Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Leftover Poultry

CD in Play: The Tragically Hip, Trouble at the Henhouse

It has been a while since I listened to The Hip's Trouble at the Henhouse. I burned out on The Hip for a while and was unable to listen to much of their catalogue accept for Day For Night and Phantom Power. Actually, it was my friend Elijah who really assisted that burn out (as he is often quick to point out himself) while we were roommates. He had been listening to The Hip almost nonstop from 1996 through to 1998.I had become sick of The Hip and of Trouble at the Henhouse in particular. Phantom Power was an exception when it was released and I still have a real passion for the last five songs on that album. I have listened to their other albums from time to time over the last decade with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Henhouse, though, has taken me a while to get back to.
Trouble at the Henhouse seems almost universally regarded as The Tragically Hip's weakest album, after their self-titled 1st album released in 1987. Mind you, The Hip have a lot of obstacles to overcome and their "fans" are chief among them. Hip fans tend to have many faults, but there are a small number of their "fans" seem to hate anything the band has done after Road Apples. (1991) They complain endlessly how The Hip have sucked ever since and show up at every show they play to bitch about how they played too much new stuff. I last saw The Hip in 1998. I haven't like an album since Phantom Power so I haven't bothered going to the shows. (In there lies a hint for some people)
Reviewers haven't been overly kind to Henhouse, take Stephen Thomas Erlewine's review for I think the Hip's reviews have always been unfair or inaccurate since the band released the very well-received Fully Completely in 1993. Erlewine, for instance, states that Henhouse, "is a set of professional, but rarely exciting, anthemic hard rock that occasionally dips into pedestrian bar-band boogie." Fully Completely is best described as anthemic hard rock, while the bands earlier output often falls under the banner of bar-band boogie. The only one song on Henhouse could possibly qualify as bar-band boogie and that is the lacklustre "Coconut Cream" - but even then...
Day For Night (1995) was an unpopular turn for the band in certain respects and many had hoped the band would return to their older sound from before. It's reception was a bit cool but I think criticism was stifled for the most part. Henhouse carried what The Hip had done with Day For Night further and, I think, it bore the brunt of fan dissatisfaction.
I think the album deserves another listen. Songs like "Gift Shop", "Springtime in Vienna", "Don't Wake Daddy", "Flamenco", the decidedly unanthemic drive of "700ft Ceiling", "Apartment Song", "Sherpa" and "Put it Off" are fairly strong songs - or least interesting songs - in their own right. That is 75-80% of the album right there. Gord Downey is an interesting writer and this album showcases some of his more interesting lyrics.
Listening to the album on my stereo and on my headphones in transit on the bus and Skytrain has reawakened me to just how well Henhouse has stood up in the 12 years since its release. It certainly wasn't looking forward to the future nor was it longing for the past. And while Henhouse was certainly and album of the moment for the Hip, it is anything but a creature of its day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Civil Society

CD in Play: Sonic Youth, Murray Street

There's been a lot of to-do in the local media lately about the"Civil Society". Our Lord Mayor, Sam Sullivan, (perhaps one of the worst mayor's this city has seen in a while) has been droning on about about making Vancouver a kinder, gentler more respectful place to live. It's a big job and so far all we have heard is rhetoric.
A columnist in this weekend's Province has stated that Vancouver is one of the coldest cities he has ever lived in. People are polite, they'll hold a door open for you but are ever so afraid of anyone they don't know making eye contact with them - let alone speak to them. It is true and I can attest to that bot as someone who has attempted to converse with strangers and as someone with whom strangers have tried to converse. We are cold and reserved and uncomfortable with one another. It's a hell of a city to live in and today it just became a hell of a lot worse in my opinion.
I was just walking home from the bus stop. It is about a three or four minute walk to my place. I have to walk in between some of the other units in the Co-Op to get by - a long narrow walkway. There are people who get off and walk the same way as me and I see them often. We never speak. I had a coffee at work before I left and it wasn't sitting well at all. About 50 feet from the bus stop I convulse and spew out bile. Doubled over, I was trying to spit and to breathe as it felt as though my trachea has closed. I was choking.
There is a woman who often shares the path with me at this time. She was behind me today. She walked by and hurried past very quickly as I was choking. Didn't even stop or look back. No offer to call 911. Nothing. It was an isolated area, relatively speaking. The chances of getting help apart from her weren't so hot unless someone was at their window. I am so angry and the language I want to use you don't want to read. What I want to say to her isn't pleasant. And I am going to say something to her. My throat still burns from the bile.
I may be uncomfortable with strangers, but I would never pass one by in distress. And it isn't even that I have my Level 2 First Aid, I'd have stopped for someone in my position just because.
Vancouver has a long way to go before it can call itself civil.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

