Friday, December 25, 2020

Friday Night VIdeos

Friday Night Videos

It's just not the holiday season until we hear "Father Christmas." As Conan says, it's on of only two great Christmas songs.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MST3K.

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show December 1, 2001
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: A Very Tiki Bob Christmas

I haven't been posting many "Tiki Build-Along" posts here in 2020 because much of my effort at chronicling my tiki bar build has gone into my YouTube series, "A Moment of Tiki." My latest episode, "A Very Tiki Bob Christmas," is linked below. This year I carved 13 Tiki Bob holiday ornaments, which the video documents. Of those, 10 went to various tikiphile friends, but I reseved three to give away. That's right--anyone with an inclination to do so may enter to win their very own Tiki Bob on three different platforms, as long as they get their entry in by 11:59 a.m. December 25, 2020:

Here's the Tiki Bob episode of "A Moment of Tiki":

So, you may be asking yourself by this point, "What's up with the Tiki Bob ornaments?" I'm glad you asked! Several years ago, The Wife and I were invited to a tiki Christmas party that had a white elephant-style ornament swap. Still being newcomers, I wanted to make a good impression and bring cool ornaments, but couldn't think of anything appropriate. It was The Wife, always the clever one, who suggested I carve some ornaments. I'd carved handles for the tiki mug display case in the Lagoon of Mystery, as well as the baseboards and chair rails, so it seemed like a good idea. Those ornaments, pictured below, were pretty crude but proved to be quite popular at the party.

The next year we were invited back, so I decided to make another pair of ornaments. This time I had a better handle on the process, and turned out the two pictured below. These proved even more popular and led to my conceiving the Tiki Bob ornaments to gift to our friends we can't cather with because of the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Needless to day, I'm a bit Tiki Bob'd out. But wouldn't you know it, even though I was ready to pack away my Dremel for the year, inspiration struck, and I found myself compelled to start putting this little fellow together. Wooden pufferfish Christmas (or Festivus, or Yule, or whatever) ornaments don't seem to be terribly common. I've still got to stain and seal him (I'm going with a dark wood finish) but I can see future versions in festive holiday colors. We shall see where this particular impetus takes me.

UPDATE: Here are the winners:

Now Playing: The Doctor Demento Show December 9, 2000
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 may have gone off the air years ago, but that doesn't mean Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot didn't leave us with that modern holiday classic, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas." Sing along if you want--you know you know the lyrics!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton.

Now Playing: Various Artists Ultra Loungs: Christmas Cocktails
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

There mey be more unlikely couples than Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, but not many of them are capable of making sillier, goofier Christmas music videos than "You Make It Feel Like Christmas." This video is all over the place, but one thing that's clear is that the couple had a blast making it.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Katy Perry.

Now Playing: Various Artists Ultra Loungs: Christmas Cocktails
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: Decked!

In this most recent episode of A Moment of Tiki I tackle my last big home tiki bar improvement project of the year: Resurfacing the concrete floor in the Lagoon of Mystery and then adding a floating deck!

Way back in 2017, when I first stuck upon this crazed notion to convert the large covered patio into an immersive home tiki experience, I looked at the far end and envisioned a floating deck and booth to act as aesthetic anchors. The booth arrived much sooner than expected, the floating deck much later. But arrive it did. Follow along as I strip away the old, ugly paint off the concrete, refinish it with semi-transparent stain and sealer, then measure, cut, torch, seal and assemble one of the tikiest little floating decks you ever did see. Even if your carpentry skills are minimal, this is a straightforward project that can be accomplished by almost anyone if you're willing to be patient and pay attention to the details. It's such a feeling of accomplishment once it's completed!

Don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment letting me know your thoughts!

Now Playing: Esquivel Merry X-mas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 04, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I'm never been much of a Katy Perry fan, so I certainly never expected to feature one of her videos here. I think a big problem I have with her is that a lot of her success is cribbed from other artists (for example, Dita Von Teese in this video, Jill Sobule and the Beach Boys on previous singles). Still, when I stumbled across "Cozy Little Christmas" I was fully prepared to hate it, but I don't. The song itself isn't particularly memorable, I think, but the video is wonderfully gonzo. The mid century modern flair is fun and the tiki nods certainly get my attention, but it's the stop-motion animation, carefully designed so as to avoid any trademark infringement from Mssrs. Rankin & Bass, that put it over the top. I mean, this thing is cheesy enough for a lifetime's worth of holiday dip. Dig in!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Hal Ketchum.

