Sunday, May 30, 2010
We've been clearing out our storage space today and one of the boxes we unpacked contained these "coasters" that Guy made. They are really just old plastic CD cases that he decorated. The first one is a portrait of me that he made by cutting and pasting colored construction paper.
The second one is a quick sketch of Osama Bin Laden and Bert--which should give you a fairly accurate sense of how long ago Guy drew it.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Blestyashchie (Russian: Блестящие) is one of the first and most enduring all-girl singing groups in Russia.
Originally Blestyashchie consisted of three girls: Olga Orlova, Polina Iodis, and Varvara Koroleva. In 1996 Janna Friske and Irina Lukjanova joined the group when Varvara Koroleva left the group right after the release of their first album Tam, Tol'ko Tam (There, Only There).
Featuring original arrangements, lovely lyrics, and artistic music videos, Blestyashchie became quite popular. They went on tour across the country, and they were highly praised. There, Janna became an instant success with her excellent vocal abilities and superb dancing skills.
In 1997 they released the album Tam, Tol'ko Tam (remixes). With the new lineup, Blestyashchie released their second album Prosto Mechti (Simply Dreams). This album included such musical best sellers, "Gde Zhe Ti Gde?", "Oblaka", and "Cha-Cha-Cha". In 1998, Polina Iodis left the group and the three remaining girls continued to work together.
In August 1999, Xenia Novikova joined Blestyashchie. They released a new album in 2000, titled O Lyubvi (About Love). The album featured ten new songs, one of which, "Ciao Bambina", was named the most "provocative" clip of year. The hit "Za Osen'yu Pridet Zima" was another single from O Lyubvi. The group won many awards that year, and went on tour in cities of Russia, the countries of the Near abroad, and abroad.
In 2000, Olga Orlova (the front member and the songwriter of the songs that made Blestyashchie famous) became pregnant and left the group.
Janna Friske is considered the leader of the group, publicity director, and oversees that girls communicate "daily".
In their 'free time' the four members wrote songs for their next album, Za Chetyre Morya (Beyond Four Seas) (2002). The first hit from the album was the memorable "A Ya Vse Letala", the video played continuously on all music channels.
In 2003 Irina Lukyanova became pregnant and left the group. Later on Blestyashchie was joined by the figure skating champion Anna Semenovich.
Apelcinoviy Rai (Orange Paradise) (2003) was an extraordinary success and left its mark on the year. The last hit song off the album, "Novogodnaya Pesnya", became a true anthem that goes to the heart of winter holidays at the year's end, and the earlier hit song "Apelcinovie Rai" the summer anthem.
On April 1, 2004 Friske was replaced by Nadia Ruchka. When asked the question how she joined group Blestyashchie, Nadia answered so: "It is very simple. My friend called and told that Blestyashchie wanted me to audition. My previous band just had just broken up. And 'Blest' was searching for new members. But was on first of April (April Fools' Day), and I mistook the offer as a joke. Therefore I said: 'Please, you will not joke. I do not wish to listen to such silly jokes. You will come home, and we shall talk.' At first I joined in group on a trial period. I have started to go a little with girls by tour. Stepped onstage in two-three numbers. Then I began to participate in recording songs."
In the group, Nadia was well accepted. "If there are any questions, we find it easy to communicate," the singer tells. "Everyone understands, the work is complex. Now the trial my period has ended, therefore I work on full power."
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The buttery taste found in packaged foods isn't just butter flavor anymore. Increasingly, it is browned-butter flavor, formulated to taste deeper and more savory than plain butter, says International Flavors and Fragrances, one of the leading laboratories for developing flavors used by food companies.
Snack chips are spicier. Chewing gum is mintier. Energy drinks are fruitier. In short, American cuisine is adrenaline cuisine.
Some food companies are hitting their labs to try to torque up flavorings to appeal to the country's expanding palates, and, of course, boost sales of snacks, drinks and even main courses. Arugula and ancho-chile sauce now appear at restaurants like Chili's where there was once only iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise. PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay brand recently introduced Doritos chip flavors labeled First-, Second- and Third-Degree Burn. Gum-maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is using new technologies like textured crystals it calls Micro-Bursts to deliver a more intense flavor as well as new sweeteners to make flavors last longer. At home, seasoning company McCormick & Co. Inc. says Americans now keep an average of 40 different spices, a figure that has grown roughly twice as fast in the past two decades as it did in the previous 30 years...
Food and flavor companies are secretive about the technology used to enhance flavors that they consider proprietary information. They now have the ability to create the full spectrum of any flavor in a lab. A simple strawberry flavor can range from tart, just-picked strawberry to almost candy-like sweetness. When Dr Pepper Snapple developed its new Dr Pepper Cherry soda, for example, it tested 30 different cherry profiles with consumers...
