Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Night Videos

God save the Kinks! With Pete Quaife's untimely passing, how can I not dip back into the vault of Kinks klassics for this week's installment of Friday Night Videos? "Sunny Afternoon" seems an appropriate selection, featuring a great bass line and poignant images of Pete in the promo video. I'm not entirely sure the reasoning behind making the band play in the snow for this particular song--the irony seems a bit forced--but it's still wonderful to see Pete rockin' the bass in his prime, along with pre-stroke Dave and his Flying V and pre-gunshot Ray being, well, Ray. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Opus.

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A well-respected man

I'm still somewhat in shock over Pete Quaife's death. Funny that, considering he'd actually left the Kinks for good before I was even born! But I will always consider him the Kinks' bassist, despite the talented men who filled in for him in the ensuing decades. One blog posting indicated he'd slipped into a coma several days ago in Denmark, where he'd made his home in recent years. It makes me all the sadder that I missed my one chance to see the Kinks in Houston back in 1986--Pete wasn't with the band anymore, but does it really matter? With Pete's death, Dave's stroke and Ray getting shot in New Orleans, is there any hope that the world's most dysfunctional band will survive long enough for a reunion?

Geoff Edgers, who has perhaps done more than any single human being to reunite the band, has a wonderfully moving remembrance to Pete up on his blog.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Farewell, Pete Quaife

Damn, damn, damn and damn! What an utterly awful way to start out the weekend: Pete Quaife, original bassist for The Kinks, has died. No cause of death is available yet, but he'd been suffering renal failure for the past decade and undergoing dialysis.
Despite the Kinks' success, Quaife was never satisfied with his role in the creative process. "I would have been squished with a size 16 boot I had even suggested they listen to an idea from me," he said in a 2005 interview. "I felt like a session man most of the time. Ray wanted complete control of everything. He was a control freak." In June 1966 Quaife broke his leg in a car accident and briefly left the band. "It was a good break for me," he said in 2005. "The band was fighting all the time and I couldn't take it." He rejoined after a few months, but quit for good three yeas later. In a 1998 interview, Quaife pointed to the band's 1968 disc Village Green Preservation Society as his favorite. "For me, it represents the only real album made by the Kinks," he said. "It's the only one where we all contributed something."

Pete always struck me as a truly decent fellow, one completely overshadowed by the Davies brothers. He was perhaps the most approachable of The Kinks, and had interactions with fans over the years, answering questions on a Kinks-themed email list I belong two. About six years ago, he appealed to fans for help after a live-in girlfriend abruptly absconded with much of his valuable (monetary and sentimental) memorabilia dating back to his days as part of the British Invasion. He also played impromptu gigs with the so-called Kast-Off Kinks, a group comprised of the various former members of the famed band.

His passing is very sad. Now, the hoped-for reunion of the original Kinks can never happen. Let's hope the Davies brothers can patch up their differences before there are too few Kast-Offs left to reunite.

Now Playing: The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Porter project

A month or so back I got a note from the talented BOOM! Studios comic scribe and noted James Bond authority Alan J. Porter, asking if I was available to do a few head shots for him. He has several projects in the pipeline, and his publishers were asking for new jacket photos of him. Since I try to help out with The Wife's Lisa on Location photography business any way I can, I immediately accepted the gig. Getting our schedules to mesh took some doing, though. And when I arrived at Alan's house for the shoot, I realized I'd left some of the lighting equipment at home and couldn't set up a couple of nifty ideas I'd had. Drat. Still, Alan was quite patient and tolerant as I led him around and made him strike all manner of unnatural poses in a quick game of trial and error.

Obviously, I shot more than just headshots--why waste the opportunity? I was also learning The Wife's newest lens, the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS, and I made a few rookie mistakes with it. But the great thing about digital is that you can over-shoot, so that you're not dependent on just a handful of images to be good. I had a lot of discards, but ultimately came up with an acceptable number of images--enough to even have a little extra fun, as evidenced below.

So remember kids, if you know of anyone needing professional photography services, point them to Lisa on Location

Now Playing: John Cougar Mellencamp Uh-Huh

Monday, June 21, 2010


I was visiting my in-laws' place Sunday in Bastrop when I stumbled across (literally) this little guy. He was less than an inch long, and didn't want to be anywhere near me. I was able to squeeze off a few shots, including a macro. I was hoping fellow was one of the endangered Houston toads, but Texas State biology professor and Houston Toad expert Mike Forstner tells me those breed earlier in the season and would be bigger than this guy at this time of year. So all I have is a common Gulf Coast Toad. Ah well.

Interestingly enough, if you look under his belly, you'll see a *very* tiny little spider thing in its web. I had no clue it was there, and didn't notice until I downloaded the shots and viewed them on the monitor.

Now Playing: R.E.M. Eponymous

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Opus hit it really big in 1985. Unfortunately, I'm not talking about the penguin from Bloom County. Instead, it was a one-hit-wonder band that seemingly dominated the airwaves with a single titled "Live is Life." It featured some of the most in-depth and complex lyrics of any song, ever (read: sarcasm), yet you can also sing along the classic "Mnah-Mnah" to the tune. How genius is that? In any event, I wasn't a big fan of this song when it was a hit way back when, and unlike other music from that era, I haven't warmed to it in the intervening years. But it brings back memories and the video gives us ample opportunity to point and laugh, so how could I not run it?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... They Might Be Giants.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Night Videos

They Might Be Giants was another band just earning widespread popularity when I started college. Before "Particle Man" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople") and way, way, way before they started putting out successful children's albums, they raised eyebrows with catchy, yet surreal videos for songs like "Ana Ng." I remember watching this on MTV and trying to figure out just what the heck was going on. Good fun.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Disney.