Now Playing: Elvis Presley If Every Day was Like Christmas
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Hal Ketchum died this week from complications of dementia. A couple years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which was particularly sad as he'd recently started performing and writing music again after a long fallow period. I can't claim to have known the man, but I've spent time around him as his daughter was my son's kindergarten teacher and we grew to be friends with the family. They even invited Lisa to photograph several of his shows once he returned to preforming. Those were good times. I know his family loved him very much, and his fans were passionate and devoted. I wasn't listening to much country when his career was at its peak, but I've since gone back and listened to a lot of his work. "I Miss My Mary" is one of my favorite songs of his, a masterful exercise in musical storytelling equal to the best of Jerry Jeff Walker or Jimmy Buffet when they're in that mode. These songs say so much with few words, but say even more without words. His is just one more great talent 2020 has taken from us too soon.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... 'Til Tuesday.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Pulse
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

In the mid-80s 'Til Tuesday was inescapable on the radio or televised video shows (I didn't get MTV in tiny Columbus, Texas, so I was left with Friday Night Videos and Night Tracks). Specifically, it was 'Til Tuesday's monster hit, "Voices Carry," that was ubiquitous. Because of that over-saturation I soured on them, but in the years since I've come to appreciate this song and the talent of Aimee Mann. It got to the point where I'd change the radio or TV station if this one came on, but now I just bask in the nostalgia. Go figure.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Pink Floyd.

Now Playing: Les Baxter Ports of Pleasure
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, November 16, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: Tiki tables and clear ice

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

There's not a whole heck of a lot of tiki furniture being manufactured these days. So what's one to do when a small, tiki-styled accent table is needed? Why, build it yourself! In this episode of "A Moment of Tiki," I design and construct a small accent table to go in the guest bathroom adjacent to the Lagoon of Mystery. Using inexpensive wood, a pencil and Dremel along with a dowel jig, I put together a piece of furniture that doubles as tiki decor. Witco, it's not, but the techniques I demonstrate here can be applied to a wide array of other projects for those occasions where the perfect piece of tiki furniture simply doesn't exist. In those cases, do it yourself!

In episode 19, I discuss how the secret to making crystal-clear ice cubes (or blocks, or chunks) has become something of modern cocktail culture's holy grail for the home bartender. Anyone serving the high-alcohol stirred classics such as the Old Fashioned or the Negroni wouldn't want the presentation of these cocktails to their guests marred by gasp cloudy ice! Never fear, clear ice is exceptionally simple to make at home, and can even be used in such tiki-adjacent cocktails as the delicious Kingston Negroni! All is revealed on this episode of "A Moment of Tiki1"

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 18: Accent Table

Episode 19: Clear Ice

Now Playing: Esquivel The Space Age Sound of Esquivel
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Any time I've ever watched Pink Floyd's The Wall, at some point somebody will walk in, notice what's playing, and ask, "Has Bob Geldof shaved his eyebrows yet?" Such a strange, strange film. Here's "Another Brick in the Wall, part 2."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gordon Lightfoot.

Now Playing: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Greatest Hits vol. 2
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Return of the atypical buck

Five years ago to the week, I posted photos of an atypical whitetail buck that looked like it had grown a set of antlers better suited to an axis deer. You can check out the photos here. Go ahead, I'll wait. At the time, I wondered if the buck were perhaps a hybrid offspring of a whitetail/axis mating, as there are many feral axis roaming Central Texas. Axis bucks have been observed chasing whitetail does on occasion, but it was thought the species were genetically incompatible for breeding. After posting those photos in 2015, I shared them with deer experts at Texas A&M and received this nifty response:

The antlers are certainly unusual and rather axis-like but not out of the range of variability shown by white-tails, second long tines from the base do occur on white-tails if there is damage to the pedicel and some populations have dark antlers. Dr Mungall was doubtful that the buck was an axis hybrid, she has seen pictures of 2 from captive deer and says the hybrids should show more axis characteristics in their body such as the big while throat patch of an axis. But we have only seen a small picture, you saw the entire animal so it is a possibility, they can interbreed in captivity ... Since the more common and closer related white-tail - mule deer hybrids are infertile I doubt an axis hybrid would be fertile. But if he is just an unusual white-tail he should have a few interesting sons in the future.
So, firstly: Wow! Whitetail/axis hybrids are indeed possible, albeit highly unlikely. Secondly, the buck from 2015 probably wasn't a hybrid, because apart from the antlers, he didn't show much in the way of axis traits, most obvously markings. And since the winter of 2015, I have not seen any whitetail bucks with atypical antlers--and we've got more whitetail than you can shake a stick at! That is, until the past few days when this fellow below showed up with striking, atypical antlers that bear a passing resemblance to those of an axis:

Now, let me be clear that this most certainly isn't that buck from 2015. Whitetail buck have a life expectancy of about 6 years in the wild, so the one from 2015 would be six, at the youngest, and this one isn't six years old and in decline. I'm not an expert, but I'd guess it's maybe 4 years old at most. Now, axis bucks have a lifespan of 9 years or more, but again, the original probably isn't a hybrid. This guy, in all liklihood, is the offspring of that atypical buck from 2015. He certainly has a spectacular pair of antlers, showing some, but not all, of those traits that so captured my attention several years ago. He's a gorgeous boy!

Now Playing: Paul Page Pacific Paradise
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 06, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Tuesday, Nov. 10 marks the 45th anniversary of the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." It's hard to believe so much time has passed. It's also hard to believe such a disaster happened so recently.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jerry Jeff Walker.

Now Playing: Jerry Sun The Exotic Sounds of Jerry Sun
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

In the past week, country music lost both Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff Walker. Both were figures in the Outlaw Country movement, and I have deep admiration for both of their talents. Of the two, Walker was the one who always left me awestruck. Everyone's referencing his first big song, "Mr. Bojangles," which ironically was a bigger hit for other artists than it ever was for him. But it's Walker's 1973 album Viva Terlingua! recorded live in Luckenbach, Texas, that really cemented his place as a performer unmatched. Backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, I argue that if someone has only one country album in their music collection, it should be Jerry Jeff's Viva Terlingua!. It's a stretch to say Jerry Jeff single-handedly saved country music from the "Nashville Sound" with it, but when folks like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings heard it and realized what artists could accomplish on their own without studio interference, well, things were never the same after that. Not quite two decades later, Jerry Jeff recorded another excellent live album, this one in Gruene Hall, not five miles where I live now. He played there regularly for years, and I always said, "Next time he has a show, I'm going to go." There was always a conflict, though, and I never did. Now I never will. Here's "Pickup Truck Song" performed in Gruene Hall, showcasing his mastery as a storyteller and an unmatched ability to make even the most mundane of subjects fascinating and entertaining.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Hula Girls.

Now Playing: Axel Stordahl Jasmine and Jade
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Sheriff T.J. Flournoy (1902-1982)

On this date in 1982, Fayette County Sheriff T.J. "Jim" Flournoy died at the age of 80. Big Jim, as he was known, was the longest-serving sheriff in Fayette County history, had a two-year run as a Texas Ranger during World War II and several stints as a deputy in various jurisdictions. He shot to fame, of course, by defending the Chicken Ranch brothel when KTRK-TV newsman Marvin Zindler campaigned to shut it down. Zindler returned to La Grange on December 30, 1974 to do a follow-up story, and that's where he encountered Sheriff Flournoy. The altercation ended with the Sheriff stomping on Zindler's toupée in the middle of the street, and Zindler heading back to Houston with several cracked ribs. Lawsuits flew back and forth for years, before the two eventually settled out of court.

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: Jerry Jeff Walker Live at Gruene Hall
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: Mermaids and Mai Tais

A Moment of Tiki: Mermaid on the Wall
"A Moment of Tiki" returns for your viewing pleasure with two new episodes!