The current flavor boom is a big change for a nation known for its mashed potatoes, chicken sticks, macaroni and cheese and other unadventurous fare. It's a reversal that has been in the making since the advent of processed food first began to drown out regional cuisines during World War II, food historians say.
"Bold is replacing boring," says Kevan Vetter, McCormick's executive chef who is part of a team that has met for the past 10 years to develop McCormick's annual "flavor forecast" report. The report includes the top 10 flavor pairings that the spice-maker thinks will be popular in the coming year. Among the flavor couplets in its 2010 forecast are roasted cumin and chick peas, caraway and bitter greens, roasted rhubarb and ginger, and almond and ale...
New flavors used to originate in fine dining kitchens and work their way down, but now they come just as often from the Food Network or from ethnic or international sources. "The timeline that trends take to evolve down to the mass consumer has really shortened," Mr. Vetter says.
McCormick now counts sea-salt, smoked paprika, roasted garlic and dried lemongrass among the flavors in its typical grocery-store offerings. Asian and Caribbean spices, blends and marinades have been the focus of recent roll-outs, and the company is predicting strong Indian spices will be big within the next five years.
At Frito-Lay Inc.'s Plano, Texas, headquarters, executives describe their new flavors of Doritos chips to match what they see as the brand's image. Doritos, the company says, are targeted at a younger audience. The Doritos consumer likes action-packed video games and late-night partying and wants that extreme experience to translate to the chips as well.
So, its new First-, Second- and Third-Degree Burn chip varieties are made with jalapeno, buffalo and habanero flavors, respectively. They launched this year, as part of the company's efforts to frequently roll out new flavors to keep customers interested.
"Consumers expect more from a flavor. It's kind of like moving from regular TV to high-def TV," says Stephen Kalil, corporate executive research chef at Frito-Lay's Culinary Innovation Center. Mr. Kalil helps brainstorm new flavors and creates a natural version of a flavor in the kitchen that can be replicated in a lab.
"A lot of that flavor goes back to Asian and Szechuan cooking," says Kelly Sepcic, vice president of innovation at Frito-Lay. Sweet and spicy Doritos is another Asian-inspired product with soy, garlic and ginger flavors.
Cuisines like those from China and Thailand include extreme flavors, but, unlike the new burst of flavor in the U.S., they also assign great importance to achieving a balance between spicy and sweet, salty and refreshing, says Dr. Davis of the James Beard Foundation...
At Wrigley , the pace of gum flavor creation has accelerated dramatically in recent years. Wrigley introduced Juicy Fruit and Wrigley's Spearmint in 1893 and then waited for 20 years before introducing its next flavor, Doublemint. It wasn't until 1975 and 1976, respectively, that it introduced the next flavors Freedent and Big Red. Today, Wrigley releases about a dozen new flavors a year in the U.S. This fall it will offer Extra gum in fruity dessert flavors, including strawberry shortcake and Key lime pie.
Thanks to the early influence of Dynamite magazine, every now and then, a "Tom Swifty" pops into my head (like the one I used for the title of this post). Dynamite would regularly feature lists of these adverb-based puns. They seemed like the height of cleverness to my young impressionable mind. This list is from Wikipedia:
"Who left the toilet seat down?" Tom asked peevishly.
"Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily.
"That's the last time I'll stick my arm in a lion's mouth," the lion-tamer said off-handedly.
"Can I go looking for the Grail again?" Tom requested.
"I unclogged the drain with a vacuum cleaner," Tom said succinctly.
"I might as well be dead," Tom croaked.
"We just struck oil!" Tom gushed.
"They had to amputate them both at the ankles," Tom said defeatedly.
"Who discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.
"Hurry up and get to the back of the ship," Tom said sternly.
"Would you like to ride in my new ambulance?" asked Tom hospitably.
"Who put the moss in the bog again?" asked Tom repeatedly.
"A word that contains all five vowels? And I suppose you want those vowels to appear in alphabetical order?" asked Tom facetiously.
“Charlatan! Pretender! Mountebank! Quack! Rogue!” Tom said euphoniously.
"I'm not going to evangelize the rest of the neighborhood," concluded Tom distractedly.
"The robber is coming down the stairs", Tom said condescendingly.
"Nnnn", Tom murmured forensically.
"I think I'm a homosexual", Tom said, half in earnest.
"I am the bone lord," Tom proclaimed skulkingly.
"I know who turned out the lights," Tom hinted darkly
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I took these photos at the Seattle Art Museum last Thursday. There are two exhibits at the SAM right now that are both pretty awesome--the first one, entitled "Kurt" is an exhibition of art "that asks viewers why and how Kurt Cobain came to mean so much to a generation."
