Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Cheers to Haddon "Sunny" Sundblom (1899 - 1976), a great American illustrator.
Sorry to kill your buzz. Sadly, it was estimated that one needed to drink upwards of a thousand bottles of wine a day to achieve the beneficial effects of Resveratrol. With the exception of lab rats and a few of my relatives, no one can drink that much.
The good news: An article published today showcases several new related drugs that have been identified. Sinclair and other researchers have tested some 500,000 molecules, and come up with alternatives to Resveratrol. In fact, the most potent SIRT1 activator they've isolated is a thousand times more powerful! The science baffles me, but the salient point is that these new breakthrough drugs may someday be available to the general public, perhaps in pill form. Soon, it may no longer be necessary to drink a thousand bottles of red wine a day. So relax. Take a breather. With any luck, you may get to be part of clinical studies that begin on humans in 2008. Until then, drink responsibly.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Anthony Bourdain explains in the introduction to a new coffee table book that chefs often play a game after hours, as they sit drinking their wine, of choosing their last meal. You may have read about it in the New Yorker. Fifty top-rank chefs rose to the challenge, and the results may surprise you. Sure, there are truffles, and caviar, and foie gras, but well-respected Jacques Pepin chose a simple hot dog for his last meal. Masa Takayama requested blowfish. Gordon Ramsay, a blowfish of sorts, called for a classic roast. Tyler Florence wants a southern meal, like the suppers he had as a child. "No frou frou French. No snout-to-tail. No fucking foie gras."
It's a cute game for foodies, but what about the last meals of actual condemned prisoners? What requests come from Death Row? I dug around and found a list.
That made it possible to pair some top-rank chefs with condemned prisoners. It would be an education for both parties. Jacques Pepin could eat his simple hot dog with convicted murderer Richard Williams, who actually requested hot dogs smothered with chili. Takayama could eat his fish with David Hicks, who requested fish, fries, and soda. Chef Laurent Tourondel wanted a BLT sandwich, and so did condemned man Jerry McFadden. Tyler Florence could have his southern meal with Alva Curry, who requested chicken-fried steak with country gravy.
Some matches are not perfect. Eric Ripert would have to share his black-bass tartare, poached white tuna, and spiny lobster curry with Clydell Coleman, who actually requested salmon croquettes. And Gordon Ramsey. His yelling probably wouldn't make him very popular in prison, but maybe his grilling skills would please Stanley Baker, Jr., who asked for two 16 oz. rib-eyes. That is, unless Ramsey gets a knuckle sandwich first.
Fortunately, Sebastian Cabot is not one of them. The gentleman's gentleman, best known for his roll as Mr. French the butler on the TV sitcom "Family Affair," recorded an entire album of Dylan songs. Bad idea.
To hear his dramatic reading of "Like a Rolling Stone" (and to see why Dylan is sobbing on the album cover) please click button.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Golden Age Comic Book Stories has a lot of great preliminary drawings from the good old days of comics. Check it out. http://goldenagecomicbookstories.blogspot.com/
Sunday, November 25, 2007
A favorite of critics and hipsters alike, Nara dazzles with simple form and shape, but pleases the Hello Kitty Generation with big-eyed cuteness.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Be cool and there is no cooler than Stax Records from deep, down in chicken-fried Memphis, recording home of so many greats, Rufus and Carla, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Albert King, the Staple Singers. You can have your Graceland across town, but make sure to visit Stax, nicknamed Soulsville, USA. If you're lucky you'll get to hear the hardcore house band, Booker T and the MGs.
You can't go wrong with Booker T's heavy Hammond B-3 organ layed thick over kick-ass rhythm section Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass and Al Jackson Jr on drums, with lead guitar from the great Steve Cropper, who co-wrote "Dock of the Bay" with Otis Redding. Rare for creating such a groove, and rare for being racially mixed in the Deep South in these Jim Crow days. In the early days, it was shades and razor sharp sharkskin suits, and later on there were beards and long hair and a tough psychedelic sound that never deteriorated into endless hippy noodling.
