Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bonne Annee 2007!

Bonne Annee tout le monde!
I'm working on my resolutions. I seem to have some of same ones every year. Take off a few kilos and most important, keep them off! Work less, earn more, but this time, I resolve to finish the Rev. Moon piece that I keep researching! I tried to keep politically involved in 2006, but 2007 means harder work for all of us.
Try to not lose my coherence when I lose my temper. I've met some very interesting people as result of the blogosphere and I value this new form of communication very much. I want to wish everyone a prosperous, healthy, productive year and hope we can all gain from each others knowlege and slowly bring the world a little more sanity
and have fun at the same time! Now it's time for our New Years Eve Party!!!!

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Last night I saw my favorite film of all time, Buster Keatons' The General for the 13th time. I own a copy of it for petes sake, but when I saw that it was going to be shown on Arte, I had to watch it. It was the newly restored version with the new soundtrack performed by the Tokyo Symphony. I am like a little kid with this film, every time I see it , it is like I am seeing for the first time. Some parts are so familiar, but others are never as I remember them. When I talk about Buster Keaton and his work, I get emotional, I drive my friends nuts with my little obsession. So now it's your turn.

If you have never seent this movie, please give it a view. It is 80 years old this year and seen in the historical sense of the cinema, it is a breathtaking masterpiece. It's a story about the Civil War. Buster Keaton is the engineer of a railroad engine called The General in the South. War breaks out and a group of Northern soldiers infiltrate and steal The General so they can sabotage the rail lines for a strategic battle.

They kidnap Busters girl in the mix and Buster chases them in another engine. The results are a story that works as an adventure but as high silent comedy film art at the same time. The attention to detail is meticulous. The look of the film is as if Mathew Bradys' Civil War photographs began to move. The art of Keaton as a story teller and director is at its height. The framing of the scenes is forever inventive. The sheer bravado of the gags is mind boggling. So many of the physical gags are on the order of "get it right the first time or we die!". He stages a full blown battle scene at the finale.

Things really blow up! Keaton was in my mind, the greatest of the silent comics. He planned gags that were death defying. He was a little guy, but his stunts were almost super human! All of this without cracking a smile.
He was raised literally on stage in Vaudeville. His family's act consisted of an evolving sketch involving a drunken Irish family and he was an animated prop thrown about the stage. He learned how to take a fall when he was 4 year old. He started acting in silents with Fatty Arbuckle. He learned how films were made, how cameras worked, how to cut and edit and direct. For a few years, he was really successful. His classic period included films like Our Hospitality, The Navigator, The Three Ages of Man, Sherlock Jr., The Projectionist, One Week, The Playhouse and Cops. He was given free rein to make his films. Strangely enough, The General was badly recieved and the studio lost money on it. His marriage to the daughter of the Studio Head went sour. As his artistic freedom was curtailed, he began to drink. Talkies arrived and though he had a very distinctive gravely speaking voice, so much of his personality and skills revolved around silent films that he was a fish out of water. He ended up playing second fiddle to Jimmy Durante and doing other small roles. He ended up living in a trailer on the lot of the studio. Then years of obscurity, most of the copies of his great films were destroyed. It wasn't until the late 50's that a cache of the films were rediscovered and restored and looked at again with fresh eyes. In my opinion, his work was too sophisticated for the audiences of his time. He presented too much.
He worked again in the 60's. He appeared in Richard Lesters' A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum with Phil Silvers and Zero Mostel, but died in 1966. If you haven't seen his films, please take a look. You will not believe the physical gags in Cops, a truly hilarious film called the best short comedy ever made or the Technical tour de force of The Playhouse in which he plays every member of a stage company, the entire audience and an undisciplined chimpanzee. In one scene he is nine characters at the same time. This was an unprecedented experiment in film editing in 1921 which totally succeeds as great comedy.
As far as my 13th viewing of The General last night, I loved it, but I was a little disappointed with the new Tokyo Symphonic soundtrack. I missed the simplicity of the Robert Israel music I was familiar with.
Buster Keaton, Old Stoneface, the absolute greatest silent comic and filmaker of his time!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Frozen Fog World

Here are a few pictures of the landscape around here after a few days of freezing fog
and no wind. Every day the ice crystals got longer and longer and the land scape grew stranger and stranger.
This is a picture of the house and barn and pond after the sun finally came out.
Cows ominously emerge from the mists.
Fragil frost sculptures that disappeared minutes after the sun finally came out.
Today it was 60 farenheit
and the fog world was just a memory.
You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kids, don't try this at home........

Yes, well the Christmas thing is over, we made it through Boxing Day, I have quite a few Brit friends who take it seriously! I gained a half kilo, but that's normal winter weight, nothing to get alarmed about....yet!
It's not for lack of trying, when ever I go anywhere, there are cookies, cakes, mulled wine...uhhh...chocolate. We are just as bad here. My wife bakes the cookies she has made every year since she was a little girl in Seattle. But to be in France at just go into the markets and see displays of everything you could ever imagine indulging yourself and lots of it,the over powering odor of truffles in a green grocer, the displays of foie gras and incredible carnivorous artistry in a charcuterie... then there is patisserie. In another life, I could have been either a charcutier or a patissier. I love to make complicated desserts. It's like a science project mixed with art. The classic dessert for a Christmas Feast here is a Buche de Noel...a Yule Log. It comes from the tradition of burning a huge log in the fireplace At Christmas through New Years to bring good luck, health and harvest.
The log now is a cake. It's traditionally a genoise which is rolled like a jelly roll and filled with a variety of fillings and decorated. Last year I did a jelly roll that was covered with swiss merinque and baked. It was decorated with marzipan leaves and mushrooms. This year I made a Mocha Mousse Buche. It is decorated with chocolate holly leaves which I made by covering real holly leaves with dark chocolate and putting them into the freezer until I was ready to peel the chocolate off and apply them to the cake.
Here's the procedure:

The cake: In a bowl, cream together 4 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat it for at least 4 or 5 minutes at medium speed. Then stir in 1/2 cup flour by hand. In another bowl, beat 3 egg whites until they are stiff, half way through the beating, add a tablespoon of sugar.
Melt 25 grams of butter and pour over the egg yolks and flour, then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites.
Have a baking sheet covered with a buttered sheet of parchment, at least 10"by12". Spread the batter evenly on the sheet no thicker than 1/2 inch. Then pop it into a hot oven (425 degrees) for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn't color too much.
When it is done, flip the cake out with the paper on a flat surface, brush the back of the paper with a damp brush and wait 2 minutes. The paper will peel off perfectly.
Now, when it is cool, it is ready to fill.

The Mocha Mousse: Take 500 grams of butter (2 cups) out of the fridge and let it get soft for at least an hour. Put it into a mixing bowl and whip it at low speed for a few minutes to get it airy and soft and light.
Make an uncooked batch of French meringue: whip 3 egg whites stiff, halfway through the whipping add a tablespoon of sugar.
When the whites are stiff, fold in by hand 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
Too the whipped butter add a few teaspoons of coffee extract. I made my own coffee extract by taking a little of my morning coffee and and adding a lot of decaf instant to it. It should be thick! Whip it into the butter.
Then fold the meringue into the butter by hand carefully. The butter has to be really soft for this to work. After a few minutes of gently mixing, voila, the mousse is finished.

