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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tron Legacy

I don't see a lot of movies on the large screen, but have to admit that I am really looking forward to the long awaited sequel to the Disney cult film Tron. The 1982 thriller was panned by the critics so of course, I loved it. Never met a film with Jeff Bridges that I didn't love, come to think of it.  Incredible special effects, cool animation, I have watched it over and over. Now Tron Legacy arrives around the 17th of December. 

The early prognosticators are once again calling flop. I say it kicks ass once again.

johnny mathis & gladys knight

Dark Dance

Ever been in a relationship or know people in a marriage or relationship where every word is toxic, every utterance looked at under a microscope for a double meaning or a barbed hook? I have been there (marriage #1)and I can assure you that it is not much fun. Shrinks call the ritual the dark dance. Participants slowly crush each other to death. Hatred becomes palpable.

I think that the country, if I may stretch a metaphor, is in just such a dance. We can not stand each other and there is no central ground for us to meet in agreement. Chris Dodd retired today after thirty years in the Senate and decried the current unprecedented partisanship. Government is at a standstill. We would rather score points bashing each other than find ways for our country to move forward together. Many people in this country can not seem to get over the fact that we elected a mixed race president with a foreign sounding name.

Obama rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I hated his predecessor. Last week Sarah Palin jumped on Michelle Obama for taking a stand against childhood obesity. Inferred that she was overstepping her bounds and interfering with a parent's responsibility to raise children as they saw fit. This is ludicrous to me, the first lady of this country always promoting similar projects for the nation's well being. I don't recall anyone going after Laura Bush for promoting literacy or Lady Bird for beautifying America. Some people just want to be sore. There are an awful lot of fat kids out there and the parents' message obviously ain't getting through.

After both 9/11 and even the first Desert Storm, Americans joined together and supported our presidents, not as republicans and democrats, but as Americans. Overwhelmingly. Things went a little south but there were protracted periods of extraordinary consensus. And both Bush I and Clinton managed to steer through bipartisan legislation.

People don't seem to have personal beliefs about what is right or wrong anymore. Their attitude seems to shift depending on whose team is getting gored. Or they heap blame on the media messenger, either the hated MSM or Fox, the GOP house organ.

I have been monitoring the right wing press and blogosphere in the wake of the Wikileaks fiasco and many right wingers are positively giddy because the Obama Administration gets shown in a negative light. Standing in solidarity with our nation's enemies. They have done everything in their power to neuter the chief executive, both domestically and internationally. It's disgusting, frankly. Pure gotcha politics. A game that they didn't invent but one that has only gotten worse and worse in the past decade.

With the Republican party heading more and more to the right and a timid Obama Administration ineffectively seeking middle ground, I see little hope for improvement in the near term. Of course unemployment benefits are about to run out and it will be interesting to see if the scrooges that will not authorize extensions have a tin ear or not and can keep doling out the tough love.

I don't know what the answer is. Republican moderates have been given the message that they are in the tea party's gunsights and better not compromise. Looks like another stalemate.

I think that with such an even split among us americans, the thought that the undecided middle will veer to one side or the other is simply a pipe dream. We can only expect more and more paralysis unless we can find a way to work together and listen to each other respectfully, once again. Until then, expect things to stay more of the same.

***

Monday, November 29, 2010

Look What You Done For Me - Al Green

Sticky Wicket

Statecraft, like sausage making, is a nasty and brutish business. A sometimes ugly process that hopefully culminates in a satisfactory end product.

Diplomats are fully aware that their peers are lying, as they themselves are, but a gentleman's agreement is adhered to, and cover is granted to the most beastly of sins. A distasteful but necessary game.

That being the case, the publication of over 250,000 United States diplomatic cables by Julian Assange's Wickileaks organization is the most dastardly act of irresponsibility that I can remember in recent memory.

This australian anarchist, luxuriating in his own power, has undertaken the most extensive vacuuming of classified information that has ever been seen in the modern age. While a case can be made for the probity of his prior release of video showing american troops killing Iraqi civilians, that was a surgical undertaking compared to this one which used the broadest and most indiscriminate suction in its efforts to steal and divulge state secrets. His brazen and reckless actions are reshuffling the entire world diplomacy deck and turning international affairs on its head.

Mr. Assange' s gift to the world was initiated by  22 year old American Intelligence analyst Private Bradley Manning, who was lip synching Lady Gaga  while in reality recording the whole of the American diplomatic corps SpiroNet communication bank on his 1.6 gigabyte memory stick.

Only time will tell how much damage this pair has inflicted on international relations. It is conceivable that people could die as a result of their covers being blown. Sources and moles are sure to be uncovered. Assange behaves like a petulant child, disbursing his gems in a morally neutral universe while in reality we live in a world of rogue governments and some very bad actors.

I was taught at an early age that just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do something. Shedding light on government is different from dumping the family jewels on the front lawn for all to see.

What have we learned exactly that was worth bringing the innards of our foreign policy machine to light? That the arab states feared a nuclear Persia but were afraid of siding with Israel? That Putin operated Berlusconi like a straw puppet? That China thinks that North Korea behaves like a spoiled child. China has been hacking our computer networks since 2002.  Iran uses the Red Crescent to smuggle weapons? North Korea supplies Iran with long range missiles capable of hitting western europe. Our state department spies on their state departments? Ho hum. However the revelations regarding the lebanese president's true feelings about Iran are likely to get someone killed.

Assange should be horse whipped. His american accomplice must face the most drastic punishment available for his treason. We have to find a way to secure our private information to keep it away from these unconscionable youngsters who treat world affairs like a big freaking video game.

***

Interesting article on Manning from Wired. And another.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing

Color Coded

Mario Lopez and wife
George Djura Jakubec is the Escondido man who was arrested last week after his mexican gardener stepped on an explosive in his yard. The house was filled with lethal bomb making ingredients including  hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), Erythritol tetranitrate (ETN) and Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), the same type of explosive used by shoe bomber Richard Reid in 2001, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab last Christmas, and the UPS package bombs last month. Police also found blasting caps and homemade grenades.

 Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez described the haul as the "largest quantity of this type of homemade explosives found in one location in the history of the United States." Jakubec is suspected of several bank robberies and is an unemployed software technician, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Serbia.

Leslie and I saw the crime scene tape on Interstate 15 when we went down to her mother's for Thanksgiving dinner. The story has had a lot of traction locally, and some nationally. The local paper made it a point to write that the injured gardener was an illegal.

One place that the story has failed to fire much is in the house organ for the Republican Party, Fox News or sites like the Drudge Report. Do you think that could have anything to do with the perpetrator being a white person? Can you imagine the hoohaw if he had been an arab, mexican, black or a similarly toned individual? Or a Muslim? 

Have we deported the gardener yet?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

THE FLEETWOODS - " MR. BLUE "

Crying time again.

Jews place of wailing - W.H. Bartlett c. 1842

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   ‘May they prosper who love you.
 Peace be within your walls,
   and security within your towers.’
 For the sake of my relatives and friends
   I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
Psalm 122.6



I need to get a few things straight. I am not a believer. I also do not think for a minute that members of my tribe are "chosen people." If there is an almighty lurking out there somewhere, I think that he or she probably has more important things on his or her plate to be concerned with than mere matters of real estate and simple lot line disputes.

Still, the Palestinian Authority study released this week that maintains that the Western or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem has an invented place in jewish history sort of rankles the shit out of me. It is another instance of cultural revisionism that will go unchallenged at a time when politicized international groups like the United Nations and UNESCO only respond to a narrative of a victimized moslem world and can only see Jews and Israelis as ruthless occupiers. Not to deny that the lot of the Palestinians has been wretched of late, although an argument can certainly be made that much of their agony is self inflicted.

Written by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a Palestinian Information Ministry official, the study states that “the Al Buraq Wall is the western wall of Al Aksa, which the Zionist occupation falsely claims ownership of and calls the Wailing Wall or Kotel.”      

According to the study, the Western Wall, which the Palestinians call Al-Buraq wall and say is an integral part of the Al-Aksa Mosque, is not made of even one stone from the era of King Solomon. Taha also wrote that the Jews never used the site for worship until the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

“This wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and weep over its destruction,” he wrote.

Well, thank g-d for Muslim tolerance. Palestinians have long denied any claim of jewish origins of the temple. This study comes on the heels of a similar statement by UNESCO that reclassifies Rachel's Tomb as a Mosque and also now lists the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a Moslem site. This is all part of a long standing effort in the arab world and in the international community to continue to de-judaize the middle east.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided last week to relabel as an Islamic mosque the tomb of Rachel, one of Israel’s matriarchs, and demanded that Israel remove the site from its National Heritage list. UNESCO also said Israel had no right to add the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where most of the rest of Israel’s patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, to the National Heritage list.
Permit to to indulge in a little history lesson. First of all both Islam and Christianity are what is known as completion religions. Completion religions find it easier to appropriate another belief system than to reinvent the wheel with their own divine pantheon. My tribe started worshipping g-d about 5771 years ago. Mohammed was born in 570ce and died in 632. Or about 3129 years after our first trip through the desert from the land of Ur if you are counting at home. These Islamic Johnny-come-lately's chose to build their Mosque of Omar directly on top of our Temple Mount, a practice I saw repeated at Acoma when the Spanish priests built their churches on top of the sacred pueblo kivas. That is translated as "we piss on your god" in spiritual parlance.

Culled from various sources, including Wickipedia:
The Wailing or "Western" Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount. 
It is a remnant of the wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's Courtyard and is one of the most scared sites of Judaism.Over half the wall, including approximately 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, being constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount.
Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. In around 19 BCE Herod the Great began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount. He artificially expanded the area which resulted in an enlarged platform. Today's Western Wall formed part of the retaining perimeter wall of this platform. Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 CE during the First Jewish-Roman War.
Roman defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, Jews were banned from Jerusalem. There is some evidence that Roman emperors in the 2nd and 3rd centuries did permit them to visit the city to worship on the Mount of Olives and sometimes on the Temple Mount itself. When the empire became Christian under Constantine I, they were given permission to enter the city once a year, on the ninth day of the month of Av, to lament the loss of the Temple at the wall. The Bordeaux Pilgrim, written in 333 CE, suggests that it was probably to the perforated stone or the Rock of Moriah, "to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart". This was because an Imperial decree from Rome barred Jews from living in Jerusalem. Just once per year they were permitted to return and bitterly grieve about the fate of their people. Comparable accounts survive, including those by the Church Father, Gregory of Nazianzus and by Jerome in his commentary to Zephaniah written in the year 392 CE. In the 4th century, Christian sources reveal that the Jews encountered great difficulty in buying the right to pray near the Western Wall, at least on the 9th of Av. In 425 CE, the Jews of the Galilee wrote to Byzantine empress Aelia Eudocia seeking permission to pray by the ruins of the Temple. Permission was granted and they were officially permitted to resettle in Jerusalem.
Muslims identify the Western Wall as the place where the Islamic prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq. The tradition is first referred to in a manuscript by Ibn Furkah (d. 1328) stating that Buraq was tethered outside Bab al-Nab, an old name for a gate along the southwestern wall of the Haram al-Sharif at the very spot presently known as Al-Buraq.
The first reports of arabization of the area near the wall date to about 1320ce with the creation of the Mograhbi Quarter. 
The Likutim instructs that "when one sees the Gates of Mercy which are situated in the Western Wall, which is the wall King David built, he should recite:

    Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the nations: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord" — Book of Lamentations 2:9


There is a mountain of information that refers to the wall and its connection to judaism written between the fifth century and today. Jews have returned to this holiest of sites for centuries to weep over the destruction of their temple. Archaeologists have found a multitude of discoveries that illustrate the wall's connection to the temple and to the jewish people.

