Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fed or Overfed?*

Yesterday, I started my job training with the Department of Commerce, Census Bureau. I, along with fifteen others (about six of them live on the same street as myself, and one moved out of his parents' place on the street) took our oath to uphold the Constitution, were fingerprinted, and began to learn the ropes of census enumeration.

The training is taking place at a location about a ten minute walk from my front door. It's funny how, because I've been working for a massive U.S. Government Project, my life has taken on a "small town European vibe". I walk to work, and have time to stop in the bakery for a fresh-baked croissant or scone- living as close an approximation of la dolce vita as a working stiff can.

*Allusion to these guys

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fate Forces Me to Post

In the past week, I have posted two comments linking to Robyn Hitchcock videos. Yesterday, Gavin M. at smart snark central posted a link to a Robyn Hitchcock video.

Robyn has, in one combo or other, been in the music business since the mid-to-late seventies. He writes gorgeous pop songs about, for the most part, grotesque subjects (Edgar Allen Poe would probably use the term "Arabesque"). His somewhat nasal vocals may take some getting used to, but he plays the guitar with a jangly virtuosity that is immediately accessible.

While there doesn't seem to be much of a market for pretty songs about crustaceans, disease, decay, and the like, Robyn has always had a dedicated cult following. If one distilled out the "normal" songs in Robyn's thirty-some-odd year career, one could probably put together a smash hit album, the sort of record that soccer moms and Dockers-wearing guys could listen to in the minivan while driving the kids around.

Here's Robyn at his prettiest (although there are a couple of trademark touches of grotesquerie in this lovely song, originally found on 1986's Element of Light album with backing band The Egyptians):

The sound in this video is not quite as good, but I am posting it as well, because *GLOATING* I was at this concert *GLOATING*.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Been Remiss in my Vance Posts...

Well, as an adjunct to a harrowing post on my other blog, here's one of my favorite scenes from Jack Vance's 1964 novel The Killing Machine, in which Kirth Girsen, trained from youth to pursue a monomaniacal quest to avenge the deaths of his loved ones, stops in a dining establishment during the course of his mission:

...The air of Ard Court smelled richly indeed, with a heavy sweet-sour organic reek that distended the nostrils. Gersen grimaced and went to the shop from which the odors seemed to emanate. Taking a deep breath and bowing his head, he entered. To right and left were wooden tubs, containing pastes, liquids, and submerged solids; overhead hung rows of withered blue-green objects the size of a man's fist. At the rear, behind a counter stacked with limp pink sausages stood a clown-faced youth of twenty, wearing a patterned black and brown smock, a black velvet headkerchief. He leaned upon the counter without spirit or vitality, and without expression watched Gersen sidle past the tubs.

"You're a Sandusker?" asked Gersen.

"What else?" This was spoken in a tone Gersen could not identify, a complex mood of many discords: sad pride, whimsical malice, insolent humility. The youth asked, "You wish to eat?"

Gersen shook his head. "I am not of your religion."

"Ha ho!" said the youth. "You know Sandusk then?"

"Only at second-hand."

The youth smiled. "You must not believe that old foolish story, that we Sanduskers are religious fanatics who eat vile food rather than flagellate ourselves. It is quite incorrect. Come now. Are you a fair man?"

Gersen considered. "Not unusually so."

The youth went to one of the tubs, dipped up a wad of glistening black-crusted maroon paste. "Taste! Judge for yourself! Use your mouth rather than your nose!"

Gersen gave a fatalistic shrug, tasted. The inside of his mouth seemed first to tingle, then expand. His tongue coiled back in his throat.

"Well?" asked the youth.

"If anything," said Gersen at last, "it tastes worse than it smells."

The youth sighed. "Such is the general consensus."

Ha ho! I am not the first person to post this excerpt on teh t00bz.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Following up on Yesterday's Awful Puns

Although Tom Jones' song came to mind when I composed my awful punning post yesterday, I could always have linked to a video of It's Not You by comical Albany band Blotto:

Blotto's video for I Wanna Be a Lifeguard apparently gained a lot of play on MTV. My personal favorite Blotto song is Goodbye Mr. Bond, although We Are the Nowtones, sung from the perspective of a "weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs" band, is another highlight of Blotto's ouvre.

