it and linked to it. (Tens of thousands of people watched the video over the course of 24 hours.)

As soon as I saw Adam's tweet, I was curious about the copyright implications. Did this tweet from Adam constitute a license to use the recording? The use of the recording was clearly prima facie copyright infringement, but it seemed to me like it was also such good marketing for the song that the better business practice would be to let the video be. But no. Sony demanded the video be removed from YouTube.

I realize that Sony needs to police its copyright rights, but if I were Sony, I'd let those kids know they need a license and then grant them that license for $1 to use the song in this manner. And if Sony were really smart, they'd sponsor an online dance competition and dole out $1 licenses left and right.

How full of herself is Carrie Prejean?

Exactly how is asking the reason(s) why you dropped your lawsuit "inappropriate"? I know the world today is all about spin - she says she was fired or relieved of her duties because of her conservative values. The pageant officials say it was because she did not full-fill her contractual duties. I personally believe it is more the latter, but who really cares anyway. I know the right is holding her up as a role-model. I guess what they want young girls to do is have someone lend you money for breast implants, pose for semi-nude photos (but hide under the veil of "modeling") and while a teenager, send an x-rated video of yourself to a boyfriend.

This video of her on Larry King is awesome!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Adam verifies my characterization

Based on the leaked 30 second snippets of the songs from Adam's album, For Your Entertainment (to be released Nov. 23, but available NOW for pre-order on iTunes -- go, go, go, you can read this after you order), I wrote that it sounded like the song Music Again nodded to Queen and that I could imagine Freddie singing Soaked.

In a Rolling Stone interview out today, Adam himself makes the Queen comparison for these two songs:

RS Q: What about "Music Again," the song Justin Hawkins from the Darkness contributed?
Adam: It has a classic rock riff to it that I thought was so sexy. Another band that was a major reference was Queen. You hear that influence in a couple different songs, and the chorus of that song, I wanted the harmonies to sound like Queen, I wanted it to be really full.

RS Q: Can you talk about the record's slower songs?
Adam: ... One of them is a song that Muse wrote, "Soaked." That opens up with a real soft vocal, it's very tender, the lyrics are very vulnerable, then it goes into a soaring ballad-type feel. ...[It has] this real retro feel to it, melodically and even in the style of the production, very Seventies, at times very Sixties, almost like a Shirley Bassey song mixed with a Queen record.

Update: 30-second clips are now streaming at Amazon US here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The meaning of Fort Hood, if there is one

Eric Etheridge, writing for The Opinionator at NYT, has collected a batch of viewpoints on the meaning of Fort Hood. He quotes some who see Nidal Hasan's rampage as a signal of "an internal jihadi threat we're ill-equipped to thwart" and others who see the rampage as "just another meaningless moment of American lone-gunman violence".

Update: And here is Michael J.W. Stickings writing at HuffPo, quoting Andrew Sullivan, rejecting a choice between these two viewpoints and instead finding a path in the middle of the two.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fort Hood

Why is it that a mere 120 miles away from Ft. Hood (or 70 miles when I was in Austin) I am able to carry a weapon, but our soldiers, while on base, are not? Is it remotely possible that the major would have done this (or at least had had the impact he did) knowing every one of his targets was actually armed.

I qualified for my permit and practiced at a huge range south of Killeen where many of the Ft. Hood soldiers trained and competed on their own time with their own weapons. The idea that they should not be able to carry while on base seems outrageous to me. OK, maybe if they've just come back from a tour there should be a time-out to worry about PTSD and all that, but as a general rule this seems the virtual shadow of the Lubys that ended up the catalyst of my right to carry.

When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Adam's place in music

Ann Powers, LA Times, has written a thoughtful piece about Adam's place in music.

As Lambert plays the role, a rock star doesn't have to be an angry punk, a brooding post-grunge puritan or a hair-metal style macho dude in a dress. These approaches all have their purpose, but Lambert projects something different: outrageousness that's totally at peace with itself.

He does this by connecting countercultural ideas -- values he learned as a kid touring Germany in a production of "Hair," the musical that first brought rock's spirit to Broadway -- with a trouper's sense of artistic performance as work, which takes brains and a certain sharpness as well as talent.

