Friday, December 25, 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho!!! Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

From top down -
Justin Timberlake
Jake Gyllenhaal
Eric Winter
Austin Drage
Anton Antipov
Slavco Tuskaloski
Ryan Phillippe (my favorite of this group)
Ryan LeBar
Phillip Olivier
Lee Ryan
Timothy Olyphant














For those interested, join my Male Stars Shirtless Yahoo Group.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Recipes for the Season

Continuing what I started with my Cooking Challenge idea, I have been stretching my cooking skills during the holidays. I thought I’d pass on the recipes I made.


Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
For our Holiday Meeting (AKA our office Christmas party)
This recipe is originally from my sister Claudia.


Ingredients:
1 graham cracker or chocolate pie crust
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can (14oz.) sweetened condensed milk (you can use low fat or fat free)
1 egg
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

For chocolate glaze:
½ cup mini chocolate chips
¼ cup whipping cream


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. With mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy; gradually beat in condensed milk until smooth. Add egg, lemon juice and vanilla; mix well.

Arrange raspberries in bottom of pie crust. Slowly pour cheese mixture over fruit. Some may rise, but that’s ok. Bake 30-35 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with whipping cream; cook and stir until thickened and smooth. Spread over cooled pie, then chill pie for a little while.

I used icing to create our university's logo - here blurred for my privacy - on the top.


Layered Dessert (I actually don’t know what it’s called.)
For Christmas Day

Ingredients:
Box of devil’s food cake mix
Eggs as needed for above
2 boxes (5.1 oz per box) of instant vanilla pudding
Milk as needed for above
1 container (12 oz) Cool Whip



Directions:
Make the devil’s food cake according to the package directions. Cool completely.

In a huge bowl, place 1/3 of the cake into the bottom, compacting with a spatula.

Make one box of the instant vanilla pudding according to the package directions. Immediately pour over the cake base, slowly so the pudding won’t disturb the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and add 1/3 of the Cool Whip. Gently place the remaining 2/3 of the cake over the Cool Whip. Then make and slowly add the second box of the instant vanilla pudding over the devil’s food cake layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and add the remaining Cool Whip. Add crushed chocolate or small amounts of icing to the top.

Cool covered from 30 minutes up to 24 hours, then serve.

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Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Work Update

I am the head of a local university's printing department. Our sales have been sluggish. All of the departments have cut back. When their budget has been cut, they find that they can do without business cards, for example, for their staff. Here is an email exchange between my boss and me today.

Boss: I want you to take a hard look at your staffing level. With the major reduction in business how much excess labor capacity do you think you have? I may look at shifting employees percent efforts.

Me: Is “shifting employees percent efforts” code for moving employees from our department into another one? I foresaw the business reduction back in September. Remember at that time you and I talked about trying to really promote the other areas of our business, and to cultivate an additional base of customers? Let me think about it over the weekend and I’ll stop in on Monday.

Boss: It could be code for moving somebody on a temporary basis anywhere from 10% to 100% depending on need or no need. Any permanent shifts would require longer term analysis. If your November is your January, February and March what would you say?

Me: I do have some ideas. Let me really think about it this weekend and get with you Monday morning.

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This economy really needs to get better. Quick! I really don't want to lose any of my staff. Ugh.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Next Mayor?

Though I have lived in Jefferson Parish for almost 10 years, I was born and raised in Orleans Parish. (That is, New Orleans for those of you out of town.)


After two terms of hell with Mayor Ray Nagin, the next mayoral election is wide open.

So far, I'm liking James Perry. I have no idea where he stands on the issues, but there is profanity in his commercial. That's funny.

Here is the commercial...


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As I research the other candidates, I'll make a recommendation.

Another Flash Mob

Remember this video - "the Sound of Music in Central Station", originally posted by Jason?

Apparently, the action has a name - Flash Mob - and it's spreading even to Australia:



I found the video on Australian blogger Shannon's site, one of my daily reads (more for his Speedo pics than his commentary).

Monday, November 09, 2009

Yes We Can Can

Carlos and I were talking yesterday and somehow the phrase "Yes we can can" came up. I had heard the song before, but had no idea who sang it. Carlos immediately knew: "The Pointer Sisters".

His music knowledge sometimes astounds me. Though he did admit that he had never heard the song before, but only memorized most of our book The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. (I say "our" book because he bought it, left it at my house, and I now won't let him take it home.)

From 1973, here are The Pointer Sisters...



Nice going, B.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Follow Up: Monthly Family Dinner - November 2009

Our Monthly Family Dinner went really well. Mom, Dad, Christine, and Karlie (for a bit - until the Saints game started) joined Carlos and me.

Carlos took care of course #1 and #4. I handled #2 and #3. We had so much fun cooking and chatting. In January, Carlos and I will start having Cooking Challenge dinners again.


Here are the recipes we used.


Course #1 - Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce
(Picture from Food Network. Actual picture of Carlos's food to come.)

1 cup crustless 1-inch bread cubes, cut from thickly sliced, firm-textured country
bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
16 fat asparagus, tough ends snapped off,stalks peeled
4 large eggs
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a pie plate, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and season with salt. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Transfer the bread cubes to a sturdy plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until coarse crumbs form. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Meanwhile, bring a large, deep skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a large gratin dish.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Pour off the water and gently shake the saucepan to crack the egg shells. Fill the saucepan with ice water and let the eggs cool for 5 minutes, then drain. Carefully shell the eggs and transfer them to a plate.

In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until it smells like roasted hazelnuts and the milk solids are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the brown butter cool slightly.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer over moderate heat. In a blender, combine the egg yolks and the 11/2 tablespoons of hot water; blend for 2 seconds. With the blender on medium speed, gradually add the hot brown butter, a few drops at a time at first and then in a thin stream, until fully incorporated. Add any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the lemon juice. Season the hollandaise with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Reheat the asparagus in the oven. One by one, carefully lower the peeled whole eggs into the hot water in the medium saucepan and warm just until heated through, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, arrange 4 of the asparagus spears on each of 4 plates. Pat the eggs dry and set one on top of each plate of asparagus. Spoon the hollandaise over the eggs and asparagus, sprinkle with the crushed croutons and serve right away.


Course #2 - Scallops Grenobloise

2 slices white bread
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil -- or canola oil (divided use)
1 medium lemon
16 large sea scallops, whole -- rinsed under cold water to remove any sand
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons capers -- drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter -- (3/4 stick)
1/4 cup mushrooms -- (about 3) diced (1/2-inch); white mushrooms
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- coarsely chopped, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch dice and toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Set aside.