Apparently, the band has reunited for occasional gigs- I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for any forthcoming appearances in venues further downstate.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Enough About My Nasal Passages

Yeah, my last two posts were about my nasal passages- pretty gross. Now, for a needed change of topic, how about boogie-ing down to It's Not Unusual?

Ugh Update

I spent most of yesterday (a warm spring day) curled up on the couch, wearing four layers of clothes, with the comforters on, putting more stuff up mah nose than a weeks' worth of TMZ subjects. I also killed off the remnants of a bottle of Chivas Regal, as an anodyne. *

Today, I must've used the neti pot once an hour- it's amazing how much junk can accumulate in those weird nooks and crannies inside one's head. I just kept pouring and pouring until everything ran as clear as a mountain rill. I feel much better now, and am debating whether I can bring the neti pot to work (it does come across as freaky to many people).

A few years ago, I bought a neti pot for a co-worker who was subject to allergies... one day, he took a mucus-thinning medication, and he broke out in a sweat, his heart started racing, and he looked like he'd explode. I told him to use the neti pot, rather than be killed by the Bush-era pharmaceutical industry. My co-worker shared his apartment with his elderly, widowed mother... suffice it to say, he was irrigating his sinuses one day when his mother opened the bathroom door. Hearing her gasp, he told her the only thing he could, "MOM, IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!"

*That's why it was the best day EVER!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The pollen count has been very high lately... I have never suffered from allergies, but all the botanical sexytime has been gumming up my nasal sinuses, and I feel as if I have just had a massive "pollen package" shoved down my throat. It's gotten to the point where the neti pot is getting a workout twice a day. Heh- while watching the linked video, I thought, "Somewhere, some d00d is getting his rocks off watching this." I think our fetching narrator figured this out as well, as she tells us, "It's really good to have a box of Kleenexes handy, because you never know what would happen. (sic)" Indeed!

It could be a lot worse, though- at least I'm not infested by sinus leeches (the "DO NOT CLICK" warning is inherent in the word "leeches", if you're easily squicked out).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Keeping with Weekend Tradition

I actually heard this song on the radio twice this past week, once on a local commercial station, and again on the college radio station I listen to on Saturdays:

The song brings back memories of junior high and high school- two studio versions were released, the first in 1982, and the remake in 1984.

Shout Out to an Old Friend

Last week, I spoke to an old friend, and mentioned that I'd been blogging. I wanted to make sure I'd been writing consistently before telling people... it would be embarassing to blab, and then have the whole thing fizzle out.

Well, I typically use nicknames or descriptors when discussing people I know on this blog, and would have referred to my friend as "Two Meter Peter" due to his height (he would constantly get asked "OMG, how TALL ARE YOU?" and he'd answer, "Five feet, eighteen inches", a joke I appropriated shamelessly to describe Brooklyn's own N__B. Peter told me that I should use his real name, so it'll come up if he googles himself.

So, here's a shout out to Mr Peter Stoffel. I've known Pete for the majority of my life, and he has always been unfailingly excellent. To give an indication of how awesome he is, after his marriage to his lovely and brilliant wife, the two of them went cruising around the Caribbean in a refurbished sailboat. Gentleman, scholar, sportsman (he has terrorized many a volleyball court), adventurer, family man, and friend- he's all that, and a Costco-sized bag of chips, and by that I mean a bag of chips as big as a Costco, not a bag of chips as big as an industrial-sized bag of chips on sale at Costco. If you need any more evidence to tell you that he's great, he may be the only old school friend of mine who wasn't characterized as a "mutant" by my supersarcastic sister.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

So I Sez to Myself...

Self, let's pop into the Poor Mouth for a couple of beers, Mary Courtney is playing from sixish to ninish, so I'll stop in for a couple of hours...

