Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Not that I normally do requests, but since Scott asked so nicely last week, I figured I'd humor him. Don't want to disappoint the regulars, you know. So here it is, ZZ Top performing "La Grange" on the Tonight Show.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Now Playing: The Violent Femmes 3

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Oh my goodness, but Coupling is hilarious! Follow--I was among the early fans of Friends, finding the travails of those young, New York 20-somethings quite engaging when it the series first came on the air, only to rapidly lose interest towards the end when the show began wallowing in absurd self-parody. It gave me nothing to connect with then, and wasn't all that funny (kinda like Adam Sandler).

Around this time I heard of a British version of Friends called Coupling which was supposedly extremely funny but more focused on sex. Naturally, the rights were bought by an American television network and a sucky stateside version was made that died a quick and horrible death. But my curiosity about the original remained. Thanks to Netflix, that curiosity has been satisfied.

First off, this show didn't remind me of Friends all that much. Yes, the general trappings are there--three men, three women in their late 20s/early 30s who hang out at a local bar instead of a coffee shop. They know each other mainly through romantic trysts, and only form a clique by the end of the first episode, which is your typical origin story.

Beyond the superficial resemblance to Friends in the broadest strokes, Coupling reminds me, more than anything else, of the brilliant Fawlty Towers. Granted, those two shows are worlds apart, but there's something about the way Coupling begins each episode on a somewhat sedate note, then lays all the groundwork for whatever situation the characters find themselves in to spiral rapidly out of control. The blazing absurdity is so far over the top, the quirky character so outrageous, the holes they dig themselves so spectacularly deep-- watching Jack Davenport (coincidentally, he also played a lead in the much-missed Swingtown) try to pass off the "plot" a porn video titled "Lesbian Spank Inferno" as an independent film by feminist auteurs comes darn close to John Cleese-level brilliance.

The first episode is a bit of a drag early on as it struggles to establish the characters. It's woefully unfunny for the first 15 minutes or so, a fact it attempts to disguise with an annoyingly over-used laugh track. But once it finds its footing, hilarity ensues, as they say. The remaining five episodes on the season 1 disc are consistently funny from the get-go.


Now Playing: Pandora Diana Krall Radio

Monday, January 26, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Really folks, was there ever any doubt which musical selection would be featured today, given my post from Wednesday?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Paul Simon.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Tres Hombres

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do you remember the Chicken Ranch?

So, there it is. Do you remember the Chicken Ranch? And by that question, I don't mean "Do you vaguely recall it existed at one point," or "Have you seen the Burt Reynolds/Dolly Parton movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." I'm looking for folks with actual, genuine first-hand knowledge of the famed brothel in La Grange, Texas. This would include former clients, former employees, post-Marvin Zindler landowners, Dallas-area restauranteurs, townsfolk, neighbors, law enforcement, relatives... anybody with a story, memory or recollection to tell regarding the history of what is, quite possibly, the world's most famous bordello.

I want to interview you. I'm not certain what form this project will ultimately take, but I'm not one for doing things half-assed.

Why am I doing this all of the sudden, when I've got far too many unfinished SFnal projects on my plate that need attention? The plain and simple fact of the matter is that if I don't do it right, nobody will. Too many of the major players in the demise of the Chicken Ranch have already departed this mortal coil, and the brothel was too much a part of Texas history for too long a time to let its memory simply weather away into dust (There's not even a historical marker in La Grange to show the nation's longest-operating brothel--predating the Civil War, fer crying out loud--ever existed). I intend to change that. But I need your help.

Feel free to spread the word.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel 2

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

About that Galactica episode...

Friday's new episode of Battlestar Galactica, "Sometimes a Great Notion," did little to allay my concerns regarding the coherence of these final episodes of the series. That's not to say there weren't great moments here to dazzle the masses--Starbuck finding her own corpse (which wasn't that unexpected) or Dee's abrupt and graphic suicide attempt (which was pretty much unexpected) really drove home the emotion of this episode.