Lambert studied opera as a teenager, then turned away from lessons for a while. "I started rejecting the proper way to sing and I started singing," he said. "I was listening to more and more rock music and wondering, wow, how does that person do that with their voice?"

He discovered there was no name for what rock singers do. Lambert's singing, like his taste and his personal style, put him beyond a boundary.

"I met with [a vocal coach] over the summer and talked to him about it, and the funny thing was, you know when I do those little, crazy, screamy notes? He's like, 'We don't really have a way to teach that. It kind of goes outside of our box.' Those notes that sound sort of like rock-scream, no one ever taught me to do. I sort of had to teach myself. You just do it. It's just a sound you make."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What would you ask? Update: Nothing is what you will ask.

This is part of the Radio City Music Hall Speaker Series.

What would you ask? I know the question invites humorous responses. But seriously, if you could get a truthful, complete response to a serious question, what would it be? I think I'd be asking about the Federal Reserve and the 2008 meltdown because everything else is a side show in comparison.

Update 11/5/09: As LJ commented, this is cancelled due to overaggressive language by the promoters that made it sound more adversarial than the Presidents intended the event to be.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I write for the wrong blog

as we all know. But I've just discovered where I belong, thanks to M.

Song samples

from Adam's For Your Entertainment album, courtesy of Amazon UK, are here. H/t to mmyy9 at Hooplamagnet.

Soaked is by Muse and is operatic and I think it will appeal to those who prefer less production.

Update: Soaked sounds a lot like a k.d. lang song to me. Update V: It's that damn scooping. I hate scooping, even when it's not a crutch. (Unpopular opinion: Frank Sinatra was a crutch-scooper.)

Update II: Everyone hoping for a renaissance of Led Zeppelin etc will be sorely disappointed. Anyone hoping for a great voice filling up the pop charts will be happy.

Update III: And you can imagine Freddie singing Soaked.

Update IV: It's hard to tell much from tiny snippets, but I'm hearing a lot of 80's influence.

Update VI: Extra good news: very little voice manip in these snippets and lots of use of his lovely middle and lower range which was under-used on Idol and Idol recordings, IMHO.

Update VII: Songwriters are clearly happy to have found a singer who's not afraid of big intervals, e.g. octaves all over Sure Fire Winners, and sixths (I think) in Whataya Want From Me. Update IX: Also octaves in Pick U Up which is a song Weezer gave to him.

Update VIII: Pronoun watch: Fever was written by Lady Gaga. Adam leaves the "he" pronoun. Yay!

Update X: I can't quite tell, listening quietly on my computer speakers, but I think Sleepwalker includes a big choir. Yay, again!

Update XI: Overall verdict from snippets: wow. I think it's amazing. I think I'm going to love everything on it, except for If I Had You which sounds like another club-like song that is not as much fun as FYE.

Update XII: Broken Open has a bit of a Roxy Music vibe. Roxy Music crossed with a particular Journey song that I can't quite place.

Update XIII: Music Again nods to Queen.

Update XIV: Sure Fire Winners conjures Terence Trent D'Arby.

Update XV and XVI: Reviews (or descriptions) of the snippets are coming in: Gil Kaufman at [update: NOT Rolling Stone but] MTV (glam is back) and Jim Cantiello at MTV (he likes Music Again, Whataya Want From Me, and Broken Open; Jim is horribly wrong about Sleepwalker and I predict he'll change his mind). Rolling Stone says it's a "musical odyssey". Update XVII: Joey Guerra seems to like what he hears.

Sleepwalker, by the way, was written in part by Aimee Mayo who tweeted for weeks about her angst as to whether the song would get chosen to be on the album and, in sharing her hopes and angst, she collected a whole batch of fans who will now pay attention to what she writes for others. More proof that Twitter is more powerful than it appears at first blush.

Friday, October 30, 2009

For Your Entertainment

Adam debuted the first single "For Your Entertainment" off his album this morning. It's dancy; it's synthy. Usually those are disqualifiers for me, but I can't stop listening to this. It's completely infectious. The use of autotune is judicious, so I'm tolerating that. Young people will like it and that's what matters.

