Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Today, Desi Arnaz is best known as Ricky Ricardo--Lucy's husband--from "I Love Lucy." But he was a powerhouse entertainer in his own right before those two became a couple, performing with the legendary Xavier Cugat before striking out on his own. It was with Cugat that he first started performing what would become his signature piece, "Babalu." I think it's pretty apparent in this performance why he became a Big Deal.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dire Straits.

Now Playing: Xavier Cugat The Very Best of Xavier Cugat
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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

On this date in 2007, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler died of pancreatic cancer.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. And for that reason, many people (mostly men) who are old enough to remember curse his name. Despite being a raging egomaniac, he was a powerful champion of the downtrodden in his lifetime, and did a tremendous amount of good. Where the Chicken Ranch was concerned, he let his lust for fame and the spotlight get the better of him, and this allowed people with a vendetta against the Chicken Ranch to manipulate him from a distance. Zindler was a person who firmly believed in his own righteous infallibility, and once it became clear the vast organized crime conspiracy behind the Chicken Ranch's operation did not exist, well, Zindler doubled down on the conspiracy angle rather than admitting he'd been duped. He went to his grave insisting on criminal conspiracy and corruption, although he was never able to prove any of his claims.

Despite this, nobody could argue Zindler wasn't committed to his job. He accomplished a tremendous amount of good throughout his career, championing the downtrodden and exposing slum lords, unscrupulous car salesmen and all manner of predators exploiting people who had neither the money nor power to fight back. But they had Zindler on their side. Despite constant pain from the cancer destroying him, Zindler insisted on delivering his famed restaurant report from his hospital bed on July 20. It proved to be his final report. Just over a week later, he was dead.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Edmundo Ros & His Orchestra The Very Best of Edmundo Ros & His Orchestra
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Monday, July 20, 2020

A Moment of Tiki episodes 10 & 11

"A Moment of Tiki" returns for your viewing pleasure with two new episodes!

First up is episode 10, in which my little web series moves up into double digits! For this momentous occasion, I interview Austin burlesque performer and model Something Blue, who is all kinds of fun. We go behind the scenes for her photo shoot with Secrets By Miss Lisa, and a good time is had by all.

In episode 11, I review Beachbum Berry Remixed, probably the ultimate tiki cocktail recipe book, written by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. It's a combined edition of his earlier books, Grog Log and Intoxica! that is updated, revised and expanded with additional recipes. And wow, does he bring the recipes! Hundreds upon hundreds of classic cocktails reside within those pages, many thought lost forever before Berry's dogged persistence and devoted cocktail sleuthing uncovered them. Anyone who's enjoyed an authentic, classic tiki cocktail over the past 20 years likely has Berry to thank for the quality of their tipple.

Remember, you can view all of my videos online at YouTube. If you enjoy, don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment! I'll be mighty grateful!

Episode 10: Something Blue

Episode 11: Beachbum Berry Remixed

Now Playing: Various artists Technicolor Paradise
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Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Back in high school I got into Dire Straits when everyone else my age did--that is, when "Money For Nothing" became the monster hit that consumed radio. That's about as far as my interest went, although I did get On the Night in college and listened to it quite a bit. Now, as I enter my dotage, I find myself seasonally enamoured with Dire Straits. Specifically, the band's become one of my go-to soundscapes for night swimming in the pool. Even more specifically, the double live album Alchemy, which I've only had for a few years. See, Alchemy was that one entry in the Columbia Records & CD Club (and later BMG) catalog that always beckoned me. I never pulled the trigger, because like a lot of my peers, I didn't really grok Brothers in Arms and all of Mark Knopfler's jazzy instrumentals. But when you become an old fart, sometimes you say "What the hell?" and scratch those 30-year-old curiosity itches. And I'm glad I did, because Alchemy is a spectacular live album that lives up to its reputation. Which is neither here nor there, because "Skateaway" isn't on Alchemy but it's exemplifies that particular Dire Straits sound I come back to every summer. It also doesn't hurt that this video is silly fun and takes me back to my teenage years, even though it came out before I was technically a teenager, and the one time I actually went skating I ended up with a broken leg. Ah, memories...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MonaLisa Sisters.

