Friday, June 29, 2012

Music Friday: "That Old Thing" & "Petunia"

You know an album is fresh when one of the few videos I can find features some dude's head blocking Bela Fleck playing with the Marcus Roberts Trio.

Right when I complain about there not being any new albums that have gotten me excited lately, a few days later I purchased Across the Imaginary Divide by Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio. The album is a collaboration between arguably the best banjo player on the planet and one of the finest jazz trios out there.

Here's another tune from the album.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thoughts from the Road and Porkopolis

Today we traveled to the Cincinnati metro area because my daughter's dance posse troupe group is competing in a national event this weekend.

It's an easy drive from East Central Illinois to Cincinnati, city nicknamed Porkopolis but named after a true badass Roman named Cincinnatus. Only three and a half hours. And once you get past the southern part of Indianapolis, the countryside gets beautiful. I've never been in this part of the country, but the Ohio River Valley is a handsome spot of land, no doubt. As we ventured toward the metro area, the landscape got quite hilly -- not rolling hills, but more reminiscent of the Ozark "Mountains." Because I've used to driving the interstate along wide open spaces, I always feel slightly off kilter driving fast with all the greenery and hills close to the divided four-lane. I had the same reaction when Mrs. Nasty and I took a trip to upstate New York and Pennsylvania over a decade ago when I presented some research at the International Conference on Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, NY. You can take the boy out of Iowa, but you can't take the Iowa landscape out of the boy.

This whole dance shindig is at one of the many Great Wolf Lodges around the country. Whoever thought up this concept was smart as hell. It's a faux gargantuan log cabinesque hotel with a conference center, arcade, restaurants, ubiquitous Starbuck's, and (mostly) indoor water park with slides, rope climbing deals, and other such frivolity. One of the water slides is like a roller coaster. Another slide can be done by a whole family of five. This curmudgeonly bastard is going to get wet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Badasses Galore

In the course of everyday events, one comes across websites that tickle the intellect while catering to lowbrow humor.

With the help of someone today, I discovered a website some of you readers might enjoy. It's called Badass of the Week.

The author of the website, Ben Thompson, describes himself as "a full-time corporate wage slave" who has written two books about badasses and has written other articles for such esteemed publications as "Cracked, Fangoria, Penthouse, and the American Mustache Institute." I think the latter two on that list are jokes, but I highly recommend checking out AMI's website.

I'm nowhere near reading the whole list of badasses that have been featured, aptly named the "The Hall of Badassitude," but ones I've enjoyed so far are these:
And I've just gotten started. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Music Friday: "Don't Walk Away," "Dead Roses," & Interview with John Phelan

Truckstop Darlin' released its second album, Hope and the Heart It Breaks, last week. So far this summer, that album has been one of the few albums I've taken a shine to. There just hasn't been anything new that I've liked all that much or been interested in buying this summer besides this band's second album.

So for today, I offer "Don't Walk Away," which is the first song on the new album. I like it, but I have other songs I enjoy more, such as "Southern Ghosts," "Sad Sweet Songs," "Same Old Story," and "Dead Roses," which is also below.  

If you're interested in the band, their influences, and the music scene in Portland, here's a short interview with the lead singer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Return of Arsenio Hall

This morning I casually trolled through Twitter, and here's a tweet from Drunk Hulk: "ARSENIO HALL GET TALK SHOW! MICROSOFT RELEVANT! TIME IS PERFECT FOR ZIMA TO MAKE COMEBACK!"

For a more detailed account about how the pop icon from the early 90s is making a comeback, here's an article from the LA Times.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

I've spent part of the last three days painting the trim and wood parts of the exterior of the Nasty home. Painting, and I've done a lot of it in the past dozen years or so, always takes longer than you think it's going to. The most uncomfortable part of the project is that my feet hurt. All that time going up, going down, and standing on a ladder kills your feet. My dogs are barking.

Before I started painting this morning, the neighbor across the street was having a big garage sale because they finally sold the house after they got the asking price to a reasonable level. I picked up some nice old tools--channel lock pliers from the 30s, skinny needle nose pliers that look just as old, and a sledgehammer. I don't know why I need a sledgehammer, but I got one now. I'm gonna be pounding some stuff, whatever that stuff may be, with force, clowns.

After I applied sunscreen before we went to the pool, my five-year old son had this comment as we backed out of the driveway: "You're really hairy, Daddy. You're like a BEAST." I am, son. And he's one of my favorite Marvel comic book characters. My son's comment also reminded me of a couple of my fraternity brothers who enjoyed calling me Teen Wolf. It could be time to do some "urban surfing."

I have been known, on occasion, to howl at the moon.

Because I've seen so many Disney Channel sit-coms, I'm thinking about writing a post that acerbically distills the fundamentals and themes that have to be in a Disney show.