The lyrics work on a couple levels. It's a literal lover-to-lover declaration. But it's also a more metaphorical command from Adam to fans. See subtitle. (Update III: Ann Powers, LATimes says this so much better than I did: "It's a game that's led from the dance floor to the bedroom: seduction as a wicked parlor trick fully enjoyed by the master and his victim, the light fantasy of dominance and submission that's a metaphor for what happens between performer and fan.")

Houston Chron's Joey Guerra's review is here, including embedded audio. Update IV: You can stream it or buy it from [Our friend Asta will tell you she doesn't think his voice sounds manipulated as much in the higher quality recording of it. I think she's right, but I still think it sounds auto-tuned or manip'd in spots.]

There are illegal downloads floating around, but you'll be able to buy it later today on iTunes, so do that instead.

Update: Full lyrics courtesy of ontd_ai:

So hot out the box, can we pick up the pace
Turn it up, heat it up, I need to be entertained
Push the limit, are you with it, baby don't be afraid
I'm hurting you good, baby
Let's go, it's my show, baby do what I say
Don't trip on the glitz that I'm gonna display
I told you I'ma hold you down until you're amazed
Give it to you til you're screaming my name

No escaping when I start
Once I'm in I own your heart
There's no way to ring the alarm
So hold on until it's over

Do ya know what you got into?
Can you handle what I'm 'bout to do?
'Cause it's about to get rough for you
I'm here for your entertainment

Oh, I bet you thought that I was soft and sweet
You thought an angel swept you off your feet
But I'm about to turn up the heat
I'm here for your entertainment

It's alright, you'll be fine, baby I'm in control
Take the pain, take the pleasure, I'm the master of both
Close your eyes, not your mind let me into your soul
I'ma work you til you're totally blown

No escaping when I start
Once I'm in I own your heart
There's no way to ring the alarm
So hold on until it's over

Do ya know what you got into?
Can you handle what I'm 'bout to do?
'Cause it's about to get rough for you
I'm here for your entertainment

Oh, I bet you thought that I was soft and sweet
You thought an angel swept you off your feet
But I'm about to turn up the heat
I'm here for your entertainment

Do you like what you see?
Let me entertain you til you scream.

Do ya know what you got into?
Can you handle what I'm 'bout to do?
'Cause it's about to get rough for you
I'm here for your entertainment

Oh, I bet you thought that I was soft and sweet
You thought an angel swept you off your feet
But I'm about to turn up the heat
I'm here for your entertainment

Update II: Rolling Stone describes it as "like the love child of Lady Gaga and Bowie’s 'Lady Stardust.'" Bowie fans want to weigh in here? I don't hear any Bowie, but I'm not familiar with his full catalog. The Wall Street Journal says "the song is funky, glam-y, has a pulsating beat, and more importantly, is perfect for top 40 radio." There you go, WSJ -- find the money.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reliving the past

Flash-back to 1976-1978....

During my first 2 years in college, I lived in a dorm. My friends and I started a type of ritual, every Monday thru Thursday in the afternoons after our last class and before dinner. The first 4 that finished classes for the day met in one of our rooms to play spades or hearts until dinner-time. The choice of music to be played fell to the room owner(s), but the first album (yes, back then there weren't cd's) was always the same one. I really wasn't into this group, though I was into their genre. But after hearing this album day after day, it grew on me to the point where I bought my own copy. Once the cd era began, this was one of the first ones I wanted to get on cd, but I could never find it. I looked and looked, but was never able to locate it. I was told several times that it was never made into a cd, which I found hard to believe, but as the years went by, I began to believe that.....

Flash-forward to last month, 2009...

We recently switched from satellite to FIOS for our television service. In doing so, we picked up some channels that we didn't get before, one of them being VH1-Classic. I love this channel. Among the many different programs they have are stories about the making of classic albums and showing classic live concerts of bands from the 60's-80's - some of which were recorded in the particular bands heyday, or recorded within the past several years. I was flipping around the channels a couple of weeks ago and caught a concert from 2 or 3 years ago, recorded at the House of Blues/LA from the band, which made me think back to the album that I could never find on cd. It had been many years since I had last searched for this cd, so seeing them made me try again. The internet is a wonderful thing.....