In the Name of the `Slaw

CD in Play: The Tragically Hip, Trouble at the Henhouse

It is Pascha today, or Eastern Orthodox Easter. I'm not Orthodox. I didn't attend services for Pascha, but I am going to the Paschal feast. However, I am not going as a mooching freeloader. I am bringing coleslaw that I made today. I have eaten periodically at an El Salvadoran place on Commercial Drive and they serve a coleslaw with their pupusas that I love. It took a Jamie Oliver show on onions, though, for me to clue in how I might make it. It isn't exact by any means, but I think I have come up with something pretty good.

  • Shave or grate an onion. I used a Spanish onion.
  • Place prepared onion in bowl, add enough white balsamic vinegar to soak the onions in.
  • Add a pinch of smoked paprika, coarse salt to taste and mix it in.
  • Let the onions stand for the next five minutes and add diced bell peppers.
  • Chop up your cabbage. I used green and purple. Add fresh, chopped basil leaves.
  • Mix cabbage and onions and peppers.
I had planned to add some Stilton but it seems someone went and ate it all. But then maybe a cheese would be going too far taste wise? Anyhow, try it out and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Random, Assorted, Desultory Pointlessness

CD in Play: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!

Food. Pie in Particular.

I was talking to a co-worker this morning that I had a hankering for a something particularly English: steak and kidney pie. He's originally from Taiwan, so he had no clue that the English could even come up with such a thing. I mentioned who kidney isn't that popular (for a host of reasons) and that it had been replaced by mushrooms. Steak and mushroom pie isn't bad at all, but it lacks that certain something that steak and kidney has. Anyhow, my co-worker said he'd rather have steak and lobster and that got me thinking about something that could be a culinary triumph or a gastronomical nightmare.
I have already received one nay from my friend Elijah, but I think the steak and lobster pie has potential if done right. Might not be able to do it with lobster , maybe langostino? The idea though is to have the steak seared quickly and blackened, but quite bloody inside. The lobster should similarly be undercooked. The idea is to have the steak no more than medium and the lobster not overcooked once the pie is ready to eat. (medium rare would be capitol) If possible, the pie crust and shell should be baked ahead of time. Instead of gravy (which you get in steak and kidney/mushroom pie) it should be a sort of buttery, creamy sauce.
Not at all healthy, but I think it should be delicious. Someone asked me about onions or other vegetables, but I think their flavours might obscure the flavour of the lobster. Who knows, surf and turf pie could be a hit. The rub is - how the hell do you actually cook something like this?

Latin America as Counterbalance

Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega have signaled a left turn for Central and South America. North America has sat up and taken notice. As North Americans have swung far to the right, Central and South Americans have been moving away from it. Another name can be added to that list, Fernando Lugo, the recently elected president of Paraguay. A former Catholic bishop, Lugo has helped to put an end to Paraguay's 60 year dictatorship under the Colorado Party.
The business world may despair at a socialist taking over the reigns, but they always have Colombia. The government and the cartels in Colombia are apparently quite willing to kill labour organisers and silence dissent. Whenever Western businessmen state that a country has a good climate for investment it is usually because the locals are getting the shit kicked out of them.
As for Latin America's leftist tendencies, we'll see how long that keeps up now that Chavez cannot run again for election. Once Fidel Castro is dead we'll see whether or not his brother and the rest of his cohorts take Cuba into the waiting arms of Western interests and exploitation.

