The Great Plotnik

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guess Who's Visiting Great-Grandma?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Back From The Beach

Two days, two nights, one completed-pretty-much musical, one Mom whose ear you need to scream into, one old friend and his lovely new wife, one trip from Universal City to Redondo Beach taking one subway and two light rail lines, three meals in malls, one easy half-empty flight into Burbank, one packed-to-the-slats flight out of LAX, two delicious Plotzer defeats of the World Champion Braindeads, one fight Plottie does not want to have with his brother, but if he doesn't the situation will get worse, ten cigarettes smoked in ten hours by his Mom, which isn't so bad for one day, thirty questions about why he is going to Redondo Beach, to work on that musical?, thirty five questions about is he still working on that musical? forty questions about is he ever going to finish that musical?

One beautiful and touching intro to a 200 page PhD thesis. Plottie sits close to his Mom and reads her the part where The Great BZWZ has dedicated the whole thing to her grandmother. Quite a few choke-ups and startovers while reading.

One crazily proud Papa.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saddest Little Tomato in Stiletto

Everything grows in Stiletto City, except the tomato plant Plottie planted in the back yard at Mummy P.'s. The spindly little guy is hanging by a thread, and probably won't be around too much longer.

Agapanthus, yes. Roses, azaleas, palms, yes. Tomato plant, not so much.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Glove-y Sunday

It's Good Things Might Happen Sunday for The Great BZWZ and the Great PD Family. So we're crossing the cutoff fingers on our bike gloves.

The Plotzers hit two home runs in the Ninth Inning. Maybe the ball is rolling?

Friday, June 21, 2013

LeBron to Cartoon

Great Plotnik World Headquarters Basketball Correspondent Lebron Plotnik exults in being chosen Columnist of the Week. Previous award winner Kobe Plotnik was nowhere to be found.

California Poppies have been chosen Flower of the Century, because you don't plant them, they just turn up and beautify every spot they choose to occupy.

The Great Plotnik is feeling very good today about his recording on Wednesday, since he took yesterday to listen to the tracks and hate every single note. He's getting smarter as he gets older. Now that he got that garbage out of the way he realizes the band sounds fabulous and so do the songs. There seems to be a 24-hour gestation period for Songwriter Insecurity around here.

The Great BZWZ could post a great cartoon to put right in this spot. Like this one that she has drawn today to illustrate her plight as a working scientist instead of the frolicking hedonist she will soon become (for a short time). You may not notice, but Plotnik did -- the portrait of The Great Ducknik doing a Duck Dive.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fruitful Day

It was a long but fruitful Wednesday. Plot was down at the studio by 8:45am helping JimZim drag in his vibes. By 10am we were recording drum tracks. At noon Stu arrived (his real name is Seward but people screw it up and always call him Stuart) with his upright bass and went into the booth to set up. The Kindly Duck brought up sandwiches so we were able to keep going. We recorded bass and drums in the afternoon and then added vibes on "La Culebrita" at the end. Seward has played in Latino bands for years and he heard a "tumbao" bass line on the song, so we added that too, for a coda.

How can you beat digital recording? You don't have to erase anything. Every performance is always archived. True, it takes up digital space, but if you have enough memory (and studios do), you can always take a little riff from this performance and another riff from a different performance without destroying them both, like you used to have to do when we used tape.

Now, Plotnik has all yesterday's work on his computer at home and he has some clean-up work to do before he'll even be able to listen to the tracks. They sure sounded great yesterday.

Yesterday's tunes:

Culiacan (drums)
So Long, Foghead (drums)
Old Mr. Stein (bass and drums)
Big Sister (bass and drums)
La Culebrita (bass and vibes)


UPDATE: Finally freed up enough disc space to import yesterday's tracks and listen to them. But they are all in an updated format that my computer cannot read. So: nuthin.' Later this afternoon the studio will make me compatible copies grrrrrrrrr.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watching Ray Again

Just got done watching "Ray" again. Somebody once told us you never love any music more than the music you loved when you were sixteen years old. That's about right. Listening to Ray singing and playing those old songs still hits a place inside me no other music ever has, every will.

No one could sing and play like Ray Charles. I mean, lots of people can hit the notes, figure out the chords and learn the gospel and jazz voicings, but no one has ever done it with as much soul as Ray Charles, and by soul I probably mean heart and by heart I probably mean power and by power I probably mean pain.