I first visited the wall in the mid 1970's and immediately felt its importance to my tribe, deep in my heart, seeing the men writing their notes and prayers on small pieces of paper and slipping them in between the joints in the rocks as they dovened and prayed.
The British set up a committee of inquiry and consequently an international committee (consisting of a Swede, a Swiss, and a Dutchman) was appointed by the League of Nations to resolve "the problem of the Wall". It conducted in Jerusalem, in the summer of 1930, "the trial of the Wall". The commission concluded that the Muslims had absolute ownership of the Wall. However, the Jews had the uncontested right to worship and to place seats in the street, though not to blow the shofar there. The Arabs objected, and the Jews agreed, except for the last point, considering it a humiliation. Each year nationalist youths would blow the shofar near the wall at the termination of Yom Kippur, which would always lead to the intervention of the British police. 
 During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the Old City together with the Wall was captured by Jordan. Article VIII of the 1949 Armistice Agreement provided for Israeli Jewish access to the Western Wall. However for the following nineteen years, despite numerous requests by Israeli officials and Jewish groups to the United Nations and other international bodies to attempt to enforce the armistice agreement, Jordan refused to abide by this clause as part of a policy of Islamization. Neither jews or Israelis were permitted to visit the wall.
My father and other Israelis tell me that during the period between the War of Independence and the 1967 War, the Jordanians allowed their livestock to defecate near the wall and left the area in shambles. When it was finally captured, soldiers cleared away a toilet that had been affixed to the wall itself. Where was the international community then?
Jewish tradition teaches that the Western Wall was built by King David and that the wall we see today is built upon his foundations, which date from the time of the First Temple. Jewish midrashic texts compiled in Late Antiquity refer to a western wall of the Temple which “would never be destroyed.”Some scholars were of the opinion that this referred to a wall of the Temple itself which has long since vanished. Others believed that the wall still stood and was actually a surviving wall of the Temple courtyard. However, today there is no doubt that the wall is the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount and the Midrash refers to the Temple in its broader sense, that is, the Temple Mount. Jewish sources teach that when Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the destruction of the Temple, he ordered Pangar, Duke of Arabia, to destroy the Western Wall. Pangar however could not destroy the wall because of God's promise that the Wall will never be destroyed. When asked by Titus why he did not destroy it, Pangar replied that it would stand as a reminder of what Titus had conquered. He was duly executed. There is a tradition that states that when water starts trickling through the stones of the Wall, it is a signal of the advent of the Messiah.
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kaindenover discusses the mystical aspect of the Hebrew word kotel when discussing the significance of praying against a wall. He cites the Zohar which writes that the word kotel, meaning wall, is made up of two parts: "Ko", which has the numerical value of God’s name, and "Tel", meaning mount, which refers to the Temple and its Western Wall.
Jewish sources, including the Zohar, write that the Divine Presence rests upon the Western Wall. The Midrash quotes a 4th century scholar: “Rav Acha said that the Divine Presence has never moved away from the Western Wall”. 18th century scholar Jonathan Eybeschutz writes that “after the destruction of the Temple, God removed His Presence from His sanctuary and placed it upon the Western Wall where it remains in its holiness and honour”. It is told that great Jewish sages, including Isaac Luria and the Radvaz, experienced a revelation of the Divine Presence at the wall.
Irrespective of how you feel about Israel, or jewish people, or religion in general, it is impossible to deny the Jewish people's link to the land of Israel. There is a wealth of archaeological records that bears witness to our origins and presence. It would be a travesty if Islamic revisionists are allowed to warp historical truth in their attempts to somehow ethnically and culturally cleanse the mideast of its jewish roots.

A rare Hebrew seal from the First Temple period, discovered in archaeological excavations in the Western Wall .

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Cure - Never Enough

Friday Fricassee


Hi ho the carrion crow fol de rol de riddle, Hi ho the carrion crow bow and bend to me. 
Mountains of the moon - Robert Hunter

Another day, another store on Main Street crumbles into dust. Ho Hum. One of our very best, Scott and Amy's Wee Little Sprouts. They were a fulcrum of our block, a store that sold great toys and clothes for children. Outstanding people who couldn't keep losing money any longer. Like At Home on Main St., another dearly departed store that brought traffic down town for the rest of us and ultimately couldn't make it.

You may say that Brick and Mortar is so passe. You might be right. Why shop locally when you can get all of your stuff made in China and buy it at Target and Walmart? Then you can look the same as every other muggle out there and watch the cheap crap fall apart and then you can do it all over again.

Fallbrook can be the town that you sleep in and call your home, god forbid that you support the merchants or restaurants. When company comes to town you can always drive in on Alvarado and bypass downtown so that you can fend off questions about why every store is vacant. "Oh," you can say (pick one) " they are too expensive, never open, don't ever have what I want, etc." Guess what, they are never open on Sunday or Monday because you never wanted to shop, so we would wait in our stores all day for nothing to happen. Sorry that we can't continue to amuse you. It's a retirement community after all, so feel free to retire and expire.

***

Continuing my happy theme, I was struck last week by a story in the Wall Street Journal about a guy in the midwest moving into his newly purchased foreclosed home, only to find the previous occupant dead in his garage, an apparent suicide victim. No one thought to ever check. I googled elderly, suicide, foreclosure today and the returns came fast and furiously.  

The elderly, as I have written about many times prior, are having a real tough go of it in this downturn. Senator Simpson castigates them as the greediest generation but the reality is many of them can't keep themselves in cat food. It is almost impossible to get a job over the age of fifty these days. Why should someone hire an older person when they can get a twenty something on the cheap?

