Friday, January 20, 2017

Random Notes from a Crank

I've been to Steak-n-Shake and other such places where milk shakes and malts are provided. People get these fancy shakes with all kinds of flavorings. But I prefer just a solid, standard vanilla malt. Simple, delicious, and straightforward. 

Since Jon Stewart left The Daily Show, I haven't really watched the show much, but now I've started watching it regularly. I'm starting to really like Trevor Noah. 

Here's a recent clip about the moron Moscow Don tapped to be the Secretary of Education: "Trevor Noah Eviscerates Betsy DeVos Over Her Confirmation Hearing." Check it out. 

This article from Slate, "Donald Trump Is Unpopular, and So Is the GOP Agenda," provides some solace. But we're going to have deal with Moscow Don's nonsense for four @#$%ing years. 

Music Friday: "I Wanna Be Sedated"

What a horrible day. 

As I drove to work this morning, this song was playing on the radio. 

How fitting. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Random Notes from a Crank

I'm close to a decade late, but I've started watching Breaking Bad. I'm currently in season 2. 

A new show I've gotten into is FX's Taboo. At times I have a hard time clearly understanding the dialogue because it's set in London circa 1814. Here is Variety's initial take on the series. 

The esteemed Bill Moyers has some good advice on some certain news outlets to follow and read in "10 Investigative Reporting Outlets to Follow." I'm a fan of ProPublica, Mother Jones, and Real Clear Investigations.  

Since a few states have legalized marijuana and many have legalized medical marijuana, a recent article by Consumer Reports is notable. "Marijuana: Good for You or Dangerous?" distills a review by the National Academy of Sciences. More research is needed, but this conclusion in the article, "evidence that cannabis use will lead a person to smoke or trigger a change in their rates or patterns of other drug use, legal or illegal, was limited," does nothing to dispel people from talking about it as a "gateway drug."  

If you're on Twitter, I'm on there now: @Quintilian376

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Random Notes from a Crank

Ta-Nehisi Coates is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. "My President Was Black" is fitting take on President Obama. And as Coates deftly analyzes, "Pointing to citizens who voted for both Obama and Trump does not disprove racism; it evinces it. To secure the White House, Obama needed to be a Harvard-trained lawyer with decade of political experience and an incredible gift for speaking to cross-sections of the country; Donald Trump needed only money and white bluster."

Here's yet another reason why we should start calling the president-elect "Moscow Don": "Experts Say Trump's 'Policies' Dovetail with What Vladimir Put Would Like for Russia." 

I was on Amazon yesterday contemplating whether I wanted to buy a package of 1000 moist towelettes for thirteen bucks. Those things are helpful. 

I made some tater tot casserole this weekend. It was outstanding. 

I keep forgetting to do a "Sunday Hangover" post about the national championship. It's a difficult game to write about. For me at least. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Music Friday: "Good to Be Back Home" & "Ain't It a Sin"

I first heard this guy when watching an episode of Luke Cage. He was playing at Cottonmouth's club. 

I got his album yesterday and really dig it. 

Of course, I'm late to the party. Charles Bradley has been doing his thing for quite some time. 

Unfortunately, as his website notes, he had to cancel his recent tour because a cancerous tumor found in his stomach. I hope he beats it and gets back to creating and disseminating his art. 

Here are a couple of songs from the album he put out last year. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Music Friday: "Ain't No Man"

I finally got around to picking up the Avett Brothers album that came out last year. 

Many of the Amazon reviewers opined that this was the band's best album. I disagree. It's a decent offering, but I can think of at least two or three albums that I like better than this one. 

And because I've become even more intolerant of Christian references, some of the lines in the lyrics turn me off. 

Regardless, here's the opening song of the album. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Random Notes from a Crank

I had hoped that with the retirements of Brett Favre and Peyton Manning that I wouldn't have to see them on commercials as much. Unfortunately, those two bozos are shilling for all kinds of products. How disappointing.

As someone who consistently has to endure people equating "grammar" with "writing," Doug Hesse's article, "We Know What Works in Composition," should be spread to others as liberally as possible.  

One of the books Santa brought me is Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. It's a helpful, powerful, eye-opening history book that is accessible to most readers. Dunbar-Ortiz puts together strains of thought and incidents I had suspected fit together, but I never put together. Her "settler colonialism" thesis makes sense and coheres with how settlers squatted on and stole Indian land and waged genocidal "irregular war" against Native American tribes. In the recent chapter I just read, she explains why the 2nd Amendment was so crucial for taking indigenous peoples' land because without a large standing army, the military relied on volunteer militias to kill natives. This book pairs nicely with Zinn's A Peoples' History of the United States

One of my early birthday gifts was Squirrel Solutions Seed Saver 200. I got it today and filled it up with cracked corn. I'm hoping I see more blue jays and woodpeckers with that seed. My other bird feeder was consistently being knocked down those furry rodent bastards, and this new feeder has a spring within it that covers the feed holes once the squirrel puts its weight on it. I haven't witnessed the feeder schooling a squirrel yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Knock on wood.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Chicken-Based Immunity Soup

Like I've done before, I made some poultry stock. 