Maybe Stevie Wonder has come the closest. But Stevie is a generation younger and he grew up in big city Detroit, not Jim Crow rural Florida. Stevie signed a Motown record contract when he was eleven. I doubt he ever had to play the chit'lin circuit.

At my High School reunion last month several of the women told me they remembered me trying to tell them all about Ray, bringing his records to school. I don't remember. What did I do with the records? Was there a record player in my high school?

For sure, at home I taught myself every song on the "The Genius of Ray Charles" album, not realizing that these were all songs from the 1930s and 1940s, standards I thought I hated. "It Had to Be You," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," Am I Blue?" "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," "Just for a Thrill." God bless my dear Mom, because that was a period in our lives when she just had me and the piano, and I must have driven her crazy listening to me play those songs over and over and over. I was no Ray Charles. But she never said a word.

And then "Georgia" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "I'm Movin' On" and "Born to Lose."

Once in Australia a bass player I knew took me to a club in King's Cross where the jazz guys all went after hours, and when they heard I was playing with a band in Sydney they insisted I go up on stage and sing a song for them. It was late and Aussie beer is very good and the only song that came under my fingers was "Georgia." They pronounce it "Joe-dja." Not many people knew Joe-dja was a state but they all knew every word to the song.

I never get tired of that movie.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Saturday at Rafanelli

The longer Plot and Duck live in Saint Plotniko the more they love Sonoma County. Napa is lost to devlopers and big viniculture, but Sonoma still has a sense of farming, culture and real people living there.

It doesn't hurt when your friends The Great Zinfandini and Mrs. Zinfandini have a wine club membership to Rafanelli Vineyards. They have been sharing their red wine bounty with Plot and Duck for several years, but yesterday was our first trip to the winery itself.

Fee came with us too. She is ten now and starting to get involved with modeling and playwriting, but she's still a little kid. Parents these days get their kids involved in so many activities it makes our heads whirl, but the driving factor is that no one has any choices. Families have parents working long hours far from home and they have to have things for their child to do.

Mrs. Z. brought a picnic lunch.

There was a spot with a picnic bench under an oak tree overlooking the vineyard and pond, which came with Milo, the Vineyard Dog.

And of course, the wine. Rafanelli raises the bar to a level others don't seem to reach. Why this is, Plotnik can't say. Perhaps the terroir, which is to say the particular spot the grapes are grown and the soils and microclimates involved, perhaps the skill of this particular family who has been raising grapes on this land for generations, perhaps it's all of these or none of these. A Rafanelli zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon are, to Plot and Duck's taste, always the best of the best.

Which, of course, is the whole point of wine, of food, of music, of everything that is subjective. You like what you like. If you're lucky it won't break the bank.

We've never tasted their expensive Terrace Select ($108/bottle) but Plot has to wonder how it can be three times better than this zin, this cab, this merlot/cab blend.

Sigh. Maybe a piece of land somewhere in Sonoma is in Plot and Duck's future. With a hound who loves to follow you down the path. Who knows?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Modern Times

So, you hit the wrong button on your I-Phone and send a text to the wrong person. They receive the text, thinking you meant to send it to them, and reply.

Now what do you do?

Or you forget that if you respond to a text that was sent to you but others were copied, your reply goes to everyone, not to just the person you intended it for.

Now, what do you do?

Or everytime you go onto FBook there are one or two people who spend their entire lives there and who insist on posting ten items at a pop. You like these people. But you want them to post…like, one. Tomorrow they can post another.

Do you say anything?

Now consider this:

You have a family member who is a nice person but has a FB friend, whom you know. What you didn't know is this person is a right wing Fascist Pig Running Dog who is convinced Barack Obama killed The Archduke of Sarajevo and wants to take away our guns, bullets and penises. He or she re-posts the scariest and most scurrilous links. One day you actually go to one of these links and that takes you to another link and the next thing you know you realize that there are a lot of people in this world, and in your own family no less, who are, well -- dangerous! The shit they believe! Stupid, uneducated and uninformed, yes, but also frightening and with potential for serious badness.

This just happened to The Great Plotnik. He ain't sayin' who. But this friend of the family is out of his or her freaking mind, and Plottie never knew it before he went to the friend's FB page.

Yikes. So, what does he do? He gently closes out that page, and the other page, and the other page, and figures he is now caught up in NSA and FBI snooping, and to tell you the truth, he hopes they ARE snooping on these idiots.