They tend to be quiet about their pain and misfortune and now you read about them doing themselves in just about every time you open the paper. One step ahead of the man from the bank who wants to change the locks. There are so many of these stories and they are all so depressing.

I remember the movie Wild in the Streets from the sixties where people over the age of thirty were sent to concentration camps for extermination. You have outlived your useful productivity so will you please make way for the new generation? It's sickening really but we are not that far off. Cut Medicaid, privatize Social Security, stop cola's for a generation that is already on the ragged edge.

I was thinking about the shame of it all, a country where the top 1% realizes a 66% percent income boost, while the very young and elderly and middle class gets shunted off to oblivion. The corporatists are still fighting FDR and that damned New Deal. Because it is sink or swim, social darwinism at its finest and if you can't cut the mustard you can always reach for your revolver.

I had a minor epiphany the other day while cogitating on this subject. The conservative right is always trying to reduce government "handouts and safety nets" while extolling the virtues of the church, and voluntary donations. Big George Bush talking point. And I thought, maybe they don't have any real piety either? Maybe the very rich use religion as a way to triangulate what has been a progressive tax system that places a greater burden on the wealthy. So if we make the whole thing voluntary we can make even more bank. Demonize the aged and the minorities and all the other weights on the system.  Old Warren Buffet said the other day that the rich don't pay enough taxes. He is wealthy enough to speak the actual truth. He said the other members of his class will always bitch about the unfairness of it all because it's just never enough. 

Of course a true libertarian will tell you that it is your god given right to not only racially discriminate but to starve your mother or grandmother if you are inclined to do so. Lord save us from our nasty selves.


***


Jimmy Carter, the man who never met a terrorist or dictator that he didn't really love, is at it again. Did you catch this Washington Post opinion? Reward those lovable North Koreans for their consistent message and institute direct talks with Pyongang. Because we care. Never mind that they just bombed South Korea in the second escalation in as many months. Please Jimmy, go build some more houses or maybe club some rabbits. Your pious, sanctimonious message of tolerance is a bit hard to take.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hello Pilgrims


I think that the economy may be slowly starting to turn around. I had a good day yesterday and a decent show after all is said and done in Del Mar. Not enough to burn the mortgage or take a vacation but I can see a clear path to paying the majority of my bills this month. Hallelujah!

***

I got a scary letter from the bank that holds the mortgage on my building on Saturday. All of a sudden, they are demanding reams of financial information from me and they want it all yesterday. Said it was a condition of my loan. Now it may be, I haven't taken a close look at my original loan docs but the fact of the matter is that I have never been asked to furnish this documentation in the four years that I have owned the building.

My original bank, Temecula Valley, was taken over by the government and absorbed by this new bank when everything went down two years ago. I have never been late, never been delinquent. Were they trying to pressure my loan, with many financial experts calling for a coming implosion in the commercial real estate market?

I sauntered over to the bank and explained the situation to one of the women at the bank. It started bad and then got downright nasty.  I pointed out that my supplying the information had never been required in prior years. I told her that I had a fixed, permanent, nonrenewable loan. She said that when my loan was assumed they could unilaterally change the terms of whatever agreement I had with the previous bank and demand whatever additional terms they wanted to.

I told her that I believed that that was incorrect. It seems a bit un-American.  I am not a lawyer but that is like some sort of adhesion contract and  I thought that both parties were bound by certain terms of our original agreement. She laughed at me and openly mocked me. I ended around the twit and went and saw the manager and think that everything has been worked out and now think that things are going to be resolved in a tolerable fashion.

But the fact that this woman feels like they can do whatever they feel like with such an impetuous, imperial  attitude really sticks in my craw. I have heard about people with perfect loan performance still getting foreclosed on and don't appreciate being squeezed. But will keep my fingers crossed that it was a false alarm.

***

I know people with perfect credit getting the run around right now while trying to get refinanced. The banks, who received such a compassionate bailout from the american taxpayer are repaying our largesse with coal in the stocking. What's the old saying, "the only people that can get a loan right now are people that don't need one?"

I was never good at talking to the banks. I left that stuff to my brother and dad when we were building homes. It freaks me out. In fact there is little terror in the world quite like the feeling you get under a banker's microscope, especially if you are an entrepreneur.

***

I think that 600 blogs is doable this year.

***

I have a lot to be thankful for. First off, a wonderful yet sometimes tardy wife that has stayed at my side, through thick and thin. For my health, I didn't even get through my $3500 dollar deductible period on my health insurance this year. Knock on wood. For my wonderful friends, my coffee klatch, my Moose brothers, my sunday morning brunch bunch. The Fallbrook Gastronomic Society. The guys and gals at the gym. For Jim and BigDave and too many other people to list. My clients, thank you for keeping me alive. Mike Mahoney. For my family, my mother and father and brothers and sisters. My cat Nigel. For all of the appropriate saints and sages - Lao Tzu, Fu Hsi, Confucious, Yenur, Padma Sambhava, Kalu Rinpoche, Jesus, Buddha, Philip Dick, Roger Zelazny, Bob Keyshawn, Tolkein, joshu, Thaddeus Golas, Ahura Mazda, Muddy Waters, Vonnegut, Chogyam Trungpa, Theodore Sturgeon, John Lennon, Dr. Greisman, Jerry Garcia, Yoda, Robert Hunter, William Morris, Lord Dunsany, Alexandra David Neel, Dennis Hopper, Edward Hopper, Sandy Denny, Merlin, Rick Griffin, Les Gampp, Musashi, Allan Adler, Sam Maloof, all the cats and dogs I have ever loved. Thanks for all the readers of the Blue Heron Blast. I hope that you all have a great and safe holiday! Peace.

Food Talk



Doug and Retha have recently returned from our nation's capitol and send over this review of their culinary wanderings. Yum!


