Saturday, May 31, 2008

"The Office" (workstation series) 092 (Here-we-go-again edition)

Going to give myself one more day-off as per my original 5/17/08 post ("on hiatus until June 1"), as we're still jet-lagged from 30-hour return from China tour, and I've a hell of a lot to do this week, before heading off to help staff Zoukfest, which I'll be blogging as I did last year. But, "The Office" work continues: one of the major projects I have to crank up in the second 2/3 of the summer is the rewrite of 2 chapters and the composition of at least 3 more for the minstrelsy project.

We're still here, we're still in there punching.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Off the radar

Dharmonia and I head off into the wild blue yonder tomorrow--10 day concert tour of China--and so we'll be largely off the radar until the 1st of next month. Am experimenting with both Jott and texting as a means of blogging, and there'll be lots of photos in the aftermath. But "one-a-day" will be on hiatus until at least June 1.

Here's the itinerary:

View Larger Map

Friday, May 16, 2008

I believe the term is "smackdown"

Those privileged Yalie punks and angry old Georgetown and K Street golfers in the Republican party should know better than to go up against a street preacher and community organizer from Chicago.

Whup-ass, indeed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What sports can teach: guts and compassion

Western Oregon softball player, a senior, hits the first and only home run of her college career, tears her ACL rounding 1st, can't walk. Umpire (erroneously, it turns out) informs Sara Tucholsky's coach that neither WO coaches nor players can assist Sara.

So the opposing team's captain--who has multiple college home runs--decides to step in:

Here that, Kobe? Wilt? Walton? Marv? This is what Plato had in mind.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Short one today: abstracts, practice, stone

Short one today: working on conference abstracts this morning, for:

  • Southwest/Texas - Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association
  • conference at UCD on Dublin on Irish/American musical interactions
  • Society for American Music, Denver
First one is a conference at which I serve as chair of "Music and Politics" and "Music and Tradition," mostly because, when I came on as a presenter, the entire area was subsumed under "Folk and Protest Music" (what is this, 1962?!?!?). I've since dragged the two areas more-or-less out of the '60s but it's time now to turn over the Area Chair duties to the two grad students I've trained for them;

Second is a new conference, with a really good roster of plenary speakers (Paul Muldoon, Eric Lott, and my hero Mick Moloney) and an interesting concept. And it's an opportunity for me to go be the "American roots music guy" at another Irish conference, which is important in terms of overseas research profile (nobody in Dublin gives a shit about another American who happens to play Irish tenor banjo--but if I can frail African-American turnes, then they're really interested and receptive);

Third is the old "Sonneck Society", now aptly renamed. There, I'm proposing to present a paper (interesting extension of the minstrelsy project, but this time extending to look at black/white musical interaction along rivers and canals in the period 1800-20), but really the main motives are (a) proximity (Denver's a quick flight on Southwest) and (b) recruitment: really crucial for us to maintain visibility at region-specific conferences, as we strive to grow the graduate musicology program--and, really, to simply get the word out about what we're already doing so well.

Then it was back home for 2 hours of bouzouki practice; there's really no excuse for not practicing in the summer, when my schedule is so much at my own volition, and a six-concert tour of China with Roger Landes will kick my ass if my chops aren't up.

Had to do that before the third chunk of the day: laying stone for a rose garden and some yard walkways. That kind of work is good for me and I like to do it, but it beats up my hands, so I have to do it after, not before practicing. Dharmonia has done sterling service in resurrecting the previous owner's herb garden, and adding roses, but the garden kind of sprawled with ill-defined borders. We went out and ordered some tapered pavers in a kind of aged-brick-tinted concrete and I laid up two rounds for the roses. A nice combination of shades, picking up on the pink of the old brick and the brown of the caliche and sandstone we scrounged from a colleague. Another big chunk of that caliche will go for pathways and hard-scape where the junipers suck up all the water and keep the grass from growing.