Work, Work, Work

Good Lord am I bored. There are people who believe that I am being foolish by going back to school to get my degree and teaching certificate. These people believe I should just buckle down, get a decent job and start saving for retirement. I just cannot do that - I won't accept that.
Since leaving university the first time on 1998 I have endured long bouts of unemployment and crappy, unfulfilling jobs - soul-crushing jobs in some cases. I got into my current job because it looked like a great jump point into better employment. In turn, I could use that employment to pay down my student loans and return to school. But here I am still making a pittance without so much as a real person contacting me for an interview. I have good references, especially from the company I am with and the contract that they have me at. So why no calls?
I haven't a clue why I cannot get ahead here, except that it is the way it goes with me and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. It is where I am from. I am geographically at home here, but I just can't catch the break I am looking for here. So I am moving on, as many of you know. I tried to make it work but it just won't happen. Hard to plan for a retirement that may never happen when you are constantly trying to make ends meet.
As I said earlier, I am bored. Finals are over and the students are gone. Profs are off. Facilities has a tonne of work to do, but I am just watching the clock trying hard to stay motivated so I don't end up getting caught with my pants down. How could anyone do this for the rest of their lives? It took a while for me to figure things out for myself. I may end up having to work past the age of 65, but the way things are shaping up most of my generation probably will anyway. So why not shift gears and find a place where I can ride it out doing something I enjoy, something I am good at?

Democratic Race in Brief

Democrats in Pennsylvannia took one step closer to electing John McCain as president by handing Hilary Clinton the primary in that state. Clinton, who recently threatened to totally obliterate Iran if they attack Israel, is the opponent of choice for the McCain camp. I remain unconvinced about Barack Obama, as I generally mistrust anyone who seeks power these days. However, Obama probably has the best chances against McCain.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mao's Monster

CD in Play: Miles Davis, Dark Magus (Disc 1)

The China Syndrome
"Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." - CCP slogan for the Hundred Flowers Campaign, in which dialogue and criticism on the direction of China was encouraged in order to root out persecute and silence dissenters..

According to 24hrs, one of their columnists, Bill Tieleman, received three death threats after criticizing China's track record on human rights in his column. I don't make a point of reading 24hrs all that often, so I didn't read the offending column for myself until just now. Tieleman calls for a boycott China altogether citing their treatment of dissidents inside China, their efforts to isolate and bully Taiwan, how they engage in intimidation of any organization that might be able to help Taiwan, (even on a largely non-political level) and their persistent and unrelenting efforts to quash Tibet. For this he received three emails all originating from the same account within China telling him, "I must kill you and your family."
I blame Mao Zedong and his crackpot, dehumanizing domination of China. I think through programmes like the Hundred Flowers Campaign, Destruction of the Four Olds, and the Cultural Revolution the Cult of Mao has given way to a Cult of China. (in the near future we might be able to throw Ba rong ba chi into that list) Mao sought to quash dissent and critical thought. That Chinese people can stand by and support a country as horrifically unjust as China is sign of just how successful his programmes were to that end. (if not any other end) That Chinese people living in Canada can be so blindly patriotic to a country like China - in the midst of everything that they have here - is downright scary.
I stand by Tieleman's call for a boycott. It is time for us to put aside the concerns about trade and keeping China happy and just simply say, "no more." China represents the undoing of everything good that has been achieved in the West. China has embraced the very worst of Communism and the very worst of Capitalism to meld them into something quite reprehensible: Fascism. It has been said that China is the future, and from where I stand that future is looking remarkably bleak.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who'd uh Thunk it?

CD in Play: Whole New Brian but soon to be The Dollar Store Jesus

The last bastion of feudalism in Europe has just abolished its fiefdom. The island of Sark, one of the Channel Islands and a Crown Dependency of the British Crown, has made the transition to democracy in order to meet the EU's Convention on Human Rights. John Michael Beaumont is the last Seigneur du Sark and the island is headed to elections to be held in December of this year.
Sark is fascinating place. They have abolished tracks and cars from the island and a Norman dialect is still spoken by some of the older islanders. The island survived Nazi occupation and an attempted one man coup in the form of an unemployed French nuclear physicist with and automatic weapon in 1991.
If I actually make it over to the UK to teach, I am definitely visiting this place. Admittedly, though, I'd like to have actually visited it under feudalism.