Well, not having the benefit of the narrative technique known as "foreshadowing", I did not know that a second act would be playing soon after ninish. Well, suffice it to say,the best bar band in the Bronx, perhaps the world was the second act of the night. Jameson's Revenge started out as a seisiun, and it still has that loose, easygoing vibe. These guys played a glorious, sprawling mash up of everything from Bach to the Beatles to Biggie, with a mix of jigs and reels (while drinking dirty big pints of stout). These guys took the stage shortly after nine, and played until damn near 3 AM. Not only are they virtuoso musicians, but they have a wicked sense of humor, and they have the infectious vibe of a bunch of folks who are having the time of their lives, and want everybody in on the fun.

Wow, we get a version of the Waterboy's Bang on the Ear, with the chorus of House of Pain's Jump Around (no link- not a particular fan), a sprawling version of Counting Crow's (?) Round Here features improvised "rapping"- yeah, the younger of the two flautists starts singing ”No sex in the champagne room” during the mic-swapping round. As could be imagined, they encouraged crowd participation, and the crowd rose to the occasion.

There are a few videos of the combo on teh t00bz, but they really don't capture their awesome, sprawling, messy glory. They typically hold court on Sundays at the Rambling House on Katonah Avenue in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx. These guys don't typically tour... fiddler Denis McCarthy, who also plays fiddle for Shillelagh Law, and has a day job as a firefighter, told me that his wife wouldn't be happy with him touring. Anyway, I have some advice- if you live within 100 miles of NYC, get your asses over to the Bronx to see these guys, and if you live outside this radius, take some time off from work, and get your asses over to the Bronx to see these guys.

As an added bonus, the cherry on top of the sundae, so to speak, I ran into a cousin of mine (not the cousin who took the picture of me with Larry Kirwin and an orb)- he's working on a Bronx construction site putting up scaffolding (his dad being a safety expert, he knows how to wear a safety harness). Yeah, fambly is awesome. Tonight, my cousin is going on a booze cruise (I gotta work!) featuring local favorites who have been on hiatus for a while- their first single was perhaps the finest song ever written about an area code.

Well, suffice it to say, tomorrow evening will be spent at the Rambling House- hopefully, I'll be able to gather more of the tribe for this night out.

Note: I edited this post to correct a couple post-bender typos.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Short Ruminations

So, I am running some errands on the Yonkers/Bronx border, and I see a girl get out of a car, two-toned hair in great, braided hoops, zebra-striped sunglasses... yep, a doppelgäga. Way to go, girl, emulate an invidual who disparages the homeland you both share. No, I didn't take a picture- I wouldn't want to crack that facade of "BFD" imperturbability that characterizes people from the NY Metro Area.

Here's a shout-out to my brother Sweetums and his lovely wife, for making me an uncle yet again. He's posted comments here, and I have a couple of cousins who have done some lurking- my fambly is awesome!

Got a night off, so I'll be off the the Poor Mouth (shout out to Flann O'Brien fan Smut Clyde) to see Mary Courtney performing ballads- I'll make a request for The Irish Volunteer, and dedicate it to Virginia governor / Confederate apologist douchebag Robert F. McDonnell.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

I always find myself bemused by people who begrudge paying their taxes... I have always considered taxes to be the dues paid by people who wish to belong in a healthy, civil society. I usually end up having to pay Federal, NY State, and City of Yonkers taxes, and I make small voluntary contributions to several of the N.Y. State funds (two cancer research funds, the missing and exploited children fund, and the wildlife conservation fund). Yeah, making a couple of sizable payments is not exactly fun, but that's part of being a mature adult, and a responsible citizen- it's holding up my end of a rather good bargain.

My advice to the Tax Day Teabaggers, grow up and pay up.

I'd say nut up or shut up, but that would be an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Secret Science Club After Action Report

Last night, the Secret Science Club lecture was accompanied by a culinary demonstration. The talk was conducted by two speakers, Dr Kent Kirshenbaum of NYU's chemistry department, and pastry chef/alchemist Will Goldfarb, a go-to guy for esoteric baking ingredients. These two men are founding members of the Experimental Cuisine Collective.