What that basically amounted to was a lot of really crappy pencil drawings and other amateurish art that was either literally or very loosely "about" Kurt Cobain. It was pretty interesting to see it all. Even though most of it kind of sucked, it sort of worked anyway, since it seemed "grunge."
The stand-out piece was this one, the sculpture of Kurt's head. This sculpture was so far superior to the rest of the art that it almost made me wonder if the entire exhibit was just an excuse to display this head, with the rest of it pretty much being filler.
It looks like it's sculpted out of mud, but actually it is made of corrugated cardboard. The amazing thing is that the artist somehow totally captured Kurt's likeness, using only cardboard and nails. The hair is actually shredded pieces of cardboard, and the "stubble" is made of nails. So cool. I think Kurt would have loved it.
The other exhibit, called "love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death" is an assortment of Andy Warhol photographs and films. So, clearly, this is also awesome. From SAM's website:
"love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death includes works that compel us to consider the artist’s fascination with all things ephemeral, from beauty and youth to celebrity status. Including photographs and videos dating from the 1960s through the early 1980s—two decades in which the artist’s work had tremendous impact on contemporary art production and culture—the exhibition encourages readings of powerful themes such as fame, desire and identity construction, as well as anxiety and isolation, which often accompany stardom. In a series of self-portraits, with props or disguises such as wigs and women’s clothing, Warhol exposes his obsession with his own image and his desire to probe and push the boundaries of identity and self-invention.
"love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death — Andy Warhol Media Works is on view concurrently with the exhibition Kurt and resonates with many of the works on view, as well as the exploration of fleeting celebrity, the effects it has on the celebrated, and the ways in which even a brief career can deeply move a generation."
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Earlier this year, Mattel, Inc., Lionsgate and AMC announced the upcoming release of four Barbie Collector Mad Men dolls. No one has had a bigger hand in the project than Barbie designer Robert Best. AMCtv.com talked with the former Project Runway contender about how his latest undertaking -- both how it began and what challenges it presented.
Q: Where did this idea come from?
Q: The Mad Men dolls are the first in the Fashion Model Collection. Why is that?
A: I think because it seemed like such a natural fit. The era of the show, the fantastic details and style fit within our Barbie Fashion Model aesthetic. All the dolls in the BFMC are inspired by the ladylike 1960s.
Q: What was it like working with designer Janie Bryant? How much was she involved?
A: That was awesome. Janie is such a great character, she's really fun and she has so many great ideas and also from working with Matt she has a very keen attention to detail, and is actively involved in every aspect of the costumes. For Barbie, the details are important particularly for collectors. She was so gracious and gave me access to her huge costume closet. She pulled multiple outfits and props for me to design from so it made the whole process very easy and gave us that access we needed to be very authentic.
Q: How involved was Matt Weiner?
A: He was very articulate and clear about what he wanted. He added things we wouldn't have thought of. He suggested Roger have a monogrammed cuff on his shirt, and changed the color of Don Draper's raincoat lining, things we might not have thought to be important, he let us know that they were important.
Q: Did you meet any of the cast?
A: Yes. We met Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks and that was incredibly exciting for all of us. Katie [Barbie Collector Marketing Manager] was kind of speechless when she met Jon Hamm. I was in awe of Christina Hendricks because I love her. And I took a picture with her and became like a squealing teenage girl, "Oh, my God! It's Joan Holloway! Let's get a picture!" Not one of my finer moments.
A: We wanted it to be a nice grouping of characters that were representative of the show, both in terms of costume and in terms of the look of the doll. Of course, since it's Mad Men, it's a very male-heavy cast but it was important for it to be more than Don Draper surrounded by Barbie dolls and I thought that Roger was a really nice yin to Don's yang and they represent two distinct looks which is nice for the collectors and fans of the show. They don't want two dolls that seem too similar. And for the women, that was easy, the only downside was that we haven't done Peggy. Yet.
Q: Which of the four was the most fun?
A: Probably Joan because she's such a visual... the hair, the sassy attitude, the little pen around her neck, the curvaceous figure and again, she's kind of a personal favorite so, I love that one.
Q: Are there any accessories you couldn't include?
A: I wanted them to come with a bar cart and lots of liquor but clearly that is not something we'd like to promote and not very Barbie at all! Of course, everyone wants the office set, which I want as well. There are a lot of great details: Betty has a working evening clutch that has a working frame, and compact and lipstick... Don has a fedora, a trench coat.
Q: One last question: Do you ever get recognized on the street from your stint on Project Runway?
Monday, May 24, 2010
Robin Gibb shocked onlookers at Heathrow Airport in London on Sunday when he allegedly hurled expletives at staff and refused to board a plane bound for Los Angeles over a security issue.
