Rock and Roll

On Dec. 5, 1932, Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga. And every Zappadan, I wish that man a happy, happy birthday and many, many more.

I know. Little Richard’s birthday falling on the second day of Zappadan is merely a happy accident. Some might stretch that out a bit and call it a Zappadan miracle. Because, as it happens, Little Richard wrote and originally performed a little song called “Directly From My Heart to You.”

Now, I think the best recording of Little Richard performing this tune was the first. It’s slower, bluesier, dragging that limp left foot so deftly as it does. And Richard’s voice here is especially powerful:

Via SecondHandSongs

There are, of course, many covers of this wonderful song, including a new one for me this year, as performed by Holly Golightly:

But, of course, the reason I obsess over this song and this particular day is due to the sublime performance of it by Zappa and a fiddler known as “Sugarcane.”

So one of the great things that happened in 2017 was that Howard Stern had a gentleman in the studio named Robert Plant.

I often listen to Howard on Sirius XM 100/101 as white noise. Gary’s phlegm. Ronnie’s weird obscenities. Cocktober. Robert Plant’s appearance, however, was one that demands strictly attentive listening.

And, did he offer a lovely fact.

Let me explain. Some time ago, I came across a book, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll by David Kirby. I have found the introduction in this book to be quite illuminating, in that it lays out the truth: That Little Richard’s work was vital and paradigm-shifting like no other person’s contribution to the genre known and loved as rock and roll.

Little Richard was the one who explained to every subsequent performer how the music would be performed. How it would be sung. What energy you should bring to it. Before him, they crooned. Afterwards, they wanted to make their voices sound like Richard. He was the first new bud in a huge tree. Without Little Richard, Jim Morrison does not scream like that in “Love Me Two Times.” John Lennon does not sing “Yer Blues.” Jimi Hendrix’s GUITAR would not have existed without Richard, something that Hendrix acknowledged. Lou Reed cribbed lyrics from Little Richard and gushed as a rabid fan. As I wrote in 2013: “The ones we revere most routinely, the ones most frequently rotated in our playlists, they revere Little Richard.”

That’s true. Testify. Little Richard is, truly, the originator. And Mr. Plant has given us yet another example.

Listen to the first six seconds of this:

and then listen to the first six seconds of this

Indeed. John Bonham’s apparent earworm of that day? “Keep a Knockin'” by Macon’s best. The revelations of the man’s greatness and evidences of his importance as a rock innovator continue.

Before him, rock and roll singers crooned.

After him, they howled.

Little Richard is the man who showed the rest of all rock vocalists the way. And today, on this, his birthday, we thank him for it.

Little Richard, you are the originator. Happy birthday as always.



Today is Dec. 4, or as we call it around these parts, “Bummernacht,” the first day of Zappadan. It is called “Bummernacht” because it is the anniversary of Frank Zappa’s death. Zappa died 24 years ago today. It is also known as a day when many bloggers use the phrase “for the uninitiated…”

Laugh now.

I think yinz understand the concept. It’s another good idea we’ve borrowed from our Muslim friends, such as algebra and observing objects in the sky with telescopes to draw rational conclusions about the universe. Ramadan. Zappadan. Both really really long observances. But with Zappadan, no fasting!

In fact, one has unlimited license during this time to heat up yer stovetop, burn a weenie to a crisp, and slap it onto a slice of bread.

But do so with caution.

That kitchen of yours may be dangerous.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (as quotated Dec. 4, 2009, at Fried Green al-Qaedas)

This article is about the Zapptist celebration during the opening of Zappadan.

The first (or 17th) day of Zappadan was originally known as Enttäuschung Nacht – German for ‘bummer night’ – but over the years it has been Americanized to the much simpler BummerNacht. This being the anniversary of Mister Zappa’s death, the original meaning is rather obvious, and we shall not delve further into it here.

Far from being a day of mourning, however, it is a day of great joy, for Zapptists know that a mere seventeen days later, on December 21st (Zero Day), Frank Zappa was born.

Traditionally, children are not allowed to participate in the celebration of BummerNacht, although teenagers are winked at if they decide to ‘run down to the library and not return until some ungodly hour of the night’. Celebrants are often seen cavorting to the exotic sound of the Mystery Horn while gorging on burnt weenie sandwiches and guzzling white port and lemon juice.

For me, Zappadan has traditionally provided a creative spark and a fantastic opportunity to mull in the Zappa. I have spent Zappadans in reporting mode, finding tidbits from the Miles biography to share. I have spent them in music appreciation mode, absorbing The Yellow Shark one year, and simply focusing on the Mothers era yet another. Zappadan began as a mere blogswarm. I think for many a fan, myself included, it has become a genuine installation of the holiday season. Thanksgiving. Zappadan. Hanukah. Kwanza. Christmas. Festivus.


