Thursday, September 30, 2010

Raymond's Burger and Brunch

I love a good burger. Lately my local favorite is at Elevation Burger (full review) where they use grass-fed organic beef. But it's a fast food style joint, with a limited menu, so sometimes you want a little more variety available. Nearby on Church Street, you'll find organic at the expensive bistro named Market, which I've yet to try. A few steps further and you'll find everyone's favorite brunch place, a gastro-diner and soda fountain named Raymond's that's served Montclair for over 20 years, and they make a fine burger. It's a bit on the pricey side, about twice as much as Elevation, but filling and worth it if you want a bigger menu.


I'm giving Raymond's short shrift. Their burger is probably the least amazing dish I've had there, aside from some unimpressive smoked salmon scrambled eggs once. They usually knock the ball out of the park, such as with their fantastic, Southern Belle-approved Shrimp & Grits, massive slabs of tasty meat loaf, a Fried Green Tomato BLT that I didn't want to end, and their famous baguette French toast. The first bites of the burger were great- a buttered sesame seed bun, extra pepper jack cheese, good beef flavor. But it lacked some char, yet didn't have the greasy goodness of a griddle burger either. It was almost closing time, and perhaps the cook was rushed. It was cooked to order medium, and next time I'll get medium rare. That might make all the difference. I'm very judgmental of a burger, and they certainly shamed the Cloverleaf Tavern for Best of Essex. But I was hoping for a slightly larger Elevation Burger, I suppose.

They did a good job, but it wasn't as good as their other offerings. I'd definitely try it again, perhaps with their usually perfect bacon to add some needed grease. They made an excellent egg cream, and their sparkling pomegranate lemonade- Firecracker's favorite- was delicious as usual. The garlic mashed potatoes that came with her meat loaf were rich and perfectly seasoned, the sauteed spinach as well. The serving was enough to make lunch for tomorrow, even though we hadn't eaten for eight hours. I'll crock up the unevenly cooked french fries- some perfect, some undercooked- to it being near closing time as well. One suggestion for a burger special- put those fried green tomatoes on top. That would be something. The bun is a little weak to handle the large burger patty as well, but it's tasty enough. So, not a perfect burger worth a special trip for, but not a disappointment. If you get dragged there for brunch and for some reason don't want their hard to beat breakfast dishes- some of the best I've had- you can safely get a good burger here that is more of a tasty pub burger than the usual diner type you can get all over Jersey.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Musical Apology

I have come to admit that I've liked some pretty awful music in my day. Not ironically, mind you. I was young, and musically sheltered, so when I was introduced to some true tonal atrocities, I loved them. The first song I remember liking was Elton John's "Crocodile Rock." Now, that '50s-throwback nostalgia tune isn't that bad, despite the grating "la la la la LAAAAA" chorus. My family tells me that before that one, I couldn't get enough of Sir Elton's "Benny and the Jets," a song I can't bear to hear on the radio anymore. "BENNAAAY!!!" For the love of all things sacred, I apologize to my family for making them play that song in my presence, even if I was five years old at the time. When Benny gets killed in TOTAL RECALL, my secret joy is pretending he is the person Elton was singing about.



But Elton's not that bad. My musical education began with The Beatles' white album, and I didn't even hear "Penny Lane" or "I Saw Her Standing There" until my early teens. I still love the white album best, out of nostalgia, from the sappy "I Will" to the genius of "Bungalow Bill" running into "Happiness is a Warm Gun," and the songs that Charles Manson used to tell his LSD psycho slaves that the Beatles were instructing them to kill. I remember listening to "Helter Skelter" and one of my dramatic high school friends telling me that the song made you kill people. He's forgiven because that was high school, and he introduced me to a lot of great music- from Isao Tomita, to E.L.O., the the entire Beatles catalog, which wasn't ubiquitous in the days before iTunes. My sister and I would listen to the goofy sound collage of "Revolution no.9" that would inspire some of my favorite bands like Emergency Broadcast Network and Negativland.