Greetings to the Fallbrook Gastronomical Society of Enlightened Eaters

Retha and I just spent a wonderful week in DC and of course we had some serious eating to do, so I present some highlights in case you happen to be hungry and in the area. We rated all of the dining to be exceptional with ratings of 8.5-9.5 on the Fallbrook sliding scale of overindulgence.


The Oval Room    Chef Tony Conte
This restaurant was just a couple of blocks from our hotel and the White House. It has received many awards and accolades e.g., Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Restaurant of the Year DC Magazine, Condoleezza Rice declared it as one of her favorites (this might be a reason to avoid this one), or Distinguished Restaurant of North America Award. Dress is casual, business, to elegant; the cuisine is American or Creative Contemporary American. I thought the menu was unique and I found it difficult to select my courses because there were so many interesting choices. The menu was readable, mostly English, creative and varied with a tempting flair to challenge your taste buds. The service was excellent and the ambiance was cozy comfortable without the glitz. 


Doug 
Pastrami Cured Kampachi, Hot Mustard, Tomato Jam & Caraway Maine Peekytoe Crab Salad, Old Bay, Warm Brioche & Sweet Lime
Crispy Rockfish, Crab Chowder, Pancetta, Parsley & Licorice


Retha 
Roasted Baby Beets, Passion Fruit, Horseradish & Icewine Dressing 
Sautéed Foie Gras, Fig Jam, Red Wine Syrup - 
Kazu Marinated Duck, Fried Tots, Farro, Glazed Turnips & Pickled Sour Cherries 
Wine 2005 Beaue Friere Willamette Valley Pinot 


Makoto, a traditional Japanese Restaurant in Georgetown. 
This was something different and an interesting experience for me as I’ve never been to Japan, but Retha assures me that this tiny restaurant was largely authentic. At the door you shed your shoes for slippers, wear socks without holes (they had to get out the larger size slippers for me). There were only about 7 small wooden tables with wooden seats (thankfully we didn’t have to sit on the mats) that open to hold your coat or sweater. A small sushi bar ran along one side and is the place to see the creation of the dishes. There are some American wines on the menu but clearly this was sake time. We select their best sake (Kabuto) served cold, very refreshing with just a hint of pear or apple, smooth and delicious. Waitresses wear traditional kimonos and wait upon you geisha style, dabbing the tiniest drop of sake or dribbled soup from the table top. The menu is essentially a fixed menu of about 10 courses. The presentation is simple but elegant. The feast started with mussels in a ginger-y broth followed by one exotic dish after another. From the familiar (the freshest yellowtail and tuna sushi), whole fried butterfish (delicious), grilled yellowtail cheek, exotic "mountain vegetables," and a sizzling assortment of mushrooms, shrimp, scallops, and beef that are cooked at your table and dipped in a mixture of pickled radishes and mystery sauces. The wasabi with your sushi is fresh and included the raw root and a small grader so you could grind your own. Makoto's tasting menu is not only a meal but a mind altering experience (hence without the deadly puffer fish) and two hours passed too quickly. If you’re looking for something different give it a go.


Cityzen    Chef Eric Ziebold
After a 45 minute cab ride to travel 1.7 miles we arrive for our dinner reservation 15 minutes late. The sommelier, Andrew Myers, noticed the disgusted look on our faces upon our arrival and immediately was attentive and offered complimentary champagne to ease the travel frustration. The champagne was a lovely beginning to a wonderful dining experience. This is a large restaurant within the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the dress is business or elegant. The restaurant’s 20-foot high ceiling and open space offers you a better view of the activity in the open kitchen and the surrounding DC buzz, while the style and décor still provide a cozy but not intimate setting. We happened to be seated near the kitchen and the hustle and bustle reminded me of an episode from Hell’s Kitchen. The creative effort is intense but well coordinated like a playbook for team sports. The table next to us encompassed 6 business types including one senator but we couldn’t figure out which one. The service was excellent and the sommelier was friendly, informative, and attentive. He was not only well informed for the large French wine list (about 700 wines on their list) but could speak intelligently about California and Oregon Pinots. This restaurant is on every bodies want to eat list. Culinary honors include Five Diamonds, AAA, 2009, 2008, Four Stars, Mobil, 2009, 2008, Best of Award of Excellence” for wine list from Wine Spectator, Eric Ziebold named “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic”, Four Stars Washingtonian, January 2008 and Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington to mention a few of their awards. 


After reviewing the menu and finding it difficult to favor one exotic dish over another we went with the tasting menu. The presentation was excellent and the food was wonderful. Here is a condensed version of our meal. 


Matsutake Mushroom Salad with a 2002 Hiedler, Steinhaus Riesling, Austria 
Wala Wala Onion, York Apple and Smoked Sturgeon Gnocchi with a 2009 Vinedos de Ithaca, Odysseus Pedro Ximenez, Spain
Poached Maine Lobster with a 2008 Schnaitmann Lemberger, Germany
Pan Roasted Shaeffer Farm Venison with a 2006 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Cabernet/Merlot, France (this wine was a tad too dirty for Doug’s taste)
Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with a 2007 Michel Chapoutier Grenache, France
Brace yourself for an entirely sensory and visual experience to enjoy modern American cuisine coupled with flair, style and timeless sophistication. We give it a 9.5 on the belt busting list.


Tosca   Chef Massimo Fabbri
This is one my sister’s favorite Italian restaurants located in the heart of DC. The ambiance is pleasant without extravagance tending to neutral monochromatic tones mixed with colored fabrics and contrasting textures. The food is contemporary northern Italian cuisine (strong Tuscany influence) and the preparation emphasizes seasonal ingredients, while maintaining the Italian gastronomy. The menu in Italian with English subtitles was mouth watering. Our waiter was friendly, courteous and informative especially about the choices and options offered. Just about any dish or dishes can be had a la carte or combined into your own tasting menu. Wine list was decent and I left the wine selections to my brother in law who has penchant for French.  