Modern Times. Charlie Chaplin didn't know the half of it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yes, Really.

Has anyone seen Django Unchained? Plot and Duck watched it last night. It has to be a spoof, right? This is Tarantino's tremendous in-joke, a kind of reverse blaxploitation film, a wink at Hollywood films and bad old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, complete with deliberately horrid musical theme. Right? A vehicle for Jamie Foxx to become Shaft, but other than that a total lampoon. Right? A video game where every bullet fired from ancient guns hits home and pushes rivulets of blood onto the faces of the other recently-cadavered characters. A video game. Gone With The Windows 9. Please tell me this is right. Right?

Slavery was filled with gorgeous slave women in colorful dresses. The old house slave (Samuel Jackson) could sit down and drink whiskey with his massa (Leonardo de Caprio) and call him a motherf--er with a smile. Right?  Slavery and hip hop were contemporaneous. Right? 

But all of this only applies if you take it seriously. The Great Plotnik has a tendency to do this sometimes. It is helped by the comments he reads on IMDB and other sources, 99% of which believe Django is the hero that people of color have been looking for. Really?

I mean, really? The movie is a piece of shit. Yes, really. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Send the Bill to Medi-Geezer

Plotnik sees how some people get feisty, as they get older, particularly if they were feisty to begin with. Take the problem faced by religious leaders of small flocks who ride bicycles. The children who work in bicycle shops, once they see gray hair under the helmet, believe the bicycle must belong to someone else. They think you rose from your hospital bed, ran over an old lady with your wheel chair, hit her across the face with your crutch, injected her little grandson with your meds and then stole his bicycle. You have only come into the bike shop because you were drooling on the street and thought this was a pharmacy.

Everyone else gets smiles and "Yo, dude! Cool bike! LOL!"

You get "Yes sir? Can we be of assistance, once we bite our derisive lower lips?"

You say "Will you do this repair?"

They say "Of course, sir."

They mean "After we sit around, smoke some more dope, play a few video games and fix everybody's bike who is under 25, whether or not they have come in yet."

Plot is going to ask for his Senior Discount.
Just to see them miscount.

He may feign a stroke.
Just to watch them choke.

"My good fellows. Please be so kind to send the bill to Medi-Geezer."

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Inside the Bubble

Every time we drive down to see a play at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, we are struck by how beautiful that stretch of the 280 is, how easy it is to park for free right next to the world-class theater, how many good restaurants there are right across the street, and how fast we fly home after the show.

As we turn off the 280 and drive down El Monte and Cuesta and Miramonte, we pass modest homes, mostly ranch-style on small-ish lots. We comment on how so much of the world's innovation is taking place right here, within ten or twenty miles of these neighborhoods, fueled by ideas from the people living in these houses. They might have grown up next door, or in New York or L.A. or India or China or Israel or France. Now, they're here.

So it is possible, at this stage of our children's lives, to imagine one or both of them working at a university or high tech company or think tank right down the street in Mountain View, or Cupertino, or Menlo Park, or Santa Clara or Palo Alto.

It used to be a never-to-be-questioned axiom to their parents that cities were for intelligent people and suburbs were for acquisition and large floor plans and a three car garage. But there are no big cities down here. And suburbs don't have cities in them. If you're going to work here, you're going to live here, in one of these ranch houses, where the schools are good and the kids in them come from around the globe.

Probably not from Oakland, probably not from San Leandro, probably not from East Stiletto or East Palo Alto and probably not from Gilroy or Hollister either.

The other night Plot and Duck went to see Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt speak. These are major Google idea people who have written a fascinating book about our new age. Before the talk, Plot stood up from his seat in the Nikko Ballroom and looked around: out of perhaps 700 people, he saw not one black face. It looked like a typical theater audience. Indians, Chinese, yes, but mostly anglos. Where are the American people of color?

They were here, doofus. These are American people of color. They're just not African-American people of color.

Why was he looking? Because, that's why. If rising tides float all boats, where are the rest of the boats?

Great Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Korean food in Mountain View. Plot and Duck ate bulkogi and bib-im-bop, then walked across the street and saw a show written by a gay, black playwright starring a gay, black cast. In the audience there were a few black people, maybe a dozen or two, which is more than usual at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, where one generally runs into more walkers and oxygen units than minorities.