The film clips are a little rough, but imagine it's a hot southern night and you're sipping whiskey on the rocks and maybe smoking gage out behind the club and these cats are on the bandstand and there is no tomorrow. Cool? These guys wrote the book. Enjoy the early, essential instrumental hit "Green Onions" above, and this later clip of a swampy "Time is Tight" led off by weird beard Steve Cropper. Either way, catch a riff to Soulsville.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thirty years ago today, I was arrested by the state police on the banks of the Columbia River. I wasn't alone. Ninety-five other people were also cuffed and carted off the grounds of the Trojan Nuclear Plant after refusing to stop blocking it's gates, in the largest act of civil disobedience in Oregon's history anyone could remember. For context, this was two years before the Three Mile Island disaster, and nine years before the devastation at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The general public believed nukes provided clean and efficient fuel, and had little reason to doubt the authorities. The Mighty Atom was our little buddy!
Startling data from the scientific community was roundly ignored by government and big business in line to make a profit. A grassroots group of environmentalists, the Trojan Decomissioning Alliance (TDA), countered the official story through educational outreach at schools and in the community. TDA was a lively bunch of activists, fired up with the spirit that we could change the world, or at least our small part of it. We met in an old church in Southeast Portland, hashing out politics and environmental news, and mapping strategy over bulk food and jugs of apple juice from nearby landmark Corno's, or beers at a local pub well into the night.
Good people, high spirits. Although decisions were made in a utopian, if tedious, consensus process, we were lucky to have staffer Norman Solomon, now a noted author and media critic with a weekly syndicated column. Norman is a great guy and a good organizer, a "non-leader" willing to roll up his sleeves for the necessary gruntwork. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Solomon
The decision to commit civil disobedience came after a hand-wringing consensus session, and I can still picture the tattered copy of Thoreau that contributed to the exhausting debate. On Civil Disobedience, a classic that should be required reading.
After weeks and weeks of debating, non-violent training, role-playing, interviews with lawyers and civil rights activists, late night guitar-playing parties, and soul-searching preparation for the possibility of jail, the day finally arrived. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and misty in the morning. I had turkey sandwiches in my backpack, and so did a lot of others, though there was a large vegetarian contingent. Someone brought apple juice from Corno's and we passed a jug around. The cooling tower rose from the mist like Mt. Doom. It started to drizzle. We blocked the gate.
Cut to the chase. We were arrested, handcuffed, and dragged to police buses. In captivity, we sang songs, rapped, played soccer with a rolled-up T-shirt.
"We were elated by the trial," said Norman Solomon, in his book, "Made Love, Got War." "It turned out to be the last time the DA went along with allowing extensive testimony on the dangers of nuclear power...the Trojan Decomissioning Alliance redoubled it's media outreach to challenge the usual arguments for nuclear energy." There were more arrests, at later occupations, and a total of 272 occupiers were dispersed to jails in seven counties.
The first trial presented to the public several days of expert testimony from a number of leading scientists and expert witnesses. Lon Topaz, former head of the Oregon Department of Energy, testified that the Trojan plant posed an imminent danger to the public. He said it should be shut down.
Performing community service wasn't so bad. In fact, sending organizers out into the community may not have been the brightest idea the authorities ever had. We met more people that way and they realized we weren't scary tree-hugging freaks they had been warned about. Many of them didn't like being downriver from the nuke plant to begin with, and they told us so.
That was thirty years ago today.
A brief film of the final days:
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Leonard Cohen contemplates death with the saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins. "Who By Fire"
Rufus Wainright slinks through a lounge-y cover of Cohen's "Everybody Knows"
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
"Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for -- annually, not oftener -- if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments."
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and to the hobo with the turkey sandwich.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The second clip is an actual segment from Cooper's DVD, Never Get Busted Again, and is included for informational purposes only, and as such is protected as Free Speech under the United States Constitution.