Ingredients, Part I

I used these ingredients:
  • 1 carcass of a chicken
  • 1 turkey neck
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed

I covered all that with water, got it up to a simmer, and let it ride for approximately four hours while skimming off the goopiness off the top from time to time. I then strained the ingredients into a pot and transferred the stock to a stock pot. 

Ingredients, Part II
Here are the ingredients post-stock making:
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinley
  • 5 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 can of kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 package of baby bella mushrooms, chopped thickly
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 package of chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with chilies
  • Olive oil
  • Smidge of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I put olive oil into a cast iron skillet and cooked the onion, carrot, and celery till softened. I then added the garlic and mushrooms for a couple of minutes and transferred that all into the soup pot. 

Adding a bit more olive oil to the skillet, I browned the chicken and added some good dollops of the stock, so the meat doesn't get too dry. Once the chicken was done, I transferred that into the pot and added the spinach, beans, and tomatoes with chilies. Simmer for 10-20 minutes and serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

I made the soup but forget to use my bag of spinach, so the next time I make this I'll add in either spinach or kale. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sunday Hangover: Washington

I had a bad feeling about this game before it was played yesterday afternoon. 

The Huskies scoring first didn't make me feel any better. 

But that was Washington's only score in the game, and as usual the Tide defense provided a stalwart effort in the win, limiting the impressive Husky offense to only 197 total net yards. 

Washington has one heck of a defense, so it took Alabama a while to get its stuff together. If you would have told me that Ridley caught only one pass in the game and Stewart caught zero passes, I would have been sure that the Tide lost the game. 

Bo Scarbrough had a school bowl record in rushing yards with 180 net yards. He had two outstanding TD runs, one of which was for 68 yards. 

The lack of offense in the passing game is major concern, however, as the Tide readies itself to take on Clemson on Monday, Jan. 9. 

Clemson looked really good against Ohio State. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Music Friday: "Long December"

It's been a long December, and next year probably won't be better than the last. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Tensomething Albums of 2016

It's that time of the year again.

Like I did in 2010201120122013, 2014, and 2015, I'm providing my top ten albums that came out this year. After the top ten, there's a list of albums that deserve honorable mention. 

In the past, I've usually had twentysome albums on this list, but this year I didn't buy as much music as I usually do. It was not some kind of concerted effort to save cash. Rather, from my perspective, this was a down year for my musical tastes. Maybe I'm missing something. 

So if there are other albums you would recommend that came out in 2016, please let me know in the comments section.

1. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Mr. Simpson had a tough draw trying to follow up Metamodern Sounds in Country. But he did so in an excellent fashion. At first listen, I was surprised by all the horns and strings. After the second or third listen, I was addicted. It's a stunning album with a strong Americana backbone. From the rocking "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)" to the poignant "Breakers Roar," from the standard "Keep It Between the Lines" to the wonderful cover of "In Bloom," this is just a fantastic album. 

Favorite Songs: "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)," "Keep It Between the Lines," "In Bloom," and "Sea Stories"

2. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Let Me Get By

I'd really like to see this humungous band in concert because I don't think their albums give a person a full realization of how good this band really is. Tedeschi's voice sounds great as ever, and the arrangements are spot on. Just another strong TTB album for our listening pleasure. 

Favorite Songs: "Laugh About It," "Don't Know What It Means," "Let Me Get By," and "Crying Over You"

3. Drive-By Tuckers, American Band

I liked English Oceans, and I like this offering a lot too. There was all kinds of press touting this album as the band's best in a long time. I don't know about that. The lyrics and topics on a number of tunes certainly got the attention of people because of what was a rhetorical shitfest of an election, one that saw a second coming of George Wallace (crossed with P.T. Barnum) winning the presidency. Scary times and an album with political lyrics. Dislike the former--enjoy the latter. 

Favorite Songs: "Ramon Casiano," "Guns of Umpqua," "Sun Don't Shine," "Ever South," and "What It Means"  

4. Dawes, We're All Gonna Die

Dawes is a band that has filled the musical hole that R.E.M. once occupied. I wouldn't compare the band's sound and lyrics to that hallowed band. Dawes is more straightforward, and the band's lyrics are understandable--not the language poetry Stipe spun. Dawes is a rock band with a slight pop sensibility. We're All Gonna Die is another solid offering from these dudes. The lyrics of "Quitter" might be my favorite lyrics of the year. 