The Bee Gees star was randomly selected for an extra security check and reportedly fumed at British Airways employees before storming out of the pre-check-in.
A source tells Britain's The Sun newspaper, "He went absolutely crazy and was swearing his head off at the check-in team. It wasn't their fault - people are selected at random by the computer for extra checks. But he wasn't having any of it.
"He was told by security to calm down or he would not be able to fly. He told them to eff off. When it became clear to him he would not board without the extra checks he stormed out. He was spitting feathers and everyone in the lounge was horrified".
A spokesperson for British Airways says, "A passenger who was due to fly to L.A. voluntarily chose not to travel because they did not want to be subjected to additional security searches."
It's not the first time Gibb has fallen foul of airline security staff - in 2008 he missed a flight to Las Vegas after reportedly refusing to let officials search his bag at a London airport.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Right now you are down and out and feeling really crappy
And when I see how sad you are
It sort of makes me...happy!
Sorry, Nicky, human nature--nothing I can do!
Making me feel glad that I'm not you.
Didja ever clap when a waitress falls and drops a tray of glasses?
And ain't it fun to watch figure skaters falling on their asses?
And dontcha feel all warm and cozy,
Watching people out in the rain?
People taking pleasure in your pain!
Watching a vegetarian being told she just ate chicken.
Or watching a frat boy realize just what he put his dick in.
Being on the elevator when somebody shouts "Hold the door!"
"Fuck you lady, that's what stairs are for!"
Straight-A students getting Bs? Exes getting STDs!
Waking doormen from their naps! Watching tourists reading maps!
Football players getting tackled! CEOs getting shackled!
Watching actors never reach the ending of their Oscar speech!
The world needs people like you and me who've been knocked around by fate.
'Cause when people see us, they don't want to be us,
and that makes them feel great.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
TMZ broke the story ... Lindsay will be a no-show in court this AM because, she claims, her passport was stolen, making it impossible for her to fly from Cannes to L.A. for her probation progress report hearing.
Our sources say Lindsay is blaming everyone -- even her alcohol ed instructor. We're told Lindsay claims the instructor made it "uncomfortable" for her to attend the required number of classes because she claims the instructor was texting that she wanted to hang out with her.
As for why she's stuck in France -- Lindsay has a list of people to blame ... and she's not on the list.We're told Lindsay's likely return date is Friday. She needs to attend 3 more alcohol ed classes to comply with the terms of probation. Those courses should have been completed by today, but the best she can hope for is a judge who believes in the saying, better late than never.
Judge Marsha Revel will almost certainly issue a bench warrant this morning for Lindsay's arrest. Sources say, however, the judge will not go gunning for cops to arrest Lindsay when she lands in L.A. In fact, it wouldn't be unusual if the judge gives Lindsay the chance to surrender herself to the court next week.
There's no room for argument -- Lindsay has violated the terms of her probation and we're told the D.A.'s office thinks some jail time is in order.
Judge Revel has given Lindsay so many chances, there's not a lot of wiggle room left. It was possible the judge could have blamed Lindsay's lapses on miscommunication between the court and the alcohol ed program, but blowing off the court date is going to make it really, really hard for the judge to show mercy.
[Update: The warrant has been issued for her arrest...with bail set at $100,000!]
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
McCartney's initial concern was that he had subconsciously plagiarised someone else's work (known as cryptomnesia). As he put it, "For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it."
Upon being convinced that he had not robbed anyone of his melody, McCartney began writing lyrics to suit it. As Lennon and McCartney were known to do at the time, a substitute working lyric, entitled "Scrambled Eggs"(the working opening verse was "Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs"), was used for the song until something more suitable was written. In his biography, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, McCartney recalled: "So first of all I checked this melody out, and people said to me, 'No, it's lovely, and I'm sure it's all yours.' It took me a little while to allow myself to claim it, but then like a prospector I finally staked my claim; stuck a little sign on it and said, 'Okay, it's mine!' It had no words. I used to call it 'Scrambled Eggs'."
During the shooting of Help!, a piano was placed on one of the stages where filming was being conducted and McCartney would take advantage of this opportunity to tinker with the song. Richard Lester, the director, was eventually greatly annoyed by this and lost his temper, telling McCartney to finish writing the song or he would have the piano removed. The patience of the other Beatles was also tested by McCartney's work in progress, George Harrison summing this up when he said: "Blimey, he's always talking about that song . You'd think he was Beethoven or somebody!"