But the Beatles didn't make really bad songs even when they tried, except maybe for "Honey Pie." For the real confession, we'll have to go to Theresa Brewer, a '50s-era novelty singer who sang, "Put a-nother nickel in, in the nickolodeon, all I want is loving you and MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC!" I think I had musical Asperger's over that song. I played it over and over, ruining the grooves on my uncle's 45 of it. He ran a bar in Brooklyn, and bequeathed all the singles from the jukebox unto us. Everything from Big Joe Turner's "Flip, Flop and Fly," to Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," plus awful novelties like Teresa Brewer, "The Old Philosopher"- Don't Give Up... That Ship! and the stylings of the 1910 Fruitgum Company, who tried to make a hit out of "Simon Says."



Perhaps the most awful song that I persist in defending is Gene McDaniels' Christian lounge song, "100 Pounds of Clay." This was on the jukebox at Mickey's Dining Car in St. Paul, my late night hangout with Deneen the Mean Demorama Queen, music reviewer extraordinaire, and I'd play it every night we ended up there for a cheeseburger and a bowl of Mulligan stew, or fried eggs and Potatoes O'Brien. In it, Mr. McDaniels gives us a groovin' recap of Eve's creation in Genesis, reminding women that they're just a pile of dirt God made for men to appreciate. Isn't that romantic?


He took a hundred pounds of clay
And he said, "Hey Listen,"
"I made this-a world today,
And a I know what's missin'"



Then He rolled his big sleeves up
And a brand-new world began
He created a woman and-a lots of lovin' for a man
Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did

With just a hundred pounds of clay
He made my life worth livin'
And I will thank Him every day
For every kiss you're givin'
And I'll thank Him every night
For the arms that are holdin' me tight
And He did it all with just a hundred pounds of clay
Yes he did, whoa-oh, yes He did

Now can'tcha just see Him a-walkin' 'round and 'round
Pickin' the clay uppa off the ground?
Doin' just what He should do
To make a livin' dream like you

He rolled His big sleeves up
And a brand-new world began
He created a woman and-a lots of lovin' for a man
Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did
With just a hundred pounds of clay



© 2010 Tommy Salami

Monday, September 27, 2010

You sonofabitch...


Not much to say today, but this handshake and its accompanying endearments have wormed their way into my daily lexicon with my bad-ass buddies who fight fires or battle in the cage.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Friday, September 24, 2010

In Muppetmoriam

Today is Jim Henson's birthday. He died twenty years ago, but the figments of his fantastic imagination live on, and continue to shape the childhoods of millions around the world. He knew not to talk down to children. In fact, if you watch The Muppet Show, or the first few Muppet movies, they resemble the family movies of decades before, such as IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, more than children's fare. And we loved them. He was an endless fountain of creativity, giving us Fraggle Rock, THE DARK CRYSTAL, and LABYRINTH. His puppets had soul, and he appealed to adults and children alike.




© 2010 Tommy Salami

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Suckers

Gather round, my friends. I'm gonna lay a story on you. A mea culpa.  I've slammed the Tea Party folks for their sudden interest in deficit spending and "taking our country back" now that a black man happens to be President. No one gave a shit when Bush was borrowing like mad to fund two wars, huge tax cuts for millionaires, and shameless handouts to the health insurance industry in the guise of Medicare expansion. Let's not forget that the biggest growth in government expenditure was the creation of the largely useless Department of Homeland Security, who still managed to send visas to the dead 9/11 terrorists 6 months after they were formed. So come on, this is not about deficit spending.