The program began with an effort by our intrepid lecturers to realize the grand dream of creating a combination floor cleaner/dessert topping. Dr Kirshenbaum gave a quick chemistry lesson about soaps, which have molecules with a hydrophilic end, and a hydrophobic end, which tend to aggregate in a water-based solution as micelles. In the quest to form an edible "soap", Dr Kirshenbaum and Mr Goldfarb decided to use an extract from the Curaca Agave, a saponaceous plant from Peru. A bit of Curaca extract was added to water, and whipped into a foam in an electric mixture. The resulting "foam" was described by Dr Kirshenbaum as "smelling like wet newspapers"- well, at least it didn't have a cilantro flavor. A batch of the "soap suds" was mixed with a simple syrup, and eight audience volunteers were brought up on stage to sample the "soap/dessert topping", sprayed on a brownie. The team that devoured their soap-browines received a prize. The "foam" was also used dipped into liquid nitrogen and flash-frozen to create vegan "Floating Islands".

The quest for a floor-cleaner/dessert topping a success, the talk shifted to other projects being undertaken by the Experimental Cuisine Collective, including a long digression on Turkish salep- based ice cream called dondurma
(the term for "fox testicles" being a common folk etymology for "salep", this ice cream should be a hit with Teabaggers, were it not so Mooslimy). Not only is dondurma resistent to melting, the salep contains a polysaccharide called glucomannan, which also acts as a soluble dietary fiber. Dr Kirshenbaum jokingly described a hypothetical dream-dessert which was high-fiber, could counteract type 2 diabetes and tooth decay (mastic has been proposed as a tooth-decay fighter), and even an aphrodesiac (the "fox testicle" connection). On a more sober note, he added that the salep-orchid is endangered due to overharvesting. Happily, the good people at the E.C.C. have determined that the common konnyaku or "Devil's tongue" can be used as an acceptible salep substitute (I will add that konnyaku is also used to make shirataki noodles, a great addition to a well-made nabe).

Futher consideration was given to the use of liquid nitrogen as a culinary tool, gum arabic as a thickening agent, and the tension between the traditional and experimental trends in cuisine. Dr Kirshenbaum was of the opinion that the techniques pioneered by the Experimental Cuisine Collective were not necessarily at odds with the precepts of the Slow Food movement. He mentioned a hilarious ban on the use of liquid nitrogen in Italian restaurant kitchens. A shout-out to experimental cuisine titans Ferran Adrià and Wylie Dufresne. Left unmentioned was Abel Gonzalez, Jr. the mad genius who came up with fried Coca-Cola.

After the lecture, the audience was given samples of vegan "meringue" cookies, made using the tried-and-true techniques of the Experimental Cuisine Collective.

Note: A nearly-identical post (a little less tongue-in-cheek) will be at my other blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Drink With a Poet, Get Attacked by an Orb

So, I am hanging out with a new drinking buddy- let's call him "Larry", and my cousin takes a picture. Well, don't you know, I get attacked by an orb emanating from a paranormal Pabst sign.

Luckily, with my experience in parascientific knowledge and psionic hardware, I was able to avert a disaster. Oh, and regarding the picture, please note that I am not the guy with the "red hair and glasses".

Larry Kirwan, in a word, is awesome- he's a friendly guy, with a genuinely warm personality. He played a few songs, mostly from Black 47's debut album (Dear Old Donegal, the eponymous song, James Connolly- preceded with an introduction which unabashedly characterized the man as a community organizer and a Marxist-eat that, teabaggers!), and read from his new novel Rockin' the Bronx. I asked him the extent to which the novel is a thinly autobiographical work, and he told me, "It's veiled enough so I won't get my arse kicked." He read the from the opening chapter, which was hilarious, though with a hint of bad things to come, and sang an a cappella rendition of a personal favorite- The Cliffs of Dooneen, which ***SPOILER ALERT*** features in the narrative.

Larry also related a tale of strolling around Times Square as a wet-behind-the-ears immigrant, during a time in which it hadn't been gentrified to chain-store blandness, and read another chapter in the book, which detailed his protagonist's run through a gauntlet of dealers, and panderers.

All told, the night was top-notch... it was four hours of music, prose, booze, and good fellowship, in an intimate, friendly setting. Larry is a great guy with whom to knock back a Smithwick's, and I made sure to tell him not to forget his fans in the Midwest as he's touring in support of the book.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful...