Lennon later indicated that the song had been around for a while before: "The song was around for months and months before we finally completed it. Every time we got together to write songs for a recording session, this one would come up. We almost had it finished. Paul wrote nearly all of it, but we just couldn't find the right title. We called it 'Scrambled Eggs' and it became a joke between us. We made up our minds that only a one-word title would suit, we just couldn't find the right one. Then one morning Paul woke up and the song and the title were both there, completed. I was sorry in a way, we'd had so many laughs about it."
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
He ought to be ashamed of himself. Not for panhandling, but for using such an incredibly tired angle. I don't remember the first time I saw a "Why Lie? I Need Beer" sign, but I'm sure I found it clever the first time I saw one. The next 500 times...not so much. This kid needs to buy a newer edition of Ye Olde Guide to Clever Panhandling. If you're going to be "retro" about it, you might as well go all the way and stick to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" At least that's classy and has some historical merit.
In terms of its retro appeal, "Why Lie? I Need Beer" is the equivalent of going to a thrift store and buying a shirt from 1998.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Alligators, snakes, rodents rescued in Milwaukee
Fri May 14, 12:32 am ET
MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee police were called to investigate an alleged sexual assault and stepped into a crime scene crawling — in some cases literally — with hundreds of reptiles including alligators and snakes.
Police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz says the reptiles and rodents were found in a home and inside a building doubling as a storage facility and residence. The initial discovery was made Wednesday, and officers remained at the scene Thursday.
Lt. Paul Felician told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee at least five anaconda snakes 20 to 30 feet long were found, along with spiders and a chicken.
Some animals were stored in containers; others roamed.
Officials from nearby zoos, an animal control unit and other agencies helped police. A 50-year-old woman was arrested and could be charged.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Yet this unassuming middle aged woman has one of the most exciting and unbelievable stories of tragedy and survival to tell.
The airline, LANSA, had already lost two aircraft in previous crashes. "We knew the airline had a bad reputation," Koepcke told CNN, "but we desperately wanted to be with my father for Christmas, so we figured it would be alright."
The flight was supposed to last for less than an hour and for the first 25 minutes everything was fine, Koepcke recalled.
"Then we flew into heavy clouds and the plane started shaking. My mother was very nervous. Then to the right we saw a bright flash and the plane went into a nose dive. My mother said, 'This is it!'"
An accident investigation later found that one of the fuel tanks of the Lockheed Electra had been hit by a bolt of lightning which had torn the right wing off.
"We were headed straight down. Christmas presents were flying around the cabin and I could hear people screaming."
As the plane broke into pieces in midair, Koepcke was thrust out into the open air: "Suddenly there was this amazing silence. The plane was gone. I must have been unconscious and then came to in midair. I was flying, spinning through the air and I could see the forest spinning beneath me."
Then Koepcke lost consciousness again. She fell more than three kilometers (two miles) into the jungle canopy but miraculously survived with only minor injuries. Ninety-one other people aboard Flight 508 died.
Koepcke says she is not a spiritual person and has tried to find logical explanations for why she survived.
"Maybe it was the fact that I was still attached to a whole row of seats," she says. "It was rotating much like the helicopter and that might have slowed the fall. Also, the place I landed had very thick foliage and that might have lessened the impact."
In any case she survived with only minor injuries. Her collarbone was broken, her right eye swollen shut, she was suffering concussion and had large gashes on her arms and legs.
"I didn't wake up until nine o'clock the next morning. I know this because my watch was still working. So I must have been unconscious the whole afternoon and the night. When I came to I was alone, just me ... and my row of seats."
Her ordeal was far from over. Rescue planes and search crews were unable to locate the crash site and Koepcke was stranded in the jungle alone. But she had spent years on the research station with her parents and her father had taught her how to survive in the rainforest -- she knew how to cope in that environment.
""He said if you find a creek, follow it because that will lead to a stream and a stream will lead to a bigger river and that's where you'll find help."
The day after the crash she found a creek and started to wade down stream, but it was tough going. The only food she had was some candy she had found at the crash site and her wounds were quickly infested with parasites.
"I had a cut on my arm and after a few days I could feel there was something in it. I took a look and a fly had laid her eggs in the hole. It was full of maggots. I was afraid I would lose my arm.
As she travelled downstream, Koepcke discovered more wreckage from the plane -- and found some of the crash victims.
"I found another row of seats with three dead women still strapped in. They had landed head-first and the impact must have been so hard that they were buried almost two feet into the ground.
"I was horrified -- I didn't want to touch them but I wanted to make sure that my mother wasn't one of them. So I took a stick and knocked a shoe off one of the bodies. The toe nails had nail polish on them and I knew it could not have been my mother because she never used nail polish."
Juliane continued through the rainforest, wading through jungle streams infested with crocodiles, piranhas and devil rays.