Today, Oct 29, 2009....

Delivered today, shipped from an import cd store (in of all places, Kentucky), was this cd....

I put it on as soon as it arrived. It's a rainy, overcast day in DFW today and the music fit perfectly. I sat, reading the paper, being taken back to a dorm room in the late 70's. I found myself singing along to songs I hadn't heard in 20 years.....

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
'Cause when we stop and look around us,
There is nothing that we need,
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed......

Timothy Leary's dead.
No, no no no, he's outside, looking in.

Timothy Leary's dead.
No, no no no, he's outside, looking in.

He'll fly his astral plane,
Takes you trips around the bay,
Brings you back the same day.
Timothy Leary.
Timothy Leary....

This cd will be in my car for the foreseeable future. When I get sick of Rush or Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity, I'll just hit "CD" and go back in time.

(I found this on Wikipedia - I had no idea about the history of this album. Since I wasn't into The Moody Blues, I didn't know about them being on a self-imposed sabbatical or that many of the songs on this album were different mixes than the versions on the original albums.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adam's album cover

Adam's album cover was revealed yesterday:

Fan response is mixed. I post it, though, because there is nary a critique/commentary in the media that doesn't include a reference to Bowie.

Rolling Stone says:
Do not adjust you computer monitors: the above image of Adam Lambert is in fact the cover for his post-Idol debut album For Your Entertainment, due out November 23rd. The album cover was confirmed by Lambert’s Adam Official website today, and judging solely by the art, his debut is venturing to a glammed-out galaxy far, far away from his image on his 2012 single “Time for Miracles” — probably landing someplace where there are Spiders from Mars. From his bright blue hair to For Your Entertainment’s straight-off-Purple Rain font, this album looks like it’ll live up to Lambert’s Twitter promise that “Glam is back!!!”

The Wall Street Journal says (yes, really, the WSJ is spending money on staff to comment on album covers; isn't there some naked short-selling you should be investigating? oh wait, Rolling Stone is doing that. Well then, carry on with your album art critiquing):
The cover art for Adam Lambert’s debut album “For Your Entertainment” has just been released, and in typical Adam fashion, it’s glamtastic (As Lambert himself tweeted: “Glam is back!”). The “American Idol” runner up is pictured with blue hair and hyper-colored lime and navy eye shadow, and a finger-less glove adorns in his left (black nail-polished) hand. Oh yeah, and his head seems to be floating around in space. David Bowie would be proud.

Michelle Collins (who loves Adam) writing for The Best Week Ever says, colorfully, that the cover sends notice to unicorns:
This album cover is the FANCIEST THING WE HAVE EVER WITNESSED. Unicorns may not exist, but gay ones certainly do, and this album cover is more of a warning to that endangered species: Step your game up, you cashmere soft, ivory horned, glittery hooved m******f**kers. ... In other news, I just plunked down some hard earned bloggin’ bucks on a ‘78 Camaro so that I may airbrush his visage unto its hood and become my town’s classiest lady. It’s going to be a great year.

After considering it for a day, I've decided I like it except for the fonts which look cheap to me and the neck-less shoulder awkwardness. But maybe it's retro font and I am failing to appreciate that. (It doesn't look that much like the Purple Rain font to me.)

Update: Adam mentions Bowie too, when interviewed by Access Hollywood:
“I’ve loved David Bowie since I was a kid [and] artists like Michael Jackson, Prince [and] Mick Jagger,” Adam told Access Hollywood’s Tony Potts at the Los Angeles premiere of “This Is It” on Tuesday night. “There’s a lot of male rock stars in history that have kind of played with androgyny and I [am] just fascinated by that look so I wanted to do something like that for the album cover.”

Update II: There's more going on here than meets the eye at first glance. A Chinese fan site has played around with this image, cutting out just the eyes and rotating them to horizontal, then producing two versions, one with the left eye mirrored and one with the right eye mirrored. The result is that one looks completely masculine (using Adam's left eye) and the other feminine (using Adam' right eye).