Brains, hands, body: not a bad day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Zen food

Watching How to Cook Your Life, a documentary with Zen cook Ed Brown--a lovely gift from Dharmonia--my hero and the author of the seminal Tassajara Bread Book and Tassajara Cokkery Book, books which I used to read and re-read, just for sense of calm that emerged from his commentary, his recipes, and the wonderful line drawings. I learned to cut vegetables from this book. I learned about Zen from this book. I learned about Shinryu Suzuki Roshi from this book.

My debt to Ed Brown is incalculable.

Here's tonight's menu:

Pre-heat oven to 390 degrees.

Spinach salad:
Wash, stem, and whirl the spinach (preferably fresh, preferably local). Pat dry with a piece of paper towel. Dress with either vinaigrette (1 part red wine vinegar to 7-8 parts high-quality olive oil) or (one of our commercial favorites) Annie's Green Goddess dressing.

Vegan quesadillas:
Heat olive oil in a large iron fry-pan. Add some kind of crumbled tofu, tempeh, "soysauge" or other textured vegetable protein and brown. Add 1 can black beans (without packing water). Warm gently, then add juice of 1/2 lemon and a good shot of garlic (and cumin if you want a more authentically Mexican flavor). Cook gradually until the balance of the liquid is reduced. Add a small quantity (maybe 1/4 the volume of the beans) of tomato sauce or paste. Cover and keep warm.

Warm 4 flour tortillas, either on a a warm cooktop or in another iron fry-pan set on "low" heat, until they are malleable.

Cover a baking sheet with a couple of the tortillas. Spread the beans/TVP on the tortillas. Slice, and layer-upon the beans, soy kase (e.g., soy-based cheese-like substance). Cover with the top layer of tortillas.

Bake for around 15 minutes, until top tortillas are crisped and beginning to brown.

Serve with a decent sauvignon blanc. Pretty nice.

Thank you Ed. Thank you Suzuku-Roshi. Thank you Shogan-Ji. Thank you Dogen Zenji.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why digital activity is not the same thing as digital literacy

From Jan Elliott's great strip Stone Soup:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Zen food

Years ago, I used to joke with one of the Geshes (teachers) at the Tibetan monastery in Bloomington--Dharmonia's teachers--that I would be a very bad monk but a very good tenzo. In Japanese Zen monasteries, the tenzo (head cook) was ranked third in the organization and was expected to manifest dharma-insight third only after the roshi ("old teacher") and the head monk, the latter of whom was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the community.

In part this is a practical recognition--in a cloistered community, issues of nutrition and of appealing food take on a heightened visibility and influence, able to materially advance or impede the community's work. But it's also a reflection of the very real--if less measurable--impact of bodily well-being in enhancing the ability to concentrate and reflect. Over the years, Dharmonia and I have had pretty extensive contact with several different cloistered communities: in addition our revered teachers and friends at DGTL, also the Sisters of Providence at St-Mary-of-the-Woods, a geriatric facility where the ancient nuns would creep around on their walkers so as not to ruin the takes as we recorded medieval music in their sanctuary; and the Franciscans of Chicago, the music of whose patron saint we recorded and for whom we raised money in the wake of the earthquakes at Assisi, and I can attest to the large role that good food played in their quality of life (plus, there's nothing like playing medieval music for people who get the Latin puns).

Similarly, some of the most extraordinary experiences of spiritual community I've ever encountered have been in the company of trusted friends and of food made with love. Years ago, we played the Taos Inn (not one of my favorite gigs--too full of the artsy rich and the scuffling servants for my taste), and then adjourned after the gig for an extraordinary Middle-Eastern after-hours feast cooked by Kathy Brown, a Zen practitioner and master cook. And there've been hundreds of others like that, down through the years, and I can attest to the powerful sympathetic magic and good mojo resulting from the combination of close friends and food consciously cooked with love. One basis for my dislike of most restaurant food is my conviction that, in most cases, it is not realistic to expect that somebody may $7.25 to cook at a Denny's or a Chili's should invest much positive energy in the food; why should they?

