Thursday, January 31, 2008

Can't Get It Out Of My Head!

Pow-p-p-p-p-pa-pow-p-p-p-p-pa-pow... Gotta love it!

Yesterday, John Edwards withdrew from the presidential election. Edwards ran an honorable campaign that deserved more attention, and might have gotten it had Hillary and Obama not sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. Edwards deserves credit for driving much of the Democrats' agenda: He was the first candidate to present a plan for universal health coverage, and the first to unequivocally push for getting out of Iraq. Both positions are part and parcel of the other campaigns and will undoubtedly be critical parts of the party platform. 

Meanwhile, what will the Republicans run on? John McCain will almost certainly be the nominee. Mitt Romney outspent McCain by 5-1 in Florida and still lost. He's not an especially trustworthy figure, and Republicans seem ready to go with a candidate whose positions often make them uncomfortable than with one who makes them uncomfortable because they don't know what his positions are. And let's face it: Romney's religion has played a part.

Seriously, though, what will McCain run on? Can a man get elected president promising fewer jobs and more war? True blue conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are worried. (Be sure to watch the video clip.)

New Yorkers -- at the least the ones who root for the Mets -- must be happy about acquiring Johan Santana for what most observers agree is very little. Minneapolis Star-Tribune sportswriter thinks that the Red Sox blew it when they apparently took their offer off the table, but I dunno. The centerpiece of the Sox' offers involved either center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury or left-handed starter John Lester, plus high ceiling prospects. Pitching coach John Farrell urged the Red Sox to keep Lester. As for Ellsbury, center fielders who run like Secretariat and can swing the bat don't grow on trees. No one knows how much he will capitalize on his storybook September and post-season, but we do know that Ellsbury has excelled under pressure. He's the best Red Sox center field prospect since Fred Lynn, who came up 33 years ago -- that's how rare talent like his is. Finally, both players have been schooled on how to play in Boston, the toughest, most demanding stage in baseball. There's a lot to be said for guys who want to play there.
 


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book of Rules

This morning, the sound system at Eddie Bauer blessed my ears with one of the greatest songs ever: The Heptones' "Book of Rules." Check it out here. Not only can you dance to it and hum it to yourself all day long, it has great lyrics in the bargain...

President Bush doesn't care much about the rules -- at least, he believes that they don't apply to him. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) caught him trying to sneak a signing statement past the American people...again. Here's what Casey had to say. In short, the president has excused himself from obeying law set forth in the recent Department of Defense authorization bill (i.e., the defense budget). According to the president, he can ignore the following requirements of the bill:
  1. Establishment a commission on wartime contractors and profiteering;
  2. A ban on the funding of permanent bases in Iraq
Think of it: The administration is claiming for itself the right to enter the United States into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government -- one that would establish a more or less permanent presence in Iraq -- without consulting the Senate. In essence, they can enter into a treaty agreement on their own, something explicitly prohibited by law. Thus, the administration claims that a treaty is only a treaty when they say it is, and that the elected representatives of the people have no voice in the matter. It's a never-ending source of amazement to me that President Bush can speak with a straight face (o.k., maybe he does smirk when he says it) about democracy in Iraq when he clearly doesn't give a damn about it at home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union

To hear President Bush tell it -- or not tell it -- the state of the Gulf Coast must be peachy keen, as he sure didn't mention it during last night's miserable performance. (Of course, 9/11 made its annual appearance.) When the president speaks, smirks and inappropriate humor fuel his journey through what must seem to him like the Burmese jungle of the English language. Nothing he says comes though more clearly than his contempt for Congress and the American people. 

He throws out the usual Republican domestic bromides and then adds his own fantasies about Iraq and the Middle East. Does he seriously believe that he can broker "a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of the year"? Once again, he kneecapped his own intelligence agencies by calling for Iran to verifiably suspend it nuclear enrichment programs. The question about all of this is, why would anyone take his word for anything? Luckily, the American people have tuned him out. Unluckily, he's still capable of inflicting plenty of damage, as Joel Connelly reports here. At least the end is in sight.