First up is episode 16: Mermaid on the Wall. I have a large section of blank wall in a stairwell that needs filling. My wife, of Secrets By Miss Lisa fame, provided the tiki-adjacent artistic content in the form of a large mermaid banner. It was up to me to figure out how to hang it. The easy solution would be to punch a couple of brass grommets on the top and call it a day, but brass grommets aren't very tiki, are they? Bamboo, on the other hand, are tiki as all get-out, and way back in episode 1 I showed everyone how to torch bamboo for projects such as this!

In episode 17, I discuss orgeat and the Mai Tai. There is only one Mai Tai recipe--that which Trader Vic created in 1944 whilst attempting to reverse-engineer Donn Beach's Q.B. Cooler cocktail. Since then, the Mai Tai has become the standard by which all tiki bars are judged. Even though the base recipe allows a great deal of flexibility without turning the drink into an abomination by adding pineapple and cherries, one of the keys to serving a good Mai Tai is to use quality orgeat. I'm not going to lie--I didn't much like the first Mai Tais I ever drank, mainly because they used mediocre, mass-produced commercial orgeats that tasted more like a chemical spill than an almond-flavored syrup. Thankfully, the craft cocktail renaissance means that there are now quality craft orgeats on the market, but sadly, these are not available in every city. The solution is to go the homemade route. Making orgeat at home is not complicated, but it is a bit time consuming. In this episode, I walk you through the steps.

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 16: Mermaid on the Wall

Episode 17: Orgeat (& a Mai Tai)

Now Playing: The Kinks Give The People What They Want
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The weekend is here! I don't know about you, but I'm ready to put the cares of the world behind me and relax in my home tiki bar. The Hula Girls' piece, "The Enchanted Sea," is just the music to get me there!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Gabriel.

Now Playing: Yasunori Mitsuda/Nobuo Uematsu Chrono Trigger OST
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 09, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

It seems the horror never ends. For the past several years, we've suffered a non-stop parade of police officers killing unarmed African Americans. It's an epidemic, and shows no sign of abating despite the intense and widespread societal awareness. Jonathan Price of Wolfe City, Texas, is the latest victim to add to the tally. Will his murderer be let off because he happens to be a police officer like so many others? I'm not holding my breath. It can't help but bring to mind Peter Gabriel's "Biko," a song from another era about police brutality and systemic racism in another country, but as Gabriel so succinctly phrases it, "The outside world is black and white with only one color dead."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Survivor.

Now Playing: Cal Tjader Several Shades of Jade
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Moment of Tiki: Kakamoras and Moai

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

First up is episode 14: Kakamoras! In the Disney animated film Moana, there's a very fun sequence where the heroes of the film are attacked by pirates called Kakamoras. They're cute, tiny creatures that wear coconuts painted with fearsome visages as armor. Naturally, they're crazy cute, albeit a bit vicious. They differ significantly from the Kakamoras of Solomon Island mythology, which are small, hairy forest spirits who are generally peaceful but have been known to eat people on occasion. I suppose they're the Solomon Island equivalent of Hawaii's Menehune, but that's beside the point. The coconut Kakamoras are great additions to one's home tiki bar, but inexplicably this is one area the Disney marketing machine missed the proverbial boat on. Why Disney has chosen not to produce life-sized coconut warriors is beyond me, but that's easily remedied if you can get your hands on a coconut of two. Believe it or not, ordinary supermarket coconuts can be easily transformed into bloodthirsty Kakamora pirates, who also happen to be cute and cuddly. Let's make some Kakamoras!

In episode 15, I review the book The Statues That Walked by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. If you know anything about Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island, it's probably that the island is home to some 900 giant carved statues known as Moai. If you know anything beyond that, you've probably heard that the tiny island once had a great civilization that put all its effort into creating these giant statues, so much that the population cut down every tree which led to ecological collapse, famine and warfare that wiped out most of the population. It's a widely repeated cautionary tale about the folly of mankind and while it makes a great story, it's utterly and completely wrong. Archaeologists/anthropologists Hunt and Lipo lay out a convincing case backed up by copious amounts of evidence that the Rapanui people had a pretty good thing going until Europeans arrived, ruined everything, then blamed it all on the natives.

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 14: Kakamoras!

Episode 15: The Statues That Walked

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Face The Music
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, September 04, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

There weren't many bands bigger than Journey in the 80s. Success breeds imitation, and I daresay there wasn't a bigger Journey-esque band than Survivor (which will certainly earn me hate from Survivor's fanbase, but honestly, their sound share 90% of the same DNA). I heard "High on You" yesterday in the grocery store for the first time in maybe 20 years, and although I knew the lyrics by heart it took me a minute to remember the band. My first thought was, naturally, Journey, but obviously the singer wasn't Steve Perry. My mental list reached as far as .38 Special before I remembered Survivor. The song really is a well-crafted three minutes of top 40 goodness, filled with multiple hooks and catchy lyrics. I still have several Survivor albums from that era, none of which are anywhere near as memorable as individual songs. Strange how some bands craft brilliant albums with no hits, and others record forgettable albums filled with hits. Go figure.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Go-Go's.

Now Playing: Jorge Ben Samba Esquema Novo
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The Go Go's are back with a new song, "Club Zero." This makes me surprisingly happy, as it sounds like classic Go Go's. And I'm starting to think Jane's a vampire, because apart from the graying of her hair, she still looks like she did back in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Toto.

Now Playing: Sinatra Jobim The Complete Reprise Recordings
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

It's weird, but lately songs that I haven't heard for 30 years or more have been spontaneously popping into my head. The latest case in point: Toto's "Stranger In Town." The chorus started repeating itself in my mind, and I remembered so little about the song I had to look up who the artist was. Imagine my surprise at discovering it was Toto! I only have one of their albums, Past to Present 1977–1990, a greatest hits compilation that doesn't include this song, despite it charting in the mid-80s. Go figure. The video was also new to me as well. It features Brad Dourif, of all people! Wow. Some things you learn way after the fact.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Willie Nelson.

Now Playing: Theivery Corporation Saudade
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, August 17, 2020

A Moment of Tiki takes on thatch and milk punch

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

First up is episode 12, in which I actually build something for a change. Remember how all the way back in episode 1 I showed how to flame-treat bamboo for use in your home tiki bar? Well, here's where we put all that bamboo to work, building an awning for the tiki bar that is covered with thatch to ward off sun and rain! I do have one caveat, however. Since filming these videos, I've learned Asian bamboo mites are prevalent in California and parts of Florida. Heat treating won't kill the eggs in the bamboo unless the whole thing is heated above 160F for a couple of hours--which simple flame-treating doesn't accomplish. Bamboo mites aren't found in Texas (lucky for me!) but if you live in California or Florida, be careful with self-harvested bamboo lest you get an infestation of termite-like critters in your home.

In episode 13, I am inspired by the May 2020 Home Bar Awards challenge, and take on the arcane mysteries of clarified milk punch. I put a tiki spin on this particular tipple, naturally enough, using several different types of rum, falernum and allspice dram to come up with my "Cabaritta Punch" recipe. It's good. It's also challenging to make, although since I've blundered my way through it once, the second time should go a little bit more smoothly. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

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 12: Thatch Me If You Can!

Episode 13: Clarified Milk Punch

Now Playing: The Kinks Everybody's In Showbiz
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, August 10, 2020

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday, Marvin Zindler!

On this date in 1921, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler was born.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. Marvin clashed with his father (who owned the well-regarded Zindler's clothing store in Houston) growing up and went on to try his hand at a host of different career options. He was a drum major (briefly) at Tarleton State, served in the Marines (again, briefly) before being discharged as 4F, was a radio reporter for defunct Houston radio station KATL, was a reporter for the defunct Houston Press, ran for mayor of Bellaire, was fired by one TV station because he was "too ugly for television" and was a Harris County deputy sheriff for years, where he worked in civil fraud and fugitive extradition before setting up the consumer fraud division.

Had he not died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zindler would've been 99 today.

