Friday, November 28, 2008

Coldplay concludes U.S. tour in Phoenix

I saw Coldplay in Glendale last night as they concluded their American tour, and it was one of the most creative concerts I've ever seen. It was also the first non-amphitheater concert I've seen in a very long time. I'm guessing U2 circa 1997 was the last one I saw that wasn't in one of those sheds. The show had many highs and a few disappointments. One of the best parts was the spectacular laser show. Short of Pink Floyd and probably U2, I'm not sure I've seen any band incorporate the visual element as well as Coldplay did last night. During the song Lovers in Japan they had tons of butterfly paper cutouts in fluorescent colors come streaming down, which were all lit up. The picture in the bottom gives an idea of what it was like. When darkened in the arena, it created a spectacular effect. They had a series of disco balls with visual images of the performers throughout the arena as well. The whole band walked literally into the crowd, with only mild security really, which put the whole band about 3 feet from me, which rarely happens in an arena concert and was quite cool. They played a few tunes in the aisle right next to the crowd in the cheaper seats, and I mean right there. Chris Martin is a top notch arena rock front man -- personable, talented and energetic. The only real downside to the show is that it was a bit short at maybe ninety minutes, and the ending was sudden and anticlimactic with only one encore. For what concert ticket costs in this day and age, the band should err on the side of pumping out a few extra songs. Their best song Clocks had a new, faster and not improved arrangement, and they didn't play several of my favorite songs like Daylight, Moses and others. Overall, it was a very impressive concert that offered an enhanced appreciation of their latest album.
I'm gone from Saipan, but glad to see not forgotten, as the whole family made the Marianas Variety thankful list for the fourth year. Very cool.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Variations on a theme

I made shrimp fra diavlo last week and it turned out pretty well, so I tried it with mussels tonight and it was even better. Wal Mart sells frozen mussels that are already cleaned and ready to go for about $2 pound, so my mussel consumption has increased dramatically. They're quick, easy and cheap, which is the right combination. I think the key to this dish is a fair amount of spice and not to skimp on the onions. I eased up on the onions last time and regretted it. I served it over linguine. The pic is the one I made.

3 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large chopped onion
1/2 cup white wine
1 12 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 small can tomato paste to thicken the sauce
1 pound mussels
red pepper flakes
top with chopped parsley and basil

Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat.
Add the garlic and onions, cook briefly until fragrant
Add the can of diced tomatoes with juices
Add the wine
Bring the mixture to the boil and add the mussels, cook 3-5 minutes
Thicken the sauce with a can of tomato paste. Omit if you like a thin sauce.
Stir in red pepper flakes and some salt.
Top with chopped parsley and basil and serve over pasta of your choice. I used linguine.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Doug Stanhope in Tempe

Last night I caught Doug Stanhope for some renegade comedy at a rock club in Tempe. He doesn't do comedy clubs because he thinks they're, "Adult Chucky Cheeses for all occasions." This was definitely not a sanitized, corporate comedy club experience, there weren't even chairs, which was mostly good. I enjoyed the 75 minutes of vitriol Stanhope offered, and got to chat with him a few minutes after the show, and he was cool. Stanhope had one of his drunken friends open with fifteen minutes of pointless, humorless rambling, which had a certain unintentional Andy Kaufmann make the audience hate you vibe. I also saw Dave Attell at the Tempe Improv a few weeks ago, which started strong but weakened as the set went on and wasn't aided by $8 per drink in this economy. Liked this line from Attell about watching the presidential debates with the sound down: "It looks like a snowman is yelling at very young pharaoh."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quote of the week II

"America is like Jessica Simpson, sometimes it's so stupid it embarasses you, but on the other hand, 'How about them titties.'"

- Bill Maher, in a good mood celebrating the greatness of America and offering the final word for this season's finale of Real Time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Facebook is nuts

I signed up for Facebook the other day on Boni's invite, and I talked to about six people I haven't talked to in five to fifteen years -- including relatives and of course ex-Saipan folks. I found both my old college roommates in about five minutes. The most interesting thing was seeing the people from grade school. The names are a real jolt from the past. From what I can tell, I'm the baldest and the one who has been the most geographically removed. It seems like everybody is on this thing. This internet is quite the invention.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


What a strange and bizarre feeling it is to be back living in a country where I'm again confident the right and sensible thing will be done. How good it feels to know that there is someone with real intellect in charge; someone with wide support who won't pander to the worst, most divisive instincts in people. It is a profound change to no longer expect as the norm wildly irresponsible fiscal planning and globally embarassing public policy positions. How enouraging it is to see someone empowered who will actually go about fixing the enormous real problems that face both this country and this world. I'm proud of this country again for the first time in a long, long time. Kudos to Sen. John McCain for an incredibly noble and not just rote concession speech.

Get out and vote

It takes a lot to get me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, but I found the will and got down to the polling place at 6:00 a.m. to hopefully not wait in line for hours to vote. Mission only slightly accomplished. It still took an hour in line even at that time. Lots of people won't vote over this common problem and that system needs to be fixed. Regardless, let's hope the polls are right and our long national nightmare of Republican misrule ends today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In praise of the slow cooker

I'm a big fan of the crock pot. I made a wonderful fresh tomato sauce in it a few weeks ago. It was the first time I made fresh tomato sauce and thought the result worth the extra effort. I've tried a few times and not thought it worth the trouble until now, and I thought the slow cooking process had a lot to do with the improved final results.

My general philosophy of cooking is that too much garlic is never enough. I'm coming around to a similar worldview on that as it relates to basil and shallots, which I used in abound to make that fresh tomato sauce. I used garlic, shallots, basil, parsley, sugar, oregano, red pepper flake, a splash of red wine and of courses seeded roma tomatoes cooked for a long time on low to make a lively red sauce.

The slow cooker is always great for making chicken stock without much skimming required. I regularly also use it for cooking whole brined, chicken with stuffing, pot roasts, sauerkraut and kielbasa cooked a long time on low with some onion and a bacon slice, as well as my favorite Portuguese dish, mariscada, which I continue to experiment with. This weekend I added saffron threads to the broth and a splash of sherry.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The canned hunts - hilarious

This might be a little dated in terms of being "newsy," but it is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life.

Matt Taibbi on Sarah Palin

Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.

And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she's a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed middle-American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-size bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the Sizzlin' Picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else's, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because the image on TV reminds him of the mean, brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning.

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power.