Monday, June 29, 2009

Updating Previous Stories

ABC Drops the Hammer on Buckshot

I came across this article in the Guardian last week. The ABC, which had already been threatening to pull the liquor licenses of some of the city's finest music venues (Café du Nord, Slim's, Swedish Music Hall, Great American Music Hall, Rickshaw Stop, Bottom of the Hill, etc.) over some arcane Puritanical Blue law bullshit, has claimed its newest victims in The Campaign Against Fun.

When I first wrote about the evil ABC, I wasn't sure whether there really would fire accompanying the smoke (see e.g. any pre-smoking ban hysteria from bar owners), but according to the article, ABC has already body slammed two local bars over similar food sale-related issues. From the Guardian:

Most recently, Revolution Café in the Mission District had to stop selling beer and wine for 20 days after ABC cited them for patrons drinking on the sidewalk adjacent to its front patio. Inner Richmond's Buckshot's liquor license was pulled because of technical violations of alcohol and food regulations, forcing owners to close their doors for a few weeks.
This is government idiocy at its finest, and I pray to the god I don't believe in that they don't touch any of the city's music venues. I would say they need to go find something better to do, but they're already a pretty stupid bureaucracy to begin with, so I doubt there is anything else.


Lucero* Makes Me Look Stupid

After gushing about Lucero's dedication to being a professional bar band, I came across the trailer for a show called "$5 Cover" that recently premiered on MTV. Craig Brewer of "Hustle and Flow" fame apparently put his name on this, but from the acting and cinematography, I would guess the people behind "Undressed" may have had more to do with it than anyone else.

Check out Ben Nichols on the motorcycle and then the whole band playing "San Francisco" on stage near the end.

MTV five dollar cover Trailer (HD)

Normally I would be pumped that a band I like is doing a series about struggling bands and the Memphis music scene. But this series happens to be by MTV, and paraphrasing Broke-Ass Stewart, the "M" in MTV stands for "Making me hate humanity."

Furthermore, I learned via wikipedia that Lucero recently signed with Universal, so maybe they'll make it to the big show after all. If so, just go ahead and completely disregard my last Lucero post.

*And by Lucero, I'm really referring to myself here.

The Media Gives Nadal a Pass

I'm not sure if I should be surprised at this or not. Nadal is a media darling, but we're also living in the age of gotcha journalism.

So far I have yet to see anyone in the mainstream media** call out Nadal for being a spineless coward. Shortly after I questioned the seriousness of Nadal's injuries, there was an article on about Nadal's parents getting divorced. called "Personal Woes Affecting Rafa?" The writer, Greg Garber says that his parents' divorce, and not his kness, may be behind Nadal's withdrawal, but he never takes Nadal to task for being the first champion ever to not defend because of dubious ailments.

The article was never was on the front page and was archived off the tennis page in a matter of minutes, hours at the most. Nowhere on the New York Times tennis blog did they mention the personal issues, nor have I heard any espn or NBC commentators mention it. I guess we're all just supposed to accept Uncle Toni's version of things.

I definitely find this free pass more than a little unpalatable, and I still say Nadal should be out there unless he honestly cannot move without risking serious injury. Looks like even in the gotcha age, some people are still above the law.

Oh, and I think Wimbledon has been pretty great so far. I like the Murray and Hewitt story lines.
Federer and Roddick both look great. What a compelling final it would be if either Murray or Roddick faces Federer. Roddick beating Roger would be an incredible moment for American tennis, and this could be the year it finally happens. Sucks that Oudin lost today, but the Williams sisters are looking awesome. Why, oh why, must I be working the one week when I could be watching tennis all day?

**I don't count.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One from the Archives

Yes, this was written five years. No, I don't think it's particularly well written.

But this review of David Byrne from 2004 when I was working for the Lawrence Journal-World was salvaged from Byrne's Web site just in time to preview his show at the Greek tomorrow night. I'm not exaggerating when I say the show I saw in '04 was in my top 5 of all time.

This will be my first time at the Berkeley monument, and it's a long time coming. Tickets are still available and DeVotchKa is opening. Get on it.

Byrne continues to redefine rock

— Few musicians possess the ability to have Wookie-lookalikes and bespectacled old men in high-water pants dancing side by side in the aisles. David Byrne, though, displays a limitless imagination and unparalleled work ethic that few musicians could even dream of having.