On the other hand, it is a fundamental reason why I like to cook for people I love or who need help. Every year at Thanksgiving, Dharmonia and I host what we think of as the "Orphan's Thanksgiving," when all the kids who are too broke or whose parents are too far are marooned in whatever town we teach in, and we invite them in and feed them. I do it with the Celtic Ensemble, with my grad students, and with band mates, and it nearly always positive energy.

It's also why I like to cook for myself and my wife.

Tonight was one of the more gratifying experiments. Dharmonia and I are back on the vegan tip (we're vegetarians for ethical reasons but at-home vegans for health), and that means a lot of beans, whole grains, raw food, and as much soy product (especially tofu) as the body can stand--for some people, not very much at all. For somebody who likes to cook world cuisines, it also means a lot of Central American, East Asian, and especially Mediterranean recipes, suitably adjusted with whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, etc) and without dairy products or eggs. Some times it works better than others--shout-out to the Silk Road Cookbook right here--but tonight it was, dare I say it, top-notch.

Here's the run-down (I have no idea what to call any of these, as I made 'em up).

Ed Brown's perfect brown rice:
Wash 1.5 cups of brown rice until the water runs clear. Cover, in a lidded saucepan, with enough filtered water to cover the rice to about 1 thumb-joint's depth (don't ask why--just add enough water so that the rice is covered, and you can touch the tip of your thumb to the rice, with the water covering your thumbnail).
Bring to a boil (uncovered), cover, and reduce heat until the water is just simmering with the lid on tight.
Thereafter, do not mess with it: leave it alone, do not peek under the lid: simply let it cook until everything else is done. No matter how long it takes, the rice will only improve by being left alone.

Tuscan roasted green beans and tofu with slivered almonds:
Preheat oven to 400%
Sprinkle roasting pan with high-grade olive oil.
Cut 1 12-oz block of tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and arrange loosely in pan. Sprinkle with tamari and place in oven. Roast 15 minutes, until tofu is browned.
Meanwhile, wash and stem the beans. Combine olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, slivered almonds, garlic and basil, and toss beans in the mixture.
Add green beans to roasting tofu; sprinkle the remaining olive oil/lemon infusion over the combined beans and tofu.
Return to oven for another 10 minutes (do not overcook--beans should be bright green with touches of caramelized brown).

Mock-Moroccan (?) lentils with artichoke hearts:
Combine 3/4 cup dried green lentils (wash them first) and 1 cup water, with a splash of olive oil, in a tightly-lidded small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until lentils are soft (about 20 minutes).
Meanwhile, chop 1 small (10-oz) jar of pickled artichoke hearts reasonably small.
When lentils are soft, add chopped artichoke and about 3/4 cup tomato sauce, as well as basil and black pepper to taste, and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook down.

Don't ask me why these worked. But they did.

Departure: 8 days and counting.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Nice pub session tonight, this afternoon networking across cultural/linguistic boundaries with fellow scholars, more end-of-semester stress (sometimes I just feel sad for the kids in my care), China looms.

I fuckin' hate that three-quarters of the ads during televised basketball games are enlistment pitches (emphasizing the fist-pumping, sunglasses-wearing, video-games-playing fantasies of adolescent males). That target demographic is too damned vulnerable.

Kobe Bryant is one of the all-time greats as a player and as an arrogant punk--both.

Departure-date: 9 days and counting.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tactical versus strategic thinking...

...or, when and when not to smack-down.

There's a very strong tendency, in the academic world, to contest disagreements via direct, immediate, and verbose confrontation; that is, to try to prevail right then, in the midst of the argument and preferably in front of an audience of one's peers. Maybe that's a result of the old saw "the reason the battles in academia are so ferocious is because the stakes are so small," or that most academics are trained to promptly, verbally, and confrontationally assault what they perceive to be weak intellectual positions, or--in my own case--a result of growing up in a verbose, competitive, and rather dysfunctional family environment, in which being able to make your case louder than everyone else was perceived as an essential emotional survival skill.