Favorite Songs: "Roll with the Punches," "Less Than Five Miles Away," "Picture of a Man," and "Quitter"

5. Metallica, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

To longtime Metallica fans, I don't think any new album will ever live up to the early ones, but this one reminds me of ...And Justice for All. The album has the fellas going back to their speed metal roots. There are some really good arrangements and as usual solid guitar work. For those pining for straightforward metal, this is probably the go-to for 2016. 

Favorite Songs: "Moth into the Flame," "Confusion," "ManUNkind," and "Spit Out the Bone"

6. St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sea of Noise 

These fellows from Birmingham, Alabama followed up their breakthrough debut album quite nicely. Like we saw two years ago, they offer no nonsense soul/R&B. 

Favorite Songs: "Is It Me," "Brain Matter," "Waves," "Midnight on the Earth," and "All I Ever Wonder"

7. Weezer, White Album

I desperately want the 90s back ... in so many different ways. This band is still putting out its alt-rock stylings. There's a lot to be said for just a rock band doing its thing and not getting caught up in some art-house, funhouse shenanigans. Just play something that rocks. And Weezer did that. 

Favorite Songs: "Thank God for Girls," "Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori," "Jacked Up," and "Endless Bummer" 

8. Jack Garratt, Phase

About the last thing you'd think I'd buy is music that could be labeled "electronica." But I saw this guy perform on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and I was impressed. I guess his stuff could be categorized as pop music. He's a Brit. I shut down my prejudices against electronic music and enjoyed the ride. 

Favorite Songs: "Breathe Life," "Weathered," "I Know All What I Do," and "Chemical" 

9. Ben Harper, Call It What It Is

After his fabulous collaboration with Charlie Musselwhite, I was sort of expecting a more bluesy offering. "Call It What It Is" provides that vibe with a obvious political statement: "Call it what it is ~ Murder." This is not one of my favorite Harper albums, but it's worth your time. 

Favorite Songs: "Call It What It Is," "How Dark is Gone," "Shine," and "Dance Like Fire"

10. Luther Dickinson, Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger's Songbook), Vol. I & II

The front man for the North Mississippi Allstars put out his own solo affair with some songs on the album from the NMA canon. The whole affair is stripped down to the basics with a couple of guests. 21 songs on this bad boy. 

Favorite Songs: "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down," "Ain't No Grave," "Highwater (Soldier)," "Ol' Canonball," and "Mayor Langford Birmingham Blues" 

Honorable Mentions

Quaker City Nighthawks, El Astronauta

Elizabeth Cook, Exodus of Venus

Mount Moriah, How to Dance

Bob Mould, Patch the Sky

Amanda Shires, My Piece of Land

Hard Working Americans, Rest in Chaos

Lydia Loveless, Real

Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life

Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent

Music Friday: "Hard Times"

I wish this band would put out a new album soon. I have their first two albums, and they are staples in my music rotation. 

To extend my streak of morose/depressing/angry-song Music Fridays, I offer "Hard Times." 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: V8 Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I got the base of this recipe from Slow Cooker Kitchen on FB, but here's my modification of the recipe.

1 and a half lbs. of stew meat
1 lb. of top round steak
1-2 bags of tiny Yukon Goldish potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1-2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce
2-3 12 oz. cans of low sodium V8 juice
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
Smidge of paprika
Healthy smidge of smoked paprika
Healthy smidge of Penzey's beef roast seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim unnecessary fat off of the meat. Cut the meat into small pieces and place it in a large bowl. Coat the meat with the flour. 

Coat a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and brown the meat over medium-high till it's browned. 

In the meantime dump in the vegetables into the slow cooker. One the meat is browned, transfer it to the crock pot and use some of the V8 to deglaze the pan. Pour the rest of the juice into the slow cooker and add the seasonings. Mix. 

Cook on high for five hours and mix the concoction from time to time. After five hours, add in the mushrooms, set the machine to low, and cook for another hour. 

For me, I will probably use just one bag of potatoes next time I make this and add more carrots. Also, I will possibly use more V8 juice, so the stew is almost like a soup. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Friday: "Chitlins con Carne"

In a world filled with bad news, frustration, and anger, I sometimes reach for music to help me out. 

So here's a classic from Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

As a side note, I will be posting my top ten/twenty albums of 2016 sometime here soon. I may have to limit it to ten because I haven't done as much album buying as I have in previous years. 

Just fyi loyal readers.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

[Belated] Music Friday: "Snow and Lights"

It's that time of the year when I watch TV in my living room with all the lights out except for the lights I have around a dead pine tree in our house. 

No real decent snowfall yet, but we got lights.