So let me begin this year by saying this: I love Frank Zappa.

I am a second-generation freak. My Dad was introduced to an album called Freak Out by a roommate. My Dad in turn played me the song “Who Are The Brain Police” when I was 3.

It gave me nightmares.

Later, as a teen, I glommed on to Dad’s copy of Only In It for the Money, then later Freak Out in college. Zappa’s rebellion and his contempt for people like my then freshman roommates, really rang a cord with me at the time. Mister America, walk on by…

But it was on a bus trip back home for the holidays that I really came to love Frank Zappa with a little thing called Burnt Weeny Sandwich.

Have you heard this thing? It is glorious.

The Story of Frank Zappa’s ‘Burnt Weeny Sandwich’

So several years ago, I became aware of this thing called “Zappadan.” And it has only grown and swelled until it is a TASTY LITTLE SUCKER. I see actual RADIO STATIONS observing the Zappadan. We see Zappadan generally celebrated outside of the grander blogosphere. Pretty nice for a one-time cute little blogswarm.

But hey. Enough of my yackin’! What’dya say? Let’s boogie!

I’ve Seen The Future and It Will Be

So news reports across the land today are saying that President Trump has been saying that the infamous “Access Hollywood” video may have been faked. And everyone is clutching their pearls and are all like Wow! The Trump is nuts! He’s lost his mind! He is bereft of reality!

Lucky for us it is likely that President Trump does not ever listen to public radio.

Because, in fact, faking such a video is now officially not beyond the realm of possibility. I recommend taking some time to listen to the following podcast from RadioLab:

Breaking News from RadioLab

Here’s the video regarding Adobe VoCo.

The RadioLab piece actually discusses the “Access Hollywood” video. And it raises some of the questions that such developments ultimately must lead to: How can a democracy survive a world where anything in media can be utterly accurately faked?

Knowing VoCo exists is to understand that, indeed, the “Access Hollywood” video could have been faked. Indeed. Easily.

Get ready. The next few decades are going to be interesting.

Do It ’til You’re Satisifed

I sat in the back of the lunch room, gnawing on a par-baked, then microwaved turkey pot pie, and even par-baking the thing cannot improve its condition from a microwave. I was eating it anyway but vowing to never put another frozen pot pie on my grocery list again.

I saw my co-worker enter.

I am certain this man was born crusty, balding, and old, rather than growing into it like the rest of us.

I watched him stare at the television set that is suspended in the ceiling’s corner and that is always on for some reason.

That is one aspect of the culture that is not often observed, the television sets that are always on. At the bar where I lunch, at the restaurant where I dine, at the workplace, at my bank, at my car mechanic, where I pump my gas, there is the TV that is always on. I walked into a favorite restaurant last weekend and noticed somewhat brightly that they did not have a TV that is always on, and it made me appreciate their delicious hummus plate even more.

My co-worker stood underneath the TV that is always on in the lunch break room where I work, one of two TV sets that are always on in that large orange room, and he had one hand on one hip and stared at the TV that is always on, kind of quizzically. We were the only two people in the room, and I don’t think he had even noticed I was present from my little hideout.

I had finished with my pot pie by this time and was just killing time until I got to return to work to MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE

so I started cheering him on

go on

do it

change the channel

Well. I must be a magical being. Because my colleague took his fist off of his side and drew up a chair, and placed the chair underneath the television, then bravely stood up on the chair. He began to adjust the channels.

I decided to see if I could affect his choice even further with my newly discovered mind power suggestion voodoo.

FOX NEWS. I said. Put it on FOX NEWS.

I begin my Jedi training tomorrow.

Al Franken Not Resigning Is The Correct Move

This was snapped in 2003 at a work function. I can verify for you that Mr. Franken was a perfect gentleman.

My go-to joke about this photo is to say “I’m the one on the left.”

But there aren’t many jokes these days regarding this guy, are there? Dude’s been caught up in this MeToo net with all the rest of the throwbacks. It’s a shame. I don’t know enough to talk to you about his record, but I think these Twin Cities journos have done a pretty tight job of it. (I would highlight, for this context, pieces he contributed to the Violence Against Women Act of 2003.)

So, it’s a shame. But here’s the thing: It is not salient whether you believe Leann Tweeden and/or you DON’T find that the picture she released of Franken with his hands on her boobies like they’re radio dials to reek of SOMETHING’S REALLY FISHY HERE; or if you believe Lindsay Menz or the other two anonymous claimants here. Nor is it salient if you are a partisan Democratic hack (such as I) who might be tempted to defend Mr. Franken for worse than this, even, despite our most strident stances as feminists for women-broads for America.

None of this alters the fact that Al Franken not resigning from the Senate is the correct move here.