But I can understand this lashing out at the Other that drives people to go to town hall meetings and clamor for policies that don't benefit them at all, but benefit people making $500,000 or more a year. They're not stupid, they're misguided and angry. And I've been there. I have a confession to make. I've always questioned authority and believed what my grandfather said, that the Republican party is for the rich, and the Democratic party is for the working man. But I apologize. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2001, which helped user in George W. Bush as President. That's not so bad, but I voted for him against Kerry, and fell for those Swiftboat ads. That's how Madison Avenue got us to put a draft dodging rich boy in over a guy who actually fought in a war even though he was against it.
I also purchased not one, but two books by Anne Coulter. Until she tried to rewrite history and make a drunken Senator McCarthy look like he saved us from the Communist menace, she had me going. I had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Negative people, who despite doing quite well, blamed poor people and minorities for that big chunk of money that went to the government every paycheck. Their BMWs, garages full of British sports cars, houses in the suburbs were not enough, you see. "It is not enough that I succeed; others must fail." Gore Vidal said that, and I think that is part of what twists the guts of privileged folks and makes them blame "the government." Because is having a BMW and a McMansion enough, when some low-class minority can still move in next door with a Lexus? How am I supposed to feel good about myself?
And eventually, I made enough money to fall for it. The devil's greatest trick isn't convincing the world he doesn't exist, it's convincing the middle class they should worry about taxes on people making over $500,000 a year. Some day, you might inherit more than $3.5 million dollars, and the estate tax will burn you! See, poor folks fall for the "all you need is a dollar and a dream" lottery bullshit; middle class people fall for the carrot on a stick of someday, like Horatio Alger, a cigar-chomping billionaire will recognize our hard work and promote us to VP, and then we'll have to pay luxury tax on that yacht. And damn it, why did we have to vote Democratic when we were younger? I could've saved $5,000 in taxes on that boat!

Look in the mirror. Chances are, you will never be a millionaire. Get over it. Even if you save a million dollars, you'll never be in the same club as the aristocrats trying to do away with estate taxes so they can have generation after generation of wealth without having to contribute to the society that allowed them to thrive. Civilization costs money. If you can walk down the street without being mugged, it may not be because there's a cop on the corner, but because people aren't desperate enough to risk robbing you.  That is what we call the Social Contract, and it is not socialism. It is what we get in return for accepting the yoke of government. Now sometimes that yoke can feel heavy. When it does, I like to watch an old Western to see what can happen when that yoke is removed. I fell for Libertarianism for a while, too. But when my gun is all that keeps you from stealing my lunch money, all you need is a bigger gun to take it. Sure, we like to think our hearty, pioneer neighbors would rush to our defense, but in real life, John Wayne gets shot by the rich rancher's violent thugs and we all get to live in little fiefdoms. In modern times, you get Somalia. So thanks, I'll gladly deposit 28% of my income to ensure the Humongous from The Road Warrior isn't outside my door with a loudspeaker.
A tax on people who are bad at math.
Sure, some is wasted. Some gets spent on wars I don't want, some gets spent helping McDonald's set up in Pakistan, some gets given to people who are disabled, but could probably hold down a job, some gets to unemployed workers who make more than they would taking a job at minimum wage. Most of it keeps the roads safe, the water clean, and the lights on. But in the end, we take it all for granted. After all, we're entitled to it, aren't we?



© 2010 Tommy Salami

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

a bloody two-fer

In the last two weeks I saw some funny, bloody as hell stuff. One was of course MACHETE, Robert Rodriguez's hilarious and fun-packed tribute to Danny Trejo and '70s grindhouse revenge flicks. Like an early '70s film, it's not afraid to stick it to the man, this time skewering our ridiculous Catch-22 immigration policy. Danny Trejo gets the role of a lifetime as the biggest bad-ass Mexican Federale, so bad he just uses a huge Machete instead of a gun, for which he is so named. The movie wastes no time, introducing him as he's about to use his police cruiser as a missile to take out Mexico's biggest drug kingpin's lair. But of course, he is betrayed and his family murdered, and three years later finds him as a day laborer in Texas.