Barry Cooper's website can be found here:
In this pen and ink drawing, I tried to capture The Nat King Cole Trio. The trio consisted of Cole on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Wesley Prince on bass. They played around the Los Angeles area from the late 1930s. (During the war, Prince was replaced by Johnny Miller). At first, Cole didn't sing, just played the piano and led the band. Then someone at an L.A. nightclub requested he sing "Sweet Lorraine." Cole resisted at first, then relented when the patron complained to the club manager. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nat King Cole (born Nathanial Adams Coles, 1919, Montgomery, Alabama) was a phenomenally talented jazz singer, songwriter, and pianist. In 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC-TV, breaking down the color barrier on television. Sponsors shied away from the show, and it was canceled a year later. "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark," Cole quipped. In spite of the loss, Cole continued to be a popular entertainer with a long string of hits, beloved by music fans until he died in 1965.
In this clip from 1946, the Nat King Cole Trio can been seen performing "It's Better To Be By Yourself."
Monday, November 19, 2007
Ever watch the Food Network? Where did all these celebrity chefs come from? You've got Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batalli, Giada De Laurentiis, Rachael Ray, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Charlie Trotter, Jacques Pepin, Maryann Esposito, Bobby Flay, Biba Caggiano, Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown, and a few dozen Iron Chefs. There are a million of them, and now that Thanksgiving is here they're grabbing that turkey like it's the last chopper out of Saigon.
They all can cook turkey. These TV chefs can roast it, bake it, deep fry it, smoke it, stack it sideways, and put little booties on it, but Thanksgiving dinner should be about tradition. That's why we're ignoring these studio-tanned, camera hogs and going with the old pros. Pay attention and learn something.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
When I was a kid, I drew plenty of these. In fact, I actually won a "Draw a Turkey Contest." I appeared on a kiddie cartoon show, the "Ramblin' Rod Show." Nowadays, parents might be less willing to send their kids to a man with such a name, but back in the innocent early sixties it was all good, clean fun, and "Ramblin' Rod" was the perfect gentleman.
"Ramblin' Rod" told jokes, played the guitar, and introduced classic Popeye and Bugs Bunny cartoons. The show was wildly popular with my age group, and everyone I knew watched it religiously. Rod "interviewed" me between cartoons, shook my hand, and awarded me a gas-powered, Lotus racer. The massive television camera pulled in close, broadcasting live to the entire state. My parents beamed with pride in the studio audience. I think Dad wore a tie. More important, my friends and numerous cousins watched the show on actual TV! This was before everyone had video cameras, so this was highly unusual; there I was ON ACTUAL TV. My cousins were amazed. Even their parents stopped drinking and fighting long enough to watch! It was a little holiday magic, and I was on my way to becoming an artist.
The next day, there was photograph of me in the local newspaper holding the Lotus racer. "Little Bobby Rini," it said, "Draws Turkey, Wins Prize." No film footage of the moment exists, but I found these clips from "The Ramblin' Rod Show" so try and picture me in there, a nerdy little kid wearing glasses and holding an excellent drawing of a Thanksgiving turkey.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Striking U.S. screenwriters and major film and TV studios agreed on Friday to resume formal contract talks -- according to Reuters. The most serious Hollywood strike in twenty years dragged into its 12th day. Let's check in with Sam and Jim.
Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn are a couple funny guys who happen to be Hollywood screenwriters. They have a regular podcast about breaking into "the business," where they shine a light on the strange doings of Tinseltown.