Now Playing: Antonin Dvorak The Best of Dvorak

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Upon further consideration

I'm thinking 30 pounds of plums qualifies as overkill for 6 gallons of wine. And not in the good way. The fruit cap is trapping all the CO2 and swelling up, filling the fermenter and plugging the airlock. I've never had to deal with this before--beer and mead simply foam up if fermentation gets too vigorous, and that's easy to deal with. Swelling, expanding fruit is a different story entirely. I had to put some elbow grease into it this morning to get the lid off, the pressure had built up so. Mangled plum and juice splattered me and my office carpet. I've had to remove the lid entirely and replace it with a towel, and have The Wife go in every 30 minutes or so to stir the fruit cap to release the gas and settle everything back down. If she doesn't, the must will swell out and ooze down the sides like a sweet, sticky volcano. Not good.

On the bright side, the fermentation's going great. My office smells like baking bread. Sweet, fruity bread, but bread nonetheless.

Now Playing: Billy Joel My Lives

Monday, June 07, 2010

Uncharted territory

So I've been homebrewing beer for 14 years now, and mead (with varying degrees of success) for about 7, give or take. In all that time, I've never tried to homebrew wine. Until now.

We've got two plum trees in the back yard--one Santa Rosa, and one Methley. This year is the first they've ever produced in significant numbers, and try as we might to harvest them all, there are many plums rotting on the ground because we can't keep up with them all. The Santa Rosas are on the smallish side, and even when fully and dropping off the tree they tend to be firm and tartish. The Methleys, on the other hand, are sweet even before turning a dark, almost black purple, and are juicy like you wouldn't believe. There're too many for eating fresh, so I initially thought I'd try a batch of plum melomel/mead. Trouble is, it soon because obvious there were too many plums--a mead would hardly put a dent in them. Plans changed, and I'm in the winemaking business.

The initial recipe I settled on--a hybrid of two plum wine recipes from Making Wild Wines & Mead--called for 3 pounds of plums per gallon. I ended up with 6 pounds of pitted, crushed plums per gallon before I realized it. That's 30 pounds of plums for the 6 gallon fermenter if you're keeping track. That's a lot of plums--and there's at least 15 pounds more in the deep freeze, bagged up for future use, not to mention many times that number still out on the tree.

To get the fermentation started, I needed yeast. I had two packets of wine yeast in the refrigerator already, but I'd picked those out for specific mead recipes and with this being my first actual attempt at wine, I wanted a yeast strain that would accentuate the fruitiness of the plums. I didn't want to drive all the way in to Austin for a few packets of yeast, but San Antonio Home Brew supply keeps erratic hours at best, and the last few times I've gone by there, the yeast selection has been sparse. I Googled them to try and get a phone number to check if they'd even be open, but to my surprise, a website for a place called Home Brew Party turned up. A new homebrew supply store in SA? And on the north east side, close to me? And open on Mondays? It was too good to be true, so I drove over with some skepticism.

I have a new favorite homebrew supply store. Folks, this place was great! It was clean, incredibly well-stocked and impeccably organized. Not only did they have my first choice for yeast, they also had my second and third choices as well, so I bought them all. They had anything you could possibly want for homebrewing beer or wine, but they also carried honey and other specific materials for mead makers. Whew! I was so giddy I picked up a new hygrometer while I was there, as my previous one had gotten broken about six month back or so.

Back home, I started the yeast in a cup of water with the juice squeezed from two oranges. Then I combined the plums and water, tannin, pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient and yeast energizer to the fermentation vessel, along with a little more than 7 pounds of sugar. I actually didn't have enough sugar at first, due to a miscalculation on my part, which necessitated another trip to the store, but that's neither here nor there. I'll probably have to add a little more when I rack it to get the alcohol content up around 12 percent (which is the magic number for fruit wines, because that level kills off any bacteria or other infections that can ruin the wine as it ages).

In any event, the plums are happily fermenting now in my office. It's not an aggressive fermentation, but I've never tried this before so we'll see how fast it gets going by tomorrow. For anyone interested, in such things, here's the basics of what's in the mix at this point in time: Lavin 71B-1122 yeast, juice from 2 oranges, 30 pounds of pitted and crushed Methley and Santa Rosa plums, ~7 pounds sugar, 1.5 tsp grape tannin, 6 tsp pectic enzyme, 6 tsp. yeast nutrient, 1.5 tsp. yeast energizer and (to come after initial fermentation is complete) 6 tsp. acid blend. I don't know how this is going to turn out, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I am thinking of going back to Home Brew Party and picking up another large fermentation vessel. I've got a bunch of prickly pear fruit in the deep freeze waiting to be made into a melomel at some point, and it seems a shame to have to wait until the plums are finished before starting it...

Now Playing: Billy Joel My Lives