But there are other things that leave me unsatisfied. If Earth (if indeed this is Earth--Starbuck's vision of Earth earlier in the series clearly showed the continents, yet this world was just a sort of generic world as seen from space, no identifying marks, so to speak. And I don't recall seeing the Moon or Jupiter...) was nuked 2,000 years ago, then the background levels of radiation should surely be in tolerable limits for human life--there's plant life enough to sustain an oxygen atmosphere, after all. Unless they used cobalt bombs, and this Earth had its very own On the Beach scenario. But the Cylons being the 13th Tribe? Smells like another something Moore bent over and pulled out his ass, not for logical reasons, but purely for "shock the audience" reasons. Because the entire population was supposedly Cylons (and just how big a sample did they take? From how many sites?) it doesn't was that this is Earth. We're not Cylons, no matter how much hand-waving Moore does, since evolution is a pretty clearly established refutation of that point. Unless (and this, admittedly, is a huge stretch) Earth was the mother world and subsequently abandoned (pollution? War?) and Kobol colonized. When they screwed up Kobol, that's when the 12 colonies were settled, making Kobol more of an intermediary home rather than the cradle. The 13th Cylon tribe, presumably being Cylon and more tolerant of radiation and other crap, decided to give Earth another go. Not sure how that works out in the series' timeline, since IIRC Kobol's climatological catastrophe happened about the same time or somewhat after the Cylons' Earthly Armageddon. But honestly, Moore's played so fast and loose with continuity that this may be as valid an explanation as anything else.

I'm not clear why the fleet is leaving the Cylon Earth. I'm assuming it's too radioactive to live on, but that wasn't strongly conveyed. On Caprica, the guerrillas at least had to take little anti-radiation tablets to survive. We're not seeing that here. And I'm not clear how wandering off among the stars will make them any better off, unless there's still the issue of other Cylons chasing them (which hasn't been referenced in a while) and the whole Cylon civil war (a nuked Cylon homeworld becomes a poignant irony when viewed in that light).

As for Ellen Tigh being the final skinjob Cylon, I'm somewhat ambivalent about it. Ellen was a great character, and her death on New Caprica was a high point of the series for me. Great writing there. Of course, that's about the point where the series lost its bearings, so maybe her death, and not the destruction of the Pegasus, marks the point where shark-jumping begins. Bringing her back feels like a cheat, although of all the sudden knee-jerk plot twists introduced to the series, this one at least has enough backstory elements to make it almost seem plausible. But that begs the question, if there are only one model of the Final Five operating, it stretched credulity that each of them not only survive the initial Cylon sneak attacks, but also happen to end up on the Galactica and survive time and again when facing certain death. Magical woo-woo stuff comes into play, which I suppose ties in with the religion and prophecy they've been spouting throughout the series' run, but for once I'd like to see hoary old prophecies be exposed as so much nonsensical fortune cookie babbling. And wouldn't Starbuck's pretty damn obvious resurrection imply pretty damn strongly that she's a Cylon? A 13th model, for the 13th Tribe? There's a certain symmetry there, but not a whole lot of narrative sense.

I did like Apollo changing the number on the dry erase board. That was a nice touch. The series needs more of those.

All in all, lots of powerful individual moments. Lots of "eyeball kicks" if I'm allowed to invoke the Turkey City Lexicon. But ultimately, it's a bunch of hand-waving, the sum equalling far less than the sum of its parts. But I confess at this point I have no idea what's going to happen next, so that's something, right?

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Meddle

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well crap

My PC just went belly-up. Over the last couple of days it'd started acting glitchy, internet browser windows opening at random, programs seizing up... I thought it might be a virus, but all my scans turned up negative. No spyware, either. But then my system diagnostics and repair software crashed every time I tried to run it. Something was seriously wrong, and I couldn't figure it out (although I still suspected a virus).

So I made up my mind to move what files I had on my hard drive over to my external drive and reinstall Windows. So what happens when I boot up this evening? Windows immediately crashes and I can't get it back, not even in safe mode. *sigh* Now I've got to dig up my Windows installation disk (which isn't where it's supposed to be, naturally) and try to boot from that, salvage what files I can, then re-install and wipe out whatever the cause of this problem is.

Until then, we're down to the laptop. Which has some glitchiness of its own, refusing to run Photoshop... egads, what a mess. At least I've been keeping most of my important files stored on the external drive of late...

