Dinner and an Album: Chickpea Bajane and El Guincho’s Pop Negro

Posted by: on Jan 18, 2011 | One Comment

If you ever get “voluntold” to make dinner, and the recipe at hand looks like something Clarissa’s mom would have made, just go with it. Appearances can be deceiving.

Chickpea Bajane did not pique my interest at first glance. By that I mean, upon looking at the ingredients list, my face dissolved into gaping maw. A fennel bulb… and leeks? With quinoa? Uh-huh. Maybe I’ll just have cereal for dinner instead. However, as I continued reading, things started to look up. A CUP of wine. Indeed. 5 cloves of garlic. Go on. Thyme and chickpeas. Maybe this will work.

Sometimes you just need a little faith that everything will come together in the end. Despite a very healthy ingredient list, this dish is incredibly flavorful and filling! Shocking, I know. The combination of fennel, garlic, wine and thyme creates a very unusual flavor and consistency that is buttery, moist and, well, fennel-y. Although “Bajane” is a Provençal word for “midday meal”, it’s perfectly suited for a weeknight dinner as it is light and reheats well for lunch the next day.

On an effort scale of 1 to 10 (1 being dinner through a feeding tube and 10 being a nice Coq au Vin or Baked Alaska), I’d give this a 4.5, due to all the chopping. Otherwise it is a very straightforward, bullet-proof dish. Jump over to Another Freaking Cooking Blog for the recipe. Maybe make a nice Clover Club or Airmail to go with.

As for the album…

If you’re making Chickpea Bajane, you really should be listening to Pop Negro. Just pretend you’re the host of the new TBS show, Dinner and an Album.  In my case, I played the part of both the female eye candy and snappy comedian.

Pop Negro is the fourth album from El Guincho, the solo project of Spanish musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa.  Don’t be confused by the title – “Pop” means Octopus in Catalan, so what we’re dealing with here is a “Black Octopus”. Obviously. The sound has a colorful, exotic texture that feels like a blend of Animal Collective, Os Mutantes, afrobeat and tropicália, which Díaz-Reixa describes as  “space-age exotica”.  I like to describe it as “organic electronica”, but because that could not sound more pretentious, I’ll just call it “the perfect soundtrack to Chickpea Bajane”.

I like my music layered, and this is layered. Between the vocals, keyboards and steel drums, the sound is a fluttering, vivid, colorful PARTY for your ears.  If you didn’t have synesthesia before listening to Pop Negro, you definitely will afterwards.  “Bombay”, “Lycra Mistral” and “Ghetto Facil” are the standout dance tracks, although the slower tempo of “Danzo Invinto” and “Muerte Midi” are welcome transitions into a smoother, beachier sound.

Díaz-Reixa was interviewed by the NYTimes last October, and had some interesting thoughts on music and style.  Of his musical influences, he says, “My grandma. She’s a music teacher and used to be a singer, and also one of my best friends. She always gives me the best advice. The producer that I admire the most these days is Humberto Gatica. Digging his work with Celine Dion’s ‘Falling Into You’”. That’s right – “Falling Into You”. On his current style obsessions: “I love old Mistral equipment, shirts and beach towels. I wish they’d be easier to find. And I really love girls in their dresses in the summer in Gran Canaria.” Of course he does.

Check out (the slightly NSFW) video for “Bombay”:

“FM Tan Sexy”:

Imagined Pitch Meetings

Posted by: on Jan 14, 2011 | One Comment

Can you imagine?

Little Fockers

Producer: We’re ready to get the third Fockers installment going.
Executive: Oh, God.
Producer: This time, we’re going to focus on the growing Focker brood, and the comic relationship between Ben Stiller’s character and Robert De Niro’s character.
Executive: Isn’t that what we did in the last two movies?
Producer: No. This is completely different.
Executive: Did you get anyone new on board?
Producer: We have Harvey Keitel slotted to play a contractor.
Executive: A contractor?
Producer: Yeah. He and Robert De Niro have this funny back-and-forth where they argue over a hole in the ground.
Executive: …
Executive: Can I say no?
Producer: Paramount is contractually obligated.
Executive: Damn.

Season of the Witch

Executive: Ok, I read the script, and I love it! You were going for overblown, unintentional comedy right?
Producer: No.
Executive: Ah.
Producer: Fantasy is still really big right now. Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings. This movie would be perfect for that audience and might even land us a nomination or two.
Executive: Yeah, OK. And Nick Cage is going to play what character? The “wizened older knight”?
Producer: No he plays the hero.
Executive: Uh-huh.
Producer: He’s already started training for the role.
Executive: To be honest, I’m not sure he should be in this movie at all. He’s very divisive and is pretty inconsistent at the box office. Not to mention Ghost Rider. I mean, did you SEE Ghost Rider?
Producer: I wrote the script.
Executive: You can start shooting in February.

