Monday, August 02, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Lighting & Clairin Vaval

I'm catching up with two episodes today. First up is Episode 31 of A Moment of Tiki, my August installment which is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through two different approaches to home tiki bar lighting. One is decidedly low-tech, and the other is not quite as low-tech, but still involves off-the-shelf components. When someone starts working on a home tiki bar, the natural inclination is to focus mainly on the wall coverings--I know I did! But the lighting you choose has as much, if not more, impact on the environment. An 80s ceiling fixture or a bare bulb does nothing to further the illusion of a tropical getaway. Fortunately, there are many avenues available for the homeowner to tikify the available lighting. A little bit of basic electrical knowledge doesn't hurt, either.

The other video I have for you is my installment for July, Episode 30, which I didn't get around to posting here when it went live because I was in the middle of a Southwest/West Coast road trip. On this episode of A Moment of Tiki I offer my thoughts on Clairin Vaval, an unaged spirit distilled from the fermented juice of Madame Meuze sugar cane. It is sold by La Maison & Velier. I don't do a lot of straight rum tastings because I don't feel my palate is developed enough to offer insightful commentary most of the time, but this one's special. Here are a few stats to get you started: Clairin Vaval is a 2018 vintage sugar cane juice rhum, produced by Distillery Arawaks in Cavaillon, Haiti. Bottled at 48.7% ABV (pot still proof). Wild yeast fermentation. My biggest tasting note is that it is not unlike licking a 9-volt battery. For reals.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

ZZ Top's Dusty Hill has died. He'd been sidelined from the band's recent shows with a reported "hip issue" but obviously his health problems were far worse than let on. Despite the "Little Ole Band From Texas" being a staple of live shows around here, and their close association with the Chicken Ranch, I never saw them live. That always seems like something I'd get around to in the future. That's looking iffy at this point. ZZ Top fans know that guitarist Billy Gibbons was the lead vocalist on most of the band's songs, but Hill occasionally got behind the mic as well. Probably their best-known song with Hill on lead vocals is "Tush." Here's a live version dating back to 1975, when the band was growing in popularity, but was nowhere near the stratospheric fame that awaited in the 80s. Oh, to have taken in some of these classic shows!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Laura Brannigan.

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

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 self-admitted 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. His passing in 2007 directly inspired me to seek out information on the "true" story of what happened with the Chicken Ranch, and when I learned that no such history book existed, I researched and wrote Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. So in truth, Marvin Zindler is responsible for my book.

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

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Friday, July 02, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Bear with me here for a bit. I remember back in the early 80s watching the Darrin McGavin film "Zero to Sixty" on Showtime. In my memory, I recall the soundtrack blaring Laura Branigan's hit "Gloria" every time McGavin and his teenage sidekick chase after the elusive Joan Collins in her Trans-Am. But a quick check online tells me the movie came out in 1978, whereas Branigan's hit didn't come out until 1982. Even Umberto Tozzi's original Italian version wasn't recorded until 1979, so my memory has got to be subjecting me to the Mandela Effect, right?

Except that as I'm wasting time looking all this stuff up for a film I haven't seen or even thought about in more than 35 years, I discover the name of Joan Collins' character is... Gloria. What!? That can't just be coincidence, can it? Was there a version of this film re-scored for pay cable channels that inserted Branigan's hit? Because really, the song--talking about people chasing Gloria, finding her number, figuring out her alias, that all ties in crazy tight with the Collins character, almost so that the song could've been written specifically for the film. Weird.

So, here's Branigan's no-frills original video for the song. And for good measure, the YouTube link to "Zero to Sixty" is right below. If you watch, you can easily tell where my memory inserts "Gloria" during the chase scenes. I gotta say, it's odd watching the film without that song playing in those spots, because it completely clashes with my memory.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Cynthia Erivo.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I fell in love with Cynthia Erivo in Bad Times at the El Royale for her stunning performance and magnificent voice. She's go a new single out, "The Good," that puts her vocals front and center where they belong.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Michael Nesmith.

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Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I liked Michael Nesmith's work with the Monkees, but never really followed his solo output. I'm thinking that may be an oversight on my part. The video for "Cruisin'" is surreal and trippy as all get-out, and the song itself would be right at home on a Frank Zappa record, or maybe covered by Warren Zevon. What more could anyone want?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Ìxtahuele.

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Monday, June 07, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: The Wall Is Lava

Episode 29 of A Moment of Tiki is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through a build of a faux lava accent wall. I spent the bulk of last summer building out this project in the Lagoon, and it was more of a time-consuming than I'd anticipated. Editing all the footage taken over the course of several months proved a challenge unto itself.

Still, this is a vision I had way back when I started this whole crazy home tiki bar build project, drawing on the "transition" motif popular in tiki as well as mid century modern design elements in the stonework. The wall is lava, folks! How very Mid Century Modern of me! This should've been a simple, straightforward project, but finding artificial lava façade in the continental U.S. is far, far more challenging that one would imagine.

Do you find these kinds of tutorials helpful? Interesting? A waste of bandwidth? Let me know what you think! Don't forget to like and subscribe to my channel on YouTube--doing so makes it easier for other viewers to find it!

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