Peel the lemon, removing the skin and the white pith underneath. Cut between the membranes to remove totally clean segments of lemon flesh. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces until you have about 2 tablespoons diced lemon flesh.

Remove any adductor muscles still attached to the scallops. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt, pepper and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the scallops. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. They should be nicely browned. Arrange 4 scallops on each of 4 serving plates and sprinkle on the lemon pieces, capers and bread cubes.

Heat the butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter browns lightly (this is called noisette butter). Add the vinegar. Spoon the sauce over the scallops, sprinkle the parsley on top and serve.


Course #3 - Potato Gratin with Cream

8 lg. potatoes, cooked & shredded
1 pt. whipping cream
1 lg. pkg. cheddar cheese, grated
1 lg. onion, diced
Parsley, dried or chopped
Paprika, salt & pepper

In casserole alternate layers of potatoes, cheese, onion and parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour whipping cream over the top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 12.


Course #4 - Jam Tartines with Fruit Sherbet


Pound cake cut into pieces with assorted jams on top, served with fruit sherbet




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Tonight, Carlos and I are having a light dinner at Le Madeleine with Debbie and Bart. The restaurant has one of the best French Onion Soup in the city.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

French Bloggers Use Lily Allen To Fight Homophobia

A story from The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (UK):

Using Lily Allen's 'F*ck You' track from her latest album, blog visitors have submitted mimed videos to the track, which have been edited together to form a tremendously uplifting anti-homophobia video.

The video has been fully approved by Lily herself (and her record company Parlophone). She says of the song, 'it's not a direct attack at anyone, it was originally written about the BNP in the UK but then I felt this issue has become relevant pretty much everywhere. The future is up to us... hate hate."

A huge well done to all involved at GayClic.com - you made our day with this amazing video, and truly deserve a Homo Heroes Award! We encourage you to link to this in all your social networks!




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Bonus: It's a very catchy song.

The original story can be found here in English or here in French.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween

Carlos and I spent the Halloween weekend watching scary movies.

Friday night, we went to Jason’s house. He had Shawn of the Dead picked out for us to watch. Everyone at the party was too involved in conversation to really watch it. Since most of the people had already seen it, it was the perfect movie for that part of the party.

We then figured out how to stream movies from Netflix. After some discussion, Julie recommended 1974’s Black Christmas. (She had seen the remake, but not the original so the movie was new to everyone.)


The synopsis: It's time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don't express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?

The movie stars Olivia Hussey (earlier in Romeo and Juliet with Leonard Whiting), Keir Dullea (Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from Superman), and Andrea Martin (from SCTV). Debbie said that she looked like Howard Stern.

Trivia: Andrea Martin is the only actor to appear in both the original version and the 2006 remake.

Jason’s internet connection messed up four minutes before the end of the movie. We don’t know how it ended. I think the man in the fur coat is the killer. Carlos and I are going to watch the finale later today. I’ll post an update.

Jason’s version of his party can be found here.

For Saturday night, I picked one movie that both Carlos and I have seen before, but scares the shit out of us – The Descent.


The synopsis: A caving expedition goes horribly wrong.

I purposely made that very brief. I don’t want to give anything away.

He and I watched the first hour of the movie with just a few candles burning – all the lights off. We agreed to then turn the movie off. We were getting too freaked out.

Carlos said that I should finish watching the movie during the day – after he is gone. I think that misses the point of a scary movie. I have shipped it back to Netflix.

One day, we’ll get through the whole thing.

There is a sequel coming out in 2010. All six of the original actors are listed as being in the cast of the new movie. Hmmmm. There must be a lot of flashback sequences.

Carlos and I then watched Trick r Treat, recommended to me by one of the members of a Yahoo Group I’m in called Queer Fear. Great recommendation! Though I think I liked it a bit more than Carlos did.


He did like that one of the stars was Tahmoh Penikett. He's a huge fan of Battlestar Gallactica.

The synopsis: Five interwoven stories that occur on the same block, on the same night. A couple finds what happens when they blow a jack o' lantern out before midnight, a high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer, a college virgin might have met the right guy for her, a group of mean teens play a prank that they take too far, and a hermit is visited by a special trick or treater.

The tone reminded us of the 1982 movie Creepshow. (Did you know there was a Creepshow 2 in 1987 and a Creepshow 3 in 2006?) The movie was definitely scary and gory, but had some humor about it too.

Here are the trailers for the movie -

Trailer #1:


Trailer #2:


Grades (out of 10):
Black Christmas – 6
Shawn of the Dead – 7 (based on past viewing)
The Descent – 9
Trick r Treat - 8

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Term Paper Writing

During my Junior and Senior years of college (back in 1988 and 1989), I made extra money by writing papers for my fellow students.

I charged $10.00 per double spaced page – which included the contents of the paper and the actual typing. (Back then, I only typed about 40 words per minute. At my peak in 2000, I typed 93 words per minute. These days, I’m out of practice and am down to about 55 words per minute.)

Over that two year period in college, I composed about 40 papers. My clients originated as my fraternity brothers, quickly branching out to anyone else on campus. I guaranteed the student at least a B, but I reserved the right to refuse any subject or deadline.

I was thinking of this tonight because I came across one of “my” papers for a Marketing 4100 class called “Blacks and Higher Education: Strategies to Increase Enrollment”. That may be the only paper that has survived. I didn’t think I had copies of any of my work.

My business wouldn’t work these days; students have the internet to write their papers for them.

------------------------

For quite awhile back around the time we both graduated college, Steve and I used to hang out at Avenue Pub every Wednesday night. Getting drunk, telling stories, and concocting schemes.

One of the plans we devised was that he and I were going to open a term paper writing service. Advertising for clients on the local college campuses, he and I would start small – he would write the English/Literature papers; I would write the Business/Marketing/Management papers.

Once we got going, we would bring in other friends of ours who had their own specialized knowledge. Maybe a Shakespeare scholar who needed money, and so on.

We even had a pricing structure and a business plan formulated. After a few Wednesdays of serious talks and serious beer drinking, we moved on to another scheme.

We had a good idea, but no follow through. I wonder if we would have been successful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monthly Family Dinner - November 2009

The first Monday of each month, our immediate family gets together for dinner - alternating houses.

This month Carlos and I are hosting at my house.

Carlos is heavily involved with Jacques Pepin and his cooking show right now, so we have decided to cook everything from Episode 208 of his cooking show.