Because. In 2014, Franken defeated Republican Mike McFadden 53.2% to 42.9%, soundly defending the seat he narrowly won in 2008.

That, folks, is a positive referendum offered by the voters of Minnesota regarding the job Sen. Al Franken had done during his first six-year term. Were he to simply step down because he was caught up in this tsunami due to a few random stories and a really weird photograph, it would be a detriment to the voters who returned him to office.

No, what Sen. Franken has indicated will be done is the proper salve here: A Senate-based ethics investigation into his behavior. We tend to forget in this maddening political environment that government does not take action by tweet or by some maniac’s bark. Government requires a proper process. We have a senator here who has some accusers during a time when accusations are pouring torrentially. This senator should get a fair hearing, and the correct vehicle for that hearing in this case is a Senate ethics investigation, which was, by the way, suggested first by Sen. Al Franken.

How does this compare to the case of Rep. Joe Barton of Tejas, who recently had a photo surface of him presenting his wares via digital shutter-cluck?

Goodness, if I have to explain to you that, by definition, sending a woman a picture of your ball peen hammer IS sexual assault, then let’s you and me spend that same conversation discussing shit and shinola.

No woman wants a picture of your junk. Not one of them. Not one. Okay, maybe except for that one, the one who plans to use it to blackmail you later. Generally, however, sending a woman a picture of your grumpy muffin there is an unwelcome violation. I can’t believe I have to explain this. Let’s next talk about why little people are prickly about dwarf-tossing.

I mean jeez, send a nice bucket of tulips instead, maybe?

As for Sen. Franken, who today again offered a contrite statement and a resolution to do better, his case is more nebulous and requires investigation. And that was his idea. It is the proper process and should proceed. His immediate resignation would be a picador’s work to the fleshy bits of democracy.

Try The Reuben

The bar stool upon which I sat today at lunch was crooked, and it wobbled. Either that or I kept encountering a divot in the floor. I am not certain which was the case. Regardless, my seat had a wobble.

This is not the kind of thing one experiences at the newest latest pub. I did not have a wobbly bar stool when I had lunch at Bar Louie Saturday because I took my car in because the front tires were regularly losing up to 10PSI, and when the mechanics perched her up on the rack, they discovered my brakes were nearly gone and offered to replace them, so I ended up having a meal at Bar Louie next-door, and I can assure you that my bar stool did not wobble there.

No, that wobbly bar stool is a well-earned scar at a joint called J.B. Quimby’s Public House, which is an old-shitters’ joint and one of the finest pubs in western New York and certainly in all the land. Quimby’s has dings and pock marks, and it has earned them and wears them with swagger. And today I had the pleasure of lunch there with my Dad and my brother, and it was really good. I had the reuben melt, and it was delicious. Dad had the Cuban with these cheesy potatoes that must be experienced because they were delicious. My brother had a quesadilla.

During this excursion, we took in a football game on the television. We watched the Buffalo Bills play the New Orleans Saints right here in Buffalo.

The team from the Big Easy ended up besting the Bills 47-10. As quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle today, linebacker Preston Brown said “We weren’t good.”

Having discussed my really nice Sunday today, I share this. For reasons. From the book Illusions, by Richard Bach:

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all—young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!”

And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

But they cried the more, “Savior!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.

A Secret Magic Trick, re: Sous Vide Circulator

So I shall start by indicating first how lovely it is to be wrong regarding the fate of my Democrats in elections on yesterday. We did well. It gives me new heart. Perhaps Democrats are as energized as they think they are. That would be nice.

Locally, here in Henrietta, N.Y., the vote went pretty well. We fired the town supervisor, a Republican, who had been accused of making controversial comments; that is all I need to say about that. We fired the Republican sheriff for some reason. I voted for the incumbent, a Republican. Yes, I voted for a Republican. Get over it. Mainly because I do not recall any major controversy or horror coming out of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and I do not think of it as a political office. But congratulations to Todd Baxter. There’s a new sheriff in town. Rochester re-elected Lovely Warren as mayor. I didn’t see that one coming. Just kidding.

So in this new installment of the occasional advice column known as “Hints from Abelard,” I want to give another perspective of the art of cooking sous vide. This is when you cook food low and slow in a strictly controlled temperature water bath with slow circulation to promote convection. I some time ago purchased an Anova soux vides circulator and was convinced for a week or so that it was the next great hope of cooking techniques.

I imagined that cooking sous vide would be a boon for a bachelor; that one could simply season some meat, vacuum seal it, freeze it, then drop it into the bath upon arriving home, allowing it to cook for an hour or several, then sitting down to gnaw on a perfectly cooked steak or salmon or chicken thigh.