Assemble the cake:
You need some coffee syrup. This is simple, make a little simple sugar syrup by boiling say, 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup sugar. When it cools, add more of your homebrewed coffee extract!
Brush the surface of the cake with the coffee syrup. Then spread 3/4 of the mousse over the surface. Roll the cake and refrigerate for a half hour.
Cut the ends off of the cake to make them nice and even. You can use these ends as branches on the log. Spread the remainder of the mousse over the outside of the cake.
You could use a pastry bag with a star shaped nozzle, I used a spatula then textured it with a fork to simulate bark.
Then it's time for magic. If you are crafty, you could make swiss meringue mushrooms or little decorations of marzipan. This year, I opted for simplicity, I made the dark chocolate holly leaves and put a little plastic traditional elf with an axe on top, then dusted it with powdered sugar.
Refrigerate, it's best if refrigerated overnight.
I know some of you are getting congestive heart failure just reading this recipe, but this is something you do once a year. Eat a slice, then go out and chop wood for a few works for me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


When the shiny pink and chrome brand new Cheneytron 2000 was unpacked by the gleeful neo cons and assembled for the first time, they waited excitedly as they flipped the power switch and the good old fashioned Soviet style tubes began to warm up and glow. After a few minutes o defillibrating itself, the massive Cheneytron 2000 turned forcefully and strode uunder its own power to fulfill its destiny.
It rumbled into the CIA offices and began to manufacture its custom made intelligence reports, carefully attending to each detail to assemble the intelligence into the alarming announcements that were scientifically designed to stir Americans in to a war frenzy. Its hypnotronic voice simulator which was designed to lull everyone within its range into dull eyed submission worked perfectly on the power crazed idiot son of the last Republican president. Together, the Cheneytron 2000 and his drone unit slave, Bush Jr. were going to go far. The neo cons were aquiver with uncontrollable merriment.
Soon the Cheneytron was seen everywhere, pronouncing that invading Iraq would be a cakewalk where our soldiers would be welcomed with flowers as liberators. Meanwhile, it was printing up and spitting out contracts and sub contracts to approved corporations that would share in the loot and divide up the oil revenues from this New American Century!
Unbeknownst to everyone who was watching the Cheneytron go about its tasks, tiny flaws had developed. There were dark smudge marks on the inside of the old style triode tubes. Some of the solderings had begun to over heat...the defillibration unit was making strange creaky sounds and emitting a tell tale noxious odor. The hypnotronic droning device began to slur and repeat itself in an endless loop of "We are about to turn the corner in Iraq!", "The terrorists are on the run...skawk...eeep!"
Only those in the closest proximity, the president, George Jr. among them were still affected by it.
In Febuary, last year, the Cheneytron had a major malfunction and shot an old man in the face. This incident was hushed up and there was even an attempt to show that it had real feelings, though we all know that the very efficient Cheneytron 2000 was designed to have no feelings.
The Cheneytron 2000 has a support staff of almost 100 aides and technicians, making it in effect it's own government department. Even now, it sits grumbling and creaking, emitting foul odors, skawking its same endless loop of doom and it pursues its program of BYOT! Build youu own threat! It is carefully sorting and assembling intelligence reports nad influenciing its rapidly shrinking circle of influence to puush for an attack against Iran. We are hearing the same drone, but scratchier and jerkier about how it can't fail, the Iranian people would welcome us....
Somebody should check the warranty on this unit, send it back to the factory and givie it a lube job. Put it up on the rack and look att the transmission....What do you do with a bad machine?


Super Soul Brother #1! James was a teen delinquent and when he got out of prison, he got into music. Still a teenager, he joined a gospel group and played organ.
His first big break as a singer came when during the course of his erratic carreer, Little Richard disappeared after his first meteoric hit singles and went into the ministry. James was hired to fill in the dates with Richards backup fact, their were two versions of the Upsetters touring the little clubs in the South doing Little Richard Covers. The other singer who got his break because of Richards bizarre behavior was Otis Redding.
James honed his style, his dancing, his moves, his theatrical whiplash manipulation of the crowds with his band the Flames! The first time I ever saw James Brown was in the TAMI Awards movie in 1965! He did Please, Please, Please! with all the moves, breaking down, being escorted off the stage by one of the Flames with a cape on, then throwing down the cape, grabbing the mike and recharged with even more energy, goes back into the song. This was riveting, electrifying and sheer calculated showmanship of the highest level!
There are so many songs, It's a Mans World, Sex Machine, Cold Sweat, Licking Stick,
I Can't Stand Myself, I'll Go Crazy, I Feel Good, Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
The JB's! The fabulous horn section, Fred Wesley, the Collins Brothers, Bootsy and Catfish,,,He gave us so much. The man invented Funk and gave it a name! Can we take it to the bridge? HUH, Take it to the bridge!
You can say what you want about the man and his personal life, but till the day he died he was SUPER BAD!

The Simplest Things

Sometimes, the simplest things can be made so complicated by someone who doesn't quite get it!
A good example is onion soup. One of the simplest things in the world to make right, yet there are hundreds of arcane alchemical variations involving parmesan cheese, sherry wine, darkening agents, boullion cubes...okay, so you can throw in a bouliion cube.
When I apprenticed as a chef at the Hillcrest Hotel in Toledo back in 1969, it had pretensions of being a grand restaurant. I guess in Toledo, at that time, they really went the extra yard to present a fancy menu. Fresh sea food was flown in to Toledo Express Airport so we could feature fresh oysters and lobster. There was a glorious salad bar and dessert table. Chef Bob even did ice sculpture. I got to indulge my artistic talents by being free rein to design the salmon presentation.
But onion soup? Forget it, they didn't have a clue. Ususally it was a good excuse to send me out to the bar to get some sherry. I would come back with an open bottle, some would go into the soup and the rest would go into the assistant chef, Al. The resulting mess to my taste was inedible. Salty, bitter, over flavoured mix of artificial onion soup mix and rubbery burnt parmesan...I could never understand why any one would order this gunk.
Then my wife, Janet, made me real onion soup, explaining
to me that when she was really poor, this is what they ate. It was so good and I couldn't believe it was so simple!
Just take about three or four medium sized onions and cut them into fine rounds. Melt some good butter in a soup pot and saute the onions in the butter until they start getting color. Dust them with flour and add some butter if it seems dry. The flour, onions and butter has to carmelize a bit, this is the color of the soup and the carmelization releases the sweetness of the onions.
Add water and stir good to get everything unstuck from the bottom of the pot. Salt and Pepper to taste. If you wanted a little more flavor, you could add a boulion cube here, but you will be surprised at how much natural flavor the soup has already. Simmer for a half hour. Now for the part that turns it into an event. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and float a piece of toasted baguette on top. Cover that with grated Ementhal or Gruyere cheese and put under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts and starts to turn brown.
Yes, wj, you could use spring onions if you wish...but once they are cooked all onions have a nutty sweetness.
Bon apetit, bien sur!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


It is Christmas Eve here in La Sechere, where as it seems to be the case in all of western Europe, we are blanketed in a thick freezing fog. Actually, it's a very peaceful fog. There is no traffic anywhere. The usual silence is even more profound because of the acoustic insulation the fog provides. The trees area covered with ice crystals. Everything dissolves into a white vagueness.
I was out visiting neighbors earlier with my dog, J Edgar. I am full of cookies and tea. I spent a few hours splitting and sawing wood...a seemingly never ending task, but I am getting to the end of the log pile.
I check out what is going on in the rest of the world and I am very happy to be wrapped in this silent whiteness. No last minute shopping because there is no where to shop.
We are going to have a nice quiet dinner here tonight. Janet is doing something extraordinary with Foie gras. If you can imagine it, she is making a sort of Crumble with the fresh foie gras, pear slices and crushed hazelnuts on top for the crunch. Tomorrow we will have some friends over for dinner and we will have a traditional Perigourdine dinner of Confit de Canard, pommes de terre saute with cepes and I am making dessert. I am going to make a Mocha Buche de Noel. I make a Buche de Noel almost every year, I started doing it back in New York and though this one will be simple, it should be spectacular in its own way. I plan to take a few photos of the process and I will publish the recipe.
We have our tree up and J Edgar is finally cool with it. He was a little intimidated by it when we first plugged in the lights and acted kind of strangely for a few days.
If I had a Christmas wish for you, I would wish that your Christmas could be as peaceful as ours is here.
I hope we all are rested and centered to resume our fight to bring some kind of stability to the world. I wish all your blogging experiences help bring understanding to someone else. I hope my jokes are more coherent to the rest of world who reads them insttead of just making myself giggle.
I think that after Christmas is over this year, when the tinsel settles and we are back with reality in our faces, Post Holiday Depression is going to be the big driver in the political reality that Geoprge Bush faces. Remember, a few days ago, he told us all not to worry and go out and shop. On January 2nd, Americans will start worrying again and all those bills are going to start rolling in!
Merry Christmas to all the people who log into this page, May 2007 be a year of beginnings and luck and health for us all!

Featured Cheese! Epoisses

A new feature here at the brain police! Yes, the featured cheese...Today the spotlight is on Epoisses!
A cows milk cheese from Burgundy, soft silky texture with a remarkable scent. It has a complex technique. The milk is collected from cows which have grazed for three months on grass. It is one of the last cheeses made using the technique of coagulation. The young cheeses are washed daily with salt water and then daily with a rinse of salt water and marc de Bourgogne, (local high proof brandy).
This gives a powerful, rich flavor. The marc gives a woody sweetness to the pungent nutty flavor that intesifies as the cheese ripens. The piece pictured above is just about perfect. It is runny, yet still firm. This is a cheese to enjoy after a good meal. Many people think that a white wine goes well with it, I myself, think that a nice fruity red really unlocks the flavor of this cheese.
The cheese was first made by the Cistercian monks in the Abbaye of Citeaux in the heart of Burgundy. Supposedly it was one of Napoleons favorites. I discovered it just this year and now it is a special treat and we look for one that is perfect and will ripen at home!
A small quantity is exported to the United States, it probably is a bit pricey, but it is a real experience and an exciting addition to your plateau de fromage.