As the Dude would say, "shit comes to light," and after an immigrant-baiting politician played expertly by Robert DeNiro- fucks with the wrong Mexican, he goes on a rampage of revenge. He teams up with Michelle Rodriguez, fights Minutemen, and has a balls-out final battle that makes the campy, explosion-infested finale of DESPERADO seem outdone. Favorite kill? Crushing a redneck with a low-rider. The film never loses its low-budget look, but it also doesn't try too hard, like parts of GRINDHOUSE did. Is it perfect? As a homage to these films we loved, like THE EXTERMINATOR, it succeeds spectacularly and transcends the films it pays tribute to. It kicks the ass of Stallone's retro-action flick, as far as I'm concerned. We have a few moments of distraction, but overall we get everything we ask for- blood, booms, and boobies. Lindsay Lohan has a small, perfect role as a rich Paris Hilton wanna-be who turns into a vengeful Catholic valkyrie, and I give her credit for taking the part- and baring all for our benefit, in more ways than one. The media's never forgiven her for becoming an adult woman, and I say: get over it. She's not a Disney girl anymore. But moreso than her cameo, I loved De Niro's W impression, as his Texas accent fades in and out. It was also great seeing Steven Seagal play a bad guy, a role that suits him.

MACHETE is leaving its mark: Firecracker and I went to see the Broadway musical BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON and at one point, when the ridiculous, over the top spoof most reminiscent of Matt Stone & Trey Parker's early masterpiece CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL gets to Jackson's skirmishes with the Spanish, one of the Spaniards opens his huge duster coat to reveal dozens of knives, just like Machete does in the trailer. I enjoyed this play a lot. It's not perfect either; it starts off at 11, campy, crazy and goofy, and ends on a more serious note as Jackson's populism catches up with him, and he is faced with "The Indian Question," and becomes one of history's greatest monsters by giving the people what they want.

I enjoyed the hell out of this musical, which seemed inspired by one of my favorites, EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL. It's risque, ridiculous, and campy. Half the story is told by a narrator in a mechanical wheelchair who suffers all sorts of fourth wall abuses. Andrew Jackson is played like a rock star, including AC/DC style A/J logos on the drum set. The songs are raucous and clever, if not entirely memorable, but full of energy. They make comparisons to W's administration, Obama's difficulties with Congress, the Bush/Gore election debacle (because Jackson first lost by electoral votes, and was voted down by the Senate) but it's not overtly political. Perhaps it should be. It ends on a downer, with Jackson's joyous populism turning on him, as he must betray the Creek Indians who helped him peacefully move other tribes, and put forth the brutal policies that would lead to the Trail of Tears and other acts of genocide.

My only complaint is that this brave, relentlessly funny show didn't even plumb deep enough into Jackson's wikipedia entry for jokes. The best gags are often the hilariously idiotic portrayals of historical figures such as Martin Van Buren, John Calhoun, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams as foppish buffoons with Elizabethan collars, when Jackson led an unbelievable life. He fought 13 duels and was shot so many times they said "he rattled like a bag of marbles." The man on our $20 bill with his flowing silver locks founded the Democratic party, which got its donkey symbol from his opponents calling him a jackass. Like the Republicans have gone a long way from their roots with Lincoln, the Democratic party has wandered far from Jackson's genocidal populism, and that's left untouched. But it's a damn entertaining musical, much like a potty mouthed punk's daydreams in history class, with a great sense of humor.


© 2010 Tommy Salami

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Little Old Raider Who Swallowed the Fly

The first movie goof of sorts that I remember is when Belloq, the amoral French archaeologist and Nazi collaborator, swallowed a fly in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The scene is the infamous one where Indy is aiming a panzerfaust rocket launcher at the Ark, threatening to destroy it if they don't release Marian. I had such a crush on Karen Allen for her role here and in STARMAN that I completely understood why he'd obliterate a priceless artifact to get her back, but now, my thoughts turn to when Belloq grabs the Schmeisser burp gun and tells Indy "to blow it back to God." (which became a short-lived expletive among my fellow schoolmates after we watched this movie)

If you watch closely, you can see a fly land on Belloq's face and crawl right into his mouth. Now, as a testament to Paul Freeman's acting ability, he doesn't even flinch as the insect crawls over his lip and into his mouth, probably getting crunched between bicuspids with a sickening sound and a squirt of acidic goo. Mr. Freeman was recently the priest in HOT FUZZ, in a long string of character actor roles, but I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for not messing up this take. If I met him at some Indiana Jones-themed fan convention, where I'd go dressed as Sallah of course, I'd ask him "So, did you spit that fly out right after Spielberg said cut? Or did you swallow it? Millions await your answer."