And, mostly, academics are reasonably comfortable--or at least familiar with--this kind of discourse. But it tends to make them short-term thinkers. Tactical thinkers. People who only see as far as winning the current skirmish, regardless of whether it gains you control of terrain that lets you win long-term. The temptation, when you're confronted with defensive pomposity--the kind of things that Tony Snow and Ron Ziegler and Donald Rumsfeld used to specialize in, before they were exposed as the cowardly phony windbags they are--is to obliterate: to take great glee in systematically dismantling the chink in the other party's argument. This is gratifying, and familiar, and the thing we're trained to do, and the yardstick by which we measure victory. To jam forward under fire and storm that hill.

But this doesn't always work. It's not always the smart thing to do, long-term. It may well lead to a temporary victory but a long-term loss of terrain. In short, it's not strategic thinking.

In academia, this usually means forgoing the short-term glee of destroying somebody's argument, exposing their errors, calling them on their bullshit, in favor of the moral and strategic high ground of "working toward the common good." This does not mean assenting to bullshit, or to excessive or misleading humility--in fact, I once said, in response to an inapposite, irrelevant, and implicitly-insulting statement, "with respect, I'm going to decline to accept that particular proposition"--but it can very well mean eschewing the gleeful satisfaction of smacking-down the position of somebody trying to conceal their own system's malfunction, in favor of retaining the behavioral high ground; deferring the satisfaction of publicly dismantling the specious argument; holding-off on telling them "there is no fucking way I am going to participate in this foolish runaround again"--telling them later, if at all. As my buddy Coop says "if you wait, you always have the option of going nuclear. Once you've done it, it's over--you've got no place else to go."

That's strategic thinking. Takes some maturity.

Below the jump: Wellington, the man who out-generaled every one of Napoleon's marshals, out-thinking Bonaparte himself at Waterloo: "Now, Maitland! Now's your time!"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


There are times--and they're especially prevalent at this particular part of the year, when good and bad debts come due, the faculty are fried, the kids are panicked, and generally everyone is just worn to a frazzle--when I've got a general desire to kick somebody's ass. Particularly the asses of bodies who haven't done their job.

Even more particularly when it has been admitted to me that a bureaucratic system malfunctioned at a basic, rudimentary level of professional competency. And most particularly when that lack of a done job, the lack of a basic, rudimentary level of systemic functionality, has victimized a student or students who those systems are supposed to be helping.

is my definition of stress--namely, "when one's mind overrides the body’s natural desire." There are some organizations not too far from me--accustomed to way too much coddling, way too little work, and far too little sense of responsibility--some of whose members have forgotten who they're supposed to be helping. The stress comes in recognizing that compromise with these people is most in the student's best interest--if not in my own.


A bargain for the LPD

I guess we now know the exact price tag for the life of a private citizen tasered to death by an incompetent, trigger-happy cop:

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Lubbock officials have agreed to pay a $49,000 settlement to the family of domestic violence suspect who died in Lubbock police custody.

Juan Nunez III died after a police officer stunned him in the chest several times with a Taser stun gun in 2006. The city says doesn’t admit liability by reaching the settlement
agreement in the Nunez family’s suit.

The lawsuit accused Lubbock police of not establishing adequate policies for stun gun use and failing to train officers properly to use the devices. In the suit, the family alleged Officer Matt Doherty used excessive force and violated the man’s civil rights.

Doherty responded to a 911 hang-up call on April 16, 2006, and found a domestic dispute between Nunez and his family. According to police reports, Nunez became violent, leading Doherty to stun him in the chest four times with the Taser gun in less than a minute.