Update III: Adam tweets:

Update IV: And the world is having fun with Photoshop and Adam's cover. Rolling Stone here puts Adam's face into several famous covers (including a Bowie one, with Kris Allen tattooed near Adam's collarbone). Jim Cantiello of MTV puts himself into eleven Idol album covers, including Adam's. Fan sites are having their own fun too. Seems like alot of buzz about an album cover and all generated in less than 24 hours.

Update V: Houston Chron's Joey Guerra blogged about Adam's cover:
Androgyny? Check. Fierceness? Check. Makeup and blue hair? Check. (Loves it.)

H/t hooplamagnet (content locked).

Update 8/8/10:  Just dawned on me that it would make sense to link to this post which also mentions the cover for FYE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Naked short selling

While driving around today running errands, I heard an interview with the author of an article in Rolling Stone about naked short selling and the market collapse of last year. Much of it was over my head, but the interviewer kept making the comment that descriptions of short selling, naked short selling, etc. that were very easy to follow and understand were in this article. So when I got home, I read it. For those of you who are all into the Fed and the market (i.e. Stephanie), this is a must read.

All I can say is...UNBELIEVABLE.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Coolest thing ever

I dreamed that someone posted something really interesting. Alas...

But maybe it was premonition, because my partner B just sent me this link which is the coolest thing ever. It's a graphical representation of the history of the Fed.

(I'm reading In Fed We Trust, so this is a nice complement.)

Update: I haven't read the text yet. B says it has a Friedmanesque perspective.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lyndsey Parker previews Adam's album For Your Entertainment

I hear that the music dude for the Houston Chron is disappointed in Time For Miracles. He was wanting something glammier from Adam. He shouldn't fret. TFM isn't representative of Adam's album For Your Entertainment, to be released Nov. 23. Lyndsey Parker from Yahoo Music got to preview part of the album. Her preview includes these phrases:
  • extraterrestrial electro-opus
  • freaky-deaky songs, in all their wondrously neon-lit, mirror-balled, future-shocked, robot-rockin' glory
  • Rocky Horror-meets-Robbie Williams-style
  • imagine if Mika, Sam Sparro, and Kevin Rudolf had a threesome that resulted in the conception of a glittery alien baby
  • a giant whitechocolatespaceegg
I don't quite know what to make of that, but I do think the Chron guy is going to get what he's asking for.
H/t ontd_ai or hooplamagnet.  (I won't bother to link since the content is locked.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jack White is everywhere

As reported by NME, Jack White gave a surprise lecture to the Philosophical Society at Dublin's Trinity College last night. White discussed anxiety and authenticity. Stripes-mate (and either sister or ex-wife, speaking of authenticity) Meg White has reportedly suffered from anxiety severe enough to require them to cancel shows. On authenticity, he wondered whether Britney Spears might be more authentic than Bob Dylan. Also, he claims that he upholstered albums into furniture pieces he worked on in his pre-Stripes job.

"300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues" and "Rag and Bone"

Here's a little sample of the White Stripes. And another (though with very poor sound quality). Across the Icky Thump album you'll hear influences from punk, rap, blues (from primitive to rock), rock-a-billy, Celtic folk, Dick Dale/surf. His voice reminds me a bit of Andrew Stockdale from Wolfmother.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jack White, It Might Get Loud, and More Than a Game

We saw a documentary double header last night: It Might Get Loud and More Than a Game. (Grrr. Why oh why do the studios not allow embedding of trailers?)

It Might Get Loud brings together three rock guitar players to talk about the guitar and their experiences with it. The three are Jimmy Page, Edge, and Jack White. I loved it. Jack White is a trip. I got interested in The White Stripes when Adam mentioned them somewhere. We then got the Icky Thump album and loved it, but I didn't know anything about Jack or the "band" (Jack and his sister* Meg) before this movie.

The movie opens with a scene in which you see Jack building a guitar with some scraps of wood, nails, wire and a Coke bottle. He plugs it into an amp, plays a few notes, takes a drag on a cigarette and concludes "Who needs to buy a guitar?" It's a good metaphor for the philosophy he purports to believe which is that simple is better, technology makes things easy, easy is bad, etc. (I generally love the philosophy, but it's one of those things that is tough to live consistently, and once you start sounding sanctimonious about it you invite people to look for your own inconsistencies. It's easy enough to see some of Jack's inconsistencies. Like, why is it OK to use an amplifier or to have a harmonica mic built into your guitar?) Still, I dare you not to fall in love with him and his music.