Friday, December 22, 2006

No Comment

One of my very favorite editorial cartoonists, Steve Bell from the Guardian Observer inventts the perfect word to sum up George Bush's new spin on the Iraq Debacle.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Art of the Pizza

Tonight, I made a pizza. I make pizza at least once or twice a month. It's something we really like and I have never had a slice from a pizza joint here in France that was up to my very critical standards. When I was a kid in Detroit, we had a pizza place on Schoolcraft Road and Kentfield run by a old Italian man who had a brick oven. I was very choosy about the topping...pepperoni! The most memorable part of the pizza was the crust. Light, crispy and the edges were full of big bubbles and the bottom was dusted with semolina. I guess the place closed in the late 60's when the proprieter died. My buddy Mike who lived on the next block from the Pizza place opened his own chain of Pizza Boys in Detroit in the early 70's. I used to come up from Toledo and hang out with him once and a while and learned how to throw a pizza. He made pretty good pizza, but it was not the same....I have to admit that in Toledo, I never found a pizza that came even close to my standards and I gave everyone a chance to prove it!
I began to think that my pizza fantasy was just idealized memory of a perfect pizza that never was. When I lived in New York in the East Village, a restaurant called Two Boots opened on Avenue A in tthe late 80's. Two Boots because it specialized in Cajun and Italian Cuisine. They specialized in Pizza! They made really good pizza and the secret was the crust. It was just like I had imagined I remembered it! Light, yet with a real bread taste, crispy and thin with the big bubbles in the edges. The sauce was great, the slice with coppola ham and roasted peppers became my favorite comfort food. They even opened up a Pizza joint across the street because it was so popular. They are still there, On Avenue A and East 3rd Street. Two Boots To Go, Pizza and video rentals all over under one roof! I had a few slices in March of this year and it's still as good!
So, in my quest to make the perfect pizza, I have been experimenting with the crust.
Slowly through trial and error and always imagining how I could get it better, I have finally figured out how to make the crust of my fantasies! I found that the most important ingredient is time!
Try this, it's so simple!
In a big bowl mix:
One packet of yeast
One cup of warm water
A cup and a half of flour
Use bread making flour, in America unbleached is the best...I use a variety called type 55 here and get it from a small flour mill in a near by village named Ayen.
So mix the yeast, water and flour together and cover the bowl with a towel and lut it in a moderately warm place for an hour.
The mixture after an hour will be foamy and spongy.
Into it mix...I use a wooden spoon...
1/8 cup olive oil
less than a teaspoon of salt
then I add another cup of flour...
I flour the work surface and turn the dough out on it and start to knead it, lightly flouring it until it stops being sticky to the touch. The trick is not to add any more flour than is neccessary. The dough should be very soft. Knead it for around 10 minutes. Then I form it into a ball, put it back into the bowl, cross the top with a sharp knife, recover it with the towel and put it back into the warmish place.
The forget about it until it is time to make the pizza. If you can give it 2 hours, that's pretty good! I usually start pizza dough after lunch.
When you make the pizza, I use semolina on the surface, I take the dough out of the bowl and the next secret is to handle it as little as possible! Since it has sat for so long, the dough has had time to form real gluten strands which give it amazing elasticity. If you dare, you can throw it like a pro. If you are a novice, no problem, just start letting gravity do the work, keeping the thickness of the dough even as you stretch it thinner and thinner. I always have more than I need and uuse the extra to make a little bread loaf...I braid it and put coarse salt over the top and bake it at the same time I do the pizza.
Do I have to tell you what to put on it? Tonight I had sauce that I froze last summer. A simple sauce with garlic and basil, then mozzarella cheese, thin slices of hot chorizo sausage, some emmenthal cheese, slices of ripe red pepper and then a nice sprinkling of parmesan.
Into a very hot oven for about 25 minutes, the bread takes a little longer!
The best slice in France!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A little black lump of fungus

Yes, one of those days. Too much to do, to think about and too many threads running through my brain. it was also a nice day to read other blogs and post on them. It seems everyday I check out a new link and find a new favorite. Blogging has really made a lot of people into writers. I wasn't very much of a writer until I grudgingly accepted emailing back in the late 90's. I still am not and I seem to be losing command of English as I speak and think more and more French. Sometimes I don't know the word in either language.
What did I do today? Woke at 7:30 and walked the dog, J Edgar, who rediscovered ice! This is his 2nd winter and last winter he was a little guy. Janet and I went into the Causse forest above Grange d'Ans to cut a scraggly juniper tree for Christmas. It was a nice outing a few kilometers away. It's such totally different country than here. The soil is red here and so is the sandstone. On the other side of the 704, the soil is grey and full of limestone rocks. The Causse itself is a limestone plateau with a thin layer of soil. The forest is composed mainly of scraggly oak trees that drive their roots deep into the rock. Because the soil is so poor, the oaks need help to get nutrients. They evolved a symbiotic relationship with a fungus which grows in the roots, the Black Truffle to accomplish this task. This area is one of the main zones for the black truffle and a lot of the privately owned areas are fenced and guarded.
A lot is still open and the truffle oaks are carefully watched by a few locals. The entire process, from finding them to the sale is a closely guarded history. There are a few markets in the area with a strict protocol and all sales are conducted privately in cash.
What an amazing lore of a small dirty black lump of fungus. If you haven't smelt one, you will never know what it is all about. To go into the little green grocer in Thenon at Christmas and open the door and be engulfed in the odor of truffles for sale in a little basket is a real sensory experience. If you are lucky enough to have a fresh truffle, you only need to put it in a bowl of fresh eggs over night to flavor the entire batch of eggs. A few slivers in a pate or terrine will change the entire flavor. How do they taste? How can you describe something that tastes like dirt would taste if it was delicious? Perhaps that is why only a little bit is needed and the imagination does the reat.
I have friends who trained their border collie to hunt truffles. In the old days, the peasants used pigs, but you would have to fight the pig for the truffle. There is a technique that involves going into the forest in the morning, when the suns rays are at a slant and watching carefully for the swarming of a small flying insect. The Truffle Fly. If you look carefully, you might see them swarming at the base of a tree, where they will burrow into the ground to lay their eggs in a truffle they have located by special fly powers!
My friends who have the border collie, have a business selling oaks and hazelnut trees which have been inoculated with truffle spores. This has been tried for many years but it takes exactly the right soil and climate. If you are successful, it might take 7 years to see the results. Supposedly in the USA, in Northern Texas and Oregon State, there is soil with the right chemistry and the climate is friendly enough. There is a group of researchers trying to accomplish this feat buut there are so many unknown and variables. So far, I have not heard of any one having any luck.
Here, there are many plantations of little oaks and hazelnuts, carefully fenced off as as investment in the future!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


This afternoon in a courtroom in Tripoli, the 5 Bulgarian Nurses and one Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 500 children with AIDS were condemned to death. This verdict was reached in spite of international outrage and protest. They have been held for 7 years and torture was used to extract confessions out of them.
International medical and AIDS Research organizations have put forth definitive evidence that has proved that the defendants are innocent. In earlier posts, I listed the various studies by the Pasteur Institute in Paris which proved that the children were infected before the workers arrived in Libya as well as the variety of the virus as being a specific Northern African strain.
The general condition of the patients with accompanying hepatitis infections pointed directly to the hospitals faulty hygiene.
Protests today were lodged against the verdict by the French Foriegn Minister Douste-Blazy, The EU Justice Minister, Franco Frattini, the Government of Bulgaria, and Science groups all over the world.
The defense lawyer, Othman Bizanti was attacked outside the courtroom after announcing that he would appeal the decision.
This case is truly being used as an internal Libyan political ploy by Gadaffi who is extremely unpopular in the Bengazi region where the hospital is located. The charges are fueled by the xenophobic ignorance of the families of the victims who would rather blame outsiders than there own faulty medical system.
The only good thing that came from this decision today is that it brings world focus to an issue that has been gaining in the public eye. More people will learn the true facts of the case and demand that their government act to exert pressure on Libya.
To find out more details of the case and perhaps resources as to what you can do to make your self heard on this issue please check out the effect/measure blog link in the sidebar.