On Wednesday night, the creative force behind Talking Heads tore through a two-hour set at The Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo., as if he were Hurricane Ivan. At 52, Byrne parades the same fire he showed in "Stop Making Sense," the Heads' epic concert film.

The skinny, silver-haired Scot treated the crowd to classics like "NaÃive Melody," "Psycho Killer" and "Life During Wartime." Dressed in a brown uniform that matched his fellow band members', he jumped, ran in place and spastically danced his way all over the stage. When he picked up his guitar or microphone, he showed no signs of aging after almost 30 years of touring. However, if his energy and the purity of his voice have not changed, the sound of Byrne's new material was a far cry from his rock music of the late '70s and early '80s.

Accompanied by a three-piece rhythm section and The Tosca Strings, a six-piece band from Austin, Texas, Byrne showcased cuts from his new album, "Grown Backwards." The record favors a mature sound, with influences from samba to classical to opera. Of the concert's 21 percussion-and-string-laden songs, five were new and four were off 2001's "Look into the Eyeball." He included a cover of "One Rainy Wish" by Jimi Hendrix, which substituted heavy strings for electric guitar.

The show had more variety than Liberace's closet.

The enthusiastic crowd seemed almost as appreciative to hear the new material as the Heads tunes. Byrne received extended standing ovations whenever he wasn't talking or playing. After each, the consummate New Yorker smiled and looked at his band as if he were pleasantly surprised by the passionate Midwestern crowd.

The hyper-busy artist rarely finds time to stop through the central U.S. He tends to tour internationally and splits his time with some of his other hobbies: exhibiting his artwork in museums, directing documentaries, composing musical scores and recording a track for an album to benefit the MoveOn PAC.

The way Byrne is going now, he could tour until he's hooked up to an oxygen tank. He'll probably be back soon with another album that redefines what we think of as rock 'n' roll.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rooftop Farming; Change Comes to Kids First

First, the New York Times reports on rooftop gardens, which I have been saying for a while is the best way to bring health and change to the food desserts in inner cities. We still need to reclaim some of the urban sprawl for farmers--especially for small animal farms--but producing food in the middle of the city on existing infrastructure makes so much sense that I imagine it will sell itself.

Inner cities have become hotbeds for childhood obesity and family disconnect, but the acts of gardening, cooking and eating have been community-building activities for millenia. Bringing back real food and family meals could help rebuild some of our most impoverished. According to Shawnee Mission School District nurse, Nancy Nicolay, who is occasionally prone to hyperbole, some of the worst neighborhoods in Kansas City have been transformed by the simple act of planting a community garden.

Speaking of schools, it looks like the cafeteria might be seeing some of the most attention from the Obama administration. While the President has made some minor concessions to the growing number of food activists, such as a White House organic garden and whathaveyou, I have yet to hear anything that makes me think radical change is coming to the industrial food complex.

Michelle Obama, on the other hand, seems to be the one who will be spearheading this issue. She recently said:
"To make sure that we give all our kids a good start to their day and to their future, we need to improve the quality and nutrition of the food served in schools. We’re approaching the first big opportunity to move this to the top of the agenda with the upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. In doing so, we can go a long way towards creating a healthier generation for our kids."
It's great to hear that the First Lady wants to put healthy and safey on the top of the agenda. She has said that her own children, representatives of our next generation, have been lecturing her about what to eat and have encouraged her to change her eating habits. Hopefully, Mrs. Obama will have the chance to speak with Ann Cooper, the revolutionary lunch lady who tranformed the Berkeley school lunch system and is now headed for Boulder.

Though the dark forces who want to keep things the way they are will come up with a thousand reasons why it's impossible to change our agricultural system, it will much harder to argue that we shouldn't be feeding our kids better while they're at school. The school lunch reauthorization is a great opportunity to fight obesity before it's already hit and to set up the future generation with knowledge about what food actually is.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon? Really?

You've got to be kidding me. Nadal just held a press conference after he lost a tune-up match to announce that he won't defend his title at Wimbledon.

He says throughout the presser that he feels good but is not 100 percent. Basically his logic is that he knows he's not going to win, so why even try? This amounts to nothing less than an act of cowardice.

You're the goddamn defending champion. If you can walk, you should be out there on the grass. This is Djokovic-esque quitting before you lose, and it's despicable.