Nunez fell backward and struck his head. A medical examiner’s report said the Taser shocks, the blow to the head and alcohol killed Nunez.
Nice to know it's in the low five-figures.

[Note to the sarcasm-impaired: the above is the same, and bitter. This is what happens when you recruit cops who like being authoritarian.]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More lazy vacation photo-blogging

More lazy/vacation photo-blogging; from a recent trip into the high hills. Ten thousand people lived here, before 1500CE.

Here's a poem by Gary Snyder that seems relevant:



There is another world above this one; or outside of this one; the way to

it is thru the smoke of this one, & the hole that smoke goes

through. The ladder is the way through the smoke hole; the

ladder holds up, some say, the world above; it might have

been a tree or pole; I think it is merely a way.

Fire is at the foot of the ladder. The fire is in the center. The walls are

round. There is also another world below or inside this one.

The way there is down thru smoke. It is not necessary to

think of a series.

Raven and Magpie do not need the ladder. They fly thru the smoke holes

shrieking and stealing. Coyote falls thru; we recognize him

only as a clumsy relative, a father in old clothes we don’t

wish to see with our friends.

It is possible to cultivate the fields of our own world without much thought

for the others. When men emerge from below we see them

as the masked dancers of our magic dreams. When men dis-

appear down, we see them as plain men going somewhere

else. When men disappear up we see them as great heroes

shining through the smoke. When men come back from above

they fall thru and tumble; we don’t really know them; Coyote,

as mentioned before.


Out of the kiva come

masked dancers or

plain men.

plain men go into the ground.

out there outside all the chores

wood and water, dirt,

wind, the view across the flat,

here, in the round

no corners

head is full of magic figures —

woman your secrets aren’t my secrets

what I cant say I wont

walk round

put my hands flat down

you in the round too.

gourd vine blossom.

walls and houses drawn up

from the same soft soil.

thirty million years gone

drifting sand.

cool rooms pink stone

worn down fort floor, slat sighting

heat shine on jumna river

dry wash, truck tracks in the riverbed

coild sand pinion.



sand dunes

the floor of a sea once again.

human fertilizer,

underground water tunnels,

skinny dirt gods,

grandmother berries,


through the smoke hole.

(for childhood and youth are vanity

a Permian reef of algae,

out through the smoke hole

swallowd sand

salt mud

swum bodies, flap

to the limestone blanket —

lizard tongue, lizard tongue

wha, wha, wha flying

~n and out thru the smoke hole

plain men

come out of the ground.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Fuzzy people 31

More evidence that animals are superior to humans:

A paternal dog has adopted an abandoned baby goat as his surrogate child.

Billy the Boxer has become the constant companion of the 12-day old kid called Lilly. He sleeps with the goat, licks her clean, and protects her from any dangers at Pennywell Farm Wildlife Centre at Buckfastleigh, near Totnes, Devon England.

Billy and Lilly have formed a close bond. The kid was abandoned by her mother when she was only a few hours old and adopted by paternal Billy when his owner Elizabeth Tozer began hand rearing the goat.

The unusual bond has developed over the last month and the pair are now inseparable.

Elizabeth said: 'Lilly follows Billy around which is really quite amusing to watch and Billy sleeps with the goat and cleans her mouth after she feeds.'

Billy the Boxer protects his little kid - Lilly was the smallest of a litter of three kids and her mother abandoned her because she could only care for the two stronger ones. The pair have attracted quite a crowd at the animal centre and the staff are keen to see how their relationship will develop.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lazy anniversary/vacation photo-blogging, and, Fuzzy people 30

This is what we do; The Mountain; old music buddy Roger's Popeye channels Nipper; Mr Coyotl comes to call; neighbor llamas; chez newlyweds.

Thanks to Chipper for the "fuzzy people" appellation.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

From the road

Old friends gettin' married today. Cold as shit in the high hills, but there are good people and happy times to warm our hearts.

Wherever you are today, I hope you've got the same.