Coffee, You are My Opiate

CD in Play: Whole New Brain

Coffee, I have been delinquent in my addiction this weekend and I am sorry. I have paid the price for my faithlessness. My mind and body paid the price in discomfort and aching pain. But I have made amends, greatest of beverages. In just two sips and two minutes the pain and lethargy had left. By the time I had finished my cup I new that I was truly human once again. How could I have thought that life was worth living without you? I am sorry. Truly, madly, deeply.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Silly Nature

Song stuck in my head: Some bass line Trent tried to get me to play ages ago. (but with a better beat)

So I was walking to the bus stop this morning and I heard this sound that sort of reminded me of the sound an old German MG-42 in short bursts. It turned out it was (or least what I think was) a Red Shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker. It was sitting on top of light in the Co-Op that I am staying in. It was a crisp morning and no doubt the bird found the flat box top of the light a warm place to rest. And where there is warmth there will also be insects to eat. Right? Wrong in this case, obviously, but tell that to the woodpecker. Its mate was on the telephone poll trying its luck there, but I suspect it may have been eyeballing the transformers as well.
A pretty good example ho human domination over the environment just isn't good for the planet's other inhabitants.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

So when do I get my monkey?

Song in my head: See the post below

It's a couple's world and let no one tell you otherwise. I have been looking to see what kind of places being listed in Saskatoon. Prices are definitely higher than expected, but still no where near Vancouver's insanity - although some people are clearly giving it the old college try. (the 515 sq foot place going $890 a month, for instance) There are people I know who drop hints that this is why I need a girlfriend or "partner". (which gets into something else)
I am not an easy guy to be with, ask most any woman I have ever been around. Even Geosomin might agree and we've never been romantically interested in one another at all. (perhaps the only woman I have ever been friends with I can say that about) My relations with woman are disasters. Between my parents conflicting neuroses on the subject (hi Mum) I think I may have been doomed by my genes and upbringing.
My Mum was quite obsessed with teen pregnancy and very paranoid on the subject of women if it ever came to me asking for her for pointers on women. Her own parents were quite uptight and proper Edwardians on the subject, "Sex and having babies is hell and don't you have anything to do with it!" I should point out that they were staunch Communists. I remember once how she flew into a tizzy when I mentioned asking a girl out. Never mentioned it again. She was never comfortable with the subject.
My Dad, his brother and their father have had really bad tastes in women. My paternal Grandmother could be quite the nag and battleaxe. She was great with me, because I was her only grandson, but with the other three? Oi... My uncle's wives were and are real pistols too, especially his current white-trash, hell-spawned she-devil. My Dad has been with some good women. I love my Mum, but they both would have been better off without each other. The woman after my Mum was great - bloody fantastic actually. But it was not to be. He left her for his own hell-spawned, whirlwind-in-the-sack, she-devil and stuck it out with said she-devil for seven years. It has been variations on that ever since
I always seem to become interested in the wrong women, so it may be best for me to stay single. Hard though, because coupled friends begin forgetting about you as they drift off and do couply things, particularly with other couples. And when other couples are introduced into your friends' social circles, those new friends seldom seem comfortable with the odd man out. Single people are defective in some way. Single people who are terrible with the opposite sex must be so because they haven't found the right "partner" yet. Righ?
I hate the term "partner". It is cold and passionless and very condescending. I'm not gay and do not want a "partner". I can in no way picture myself snuggling up with another man for the night. Going shopping together as a couple. Planning lives together, etc. It isn't for me. It is alien. However, for some dull souls (my Dad's wife, my uncle's wife) me being gay would put their questions to rest. Everyone needs a nice comfortable box they can be placed in for easy reference and categorisation. People like me not being gay seems to make some people - particularly some straight women -very uncomfortable. Most irksome.
Of course, the way some people look at coupling they may as well refer to it as a partnership. They move in together for pragmatic reasons: it is cheaper, economically feasible. They are giving the relationship a trial period, a test drive to marriage. Aside from my religious inclinations on the subject, allow me to say that the practical reasons are all bullshit. Marriage changes a relationship no matter how long you have been together - and the divorce statistics would seem to prove that one. I also have first hand observations.
One friend and his wife decided to move in together first. It was the smart and sensible thing to do. Only stupid people, ill-educated ignorami, moralisers, fearful religious dogmatists married one another before living together first. After one year he was expressing his doubts about the relationship and she was none too happy with him either. I was quite frank with him and told him that I'd loose respect for him if he divorced her. We had talked about this before they even moved in together and I warned him back then. They stuck it out over a rough road at times, but now they see each other as an integral part of themselves. But too many people out there just give up when things get tougher than expected. When a "trial" relationship ends, you still end up with the same hassles of a divorce. They rarely seem to end in an easy parting of the ways.
If you love each other, make a go of it. Put in the effort. You are lucky, you dumb fucking bastards, if you have found someone who feels about you the way you feel about them. I never have. If you don't love someone don't live with them. Resentment festers and casual disregard becomes commonplace. And frankly, who needs that in their lives? Not me. Make a go of it, stop second guessing. Tough it out and things will improve if you want them too.
It isn't that I couldn't have been married or living with a woman now, it is that I don't just want to be with someone for the sake being with them. I won't use a woman for our own (and specifically my) financial security.