Now, I'm not saying that Nadal should be out there if there's a chance that he could injure himself and jeopardize his tennis future. But that's simply not what he's saying. Check out the quotes:

"When I start a tournament like Wimbledon, it is to try to win, and my feeling right now is I'm not ready to play to win."

[in regards to his knees]: "It's not chronic. I can recover, for sure."
He's not saying he's worried about permanent injuries. He just knows that he'll lose to Lleyton "I have no friends" Hewitt in the second round.

A true champion knows how to lose with dignity as well as win. A true champion would be willing to face defeat and would try to defend his title even if he wasn't 100 percent.

I hope Nadal takes a beating on this from the press. He deserves it. Just like Federer deserves to have his number one ranking back, which he will get if he wins Wimbledon this year.

SBS blog commenter Mark Nemtsov had it right when he said several weeks ago that Nadal lacks the mental fortitude of Federer.


Aside from Ivanisevic who had shoulder surgery and a couple guys who back in the old days turned pro and weren't allowed to return, every single other champion in the history of the tournament has returned to defend the title. I'm sure at least one of them was hurting or injured going into the title defense. They probably knew they were going to lose and felt like hanging out by the beach instead of losing in the early rounds.

But did these former champions wait until they saw whom they were going to face and then quit? No, they sucked it up and went out there and took their lumps.

If Nadal can run, which he can and did in these exhibition matches, then he should go stand out there and lose with dignity, rather than quitting right after the draw is announced.

Video of the Day and Free Wild Salmon Dinner

First, the follow up to last week's dance mob from Sasquatch from one of my favorite bands, Lucero.

They're one of those great bar bands that will probably never make it big but keeps on grinding it out. They have put out something like seven albums, they have a rabid fan base, but they still don't play venues any bigger than a few hundred people*. To me, there is something about that business model that is just goddamn awesome--like a un-depressing and more successful Anvil.

Here's to professional bar bands and here's to Henry, one hell of a dancer.

*I saw them a few weeks ago at a sold-out show Slim's and (along with Black Joe Lewis), they blew the roof off that place. Check them out next time they're in town.


Second, if you're broke like me, then why not check out a free traditional tribal salmon bake tonight on Ocean Beach? Fresh Klamath salmon caught by Yurok fisherman will be served at 6:30.

Plus you'll be supporting Salmon Aid, a really cool organization devoted to protecting wild salmon. And according to Salmon Aid, the best way to protect them is by eating them. Sounds good to me.

Can't make it tonight? Check out the festival in Oakland this weekend. Zydeco, afro-beat, blues, and salmon galore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Phish at the Fox... a guest posting

Having not seen Phish since their (underwhelming) end to the “post-hiatus” at Coventry, there were naturally lots of thoughts going through my mind driving to St. Louis yesterday… ranging from a personal interrogation into justifying this continued behavior to the fond memories I have of all the friends I miss and wish could also be there to, finally, how I felt that they were even back on tour now 5 years later…

What’s evident is that unlike their previous return, this time they appear to be taking it on with more of a focus on the quality of their live product, which is to say that they aren’t up there lollygagging (see also Bull Durham) and doing whatever they want to just b/c they are who they are and they can basically get away with it. Of course, there’s a fine line between experimentation and structure, but I guess the best way to put it is that they appear more disciplined altogether.

At least that’s the impression I had from the setlists and reviews of their first several shows. And it’s something that I’m comfortable endorsing now that I’ve seen them again.

Standing a quarter of the way up the middle balcony inside the magnificent (Fabulous) Fox prior to the show, I was sort of unable to mentally process the gravity of the fact that I was about to see a band play that had not played such a personal environment in, well, since I was old enough to drive and see them. Seriously, an amazing treat… gawd I love Phish.

Although admittedly, at this juncture in my musical evolution, I find that I rarely listen to Phish at all anymore. I don’t really crave them like I used to… I still consider them my favorite band, but in the absence of seeing them live – which is the true addiction – I’ve simply gotten older and moved on.

