Friday, February 27, 2009

Music Friday: "Bread and Water"

Click HERE to watch/listen to the music video for Ryan Bingham's "Bread and Water."

I watched this guy on Austin City Limits a few weeks ago, and I liked his schtick. His sound is sort of a cross between the blues and country (alt-country I guess)--certainly has a distinctive voice.

I guess he was a bull rider for a while, but he started writing music, and that gig turned out much better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Random Thoughts on Music

I was listening to Blind Melon's debut album today, and like other albums and songs out there, certain songs or bands rekindle memories.

When listening to Blind Melon, I recall the Gin Mill, its parties, Anchorman, and brotherhood. "Tones of Home" reminds me of Roy.

Songs from Gun 'n Roses provide multiple memories: "Paradise City" (theme for senior year homecoming), "Patience" (living with Chuck), and of course "Welcome to the Jungle." 

Camper Van Beethoven, R.E.M., and The Replacements remind me of high school. I listened to them a lot.

The Kudzu Kings & Blue Mountain recall Oxford, Mississippi in all of its splendor.

The Drive-By Truckers are quintessential Alabama--"Never Gonna Change."

The Gourds' version of "Gin & Juice" brings back a memory of when I was listening to the song at a stop light on Bryant Drive in Tuscaloosa and I noticed two frat boys in a 4Runner next to me smoking a huge Bob Marley joint. 

And Jay Farrar's "Cahokian" and "Feel Free" remind me of St. Louis because of the references.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I went to a very interesting lecture tonight. Jennifer L. Weber, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kansas, presented a lecture titled, "The Civil War at Home: Abraham Lincoln and the Copperheads."

This Lincoln Bicentenniel Lecture was sponsored by the History department, and her talk was based on her book, Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North

Copperheads were anti-war Democrats in the 1860s. They also were called Butternuts. And they were typically seen as Southern sympathizers who feared large centralized government--republicanism with the lower case r.

Dr. Weber's lecture presented the delicate political game that Lincoln had to play with a whole wing of the Democratic party, a wing that called themselves "Peace Democrats." They thought the Civil War was a horrible idea, and they certainly hated the whole idea of freeing slaves. 

Like a number of historians, Weber stated that if Gen. Sherman hadn't taken Atlanta in September of 1864, Lincoln probably would have lost the election. And the fate of this nation would have vastly different with McClellan as President. 

And there's local history here in Charleston with the Copperheads. The "Charleston Riot" took place on March 28, 1864. If you're interested, Wikipedia actually has a decent entry on it (click HERE) along with  the local paper's story about it (click HERE) and a longer version of what went on if you're really interested (click HERE). 

Having Southern sympathizers in this area of Illinois isn't surprising since white settlers from the South moved into the southern half of the state in the early 1800s. This area of the state was settled by folks from Kentucky, so the references to "corn whiskey" in the linked documents is understandable. People can move out of Kentucky, but you can't take the Kentucky out of the people.

In fact, Charleston was known as a Democrat and Southern town in the county. And Mattoon, Charleston's natural rival still in many ways, was Republican and Yankee by blood. Those party leanings of the towns still kind of hold to this day, but the two parties have changed drastically since 1864.

Music Friday: "One of These Days"

Click HERE for a fine song by one of my favorite bands of the 80s/early 90s, Camper Van Beethoven.

I guess they're back together fourteen years after breaking up. I guess Cracker is no more.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Tapenade

Tapenades are good. Slathering that stuff on some slices of french bread is good eats, people.

Better yet it's an inexpensive but sophisticated sounding appetizer.

So here's what I created recently in a food processor:
1/2 jar of slice green olives with pimentos with some brine for saltiness
1/2 can of medium black olives drained
1 large clove of garlic
roughly 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
dash of kosher salt
cracked black pepper
herbs of your choice (I used Penzey's Herbs de Provence)

Process till finely chopped and spread the stuff on bread. It also works well as a condiment on sandwiches. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Burning Bush

In case you missed it, the comic strip Candorville is mimicking Doonesbury in its presentation of Obama.

In the Doonesbury strip, George W. Bush was symbolized by a tattered helmet of a Roman centurion.

Now in Candorville, President Obama is satirized as a burning bush. Funny stuff.

Click HERE for the strip. 


I was in a store over in Mattoon a week or so ago, and I happened upon this bodacious hot sauce that I first got introduced to at Kalo's Tavern in Oxford, Mississippi. Kalo's is one of few places where I've ever had fried artichokes. Great stuff.

But the hot sauce is Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, "made from sun ripened chiles" and distributed by Huy Fong Foods out of California.

Instead of being a liquid like most hot sauces out there, this stuff is more of a cross between a paste and a liquid. It'll clear your sinuses pretty quickly. "A little dab will do you." 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fun Size

When I was observing graduate students do their work the other day, I noticed in my place of work that someone had brought in some Valentine's Day candy, chocolate that is now described as "fun size."