TRON: Legacy

Producer: So we’d like to do a sequel to a 1982 science fiction film that Jeff Bridges was in.
Executive: Okaaaay.
Producer: It was about a young software engineer who has to hack into the mainframe of an evil corporation in order to prove his code was stolen by them.
Executive: I’m not following you.
Producer: They throw glowing discs at each other.
Executive: …Not –
Producer: – Yeah, it’s Tron.
Executive: Why the hell would we remake that? That movie’s a joke.
Producer: We’re not remaking it. This is a sequel.
Executive: Why would we make a sequel?
Producer: The original Tron gained a huge cult following after initially bombing at the box office.
Executive: How much did they spend on it?
Producer: 17 million.
Executive: And how much would we have to spend on this?
Producer: 170 million.
Executive: …
Executive: Sure. Fine. Fuck it.

Yogi Bear

Producer: Yogi Bear is the perfect family comedy: it promotes environmentalism, teamwork and snacking, but with a funny, in-your-face attitude. It’s An Inconvenient Truth meets Dr. Dolittle, with a splash of Twins.
Executive: Yogi Bear is a pretty old cartoon. How the hell are you going to package this for an audience that’s probably never seen it?
Producer: Well, Tom Cavanagh’s agreed to play the ranger.
Executive: The guy from “Ed”? I guess that’ll work. Where are you getting the bears? Have you found a trainer already?
Producer: Bears?
Executive: You know, Yogi and Boo Boo.
Producer: The bears are CGI.
Executive: Oh. In that case, I don’t know if I can stomach a CGI Tom Cavanagh for two hours.
Producer: He’ll be real.
Executive: I see. Well, who could we get to do the voices? Do not say Billy West.
Producer: We can get Tom Hanks.
Executive: Too old.
Producer: Charlie Sheen?
Executive: Too drunk.
Producer: Um… Justin Timberlake?
Executive: Good. Very Good.

Gulliver’s Travels

Producer: This is a remake, nay, a retelling of the classic 1726 Jonathan Swift novel Gulliver’s Travels. We’re going for comedy, but also romance. Think Shakespeare in Love meets Chairman of the Board.
Executive: Chairman of the Board?
Producer: It was a Carrot Top movie. Don’t worry about it.
Executive: So it’s going to be a comedy? A kid’s movie?
Producer: We’re targeting kids and young adults, yes.
Executive: It sounds like you’re going to take a pretty rich story and boil it down to just about nothing.
Producer: I don’t know if that’s exactly fair…
Executive: I really don’t think kids today have read Gulliver’s Travels, or even know what it’s about. Why would you go for that kind of source material?
Producer: We have Jack Black slotted to play Gulliver.
Executive: I’m sold!

Cocktailing 101: The Clover Club

Posted by: on Jan 11, 2011 | No Comments

It’s time yet again for another guest post over at Another Freaking Cooking Blog! Thanks, KM! This time the recipe involves booze, and it is something.

I found this recipe in the book Vintage Cocktails (a pretty fantastic Christmas present), and though it does require a bit more elbow grease than your standard drink, it is well worth the effort. It is delicious, and will make you feel fancy and important.

Wikipedia has this to say of the Clover Club:

“… a drink that pre-dates Prohibition, and is named for the Philadelphia men’s club of the same name. It has a long history dating back to at least 1911, and was enjoyed by the captains of industry who were members of the famous club. In its heyday, the drink was described as being… a ‘distinguished patron of the oak-paneled lounge.'”

Think about it – that could be you sitting in an oak-paneled lounge, rubbing elbows with the captains of industry! Jump over to AFCB to get the recipe.

Mondays with Merle

Posted by: on Jan 10, 2011 | One Comment


This is more a Monday morning love letter to Merle Haggard than anything else…

If you didn’t catch the Kennedy Center Honors broadcast on December 28th, you missed a pretty eclectic (read: moderately awkward) lineup of people chosen for this year’s honoring, including Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Jerry Herman, Bill T. Jones, and Merle Haggard. I tuned in during the end of Jerry Herman’s set, and although I’m generally a pretty big fan of musicals, the dripping sentimentality was difficult to swallow. But! Then came Merle. It’s really a testament to his musicianship and song-writing ability that, in a room full of Hollywood elite and East Coast liberals, the Hag was the one who ultimately brought the house down. Watching Oprah sing along to “Silver Wings” was definitely a TV moment I never thought I’d witness, though Bill T. Jones’ rhythmic swaying to “Workin’ Man Blues” seemed slightly less out of place, for some reason.