And that is precisely why, as show time neared, I flat out could not wait to see them just blow it up at the Fox. I think that was everybody’s vibe, which – as always – results in crazy anticipation and subsequent discussion re: the Opener. Naturally I thought they would show up with a tap-in par, some kind of fashionable, tasty intro. Something unexpected, but classy, and excitable. The other half of me thought they’d screw that notion and walk right out there and slam a monster right off the bat, like a YEM or a Reba or a Ghost…

So the place is just dripping with adrenaline, ready for the roof to just fly off, and they come out and drop two duds right off the bat: Kill Devil Falls and then Ocelot, two of the new songs that they’ve recently debuted. Talk about sucking the life out of the place. I mean, people were still pretty receptive and the songs were interesting enough, but prevailing sentiment is always to put those somewhere other than right at the beginning. Definite letdown.

But they completely exuded sync and discipline. Sharp, crisp. Trey wasn’t hiding behind the nasty ass post-hiatus distortion. I think that I read (or heard) that they were going back to their old amp rigs, so old sound and equipment. Old stage setup, too, with Fishman back on the right side of the stage, which I think is cool.

The rest of the first set was pedestrian in terms of what they played and how they played it. Highlight was probably Ya Mar for me, just b/c I love that song… lots of Page, too… and they really let him jam out his keys for that as well. And it’s pretty much impeccable sound inside that venue. The Possum was also huge. The Reba I’d rate standard, but really well done and I forgot how sweet Kuroda is with the lights, too. Uncanny how much he’s able to add in that capacity.

First Set

Kill Devil Falls


Brian and Robert (gentle and reflective, I love this song)

Sample in a Jar


Ya Mar


Train Song



Slave to the Traffic Light

So from a personal standpoint, I wasn’t gaga over the first set, but still, pretty cool to see the overwhelming assemblage of prowess at work again… easy to take for granted until you go 5 years without really hearing that kind of cohesive awesomeness.

Second set was indeed Fabulous. More energy, funk and power. Less structure. Halley’s Comet right off the bat… this would probably be on my ultimate setlist. They go right into a good Runaway Jim and then a Frankie Says only to drain all the energy out the of building with another new song, Time Turns Elastic, my only objection to the second set. My first impression – unlike the two they dropped in the first set – was negative on this song, which kind of sucked b/c it lasted for probably 15 minutes.

But after that they completely ripped it up. One of the better Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug that I can recall seeing… so much energy; the place was really ready to let it out, too. Tremendous F# Mike’s Jam… totally rocking and dominant baseline, not all that funky per se, but kind of dark and spacy, enough for me to wonder if they’d turn it into a Simple Jam. Really really good. Followed by an outrageously heady Boogie On Reggae Woman, Page driving an awesome laser-funk sound throughout that jam… I could have sworn that they were teasing the Macarena, which would have been a badass full-fledged segue. They finished with a powerful Character Zero, a perfect example of a song that depends on how and where they play it… and they killed it.

Second Set

Halley’s >

Runaway Jim

Frankie Says

Time Turns Elastic


Mike’s >

I am H2 >


Boogie On

Character Zero


The Star Spangled Banner


While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Choice encore. Very solid way to end it. A totally playful and perfectly executed a cappella Star Spangled Banner into the rare gem of the night: McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters. I like to think that when the band comes across a special moment or place or juncture in some capacity, then they decide to mark it with a small slice of Gamehenge, which I was actually expecting/hoping to see at some point in the night, and the encore was the perfect slot – totally tranquil and serene and batty.

Overall, they sounded about as good as they ever have, which is probably the most significant takeaway from this resurgence. I would say mostly average setlist, but certainly special to see them at such a classy, intimate joint. Only 4300 people, which is quite the excellent departure from raucous “productions” at much larger venues…

Going into it, I was debating to what extent I’d go out of my way to see them and re-embrace them at this point… not just with respect to my own life and where I am along the musical path, but at this point in the band’s existence.

Coming out of it, it’s hard to not walk away wanting to do it again.

The return of the monoculture

I didn't really think I'd be posting so soon about an alcoholic monoculture, and I'm not sure it really deserves a post to it self, but again last night, only a few weeks removed from the last bewildering experience, I found myself at a bar where only one alcohol was being served.

At least this time I was expecting it. And at least this time it was whiskey--and a decent whiskey at that--which is a damn sight better than a sea of Bacardi. And it was free, another notable distinction from the last debacle.*

This particular monoculture was advertised beforehand as a promotion for (ri)^1 whiskey, which is some relatively new rye production from Jim Beam. For those who didn't have the differences between rye and bourbon or plain old whiskey explained to them last night, here's the deal: All whiskey is distilled from corn, wheat/rye, and barley mash. Like bourbon, rye also sits in oak barrels to age.