Monday, December 18, 2006

You Could Have Put My Picture On The Cover!

So after a week of wild voting on their blog site, Time Magazine ignores the results and decides that I am the person of the year! Well, that's one of the most stale jokes on the web already! It also is the lamest decision Time could make.
If you had been following their on line poll, the clear winner was Hugo Chavez! Second Place was Nancy Pelosi. Third was Mahmoud Ahmandinejad and tied for fourth were George Bush and Al Gore, I kid you not!

I like the idea of Chavez as man of the year. A brilliant player, kept his face in the spotlight, spoke his mind and never buckled to massive intimidation. He is beginning to be grudgingly albeit recognized as a force for good in Venezuela and will change the face of the South American political scene.
I have seen him in critical in depth interviews on BBC and he always came across as sincere and charismatic. I can see why the America of George Bush's Administration regards him as a threat. He represents the waning influence of American power in the Southern hemisphere and the rising of another world order to take its place.
I'm sure that Time would have gotten a lot of flack if it had listened to the voters.
Me, man of the year on Time Magazine, who would of thunk it?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

War on Christmas? The real facts....

Bill O'Reilly didn't invent the war on Christmas. It wasn't started by a bunch of Godless Liberal Atheist activists trying to shove their Santanic agenda down your throat. The war on Christmas has historical basis....It started in 1607 in Holland!
The creeps who were trying to destroy Christmas weren't godless atheists either, they were the Calvinist Protestant Leaders of the Dutch Republic, who in their zealous efforts to stamp out "papist idolitry" and "Baal Worship" tried to ban the Feast of St. Nicholas. The feast of St. Nicholas was a Dutch Tradition. They claimed a special affection for him and cookies and candy and special treats were very much a part of the culture. It was a childrens festival and children occupied a very special place in Dutch Culture.
In 1607, Delft banned the sale of gingerbread men and Dordrecht succeeded in banning the festival altogether in 1657. In Amsterdam, the officials made the sale of special gifts and candies and idolotrous dolls illegal in 1657. Finally on December 4th, 1663, the magistrate finally published a proclamation banning the festival and imposing a 3 guilder fine for any violation. They even banned the traditional Speculoos cookies because they had figures stamped into them.
This was the straw that broke the camels back! No Sinter Klas? No Speculoos? No presents? Suddenly, Amsterdam had a riot of enraged 11 year olds on its hands. The children were encouraged by their parents to riot because the authorities would never dream of lifting a finger to harm the most precious possession of the Republic!
The results? Next year Sinter Klaas was back handing out presents and everybody had ginger bread and a good time.
The irony is that the Religious Right saw Christmas as a sinful holiday that had to be suppressed. 350 years later? You can't make these people happy! They were born to make us miserable and impose their stupid rules on us!
The picture is of the traditional Sinter Klaas and his helpers...the ones who punish bad children, The Black Peters......

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I Hate Winter, Well....Not Really....

I hate the rapidly shrinking days...I love hot weather and hate cold hands! I love to bike and don't feel inspired to do it when the temperature starts to fall. I hate colds and runny noses, dressing in layers, I spend hours and hours splitting and cutting wood. then start worrying about the price of fuel oil and if there is enough insulation on the house. I don't even want to think about gaining weight because I can feel it creeping up on me every minute!
On the other hand, I am so gourmand and there are things that I would never think of eating in the summer that I crave in the winter. I say I hate the cold, but once I am outside, I usually am out all day long. I love taking long walks in the forest with J. Edgar, my dog. Once I start working, I forget the cold and by the end of the day, when I come in and light a fire, I have quite an appetite.
I love winter because I get to eat one of my very favorite things, Tartiflette! It's such a simple thing, potatoes and cheese and a few other things, but if my wife says that she is going to make tartiflette for dinner, she can ask me to do anything.
I like making it as well, but it is so much nicer if someone makes it for you. Tartiflette and a garlicky green salad is a complete meal.
The only thing that might make it difficult to make in the USA is finding Reblochon cheese, but I think that you could use a few other soft slightly fragrant cheeses to good advantage. I have seen tartiflette made with camembert. Try this:
You will need a baking dish, preferable glass or earthen ware. Butter it.
Boil 4 or 5 nice firm potatoes.
Mince an onion and sautee lightly in a little butter or oil
Add maybe 150 grams of diced smoked bacon (perhaps it would be good to boil the bacon first if it is American bacon to get rid of some of the fat and salt)
Let the bacon and onion sautee together for a few minutes
Thickly slice the potatoes and put a layer in the baking dish, then put half of the onion bacon mixture over them. Then repeat.
Pour a little cream over the top, then the reblochon in slices.
Then pour a small glass of dry white wine over the the mixture. Pour yourself a glass.
Bake in a hot oven...240 Centigrade or 400 Farenheit
The cheese will melt and brown on the top and begin to cook with the wine and the smell becomes indescribable!
This is one of my favorite things and one of the main things that makes winter bearable to me.....Okay, so I eat more chocolate than I normally would too....
Tatiflette! not to be confused with Mctartiflette!

Mctartiflette, available only in France...don't even ask..............

Shooting your self in the ass#2

Another thought concerning the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his provocative behaviour. If Iran appeared more open to America and businesss started to really invest in Iran and fuel its economy, the social issues in the country would be radically different. If he were more friendly to the America, there wouldn't be the threatening rhetoric from Bush, which is part of the fear card that keeps the Ayatollahs in power and makes it easy to suppress dissent.
I said in my last post that fear of America is the fuel the Iranian government uses to keep the masses faithful. I am beginning to believe that Ahmadinejad is purposely provoking America for that very reason. To safely stay in power.

Friday, December 15, 2006

McCain Hates Our Freedom Also...

New Legislation proposed by John McCain would severely limit our freedom to use blogs as a forum for political discussion.
I keep thinking that this guy is probably the most dangerous man in American politics. Bush was a tool...He was allowed to think that he had "original" ideas and encouraged to believe that he was chosen to lead. As product spokes person, he spoke the lines he was supplied and then stroked to believe that he was clever enough to have thought of them on his own. That's also why Bush has lasted as long as he has. He would have been discovered and discredited a long time ago had he not been handled by a group who thought for him.
McCain is a different story, he is independant enough to believe he is an original thinker. He can be witty, clever and charming when he has to. He has been able to be different personas to different audiences. He gets along well enough, joking with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. He gets along even better with an audience of brain washed Christian Fundamentalists College Students, pandering to their warped, right wing, Christio-fascist religious views.( Like that? sort of the oppositte of Islamo-fascist?)
So his new bright idea? Limit the freedom of bloggers. Why? Because in his warped justification, they provide and encourage child molestation. Let's not come right out and say that he'd like to shut down blogs because of the power this new media has to encourage and spread those pesky leftish ideas. No, create a hype of outrage to mask his true intentions. Another totally hypocritical position from the greatest political whore in America!
Some of the proposed items of his legislation: You are responsible for the comments and images displayed on your blog and can be fined up to $300,000 for violations.
Blogs will have to delete personal profiles.
Bloggers who cannot afford to police the comments on their site will have to eliminate discussion.
This is all political manipulation of your freedoms disguised as fear. The reasoning used is that sex offenders have used the internet to meet potential victims.
This has very little to do with the reality of what he is proposing!
This dangerous hypocrite is the biggest politiical whore in America!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The War On Christmas!

Commandante Agi needs you! Help him fight the war on Christmas! Become part of the fifth column now! Go to his blog page, this blog will self destruct in five seconds now! The address is conveniently locatedin the side bar for your navigational pleasure.
Sick of the self promoting hypocritical blathering of the right wing noise makers hyping their fictional crusade?
Help make their stupid , inane fantasies a reality!
Things are hearing up, global warmiong has affected the North Pole! The Elves have formed the Elf Liberation Front ELF and are pissing in the eggnog as we read this!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We Americans Expect Mediocrity!

I was less than amazed to learn that in the recent Congressional Quarterly Interview with Silvestre Reyes, Nancy Pelosis' choice for the head of the Congressional Intelligence Committee, that he was not quite up to speed so to speak on the realities of the Middle East.
This was after the drama witth Jane Harman, who supposedly was a rival of Pelosi. She was in line to be the head of the Committee and it was rather unexpected that she was spurned. There also was the problem with one time impeached Federal Judge, Alcee Hastings, who would have encountered etthics questions in his election to the head of the Committee. Reyes, Democrat from Texas also sits on the Armed Services Committee and is very involved with immigration legislation. He also is in favor of increasing troop levels in Iraq.
So it was with wide eyed amazement that I read the following exchange between Jeff Stein and Reyes in the Congressional Quarterly:

Stein: So, Al Quaeda is what? Sunni or Shiite?
Reyes: Al Quaeda, they have both. You're talking about predominately?
Stein: (not knowing quite what to say) Sure.
Reyes: Predominately probably Shiite.....