The description:
Jacques loves all eggs, all ways! Cooking them correctly is an important technique, and who better to demonstrate the perfect hard-cooked egg than a master of technique! Jacques begins this menu with hard-cooked eggs used as a garnish for his Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce. Simply seared in moments, Scallops Grenobloise is the ultimate fast dish and when served with Potato Gratin with Cream, it makes a rich main course. Jam Tartines with Fruit Sherbet conclude the menu.

Carlos is making the asparagus and the dessert. I am making the scallops and the potato dishes.

This should be fun; we haven't tried French food yet in our Cooking Challenges.


Here is Jacques Pepin's video, complete with all the recipes:


After our dinner, we'll publish the recipes we used.

Until then, Bon Appétit!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Best Movies of 2009 - So Far

I am working on this year's end of year Best of lists.

Here are – alphabetically – what I think are the best movies of 2009 - so far. (Main criteria for the list: A positive to “Would I see the movie a second or third time in the theatre?”)


(500) Days of Summer
Adventureland
District 9
Monsters vs Aliens
Star Trek
Where The Wild Things Are
Zombieland

I’m also working on my Worst of list. Coming soon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Last Mix II

[To read the first entry in this series, go here.]

As I'm working on the computer this evening, I have my Media Monkey player (the best music organizer / burner ever) set on random.

La Cienega Just Smiled by Ryan Adams just came on. I have always loved the song - and try to shoehorn it onto mixed CD's that I make for people whenever possible. I think the song is good enough to be part of my final compilation The Last Mix.

I looked around YouTube for the song. Here is the best live version of it that I found.



Or here is the original studio version - song only, no video.

Local Game Shows

My friends and I love to put together and play our versions of TV game shows.

Thanks to Jason, who started it all with Survivor Metairie I, we have played Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? (supposedly simple trivia questions), The Amazing Race (a scavenger hunt around the city), Jeopardy, Steet Smarts (our version of the game show Street Smarts, so called because of Jason’s creative sign making), and other game shows that I can’t think of right now.




Tangent - Here is the introduction to our Survivor Metairie I video. Debbie put this together.



Recently, I put together Steet Smarts II. For those not familiar with the show: Weeks before we all got together, I asked our six players – Bart, Carlos, Debbie, Jason, Jason, and Julie – the exact same 43 questions. The questions that everyone answered correctly or incorrectly, I threw out. The remaining questions were used for the game.

The game was played in three rounds: Who Knew It (not including yourself, who do you think knew the question’s answer), Who Blew It (not including yourself, who do you think did NOT know the question’s answer), and the finale (one question asked – who knew it or blew it, with money won during the first two rounds bet on the outcome).

Correct answers for the first two rounds were awarded Monopoly-style money that Jason created for Survivor Metairie II.


Here are some of the questions and the quite creative answers given by my friends.

What is a subordinate?
- An employee or city worker.

Finish this old saying: “Men seldom make passes at girls who _______________.”
- Don’t have asses.
…are married.

Skydivers use what billowy object to land safely?
- a trampoline or a cushion
- a pillow

What do the letters NIMBY commonly stand for?
- Not In My Something or other.
- National Institute of Male Body Yearning
- National Immigrants Mothers Boys and Yahoos
- National Independent Market for Black Youth

In the Bible, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of what popular seasoning?
- Cayenne Pepper

What are sisters Mary Kate and Ashley better known as?
- Johnson

What is noshing?
- Vomiting

According to the nursery rhyme, Jack Sprat could eat no what?
- Crap
- Sprouts

What is 9,999 + 1?
- 1,000,000

The name of the song played during Graduation is called Pomp and what?
- Grow

How is a Sadie Hawkins dance different from a traditional dance?
- Requires three.
- Form

What is the name of the first book of the Old Testament?
- The Bible

What was the name of the first pope?
- Pope Pius
- Pope I
- John The Baptist
- John Paul
- St. Thomas (St. Who)

Which war was originally known as The Great War?
- World War II
- The War of 1812

How many stars are on the current US flag?
- 13

In the movie Gremlins, the three rules are no bright lights, don't get them wet, and ___________.
- Don't feed them Skittles.

A satellite radio service is named for a star. Name it. (Correct answer Serius)
- Onstar
- Sun

In literature, who was Tom Sawyer's best friend?
- Becky Allen. I mean Becky Thatcher.
- His dad.

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Thank you everyone who played. You all had some great, creative answers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas Gift Giving

In my extended family, we pick names for Christmas gift giving (usually at an annual Labor Day party). We have 29 participants this year.

We also have a separate list for kids under 15, who buy for each other.

Carlos, now that we’re out to the family, is on the list for the first time. My Uncle Greg has his name this year. My Aunt Mary (shopping for her husband) has told me that she has grand plans. I don’t want to reveal anything here, knowing that Carlos reads this.

My immediate family also picks names. With my parents, two sisters and all spouses, there are eight of us on this list. This year, I picked my Dad’s name. I emailed my Mom to ask her for some ideas. The past times I have picked his name (and for Father’s Day), I gave him the usual ties and golf accessories. I’m trying to branch out this year.


Here is the email my Mom sent back. It struck me as quite funny.

Well, you know we both have more stuff than we really need - especially HIM. I know y'all think this is none too creative, but what about tickets to something? He loves Jazz Fest - we both do - but those tickets are kind of expensive.

Tickets to the show are good also - but Canal Place is closing for six months to be renovated by the Solomons. The Prytania is open, though, and they have fabulous shows. We never go to Elmwood, so forget that. (You know, the first show you ever went to was at the Prytania – you were about three months old and slept through the whole thing - 'cause you know, we only lived two houses away then).

We already have tickets to the opera, the symphony, Le Petit and UNO basketball so don't get those. We don't have tickets to The Saenger, but those are real expensive. Another idea would be food: A gift certificate to a restaurant or a basket of stuff he likes - like all that German stuff I hate: Bratwurst, liver cheese, smoked sausage. Hope this gives you some ideas. My people are sooooo easy this year: Karlie and Chad. Don't say anything, but both are getting the new Josh Besh cookbook - AUTOGRAPHED, and not just upstairs, but really, really autographed. Love Mom


Yes, she means John Besh.

When the actual author is not available, my Mom is known to change her handwriting and “autograph” a gift book. Our family knows this, but her friends must have quite a few fakes.

When she went to Rome a few years ago, she brought back a rosary blessed by the Pope. After some follow up questions, I found out that “blessed by the Pope” meant she bought the rosary in a store in New Orleans and put it into a small jewelry box. Ahhhh, mothers!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quotes from the Family

Here are the latest quotes from my niece and nephew:

My 3-year-old niece Eden (who has an older and a younger brother, but no sisters): "I don't want God to make me a girl. I want to be a boy like Bennett and Nolan."