Doug
Organic mixed greens salad with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dressing
Pork tenderloin in a wild mushroom crust with Tuscan style bean salad, and Marsala wine reduction
Warm flourless chocolate cake with pistachio creme anglaise and vanilla ice cream braised escarole 


Retha
Roasted foie gras served with green lentils "risotto", plum and Marsala puree and white truffle oil 
Ravioli filled with roasted veal, prosciutto and pistachio mortadella with a red wine reduction, butter, fresh sage and Parmesan cheese
An excellent dinner and relatively reasonable prices 


Marcel’s   Chef Robert Wiedmaier
Located on Pennsylvania Ave in the DC/Georgetown area and recognized by the foody crowd having received many awards and 5 star ratings etc. Food is French cuisine with a Flemish flair, derived from the chef owner’s Belgian heritage. Signature dishes included seared foie gras, crispy skate wing and light as air Boudin Blanc (Retha loved this dish). The food was absolutely amazing, and the menu is very flexible--you can get any dish as part of a 3-7 dish tasting menu, or order any dish as an appetizer or as a full entree. Notably the menu was not covered in an inflated list of mostly unknown French words but was presented mostly in a large English format readable in the dim lighting. We selected a three course menu that ballooned to four courses. Excellent wine list but the Pinot we ordered from the wine list was sold out and so we settled on a 2003 Pommard burgundy. I found the ambiance comfortable, a touch dark and the wall decorations were minimal leaving a “work in progress” feeling for my preference. 


Doug
Red and Green Oak Lettuce, Smoked Salmon Bacon, Candied Walnuts
Filet of Loup de Mer, Soubise, Asparagus, Caviar Beurre Blanc
Hawaiian Big Eye Snapper, Oven Dried Yellow Tomato, Balsamic Reduction (I found some bones in the fish and dinged the chef for this) 
New Frontier Bison Strip Loin, Sweet Potato Tart, Black Truffle Julienne, Grenache Reduction


Retha 
Baby Arugula and Frisee, Balsamic Shallots, Shaved Parmesan, Sherry Vinaigrette 
Seared Foie Gras, fruit base and special light bread (can’t remember all the stuff but Retha was in heaven with this one)
Classic Boudin Blanc, Pearl Onions, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Truffle Essence 
Paillards of Randall Lineback Veal, Baby Spinach, Lemon Caper Butter

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Au contraire

According to the new McClatchey Marist poll, contrary to popular belief, a majority of americans want to keep or expand President Obama's health care reform. And voters by margins of 2-1 or greater want to keep some of its best-known benefits, such as barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The survey also showed that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on another hot-button issue, extending the Bush era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 only for those making less than $250,000.

Old Violin

Dragonflies







Chronophobia

I know that it is a gross generalization but I still submit that the average man would prefer a quick waterboarding than to have to endure a holiday shopping trip with the wife.  I hate shopping in just about all forms, but it gets exponentially more difficult this time of year.

It usually goes something like this:

"Honey, I have to drive to the coast and pick something up."

"Mind if I tag along, sugar?"

"Why, of course not, honeybunch."

"Can we see my mom?"

"Oh, sure sweety, never mind that she is another hour in the other direction in Coronado."

We get in the car and then the full breadth of my folly starts to unfold.

"You don't mind if I stop at Jimbo's, do you?"

"Of course not, snookums." Jimbos morphs into Henry's and then the quick trip to Trader Joes*, since we are so close of course we have to make another brief stop at Whole Foods and by now I am usually totally pissed off.

"You don't want to come in?" she asked me last week at Boney's. I gritted my teeth. No I think that I will stay here in the car and go over all the state capitols or something. "No problem, ten minutes" she says.

28 minutes later still no sign of her and I am getting pissy and apoplectic. The little angel finally shows up all smiling and I can barely contain my angst. "It was only ten minutes," she tells me. I show her the two phone calls I have made in her absence, one of a 25 minute and the other a 15 minute duration. It washes off her back like nobody's business.

"Well next time don't ask me to come with you," she tells me. "You don't shop, you have everything done for you," which is basically true.

Yesterday we added T.J. Maxx, Target and the Feng Shui store to the mix, Leslie being kind enough to pick me up after I dropped off the rental truck. She strongly suggested that I wait outside at the Target and I was careful not to engage any of the kids mingling around outside, for fear of being perceived as a child molester.

We headed over to the new vietnamese buffet on convoy, Phat. It is in the next strip center over from our dim sum place, Jasmine, where we had lunch last tuesday. Both meals were excellent and Phat is a great deal. Salted prawns, pho, the whole megillah. Speaking of chinese food, I read the other day that the jewish civilization is 5700 plus years old and the chinese about 4700. What did the hell did we do on christmas for the first thousand years?

Anyway then we went to Macy's and of course had to check out the cosmetic counter at Nordstroms as well. Well we might as well walk the whole mall. And the sad thing is that this pattern of behavior is repeated on male victims every day throughout this great land of ours.

Hijacked.

I have the most incredible wife in the world, far above my station and merit. We are soul mates and sympatico on just about every litmus test ever conceived. I can think of no face that I would rather wake up next to, no other laugh that could make my ears ring with joy, no other person who can dot my i's and cross my t's. We just have a little time management problem.

I am extremely anal about time. I leave early for appointments and hate being late for anything. Leslie and her entire family are always late and consider my neurotic obsession with promptness obscene. I always make time for unforeseen traffic and unplanned hindrances. It is not in the wife's family's genetic coding. They used to always be late for family meals. I suggested that we tell them that the meal was actually scheduled for a time an hour earlier, thinking that they would then show up perfectly at the appointed hour. Actually did that once at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and she claimed that it was dirty pool.

To the time challenged, my behavior is a mark of a person who can not enjoy life to the fullest. Maybe time actually slows down for the perennial procrastinator, who knows?  But we are like two different species in how we approach this aspect of our lives. And the resultant push pull causes a lot of discord, not to mention fairly constant control battles.