Come on, anyone who has been reading and listening and paying attention for the last few years knows that Al Quaeda is an Orthodox Sunni organization and regards Shiites as heretics! If a Shiite showed up at the Al Quaeda clubhouse, he would probably have his head removed and used as a soccerball.
When asked about Hezbollah," Sunni or Shiite?", he shook his head and said it was too early in the day for these questions.
To be fair, Bush has his Sunni/Shiite problems. Until just recently, he didn't even know that there was a difference! This is what America expects out of its politicians!
We adore mediocrity, smart guys scare us! Even Dr. Condoleeza Rice when first talking about the administrations decision to invade Afghanistan said, "Afghanistan, Holy Cow, we didn't even know where it was! We had to look on the map!"
Every day I get down on my knees to give thanks that these qualified people are keeping their brains uncluttered so they can concentrate on the things that really matter! .....uhhhh, what was it? I forgot!

Update on Tripoli 6

On Monday, we saw images of Phillipe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister in Tripoli with one of the nurses. This seems to be a positive sign that France is involved in efforts to negotiate an end to their ordeal. Douste-Blazy is a doctor and should have a lot of professional background and knowlege. Another bizarre twist is that Gadaffi has actually given a monetary figure as to what it would take to have them released. He is admitting that they are being "held hostage". It is a cash settlement for the death of each of the children that when computed comes to almost exactly the amount Libya had to pay in the Lockerbie settlement!
The sentencing is due to occur in only 4 days. International pressure is beginning to have some effect!
Maybe another famous politician/doctor could make a contribution as a noble gesture on his departure from the US Senate! Bill Frist, it's time for another of your remote video tape diagnosis!

Monday, December 11, 2006

How To Shoot Your Own Ass Off.....

I am beginning to think that the biggest enemy Iran has is its own president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Today in Tehran, he is hosting a Forum on Holocaust Denial with a full deck of participants including Orthodox Jews who espouse this erroneous point of view.
His rhetoric in the last 2 years has handed Israel the can of gas to pour on his head and he is personally trying to light the match!
In reality, he is a figure head ruler. He has no authority in foreign affairs. He can't declare war. He has no authority over the armed forces, the revolutionary guard or the police. His bluster to "wipe out Israel" is as one Iranian past president put it, "a knife without a blade."
On the other hand his statements have been jumped on by Israel to prod the United States into preparing to make another fatal error by attacking Iran. George Bush is set to do this very thing before the end of his term. Israel has been using the language of fantasy to prod him on. In the words of Israels Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, "We in the Middle East have been following American foreign policy for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability that the War In Iraq has brought the Middle East".
Even Israels staunchest supporters like U.S.Rep.Gary Ackerman(D-NY) observed that this is a very unrealiistic observation to say the least. Almost everyone agrees now that the Iraqi policy was a major blunder and has only increased the instability of the entire planet!
Iran is a country that has not attacked another country in over 250 years. Attacking Israel would be sheer suicide and they know it. The CIA puts Irans ability to create a nuclear weapon 10 years in the future. Even though Israel was outraged by Robert Gates admission, they have at this time an arsenal of over 250 nuclear weapons.
What is fact abouut Iran is that it is a very young country demographically. A large portion of the male population was wiped out in the Iran/Iraq war in the early 1980s. The young population seems to be very eager to taste freedom but nationalism is being used and they are being manipulated by fear the same way Americans are manipulated by the War on Terror and the constant spector of 9/11. Ahmadinejad was elected when George Bush made constant speeches about the freedom of elections in Iran. The hardliners were able to use the nationalistic feelings to win votes by appealing to the Iranian peoples pride.
I believe that the majority of Americans don't want to be mired in another insane war in the Middle East. I believe that the majority of Democrats in the government realize the total illogic of attacking Iran. Unfortunately, George Bush does not and sees this as one of his divine goals and believes he has a unique positiion to go ahead and do this because of the enormous powers granted to him under legislation on the war on terror.
Lately, with the Iraq Study Group Report, the idea of actually talking to Iran as a power in the region to assist in ending the Iraq war has become a reality...But, if theiir president isn't muzzled, he just might show us all how to destroy his own country with his big mouth!

11 Fun More Fun Filled Days!

Just a reminder that there are still 11 fun filled days of Zappadan left to celebrate!
The festivities continue over at the Aristocrats blog with videos galore! On my cd player now is a copy of the Cucamonga Album. It's not an official Zappa Product but a very historical document of music he wrote, produced and played on as a teen age record producer in Cucamonga, California. 14 greasy servings of early 60's California culture served up on a steaming platter with fries on the side. Dear Jeepers and Letter from Jeepers by Bob Guy, The Worlds Greatest Sinner and How's Your Bird by Baby Ray and The Ferns(that's Ray Estrada), Everytime I See You and Cradle Rock by the Heartbreakers, Slow Bird and Blind Man's Bluff by Paul Buff, Mr. Clean and Jesse Lee by Mister Clean, Cathy My Angel and 'Til September by the Pauls and Heavies and The Cruncher by the Rotations! This is Grease at its oiliest. It was released on Del-Fi Records. There is a web site, at least there was one in 1999
Help stamp out the War Against Zappadan!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Who Are The Tripoli 6?

In 1998, at The Al-Fateh Hospital in Bengali, Libya, 6 foreign medical aid workers were accused of deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus. The group consisted of a Palestinian doctor and 5 female Bulgarian nurses. At the time this seemed like rather fantastic news. A truly henious charge. Why would anyone commit an act so insanely evil?
The Libyans were outraged and there was a trial and the Tripoli 6 as they became known, were condemned to death in 2004. The parents of the children wanted justice!
But, the verdict was overturned because of international protest that the trial had been unfair.
They were held in prison all this time and there were actual confessions obtained under torture. The case became an imflamatory example of xenophobic paranoia.
The scientific community of the world began to get involved and investigate.
They found that the infections in the children were also accompanied by hepatitis B and C which were indicative of poor hygienic conditions in the hospital. They also concluded that most of the children were infected before the medical workers arrived in 1998. They also identified the HIV strain as A/G HIV-1, a highly infectious recombinant
strain found in Central West Africa.
These findings were made independantly by Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris and Doctors and researchers at the Tor Vegatata University in Rome.
They were recently publiished in Nature Magazine.
This was introduced in the new trial which has been ongoing in Tripoli for the last year and a half. The Libyan court threw out thiis evidence stating that Libyan doctors had calimed to find the opposite conclusion, Luc Montagnier believes that this judgement was based on a faulty translation from English to Arab of the term recombinant, which referred to the recombination of wild viruses. The court translated it as genetically modified, implying human manipulation.
This has become a case of Libyan internal politics. It is much easier to scapegoat the foreign aid workers than to admit that there were hygiene problems in the hospital.
There could be diplomatic moves by both the United States and Europe to exert pressure on Libya to reconsider its stance and release the 6. Americas recent decision to re establish diplomatic ties with Libya and the PR value of this act in the Arab world seems to be a factor in the reluctance ot get involved. Gadaffi is treated with kid gloves by both the US and the EU.
Libya has even gone so far as to hint that it might take a cash ransom to settle the case.
The organization Lawyers Without Borders has defended the 6 for these last 6 years. The second trial has ended and sentencing is to be given on December 14th. Now is the time to find out what you can do, a letter to your congressman, the Libyan Embassy demanding that a fully independant international scientific assessment be made of how the children were contaminated. This trial has recieved very little press in the United States and asked in a recent press conference, Tony Snow seemed to not be aware of any of the facts at all.
If you want to find out more about this issue, a very good place to start is the science blog, Effect Measure.