But perhaps the fly was meant to be there, otherwise Steven Spielberg would have removed it digitally, like he pondered doing with the infamous "Indy shoots first" scene in the bazaar, when he's confronted by the guy with the big-ass scimitar. The script called for a long, drawn out slapstick fight, but Harrison Ford had a nasty case of the pantsy poops that day ("Bad dates," of course). So he said "why don't I just shoot him?" And history was made. I like to think that the fly was supposed to be there, so it was in Belloq's stomach when he opens the Ark, desecrates it and takes the Lord's name in vain by mocking it, and brings the wrath of kingdom come upon himself and his Nazi cohorts. Would God destroy the innocent fly? The poor fly didn't help the Nazis. I think it survived the explosion. We probably just can't see it because of all the chunks of Nazi dude in the frame. I wish they'd followed the further adventures of that fly, than make that Crystal Skull bullshit.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tough Broads

From a tender age I've always been attracted to strong women. None of those squealing, fainting damsels for me. Thinking back, it was probably Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in ALIEN that started it all. She's gotten sexier as she's aged, putting more meat on her tall bones, but she was all attitude in Ridley Scott's classic horror film. The part was originally written for a man, and her husky voice and take-no-shit attitude grabbed me by the underoos and made me pay attention. She's remained one of my favorite actresses, even when she's played against type in the hilarious GALAXY QUEST. She's got a smoldering glare that adds an edge to her husky voice.

Sigourney about to rip John Turturro's arm off.
Speaking of husky voices, Kathleen Turner is the undisputed queen of that, no? She made her bones (and mine) in the excellent noir BODY HEAT directed by Lawrence Kasdan. She plays the ultimate femme fatale, a siren who can dupe even a clever man into doing her bidding. She did this again as Jessica Rabbit, but one of my favorite roles is her psycho Martgha Stewart clone in  John Waters' hilarious SERIAL MOM, a movie more people need to see. "Is this the cocksucker residence?!" She's been playing a tough bitch on "Californication" lately. Time hasn't been as kind to her physically as Sigourney, but she still has the attitude that makes her believable as a vamp who can get away with saying "You aren't too smart, are you? I like that in a man."
Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes' 1980 film GLORIA epitomizes the term "tough broad," and the film's offbeat tale of a mob gun moll who takes a kid who witnessed a hit under her wing appealed to me then and now. What boy wouldn't want to be clutched to Gena's bosom while she cocked a magnum at bunch of goombas? She oozes old school, classy sexuality so effortlessly that even Angie Dickinson in POINT BLANK or Tuesday Weld in THIEF could learn a thing or two from her.
Now we get to the broad who inspired this post- Debbie Harry, this month's Garden State Playmate at The Sexy Armpit- otherwise known as the lead singer of Blondie. She took off with a disco-rock aesthetic hit "Call Me," and blasted into her own punky, glammy campy form of rock 'n roll that's never been duplicated. She's covered calypso and helped put hip hop in the mainstream with "Rapture"- no joke- commercial radio wouldn't play that "fringe" music back in the day and neither would MTV. Black and white charts- cough, I mean "pop" and "R&B"- remain segregated, but she introduced millions of white kids to hip hop. For me, that led to Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, and culminated in blasting NWA when I went to college in Newark, even though I looked like TweedleDee with a Wopfro back then. Anyway, back to Debbie- she was a Playboy playmate with a brain, and that wry grin that punctuates much of her music is her great appeal. I liked that she voiced Angel in the '80s rock cartoon ROCK 'N RULE (full review) and her roles in VIDEODROME and of course, John Waters' HAIRSPRAY - the original. With her silken voice and smart way of winking at the audience, her lyrics are deceptively simple and catchy. Between her and Chrissie Hynde, I'd give her the crown of Queen of Rock 'n Roll.
Sorry. I didn't notice her flagrant crack until just now.
And that crown will be passed on to Joan Jett, once those two pass into the great gig in the sky. Joan Jett is the sexiest woman in the world. How I came to this hypothesis, proven so far only in my own personal universe, begins in the year 1980 when her album "I Love Rock 'n Roll" was released. While we fondly remember the classic rock of the '70s, we mustn't forget that the air and our ears was heavily polluted with a substance known as Disco, which made Indians cry and men wear pants so tight you could tell if they'd been circumcised. The late '70s rock 'n roll and punk resurgence saved us from all that. So we need to thank Iggy Pop, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, Debbie Harry and of course, Joan Jett for dragging us out of it alive. Joan took the raw edge of punk and rockabilly, slammed it with a bit of Bowie's glam for image and rocked into our world with an unapologetic tomboy swagger, leather jacket and guitar. She's STILL sexy as hell, even when she forgoes her sneer for a light-up-the-stage smile:
The sexiest rock 'n roll girl ever.
That's her at the premiere of THE RUNAWAYS biopic- pronounced BIO PICK, not like bionic, Firecracker!!- which is a fine movie detailing how creepoid rock promoter Kim Fowley put together the first all-girl rock band by sexing up these rocking teenagers and exploiting the shit out of them. Joan managed to ride that wave and transcend it, getting even bigger by covering practically every inch of her body and showing us more simmering sexuality in one smoldering glare on her debut album cover:

So who are your favorite tough broads?



© 2010 Tommy Salami

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arthur's Tavern - Steak


Arthur's Tavern is a New Jersey steak institution that until recently, I had shamefully never experienced. And boy, do I regret it. I grew up going to Steve's Sizzling Steaks and Alexus Steakhouse for my steaks, and they rightfully draw a big crowd- it's hard to beat Alexus's hefty Delmonico for the price, and Steve's has been searing beef slathered with Maggi sauce since 1936, and doing it well. But I'm sorry guys, the 24 ounce Steak at Arthur's for $21.95 bests you. Undisputed.

The two inch thick slab of steakasaurus is perfectly seared, giving it a lovely char crust and a juicy interior. The flavor is beefy and plentiful. I could eat only half of it, and the rest became the best Sunday steak & eggs I've had in a long time. They do a fantastic job for the price. I prefer the Maggi-soaked steak fries at Steve's, but the paprika-laden roast red potatoes and hot cherry pepper were a welcome side. The a la carte creamed spinach was all I could ask for- cheesy, rich, perfect consistency. The table comes garnished with slaw, pickles and pickled green tomatoes and green peppers. There's your vegetables- old school. Firecracker had the junior 12 ounce sirloin and it also came done perfectly.

We went to the Morris Plains location, where they serve Smithwick's on draft- the classic Irish red ale- and Guinness, two perfect steak chaperons. I've found my new favorite mid-range steakhouse, and Arthur's is it. They also sell a 48 ounce version of their monster steak. I know where I'm dragging Pete & Pete after our next hard workout.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

5 Reasons We're Living in the '70s Again

If you've lived through the '70s, things might start feeling a little familiar.

#5: The Economy Has Gone To Shit

I'm pretty sure you've noticed that the economy has taken a giant shit in its mommy jeans, unless you're having this read to you by silken-voiced servants while your nethers are delicately scrubbed by concubines, or you work for Goldman-Sachs. In the '70s we experienced an economy so shitty they had to make up a new word for it: stagflation.Sounds like a perverted sex act involving an air compressor and a whitetail deer, but it meant job and economic growth were stagnant, and prices were also going up. No one wants to admit we're experiencing inflation, despite everything costing more, and there are 8 unemployed shmoes for every job listing out there. Which means if we employed them as gladiators, they'd have to kill seven other gladiators before we could give them a job as a Walmart greeter. Which sounds like a great idea.