Now Playing: Dire Straits Alchemy
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Monday, June 15, 2020

A Moment of Tiki episodes 7, 8 & 9

"A Moment of Tiki" returns for your viewing pleasure with three new episodes! Well, two of them have been up for a few weeks, but this is the first time I've mentioned them here on the blog.

First up is episode 7, in which I take viewers on a step-by-step how-to for making feijoa flower-infused rum. Do you think that sounds complicated? It's not! And the end result is pretty tasty as well. I'm proud of this episode, as this infusion is one I've never heard of before, and it turned out well.

In episode 8, I share my process for creating suitably tikified baseboards for the creation of a tiki room. When I build something from the ground up, I literally start at ground level. I start with cheap pine boards, and through the magic of routers and a hand-held torch, turn that wood into something that looks suitably primitive and weathered with age.

In episode 9, which just went live half and hour ago (as I write this) I teach the crazy simple process for making real, great-tasting grenadine at home. What's that you say? You don't like that bright red cherry-flavored high fructose corn syrup stuff? Join the crowd! Actual grenadine is made from pomegranate juice, not cherry, and the stuff you can make at home is so much better than the mass market stuff you find in stores (note: There are some high quality craft grenadines out there, but if you know where to look for those, you probably already know how to make your own as well).

Remember, you can view all of my videos online at YouTube. If you enjoy, don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment! I'll be mighty grateful!

Episode 7: Feijoa Rum Infusion

Episode 8: Tiki Baseboards

Episode 9: Grenadine

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

On this date, 50 years ago, the Kinks released "Lola" and popular music would never be the same. That makes today "Lola Day" and I almost missed it. Yikes! Since I've shared the Kinks doing this song before, here's a cool cover from the MonaLisa Twins that they did specifically for #LolaDay. Is that great? That's great!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Buffalo Springfield.

Now Playing: Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 Look Around
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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

They knew

After a week of nationwide protests following the needless murder of George Floyd, I would like to make a point that is largely overlooked in this--as well as pretty much every other case involving a police officer shooting an unarmed black man (or woman, in the case of Breonna Taylor). But first, a recap:

  • On May 25, George Floyd made a purchase at a Cup Foods store in Minneapolis
  • Cup Foods suspected a $20 Floyd used to paid for his purchase may have been counterfeit
  • Floyd voluntarily remained at Cup Foods, waiting for police to arrive, to clear up the problem
  • Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, along with three other officers, arrive
  • Chauvin handcuffs Floyd and forces him to the ground, where he then kills Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The other officers assist Chauvin to varying degrees
  • Floyd repeated begs for mercy, repeating "I can't breathe."
  • After Floyd is rendered unconscious, Chauvin keeps his knee on his neck, rebuffing a first responder who asks repeatedly to check Floyd's pulse
  • Chauvin knew Floyd, both having worked as security guards at a Minneapolis nightclub for several years
  • Chauvin had 18 complaints filed against him with the internal affairs office of the Minneapolis Police Department. Of those, 16 were closed with no action, and two resulted in a letter of reprimand. Although most remain closed to the public, the ones that are known involve excessive force
  • The penalty for passing counterfeit money is up to 20 years in prison, if the person who passed it was aware it was fake. There is no death penalty associated with counterfeiting. There is zero evidence Floyd knew the bill was fake
  • All of this is filmed by bystanders from multiple angles. Chauvin stares them down even as he keeps his knee on Floyd's neck. If you still think Floyd was a threat and deserved this treatment, I invite you to watch the whole damn video.
Think about that for a minute. Let it sink in. Chauvin has EIGHTEEN formal complaints filed against him. He had a documented history of excessive force. It was no secret to the Minneapolis Police Department that Officer Chauvin was a problem, yet despite this track record, Chauvin faced no real consequences for his behavior.

If you look at situations like this, the common refrain is that we shouldn't let the "bad apples" distort our view of the good officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect. In poll after poll, white people consistently agree by significant margins that these are "isolated incidents." African American and Latinos consistently agree that connecting the dots results in a very, very ugly picture. Also, there's no way in hell they're ever going to trust police.