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Friday Night Videos

I remember when Paul Simon's Graceland was released. There was much critical praise for it but sales weren't up to the praise. The first single, the silly "You Can Call Me Al," made a brief blip on the Hot 100 and vanished. But then the even sillier video found its way into heavy rotation on both MTV, Friday Night Videos and the WTBS-aired Night Tracks, and the single re-charted, becoming a modest hit on the Billboard Top 40. A bunch of Grammy nominations didn't hurt either.

I'd heard that this song was inspired by a party Simon attended with his then-wife Carrie Fisher. Supposedly, some drunk couldn't remember the famous couple's names, so resorted to calling them Al and Betty. Apocryphal? Maybe. I'm too lazy to look such things up.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

Now Playing: Alex North Alex North's 2001

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I've just posted a new installment of Memory over at No Fear of the Future. We're up to chapter 31 now (who'da thunk it?) and the narrative now takes us back to Flavius and the perilous situation our Scottish hero finds himself in.
Flavius eased onto his side, Memory’s scabbard uncomfortably hard beneath him. The room spun in perfect time with the pounding of his head. Barely daring to breathe, he gripped the side of the bed and pushed himself up. An involuntary groan caught in his throat, and he winced.

“Ready for another go, Flavius?” Anacaona popped up beside him, entirely too perky and enthusiastic for such an ungodly hour. She cocked her head and pressed her three pair of copper-red breasts against his bare back, leaving new smudges of glittering dust to join the others covering his body. She buried her face against the nape of his neck and inhaled deeply. “Huna! You have the most erotic scent.”

“It’s called sweat, lass,” Flavius muttered, rubbing a bleary eye.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Security

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Night Videos

For examples of why I consider Ray Davies on of the greatest songwriters of the rock era, an equal peer to the famed Lennon-McCartney and Bob Dylan (although, technically, the latter is really folk despite mainstream success) I don't generally point to the hit songs of The Kinks. Although they essentially created hard rock with the driving guitar distortion in "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," and "Lola" remains a gloriously subversive piece of brilliance that predated the height of David Bowie's gay chic androgyny phase, it's the songs of the Kinks that were not hits that I often find most powerful and moving. Songs that by right should have been hits at any other time, from any other band. But music's littered with shoulda coulda woulda and Kinks fans have long ago come to accept the fact that the Well Respected Gentlemen will always be among the second tier of rock royalty despite an extensively brilliant output and even membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That doesn't mean we ever stop preaching that Muswell Hills gospel, though.

Here's a particular favorite, "Misfits" from the album of the same name at onset of the band's Arista years. An uneven album (as were many of those with Arista) that nevertheless contained some absolutely marvelous music. The subject matter and lyrics are far beyond any "June with a spoon" lines breathlessly crooned by Brittany and her ilk today. But unlike a lot of so-called "message music," there's a focus on intimacy here, a crisis of an individual nature that speaks to many people separately as opposed speaking to broader social issues. I find that endlessly fascinating, and hope you do too. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Book of Love.

Now Playing: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Monday, January 05, 2009

The arborist

Back in the summer, Fairy Girl's bunny died. It was sad for all involved, but I buried it on the spot where I'd unsuccessfully tried to grow an apple tree a few years earlier, with the promise we'd plant a tree there once the weather cooled off. Well, January's about as cool as it gets in Texas, so Saturday we took the short drive over to Marion to peruse the fruit tree selection at Schulz Nursery. I like Schulz. Heck, I love Schulz over all other nurseries--and that includes some pretty good ones in the San Antonio/New Braunfels area. First, they always have a good selection. Second, there's a playground there for the kids to entertain themselves on. This may seem trivial, but it's not. Thirdly, and by far most important, when you're checking out they ask questions like "Have you checked the chill hours on this peach tree? Are you sure you've gotten one appropriate for your climate?" Call me crazy, but I love competence! I've gotten such spectacularly bad advice from otherwise highly-regarded nurseries (for the record, pomegranate bushes do not come in male/female varieties, and fruit-producing types are not double-flowered) that Schulz has earned my loyalty.