Update on France 24

After a few days of trying and bad reception because of weather conditions,I finally am recieving France 24 in English and French via the Hotbird 7A Satellite at 13 degrees East here in France. The signal is great and the station has a great look graphics wise and the content is pretty formidable.
In America, I know you can recieve it now via the internet at I checked it out and was able to get very good high resolution real time broadcast imaging.
They also might have more info available for satellite reception in America.
When I searched transponder 2 on Hotbird 7A, I suddenly got a nice range of stations I couldn't get before includiing CCTV English. That is China's satellite television. It is really nicely done very modern graphics and great programs of music and culture.
I also can get RAI from Italy and a range of Arab stations.
I'm still trying to get the new Al Jazeera English Station. I think I have to go to the ASTRA 1KR satellite at 19.2 East and if I do it right, I might be able to get all the BBC stations free as well....
Wish me luck!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Lost Episode

(this is a lost episode of the new smash Fox Network Sit Com, Who's The Decider?)

(Cue theme music )
Scene opens with George Bush Jr. in front of mirror, practicing walking.
"Hmm, I need a little more space in the stride. I gotta watch High Noon again...there, I almost had it...(he takes three steps) Nah, somethings missing. Maybe if I stuff this autographed Astros baseball down the front of my pants....

(Door opens and in strides Genna Bush)

"God, Daddy, what are you doing?"

(George pulls hands out of pants, embarrassed)

"Oh, ummm, Hi Hon...uhhh, Genna? Babs? uhhh, I'll get it right eventually"

Genna: (Giving George the once over and staring at his crotch) Gee, Dad, If you want to make a statement, why don't you just stuff the autographed bat down there too?

(Laugh track)

Genna: Hey Mom! He's stuffing crap down his pants again!

(In walks Laura Bush, dressed in one of her many beige and tan plaid pant suits. She seems distracted)

Laura: George, you know you shouldn't be doing those things in front of the girls. Nobody thinks your funny and it hasn't worked ever since the flight suit incident. Give it up!

George: Look, I was just practicing my walk in front of the mirror when little miss buttinsky waltzed in. Geez, don't I have any privacy around here?

Laura: George, Babs is upset. You promised that we could get Enrico a Green Card when she brought him back from Argentina last month. Now he's afraid to go out on the streets without his Green Card and they are invited to a party tonight.

George: When is that freeloader going to get a job? He tells us that he is an unemployed soccer star. I have the Secret Service doing security checks on him and all they can come up with is that Babs met him at a party and his father is a banker and laundering drug money for some cartel. They're probably good people, it's a good line of work...but hey, since the last election, it's getting harder for me to pull strings. All these Democrats and reporters asking questions all the time! He's not going to spend the rest of his life hiding in the Lincoln bedroom!

(Voice from outside the room) OOOOHHHH DADDY! I hate you! you promised, you don't understand Enrico. He has dreams, he has big plans!

(Babs enters room, wearing tight jeans, a short t shirt that reveals just a little too much baby fat)

Babs: All you do is criticize! You are making him feel so uptight! Please keep youur voice down because I think he's in the hall way now!

( The door opens and in walks a tall Latino good looking guy dressed in Armani leisure wear and sleazy sports sunglasses that give him a kind of insect look)

Enrico: Hey Mr. and Mrs. B! Talking about me? I gotta talk to you, cause I got a little problem...I need a few thousand dollars for a little deal this afternoon and a guy named Maxwell needs some kind of security clearance so he can get in here with out having his ...uhhh...bags searched. Don't worry, everythings cool, when I get my green card, I can go to an ATM and pay you back!

Babs and Genna: Daddy, give him the money! Let Maxwell in here! If you don't it will spoil the party...oh everything will be ruined and no one will like us anymore...wahhhh!

George: This sounds a little fishy! This isn't a drug deal? Hmmmm? Laura, what do you think?

Laura: (Looking really spacey) Huh? whaaaa? I didn't hear anything...who are you? don't touch me....(She gets a wild look on her face and stumbles out of the room)

Genna: Moms in one of her moods again....

Babs: Ahh, she's spaced out....those tranks she has to take for your stupid photo sessions. Then she has to get programmed by Uncle wonder she gets freaky every once in a while.

George: Never mind about you mother! You never answered me about what Enrico needs the money for! Who's this Maxwell guy?

Enrico: Hey Mr. B. I thought you were cool! The girls told me that you used to snort coke off the marble fireplace in the oval office when your dad was president. Babs even showed me the razor marks from where you layed out the lines! Man, if you ever want to like hang out....let me know....

(the presidents personal portable phone rings)

George: Uhhhh, Hello....
No, this isn't the Democratic Party National Headquarters....
What? A Pizza with pineapple ham topping?
No, I didn't order....uhhh...whaaaa???? I can go...what...myself? little jerk! When we find out who you are.....
Uhhh....they hung up.
Genna, it was those jokers who stole your cell phone again!
I am going to have to get my personal number changed all because of you and your irresponsible parties and flaky friends!
No one listens to me around here...I'm the decider and I'm deciding that you are all grounded!

The twins together: OHHH DADDY! You're nothing but a lame duck, but we still love you!
(The audience all makes sympathetic awwww noises then breaks into applause as the theme music begins)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I can't get it out of my head!

Last week, this image of Joseph Padilla being taken to the dentist by a high security force, in blinders was the first image published of him since 2002, when he was taken into custody. He was charged then with complicity in a terrorist plot to bomb apartment buildings and another plot to create a "dirty" atomic bomb which would be detonated in an American City. He was shown to have had contact with Al-Quaeda and pages of documentation were produced which supposedly traced his movements and contacts. He has been held in high security, subjected to constant interrogation torture techniques involving sensory deprivation. He has not been allowed reading material. He is a Moslem and he is denied possession of a Koran.
He sleeps on a bare metal platform and is constantly monitored. According to his legal representatives, he has been driven mad.
After almost 4 years of trying to build a case against him, everything has been thrown out of court, but under the special powers of this government, that just means that they haven't tried hard enough to get the information out of him they want. This is beyond Kafkaesque. In the picture, he is blindfolded. Why? Is it as Michele Malkin suggested apologetically that he might be capable of blinking communication to his cohorts?
I think about all the prisoners in Guantanamo living for years in a beyond kafka nightmare. Incarceration without end. Subject to the experimentation behind closed doors of new interrogation methods. Experimentaion with drugs. It has been documented and shown that quite a few of these men are prisoners because they were turned in by corrupt war lords in Afghanistan getting rid of enemies and eager to collect the bounty that the US was handing out.
I believe that Joseph Padilla, if the present administration has its way, along with a large portion of the detainees in Guantanamo will never see freedom.
I think that many of them have been so damaged and destroyed by this inhuman process that they could never be allowed to be seen with out becoming damning evidence of the mindless brutal abuse they have endured. They have been made into scapegoats for men with out a soul, howling for blood.
I cannot get this out of my head!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Celebrating Zappadan!