Click the button to hear Sam and Jim's Hollywood podcast:
For more from them, visit their website http://samandjimgotohollywood.libsyn.com/
Dedicated to my cousin Gerard Rizza, a young New York poet who was crazy about Patti Smith and a great many other things.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I toured his house with several artist friends. We'd been asked to produce artwork inspired by the collection. We squeezed through the crowded house with sketchbooks, jotting down impressions of the place like explorers on a strange planet. I was lucky enough to be invited into this weird world, but you can take a virtual tour at "VR Seattle" where there are some amazing 360 degree panoramic views to explore.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
What's with you, Amy Winehouse? Are you going down in flames? You make a great record, then fall apart like a cheap suit? I hope not. Last month you got busted for weed in Norway. Your husband was tossed into jail. Last night, the crowd booed your show because you were high as a kite and slurring your words. So you threatened the booing crowd. Amy. Come on. Pull out of this tailspin. Watch these girls. They did it first. They had a hard sweet sound and bad girl beehives. They had troubles, too, but they were tough as steel combs in a rumble. Learn something from the Ronettes.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Approach with caution, and not just because they distort your consciousness. These little nipple-capped fungi are listed as Schedule 1 drugs under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and therefore illegal to possess and distribute. The classification of psilocybin mushrooms as a Schedule 1 drug has come under criticism because they are considered soft drugs with a low potential for abuse. Local laws may be somewhat ambiguous. Either way, if you're poking around cow pies picking mushrooms, be aware of the risks involved.
In this age of the Great Drug Wars, it's difficult to find a truly disinterested observor speaking candidly about drug experiences (unless we're talking legal, socially acceptable drugs like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco) so here is something rare: an intelligent, non-hysterical talk about magic mushrooms. The speaker is the well-respected physician and health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil, author of "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health" and other bestselling books.
Forbes on-line magazine writes: "Dr. Weil, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, is one of the most widely known and respected alternative medicine gurus. For five years, he has offered straightforward tips and advice on achieving wellness through natural means and educating the public on alternative therapies."
Here, Dr. Weil talks openly about psilocybin mushrooms without the distortion of drug war politics or puritanism clouding his report.
Andrew Weil, from "Mushroom Hunting." Journal of Psychedelic Drugs. Jan-Mar 1975: 7(1).
...Soon I had eaten 25 of the tiny mushrooms...[liberty caps in a field in Oregon]
Gradually I became aware of a strange sensation in my stomach, a sort of buzzing vibration that grew slowly in intensity. It was not at all unpleasant, and I knew at once it was the mushrooms. Over the next ten minutes this unusual feeling became stronger, filling my abdomen. Then it began to invade the rest of my body, pushing outward through the muscles to the extremities. I was distinctly aware of a subtle but powerful energy vibrating through the musculature of my whole body. It made me feel warm and strong. As it reached my head, my senses sharpened, and I found myself admiring qualities of the wet pasture I had ignored until then. The green of the grass was of glowing intensity, highlighted by tones of brown and red. The smell of the earth and rain was overpowering. I had no desire to move. If the ground had been dry, I would have stretched out and rolled on the grass.
For the rest of the story:
To hear Leadbelly perform "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" click button:
Spiderman will be spinning a worldwide web, if Marvel Entertainment gets it's way. Marvel unveils it's digital comics library, whereby any geek -- er, serious student of sequential art -- can access their special brand of neurotic superheroes online.
Digital Comics Unlimited (DCU) is available via a $4.99- or $9.99-per-month subscription, which lets users read 2,500 classic and recent comic books via their Web browsers. That's right, you can't download them, but you can read them.
According to Reuters, "The Digital Comics Unlimited site then will add 20 additional books a week, including a mix of new and vintage comics." That will include the first 100 issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Fantastic Four," as well as the initial 66-issue run of "Uncanny X-Men. " Throw in some Hulk, some Dr. Strange, and maybe even that first issue of "Silver Surfer" that my mom accidentally donated to Goodwill many years ago. 'Nuff said!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Vincent Black Lightning was the world's fastest motorcycle. Only thirty were ever built, between 1949 and 1952.