"Sometimes I would see a crocodile on the bank and it would start into the water towards me, but I was not afraid. I knew crocodiles don't tend to attack humans."
After 10 days, starved and exhausted, Koepke finally came upon a small boat and a hut on the river. She stayed there, hoping to be rescued. The next day a group of Peruvian lumberjacks found her and brought her to the next town.
She became known as the miracle girl and was hounded by Peruvian media, receiving hundreds of letters from people she had never met before.
"It was so strange," she says, smiling. "Some of the letters were simply addressed 'Juliane -- Peru' but they still all found their way to me."
The events of 1971 still haunt Koepcke and she says the memories are especially clear when she is confronted with airline disasters like last month's Air France crash off the coast of Brazil.
"It just horrifies me. I only hope it all went quickly for those on board."
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
As usual, Wikipedia sums it up nicely:
Like most Southerners, I grew up with pimento cheese spread — from the soulless, processed stuff sold in supermarkets to the wonderful, chunky and flavorful varieties made at home.
There is no need to go down the highly processed path to store-bought pimento cheese, which features an unnaturally fluorescent-orange coloring and slimy consistency.
The recipe for most pimento consists of mixing just six or so ingredients. Typically, it includes sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos and some simple seasoning, such as salt and pepper. Common variations on the recipe include the addition of onions, cream cheese, garlic or Monterey jack cheese.
The manufactured variety can have 30 or more components, including things such as "American cheese imitation" and corn syrup. Yet for all their extra ingredients, the supermarket tubs of pimento spread are bland, with nothing of the sharp character found in homemade recipes.
Pimento cheese is so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don't realize our passion for the stuff doesn't exist outside the region. Call me provincial, but I was shocked (shocked!) when I learned that everyday people from Boston to San Diego don't slap pimento cheese on bread for a quick lunch, or slather it across their burgers for a decadent treat.
While its origins are somewhat murky, it became widely accepted and available sometime in the early 1900s, after a period of development and incubation on Southern farms.
Perhaps the most "national" exposure pimento cheese receives is its yearly appearance as a popular sandwich choice at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., where I lived as a very young boy.
The beloved pimento-cheese sandwich is typically served on cheap white bread. It's a quick fix for children busy with play on a summer's day. And it's a staple at after-church potlucks.
But there are many more ways to enjoy pimento cheese, such as spread on celery or crackers for a quick hors d'oeuvre or as a quick way to add life to grits and baked potatoes.
In Atlanta, where I grew up, it's famously used as a topping on hot dogs and hamburgers at The Varsity fast food restaurant. Eating chili cheese dogs at the local institution is a tradition passed down from one generation to the next. Atlanta's Vortex Bar and Grill offers a more modern take on the pimento cheeseburger: giant pub burgers washed down with beer.
But you don't have to travel down South to enjoy authentic pimento cheese: Its basic ingredients are readily available everywhere, and it's a cinch to make. It can take as little as 15 minutes to go from inspiration to completed dish.
In the early 1970s, a friend in Augusta gave my mother the somewhat unconventional recipe that we've been using ever since. This recipe includes the common variations of garlic and Monterey jack cheese, as well as the less common use of dill pickles.
While it's the taste that keeps me coming back to pimento cheese, it was the process of making it that first hooked me.
Today, most people just throw the ingredients in a food processor. It's brutally efficient and makes a good cheese mixture.
But when I started making pimento cheese, we used a hand-crank meat grinder that clamped onto the side of a counter. Feeding the ingredients into that little mechanical beast was the kind of destructive thrill that all little boys enjoy. The cheeses mashed together into a unified paste, while the pickles and garlic crunched and snapped like sounds from a horror movie.
Although I've consigned the thrill of grinding up the ingredients by hand to the same mental department where memories of three-week summer trips to the beach are kept, I am still, after all these years, still enjoying the garlic-spiked taste of our pimento cheese.
Also pictured: shark dress on the runway and SHARK HIGH HEELS!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Marty Rathbun, a once-powerful member of Scientology, was entrusted with the job of "auditing" Tom Cruise, RadarOnline.com has learned.
The Scientology defector writes in his widely-followed blog that the highly sensitive sessions took place in 2001 as Cruise was going through his split from Nicole Kidman.
"By order of Miscavige many of those sessions were secretly recorded by a well-concealed video camera and voice recorder system built into the VIP auditing room at Celebrity Center International," Rathbun writes.
" I was also required by Miscavige to write reports on the content of every session I delivered during that period and send them directly to Miscavige. I was told by him that he needed to know because recovering Tom to Scientology was the most important mission possible."
"DM regularly held court with others in his personal lounge...while sipping scotch whiskey at the end of the night," Rathbun says. " Miscavige would read Tom's overts and withholds from my reports to others, joking and laughing about the content of Tom's confessionals."