Rye, though, must be made from a mash of at least 51 percent rye grain, whereas bourbon is made from at least 51 percent corn. Pre-Prohibition, rye was the whiskey of choice in the Northeast. So if you are really, really old and you had a whiskey drink in New York, Boston, or any of those other fancy Yankee cities before Carrie Nation ruined this country for a few years, that was what you were drinking.

After Prohibition, rye didn't really survive. Maybe it's because in the past I found rye to kick like a mule and bourbon to be more smooth, or maybe it's because the rise of corn-based whiskey after WWII has to do with the nefarious plot masterminded by the USDA and the military-industrial complex to inject us with as much cheap corn as possible and cripple us with obesity and apathy while they conspire with the Federal Reserve to financially enslave us and..............WHOA.

Sorry about that. So maybe it's just because people prefer bourbon.

Anyway, rye has enjoyed new found popularity and traditional rye cocktails like the sazerac are making a comeback. Jim Beam is capitalizing on this trend with (ri)^1, hence the tasting event last night.

Strangely enough, though, the event last night hardly seemed to be about whiskey at all. Sure, the whiskey label was clearly visible throughout the art gallery, but the only four drink choices involved copious amounts of simple syrup, citrus juice, herbs, chunks of pineapple, and even chipotle peppers. My company (all female) agreed that most, if not all, of the drinks were too sweet, even by their hairless chest standards.

It was explained to me that the purpose of the event was to present rye as a versatile alcohol that can be used in a variety of ways. The slogan on their Web site is even "mixes well, but never blends in." So the point was to show all sorts of people who think they don't like rye whiskey that it can be just as palatable as the insipid vodka. I guess that could make sense if you were trying to expand your market, but to me it's kind of silly.

I'm fairly certain that rye whiskey is never going to replace the ubiquatous and tastless vodka as the base liquor of choice for cocktails among people who enjoy drinking lots of sugar. It's just not.

I would think it would make more sense to show people what their whiskey actually tastes like, which I found to be fairly smooth and enjoyable. If people don't want to drink it straight like I did, then have some cocktails like the sazerac that show what rye is all about. Why would people switch to rye if it's flavor is masked just like vodka? It seems even more likely that people would opt for vodka when it's so much cheaper than the $40 and up price tag I've seen on (ri)^1.

The only way you could get some people to start drinking expensive rye if they don't even know what it tastes like is to market it as something hip and cool. Therefore, you hold a free event in a hip gallery, invite lots of young people who are interested in trends, hire attractive young women to serve drinks and give them tight-fitting futuristic/nostalgic orange dresses to wear, and hope a bunch of other trend-savvy people see them order (ri)^1 next time they go to a hip, new bar.

I think that could work in the short term (like maybe one or two visits to a bar after the event), but I still don't see people ordering a bottle of rye next time they go to Ghostbar or wherever. That won't come until they convince L'il Wayne to put down the cough syrup and slug some rye next time he's on camera. Even then, most alcohols who go down this road until people became sick of it or move on to the next hooch de jour.

But then again, I guess they are big enough that they already make plenty of money from Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's, Booker's, Baker's, and Old Overholt. So with all the cushion to work with, I guess this foray into tempting the average liquor swiller might actually be a pretty good plan. Thanks again for the rye, Jim Beam, and good luck.

*Thanks again to Dan Cohen and Rachel's friend Greg from Australia.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Street music (updated)

Everyone in this town knows that The Mission has the best street food. I guess it makes sense that it would also have the best street music.

Last Thursday, I was waiting for a bus at the corner of 16th and Valencia and a full-blown concert was taking place. This wasn't just a guy in a ponytail with an acoustic guitar; they were plugged in and loud, and people were dancing and cheering.

After doing a little Internet research, I'm convinced that the band was the Ferocious Few, a local rock/punk/rockabilly band. Though the band is officially a duo, there were at least a couple other guys playing instruments with them, including a crazy guy in a sombrero playing a tambourine. I'm not sure if they were encouraged to play by the band or just a couple of enthusiastic members of the audience of about 30 that had gathered on the corner.

I absolutely love the do-it-yourself attitude in the Mission. Don't have enough money to open a restaurant? Take your creme brulee or curry skills to the streets. Can't book a gig on Thursday night? Take your drum kit and amp to a street corner.