Vincent, a British manufacturer, built the bikes for speed, stripping off unessentials and using lightweight alloy rims and racing tires, magnesium alloy brake backing plates, and aluminum fenders. With a 70hp engine, the Lightning remained the world's fastest bike twenty years after the last one was built.
This is 1949. Racing a Vincent Black Lightning at the Bonneville Salt Flats wearing full leathers, Rollie Free could only get up to 147 mph. At that point his leathers flapped so violently they tore. Free thought for a moment, then stripped down to helmet, shoes, and a Speedo bathing suit, and was clocked at 150.313 mph!
The Vincent Black Lightning -- A rare gem, a beautiful machine, the holy grail of high performance motorcycles, and something special to put on your Christmas list.
Guitar hero Richard Thompson, formerly of Fairport Convention, wrote this love song about James, Red Molly, and a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
What's wrong with me? I'm sick of these idiots. I should just chill and enjoy being an apathetic, slacker hipster -- make art, listen to music, watch suitably ironic shows on my flat screen, stop and smell the artificial roses. In the greater scheme of things, after all, we're just a speck in the cosmos.
What does it matter if these monkeys in suits drop bombs, trash the woods, shred the constitution, destroy the planet? Look at them. They drive me insane with their arrogance and greed, their stupidity, their sense of superiority, their imaginary inside track with God. I guess enlightenment will have to wait. I can't seem to transcend the bullshit.
I've always rooted for the underdog. It started on the playground, back in first grade. I can't help it (lowly evolved creature that I am) when some little David gives a hulking Goliath a good crack in the mouth. I'm a monkey, too, I guess. I may never get that placid, glazed third eye look of those smug seventh level vegans smoking cigarettes out on the Ave. The know-it-alls, world weary at twenty two. Maybe someday a good mortician will fix me up with a smile like that. In the meantime, all the joy and rage will be real -- including my rage against this ugly war machine. To help get through it, here are some soulful troubadours on the dark edge of the empire.
First, a cry of love from a psychedelic ex-paratrooper from Seattle named Hendrix called "Machine Gun."
Next up, old man Dylan plays a song about a soldier named "John Brown."
Finally, the Roots perform "Masters of War," setting the lyrics to a familar tune. Check it out:
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Norman Mailer (American writer, 1923-07) died early Saturday morning at the age of 84. Mailer is the last of the post-war literary lions to go, and his legacy will remain several great novels and works of "new journalism" combining the novelist's skill with reportage, books such as "Armies of the Night" and "The Executioner's Song," winning Mailer the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize twice.
A scrappy, combative writer, Mailer was a fierce opponent in debate, combining Harvard-honed intelligence with Brooklyn street smarts to trounce any contenders (Hannity was suitably shredded recently). Mailer's view of the universe was both existential and Manichean, a struggle between equally matched good and evil, a contest in which there was no guarantee of good prevailing. He was a lifelong political lefty, though not in any simplistic sense, and he continued to fight at an age when most older writers seem content to accumulate laurels. Mailer despised George Bush and the Iraq War, delineating his arguments in the book "Why Are We at War?" and countless articles and speeches. Here are a couple clips from interviews.
"Iraq is the excuse for moving in an imperial direction. War with Iraq, as they originally conceived it, would be a quick, dramatic step that would enable them to control the Near East as a powerful base - not least because of the oil there, as well as the water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - to build a world empire." International Herald Tribune, 2003
"Well, I can present other scenarios than the one offered by our two good Doctors of Magic, Rove and Bush, Masters of Advertising Sciences (Mendacity and Public Manipulation). Their access to confidential material is orders of magnitude larger than is available to any of us, but their scenario has been skewed by the outsize need to mischaracterize the greater part of intelligence they do receive..Embarking on a full-scale war to rid oneself of terrorists is analogous to hunting a hornet with a Sherman tank." From a letter in the New York Review of Books, 2003
Here, Mailer speaks with Charlie Rose about "The Spooky Art of Writing." His section begins about fifteen minutes in, so skip ahead to that point.