***Looks at picture*** Uh, yeah... Well, last Sunday's post employed a "literary technique" known as "foreshadowing"- you see, I posted a video by Black 47, and indicated that the post was inspired by a night at An Beal Bocht, a tavern I frequent. Well, the inspiration for the post was this:

Yeah, it's an opportunity to see the multi-talented Larry Kirwin in a small, snug setting. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, hate me because I live within walking distance of The Bronx.

Note: I took the picture of the flyer in the loo... yes, this is the typical loo-lighting. Hmmm... Loo Lighters might be a good name for a band...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Census 2010

Yesterday, Mark Riley of WWRL (who played journalistic straight man to manic comedian Marc Maron in the late, lamented Morning Sedition, mentioned the fact that certain neighborhoods in NYC had abysmally low census returns. Well, my census form finally arrived in the mail today, eight days after the April 1 deadline. Being the sort of person who takes his civic duty seriously, I had already picked up a form at the local public library, and sent it in on the first. Funny, the Department of Commerce had sent me two letters informing me of the importance of filling out the form which they didn't send out on time.

On April 27, I start a four day training session, then will be employed as a census enumerator. I am looking forward to this gig, as I could use some extra cash, I'd love an insiders' view of the census-taking process, and I am eager to rekindle the feelings I had when I did field work (no joke) in investigations (mostly auto-accident cases, but the freaky ones, the ones in which the participants- unlike normal people- didn't cooperate with their carriers). It'll be good wearing out some shoe leather, and perambulating through neighborhoods both familiar and strange.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Short Observations

The usual suspects are prattling on about how President Obama's nuclear arms reduction proposal is going to make the United States less safe. All I have to say about this is that it's a relief that one does not talk of the Bush "Family Atomics" anymore.

In light of the latest in a string of coal mining disasters, coal is a pretty damn bad base upon which to build an energy policy, but it does make for a damn fine pizza (Thunder's gonna be jealous). How about a sane energy policy, and a non-predatory jobs program for Appalachia, so coal mining can become a safely run "boutique" industry to support a handful of pizzerias?

For the second day in a row, it's pushing 80F in April... where are all the people who were "Dur hur"-ing about the snow a month ago?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Weather 'Round Here

It was in the 80's today... a lovely day for a walk along the Bronx River Parkway, but I cannot help but think that it's just too early for this weather, that posting the following video would be -how you say- premature:

Wow, I am digging this video, it really captures a raw "Undertones as Derry's Ramones" vibe. "The Undertones were Derry's Ramones" would be a good opener for a bad poem.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Pilgrimage

Although I do value spontaneity and new experiences, I can be a creature of habit at times. A long-standing spring tradition of mine is hiking to a breeding location for local amphibians in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the largest park in my home county. The particular location I visit is not a classic vernal pool (wouldn't Vernal Poole be a great name for a southern senator?) because it is a persistent feature of the landscape- but, being free from Teleost tyranny, it qualifies under the broad definition of a vernal pool, and harbors the typical fauna of Northeastern U.S. pools.

The trail to my particular spot passes through a low-lying area, where a profusion of skunk cabbages was growing. The plants can produce enough heat through metabolic processes to melt ice, though my hike took place on a warm day:

The purple-mottled "cowl" (a modified leaf called a spathe) shields the plant's tiny flowers:

The particular trail I hike passes by a large specimen of the Hercules' club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis L.), a plant which is typically found in more southerly climes (but global warming is a myth, so ignore this plant, which, being named for a mythical demigod, must be a myth as well):

Another harbinger of spring is this tiny "Christmas Tree", I believe it's a rattlesnake fern, but am not 100% sure of this... CORRECTION, Sadlynaught Shakezula (who really needs to start blogging) identified this as a ground pine (Genus Lycopodium):

An uphill hike takes me to my favored spring destination:

Perhaps because of the abysmal weather we have had for much of the spring, the wood frogs were not out in force (I only saw one the entire time I was at the pond), but the spring peepers were in profusion. I am going to fall back on the use of professional-quality photographs, because I just don't have the know-how to take pictures of anything in a watery environment. For example, this picture could be a picture of an amphibian egg-mass in a pond, or a picture of a congeries of iridescent globes*:

The spring peeper is a handsome little frog with a big voice- they are not often seen, but their song heralds spring in much of North America. The wood frog is another common Northeastern amphibian which breeds in vernal pools in early spring.