Then again, I have to give the massive company credit for their new standards about food advertising to kids. There are lots of articles out there about the new standards, but here's one from Time. Kudos to Disney/ABC/etc.

As for the two recipes below -- Sweet Potato Salad and Serrano Infused Cucumber Soup -- I prefer the latter. I'll be making it again for sure, especially since summer is upon us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Music Friday: "Jack of All Trades" & "American Land"

Today I'm featuring "Jack of All Trades" from Springsteen's recent album, Wrecking Ball, and one of the bonus tracks on the album, "American Land."

"American Land" has a Celtic sound to it and so has another song on the album. Overall, I really like Wrecking Ball because it has a strong concert-like vibe to it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Salad

Here's a potato salad I modified from an existing recipe. It's an alternative to mayo-based potato salad. And yeah, it uses sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes.

3 sweet potatoes, roughly 2-3 lbs.
A handful of baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
A handful of fresh cilantro, leaves taken off, and chopped
Juice from half of a fresh lime, squeezed into the mix
Healthy smidge of chili powder, approximately 2-3 tablespoons
Good dollop of honey, approximately 2-3 tablespoons
Smidge of onion powder, approximately 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Cut the sweet potatoes length-wise into planks, coat with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Take them to a grill set on medium. Grill them until fork-tender (this may take a couple of stages depending on how large your grill is) and then place them on a large sheet to cool. I wrapped them with cling wrap to let them steam a little bit.

Once they've cooled, cut the sweet potato planks into cubes and dump them into a big mixing bowl. Add in the spinach, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and seasonings. Fold everything together, refrigerate, and eat later.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Serrano Infused Cucumber Soup

Yeh, that's right. I used the word "infused." After all, I'm writing about food, so I might as well ape the food writing gimmicks out there. 

Anyway, about three years ago, I grew cucumbers in my garden. Those bastards never stopped growing. I ate so many cucumbers that summer that afterward the mere whiff of a cucumber slightly repulsed me. And forget about eating them. Vegetable non grata. I went on a cucumber sabbatical for about a year. They sickened me. 

Right now I'm okay with the cucumber, but I'm not growing them. Well, I tried to grow some pickling cucumbers from seed this season, and nothing happened. Nothing sprouted. Unrequited growth. 

So, on Wednesday I picked up a few cucumbers from the local farmers market and modified one of the cold cucumber soup recipes I used that summer except I added a little heat to play with the yogurt used in the dish.

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and grated to roughly 3-4 cups
2 cups of plain lowfat yogurt
A good squeeze of a slice of lemon
2 tablespoons of honey
1 Serrano pepper, membrane ripped out, and diced
Smidge of fresh dill 
Salt and pepper to taste

Once you've grated the cucumbers, put everything in a food processor and pulse till smooth. You may need to add some cold water to make it smooth. Store it in the fridge and eat cold. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

As I was driving home after picking up the kids the other day, I noticed a house for sale sign that I had never seen before. Often when realtors put their signs on the front lawns around here, marking their marketing territory, they'll often place an additional sign at the top that provides a positive feature of the property, such as "basement," "sunroom," and "family room." This house, however, offered this enticement: "investment." From the looks of the home, that word needs an adjective before it, such as "long-term" or "bad."

Wednesday night the Alabama softball team won the World Series. That's the Capstone's first National Championship in softball, and the Crimson Tide's win is the first time an SEC team has won the national championship in softball. It's been a great year for Crimson Tide athletics. The football team demolished LSU in the BCS national championship. The ladies gymnastics team won its sixth national championship. The ladies golf team won a national championship. Unfortunately, the men's golf team got second after losing to Texas on the last hole of match play. But now softball got theirs. Roll Tide.

I stumbled across the fact that we have the Documentary Channel via DirectTV. I've already watched documentaries on Levon Helm, Yogi Berra, and The Secret to a Happy Ending, the 2009 documentary about the Drive-By Truckers. And I have five or six taped in my DVR queue. Hello Documentary Channel -- Goodbye productivity.

My neighbor told me this morning that she scared two raccoons out of her year at about 4:30 a.m. One, she said, was quite big. We've had opossums in the neighborhood before, but this is the first incident with raccoons I know of. Those critters are smart and everywhere as evidenced by the Raccoon Nation documentary my son and I watched a while back. The Nature documentary tracked the movements of urban raccoons in Toronto and observed their behavior, tactics, and strategies. Impressive mammals.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Music Friday: "Stompin' at the Savoy," "April in Paris," "In the Mood," & "It Don't Mean a Thing"

Since today is my dad's birthday, I thought I'd present some music that he grew up listening to when he was a kid and during early adulthood. It's a Big Band Music Friday, folks. He's 85 today.

Here's Benny Goodman and his Orchestra with "Stompin' at the Savoy."