***

Of course I do shop, I am in retail. I started my career in antiques in about 1985, working for that rascally snake Jim Shotwell. I flew and drove around the country requisitioning financial information from cities, counties and states from Maine to Florida to Seattle and all points in between. After about three hours doing my thing in the morning I would antique the back roads of America. This was before ebay and the computers ruined everything of course. In the old days I always said that you could drop me in any city in America with a couple of antique malls and 200 bucks in my pocket and I could turn it into $5000 in a month. Ain't like that anymore. But I was like a ninja in an antique shop. Get in, get out, surgical strike. I could observe, evaluate and assess a store in 15 seconds. Triage. And I made plenty of gelt. Believe me.

Leslie and most women for that matter, shop very slowly. They have to look at everything. We males tend to take a more macrocosmic approach. I shop as little as possible. Clothes shopping is the worst. I hate trying things on, especially pants.

Shopping is like a sport in the in-laws family. When my dearly departed father in law was alive he and his daughter would speak on the phone comparing the prices of steaks or some similar food stuff at the markets in town. And spend 10 more bucks on gas to get a twenty cent savings on the respective commodity. I am more like screw it, I want it, I'll buy it, throw it in the basket. Which I have been informed is totally wrong. Why did I buy that insert here  (bread, banana bunch, crackers. etc.)? "Because I am an idiot honey," I will retort, with no real dissension from my loving comrade. Some of the stereotypes about the tribe sort of ring true when it comes to not wanting to pay retail. The eleventh commandment - Thou shall not be a chump.

***

I shouldn't complain, everything is done for me after all and things are not magically delivered to the Sommers home. All the cooking, laundering, cleaning, food buying is accomplished wordlessly by this saintly being who has devoted her life to me and our cat, Nigel. But is it too much to ask to be given a pass from all the shopping business?

I hope that you don't consider me an inconsiderate lout for my crappy attitude. For I am not kvetching for just me, but for all my male brothers everywhere who can feel my pain. Frankly ladies, we are mad as hell and just not going to take it any more.

Just kidding, dearest.


*Trader Joes may be the worst of them all because it is laid out in a diagonal and women tend to bump into each other a lot. Total chaos, like the parking lot after a grateful dead show. Beware, men.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Minnie Riperton performs "Loving You" on Soul Train

The late great. She hit notes nobody else could dream of...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Funky Kingston - Toots and the Maytals

Ethnic Cleansing

Lumberyard Shopping Center
897 So. Coast Hwy 101 Suite F102
Encinitas CA 92024
760.634.7671

Last night a group of friends and  I went out for dinner in Encinitas at the new upscale pizzeria, Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria. My friends had been there three times and never actually got in, the place is always so packed.

We called ahead and they said that they would probably be able to seat the five of us with no problem. Unfortunately it was cold and raining and it took us about twenty minutes outside the diminutive little restaurant to find a table. However the staff was really sweet, getting us drinks and water and we eventually got seated.

I don't know a lot about the chef owner, Wade Hageman. Graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He was the executive chef at blanca in Solana Beach which got rave reviews but which I never got to try. Worked at Aqua in Las Vegas with Michael Mina. Big time pedigree. And now a pizzeria that is packed to the gills. Another local, best ingredient, farm to table, sustainable devotee, but who isn't these days?

I wish that I loved the food a little better.

Bread came without any oil or butter. It was pretty good.

We started off with a yellowtail crudo. It was prepared with grapefruit sections, avocado and extra virgin olive oil, abbreviated to EVOO throughout the menu.  Totally delicious, the grapefruit imparting the fish with a fresh, clean flavor.

I also ordered a chilled calamari dish with meyer lemon aioli, fennel and arugula which I unfortunately could not eat, since it was covered with my mortal enemy, onions, an ingredient not listed on the menu. Why do restaurants do that?

Our waitress suggested that we order three pizzas, since they are not overlarge. About six slices per pie. We settled on the white, a pizza containing EVOO, cherry tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella and basil, the classic, topped with crimini mushrooms, fennel sausage, mozzarella and tomato sauce and the knights, a meat lovers pie with Salumi-Soppresata, Tuscan, Finocchiona & Coppa Molina.

The small wood fired grill cooks over pecan wood. Homemade mozzarella.  Ingredients all tasted top rate and fresh.

As far as the pizzas go, I liked the white the best, then the knights and finally the classic, which was a bit of a snooze. Something in the meal, maybe the spicy meats in the knights, upset my stomach, which is still not right this afternoon.

I think that two things bothered me about Blue Ribbon. The crust tasted a bit floury, and didn't really fall back and disappear as a pizza crust should in the Sommers' kingdom. It should have a crisp texture and not much else. There was also a noticeable lack of garlic on the pies and no accompanying usual spices like oregano or cracked red pepper.

There is a reason people like pizza - it makes you feel good. The old reliable pie is hard to improve on. I started eating the little gourmet pizzas when they came into vogue in the early eighties. I remember eating a Bertrand Hug salmon pizza at a little forgotten place in Encinitas that disturbed me greatly. Wolfgang Puck fathered the gourmet pizza revolution. It was a way for chi-chi restaurants to quadruple the prices that the italian guy on the corner could realize.

Last night's meal set us back about one hundred and fifty bucks. The best pizza in the region, in my opinion and to most of the critics, is Bronx Pizza in Hillcrest. Lefty's maybe if you like Chicago style. I think that I could have had better pizza at Bronx for about one third of the price, easy. The spinach ricotta pizza at Bronx is simply sublime.

I never got sublime last night. I got very good. We were all at about 8 or 9 on the 10 scale. But would I ever go back considering the price? Probably not. The elements were so disparate and lacked some invisible binder, schmaltz if you will to meld everything together. It was a white man's pizza. Blue Ribbon Pizzeria, pizza separated from its ethnic origins.