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: Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luiz Bonfá Orfeu Negro: Bof du Film de Marcel Camus
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, August 07, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I don't know why I thought of Mac Davis, but he was ubiquitous on the radio back when I was growing up. So I thought I'd feature his biggest hit, a tongue-in-cheek ode to self-affirmation, on today's Friday Night Videos. I was shocked to discover there were not any quality clips of him performing it! I considered using his appearance on the Muppet Show, which is good fun, but it's badly pixellated and I couldn't stand watching more than a minute of it. Fortunately, Willie Nelson comes to the rescue, because his cover of "It's Hard to Be Humble" is the musical elixir we didn't know we needed.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Desi Arnaz.

Now Playing: Les Baxter African Jazz
Chicken Ranch Central

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
Chicken Ranch Central

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
Chicken Ranch Central

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
Chicken Ranch Central

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
Chicken Ranch Central

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.

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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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Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

With the events unfolding in Minneapolis, "For What It's Worth," this song's been running through my head.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Waitiki.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S., how about some chill, tropical sounds to get you through the pandemic-plagued holiday? Here's Waitiki performing "China Fan" on Hawaii Public Radio, a relaxing antidote for the over-crowded local rivers that will be overrun with COVID-spreading tubers this weekend. Stay safe, y'all!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Moody Blues.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The Moody Blues may be one of the few bands to score top 10 hits in three different decades, but they're also one of those bands that seem to have far fewer hits than their talent and output would warrant. I mean, they have some inspired work, and although gems like "Nights in White Satin" found a wider audience from time to time most of their work seems to have flown under the radar. Here's one you've probably heard at one point or another, but not for a very long time, "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)." I like it because it poses that age-old question, "Who is the artist? We gotta agree!"

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bruce Springsteen.

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Monday, May 04, 2020

A Moment of Tiki episodes 5 & 6

"A Moment of Tiki" returns for your viewing pleasure with two new, hand-crafted, artisanal episodes! First up is episode 5, in which I take viewers on a step-by-step how-to for caring for and preserving rattan furniture. Remember, rattan is essentially a wood, and is subject to all the pitfalls of wood furniture: drying, cracking, splitting, mold and insect damage. A little effort up front can help protect your investment for the long term! In episode 5, I share my process for building a suitably tikified frame from scratch using wood and bamboo, with which to proudly display your tropical and tiki-themed art works. It's a simple build I've perfected over quite a bit of trial-and-error, requiring no upscale woodworking techniques (don't worry about rabbets or dovetails here), so I thought it'd be a simple, easy video to edit. Wrong! The editing process proved to be far more challenging than expected. Fortunately, I finally beat it into submission and hope the result is a clear and straightforward instructional video. Plus, you get to learn what to do with all that bamboo we torched way back in episode 1!

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 5: Rattan

Episode 6: Framed!

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Friday, May 01, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Believe or not, I was never much of a Bruce Springsteen fan. I liked a few individual songs, sure, but overall, I was in the take or leave it camp. Blasphemy for an 80s kid, I know. But you know one song of his I liked? "I'm Goin' Down," which kinda feels like an anthem to how 2020 is treating us in general.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Blue Öyster Cult.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday, Dolph!

On this date in 1923, Dolph Briscoe, who would go on to become the 41st governor of Texas, was born. He would've been 97 today. Briscoe, a long-time Uvalde rancher, is generally remembered fondly from his terms as governor for being a decent guy. But his administration did earn some dubious distinctions. Briscoe was the last Texas governor to serve a two-year term and the first to serve a four-year term. He undermined two efforts to rewrite Texas' abysmal constitution (which remains a trainwreck to this day). Briscoe once appointed a dead man to the State Health Advisory Commission, and if what I've heard is true, called a press conference in the aftermath to reassure the press and public that he hadn't lost his grip on sanity.

But what most people remember him for--and which doesn't appear in most official biographies--is that he is the governor who ordered the closure of the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange. Ironically, Briscoe had no actual legal authority to order the Chicken Ranch (or any other brothel, for that matter) closed. But he did, hoping nobody would call his bluff. Fayette County Jim Flournoy certainly knew the governor had no authority to do so, but acquiesced to Briscoe and effectively ended a surreal two-week media circus that captured the attention of Texas as well as the rest of the country.

Governor Briscoe died June 27, 2010, after ignoring my interview requests for the better part of a year. He's have been 93 today. Happy birthday, Dolph!

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.

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