Friday, April 30, 2010

Music Friday: "High Cost of Living"

Back when I was pretty young, I liked country music. Heck, I remember having a Greatest Hits album of Mel Tillis. But as grew older, I got interested in classic rock icons like The Who, the Beatles, The Doors, Neil Young, and The Rolling Stones, et al., and then I got into "alternative" rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, and finally "alt country" (however you define that genre) much later on.

Country music faded from my musical consciousness because there didn't seem to be anyone really making all that interesting stuff in that genre except for maybe Steve Earle, a man with his share of demons and ex-wives. And where I grew up, northern Iowa, isn't exactly a hotbed of country music. I remember as a kid when we visited relatives over in northwest Iowa: our family went to a dance where the primary music played was polka music. That's right, polkas. "Roll Out the Barrel," accordions, and all that stuff. And where and when I went to high school, hard rock and metal ruled.

And now there's that pop country crap dominating the airwaves that connoisseurs of true country music loathe. If I'm going to listen to country, it's going to be someone like Cash, Waylon, Merle, Shooter Jennings, Willie, Hank Williams Sr., Robert Earl Keen James McMurtry, and I have to admit I like the Dixie Chicks. And there's a guy I recently discovered reading Rolling Stone as my kids got their haircuts. Two days after I read the article, I watched him perform at Farm-Aid 2009 via one of our satellite TV channels.

The guy I'm referring to is Jamey Johnson, and he does interesting work. I can't say I'm crazy about every song on his album, That Lonesome Song, but there are some real gems on it. "High Cost of Living" is one of those gems.

Click HERE watch him talk about his album some and then play the song.

Here's a portion of the lyrics:
That Southern Baptist parking lot is where I'd go to smoke my pot,
Sit there in pickup truck and pray.
And staring at that giant cross just reminded me that I was lost.
And it just never seemed to point the way.

As soon as Jesus turned his back, I'd find my way across the track,
Lookin' just to score another deal.
With my back against that damn eight ball,
I didn't have to think or talk or feel.

My life was just an old routine.
Every day the same damn thing.
I couldn't even tell I was alive.
I tell you the high cost of livin'
Ain't nothing like the cost of livin' high.

As one of my friends likes to say when he inveighs against pop country, he wants to hear about "real people and real problems."

Jamey Johnson will give that to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Wilted Spinach

Some of the Savoy spinach in my garden is now ready for eating. Last growing season, I planted kale and had lots of it. I'll plant that eventually, but spinach grows best early in the spring, and, man, fresh spinach is really good eats.

Here's one of the most basic recipes out there ~ and one of the best.

A bunch of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons (roughly) of olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic minced
Smidge of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil, garlic, and pepper flakes to medium or medium-low heat in a large pan. After the oil is brought up to that level, drop in the spinach in small waves until it sucks up the olive oil and garlicky goodness. Salt and pepper to taste. I also plan to play around with using chopped onion or shallots in this basic recipe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tall Boys

Just when I can't admire the beauty of Schlitz any more, I gain more knowledge about this wonderful beer that now is in regional circulation in its classic 60s recipe.

As related in the article, "Schlitz 'Tall Boys' Make a Comeback" (Click HERE to read it), the reformulated formula for Schlitz it now also being conveyed in helpful 16 oz. forms. Nothing of this 12 oz. shit.

The odd and somewhat troubling aspect of this marketing gambit you might have noticed if you read the article is that the original tall boy from Schlitz was 24 oz. while the retro version rolled out now is 16 oz. What gives? I guess "tall boys" are commonly known as being 16 oz. while the 24 oz. can (convenience store special) is affectionately known by some as "Two by Fours." But if the original Schlitz Tall Boy was 24 oz., why the hell is the company literally and symbolically downshifting to 16 oz.?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lurching Toward Culinary Talent: (French) Onion Soup

I don't have a list of ingredients like I usually do since the boy and I worked from the recipe in Joy of Cooking for French Onion Soup.

The only real variation I made is that I added red pepper flakes and marjoram to complement the thyme called for in the recipe.

Wait, I guess I did go off the reservation in one way though. Instead of using two tablespoons of cognac that the recipe asks for, I went the cheap route as is my fashion. Christian Brothers brandy did the job just fine, and I got to "buy 'Merican" instead of using some overrated French brandy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Music Friday: "Debaser"

If there is a quintessential late 80s/early 90s alternative band, the Pixies has to be one. There are others of course. But although many of the band's lyrics defy easy meaning and the type of storytelling I now seem to crave as a music listener, they're a hell of a band.

Click HERE to watch some oldsters play some good alternative music.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Queso Blanco Egg Muffin

I don't know why I haven't thought of doing this before.

The Ingredients:
One egg
2-4 tablespoons of leftover spicy cheese dip from your local Mexican restaurant
1 English muffin
smidge of Salsa seasoning

This is about a simple as it gets. You toast the English muffin, reheat the queso blanco, and fry an egg. Some type of Salsa type seasoning is in order, but I use one of Mrs. Nasty's favorites, Penzey's Salsa Salad Seasoning. Cook the egg to how you like it, place the egg to straddle the two halves of the muffin, and pour the cheese dip over the egg.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stay Positive: Muttley

I haven't done a Stay Positive post in a good while, but since I'm enjoying Boomerang via DirectTV, I thought I'd provide a cartoon character I've always liked.