Blue Ribbon is a neat place, full of a lively young clientele. Very nice, professional staff. The food is good, the appetizers adventurous. If you want to spend some dough and hang out with beautiful people, give it a shot. But if you are dying for a perfect slice, head to Hillcrest.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Atlas Shrugs

Today I am sitting in a cold barn on a rainy day, in a booth full of pretty expensive paintings, with which I am attempting to tempt the teeming masses.

Didn't have a hell of a lot of luck yesterday, but didn't fall into my normal homicidal, despondent funk so perhaps there is hope for me.

Last night I slept at my friend Ron and Lena's on the coast and woke up in mid sleep with the realization that my back and neck were not hurting.

This is big because I have been in pain for months. Two realizations: I desperately need a new bed and Lena had the perfect pillow, something that I have been lacking. Literally sorely. I asked her about the soft squishy little gem and she told me where the dreamy goose down marshmallow could be procured, maybe still on sale. I am going to spring, price be damned. Cheaper than another trip to the chiropractor.

***

Please touch my junk.

We were talking about physical intimacy over coffee this morning and I joked that I was so in need of a little sugar that I thought about going down to the airport and pretending to board a plane so that I could get a free grope. Just kidding but I wanted to be on record with the quip before some big city writer beat me to the punch with it.

***

People are sure funny. Had a woman come into the booth yesterday and tell me that my wife couldn't be happy with all the weight I had supposedly put on. Well as they say in Fallbrook, piss off beehatch, why don't you let my wife worry about that.

Lots of people ask about my medical condition - hey, my cancer was so last year. Seriously, I don't even think about it, unless I am trying to score my legal pot card. I tend to cycle through these things rather quickly. But thanks for asking.

***

Ron and Lena have the perfect island style home. Tastefully decorated through their exquisite eye and workmanship and their many trips to the orient. High tech plumbing fixtures that are too difficult for a simpleton like me to figure out. Embarrassingly had to ask for the owner's manual. Had a wonderful dinner and breakfast with them. Gave her a lesson on some of the high tech photo software that I mess with.

***

We were talking about physical intimacy this morning. I have noticed that many of the people that I have met that admit to being bottle fed rather than breast fed seem to be less huggy and are perhaps less apt to be physically affectionate than their counterparts. Wonder if any studies have ever been done. Perhaps they get mildly aroused at the smell of warm latex, I don't know.

***

I have had a large number of blog readers approach me this show. At one point last night, everyone of the many people in the booth was a devotee.  People I didn't even know read the damn thing were offering me comments on my life story. It is very flattering and I thank you all.

PEOPLE ARE AWESOME



Neat video that is going around... Watch it full screen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Have you seen the little...?

I am on the run today and don't have the time to write. I want to touch on something that I will extrapolate on later. The Republicans will have things fucked up in no time. Kyl just quashed the nuclear talks with Russia. GOP will do everything in their immense power to gum up the works on everything. In two years voters will be sick to death of them. And so it goes on and on.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

John "Teeny" Tyner's Birthday Suit

"I don't think that the government has any business seeing me naked as a condition of traveling about the country,” John Tyner 

Many people are up in arms about John Tyner's objection to going through an invasive body search or going through the imaging machine at Lindbergh Field. I say, too bad, John. Flying is not a right, it is a privilege. Like driving a car. Because we have a sizable portion of the world itching to do us in, we surrender certain comforts. If you do not like it, simple, don't fly. Or buy an Airdong™.

We were talking about this incident at coffee this morning and one of the guys said that if we had more racial profiling, normal americans would not be subjected to such draconian safeguards. Guess what, there are plenty of white american converts to Islam, our principal protagonists and the cause of 99% of the terrorism on the planet today. I am sure that they are not merely trying to grope your "junk", John.

If you have a mind to stuff your rectum with PETA explosive and join me on my non stop flight to Paducah, I feel comforted that my government is doing it's best to ferret out your little anal surprise.

On the other side of the coin, the TSA now threatening this man with $11,000.00 in fines and a civil suit for failing to undergo the procedure also seems horribly out of proportion and unfair. If someone is unwilling to submit to these tests, he or she should have the right to exit the terminal and catch a greyhound to their intended destination. The punitive tone of the government's reaction does strike me as an assault on civil liberty and clearly out of bounds in this case.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mystic Eyes



Tin to Tiffany

George Spangenberg - Blue Heron Gallery
The Del Mar Antique Show approaches next week. Do your part to help the economy by coming out and looking at the whole bunch of this and that. (What the hell is a decorative, Michael? Decorations or decor I will buy...) Stop by the booth and say hello. Show opens Friday morning.

http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/attractions/article_f98ceea6-3fc2-513e-a776-f755d61a14b7.html

Everything from Tin to Tiffany!
Art · Furniture · Jewelry · Lighting
Decoratives · Vintage Collectibles
Vintage Fashion & Much More!

Del Mar Fairgrounds · Del Mar, California
Fri & Sat: 11-7 · Sun 11-5

November 19, 20, 21, 2010




Bulltaco

I went to see my chiropractor and friend Richard in Cardiff.
Afterwards I stopped by Ron and Lena's. Ron and I decided to go out for lunch and he suggested Bulltaco.

Bulltaco is the most unusual taco stand that you will ever find. For one thing it is located in the campground at the state beach in Cardiff, next to the concession stand. We parked on Coast Highway and walked in.

Really interesting menu. Foie gras tacos, oyster, lobster, duck, king crab. They had alligator tacos on the menu for a while, I am told.

I had three street tacos today, a duck for $2.50, a pork for  a dollar fifty and a lobster for five bucks. Ron had the ahi. Really cooked beautifully in complex sauces. We sat over the ocean and caught all the beautiful scenery, which was aplenty.

I can't wait to go back for another taste.