Bennett, the 4-year-old older brother: "When I get big, I am going to be an altar boy and a Monster Truck driver."


Bennett: Dad, who's playing?
Jeff, the Dad: The Bengals and the Steelers.
Bennett: Why are they the Steelers? Do they steal the ball a lot? Are they bad people?

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Week In Food

From an idea at my friends Steve and Sheree's blog - otherwise known as He Said / She Said NOLA.

Disclaimer: I am in no way mocking them. This is merely a compare and contrast of the way he and his wife eat to how Carlos and I eat. Carlos wanted me to stress that.

Saturday Dinner: I had a bag of popcorn and a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal. When Carlos came over, we each had a big ole slice of Julie’s cake.

Sunday Dinner: Pat - from work - gave me three bell peppers (one each red, green and yellow) from her garden. I cooked some meat sauce, onions, the bell peppers, lots of different seasonings, mushrooms and green onions – and ate it over pasta. Later in the evening, I had five pieces of cheesecake.

Monday Dinner: We had our Monthly Family Dinner at my parent’s house tonight. My mom made a salad – mimicking Carlos’s salad from last Wednesday’s Cooking Challenge, Shrimp Creole, and Jello for dessert.

Tuesday Dinner: In this order – three pieces of cheese cake (finishing off the cake, started with the 5 pieces on Sunday), a small piece of salmon (baked with some lemon juice on top), lima beans, and garlic bread.

Wednesday Dinner:
Before Carlos came over, I had a plate of leftover Pasta and Meat Sauce (from Sunday’s dinner). Carlos arrived hungry so we split a Tony’s Frozen Pizza – the bottom rung of frozen pizza.

Thursday Dinner:
I cooked up some Stove Top Stuffing, adding cut up sausage. It’s one of my favorite quick meals. (Carlos is off at his parent’s house tonight.)

Friday Dinner: I had four Coors Lights and a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal.


Damn, I eat like shit. It never bothered me until a full week’s worth of dinners was laid out in front of me.

I think I would be much more motivated to eat better – and to cook more elaborate meals – if I weren’t cooking for just one. Carlos comes over the majority of the nights, but usually after dinner.

I’ll revisit this subject in a couple of months. We’ll see what I can change in the meantime.

Uh, Bon Appétit?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cooking Challenge - Week Seven and Week Eight

Carlos predicted that I could host our Cooking Challenge until December. I made it until the end of September.

For now at least, I am burnt out on the idea. We will definitely revisit it in the future. Both Carlos and my dad have requested that we continue - in some frequency, if not once a week.

Week Seven was a greatest hits package: Carlos made his Cabrese Salad, while I revisited a Pasta with Shrimp and Sun Dried Tomatoes dish that I've made in the past for our monthly family dinners. (The first Monday of each month, my mom, dad, sister Christine, her girlfriend Karlie, Carlos and I get together for dinner, rotating houses.)


We had our friends over - the same crowd as Week Six minus Jason K. plus Debbie and Bart.

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I could tell that Week Eight was going to be the last week for awhile when I decided to serve Jambalaya - from a box of Zatarain's mix instead of from scratch. Carlos served a simple salad of baby spinach, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, nuts, and cranberries. Odd sounding but very tasty.

Jason S. brought the same delicious bread he had brought before. Debbie brought a dessert. Julie brought a huge home-made cake! We only ate about 1/4 of it Wednesday night. Carlos and I are still working our way through it.

Jason K. and Bart were unable to attend.

The last addition was my mom. (I invited my dad too, but he was out of town.) As Carlos describes her, "She's a character." I'll do a separate post one day soon with some stories about her.

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The Cooking Challenge nights are on pause for now. We hope to start them up again, maybe in January.

I still want to tackle French and German food. I'd like to have my dad attend one of these. I'd like to have Christine and Karlie in the mix with our friends.

Until then, Bon Appétit!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wander This World Name

Here is where I got the name of my blog from...



My friend from college Sean and I saw him at a really small club in Biloxi in 1996. His second CD Lie To Me had just come out. There were about 50 people there. What a great concert!

I can't believe it's been 13 years!

I haven't seen Sean since around 2001. The last I heard, he was living in a writing commune in Canada somewhere, and he had gotten married for the second time.

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If you want to check out more of Jonny Lang, I recommend this one...



Or this unplugged performance (Embedding disabled)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This Season's Tough DVR Choices

At the beginning of every TV season, I face tough choices. My DVR will record two and only two shows at once. Three times during the week, I have at least three TV shows that I'd like to record on at the exact same time.

Here are my choices and my decisions.


Wednesdays at 8 pm Choices:
Criminal Minds (CBS)
Glee (Fox)
Modern Family (ABC)

Decision: I would love to support Modern Family because it has a gay couple, but Glee is even more gay than Modern Family so I also want to support that show. As far as Criminal Minds, that's a must see. I have decided to DVR the first two and watch Modern Family via ABC's web site.


Thursdays at 7 pm Choices:
Survivor (CBS)
FlashForward (ABC)
The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
Bones (Fox)

Decision: Survivor is a must see. Bones is definitely the least of the four. That leaves FlashForward and The Vampire Diaries. I sampled episode two of The Vampire Diaries the week before FlashForward debuted. It's interesting only for the shirtless scenes of Ian Somerhalder, which I can find online. I have decided to DVR Survivor and FlashForward.


Sundays at 7 pm Choices:
Jonas (Disney)
Criminal Minds - repeat of earlier episodes (A&E)
The Amazing Race (CBS)

Decision: This is an easy choice. Jonas is immediately out. That leaves the other two shows. Done.

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What would you do? Do you have any similar dilemmas?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rediscovery: Lone Justice (plus U2 and The Beatles)

Back in college, I was a DJ on my college radio station - for all five years. (One day, I'll go into the details of all my different shows and on-air partners, and other adventures we had there.)

I was always looking for songs with long intros. We had to make announcements - "Right now it is 85 degrees, partly cloudy with a 60 percent chance of rain here in Natchitoches. This afternoon's intramural softball game has been moved to...". We tried to make the announcements with music in the background.

U2's Where The Streets Have No Name was a favorite of mine to use. It had almost two minutes of build up before it kicked in. I could relay the weather, college football scores and weekend club schedule in that time.



Another of my favorites to use was Lone Justice's song Shelter. I was thinking of it recently because Carlos put it on a mixed CD for me. (He and I each brought 5 mixed CD's to our recent trip to Florida.)