I'm not exaggerating when I say these guys were truly rocking that corner. I've paid a lot more money to see bands I liked a lot less. But I think my favorite part was that when I was on my way home more than an hour later, the band was still playing and people were still crowded around and dancing. And the cops were no where in sight.*

Maybe if really great street performing takes off, they'll come to disperse the crowds like they did at the Linda Street Friday night food festival a couple weeks ago, but for now be on the look out for Ferocious Few while you still can.

*Well, actually they were in sight, but they were a few blocks down arresting some malcontent who had caused trouble on bus.


UPDATE: Ferocious Few, along with The Red Verse, is opening for The Blacks at the Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night, and I won tickets. Let's do this thing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coming attractions

A new book on urban farming has shot straight to the top of my To Read list. Novella Carpenter's "Farm City" chronicles a city girl's attempts to make food right in the city limits of our neighbor to the east, Oakland.

Like me, Carpenter is a city dweller at heart. She likes to eat but she can't imagine trading the comforts of city life (restaurants, young people, and music venues for me) for the relative solitude of country life. Unlike Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote an amazing book called "Animal Vegetable Miracle" about moving her family into a small farm in the middle of Virgina, I'm guessing this book will be filled with more stories that I can relate to.

If there is sufficient interest, maybe some other urban farmer wannabes out there will read this book along with me and we can discuss it on here chapter by chapter.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The power of the female voice and spontaneous dance mobs

Last night at the Neko Case show at the Warfield, I couldn't stop thinking how absurd it was how impressed I was by a singer who can actually sing.

Silly as it sounds, in what may be the Golden Age of Autotune, it often seems like you don't even need to have an actual singing voice to be a singer. Stars are chosen for their looks or God knows what other reasons and we're presented with a live show complete with prerecorded vocals and multiple costume changes like it's supposed to mean something.

It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to find a woman who can sing and just let her do her thing. It worked pretty well for Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, Emmylou Harris, and Aretha Franklin.

Despite the changes over the last fifty years in what society thinks popular music should be, female vocalists still seem to dominate the landscape. Apparently this Taylor Swift person has made quite the run on the charts, as did that Umbrella girl who got beat up a poor man's Ike Tuner.

My friend Jordan will probably read that last sentence and give me shit for what he sees as willful ignorance and hipster indifference, but I can promise that my apathy is real. I listen to pop music and feel like I have no idea if the people singing can actually sing. Everything is so manipulated that I get better idea of the producer's talents than the musician's.

I had no such problem last night.

Neko Case's soaring vocals had the crowd captivated and rapt for a couple hours with nothing but a solid band, a great backup singer, and the ever-present banter between the songs. There wasn't a single costume change or pyrotechnic display--just one talented ginger lady and a microphone.

For me, it was refreshing to hear a woman's voice and react with child-like wonder. It had been a long time since I paid to see a woman sing and I didn't know what to expect. Needless to say, I got my money's worth.



Check out the scene from Sasquatch Music Fest. We all need more of this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two quick reads

The BLT challenge from Ruhlman, in which he asks his readers to grow their own tomatoes & lettuce, cure the pork belly, and make the bread and mayo from scratch. Very interesting. I don't have a smoker anymore, but I think I can get away with cured bacon and do this.

Mark Bittman, longtime fish eater, writes in the New York Times about how complicated it is these days to eat fish. I, too, have become sensitive to these issues. A trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium where I picked up one of their sustainability cards pretty much sealed the deal for me. I am now a finnicky eater when it comes to seafood. I ask where the fish was caught and with what method. I sometimes long for the days when eating was little more than a hedonistic act for me, and in no way political, but now that I know fish are disapprearing from the oceans, how could I in good conscience continue to eat sea bass and bluefin tuna and farmed salmon?

Operation Wildfire – Act Now to Help Save America’s Dairy Farmers‏

Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has dropped over 50 percent -- the largest single drop since the Great Depression -- to a point far below the cost of production. This unprecedented collapse in prices has occurred in large part due to market manipulations and increased foreign imports by milk industry giants.

Increasingly, dairy farmers are at the mercy of these giants, such as the Dairy Farmers of America, the country's largest dairy "cooperative" which controls 40% of US milk production. Last year DFA was fined $12 million for price fixing by the US government and has also been implicated in the recent massive increase in imported milk products.