They tell the stories of their first guitars and their entry into music. Fate, as it turns out, is a crazy thing. They talk about music they love, their influences, and the sounds they're trying to emulate or create. Edge is all over the techno tricks and sound effects which makes him a great contrast to Jack.

More Than a Game is a documentary about the team that LaBron James played for in high school. It does a nice job of telling the stories of the other players and coaches, in addition to LaBron's story. (The score is so wrong, so weirdly old sounding, that it's distracting.)

Both movies are worth seeing in a theater.

*Update: I guess Meg might be Jack White's ex-wife rather than his sister. He has at times claimed she's his sister, but people have found marriage and divorce certificates, per Wikipedia. Who knows. K cries BS for EVERYTHING Jack said in the movie (or ever), but still loves his music.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time for Miracles

Full version is available in Italy and Belgium via iTunes. (Youtube audio has been removed.)

Update 10/20/09: Now available on iTunes in the US here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jon Stewart on hypocrisy w/r/t Franken's anti-compelled-arbitration-for-rape bill

Sen. Franken, D-MN, has authored a bill amendment to the defense spending bill that precludes the awarding of govt contracts to firms that contractually preclude the right of its employees to sue said firms for their liability for rape. Hypocrisy ensues.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Gov. Perry defends the execution of Willingham

Willingham is the guy that Texas executed for killing his three children by arson. (Previously discussed here and here.) M calls my attention to this Chron article wherein Gov. Perry defends his actions and proclaims Willingham guilty and a monster.

Update: And another Chron story per M. This one includes two recent statements (one by the brother of Willingham's former wife and another by a neighbor) supporting Willingham's guilt. The story doesn't say when the brother-in-law's statement was made. His statement relates a conversation to which the bro-in-law would not have been privy. (I don't get why the statement wasn't made by the ex-wife.) The second one includes incredibly damning details about what a neighbor witnessed the day of the fire. The neighbor claims he told police about it at the time, but that he was been rebuffed. Given the import of the neighbors claims, it seems odd that the police and DA wouldn't have been interested in what he had to say.

Update II: Per M, Chron columnist makes the case that focus should remain on Perry's role in the violation of process, rather than on the monster qualities of Willingham.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chili Recipe

2 pounds ground beef
1 quart water
2 medium-size onions (finely grated)
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
5 whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
4 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 ounce bitter chocolate
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large bay leaf
5 whole cloves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Add beef to water in a 4 quart pot. Stir until beef separates to a fine texture. Boil slowly for 30 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients, stir to blend, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for about 3 hours.

During the last hour, pot may be covered after desired consistency is reached. Remove bay leaf before serving. Chili should be refrigerated overnight so fat can be lifted from top before reheating. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Serve over spaghetti!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Please share your best chili recipes.

I always cheat for chili thanks to Carroll Shelby. But I keep meaning to do better.

Happy Anniversary, Alton Brown

Ezra commemorates 10 years on air for Good Eats by embedding a clip from the first episode.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perfect boiled eggs

Here. With science and experiments.

LJ's Diagnosis

So since none of my doctors can tell me what caused all my problems in late July and August, I've come up with what I think was going on. The internet can be a dangerous thing, giving those of us with no medical background the ability to type in some key words and come up with a diagnosis that a trained professional wouldn't. That being said, let me introduce you to Labyrinthitis - descriptions here and here.

The symptoms fit, the exams and tests fit, and at least it helps with my desire to give a cause to what was going on, other than " a fluke". The ER doctor was asking about sinus problems or allergies, which was a clue to me. He gave me steroids and antibiotics to clear up a sinus inflammation that was picked up on my MRI. I started those medications on a Friday, had an episode the next day and haven't had any since then. Another clue was reading about fluid getting in the inner ear. I was doing a lot of swimming during the summer and it's possible that fluid got into my inner ear. Both C (who has a semi-medical background) and an aunt who is a RN talked about reactions to some sort of infection early on, which also leads me to my view.