One of my favorite big bands is Count Basie and His Orchestra. Below is the often covered "April in Paris."

If you don't recognize the song by its title, listen and you'll know "In the Mood" by Glen Miller and His Orchestra.

And I'm ending with the Duke and "It Don't Mean a Thing."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Basic Artichoke Pasta Salad

The spring fundraiser at my daughter's school had the kids selling magazine subscriptions, and there were some good deals. So I'm now subscribing to Rolling Stone at a dirt cheap price, and for the heck of it, I'm also getting Men's Fitness, which is more vapid and shallow than I remember. I used to pick up that slick magazine when I was on the academic job hunt in '02. On my way to or returning from an on-campus visit, I needed to read something that didn't require too much thinking, and Men's Fitness did the trick.

Mrs. Nasty got a bunch of magazines, and one of hers is part of the Rachael Ray ubiquity regime, Every Day with Rachael Ray. So I got this basic recipe from that magazine, but I've modified it -- Nasty style. 

A box of tri-color rotini, cooked
1 jar of marinated artichokes
1 roasted red pepper, chopped into tiny pieces (I got mine from a jar)
half of a can of black olives, drained and chopped (use kalamata olives if you want to get fancy)
5 slices of hard salami, cut into tiny rectangles
Healthy dose of parmesan cheese, maybe a 1/2 to a full cup
Healthy dose of low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
Smidge of dried thyme
Smidge of dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

You cook the pasta, drain it, and then toss in the artichokes with the marinade from the jar. Then put in all of the other ingredients. 

Next time I make this, I'll probably used diced chicken breast instead of salami and maybe add some green olives and more artichokes. And I have fresh dill weed in the garden, so I might as well use that too. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

I judge books by their covers. Literally. We all do it. If a book has an interesting cover, we're enticed. Admit it. So let's stop using that damn cliche.

I recently read one of the best arguments against the "whole-language approach" to reading and "the adoption of an unhealthy compromise called 'mixed' or 'balanced reading' instruction" (221). It's Chapter 5--Learning to Read" in Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention by Stanislas Dehaene. If you have young children or care about the literacy of young children, I highly recommend the chapter, if not the whole book.

This weekend, we got to watching the Back to the Future trilogy. As movie trilogies go, it's not a very good one. But my daughter found it funny and hopeful that in Part 2, which is set in 2015, the Cubs win the World Series.

One of the few reality TV shows that I watch is Food Network Star. I'm rooting for Team Alton, particularly Justin and Emily, to beat Teams Bobby and Giada. If there's someone from a different team I'd like to see win, it's Malcolm from Team Bobby. The dark part of this whole televised exercise in stress is that from what I recall of past "stars" who won the competition, besides the ubiquitous Guy Fieri, their shows don't seem to have the highest profile slots. Then again, I didn't watch the last two seasons because I got bored with the program.

With all this talk about finally implementing a playoff system for college football, I propose a system not discussed yet. It's not the current BCS system. It's not a final four of best four teams based on BCS standings and/or a selection committee. It's not a plus one system. It's not a system that rewards teams that won their conference while showing off a record sporting two or three losses. I propose the top four teams  in the SEC play the best four teams outside the SEC in a eight-round, seeded playoff.

Friday, June 1, 2012

So Begin the Fire Sale Already

As Bob Nightengale reports in USA Today and as Brett on Bleacher Nation follows up, almost everyone on the Cubs roster is expendable, even Castro, a guy who needs to learn how to take a base on balls.

With the additional wild card, especially in the parity-rich NL, the Cubs could make out well this season by trading all kinds of players.

I expect Epstein and Hoyer to dismantle the Chicago Orphans to build anew compared to the method of throwing bad, long-term contracts at the prospect of winning the weak NL Central. Instead, as Epstein says in Nightengale's article, "There might be fewer sellers than usual and a lot more buyers. This has a chance to help use. We need core players."

It should be interesting who they get for Dempster, Garza, et al. Soriano and Marmol need to start getting hot, so they can be traded too.

Music Friday: "Gratitude," "So What'cha Want," & "Stand Together"

As we learned early last month, Adam Yauch, one of the three Beastie Boys, died.

I've never been a huge fan of hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys were one of the groups I would listen to along with Run DMC, Public Enemy, Digital Underground, and the various songs out there circulating in pop culture.

The Beastie Boys brought a punk rock sensibility to the genre of rap/hip hop. My favorite album of theirs is Check Your Head, so I'm highlighting a trio of songs from that album today. 

First up is "Gratitude," track 4 on the album. 

Here's the iconic video of "So What'cha Want," track 7 and a song that got played at many parties I attended.

And finally, here's track 12, "Stand Together,"

"Stand together people, come together now.
It's about time we've got to get together, y'all."