The problem with this notion is that, in fact, cooking sous vide requires a great deal mise en place. First one must season the food, then one must vacuum seal the food. Then, one must draw the water and assemble the pot with the circulator. Then, one must immerse the food and may need to insulate the pot with some foil and a towel to avoid a loss of thermal energy. Then, when the food is cooked, one must open the pouch, allow the food to rest, and then throw it in a scalding pan or zap it with a torch to get that nice maillard action going on.

The fact, my friends, is that cooking sous vide is only sensible if you are preparing a feast for more then two human beings.

Because if you’re just preparing a single steak, or maybe two, you can easily prepare it to perfection if you are willing to use a cast iron skillet and to open a lot of windows and turn on a lot of fans. 500-degree oven. Cast iron skillet. Meat. Kosher salt and Rochester Pepper (Yes, Dad, Rochester Pepper is quite a dandy spicy yummy thing, thank you) (or at least fresh-ground pepper). Two minutes a side. That is a perfect steak. Please watch episode one of season one of Good Eats because it is the best one. Watch it once per year at least. This should be mandatory for every American person. Because I think it’s fair to say that John Wayne ate steak.

Now if you’re cooking for more than two, say you have a hungry crowd of eight, sous vide makes sense. Because if you’re just pan-frying that many steaks? You’re going to mess at least one of them up on a pan. Probably overcook it or burn it severely. That’s just too much meat to babysit on a scorching pan. With sous vide, you cook all of those steaks to even and consistent quality. You sear it on a scorching pan for like 45 seconds. You rest the meat and carve. And you serve.

But for a single guy bachelor type who just wants to serve himself up a nice steak or a pork chop? Honestly, I can get better results with the scorching hot cast iron skillet.

Still. The sous vide circulator does one thing better than anything else, whether you are cooking for one or a million. The sous vide circulator thaws frozen meat. Quickly. Safely. And more naturally and better than any tool you can ever apply to the job. Just put cold water from your faucet into the pan and align and anchor your circulator. Set it to 70 degrees and start it spinning. And throw in your frozen meat in its original wrapping.

You will have thawed meat in 15-20 minutes, without the danger of prematurely cooking it (like, say, thawing it in the microwave), without the danger of it going into the red zone because you left it out too long, and without running gallons of water over it in the sink because it actually circulates the water. This is the best reason to buy a sous vide circulator, period: It is the superior method for thawing frozen food. It will do it safely and faster than any other method.

You can also mess around with you know, using it to cook stuff. But, I’m telling you. This thing is most useful as a frozen food magic food thawer thingie, and that is reason enough for a person to go buy one all on its own.

That is today’s Hint from Abelard.


So today I heard an old guy have to explain to a young guy that Get Smart was a TV show before it was a movie. I would have felt bad for the older guy except that he began this thread of conversation by taking off his shoe and holding it up to his face and saying “You remember the TV show? Get Smart? Remember?” The dude was standing at his work place holding his own shoe to his face like it was a telephone. I was just glad there are no dogs near where he lives.


Weird Week

I am sitting at my front office listening to Chris Matthews on the MSNBC and waiting for electoral results, mostly locally but certainly nationally and especially from my former home state of Virginia. I have direly predicted that Republican Ned Gillespie (yes, I did that on purpose) will be victorious. This is not because of anything I know, except that I know that Democrats are in a bit of a slump. Factoring in to my maudlin prediction was indeed the weird and screechy revelations from the upchucking I mean upcoming book by Donna Brazile, whose name should really be pronounced “BRAH-ZYLE” and who is currently really pissing me off. I would like to have seen her upend the ticket single-handedly based on a stumble caused by heat exhaustion and pneumonia and her own pique at being denied the autonomy at work you believe you are due. Welcome to work, Donna Brah-zyle. Work does not often offer the autonomy we believe we are due. It usually doesn’t. It always doesn’t. What a nice time to regrudgeitate 2016 yet again, you moron. Lookit that. I just made up a word.

My own work life is weirdly uncertain, and I am weirdly okay with that. I am on temp-type job currently that will probably not go on forever. I have turned down two other jobs since the previous job went away, something I have never done before but probably should have. My original plan was to eat the layoff and have a really nice holiday season, and then to do some of that “finding one’s self” stuff that I’m not sure I ever got to do. Instead, I’ll be back in the headset for now. For now. At least this work won’t involve entirely abstract concepts about machines I literally can’t touch.

And we’re down a dog, as you might have noticed. Might be down two shortly, as dog #2 can no longer blink his eyes nor control his mouth nor move his cute floppy ears.

Despite all the weirdness and sick and dying dog-friends, I feel hopeful. It is my favorite time of year. I look forward to holidays and am already brewing up my offerings for Zappadan, which is here in like 26 days.

Gosh I love Zappadan.