I did find the video for Shelter...



Twenty plus years later, it's still a cool song.

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I'm sure most of you realize U2's video is an homage to the Beatles famous rooftop concert, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.

Here is a clip from their final film Let It Be, documenting the event - the Beatles final concert EVER...



The Beatles are still so universally known that I merely input "Beatles rooftop" into YouTube's search engine to find the clip.

John Lennon: "And I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and myself, and I hope we passed the audition."

I still can't believe he died at 40 years old. I'm 42 now. I was 12 when he died.

Onion Head Hat (Revisited)

I fixed the link and added a new one at this post. Check it out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Must See Glee TV

Is anyone else watching Glee, the gayest show on TV right now?

Here's a clip from this week's episode...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Funny Protest Signs

I found this picture here. There are a lot more funny ones.

"Top Chef" Judge: Top Notch Comment

Ashley is a contestant on this season's "Top Chef". (If you are not familiar with the show, go here.)

She is also a lesbian - and objected to one of recent challenges, involving a bachelor/bachelorette party.

On his blog, "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio writes one of the best, concise responses in favor of gay marriage:

This week, our chefs cooked for joint bachelor/bachelorette parties, and Ashley spoke articulately about her dismay and discomfort cooking to celebrate an upcoming wedding when gay people are still denied the right to wed throughout most of the world. I’m going to go out on a limb and say a few words about same-sex marriage: First of all, part of the problem with the issue is that it is framed by opponents as a discussion of whether gay people should get special rights. This is specious – yes, special legislation or court decisions grant them the right to wed in a particular state, however this is done to ensure that they share equal protection under the law by finally being able to avail themselves of the same rights as everyone else. They are not seeking special treatment, just equitable treatment.

Second, religion has no business being part of the discussion. When a couple is wed in a house of worship, the officiant may be performing a religious rite, but as far as the law is concerned, that officiant has been authorized to perform a civil function, plain and simple. And even were same-sex marriage to be legalized by the state, no one would be holding a gun to the heads of the clergy to require them to perform a ceremony that their faith or personal creed does not condone. Just as some rabbis would not perform my marriage to my wife because I wasn’t Jewish, clergy can decline performing same-sex marriages; gay couples can either find clergy willing to officiate or can be wed in a civil setting. The idea that religious leaders are continuing to shape state law is just wrong. The institution of marriage should be available to all. The idea that you can have a life-long partner and not make decisions for them in a hospital, not share in insurance benefits, not automatically have parental rights unless you are the birth parent, is just flat-out wrong.


To read the rest of his blog entry, and how his opinion relates to the TV show, go here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bennie and the 27 Dresses

One day I'll have to make a top ten list of Top Ten Best Uses of an Elton John Song in a Movie.

Until then, here's an addition to my Almost Famous coupled with Tiny Dancer post -

27 Dresses coupled with Bennie and the Jets.



Bonus: It has one of my Top 20 Favorite Stars of All Time - James Marsden. (Here's my original post. James Marsden is #11!.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pro-Gay Christian Billboards Spark Debate

I found the below article here, one of my daily stops.

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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ― Christine Lutz was traveling down Interstate-30, just east of Fort Worth, when she came face to face with a billboard containing a pro-gay message. "I cringed. I was disgusted at the same time," she said.

The billboard angered Lutz so much, that she fired off a stern e-mail. "I said how dare you take the scriptures and twist it to fit your needs," she recalled.

There are four billboards with similar pro-gay messages along I-30 that have started a debate among Christians in North Texas.

Rev. Jon Haack, with Promise Metropolitan Community Church, said, "If we go back to the gospel readings, we don't find anything within those texts that discriminate or exclude against gay and lesbian people. Gay and lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people are part of God's creation too."

Rev. Haack is with one of five local churches sponsoring the billboards that advocate gay acceptance by all Christians.

One billboard reads, "The early church welcomed a gay man." Another one reads, "Jesus affirmed a gay couple."

The billboards were put up a week ago along I-30 between Grand Prairie and Fort Worth and the negative e-mails are already coming in. "There are people who have told us to reread our Bible which is the very question we're asking others to do," explained Rev. Colleen Darruagh, with Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas. "We've had people say, 'How dare you take the name of God in vain' and that God hates homosexuals."



Pastor Sam Dennis, of Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, says Christians shouldn't hate gays. He disagrees however with the billboards' use of scripture to back a pro-gay message. "I'm hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that it's alright to live in a gay lifestyle. Just like I'm hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that's it's alright to live in an adulterous relationship or as a wife abuser or as a murderer."

The five local churches sponsoring the billboards are part of the Worldwide Metropolitan Community Church which has a predominantly gay congregation.

The roadside signs will be up in North Texas throughout September. For a closer look at the billboards check out the website www.whywouldwe.org and www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org.

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I love the irony: "The billboard angered Lutz so much, that she fired off a stern e-mail. 'I said how dare you take the scriptures and twist it to fit your needs,' she recalled."

Emails From Crazy People

My friend Vincent sent me a link to the site Emails From Crazy People. I think I will submit one that I received recently.

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Remember: Assume any email you send will be read by the entire world.


NOTE: The names have been changed to protect privacy, but the words are exactly as written. I have even left the punctuation and capitalization as I received it.


The Players (all of these are my family members) -
Abbey: Ronald’s wife (age 66)
Marie: Abbey/Mark’s sister (age 60)
Mark: Abbey/Marie’s brother, and Myra’s husband (age 63)
Myra: Mark’s wife (age 63)
Ronald: Abbey’s husband (age 73)
Craig: Mark and Myra’s oldest son (age 34)
Suzie: Craig’s girlfriend (age 33)
Annie: Mark and Myra’s youngest daughter (age 20)
Cameron: Annie’s boyfriend (age 22)
Garrett: Mark and Myra’s second oldest son (age 31)
Connie: Garrett’s wife (age 31)
Joseph: Mark and Myra’s third oldest son (age 28)

I know it’s probably hard to keep track if you don’t actually know these people, but the names don’t really matter.