Merle seems to be having a small renaissance over the past couple of years, both in his life and in my iTunes. His 2008 appearance on Real Time has had a strong viral life online, for better or for worse, and is still one of the first youtube clips that populates when you search for his name. I’m convinced someone could make a lot of money on t-shirts that say “I am seldom in Muskogee”. He was the focus of the 2010 PBS documentary Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself, which covered the more salient periods of his life such as the loss of his father and his descent into petty crime, and included interviews with Keith Richards, John Fogerty and Robert Duvall, among others.

His recent Rolling Stones interview provided a, dare I say, heartwarming look back at the Kennedy Center Honors as well as his experience meeting the President. Merle is not one to dole out exaggerated compliments, but he’s not tolerant of undeserving, disrespectful criticism either, no matter who the recipient. I especially love his reaction to the claim that Oprah shouldn’t have been honored because she isn’t an artist: “It’s not about who wrote the best song or who the best songwriter was, but who was the best in their field… I don’t know how anybody can say she wasn’t deserving of it.”

Seeing him perform with Kris Kristofferson last summer was an experience I walked into with some guarded skepticism. More than anything, I was trying to manage my expectations in case the headstrong, drinking, singing outlaw I was hoping for was actually a washed up impersonation of his former self. After all, he’s 73, a lung cancer survivor, and has been, as my mom would say, “rode hard and put away wet”. He’s seen a lot in his seven decades, and I wasn’t prepared to begrudge him for allowing a lifetime of hard living to take a toll on his performance.

I couldn’t have been more wrong! Despite a set list that included more sentimental, slow ballads than I would have liked (this was in Saratoga, after all), his voice sounded incredibly clear and the Strangers were flawless and on point. He stood through the entire show – did you hear that, Bob Dylan? – and even the worn-out, well rehearsed stage banter (“I’d like to introduce the Strangers!”) was, surprisingly, more endearing than it was annoying. They ended the show with an exhuberant, if under rehearsed, round of “Okie From Muskogee” that included Joan Baez, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. Merle has awesome friends.

Unfortunately he didn’t play this song, but it’s one of his best:

On Resolutions and the WordPress Challenge

Posted by: on Jan 5, 2011 | One Comment

The holiday season is over. And what a great season it was! Like, how great was that party?? SO great! How about all the awesome presents you got? And the New Year’s festivities! And how about little Kermy looking cute through it all?? Writing such touching letters to Craisin? Yeah. And now it’s gone.

New Year’s Day provides the denouement to the bloated descent into bacchanalian excess that begins post-Halloween. Holiday cheer is a drug, and to be cut off so suddenly can leave you feeling cold and empty, as the first couple weeks of January can easily attest. How should one deal with this? Sure, you can keep drowning yourself in egg nog and denial, but eventually the delirium tremens will kick in and you’ll have to find a legitimate way to move on. This is where resolutions come in.

Alright, folks – moving forward! Maybe the holidays are over, but a new year is beginning and dammit, let’s make the most of it! We’re not going to live forever!

New Year’s resolutions are undoubtedly the most polarizing of resolutions, both sides having their fair points. On the one hand, the start of a new year offers the luminous, exhilarating possibility of transformation. The procrastination and indulgences of the previous year seem to be washed away by the shining potential of a new chance to get ahead. Even though change is possible any day of the year, January 1st possesses that magical quality of tabula rasa that no other day can match.

On the other hand, however, expressing your goals to others or organizing them in list form is often the first step towards putting them off or completely dismissing them. There is something about verbalizing an aspiration that somewhere, deep in the recesses of your brain, registers as evidence that you have actually started to work towards that goal and allows the seed of procrastination to be planted. Expressing a resolution is not the same as actually working on it, but the distinction is often lost in our sad, predictable minds.

This year, WordPress has issued a challenge to bloggers to post something every day. As in, each time the earth completes a full rotation. Although this is probably unrealistic for some (*cough*this blog*cough*), the sentiment is great and I hope it inspires more great, original content from the blogosphere in 2011. The inevitable surge of posting in January will eventually taper off (as will the gym memberships), but I hope the call to posting is answered.

Despite the abovementioned risks associated with broadcasting a resolution, I hope to get involved with this challenge as well and spend less time in the reader and more time at the proverbial drawing board. Legacies aren’t born from how much content you consume. They’re born from how much great content you create. And cats. Especially content that involves cats.


Kris and Kermy: The Peace Accords

Flowchart: What Country Song Best Describes Your Life

Posted by: on Jan 3, 2011 | 8 Comments

Country music has its finger on the pulse of many overriding life themes, including patriotism, alcoholism and depression. Find out your country anthem with this handy flowchart.