The state of a different union is bliss! G-rated honeymoon pictures are now up on my web site. Click here, then select "My Albums" and choose the Honeymoon album.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day

We wake up this morning to new fallen snow. Everything white and beautiful. The big question: Does it get me out of going to the gym this morning?...

Weird screed about global warming in this morning's P-I. For example: "If the evidence of man-caused global warming is as overwhelming as the left claims it is, why the lack of rational, intelligent public debate between qualified people of opposing sides?" Um... could that be because that the evidence of global warming is so overwhelming that there are no qualified people on the opposing side? Global warming -- and, really, what difference does the qualifier "man-caused" mean in tackling the problem -- stopped being a left v. right debate some time ago. Former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert admits that it is settled science. The military predicts national and international upheavals unless fossil fuel consumption is reduced. We can fiddle around arguing about precisely who did what while perched on precisely which pin, or we can start to put out the fire...

Last night, we completed the fourth season of The Wire, which has to be the finest television in the history of that questionable medium. As the drug wars grow ever more violent, four 14-year old boys try to make their way through a world of overwhelmed schools, addicted adults, and desperate corners while trying to hold on to the last vestiges of their stolen childhoods. Heartbreaking, uncompromising, and gripping from beginning to end. If you haven't watched The Wire, move it to the top of your Netflix queue now. (And watch it with subtitles turned on.)...

Killian Read: A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin

Killian Heard: Distortion, Magnetic Fields

Killian Saw: Juno

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What Is An Old Movie?

Last night, I watched The Way To The Stars, a solid 1945 British film about the lives and loves of RAF flyers and newly-arrived Americans at a World War II bomber base in England. Starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills and thoughtfully scripted by Terence Rattigan, Stars is as representative of its time and place as any other WW II-era film. It's an old movie, as comfortable as a well-worn bathrobe and pair of slippers.

But what is an "old movie"? It's a more complicated question than it seems on the surface. 1977 -- the year I graduated from college -- is about halfway between now and 1945. Stars was an old movie in 1977; Annie Hall, the Best Picture of 1977, is clearly not an old movie today. Seventies' clothes and haircuts aside, Annie Hall retains its contemporary luster, as witty and keenly observed as it was 31 years ago. What made the former and old movie in 1977 while the latter remains modern?

One obvious difference is that movies are rarely filmed in black-and-white anymore and haven't been in some time. Nonetheless, Gone With The Wind (1939)and Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) were both filmed in glorious technicolor, and both are and have been for some time now old movies. There is certainly an ineffable sensibility to the black-and-white era that infuses even the color films, and that is no doubt part of the story. But it's not all of it.

Technique doesn't doesn't tell the tale either. Yes, the leisurely pace of Stars is a far cry from the furious cutting that passes for movie making these days (a technique that masks stupidity and weak scripts). But look at the opening scene from The Godfather, a movie no one would call old even though it was made 36 years ago in 1972. The camera closes up on the figure of Amerigo Bonasera and pulls back ever so slowly until the soft-focus silhouette of the Godfather is in the foreground. It's a daring shot that few directors today would have the courage (or insight) to attempt. And yet we are as far removed from The Godfather as it is from The Petrified Forest, a 1936 gangster classic which is an old movie now and was in 1972. 

Being an old movie doesn't mean that the film is irrelevant. The Petrified Forest holds up today and is arguably better than a good contemporary crime flick like American Gangster. I believe that it will be watched and remembered long after Gangster is forgotten. But Forest is an old movie, although it might be more accurate to call it a new movie in the sense that it was released six years after the first talkie.

Returning to The Way To The Stars, a key clue to its oldness is the scene where Stanley Holloway leads a band of carousing flyers in singing "MacNamara's Band." These flyers are young men singing a popular song that is all but forgotten now and that has no contemporary relevance whatsoever. We may take the film's word for it that the soldiers of World War II would have sung this song, but we don't connect to the possibility that they did. 

On the other hand, we do connect with the soundtrack to any random Vietnam war movie: A film from 1968 may be dated, but the music remains relevant while "MacNamara's Band" was relegated to "Captain Kangaroo" by the Sixties. That's because the staying power of rock-and-roll established a chasm between the popular culture that predated it and what comes after. My 14-year nephew is a Led Zeppelin fan. There's nothing remarkable about this -- he has plenty of company at school. But when I was 14 in 1969, believe me: I was not listening to the popular music of the Thirties, nor was anyone I knew (unless it was in secret).