It all started in 1965, in a school social hall, in the basement of the grade school across the street from where I lived in Detroit. There was an attempt at creating a teen club. I went with some of my neer do well friends, 15 year olds who were some how different. We liked rock music, thought the Yardbirds were the greatest thing on earth and had the delusion that we were going to start a band and become really cool!
I walked in and a few kids were hanging around and some cheesy music was playing on the cheap tinny PA system. Then a moment of silence and a strange huge sound came slithering out of the air.
I tried to grasp it, it was too big, too strange and too distorted by the cheap tinny sound system for me to grasp it. It sounded like two giant balloons being rubbed together! When the nuns began to run to the back to stop the hideous din, I knew that I had been a witness to something awesome!
As my friend George was being ejected from the hall, I left with him and asked him what he had put on the sound system. He grinned and showed me a copy of FREAK OUT by Frank Zappa and the Mother of Invention!
Over the next few months I listened to and absorbed the esthetic behind the noise. I was already a developing young visual artist who idolized the surrealists and even more so the anti-esthetic of the DA DA movement of the early 20th century. My heroes were Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp. Zappa seemed to be the perfect mid 20th century extension of this to me. The Freak Out album is still important to me and I find myself listening to it again and again and always finding something wonderful that I have never heard before. One of the Great Protest Songs of all time is on the record, Trouble Comin' Everyday, a song written in reaction to the media coverage of the Watts Riots in LA, but the sentiment, vitriolic and corrosive is timelesss!
This was a composer who was equally influenced by Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Edgar Varese. He was self taught and scored movies at the age of 18. He appeared on the Steve Allen Show when he was 19 as a composer and performed with Steve Allen a piece of music for Electric Bicycle, tapes, and jazz combo. The results are viewable now on YouTube! He owned and operated a recording studio that released doowop records, novelty recordings and some pretty good dirty rock! He was a true American original, in thought, talent and action.
I got to see The Mothers of Invention perform a year later in Detroit at the Ford Auditorium. I was the art editor of an early student underground paper from Cass Tech High School called Yellow. I did an ad for the Ford Auditorium Show. I got a ticket for the ad and saw a program that had the Mothers abusing the Ford Auditorium stage elevator, doing a medley of doo wop and rock covers with Frank announcing the Label, Artist, Record registration # before each song. Then they did songs from Freak Out including the title song of my blog "Who Are The Brain Police?". At the end of the show they did a early version of the monstrous jazz piece, King Kong! I was never the same!
I saw him perform many times over the next 20 years with different versions of The Mothers. The band morphed from the anarchistic/disciplined Rock unit of the early days into the various mini orchestras with jazz greats like Jean Luc Ponty, George Duke, Sugar Cane Harris playing compositions by Frank.
Zappa was early on a phenomenal guitarist, but his ability and technique increased exponentially through the 70's. In Mojo Magazines top 100 rock guitarists of all time, he is ranked 12. Even that ranking, you have to take with a grain of salt, as they are a British Magazine with their own agenda. In some of his later work, his use of feedback and sustain is taken to a new level as it becomes an integral totally controllable part of orchestral music.
An independant entity, he had to keep a band together by earning enough money to pay good musicians what they were worth. That meant touring all the time. It also meant in some cases pandering to what he thought would sell records. That is why you might know his work from your stoned jerk roomie in college who would play "Illinois Enema Bandit" over and over again. In defense of that piece, he did get Don Pardo to do the dramatic reading.
He defined himself as a conservative, but in the context of a control freak working with groups of stoned musicians who had to enforce discipline to get work done. In reality he was an anarchistic Libertarian who was able to testify before Congress in defiance of Tipper Gores attempt to censor pop music in the 80's and devastate his opponents with his intellect and logic. He was asked by Vaclev Havel to be a member of his government when Czekoslavakia became free. It didn't happen because the Reagan administration FREAKED OUT! and told Havel they would withdraw economic aid. There is his appearance on FrontLine available on You Tube if youu want to see him in action. He even played with the idea of a presidential bid, but only in a performance art sense.
Finally, there is his legacy of symphonic pieces that are becoming part of the modern orchestral repertoire all over the world. If you want to hear some of his orchestral work, there is the "Yellow Shark" volumes 1 and 2 on Rykodiscs.
The world lost Frank Zappa on December 4, 1993. I grew my Frank Zappa Memorial goatee which I have today, albeit greying. I wonder what he would be doing in reacion to the present world situation if he were still alive? I'm writing this to celebrate his work and maybe inspire someone who hadn't listened to him before to take some time and check him out.
I saw a blogpage called Aristocrats who suggested that we start a new holiday period called ZAPPADAN which would start December 4th and run until December 21st, the date of his birth. I am definitely in the midst of Zappadan, I have been celebrating today by listening to Absolutely Free, The Old Masters, Jazz From Hell and The Lost Episodes....tomorrow, I plan to listen to all three cds of the Lather album.
Check out the Aristocrats, I am putting them in the side bar for your navigation pleasure and if you have any Zappa stories you want to tell me, please do. Maybe we can link them to the Ariistocrat page for a giant gala internet Zappadan celebration!
It can't happen here............................
P.S. If you know where I can find the live version of The Mothers performing Ravels'
Bolero, let me know. I heard it on French Radio early in the morning a few months ago and I have been searching for the is brilliant and hilarious!

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Kid on the News Block

On Wednesday, December 6, a new 24 hour news station will be available in English via Cable, Satellite and the Internet! FRANCE 24 officially starts its English language broadcast. In Western Europe, it will be available on the ASTRA 2 satellite at 19.2 East. The slogan in English of the channel is "Everything You Are Not Supposed To Know"
Music, News, Culture, Sports, Business...definitely a real alternative to BBC and CNN as well as being the equivalent of the Anti-Christ to FOX!
I am so used to hearing the French News in French. After an hour or so of harsh BBC or strident CNN voices it is always a relief for me to come back to the soft tones of the French newscasters. From what I have heard of the promos on the internet, though, the speakers all have English accents. I am trying to find out what Satellite to aim at in North America. I know that Sky News is carrying it in addition to its broadcasts. If you have access to it, check it out for another point of view, though I am sure you will never have the pleasure of experiencing the TF1 lunch time news, with regional reportage on local festivals, crafts and foods everyday. We always get dreamy as the reports go on about how potato tarts are made in the Auvergne or in depth serious studies of why the famous boudiour biscuits made in Reims are pink.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Ok, so CNN Newscasters are actually human, though we used to wonder about Jim Clancy until we saw him actually moving about when he was reporting live from Lebanon last summer. And it's unfair of me to single out CNN because my gripe is against all American mainstream Television news. It boggles my brain when I hear conservatives rant about the Liberal bent of say NBC or CNN. What do they want? Well, to answer my question, I'd say a legion of FOX Network clones that support blindly the Adminstration and mis report, lie and trash the opposition. As I see, the mainstream networks in America are afraid to report the real news and all carry the administration spin to one degree or another.
Last month, the Organization, Reporters Without Frontiers rated the American Press as 53rd in the world for freedom. France did better with a 22 rating. I think the next time there is a rating, America will even slip farther down the scale.
I am focusing on this today, because of the events in Lebanon and how they have been reported on CNN and how I see them reported in the rest of the world. There is a constant editorial commentary to the CNN reportage of the mass demonstration in Beirut. They say it is Syrian inspired and part of the ongoing confrontation between America and Iran. When they show the crowds, they only talk of a million Hezbollah members trying to bring down the American supported Lebanese Government. They have never once in the last 24 hours mentioned that the crowd is full of Lebanese Christians and all the other factions of that societies mix. When they speak of the American supported government, Where was Americas' support as Israel brutally bombed Lebanon using American supplied weaponry? Why didn't America lift a finger to protest? Are they showing the Anti-American posters and playing the sounds of the Anti-American chants the crowd is shouting?
On French TV, at least I am seeing interviews with Christian leaders who are talking about the non representation they have in the government and why they are disatisfied. At the same time, the Socialist Party's Presidential candidate, Segoulene Royale is visiting the region. She was able to talk freely with Lebanese government ministers, Hezbollah representatives and made a pretty splashy appearance with the French Nato contingent. She is also going to Israel and Palestine as part of her trip. She made an appearance in the "dangerous" crowd to their delight!
Did that make American news? The only thing I see on American News is the constant drumbeat of how this is all orchestrated by Iran or how Hezbollah is a puppet manipulated by Damascus. This seems to be a purely Israeli and American line. I don't see this connection used in the press any where else. The information is out there. You have access to the foreign press, but most Americans aren't inclined to and it is natural to read and listen to what is in front of you. It's very frustrating to argue with someone whos' frame of reference is limited by the blinders put over their eyes by their government.
The American Television Press is a form of entertainment anyway. Sensationalism drives the ratings and the ratings drive the news reporting. I have just finished reading an account of how William Randolph Hearst manipulated America into the Spanish American War as a way to boost his circulation and sell papers. He sent the American Artist, Frederick Remington to Cuba to supply graphics depicting the Spanish attrocities supposedly occuring there. Remington wired "Nothing to draw,coming back!" Hearst angrily wired back,"You make the picures and we'll supply the war!"
The administration and the media are playing a game here, who needs who more? Who is using who? It's a deadly dance that draws us closer to the folly of another unneccesary and much more disastrous war with Iran. Do your self a favor, get a satellite dish and start watching Al Jazeera! Start reading the foreign press on the internet. Question everything you read or hear!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Resignation Day!