Already banks across the country are cutting off farmers' access to credit and at least two dairy farmers have committed suicide in California. The latest estimates are that the crash in domestic prices might lead to the loss of up to 30 percent of the remaining dairy farmers by the end of this year -- as many as 20,000 family dairy farmers could be off the land by the end of this year.

The loss of this many family farmers across the country will have a devastating economic impact on rural America, erasing over $52.7 billion of economic development in less than one year. Even worse, the loss of domestic supply will also create a serious gap in U.S. food safety as the DFA and others dramatically increase foreign milk protein concentrate (MPC) imports from countries such as Mexico, India and China -- countries which have much lower food safety standards than we do.

Today we're asking that Secretary Tom Vilsack, head of the United States Department of Agriculture, halt this injustice and adjust the price of milk paid to farmers to "reflect the price of production” by invoking his authority under Section 608c (18) of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. This legally mandated "floor price" should be at least $17.50 per cwt (a cwt is the standard measure for milk producers).

Because of the importance of this matter and the fact that we want every voice to be heard, we have partnered with Credo who has agreed to send a fax in your name to Secretary Vilsack's office.

Please send an electronic fax to Secretary Vilsack today to let him know that you support America's family dairy farmers.

We must stand by them so they can continue to produce a safe product that not only nourishes our children, but also our rural communities. Without a fair price for their milk, they can do neither. Now is the time to embark on meaningful reforms in dairy pricing to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again.

If you'd like Secretary Vilsack to hear your concerns in person, please call his office at (202) 720-3631 after you send your fax and tell him that you stand with America's dairy farmers during this crisis.

Thanks again for your action on this, America's dairy farmers are counting on you!

Sustainably yours,
Food Democracy Now!

If you'd like to see Food Democracy Now!'s grassroots work continue, please consider donating as little as $10 or $25. We appreciate your support!

We'd also like to encourage you to sign Farm Aid's petition to Secretary Vilsack urging him to use his authority to establish an emergency floor price. For the past

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bourdain: Kansas City has one of the 13 best restaurants in the world

13 Places to Eat Before You Die

Anthony Bourdain

Any seasoned traveler can tell you that the "best" meals on the planet are the result of an ephemeral confluence of circumstances. A table at the most expensive restaurant in the world does not guarantee a truly great meal. That said, if you're planning on dying in the near future and want to knock off a list of final, glorious dining experiences, these places would make a very respectable binge. Start with one. Make a reservation today. Go on an empty stomach. Trust me: This is livin'.

1) St. John (London) If I had to die with half a bite of anything hanging out of my mouth, it would probably be the roast bone marrow in Fergus Henderson's plain-white dining room at St. John. Scooped out and slathered onto a crust of toasted bread and sprinkled with sea salt, it's simple yet luxurious. The menu is proudly English, a rebuke to anyone still laboring under the impression that English food sucks. Famously pork-centric and focused on traditional offal and game dishes, St. John is as wonderful for what it does as for what it doesn't do: compromise. It specializes in good ingredients from "happy" animals that are treated with love and respect. Henderson has become a reluctant spiritual leader to a whole generation of chefs--and even the old-guard guys love to stop by for crispy pig tails, ham in hay, or a properly roasted bird. This is one of the truly bullshit-free zones on the culinary landscape.

2) elBulli (Girona, Spain) It's the hardest reservation in the world. And everything they say is true: It's an adventure, a challenge, a delicious and always fun acid trip to the farthest reaches of creativity. Brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià and their team are the most influential and creative people working in food--and this surprisingly casual restaurant on a sleepy cove on Spain's Costa Brava is probably the most important restaurant of our time. Love it or hate it, if you have the opportunity to wangle a reservation, do it. It's like seeing Jimi Hendrix's first show. Forget any preconceptions you might have. Is it good? Yes. More important--is it fun? Yes. Yes. Yes.

3) The French Laundry (Napa Valley, California)
4 Per Se (New York City) The best sit-down, multicourse, white-tablecloth meal of my life was at the French Laundry. And subsequent meals at Per Se, also run by chef Thomas Keller, were no less wonderful. There's no better way to go than the full-on tasting menu, a once-in-a-lifetime marriage of the best ingredients, creative thinking, and high standards, along with the personal imprint of the most respected chef in the world. How can Keller be at both restaurants at once? It doesn't matter. Pick one. Fast for 2 days, stretch your stomach with water the day of, and then see how they do it at the very top. It's a level of perfection in food and service that few even try to approach.