The post-rock cinema -- regardless of its music -- above all has a sensibility informed by rock-and-roll (and rap, but I can't write intelligently about that). You can see it and sense it in its characters, sexuality, rhythms, dialogue. This is as absent (for the most part) from The Petrified Forest as it is present in American Gangster. (The exception in Forest is Bette Davis' smoldering sexuality, which transcends any era and bounds with ease across the broadest cultural abyss.) Above all, though, is the desire of virtually every character in every movie to be cool. This is plain in Juno, but it's just as present in Michael Clayton: After all, no one could seriously think that a character played by George Clooney listens to any other kind of music. 

Friday, January 25, 2008

Purist Nuns, etc.

This morning, I received email from Nannie I. Cope with the following subject line: Re: Priant Sungus lingel. Feeling that there had to be more to this than a spam come-on for cheap prescription drugs, I ran the subject line through a handy anagrammer. It turns out that there are at least 56,500 anagrams of "Priant Sungus lingel," although the anagrammer returned only the first thousand. None of which shed much light -- if you don't believe me, check out this sampling for yourself:
 
A Plungers Insulting
A Lingering Sluts Pun
A Gelling Purist Nuns
A Gruelling Snips Nut (sounds like a vasectomy)
A Niggle Sunlit Spurn
A Gunslinger Lip Stun
A Niggler Lupin Stuns
A Ginseng Unlit Slurp
A Snigger Inputs Null (unless you snigger last: Then you snigger best)
A Listening Gulp Runs (if it knows what's good for it)
A Penning Guru Stills
A Penguins Gill Turns

See what I mean?

On another front, it was back to Coach Gibbons this morning for the first time in over a month. Today's workout:

500 meter row
10 squats
10 push-ups
10 sit-ups
(Repeat four times for a total of five each)

5 Push Presses on the minute, 15 times (45-pound bar)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ebb and Flu

I'm past the worst part of the flu, but once this stuff has its claws in it won't let go. I felt like a fully-functional human being this morning for the first time in a week. I ate breakfast, T. and I lifted weights at the gym, I even left my wallet there and went back for it. But this afternoon, after we looked at couple of houses, nausea set in. (No connection -- at least I don't think there is.) I seem to have slept most of it of, but geez... The real killer is the sneaking suspicion that age is at work here. The last time I was sick for this long, I had a full-blown sinus infection. The flu has never knocked me off my feet for longer than a couple days. Whose idea was it to get older, anyway?

Maybe it was the news that Bush lied (and lied and lied and lied) that made me so sick? (But why now?) The Center for Public Integrity reports that "President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq." It's all here. Key statements are here. Remind me again, why was Bill Clinton impeached? 

Too bad Bush isn't Catholic. Imagine his confession: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I told 935 lies and tricked the American people -- who believed their President -- into backing a calamitous war that has resulted in thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed, and untold billions of dollars wasted."

"My son, are you sorry for your sins?"

"Not really."

Oh well, at least there are only three weeks left until spring training.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK

The media took yesterday to observe Martin Luther King Day. J. A. Andande follows the Portland Trailblazers around Atlanta and marvels at the size of the young Martin's allowance, in a nice piece here. Two years ago, I read America in the King Years, Taylor Branch's monumental history of the Civil Rights movement and its impact on the country at large. I came away convinced that Martin Luther King was the Man of the Century. His vision for America, his commitment to action, his steadfast belief in the powers of love and nonviolence remain a great shining beacon for the world, showing us the path to freedom if only we'd follow it.

My family moved to South Texas in August 1967 from Columbus, Ohio. We had never lived west of Columbus or south of Washington, D.C. I spent the tumultuous, critical year of 1968 (tumultuous and critical for me, too, because I turned 13) adjusting to a climate and culture that might as well have been Martian for all the relevance my previous life had to present circumstances. I knew who the Reverend King was, knew that my parents' supported him, and had the sheltered northerner's certainty that everyone felt that way.