During my visit, the wood frogs were not out in force, so I was able to spy, through the calm surface of an un-agitated pool, the elusive, enchanting fairy shrimp (a "sea monkey" on steroids), and the predacious backswimmer.

After a good, long spell at the pool, I wandered back to the car, turning over rotten logs on the way back in the hopes of spying salamanders... I did see two small red-backed salamanders, a lungless species of terrestrial salamanders which bypass the aquatic stage of life. I felt a little guilty, looming over these enchanting little creatures like some kind of kaiju (N.B. not a veiled reference to N__B and Mrs. __B), and I felt a little disappointed in not seeing a spotted salamander.

It was a glorious day, spent playing in the mud, and letting my inner eight-year-old go nuts.

*Hilarious bit about a Lady Gaga/H.P. Lovecraft connection.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Does Their Marketing, Anyway?

So, I am at a local supermarket, and this sign is prominently displayed outside the store:

Now, I can understand the store management trying to drum up custom from the local gay community, but one would think that they'd word their signs with more taste and discretion.

Update: The joke seemed funny when I first took the picture, but the post, in retrospect, seems a little dickish... I'm going to leave it up, because deleting it would be chickenshit, and every man needs a reminder that, sometimes, he can be dickish. I will try to avoid any future dickishness in future.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Little Easter Music

I have always wondered why there were so many Christmas carols, but a real paucity of Easter songs... most Easter songs are cheesy ditties about cottontails and bonnets- there's no equivalent of O Holy Night or God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. Perhaps its because there was no equivalent of a merry Saturnalia on which to build an Easter tradition, or perhaps it's because there's no need to interject additional cheer into a spring day. Anyway, there are a couple of good Easter songs, but my favorite has to be the following:

Post inspired by a night at the Poor Mouth.

Failing Into Fun

Today, I had the happy misfortune to screw up in a fortuitously happy fashion. This morning, I traveled to Manhattan for the last volunteer gig of the season (the program generally follows the school year, and picks up again in October). I followed the usual routine, a quick drive to 238th St and Broadway in the Bronx, and a half-hour (if I'm lucky, and track maintainance/construction doesn't gum up the tunnels) ride on the 1 Train to 59th St. Usually, I reverse this trend on the way home, but today I screwed up. The 2 Train, which usually runs express, was running on the local track- I boarded the train, thinking it was the 1, and (nose buried in the Village Voice), didn't realize that I was on the wrong train until after the last transfer stop. Cursing my dumbassitude, I took the 2 to 149th St and Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and transferred to the 4 Train (the train I take to the east side of Manhattan, and to Brooklyn). I took the 4 Train to Woodlawn, the last stop, then the day being clear (the sky was bright), I walked from the Woodlawn station to 238th and Broadway, where my car was parked. It was a loverly walk on a loverly spring afternoon, temps were around 70F, people were out, everybody was in a good mood. It was a "fail into fun" moment-a total screw-up which resulted in a nice mini-adventure.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Wish These Were April Fools' Put-Ons

Yeah, checking the dateline of this AZCentral item reveals that it is not an April Fools' joke item. Yeah, somebody really thought that the reflective tape on the poles of street signs were to guide nefarious foreign invaders imported from nefarious foreign lands to Arizona developments to kill good, God-fearing 'Murkins.

Checking out the more- how you say- outré corners of the t00bz where the real "black helicopter" fringe hangs out, one can find articles claiming that the 2010 Census is a ploy to tag dissidents' houses for future Hellfire missile strikes.* Since these are the sort of people who would pay $149.00 for several packets of seeds, I think I'll make some PHAT LEWT marketing home phalanx systems.

*The phrase the little chips that know where home is came to mind as I typed this.