Here's the thing: All of those "good cops" know exactly who the bad apples are. If you took a poll of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 24 asking "Which officer is most likely to kill an unarmed black man in the coming week?" I guarantee Chauvin would be at the top of the list. Maybe No. 1, maybe not, but easily in the top 3. Let that sink in a bit.

Back in high school, there was an officer who regularly bullied high school students. He once tried to get my class' salutatorian jailed for vandalism to the high school. The officer repeatedly lied about the incident, insisting he'd witnessed said vandalism (we students know he lied, because the vandalism actually happened a week prior to when he claimed, and also knew which students were responsible--certainly not the salutatorian!). I also had an encounter with this officer, who tailgated me for half a mile before flashing his lights to pull me over. He then ordered me (much to my confusion) to drive another 20 yards and stop, at which point he issued me a ticket for speeding. I asked why, if I were speeding, he waited so long to pull me over, and he answered in a threatening tone, "Because it took me that long to catch up with you!" Now understand, dear readers, that I was driving a Jeep. I had been driving it with the soft top off for several days, but for some reason I placed the top back on but only fastened it to the front windscreen. The canvas sides and back were loose, and flapping freely. Had I been going as fast as he claimed, the top would've flown off. Heck, had I even approached the speed limit, it would've flown off. After the fact, I also realized he made me pull forward because we were outside of city limits. I was too dumb to realize it at the time. I had not been speeding, had not even been in his jurisdiction, but he lied about it and gave me an ticket because he could. And I'm white. I have no idea what kind of abuse he dished out to my black classmates, because I was young and dumb and self-centered and didn't believe police abuse happened except when it happened to me. Yet at no time did I fear for my life, because, you know, I'm white.

As a recovering journalist, I spent many years as a police reporter and got to know a number of officers fairly well. There was one particular officer they couldn't stand. "Barney Fife" they called him behind his back. They mocked him for always wanting to go into situations, guns blazing. They flat-out called him an idiot. This officer was well-known for arbitrarily pulling people over and just dishing out shit because he could. He once pulled over a co-worker of mine on the way home for no reason, taking a Dr Pepper said co-worker had just bought from a convenience store and drinking it down because he could. The implication was that if my co-worker complained, he'd get a ticket or worse. Pretty chickenshit, right? And again, my co-worker was white. If he had been black, I have no idea how much worse it could have gotten. Again, nobody I knew who'd had a bad encounter with this officer fear for our lives, because again, white.

I've had officers tell me, "We police our own." Except that's bullshit. Every cop out on the beat, every one of them who tries to make the world a safer place, each one who'd run into danger to protect a random stranger--each and every one of them hates the "rat squad" that investigates corruption and brutality. When that bad apple they all despise finally steps across the line and gets caught on video slapping some child around, smashing someone's taillight for a bogus traffic violation, or yes, shooting an unarmed black man or kneeling on his neck to choke the life out of him, all the "good officers" close ranks and rally behind that bad apple. Even though they know he's guilty as sin. Even though they've heard him spout racist bullshit in the station. Even though they know he's moonlighting as a pimp and smacks around women on the side.

The fact is, they know and do nothing. They tolerate. They cover up. They support the "brother officer" even though that bad apple betrays everything they claim to uphold.

Those bad apples make all the good officers targets. They make all the good officers victims. They destroy any amount of trust that emerges from reforms. Those good officers view the angry victims as a threat and the enemy, rather than the bad apple who brought all this down on them.

Because they didn't "police their own." That burned out police precinct in Minneapolis? It's on them. Tens of thousands of citizens protesting across the country? It's on them. Those long hours in riot gear? It's on them. The extra shifts and mind-fraying stress? It's on them. All those hours where they don't get to go home to their families? They chose this path, every time they looked the other way when the bad apple "accidentally" slammed a suspect's head into a wall, or any of a thousand other aggressions.

I'm somewhat encouraged by police chiefs across the country speaking out about Floyd's death and calling out Chauvin. That's something. But it's still closing the barn door after the horse is gone. They need to speak out against the bad cops before a helpless black man is killed simply because that bad cop saw an opportunity to test his power. They need to ensure that officers with 18 formal complaints are kicked off the force long before that number gets anywhere near double-digits. They need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and make sure all officers on the force live up to their lofty ideals.

Because if they don't, the next George Floyd is on them, too.

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