The term reminds of the great song by Howlin' Wolf where he sings, "I'm built for comfort, not for speed." 

Regardless, the candy makers are ingenious. You reduce the size of the candy bar and market it as "fun," and we all probably eat more than we should. Since they're tiny, we think, "Hey, I can have a couple more of those," and pretty soon you've eaten the equivalent of a couple of candy bars. 

Yes, yes, I know. You folks in the personal responsibility crowd will tell us that it's our personal choice, which it is. But I find it interesting that by reducing the size it might make us eat more.

Researchers have done all kinds of research about serving sizes and how people tend to eat all of the meal regardless of whether it's a gianormous or reasonable amount of food. In fact, there was an experiment where they had people eat soup, and the experimental group's bowls of soup kept refilling through a tube underneath the table. That group kept slurping and slurping because they wanted to get to the bottom of that bowl. 

Fun size, although different than that experiment, challenges the assumption that smaller serving sizes curb overeating.

Music Friday: "Radio Nowhere"

Click HERE for the video of a fairly recent Springsteen song that bemoans the crappy radio choices that Americans have to put up with.

Thankfully, the wonder of the Web allows me listen to KDHX and college radio stations. When I'm in my car though, I'm at the mercy of the generic offerings on the dial. I'm too cheap to get my CD player replaced in my car.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's Back...

In a time of economic recession in a country that's obsessed with sports (the Marxian "opiate of the masses"), it's clear we need change.

But it's change all over again.

The USFL is back in '10. 

Click HERE for details. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Strange St Louis Reference

As I was cleaning out some old files downstairs recently, I came across an old photocopy of a section of the letters of the 18th century American poet William Cullen Bryant. I did a research paper on his work in grad school.

During 1832 he traveled to the "West" at that time. He was going to see his brother who had bought a good bit of land near Jacksonville, IL. After this trip he wrote one of his more famous poems, "The Prairies," based on seeing the central part of the "Prairie State." 

On June 4th he wrote about the Black Hawk War a bit, but on that day he also related that he heard in St. Louis "there had been a commotion of another nature." A prostitute named "Indian Margaret" stabbed a "white man," and the "inhabitants were so exasperated that they rose en masse and attacked all the houses of ill fame in the place, tore down two, set fire to a third, and burned the beds and other furniture in all of them. The black man called Abraham who was the owner of 14 houses of this description having made a fortune in this way, was seized, a barrel of tar was emptied upon him and he was then slipped into a feather bed. The people among whom were some of the most respected inhabitants of the place began the work early in the morning and kept it up until sunset--while the magistrates stood looking on." 

Poor Abraham. He escaped to Canada, and Indian Margaret went to prison, so says Bryant.

But this incident got me to wondering: When was the last instance of tarring and feathering in this country? That practice is one of the most gruesome forms of mob brutality out there. 

Music Friday: "Furr"

Click HERE for the title track of Blitzen Trapper's most recent album.

After listening to their two albums, their work presents an inviting mix of genres, and they seem to have a variety of musical influences. Many people describe them as an indy folk band. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One Day Away

For college football junkies such as myself, once the season ends it's not over. Not at all.

It's recruiting season, folks. And because recruiting talented student-athletes is the lifeblood of any college football program, I watch the commitments like the soap opera it is.

The rivalry between Alabama and LSU already got amplified once Coach Saban went to T-Town. But when the two schools compete for the same recruits, that turns it up a notch.

Click HERE for an article by Stewart Mandel of SI about the Alabama-LSU rivalry.

Signing Day is tomorrow.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Sausage and Bean Soup

A while ago I had picked up about two pounds of pork sausage from a meat market on the western edge of Mattoon, and I was trying to figure out a use for it. It was one of those deals where you buy a foodstuff you think you'll use, and then you get it home and think, "So how am I going to use two pounds of this rope sausage?"

So, since it's winter, I made soup.

Here are the ingredients:
1 lb. of pork sausage, cut into medallions
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 can navy beans, drained
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 yellow onion, julienned
2 carrots, chopped thinly
1 stalk of celery, chopped thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef stock
4 cups of water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (Penzey's)
2 tablespoons Bouqet Garni (Penzey's)
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

First cut up the sausage into rounds and brown them on both sides. After removing the sausage and letting them drain on paper towels, deglaze your pot (I used my cast iron dutch oven) with the beef stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape off the porcine goodness at the bottom of the pot.

Next, add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook for them on medium-high for five minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2-4 minutes. Add the water, garlic, sausage medallions, beans, and herbs and spices and cook for approximately an hour.

The sausage I used was mild, but spicy Italian sausage or andouille would work well too.