Email from Marie to her sister Abbey, commenting on their brother Mark’s email:
Get a load of Mark’s life!
with this email forwarded –

I think I have finally reached my limit as to the number of problems I can handle at once. Still putting in 10-12 hour days and falling increasingly behind. Then last week a critical person announced he has had enough so he is leaving which will mean even more work for the rest of us. Our landlord is give us a hassle about us moving out, so much so that I am having to go get a lawyer (Myra doesn’t know this yet). Myra still in therapy and in pain but getting better. Not making any progress on the lot. We have everyone pushed to the limit on the jobs to where tempers are flaring. My nose runs and my feet smell, and the only light in the tunnel is coming home to a nice home cooked meal and falling asleep in the recliner. I have missed the last 2 date nights but nice Myra still lets me date (I can only date people with the initials of MDM). With Craig and Suzie moving out into their new house, Annie wants Cameron to move in, which we are against, and she accuses me of having a double standard which I readily admit to but it doesn’t settle the argument. I keep telling her she can move into her own apartment at her own expense which usually settles the argument. Now she is bringing up security, safety, four eyes are better than two but I remind her of her grandmother’s (Myra’s mom) saying, “a stiff prick has no bounds” . Connie want babies but Garrett wants to finish his schooling so Myra wants to start her own bailout program with our retirement nest egg. Joseph is desperate for someone from his family to move over to the tri cities so Myra is looking at condos on line in that area and I have no idea how we would afford anything like that. Did I mention about the nose and feet? My typing sucks and my spelling is worse, thank goodness I don’t care.


The email was then forwarded from Abbey to Ronald, who replied back to Abbey and Mark:
Mark just remember this too will Pass but we will always love you and be with you in spirit try deep breathing Your old BROTHER IN law Ronald


Except that instead of forwarding the email to Mark, he inadvertently forwarded it to a distribution list of his that I had set up for him – that emailed our entire extended family.

Again, assume any email you send will be read by the entire world.

Our family is still laughing about this!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cooking Challenge - Week Six Revisited

Carlos is off watching the US Open (the Tennis one not the Golf one) so I have some extra time. I thought I'd post the Poulet mettre en pot la tarte recipe that I didn't post in my last Cooking Challenge entry.


Poulet mettre en pot la tarte
(also known as Chicken Pot Pie)


Ingredients:

2 1/2 pounds chicken breasts and thighs (I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken)
2 to 3 cups canned chicken broth
3/4 stick butter
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 cups half-and-half or milk (I used half-and-half)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup diced celery, including some of the inner yellow leaves
3 medium carrots, diced
1 cup frozen tiny peas, thawed
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, separated (See Figure 1)



Instructions:

Put the chicken in a microwave-safe dish and pour the chicken broth over it. Cover with plastic wrap and poach in the microwave on high for 12 minutes or until the juices run clean when you pierce the chicken with the tip of a knife. If you are making the chicken ahead, take it off the bone, discard the skin, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap before refrigerating. Strain and reserve the chicken broth.

To make the sauce, keep the broth hot in a small pan on the back of the stove. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt all but a tablespoon of the butter over medium heat and, when it is sizzling, add the flour, whisking well to make a smooth golden paste. Still whisking, gradually add 2 cups of the stock and the thyme. When it is smooth, increase the heat slightly and cook the sauce until it thickens. Add the half-and-half, whisking again, and cook until the sauce is smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more stock or water if needed. If you are making the sauce ahead, cool it and refrigerate it, then reheat it just before you put the pie together.


To assemble the pie (see Figure 2), melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large skillet and add the onions, mushrooms, celery, and carrots. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the chicken into large cubes.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large ovenproof casserole or 6 individual ones, mix the chicken and vegetables, including the peas. Pour the warm sauce over and mix everything together well. Fit a sheet of puff pastry (see Figure 3) over the casserole, sealing it well around the edges with a little beaten egg white. Paint the top with beaten egg yolk. Cut slits on top in a decorative pattern for the steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is puffed and golden.





Until Week Seven, Bon Appétit!

Buy More Pepsi

Church boycotting Pepsi over gay marriage debate

BRANDON, Florida - The Cola Wars aren't just between Coke and Pepsi. Now, a Tampa Bay church is taking on one of the largest corporations in the world.

"We would like to send them a message," said Terry Kemple, President of the Community Issues Council that is organizing a boycott of Pepsi products because he says it "advocates the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle."

In addition to hundreds of church-goers who have joined the boycott, Kemple just got his mega-church, the Bell Shoals Baptist Church, to remove its 10 Pepsi machines. They have been replaced with Coke machines.

"They (have) begun to utilize the money we've helped them build up to trample on what we consider family values," said Kemple of Pepsi.

He said the company donated more than a million dollars to organizations that fought California's gay marriage-banning Proposition 8. He also says the Pepsi Corporation has sponsored gay pride events and commercials that accept cross-dressing and homosexuality.

"We're concerned about that diminishment of the ability of Christians to speak what the Bible says," Kemple said.

But Nadine Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Florida, called the boycott offensive to her and embarrassing to those who participate.

"The irony is that - in moving from Pepsi products to Coke products - they actually switched from one company that supports full-equality to another companty that supports full-equality," Smith said.

Pepsi is one of the largest corporations in the country, boasting subsidiaries like Gatorade, Tropicana, Frito-Lay and Quaker. However, calls to the company's headquarters went unreturned on Tuesday.

Representatives from the Bell Shoals Baptist Church, which draws several thousand members every Sunday, declined comment as well.


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Note to Self: Buy more Coke too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cooking Challenge - Week Five and Week Six

Cooking Challenge Week Five was Italian food. See this blog entry for the details on the food.

Looking at that past entry, I said that “The meal will be a bit calmer. The crowd from the first four weeks is ‘rotating out’ and my parents are joining Carlos and me for dinner.” That night’s crowd was one of the loudest yet – even with only four people. Both of my parents can get quite boisterous.

Carlos’s fresh basil plant was almost dead by the time Wednesday’s dinner came around. See the picture on the left. He bought it on Saturday. We need to figure out how not to kill a plant in five days!


Looking further at that past entry, I said, “After this meal, I am going to take a couple of weeks off, and then invite over some friends for dinner.” That didn’t happen either. Carlos and I decided to invite some of our friends over for Cooking Challenge Week Six, which we held last night. Our theme was French food.


Jason, Jason, and Julie came over. Here was our menu:

A salad (Arugula, tomatoes, and shredded cheese)

French Onion Soup – Carlos’s contribution. Go to his blog for his pictures and description. (As of 9/11/09 - He hasn't blogged about it yet.)

Poulet mettre en pot la tarte – My contribution. In English, that translates to Chicken Pot Pie, which I have wanted to make for awhile. Translating to French, I was able to shoehorn my dish into our French food night.

The recipe is taken from the cookbook Classic American Food Without Fuss. The recipe is quite long so I am not going to reproduce it here.

I can show you a picture of what I made though!



Julie and Jason S. brought over wine. Jason K. brought over some delicious bread. We finished with four types of Sorbet, left over from the Italian Cooking Challenge night.