#4: The War Won't Friggin' End
Sure, we have ended combat operations in Iraq. Tell that to the Fifty Thousand soldiers we plan on leaving there to help the Iraqis control the country we took a giant smartbomb shit on. It's no Vietnam, thank goodness. They were smarter this time and didn't enact a draft, which makes wars unpopular. Instead, they just send the same poor bastards back over and over again, let their families suffer from predatory lenders as they scrape by on low pay, and ignore their post-traumatic stress when they get home. We sure love our troops. Hey, who's on Dancing with the Stars this week? Bristol Palin?! I forgot about Iraq already! And Afghanistan, where we got so close to catching bin Laden that they had to be called back, lest we end this enormous corporate welfare giveaway of a war too soon.

#3: Polluting the Crap Out of Things
In the '70s, pollution was so bad a fucking river caught on fire. American Indians were crying on television at what we'd done to the land. People would practically drop their bell bottom disco hot pants and shit in the streets. Then that socialist President Nixon pushed through environmental legislation that made drinking water less chunky. Now, after 8 years of having regulators snort coke off the tits of corporate lobbyists, I'm surprised the Indians aren't throwing wet bags of shit at us on the freeway. BP left a 3 inch deep layer of oil on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, and now they're planning on drilling "a relief well," so they can get some of the oil they haven't spilled yet.

#2: Play That Funky Music, White Boy
Turn on the radio and you'll feel the funk vibe from bands like The Black Keys, The Heavy, and nine billion side projects of Jack White, Dangermouse, and the dudes who used to be Gnarls Barkley. They're everywhere, and they're making great music, but damn if it doesn't feel like Eric Burdon, War, and Sly and the Family Stone are back. Thankfully Lady Gaga isn't quite a disco allegory, but all the autotune shit from the pop charts might be a good stand-in. Can't sing? Let's make you sound like you're taking through an oscillating fan and remix some song that was a hit back when people needed talent, not just a pretty face and a complete lack of dignity.

#1: President Nerdboy
Remember Jimmy Carter, that well-meaning, ethical guy who had an idealist vision of the world, and wanted to play nice? You probably better remember him as a punchline to a political joke. That's what happens to nice guys, and unfortunately, we elected a nice, smart, reasonable guy who gets painted as a radical socialist because you can't say the N-word anymore. Obama is to the right of Clinton, who was to the right of President Nixon, for fuck's sake. Nixon wanted universal health care that makes Obama's reform look like a corporate giveaway. He pushed through environmental reforms that make our treatment of BP look like carte blanche to dump toxic waste directly into our children's throats. Reagan taxed us more than we are now, for most of his presidency. That's how far to the corporate ass-kissing side we've swung. The Democrats have always approached the playground of politics like the nerdy kid, who wants to rationally debate why the big bully is dumb as a box of Palins, while the Republicans just shout "Duh, Butthead!!" and give them a wedgie, like Biff from Back to the Future. The Prez has done a lot of good, but needs to fight, instead of trying to buddy up with jackasses who think he's a Commie Nazi Muslim Antichrist.

So, grow out your hair, throw on a rust-colored shirt and beige corduroy pants, and get ready for a shitty decade.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dolph Lundgren Vs. Unicorn


Glad to see the Dolphasaurus is getting some more screen time thanks to his role in The Expendables. But if you like that, you'll love seeing him karate chop ice blocks while singing "A Little Less Conversation" in a tuxedo, on Swedish television!



© 2010 Tommy Salami

Friday, September 10, 2010

but I'm not the only one


39 years ago today John Lennon released "Imagine," a simple poem of a song that shatters every societal construct that we take for granted. Countries, the sports teams we kill and die for; religion, too often used as a wedge between us when the basic tenets seem so similar to outsiders; and the enforced scarcity that keeps us fighting like animals. Perhaps he was a dreamer, believing we could shed our tribal natures, obey the Golden Rule, live and let live, and share. It is asking a lot. But perhaps that isn't the real message.