So I was unprepared to discover the shocked, pained expressions on the faces of the black kids unreflected on those of the whites. Mutterings that the Reverend King "had it coming" and that he should have kept his mouth shut stunned me. I had never heard anyone -- much less 13-15 year old kids -- take such satisfaction in the death of any human being, much less one like Martin Luther King. Then I overheard a teacher agreeing with a group of white kids while telling them to keep quiet about it. That's when it really hit: Adults felt that way. Not characters from To Kill A Mockingbird, but flesh-and-blood intelligent adults who knew better. Or who ought to have. I don't suppose that I ever felt the same about the adult world after that.

Subsequent revelations about Martin Luther King's personal life failed to diminish his achievements and hopes. They simply showed that he was a person with failings and weaknesses, just like the rest of us. He had his moments of doubt, but when the cup came he drank from it. He drank deep. That's the most anyone can ask of themselves. It was America's great fortune that Martin Luther King had that kind of courage.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

It's cold and overcast outside, but the tea is warm and the fire hot. A great morning for listening to Teddy Thompson's Up Front and Down Low. One of the pleasing developments in popular music is the respect accorded to classic country music. Of course, Bob Dylan and the Dead  knew it all along, here and here...

Incidentally, the inclusion of Dylan and Johnny Cash singing "Girl From The North Country" on this is by itself worth the price of admission. The charisma, talent, mutual respect, and commitment leap off the screen. The great man's jam with Derek and the Dominoes is pretty cool, too. As his his duet with Joni Mitchell. As is his...oh, hell, would you just get it already?

Guess which "preposterous man prancing arm in arm around with the king" Robert Fisk is writing about? For those who aren't familiar with Fisk, he's perhaps the only western correspondent able to write about the Middle East from a Middle Eastern perspective...

Last night, the talking heads of CNN and MSNBC blathered on about what they perceived as Mitt Romney's comeback. I don't claim to have gold ear when it comes to Republican party politics, but I know a little about geography. As I see it, the former governor of Massachusetts couldn't even compete in the New Hampshire primary, which would normally be a slam-dunk for a New England politician. His victories have been in his home state of Michigan and Wyoming and Nevada, two states on Utah's border and with significant Mormon populations. There, somebody needed to say it...

These Colors Don't Run Dept: You can't beat The Green and Red of Mayo... Maybe we're purple after all: These cardograms are fascinating... 

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The World That Made New Orleans

The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, Ned Sublette (Lawrence Hill Books)
In 1682, the French-Canadian explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, undertook an epic journey to discover the mouth of the Mississippi River. Traveling by canoe, La Salle and his party crossed the Great Lakes and successfully negotiated the entire Mississippi. He claimed all of the territory drained by the great river for France and named it "La Louisiane," for his king. Thirty-six years later in 1718, French colonists under the auspices of the French Mississippi Company established the settlement of La-Nouvelle Orleans or, as it is known today, New Orleans. Thus began the remarkable history of the most extraordinary, culturally rich, and complex city in the United States. Ned Sublette recounts that history brilliantly in The World That Made New Orleans.

New Orleans is a great paradox. Its contributions to American and world culture in terms of music and cuisine are unmatched. At the same time, it is hard to imagine a less typically American city than New Orleans, which evolved from the confluence of six historical forces: Spanish and French colonialism, Roman Catholicism, and three strains of slave importation from Africa, Sainte-Domingue, and Virginia. Sublette's ability to meld the economic, cultural, political, and geographical aspects of these forces into a cogent, literate account is always impressive and at times breath-taking.

A musician himself with grounding in Cuban and Caribbean forms, Sublette is especially strong on the early development of New Orleans music. For example, because Spanish regulations regarding slave gatherings were considerably more lax than those of France or the United States, New Orleans' forty years of Spanish rule proved vital musically. Slaves from different parts of Africa gathered weekly in Congo Square and shared their their varying traditions of music and dance. The transfer of American slaves from Virginia to Louisiana added an element of Protestantism to a slave community grounded in Catholicism and voudou. (The influence of voudou on New Orleans is complex, to say the least. Sublette traces the development of this vital religion from Africa through Sainte-Domingue and Cuba to New Orleans.)