The Beatles - Everybody's Got Something to Hide

This song has also been on my mind a lot of late. What has John Lennon done to me?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Food and Booze

CD in Play: Tortoise, Standards

Partly inspired by the Potlikker blog and just by other stuff happening in my life, I have been experimenting a bit in the kitchen. I'm staying with my Dad until I move to Saskatoon in a couple of months. My ex-landlady claimed to be allergic to garlic and would complain that my cooking with it was causing her asthma to flare up. So, basically, I haven't been able to cook with garlic much over the past while and am catching up.
Tomorrow my Dad plans to cook black cod (which is actually sablefish in this case) so I have been helping him to figure out different ways of cooking it. I think we may sear it and then cook it in either sherry or saki mixed with a commercial manuka honey that I picked up. For salt, my Dad is leaning towards soya sauce, but I am not so sure. Maybe tamari, but I think I'd rather rub the fish in kosher salt or something like that.
Also at some point I plan to soak pearl onions in port. If I can get fresh figs I may just soak those in wine. I also want to take some meat and marinate it in a martini. I did this 10 years ago and it goes great with items for the BBQ. (steak and lamb in particular) For one steak I used approximately 2 ounces gin (preferably one with fragrant botanicals) and then used a liberal amount of vermouth, maybe an ounce in its own right. I like "bruised" martinis* so I also use and ounce or two of olive brine. Marinate overnight and barbecue the next day. Friends might remember this as "Martini'd Beef".
It just occurred to me that you could probably do variations such as "Gibson Chicken" and use the brine from pickled onions. Then there might be "Manhattan Pork", although I would use real cherry instead of Marciano. Don't drink your booze - cook with it.

* A proper Bruised Martini is 2-3 ounces gin, a dash of vermouth and a dash of olive brine for colour and flavour. Experiment with the olives, though most places that serve it use regular green olives or the large Sicilian ones. I think I might try it with kalamata olives sometime.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sherrying the Whisky

Song in Play: Still "Mind Games" by John Lennon (but it is no longer just in my head)

I just revived a drink I mixed for the first time almost a decade ago. I call it a Sidhe, (shee) which is Gaelic for a supernatural being comparable to faeries or elves. Originally it was Jameson's mixed with some brand of Oloroso cream sherry - 3/4 an ounce of whiskey to 1/3 sherry. I don't have either on hand right now so I had to make due.
My Dad mistakenly thought that his wife likes sherry so I get the bottle instead. (Harvey;s Bristol Cream this time) I typically use sherry to steam cook fish or make rich sauces. (try it in a tomato sauce sometime - tomato and cream if you really want to get decadent. COOK WITH BOOZE!!!) The only whisky I have on hand is a decent, low cost blend from Scotland called Ailsa Craig. (named after this place) I'd never try this drink with a single malt or a special blend like Poit Dhubh (potch goo) or Te Bheag. (chay vek) At any rate, it works pretty well. Jameson is a better match since it is aged in sherry casks, but this isn't bad. I may also have added Angostura bitters to it as well, but that is for tomorrow night since I usually try to avoid imbibing on a work night.
Now when Geo makes those Guinness gingerbread cookies...

Playing the Mind Guerilla

Song Stuck in my Head: "Mind Games" by John Lennon

A pertinent song for today. When I quit my job here I can go into a bit more detail, (Privacy Act issues in play here) but let it be sufficient to say that I currently have two to three different factions demanding my loyalty. Really, there is no question of where my loyalty lies, just an extraordinary sense of disappointment in the person(s) trying to use my good will to their own advantage. Also a disappointment in just how severely said person(s) have misjudged my character and personal level of intelligence/shrewdness.
Said person(s) had been on my resume as a reference, but I will have to remember to strike them off of it today when I get home. For John Lennon "Yes" may very have been the appropriate answer, but for me - weighing my soul power on the karmic wheel- (to paraphrase the lyrics) it had to be "No".

Mind Games - John Lennon

See the post above.