Instead of accepting "it is what it is," ask yourself, is this the best of all possible worlds? I think not. We should never sit on our laurels and stop working to make it better. It's easy to do that, whether you try or not. Cynicism is easy. Hope is hard. That kind of faith is hard to come by, but if you don't believe in the future, or your fellow man, you have no faith at all.


Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
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© 2010 Tommy Salami

Kalua Pig

If you've been to Hawaii, perhaps you've experienced the paradise of pork known as kalua pig. If you're from Hawaii, thanks for letting us haoles near this treasure. I had it at Yama's Fish  Market in Honolulu with poi, as the gods intended, and never forgot it. Imagine pulled pork, but juicier and smokier. Kalua pig is roasted in banana leaves in a buried fire pit, and is velvety tender. It requires no sauce. I took home a frozen container and cried the day I finished it, because I knew I wouldn't be returning to Hawaii for quite some time. Pork fat can do wonderful things, but when the almost sweet flesh is roasted for a day wrapped in banana leaves, I think that is its greatest accomplishment.

A gift from the Hawaiian gods to humanity.
So, when I saw a kalua pig recipe that used a crock pot instead of requiring a shovel, hot coals and several huge Hawaiian dudes to kill a pig and lug it to your back yard and wrap it in banana leaves, I was intrigued. It seemed too easy- take a pork shoulder and poke it with a knife or carving fork all over, rub it with Hawaiian pink sea salt and Liquid Smoke, and slow cook it for 16 to 20 hours. Sure, that's a lot of time, but if you set it up at night, you'll have a delicious surprise waiting for dinner when you get home from work. It's not the same as having a luau, but your tongue won't know the difference.
All you'll need.
I picked up a six pound picnic pork shoulder from King's market in Verona for $11. The picnic style has the leg joint of the pig's front trotter attached, and the skin still on, so I spent five minutes skinning it with a sharp kitchen knife that my grandmother used for twenty years. If you've never skinned meat, just start at a corner and pull it back, start cutting the layer of fat, and keep pulling and cutting. It's not unlike removing a sticker from a window, pull at the corners. Try not to cut the meat off, and don't worry about losing the fat- the porker has plenty of interstitial fat and gelatin to make this melt into a puddle of porky butter. After that, jab it all over with a fork or knife, and rub it with a few tablespoons of sea salt. The recipe calls for Hawaiian sea salt, and it is available from vendors online or at specialty stores. I opted for pink Himalayan sea salt from Trader Joe's because I had it on hand. Then you need Liquid Smoke to mimic the hot coals and charcoal flavor from being  baked underground. Use a tablespoon or so and rub it down.
Anyone wanna make a football?
The hardest part was fitting a pig's shoulder joint into the crock pot! For a minute I thought I'd have to debone it, like I had to do to a grass fed chuck roast I slow cooked a while back, but it fit. Put the lid on and set that sucker for 20 hours on low, and forget about it for 8 to 10 hours, when you should flip the meat over. No liquid is required. I was dubious, wanting to add water or cider vinegar, but I obeyed. When I woke up the next morning, the apartment smelled of barbecue. The pork had created plenty of its own juices, and I flipped it with tongs. It was already very tender and beginning to pull apart, but I let it go for the full time. And I was not disappointed.
Now go to sleep and awaken to joy
When I got home from work the pork smell had deepened and mellowed. I opened the slow cooker and was greeted with a steamy blast of fragrance that would make even the most stoic turn into a drooling Homer Simpson. I immediately shredded the pork up with a fork, forgetting to take a photo beforehand, and tasted it. Delicious. It needed more salt and smoke, so I added them and removed the bones with tongs, then let it cook for another 30 minutes on high while I went to pick up Firecracker from the train. This would ideally be served with poi, poke, lomi salmon and haupia- and one day I may just do so. Getting the pig right was the first step; raw tuna, salmon, coconut blancmange and mashing taro root are not quite as challenging, but I have a great idea for a housewarming party next summer. If you comment on this blog post, you might get invited.

You can read all about my adventures in Hawaii here.


© 2010 Tommy Salami

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Such a price for flight

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