Along the way, Sublette demolishes any remaining myths about benign slavery, and yet he is able to do it with resorting to torture porn. It was news to me that United States stopped the importation of slaves in 1808 at the behest of the state of Virginia. Virginia had a surplus of slaves and wanted to sell the surplus south. Not an act of surpassing moral fitness, the 1808 decision was bald economic protectionism. 

Similarly, he explains how slavery itself destroyed any semblance of the black nuclear family. Among other things, slaves were chattel for breeding, the most valuable economic resource a Southern "gentleman" could have. Slaves not only provided free labor, they could be used as credit. Cotton and sugar plantation owners lived lives of great opulence and great debt. Upon the death of a slave owner, his slaves were often sold (without regard for family) to pay the owner's debts.

I've read more than a few books in my life, and I know National Book Award caliber work when I see it. The World That Made New Orleans is that kind of book, and deserves as wide an audience as possible. It's an articulate, forceful reminder of New Orleans' historical and cultural meaning. As Sublette said in an interview after Hurricane Katrina, "You cannot abandon New Orleans. You can say that New Orleans has no viability as a business or industrial city. But if our history and culture as a nation mean anything, New Orleans is central to it." Highly recommended.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Squirrel Etouffe


Neither rain nor snow nor a case of sinus crud that would stop a rogue rhino in its tracks shall keep me from my appointed blog round! Come to think of it, the inside of head feels like a rogue rhino has been tromping around in it.

In addition to the Francisco Cespedes CD reviewed Wednesday, I picked up a lot of good music in the Caribbean, especially in Puerto Rico. For starters, there's Arroz con Habichuela (Norte 8869 702756 2) from Puerto Rico's beloved El Gran Combo. Check them out here. I also found a nice reggae CD on St Martin by Rey (see picture) called Mo Music Mo Money. Rey had a little CD store in the St Martin flea market; when I told him that I wanted to avoid tourist schlock, he recommended his own CD. God helps those who hype themselves! There's also an assortment of Afro-Rican bomba music called Raices (Banco Popular BPPR-2001-CD) that ranges from percussion solos to full band arrangements, and Rumba Buhaina (Random Chance RCD 25), a fine Latin jazz offering from Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band.

Finally, for all of you who have been waiting for this -- and there are a lot of you -- here's the recipe you've been craving. You can find the cage-free, all organic main ingredient right in your own back yard with no worries of harvesting an endangered species. Feast away!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Real Question

I'm listening to a Republican focus group on NPR arguing that we are "winning" the war in Iraq. Hearing that, it struck me that all of the debate about whether or not the surge is working -- and the President has pulled his usual bait-and-switch on this point -- is beside the point, and that once again the MSM has failed to pursue the real issue. I'd like to hear every candidate answer the following questions: Regardless of whether or not you believe that the Iraq war is justified and winnable, should the United States be in a war that has no public support? If yes, why? If no, what are your plans for ending American involvement in the conflict.

The debate about winning and losing is increasingly surreal and irrelevant. (I mean, can you believe this drivel?) The American people no longer want our country to be in this war. Public opinion polling is plain on this point, so why are we routinely ignored by the president and by the media? The administration's contempt for public opinion is well known, so that's not a surprise. But considering the army of reporters that have descended on Iowa and New Hampshire, you'd think that one of them might have raised this point. Or not: No one lately has accused the MSM of originality of thought.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snowball

Con El Permiso De Bola, Francisco Cespedes with Gonzalo Rubalcaba

A couple strolls down the streets of Havana in the early morning hours. Sounds wafting from a nearby club cause them to pause and listen. Drawing closer, they peer into a open door to see four men gathered around a piano producing some of the loveliest sounds they've ever heard in their lives. Unaware that they have an audience, the quartet nestles deep into the music of a revered predecessor. Occasionally, a colleague joins them to contribute on trumpet or guitar or violin. But mostly it's the four -- a singer, a virtuoso pianist, a bassist, and a drummer -- speaking to and inspiring each other through the music.

Bola de Nieves (The Snowball, nee Ignacio Villa) has been described as Cuba's Fats Waller, Nat "King" Cole, and Frank Sinatra all rolled into one. Creating a CD of his music requires supreme talent and understanding of his style and contribution. I can't claim to be an expert on Nieves, but I know great music when I hear it, and I hear it on this CD.  