Saturday, May 8, 2010
It's classic enough that it fulfills all your basic comfort food needs, but it's a little more gourmet and complex than the usual recipe. The secret is the garlic and shallots, which give the flavors more depth.
Susan's recipe insists that the cheese used must be "Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage White Cheddar" but since that's made here in Washington, I don't know if it's available nationally or not. Anyway, I think the important parts are "extra sharp" and "white" so just look for a cheddar that fits that bill (if you can't find Tillamook).
I used 2 sizes of Cuisinart--a big one to grate the cheese, and a small one for the garlic. This isn't necessary, it just really cuts down on the work of chopping and grating. If you do have access to a food processor, be sure to put the cheddar in the freezer at least 20 minutes beforehand, as this helps it to run through the Cuisinart without sticking.
This is not a low-calorie recipe! But it's a great once-in-a-while treat.
For 4 large servings:
2 tablespoons butter
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 whole shallot bulb (both halves), chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups liquid (whole milk, half & half, or some combination of both)
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 of one 8 ounce box)
2-3 cups shredded Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage White cheddar
1/2 cup good blue or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 cups macaroni
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 7x11 baking dish.
Boil pasta until almost done, drain, and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add garlic and shallot, salt and pepper. Saute until soft and translucent. Add flour, stir to form thick paste and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in liquid. When mixture begins to gently steam, add cream cheese and whisk until combined. Add all shredded cheese and simmer until mixture is totally combined and coats the back of a spoon. Mix and combine with pasta, add to baking dish. Sprinkle blue or gorgonzola cheese over the top and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. C'est fini!
Art credit: "Cheese Party" from Canyon of Cheese.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.
Average beaver dams in Canada are 10 to 100 metres long, and only rarely do they reach 500 metres.
First discovered in October 2007, the gigantic dam is located in a virtually inaccessible part of the park south of Lac Claire, about 190 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of Fort McMurray.
Construction of the dam likely started in the mid-1970s, said Thie, who made his discovery quite by accident while tracking melting permafrost in Canada's far north.
"Several generations of beavers worked on it and it's still growing," he told AFP in Ottawa.
Mike Keizer, spokesman for the park, said rangers flew over the heavily forested marshlands last year to try to "have a look." They found significant vegetation growing on the dam itself, suggesting it's very old, he said.
"A new dam would have a lot of fresh sticks," Keizer explained. "This one has grasses growing on it and it's very green."
Part of the dam may have been created by naturally felled trees, and the beavers "opportunistically filled in the gaps."
Thie said he recently identified two smaller dams sprouting at either side of the main dam. In 10 years, all three structures could merge into a mega-dam measuring just short of a kilometer in length, he said.
The region is flat, so the beavers would have had to build a massive structure to stem wetland water flows, Thie said, noting that the dam was visible in NASA satellite imagery from the 1990s.
"It's a unique phenomenon," he said. "Beaver dams are among the few animal-made structures visible from space."
North American beavers build dams to create deep, still pools of water to protect against predators, and to float food and building materials.
A 652-meter structure in Three Forks in the US state of Montana previously held the record for world's largest beaver dam.
Thie said he also found evidence that beavers were repopulating old habitats after being hunted extensively for pelts in past centuries.
"They're invading their old territories in a remarkable way in Canada," he said. "I found huge dams throughout Canada, and beaver colonies with up to 100 of them in a square kilometer."
"They're re-engineering the landscape," he said.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
"Depp had just left a recording studio in Los Angeles when his friend, Babybird star Stephen Jones, was threatened by a man with a broken bottle, The Sun reports.
""It was an extremely scary moment," a source said. "This guy looked off his head. Johnny looked him straight in the eyes and told him to back off."
"However, the mugger allegedly backed down after Depp intervened.
""The guy was OK," the insider continued. "He looked at Johnny and said, 'I ain't stealing from Captain Jack' and put the bottle down. Johnny gave him a few bucks and told him to straighten up his life."
"Depp had reportedly been recording a guitar solo for a new Babybird song before leaving the studio."
Monday, May 3, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville braced for more deaths Monday as the flooded Cumberland River continued to swell, sending muddy water rushing through neighborhoods and into parts of the historic heart of Music City after a destructive line of weekend storms killed 22 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.
The flash floods caught the city off-guard, and thousands of residents and tourists were forced to flee homes and hotels as the river rapidly spilled over its banks. Using motor boats, jet skis and canoes, authorities and volunteers rescued residents trapped in flooded homes on Monday, some which looked like islands surround by dark brown river water. Eleven of the 12 people killed in Tennessee drowned, including six in Nashville.