Voila! Here it is, copy this letter. All George has to do is follow the simple directions and send a copy to Condoleeza Rice and it's over. That's how Nixon did it. Simpler than impeachment or a messy coup. Copy this letter and print it out and distribute copies. Post them on the walls, on bulletin boards.
Of course, then we would have to deal with Cheney, buut, hey, I'm working on it.....
(click on the image to enlarge!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nasty Little Man with Tiny Ideas

Newt Gingrich, on Tuesday night at a dinner in New Hampshire honoring Free Speech said during his address that perhaps we "needed a different set of rules" regarding free speech and the internet. Of course he added that he thought that it was inevitable that if we didn't change the First Amendment of the Constitution, a major American city would probably be taken out by terrorists in the near future. Nothing like a little fear to spike the paranoid response of the American people!
It's so typical of these Nasty Little Men who try to manipulate us with fear. The Chicken Little response, "The sky is falling, The sky is falling! We have to change the constitution!"
Nasty Little Men with no imagination. Nasty Little Men who stumble from one sordid little plot to another. Men who are so blind that they cannot see what is the cause of our problems and so full of greed and denial that they could never admit it or change.
Nasty Little Men like Dick Cheney who believe we all have too much freedom and only maniacs like himself are wise enough to make the decisions that rule our lives.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just Another Weird News Day

Extra, Extra read all about it! George Bush Jr. is going to build the biggest and the most expensive presidential Library ever!
He already has a half BILLION dollars in donations! All this for just a few copies of My Pet Goat and a pop up version of the Constitution. I'm waiting to hear about the Cheney Vice Presidential Library, you put books in and they come out the back door in shredder bins.....
Bush Twins asked to leave Argentina! I thought they were making a big effort to look as if they were leading responsible lives devoted to Public Service now. Jenna got her purse and cell phone stolen. A Secret Service Agent got beat up. The Argentinian tabloids are running headlines like "Bush Twins Run Nude in Hotel Hallway"...hey I'm not making this stuff up. The US Embassy asked them to leave because they couldn't keep up with the securty risks of the non stop partying. Heck, leave the girls alone! They're only 24, dad didn't stop until he was into his mid 50's.
Lead story of the Drudge report this morning! Woman in Burka with George Bush Jr.s'
face! Amazing....Now find her mother with George Bush Sr.s' face or her father with Babs' glowering visage....OUCH!
I'm already taking bets for the fight of the century! LUCHA LIBRE! Trent Trash Talkin' Lott no holds barred against Karl The Texas Turdblossom Rove! They're already saying nasty things about each other and the stage is set for a clash of these semi-ambulatory Titans! You will be on the edge of your seat as we wait to see which one needs to be jump started after getting defibbulated from the exertion! YEESH!
The Republican Controlled Congress might meet 6 more times befor the end of their reign...long enough to do absolutely nothing regarding the very pressing real disasters deferred until the new Congress is seated. Ohh, there's more......

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Gateau aux Noix

A few weeks ago, I published my favorite gateau aux noix recipe. We have kilos of walnuts and try to shell some every day.
I make the gateau with the chocolate napped top for a special occasion, but this is a very simple and lower calorie (if you think about
these things) version. Besides, a friend emailed me and said that the other was was pretty complicated...
This one takes a few minutes to whip up. I used to make it all the time in my primitive Lower East Side kitchen in New York City. The original recipe calls for fromage blanc, but in NYC, I always used yoghurt and it worked perfectly. I especially like the crunchy topping. I also like to use a tart pan with a removable bottom, but a shallow regular tart pan will do just fine. Most of the measurments are with a big soupspoon.
First, butter and flour your pan. Preheat your oven to 325 f. For the batter:
200 grams of flour
100 grams of sugar
125 grams of yoghurt or fromage blanc
1 egg white
tablespoon of baking powder
4 soupspoons of oil
a pinch of salt
Mix the ingredients in a bowl. It will be a thick batter, then put it into the tart pan and use a spatula to spread it.
For the crunchy topping:
100 grams of sugar
50 grams of sweet butter
1 soupspoon of milk
7 soupspoons of chopped walnut pieces
the egg yolk
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and the milk. When the sugar is melted, take it off the fire and add the nuts and the egg yolk. Spread this mixture over the batter.
Put the gateau in the oven for 30 minutes, until the topping is nice and brown and shiny. It's best served slightly warm, but great at room temperature also!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giant Green Hemmorhoid of Doom

It's big, it's green, it's semi ambulatory, it talks! Why does anyone listen?
Today, after an afternoon outside planting 3 birch trees. (This is the Sainte Catherine...the time when you must plant trees and shrubs!) I came in and my wife was watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN International. He had Zibignew Brezinski and Henry Kissinger on to debate about the future of American involvement in Iraq. Of course Henry was "stay the course" and making bizarre projections of the triumph of the American Will in spite of the fact that there is no definable goal in this mess that could ever be described as victory. As I listened to him spin each question and seemingly make up his answers as he went along, I started to think, why is he even taken seriously anymore? What foreign policy was he responsible for that wasn't an unmitigated nightmare? He was responsible for the coup in Chile that brought Pinochet to power and caused thousands of Chileans years of brutal dictatorship and torturous deaths. He was Secretary of State for Richard M. Nixon and did the same thing then as America is now doing in Iraq. Constantly changing the definition of victory and spinning away as thousands of Americans and Vietnamese died for no real reason.
Yet, he is given this senior statesman homage as the grand old man of American foreign policy. This is the man who bombed Cambodia and supported brutal coups that brought dictators to power all over the Americas. What possible good came from any of his schemes? Chile has a Socialist President again and anti American feelings due to his policies has resulted in most of South and Latin America electing governments that don't want American influence or involvement. Finally, in spite of all we have done, Vietnam is turning into a real success story. They did it withouut our aid and in spite of our embargoes.
Why give this inflamed aged senile agent of doom the time of day?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Keeping Our Canton Green

I live in a rural farming community with small villages and a lot of preserved forest. Our Canton is Hautefort and the chef lieu of the canton is the village of Hautefort. Hautefort has a magnificent historic chateau that evolved from a 13th century military castle into 17th century splendid baroque masterpiece it is today. Its history is entwined with Bertrand LeBorn, the first minstrel of France, Richard the Lion Hearted and for a few centuries it was the seat of power in this region, Le Pays d'Ans.
It was burned by the Germans at the end of WW2 and sat in ruins until the mid 60's when an American woman bought it and with the help of the French government rebuilt it. Just as the roof was being finished in 1969, the carpentry caught fire and it burned a second time! Undeterred, the roof was rebuilt and today it is a restored masterpiece complete with a celebrated formal garden. The Village is a little gem complete with a baroque church and old hospital. The architecture is quite unlike anything else in this region.
Alright, that's the story of the picture, but the story I want to tell is about the greening of our department. 6 years ago, a real crisis loomed over this region. A region of farmers who voted as their politicians told them to were about to lose a lot of the green because a lot of the land was going to be destroyed by huge limestone quarries and France was in a program of building huge trash incinerators as a way to make money. They were going to be used to burn trash from Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The quarries, after they were dug would become landfills. The communes stood to make money and went after these opportunities and some individuals would make small fortunes by destroying the environment. The ground water would be polluted, the air quality would suffer and so would the population because of the dioxins released into the air.
A small but very vocal movement started to protest and educate the communities of the dangers that threatened them. At first, it was easy for the politicians to label them as eco nuts and opposed to progress. There was a lot of bitter fighting and slowly, through political action, town meetings and constant pressure, first the quarries were defeated and now finally, the entire incinerator program is being abandoned all over France.
What are we doing with our trash? Triage, separation is mandatory. We are provided with recycling bags from our mayors and here in the rural areas, there are separate containers for different kinds of trash. There are glass collection points, battery collection bins, special bins for televisions and other appliances.
The big stores don't give out plastic bags anymore. It's hip use straw bags or cloth and the stores sell very cheaply, multi use heavy duty bags. You can tell you local post office not to send you publicity and catalogues.
Yesterday, Thanksgiving in the USA, but a normal day for me was spent with a friend getting rid of all the junk we had laying about in our barns. We loaded his van and a small trailor 6 times and went to the dump (decheterie) near Hautefort. The dump is a neat facility with a ramp that makes it easy to dump into the different bins. I had a lot of old appliances left from the people who sold us our house 5 years ago. So stoves washing machines, old metal parts, glass, bags of hardened cement, even a 50 liter barrel of 45 year old (at least) motor oil (that went into a special tank for recycling oil).
All this is a complete turn around in the last 4 years! Now to get elected, the local politicians have to talk and think green! I even took the opportunity to pick up a new composting bin provided by the commune for only 10 Euros.
This thinking has made it possible for old abandoned water mills to be brought back to life and refitted to generate electricity! Any alternative energy system now can be subsidized by the government.
What has happened in the Dordogne shows what can happen if people organize and educate each other. We had to educate the politicians, some learned the hard way and aren't around anymore. 2 years ago, there was a last ditch attempt to sell the incinerator plan and there was meeting in Perigueux by the Departement Consul-General. When he started to insult people in the crowd during the question period at the end of his presentation, almost 1500 people got up and left in a mass protest which made the local television news! Amonth later, the plan was dead in tthe water!
I was inspired to write about this after finding "longlivethevillagegreen" blog today via the "politicsinmudville" page. A great Ohio blog about ecology, politics and the Kinks!
I have a link posted in the sidebar!