Franciso Cespedes, a former physician, approaches every song as an act of making love, not reverence. As a result, he gets to the essence of the material without without coming across as a imitator. Cespedes' warm, breathy baritone seems perfect for songs that he caresses with the attention of a man reunited with his one true love. Rubalcaba eschews pyrotechnics and instead plays piano as if he were F. Scott Fitzgerald writing The Great Gatsby: Each note, each phrase receives precisely the right stress, tone, and rhythm. He plays precisely what is needed for every song; each performance is a perfectly polished gem beautiful for its restraint. Ignacio Berroa's melodic drumming combines with Carlos del Puerto's lush bass to form an ideal rhythm section. Highly recommended.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Sigh...

One day, we're wading in the warm blue waters of the island of Jost Van Dyke watching pelicans fish, the next we're leaving the Sea Dream for a quick trip to the San Juan airport. Eight hours later we're back in Seattle, and twelve hours after that, we're waking up to a cold gray sky with the ubiquitous steady drizzle of a Seattle winter. Yeesh.

But what a great trip. T.'s favorite part of the boat was the twice daily room makeup service. I liked the cold face cloths the second we got off the tender after returning from shore. Of all the places we visited, I most enjoyed the funkiness of St. Martin's -- the flea market, the rundown cafes. Reading on the beach at the Bitter End and watching the pelicans -- who transfixed us for nearly two hours -- will both be great memories. Mainly, it was the time together in an environment of complete leisure. We talked, read, strolled, shopped, ate, drank, and completely enjoyed each other's company for nine whole days. I recommend it for everyone!
video

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dateline: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

At 8:30 this morning, a large contingent departed the ship to visit the "caves," which apparently have natural baths. Why do people make vacations so strenuous? I see an activity beginning at 8:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. PST) and I cross it off my list. T. and I spent our morning on the beaches of the Bitter End Yacht Club (ironically named, take my word for it). Much more my idea of a tropical vacation.

Killian Read: A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dateline: St. Martin, French West Indies

Our favorite village so far, mostly because of the delightful craft market, relative absence of designer boutiques, and abundance of comfortable cafes. I went into a little CD store and -- as in San Juan -- told the propietor that I didn't want any tourist stuff. He suggested that in that case I should start with his CD, which I did. He goes by "Rey," and performs an easy-going brand of reggae.

A couple of days ago, at St John, we took lunch and drinks at a cafe overlooking the marina. The seabird life was the best we've seen on the trip: pelicans, albatrosses, and some magnificent frigate birds. These last are lovely: Big guys nobly soaring above the marina as lords surveying their fiefdom.

While in St. John, we bought matching silver bracelets of a style particular to the island. The clasp is J-shaped: We wear ours with the open facing ourselves to show that we are not available.

Killian Read: "The Golden Honeymoon" (Ring Lardner)
"The Killers" (Ernest Hemingway)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dateline: Somewhere in the Caribbean

After boarding and spending the night on the good ship Sea Dream I, we disembarked today and explored the small Puerto Rican island of Culebrita. T. swam while I strolled along the beach; later, we hiked uphill to an abandoned lighthouse. The summit offered 360-degree views of the turquoise water rolling in lazily to the beaches rimming the island. Going back downhill, we noticed that one stretch of grade would have required an effort 5,000 feet up in the Cascades. Here, at sea level, we hadn't noticed it.

Sunday night, we watched the Democratic candidates debate. Frankly, it made both of us proud to be Democrats. Our candidates look like America: A range of gender, race, and age. With Edwards and Obama, you can tell why they want to be president. Obama hopes to usher in a post-partisan world; Edwards wants to rein in the corporate interests that he sees as corrupting our politics while destroying the middle class. Clinton has great command of any subject, but it's less clear why she wants to lead the country. Richardson is smart and experienced, but utterly without charisma.

Edwards was the most convincing, but Obama's charisma and presence are undeniable. Whatever "it" is, he's got it. I never though this country would elect a black president in my lifetime, but he will be in great position to win the general election should he get nominated. He embodies optimism, hope, and change, while the Republican party wears the chains of corruption, ineptitude, and intransigence.