And, yes, I still watch cartoons. I have two kids, so via the glory of Boomerang I'm rediscovering old cartoons that connect to my childhood.

In the mornings before I take my daughter to kindergarten and my son to daycare, we've been watching Wacky Races lately. As we watched this morning, Hannah commented that "she really likes that dog who has that funny laugh." So did I when I was a kid, and I still like Muttley, the sidekick to Dick Dastardly. Of course, since Hannah mentioned she liked the dog, then Quinn had to chime in and say, "I like that dog too."

I don't know what it says about us that we like a villain, albeit a dog villain, in a cartoon. I guess I'll leave that to be examined if I ever go into counseling for my troubled soul.

But cheers to enjoying old cartoons and enjoying "bad" characters in shows.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Music Friday: "The Wig He Made Her Wear"

I just got the new Drive-By Truckers album, and this song is one that stands out. As Patterson Hood relates in the liner notes, the song is about a homicide of prominent preacher in Selmer, Tennessee.

Click HERE to listen to the song via the album with no visual action.

Or click HERE to watch a performance of the song along with "Drag the Lake, Charlie." Fair warning: this link doesn't have the greatest sound quality.

Overall, I like the new album. It has lots of Patterson Hood songs with Cooley and Shonna songs thrown in. The new album, The Big To-Do, seems more cohesive than the last album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark. That album has some great songs on it, but then there are some serious dogs on Brighter...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last Lecture Series

As probably many universities are doing now, the University of Alabama is doing one of those last lecture series. At UA, students submit votes on which professor they want to deliver a lecture, and that person presents at the end of the spring. This year's winner is a Professor of History who specializes in the antebellum period. Click HERE for a short PR blurb from the university if you're interested.

I really like this idea, especially how a person is selected by students. But there is a herd mentality that goes on with colleges and universities. The "one book ~ one college" phenomenon has been happening for a good while on college campuses, and those initiatives have sometimes strong and sometimes limited success depending on the book. At least with the last lecture deal, it's an honor, whereas the one book ~ one college concept has issues since students get tired of talking about that book by usually about midway through the fall semester. You get to, say, November and "That horse, he dead."

When I read or hear about a last lecture series though, I get a grin on my face because it reminds me of a story of the "senior lecture series" that my fraternity did one year before I had joined. At that series, all seniors would have to deliver a lecture at a designated party (I believe it took place at a house affectionately called "The Stove"), and they would have to present while standing on top of a keg. I'm told one of the best presentations by a fellow who eventually earned his PhD in Chemistry was titled "Chemistry, Beer, and You."

That's higher learning.

Yet I wonder how many professors would be willing to deliver an entertaining and thought provoking lecture while teetering atop a keg of the Beast.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dragging On

Man, I'm dragging. The spring semester always seems to lurch along after spring break. It's week 13 in the semester ~ two more to go and then finals.

And after a long hiatus from paying attention to sports since college football ended (Roll Tide), pro baseball season has just begun. So my ramshackle psyche is influenced by how my fantasy team, the Schlitzophrenics, does on a daily basis.

And then there's the weather. It's been gorgeous here in central Illinois with the trees working their green fuses and especially the redbud trees punctuating the tree lines with purple. I love those trees. I want one.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Belated Music Friday: "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"

I forgot to post yesterday since I was at a conference in East Lansing, Michigan.

As we drove back from Michigan, this was one of the songs we heard on the very last part of the trip.

I guess the Crash Test Dummies are still producing music, but I enjoyed their album that came out in the mid-90s. Click HERE for the most popular of their songs although I'm also quite fond of "God Shuffled His Feet," "Superman's Song," and "Afternoons and Coffeespoons."

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Hunt Was On

Here are some live action photos of the kids finding loot the Easter Bunny left in the front yard on Sunday morning.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Izzo & Ditka vs. Norris?

The NCAA tournament is almost over with two games to go on Saturday and the final one on Sunday. It's been an interesting tourney, and Michigan State's resilience is a testament to its head coach. I don't really have "a dog in this fight," but the Spartans winning wouldn't bother me. Now Duke and West Virginia, those teams are different stories.

From how commentators and broadcasters and even people's posts on FB have talked about Tom Izzo, he seems to have taken on an almost mythic quality like that of how Bears fans thought Ditka was a Superman (remember the "Da Bears" skit from SNL?).

I think if Izzo and Ditka work together, they could defeat Chuck Norris.

Music Friday: "Pink Houses" and "Born in the USA"

Ah, nostalgia for the 80s -- how I embrace you.

If last week's Music Friday wasn't enough, how 'bout Mellencamp playing one of his signature songs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the same man performing Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Click HERE for "Pink Houses" and HERE for "Born in the USA."