Country music's landmark, The Grand Ole Opry House, was flooded with several feet of water, forcing managers to seek alternate space for upcoming shows. It wasn't clear how much water was in the concert hall, which is part of the large Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex along the river northeast of downtown, but at least 10 feet of water flooded the nearby hotel.
The downtown — home of a historic warehouse district that dates back to the 1800s and is now occupied by bars and restaurants — was nearly deserted after authorities evacuated the area. Floodwater spilled into some streets near the riverfront, and restaurants and bars in the warehouse district were closed.
Water seeped into a mechanical room in the basement of the Country Music Hall of Fame, though it was not immediately clear if there was any damage. Two blocks away, the historic Ryman Auditorium, longtime former home of the Grand Ole Opry, was in no immediate danger nor were many of the country music recording studios, located about a mile west of downtown.
On the east side of the river at LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play, water covered the field and surrounding parking lot.
"It's shocking to see it this way, but it was an incredible storm," Mayor Karl Dean said as he surveyed the downtown flooding. The Cumberland River was expected to crest Monday afternoon at more than 11 feet above flood stage, and officials worried they may find more bodies in the rising floodwaters.
Thousands of people took refuge overnight in emergency shelters, including about 1,500 guests at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel who spent the night at a high school to escape the flooding.
The resort's hotel, located northeast of downtown along the river, had "significant water" inside and would remain closed indefinitely, said hotel spokeswoman Kim Keelor. A life-sized Elvis statue, missing his guitar, was laying on its back in the parking lot of the Wax Museum of the Stars near Opryland Hotel.
German tourists Gerdi and Kurt Bauerle, both 70, said resort staff suddenly started rushing people out of the area Sunday night.
"We had just finished eating and suddenly they said: 'Go! Go! Go!'" said Gerdi Bauerle, who was visiting from Munich. "And we said 'Wait, we haven't even paid.'"
Lucy Owens, 46, said she had followed directions to stay inside with her 21-year-old son at their home near Opryland when she heard her neighborhood was being evacuated Sunday night. She and her son tried to escape in her truck, but she couldn't even drive to her mailbox because the water was so high.
She said she screamed for help and a police officer came and took her and son to a point where a boat could rescue them. By then, water was up to her ribcage.
"I got no notice. No one said nothing about evacuating. I did what they said and stayed put. I didn't get out. I didn't drive. Then it just all happened so fast," she said.
Floodwaters swallowed up hundreds of homes including 45-year-old Lisa Blackmon's in the suburb of Bellevue on the west side of Nashville. Water was up to her knees inside her house when a neighbor rushed her out Sunday. Blackmon said she feared she had nothing left in her home. She said she had no flood insurance and lost her job at a trucking company last December.
"I know God doesn't give us more than we can take," she said. "But I'm at my breaking point."
The Cumberland flooded quickly after the weekend's storms dumped more than 13 inches of rain in Nashville over two days. That nearly doubled the previous record of 6.68 inches of rain that fell in the wake of Hurricane Fredrick in 1979.
The storms, which also spawned deadly tornadoes, killed at least 12 people in Tennessee — including one person killed by a tornado in the western part of the state — six in Mississippi and four in Kentucky.
Three of the people killed in Mississippi died when high winds believed to be tornados hit their homes; the other three were killed in weather-related traffic accidents. Four weather-related deaths were also reported in Kentucky, including one man whose truck ran off the road and into a flooded creek.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen got a bird's eye view of the flooding damage during a helicopter tour of the area on Monday. As he crossed the Tennessee River and neared the hard-hit area of Madison County, flood waters were so deep that the tops of trees made the land looked like islands.
The Cumberland River already reached record levels since an early 1960s flood control project was put in place. With so much water inundating its tributaries, it was difficult to gauge whether the river would stop at 50 feet deep, or 11 feet above flood stage.
Much of the damage from flooding was done in outlying areas of Nashville and across the middle and western parts of Tennessee. Rescues turned dramatic over the weekend with homeowners plucked off roofs and pregnant women airlifted off a waterlogged interstate.
The rain ended Monday but there will likely be weeks of cleanup. Though there was no official estimate, it was clear thousands of homes had been damaged or destroyed by flooding and tornados. Emily Petro, with the Red Cross in Nashville, said the agency was sheltering about 2,000 people across Tennessee — more than half in Nashville.
Most schools in middle Tennessee were closed Monday and many universities in the Nashville area postponed final exams.
In Nashville, even the state's own emergency operations center wasn't immune. It took up to a foot of water below a false floor, forcing officials to relocate to an auxiliary command center.
"I've never seen it this high," said emergency official Donnie Smith, who's lived in Nashville 45 years. "I'm sure that it's rained this hard at one time, but never for this much of an extended period."