To borrow from Charles Dickens, it forged them link by link, yard by yard. Their choices are a self-evident phony (Romney), a whack job (Huckabee), and two guys (Giuliani and McCain) who want to run on continuing a war that the country no longer supports. Someone may have said this before me, but I say bring 'em on!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dateline: San Juan, Puerto Rico













We arrived in San Juan last night and our room at the El Convento, a one-time convent now a hotel in Old San Juan. The El Convento has five stories overlooking a courtyard; each room opens onto a breezeway. Brunch this morning included watermelon gazpacho and rum-soaked chicken wrap with spinach, mashed plantain, and manchego. Bread was served with a delicious guava butter.

After lunch, we strolled and shopped in old town. It's reminiscent of New Orleans' French Quarter with Spanish architecture and boutiques opening onto narrow sidewalks. I found a nice music and book store; the proprietor helped me select a number of Puerto Rican jazz and salsa CDs. We wandered outside of the old city wall and strolled along the sea wall back to the hotel. T. dozes while I watch the Seahawks-Redskins game.

I must say that this place and town have more than a little class. After the Seahawks' 35-14 victory, we had a late dinner at the El Convento's tapas bar. Tapas represent a most civilized means of dining. We shared small portions of manchego, olives, grilled peppers and garlic, filet mignon cooked in sherry, and chorizo cooked in brandy. The portions are sized so that one is satisfied without feeling the least bloated, and in fact I enjoyed the pleasant buzz brought on by good food and sangria champagne. Toward the end of dinner, a wedding party on the floor below undertook a drunken serenade of "Piano Man." We made our way back to a room that had been made up especially for honeymooners: Rose petals and chocolates strewn on the floor and the bed. And the honeymoon has just begun!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Looking at America

The New York Times speaks for millions here.
Joel Connelly of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes about what makes Iowa Republicans tick:
  • "Our presidents should be godly people." -James Patrick, Des Moines churchgoer;
  • "Over 70 per cent of Iowans believe marriage should be between one man and one woman and nothing else [sic]. We believe this issue of marriage is important to the health and welfare of the family in this country." -Pastor Dan Barry, Cornerstone Family Church of Des Moines;
  • "I've worked now in three successful presidential campaigns, but the moral climate in this country has continued to deteriorate." -Anne Perry (another Sunday worshipper, not the mystery writer).
Of course, considering the way in which the Bush Administration has ignored the ongoing agony of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast,  she may have a point. Meanwhile, John Edwards dares argue that poverty is the real threat to the health and welfare of this country, here.

Killian Read: Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Jeff Lindsay)

Killian's Downloads:
Raising Sand (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss) As hard as this pairing is to envision, it works on just about every level. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wedding Day Day (con't)

T. and I chose Kirkland's Cafe Juanita for our wedding and reception because it has the best combination of creativity, execution, and service we have ever experienced. Before the wedding, we would have put it up against any restaurant anywhere. After...well, it was a completely over-the-top experience. Not only was the menu magnificent, Holly Smith and her staff treated us and our guests as if we were long-time friends. Do yourself a favor and go there.

We had a corner table with tables for six for our guests along walls in either direction. This allowed us to circulate easily and visit with our friends and family. Everyone liked their tablemates, which turns out to be a great thing at a wedding reception.

Menu (served family style):
Salt Cod and Hearts of Palm Fritti
Fra'Mani Salame with Balsamico Panna Cotta

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House Made Pappardelle with Goose Sugo and Parmigiano Reggiano *
Taleggio Raviolini with Pinenuts, Pomegranate, and Marjoram

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Winter Citrus Salad with Avocado, Rising C Citrus, and Pickled Shallots

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Whole Roasted Branzino** with Taggia Olive Pepperoncini Vinaigrette

Oregon Saddle of Lamb with Sunchokes in Bagna Cauda and Housemade Pepporoncini Fariciti Piccanti

Quail with Broccoli Rabe and Marsala Sauce

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Wedding Cake ***

* Exquisite, and the first time they made it!
** Branzini is a Mediterranean sea bass
***A rich yellow cake with raspberry mousse filling and Italian buttercream icing