I think everyone left full.

We had such fun last night that Carlos and I are going to go at least one more week, inviting the same crew over – plus Debbie and Bart, who both had to work last night. Then we may take a break. Eventually, we want to invite my old friends Steve (and his wife), Morgan, and Lloyd.

Carlos wants to make his Caprese Salad again. I am going to pick from page 67, 167, or 267 of this cookbook, one that Carlos gave me for my birthday this year. More details after next week’s dinner. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for those who both read my blog and are coming to dinner.

Until then…

Bon Appétit!

Monday, September 07, 2009

President

From Margaret and Helen: Best Friends For Sixty Years And Counting:

The name of their post is "I remember an America where black men didn’t grow up to be President.", but I didn't want you to get the wrong idea so I didn't name my post that.

Margaret is it just me or did combing your hair become optional when going out in public? I’ve been watching news clips of these town hall free-for-alls and we have definitely become a nation of tired, poor, and huddled masses clearly tempest-tossed, but without access to a good beauty salon. Universal Hygiene – now that is something I could get behind. And all of them are asking for their America back. I wonder which America that would be?

Would that be the America where the Supreme Court picks your president instead of counting all the votes? Would that be the America where rights to privacy are ignored? Would that be the America where the Vice President shoots his best friend in the face? Or would that be the America where an idiot from Alaska and a college drop-out with a radio show could become the torchbearers for the now illiterate Republican party?

I fear that would not be the America they want back. I fear that the America they want back is the one where black men don’t become President.


Read the entire post here.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Cleaning Out The Attic

Whenever I have an idea for a blog post, I scribble it on a sheet of paper, later transferring it to a Word file.

I have tons of Word files.

Tonight I'm going to clear out a lot of them.

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Sometimes the ideas are just the title of the Word file, that I know for sure I will remember later the significance, but of course over time forget. Song titles seem to be a popular starting point for me:
Desolation Boulevard (the name of an album by Sweet)
Love Vigilantes (the name of a song by New Order)
Tiny Dancer (from Elton John, resurrected by Cameron Crowe)

The references for the first two are lost to me, but my best guess about Tiny Dancer is that I wanted to discuss "Music Heals All Wounds" or "Cameron Crowe" as one of the answers to "Name the people in history you would like to have dinner with."

Here's the clip from Cameron Crowe's movie Almost Famous to help explain the former. The set up: Billy Crudup ditched the band to go party. The next morning he is found. The scene opens with the band's manager wishing the party goers goodbye, while the rest of the band are still resentful that Billy disappeared. Music heals the wound...


I have before mentioned how cool I think Dave Grohl is. Here is another reason:




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Sometimes the ideas are snippets of thoughts:
- Scott and the bus stop trash can
- $5000 bank error in my favor
- Larry Tyler Moore Parties
- My job: Like a frog in water slowly boiling
- Paw Paw Was A Rolling Stone (We called my grandfather "Paw Paw")
- The Sauna and Super Balls
- In early 2009, I was an expert witness for a case involving the hospital I work with.
- Artificial Hoops
- The Monty Hall Paradox

Expanding on the last one: I have always been fascinated with math, math problems and math puzzles. The more complex the better!

In college, I tested out of my first two semesters of math. I got an A in both my third and fourth semesters. To make extra money, I tutored in the Math Lab during my freshman and sophomore years. I was even a math major for one semester. (When I discovered that I would have to take advanced calculus, I changed my major. Not because I was scared of the challenge. Because the course was only offered at 8 am five days a week. Back then, sleeping late was more important to me.)

Here is the best explanation of the Monty Hall Paradox/Problem that I have found. Plus David Krumholtz is kinda cute.



Or if you're a Kevin Spacey fan, here is a clip from the movie 21 explaining the same thing...


Any of those snippets could be turned into a 1000+ word blog post. I just never seem to run out of current thoughts to explore in details my past ones.

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I am also a big fan of lists. Here are some lists that I never finished enough to blog about...

Name the people in history you would like to have dinner with:

Bob Costas
Larry Mullen Jr.
Jeff Buckley (RIP)
Ryan Adams
Cameron Crowe

Why do I want to have dinner with them? I need time to discuss. That's the reason I haven't posted about that subject yet.



The Top 10 songs of the 1980's:
Change - Tears For Fears
I Melt with You - Modern English
The Great Commandment - Camouflage
The Promise - When In Rome
Dreaming – OMD
Just Like Heaven or The Lovecats or Boys Don't Cry - The Cure
Strangelove or Nothing (or really anything from their album Music for the Masses) - Depeche Mode
Don’t You Want Me - Human League
A Little Respect – Erasure

I can't finish the list because I could add to that list forever - and I can't narrow my choices down to ten.

As you can see, I was a fan of New Wave, pop and dance music in the 1980's. Interestingly though, back in the 1980's I was actually listening to Led Zeppelin and other classic rock gods much, much more than any of those other types of music. I don't think of any classic rock as having a time period. That music to me is timeless.

Here is the video for Camouflage's The Great Commandment. No matter how much I prod, Carlos swears he has never heard this song before.


And here is The Promise, When In Rome's only hit. This is my cousin Casie's Favorite Song of All Time...


I can't find a video for Depeche Mode's Nothing. How about a cute guy lip syncing to it?


In 1987, I was living in our fraternity house. That same year, I was the co-Social Chairman (along with my friends Todd and Sean. More on them one day soon), which meant in part that we had to plan and play the music for our parties.

Imagine 100+ (straight) frat boys dancing to Depeche Mode's Strangelove...


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This summary post of Cleaning Out The Attic is long. Imagine how long the actual posts could have been.


I do have enough material to fill another really long post, but I will stop here. I will finish this post with...


Quotes I Live By

Again, the explanation of each could fill a blog post...

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." - Ernest Hemingway

"Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar." - Benjamin Franklin

"It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." - Grace Hopper

"Alcohol. The cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems." - Homer Simpson

Friday, September 04, 2009

Many conservatives enraged over Obama school speech

I've had enough of these jackass Conservatives.

We had to sit through 8 years of Bush. Now it's our turn. Sit back and shut up.

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(CNN) -- The White House found itself on the defensive Friday over what would ordinarily be considered the most uncontroversial of events: a back-to-school speech to the nation's children.

The White House said the address, set for Tuesday, and accompanying suggested lesson plans are simply meant to encourage students to study hard and stay in school.

Many conservative parents aren't buying it. They're convinced the president is going to use the opportunity to press a partisan political agenda on impressionable young minds.

"Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."

Read the entire story here.

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Or go here to read NPR's version of the story. There is both a text and an audio version.

Paolo Nutini

What I said about Paolo Nutini to my friends when I discovered him around March 2008:

I wanted to share with y'all my new discovery - still up and coming artist Paolo Nutini.

He's cute - and at times he sounds (a bit) like Jeff Buckley, though he doesn't have the upper range.

He's had two US hits so far:
Last Request
New Shoes

I think he's much better live.



Here's a live version of his song Million Faces.
Here's his live version of Amy Winehouse's song Rehab.
Here's his live version of the song Cry Me A River.

Here's his Wikipedia page.

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I still like his music, but here is what I said at the Ticketmaster website, which emailed me this morning to get my opinion of last night's concert that Jason, Carlos and I went to at the House of Blues:

1 star (out of 5)

Paolo Nutini went on at 9:15 and finished his show - including one encore - by 10:15. Not once did he even look at the audience or try to engage us. I was really hoping he would play some cover songs, as I have heard via bootleg recordings, but he didn't play any. He has two full length CD's and at least one live one. He could have played much longer than an hour. I hyped this show to my friends all week, but was very disappointed. Maybe he had an off night. Maybe he really is this bad live.

Opening Act: Anya Marina - Maybe better than Paolo Nutini. Definitely engaged the audience much better.

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Or maybe he was drunk, as Carlos suspected.

I'll keep buying and listening to his music, but I think I'll skip his live shows in the future.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quotes from the Family

My younger sister Claudia (who lives in Atlanta with her husband and three kids) emailed me this today:

(Claudia's husband) Jeff is holding Bennett [the four-year-old kid] as he is getting communion...
Bennett: "Dad, when I get big, I can get one of those Body of Christs, right?"

Ahhh. Growing up Catholic.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stories From My Youth II

(For the first Stories From My Youth entry, click here.)

When I tell Carlos stories from when I was a young kid, he gets the mistaken idea that I grew up poor.

It’s not true, but seems that way because my parents didn’t believe in giving us toys. From the age of six, their way of keeping us active was, “Go outside and play. Don’t come home until the street lights come on.”

I grew up in Uptown New Orleans, on one of the many streets with a neutral ground. (Outside of New Orleans, you’d call it a median.) Within five blocks of my house, there were approximately 15 other kids my age, including my sister Christine who is 13 months younger than I am. (Her nickname is “Can’t Get Pregnant While You’re Breastfeeding” because that’s what one of my mom’s well-meaning friends told her – and how Christine came about.)


Thanks to Google maps, here is a picture of the actual area I’m describing.

Today, I thought I’d discuss some of the games we played…


Capture The Flag

Capture The Flag was always my favorite game. Growing up, my parents said that I had to stay in the neighborhood, meaning that I couldn’t cross any “big” streets. For those familiar with New Orleans, I grew up 2 blocks from Napoleon Avenue, 5 blocks from S. Claiborne Avenue, 5 blocks from Jefferson Avenue, and 6 blocks from Fontainebleau Avenue. The big streets. That 11 x 7 block grid (do the math) was my playground from the age of 6.

Ahhhh. The joys of growing up in the inner city.

We used the front of my house as one team’s home base and a local church’s yard (on the corner of S. Claiborne and Jefferson Avenues, about nine blocks away) as the other home base.

The entire game consisted of running around a 77-block area. Toward the enemy flag. Toward your flag to release prisoners. Toward your opponents. Repeat.


City

This is a game that we made up and that evolved over time.

One day, I remember a friend of ours opened a General Store in her driveway, selling stuff she had “procured” from her parent’s cupboard. All of us being 8 years old didn’t find this odd. We just started shopping there.

A few days later, a Post Office, selling hand created stamps, appeared in another kid’s driveway. Then later a Mayor’s Office. Then a Driver’s License bureau (to “license” all our bikes). Then a Barber Shop.

I don’t remember how long our City lasted. I think it was a few months every day after school, but I do remember at its peak, we had at least 10 different City components. I’m sure the end came when one day we all came out to play and someone said, “Let’s play _______________” and City was gone.


Plays

Doris (I think that was her name) was an “older” girl, maybe by two years – but two years is big when you’re eight. She gathered us all together one day and said that we were going to put on a play. Being eight and fearless, we all agreed. My memories of eight are a bit hazy, but I do remember that this was a play that Doris had written.

After months of rehearsals after school, plus all of us designing, creating, and constructing the stage and the sets in Doris’s backyard, we presented our play (whose title has been lost in history) to all the adults in our neighborhood. I remember that there were three rows of folding chairs, all full. There were maybe 40 people there.

Doris produced and directed a second play the next year. Then all us kids moved on to other things. I wonder whatever happened to her. She would be about 44 now.



Kick The Can

For those who have never played, here is how to play:

Start by choosing one person to be It. To start the game, this player gets to kick the can as far as he's able. The players scatter to find hiding places as the can rolls. It then chases after the can and brings it back to home base. Once he brings the can home, It counts to 50 (or 100) with his eyes closed. When he opens them, he starts searching and the fun begins.

When It finds a hider, he calls out this player's name. If the hider can kick over the can before It does, he's safe. If It makes it to the can first, the player whose name he calls out is captured and must wait in the jail (next to the can). The players in jail are not hopeless. A brave soul can risk capture to save them. If this person can kick over the can and call out "Home free" without getting captured by It, the jailbirds are free to run and hide from It again.

The game continues until all the jailbirds have been captured. The first person caught becomes It in the next game. If jailbreaks keep the game going on too long, the first person who is caught three times becomes It and a new game begins.


I can still picture all of us - a bunch of barefoot kids, all under 10 - huddled around a can, waiting for the It person to start counting. We would play from the time everyone got home from school until it was time to go home, every day, for months.

I was that “brave soul” many times. I was a really fast runner when I was a kid.



As we got older, we used that corner to play kick ball and baseball. The drainage covers made perfect bases. See the picture to your right for the actual spot I’m describing.

Those later games didn’t last long. By 13 years old, our neighborhood group was breaking up. Everyone was starting to become friends with kids from school. At the end of my 8th grade year in May, I remember telling my school friends that I’d see them in August. That’s what I had always done: I had school friends and neighborhood friends. That year, however, was different. My school friends and I stuck together through the summer. By 15 years old, I rarely saw the other kids in the neighborhood any more.

It was the beginning of a new era.

I still do miss that time growing up.

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One day, I’ll tell you about the time we put on a circus for the neighborhood parents.