I did bring this up with the ENT yesterday and while she didn't totally discount it, she didn't really support my theory either. Her big problem with my diagnosis was she would expect more "wooziness" associated with my episodes, not "dizziness". But she didn't totally rule out a reaction to some type of ear or respiratory infection.

So....the book is closed on the medical events of my summer. Yea......

Not a great week - Update as of 10/12/09

Finally, after several back and forth phone calls, I heard from specialist #1 - the ENT doctor. I went in for several tests a couple of weeks ago, mainly to check out inner ear issues. Got hooked up with electrodes to my head and had to watch moving lights and dots. Had ear plugs inserted and listened to clicks and stuff. Then had the hot/cold air blown into ears, then had to count backwards and then forward in multiples of 3's, with eyes closed then open, waiting for the spinning sensations. This last test wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, though the cold air was more uncomfortable than the hot air. The results....

everything looked normal. All within the expected parameters. Whatever caused my symptoms was not inner ear related. The only interesting comment was that "during a couple of the tests, there were 1 or 2 instances that were outside the normal parameters that were more brain related than inner ear related, but nothing to be concerned about." The ENT doctor said that whatever was going on "was probably some flukey, one time only thing that will probably not occur again." And that since I've had everything checked out, I should feel good about that....

which I do, but there is still a part of me that wants to know what caused all this, so if there is something I can do (or stop doing) to ensure it never happens again, I can do (or not do) it.

I'm not inclined to pursue 2nd opinions right now, since I haven't had any further episodes since mid-August. However, both the ENT and the neurologist said that if I have another episode, I should get with the neurologist ASAP, which leads me to believe that while they don't know what the cause was, the leaning is towards a neurological one. Or, it just could be that it's better to er on the cautious side, since the neurological issues would be obviously more serious.

So I guess I'm back to where I started - not knowing. Several tests, many $$ later - at least I know (to a better degree) that all the heart, arteries, inner ear and brain parts of me are OK.

Friday, October 09, 2009



Update 10/10/09: Twitter trending topics as of 10:36 am Central (It's been bumping around the top 10 for 18 hours or so)

Update 10/11/09: Google knows. Adam is the top suggestion when you search just "ad":
I wonder if, before 2010 is over, Google will return "Adam Lambert" with merely an "a" in the search box.

Update 10/13/09:
(h/t ontd_ai)
From Wikipedia:
Greg Wells is a musician and Grammy nominated record producer and mixer [1] based in Los Angeles. Wells has produced, mixed and written hits with Katy Perry, OneRepublic, Mika, Pink, Colbie Caillat, Jamie Cullum, Deftones, Otep, The Veronicas, Jessie Baylin, Rufus Wainwright, Kyosuke Himuro and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Creeper Lagoon, Natasha Bedingfield, Team Sleep, Jars of Clay, Anna Waronker, Hilary Duff, Hanson, Latin popstar Belinda, and the Count Basie Orchestra.

Wells produced Katy Perry's #1 hit "Waking Up In Vegas", producing four songs and co-writing two on the hit album One of the Boys including "UR So Gay". Wells wrote Kelly Clarkson's hit single "I Do Not Hook Up" with Katy Perry and Kara DioGuardi which peaked at #8 on the US top forty, as well as writing/producing a track on the deluxe version of Pink's latest record Funhouse.
Wells produced the "'Apologize" remix by Timbaland and the original version by OneRepublic making it one of the most successful selling and charting songs of the decade.[2] With sales of over 4.3 million digital downloads in the US alone, "'Apologize" is now the second-highest legally downloaded song in US digital history.

Update II (10/13/09); Adam is going to perform live at the American Music Awards on Nov. 22. There will be fire and dancers.

Update III (10/13/09): We learn today from an interview that Lyndsay Parker does with Rob Cavallo (producer for TFM) that Adam can sing every note that a guitar can play (4 octaves; 5 E's, I believe).

Update (10/15/09): How big a deal is Adam about to be? He kissed his boyfriend Drake Tuesday night in the midst of paparazzi and press all over the world is covering it. Iceland here and Peru here, for example, both posted at Thanks to our friend Asta for the Iceland story. So either Adam is poised for a global career the likes of which we've never quite seen before or the entire world is starved for pics of beautiful boys kissing.