Seeing as how I killed two apple trees in my ill-fated apple experiment, peaches were the way to go this time, since they have a long and successful history in the area. We came home with an 8-foot La Feliciana type, which is a low-chill variety that produces large, free-stone fruit which ripen by early July. Yay. I planted it just north of the departed bunny's grave, mixing sand and topsoil with the black clay subsoil to improve downhill drainage (although standing water's never been a problem around here). I then pruned said tree back an appropriate amount, spaying pruning sealant on the scars to protect it from any sort of infection. Now we just wait for spring to see what happens.

While I was at it, I pruned the dead branches off the Wife's palm tree (and got plenty of cuts and bloody scratches from the barbs for my trouble) and then did the annual pruning/thinning of the two back yard pear trees. We have two pear trees--a moonglow and a warren. Of the two, the warren is most highly recommended for my area. It's supposed to produce some of the best dessert pears anywhere. Unfortunately, it's growth has been anemic over the years, and it's yet to flower. sigh The moonglow, on the other hand, is growing at a prodigious rate and has flowered the past two seasons, but not produced any fruit due to lack of a pollinator. I'm seriously toying with the idea of trying a graft of branches from the warren to the moonglow. In any event, I cut many, many limbs from the moonglow, and still it's a big tangle of branches. If it ever starts producing fruit, I'll be in heaven, as I love pears.

There's even a pear-based wine called perry. I suspect they'd go into mead very well. Maybe we'll find out this year. Fortunately, peaches are all self-fertile, so with luck I'll be harvesting some in another year or two.

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Drunk Duck

Every so often, my brother gives me ducks and geese brought back from his hunting trips. I used to be, decades ago, a fairly regular hunter of dove and waterfowl, but I haven't been out in the field since the early '90s. I adore the rich flavor of well-prepared wild game, however, and so this week pulled out several packages from the nether regions of the deep freeze. Nobody else in my immediate family likes game, so I was pretty much on my own.

One problem with cooking wild duck or goose is that if overcooked (which is very easy to do) the so-called "gamey" taste folks dislike becomes very pronounced. In a nutshell, the meat tastes like liver. Ugh. So the trick for someone like myself, who cooks it so seldom, is to walk that tightrope between undercooked (I'm not one for rare meat) and overdone. For wild duck and goose, the juices should be pink, but not red.

Alas, on package of ducks were hopelessly freezer burnt--a hole had been torn in the package. I boiled these and after stripping the meat from the bones (bones going into the trash) gave the dogs a well-received treat. The rest--a package of tiny teal ducks and another of speckle bellied goose breasts--I allowed to thaw in the refrigerator for several days, then soaked in a brine solution overnight. This, supposedly, blunts the strongest of the gamey taste (as does cooking with apple and/or onion slices). But what recipe to use, which was simple enough for my feeble kitchen skills yet interesting enough to pique my interest? "Drunk Duck" from turned out to be the winner.

I ended up doubling the recipe, since I'd twice the amount of meat their recipe called for--six goose breasts, and a like number of the much smaller teal breasts (once separated from the bone). I used a bottle of Sutter's Home white merlot to soak the stuffing (two cups worth), but in hindsight I think a full-bodied red, either a zinfandel or merlot, would work better.

Even with my uncertainty about the proper wine to use, this dish was a winner. I cooked it for 45 minutes, probably about 5 minutes too short, but the teal--oh, the teal was perfect! Excellent texture, with rich, full-bodied flavor. Fantastic. The goose was good as well, but a shade too salty. Couldn't compare with the teal. Next time, perhaps, I'll marinade them in red wine before cooking. That'd seem to go with the motif of the dish, no? In any event, I have quite a bit of the dish remaining after dinner, so we'll see how it stands up to reheating for leftovers. I suspect it won't be half bad.

I also popped open a bottle of my very-limited edition mint mead (metheglin), which I bottled and put back in '07. A very nice mead, with solid honey flavors and light sweetness. None of the rough harsh flavor that can overwhelm young meads. Very smooth. Hardly any hint of mint, though. I'm not that big on mint, so I probably was too timid in the amount I added during fermentation. I'll know better next time.

Now Playing: Billy Joel The Nylon Curtain

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Here's an obscure hit from the two-hit wonder band Book of Love, which was popular in the late 80s. This one's "Boy," which can be fairly indistinguishable from their other hit, "I Touch the Roses" if you're not really paying all that much attention. At least they get points for consistency. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jill Sobule and Bob & Doug McKenzie.

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