5) Sin Huat Eating House (Singapore) It's grimy looking, the service can be less than warm, the beer is served in a bottle (often with ice), and the tables sit halfway into the streets of Geylang, Singapore's red-light district. But the crab bee hoon--giant Sri Lankan beasts cooked with a spicy mystery sauce and noodles--is pure messy indulgence. The whelks, steamed spotted cod, prawns, scallops (in fact, any seafood available that day) are all worth having. Warning: It looks cheap, but it's not.

6) Le Bernardin (New York City) This is the best fish joint . . . anywhere. And it's relevant and fun, despite its formal service and fine-dining ambience. The grand tasting menu is a stripped-down thing of relatively austere beauty. And whatever they're doing this year or this month is always, always interesting.

7) Salumi (Seattle) It's a sandwich shop with a couple of tables, and a true mom-and-pop--even if they're the mom and pop of famous chef Mario Batali. Anything cured, anything braised, any of the limited hot specials . . . in fact, anything the Batalis make is worth grabbing with both hands.

8) Russ & Daughters (New York City)
9) Katz's Delicatessen (New York City) Russ & Daughters started as a pushcart nearly a century ago, and it now serves some of the last traditional Eastern European Jewish-style herring and smoked belly lox, sable, and sturgeon. And since you're close, walk down a few doors to Katz's to remind yourself how pastrami is done right. This is what New Yorkers do better than anybody else. And here's where they do it.

10) Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain) Victor Arguinzoniz grills unlikely ingredients over homemade charcoal: baby eels, imperial beluga caviar, oysters. (The fresh chorizo and prawns work, too.) Theoretically you can't grill a lot of this stuff, but a handcrafted series of pulleys that raise and lower each item makes it possible. Eat here, and no one is eating better.

11) Sukiyabashi Jiro (Tokyo) The best sushi on earth? Maybe. Jiro Ono is more than 80 years old, and he's been doing old-school Edo-style sushi his whole life. Every piece of fish is served at precisely the right temperature and the rice and seaweed alone are blackout good. Ono will ruin sushi for you from anywhere else.

12) Hot Doug's (Chicago) This place convinced me the Chicago red hot is, in fact, superior to the New York hot dog. And it's home to two great innovations in American gastronomy: the "foie gras dog" and the weekends-only practice of cooking French fries in duck fat. It's proof that food doesn't have to be expensive to be great.

13) Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (Kansas City, Kansas) People may disagree on who has the best BBQ. Here, the brisket (particularly the burnt ends), pulled pork, and ribs are all of a quality that meet the high standards even of Kansas City natives. It's the best BBQ in Kansas City, which makes it the best BBQ in the world.

Anthony Bourdain is the host of the Travel Channel's No Reservations.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More proof that raising taxes is career suicide

From today's Chronicle...

California's budget crisis is so bad that the Governator has proposed massive budget cuts that would close more than 200 state parks, take away scholarships from college kids, and--this should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone--take away welfare from poor people.

Everyone knows the state is in dire straits and needs some financial help in the worst way. Apparently the only two solutions to this problem: borrow money from Wall Street or slash some of our best and most beneficial programs. Read the article. Taxes aren't mentioned anywhere.

Instead of figuring out ways to generate money through taxing those who can most afford it, we're releasing people from prison and taking away health care from poor children. Why not tax the shit out of gasoline? That would help the environment by taking cars off the road and generate revenue at the same time. Why not stop pretending that the War on Drugs is working and legalize marijuana for recreational purposes like Tom Ammiano proposed?

California has long prided itself on being a progressive and trend-setting kind of state, but with Prop 8 and the ludicrously uncreative approach to solving its budget crisis, it's hard to take that kind of boasting seriously.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Food, Inc." opens a week from Friday.

So far, the word has been pretty solid on the new documentary about our industrial food system. From the preview, it looks like the movie will have a much more serious tone and far-reaching scope than 2007's "King Corn."

I'm not going to be able to pre-screen this before it comes out, but I'll be sure to let you know how great/awful it is when I do finally see it.

And check out the trailer for "Pressure Cooker," which at first glance seems to be the "Hoop Dreams" of cooking: