Monday, May 31, 2010

Something wicked this way comes

(Yes, that's an actual BP ad, ca. 1999 T-shirt at

Readers, if you're wondering why you have not yet heard my take on The Great Gulf of Mexico Oil Geyser Disaster Enabled by the Dismantling of Regulations--and Corruption of a Federal Agency With Oil Industry Accomplices From Top to Bottom--by a Certain Ex-Vice President's Secret Energy Task Force, all Fueled (pun fully intended) by This Nation's Insatiable Appetite for Oil That Exists Courtesy of Some of Her Citizens' Stubborn Insistence On Driving Enormous, Wasteful Fucking Cars and SUV's Because Damn it, That's Our Right, God Bless America, well, it's because I have been struggling to find the appropriate words.

I try, and I try once again and always fail, to put into sentences, just a few of them even, how upset I am, particularly upon seeing the oil-coated birds, turtles, and porpoises--the barely alive and the newly dead--upon watching the clogged and dying marshes and mangroves stream across my television and computer, upon looking at photographs of the distraught faces of fishermen and beach hoteliers whose livelihoods are flat-out destroyed for who knows how many years to come.

I turn to my husband, who loves these shores and those waters, and who, along with my father and brother, has spent countless hours filled with wonder and joy while scuba-diving, filming, and spear-fishing in their rich, life-filled depths, and he tells me how it breaks his heart to think he'll probably never be able to take our sons into the once-vibrant sea that he has enjoyed for the better part of his life; and his eyes fill with tears now as he laments the certain demise of the gentle whale sharks--one of which he clung to and rode like an enormous and dappled underwater pony just a few years ago--as he imagines them swimming through those ghastly plumes of toxic crude and suffocating, and dying horrible, poison-choked deaths, and for what...and you know, I am actually still failing to properly express my outrage.

And for someone who prides herself on being able to wield a strong word or two, normally, that's really saying something.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Awadagin Pratt performs at the White House

I was so pleased to find--finally--a video recording featuring my favorite American pianist, Awadagin Pratt. In this one, he's playing for President and Mrs. Obama, along with their elder daughter daughters Malia and Sasha, in November 2009 (how did I miss this?!) The piece is J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582. Toward the end, you'll recognize that ominous-sounding theme Keith Olbermann uses in his Worst Person in the World segments.

Awadagin throws in a final, witty flourish, too: the Hail to the Chief riff. (I'm certain no subtext was intended!)

Back in the 90's, I was channel-surfing and happened upon Awadagin playing piano (I'm thinking it was probably on CBS Sunday Morning). I was transfixed and completely bowled over by his passionate style and unusual, off-the-beaten-path selections (Franz Liszt's Funérailles [Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, No. VII], for heaven's sake, and do have your Kleenex ready for that one), so I set out to find a recording of his music, something that was considerably more difficult to do in the pre-Intertubes days.

On my next birthday, my dear friend Cynthia, who was an amazing finder of All Things Unfindable and who passed away in 1999, surprised me with Awadagin's first CD, A Long Way From Normal. I can't listen to it without crying--especially not the aforementioned Funérailles--but it remains my favorite (and I have bought everything he's recorded since).

Awadagin is an extraordinarily gifted musician--he was the first student in the history of the Peabody Conservatory of Music to receive diplomas in piano, violin, and conducting--and if he's ever performing in a city near yours, you must do whatever it takes to get yourself tickets. I've had the privilege of attending two of his concerts in Florida: he's brilliant.

***In closing, I'd like to wish dear TRex a very happy birthday. Cheers to you, my friend!***

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday Saturday Frank: Watermelon in Easter Hay; Barcelona, 1988

I could never pick a single FZ favorite, of course, but Watermelon, with its exquisite and moving extended guitar solo, is definitely right up there.

And given that, both here and at Cogitamus, sweet fruit has been a running theme of late--I'm referring, of course, to my lemony pound cake and Minstrel Boy's fresh cantaloupe ice-cream--today's Frank offering had to be either this one or Peaches in Regalia (next week, promise).

May your Memorial Day weekend be a bright and delicious celebration of summer's beginning.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

*Cake or Death? Limoncello Polenta Pound Cake

Lemon Slice with Knife by Michael Naples

Just about everyone loves a good old gooey chocolate cake; I know I do. But I often find myself fancying something with a crisper, more citrus-y bite--chalk it up to the sun pouring in the windows (or who knows, maybe I'm finally growing up? Nah.) Anyway, several months ago I played around with a polenta cake recipe from the brilliant Moosewood Desserts cookbook, added my favorite Italian liqueur, and came up with a cake that's become an oft-requested favorite. The texture is wonderful--buttery yet slightly gritty, the way Milano cookies are--and the Limoncello's alcohol will evaporate during baking, making the cake fine for kids (I know mine adore it, though it contains nary a speck of chocolate), but if you like a genuinely boozy cake, you can also sprinkle some of the liqueur on top of your creation while it's still warm. Off to the kitchen with you, then, to make...

Limoncello Polenta Pound Cake

1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little for greasing the pan.
3 cups sugar
the finely grated rind of 2 lemons
6 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons lemon extract
3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup Limoncello (a gorgeous, intensely lemony Italian liqueur)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal (organic if you can, so as to avoid all the GMO corn out there)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. (give or take a few degrees if your oven is wonky like mine--I always err on the side of going a bit lower and baking longer in order to prevent an overly dark crust). Butter and flour a nonstick bundt pan and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light, then add the lemon rind and mix well. Continue beating and add the eggs and the vanilla and lemon extracts, and beat until fluffy. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix it into the egg-butter mixture, using a wooden spoon now. Then add the Limoncello and milk, and stir until smooth. Mix in the cornmeal until just blended.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan and place in the center of the oven. You'll want to check on it in an hour, then every five minutes or so (it may take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes to be done). When your cake looks golden and is pulling away, slightly, from the edges of the pan, remove it from the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes, and invert it onto a large, flat plate. (Gently tap the edges of the pan if necessary.) Remove the pan from the cake, and voilá! A picture-perfect cake with an intoxicating fragrance is yours--to eat plain, to dust with powdered sugar and adorn with candles, or to serve warm with vanilla or lemon ice cream. Enjoy!


Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Frank: Appearing on Forum Musiques; Paris, 1968

This is a rare treat for us Zappaphiles: video recording of FZ and the Mothers of Invention making their first appearance on the French TV program Forum Musiques. The music is at once inventive, amusing, bizarre, and deeply beautiful--in short, very Frank.

And come to think of it, those adjectives might well describe my hopes for the impending summer and the activities (and lack thereof) in which I'm considering engaging myself and the boys: we shall aim to fill our days with the inventive, the amusing, the bizarre, and the deeply beautiful.

So: what are your warm-weather plans?

Monday, May 17, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

From 1980, Ronnie James Dio sings Black Sabbath's War Pigs.

Dio, 67, lost his battle with cancer this weekend. My boys are heartbroken, and me, well, I am reminded once again that even the musicians we consider rock legends are mortal. But like the music, the legends themselves live on, as will Mr. Dio's music and legend; perhaps his family will find some comfort in that. I hope so.

War Pigs

Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of death's construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh lord yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Clustershag to 10 Downing: The Daily Show on Great Britain's new (and old) PM

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Clustershag to 10 Downing - New Prime Minister
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

From beginning to end, this is brilliant, painfully funny stuff.

(As for our last president's shame-free departure by helicopter, I agree with John Oliver: WTF?)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

His Rudeness on the Gulf oil spill

Cartoon by Patrick Corrigan, The Toronto Star

You are regularly reading The Rude Pundit, yes? If not, get yourself over there right now and be sure to bookmark the blog. (I wouldn't recommend reading his posts aloud if there are tender-eared children present, but oh my, can Lee ever make me laugh, and wince, and cry...)

He lambasts the GOP's hypocritical response (this is all President Obama's fault? Really?) to the horrific and ongoing oil spill that is already killing sea turtles and fish, and which is now threatening the entire west coast of this state--where several of America's most beautiful, pristine beaches are located--right down to the Florida Keys, where delicate coral heads and ocean ecosystems are barely hanging on as it is, and after this disaster, will likely suffer for many years to come, if indeed they're ever able to recover.

I'll add just one thing Rude's spot-on piece: one of those Panhandle luxury waterfront homes belongs to Karl Rove. Somehow, that fact doesn't make me feel the tiniest bit better.

Anyway, in its no-punches-pulled entirety:
The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Will Wreck Your Pathetic Ideology:

Tell you what, motherfuckers, when dead people are left to rot in the sun because of the incompetence of the federal government, when corpses are floating in the streets, when the President passively ignores the pleas of the governors of Gulf Coast states, when entire neighborhoods have been physically destroyed, when the federal government strands tens of thousands of people without food or water, when the federal government starts to blame the local governments, when the President praises the work of a failed, incompetent bureaucrat while a major city rots, then you can say that this is Barack Obama's "Katrina."

But until this happens, good, sweet conservative bags of fuck who need so desperately to drag this president down, the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is a corporate-created disaster, and it actually serves to demonstrate, starkly, and with a semen-like sheen, as if the ocean floor is in the midst of a prolonged sweet crude ejaculation, the utter failure of deregulation and the bullshit notion that capitalistic enterprises can police themselves when it comes to safety and environmental standards, whether it was, in this case, BP or Transocean or whoever. In other words, once again, as with so many things, this is about your ideology belly-flopping, much like, you know, when Katrina showed how years of neglect of the levees would lead to a nightmare.

So now Bobby Jindal, formerly of the "states can solve problems" crowd, is coming to the federal government with his hands out like a New Delhi beggar with leprosy. Hell, Haley Barbour already knows the routine. Bob Riley's about to discover that money from the fed ain't so bad now. Bow and scrape, assholes, as an environmental catastrophe that's coming your way is gonna destroy jobs, tourism, and wetlands.

Right now, as the Rude Pundit writes this, the booms that were set up to protect the beaches in Alabama and Mississippi are failing. They're being blown onto shore by the winds, by the waves. Dead things are washing up, too. The fishing's been halted. Pretty soon, the white, white sands, the Aryan beaches of the Redneck Riviera are going to get dingier and dingier looking, even more than when swarms of UA kids head there to vomit in the sun on spring break.

Yes, some day soon, a man with his Gulf Shores timeshare, probably a proud and loyal teabagger, will look out over his balcony during the two weeks a year he takes his family on vacation and see the bits of black that are rolling up onto the shore. And he'll wonder, even if they do everything they can, why the feds couldn't clean it up sooner. Then he'll go inside and watch Hannity or listen to Limbaugh tell him that his taxes are too high and that business, not Washington, can solve all his problems.