Why was he looking? What is Plottie obsessing over now? He isn't sure himself.

The Cheery 0's are over, it's the Teens now. Things are changing faster than we can even feel. We shop, eat, educate and entertain ourselves differently than we did when our children were growing up. Not that much time has passed, but everything else has.

Isn't it possible that our modern world may have very quickly changed its mind about everything else too? Perhaps the color wheel matters less than the innovation wheel now?

Hey, it's Sunday and the sun is shining inside the Bubble. Anything is possible.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

White Beans in Mole Poblano

These are really good, but you have to live in Stiletto City or someplace else that has a great Mexican market. We bought recados (spice pastes) of green and black mole (mole Poblano), along with small white beans, at the Grand Central Market at the little stand just down the stairway from the Hill Street entrance, then stuck them in the freezer when we got home. They keep for years, if not longer.

La Palma on 24th Street has both moles, though in my opinion the ones from Grand Central are tastier, and that's for one simple reason: Stiletto City is closer to Puebla than Saint Plotniko.

For regular beans that come out a little closer to a Latino version of New Orleans Red Beans with Rice, we use the more subtle green mole recado. But for these, whose flavor is much more explosive (not all that hot, but hot enough), you need to use the Mole Poblano.

Start out with 1 1/4 cups of white beans. Put them in a large saucepan with 3 quarts of water and, if you like, a piece of beef rib, or pork shoulder, or chicken backs, or combination -- any meat with bones. How much? Cup your hands and fill it up -- like, maybe 1 1/2C total?

(You don't need the meat. This is a delicious meatless dish. But I always use it, if for no other reason than to use up all those unidentified boney things gathering frost on the bottom of the freezer.)

Bring to a boil. The white beans will rise to the top and sit inside a little scum from the boiling bones. You don't have to, but you can skim off the foam. (Some people say the scum causes bitterness later.). Add 1 large onion and 5 cloves of garlic, diced together. Then turn down to a simmer and cook 1 1/2 hours, until the beans and meat are tender.

2 options: I always add a sprig or two of fresh epazote to all Latino dishes using chiles and tomatoes. (We grow it in pots, but it's a weed -- anyone can grow it and it's also almost always available at the same place you bought the recados.) Epazote is a mint. Every culture has its particular mints, and the ones that grow where the cooks are cooking often define the flavor of a cuisine. Epazote and hierba santa for Mexican food, huacatay for Peruvian, spearmint for North African, and so on…)

But you don't have to use it. I may be the only one who notices.

Option 2: If you have a corn tortilla or two sitting around, shred it finely and toss it into the sauce. It thickens the sauce and also gives an authentic, and quite appealing, extra layer of taste.

Now. Remove the beans and meat from the stock, but strain and save the stock. Remove bones from meat. Shred meat and discard bones. Keep the beans and the shredded meat together in the colander. If you're a vegetarian, you can keep them in separate colanders. Ha ha. That was a joke.

(Seriously, you don't need the meat. The stock has plenty of oomph from the recado.)

Now heat 3T olive oil in the same pot. Add 1 large or two small cans of diced tomatoes. Stir around a few minutes and then this much recado (below). I'd say this is perhaps 1C.

Whisk until combined and then add 2C of the stock. Keep whisking until relatively smooth. Add back the beans and meat and simmer slowly for 30 minutes or so.

Taste. If the mole was too hot for you, add back more stock, up to 1 cup more, until it tastes right. Remember that as anything with hot chiles sits awhile (and hopefully these will, because they get better every passing day), the heat diminishes.

Serve over a bowl of rice, or as a side dish. French bread dipped in the sauce is addictive.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Can She Get Any Prettier? Can He Possibly Have This Many Teeth?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

First Raspberry Harvest (limited edition)

The first raspberry of the season is, sadly, the only raspberry so far. There were more last night, but the decision was made not to harvest the others until morning. Rotten squirrels.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Romance, pfaaa!

Being a songwriter is romantic during the day, but that day was yesterday. When you're trying to fix the middle of a song, and you know the problem is melodic, and you are stupid enough to play the song several times before you go to sleep, and the song runs around your head all night long, version after version, practically in order from now back to the first of the 500 versions you have done, and you're pretty sure you hate that goddamn song by now anyway, but you can't give it up because you know you used to really love wake up tired. You're tired all day. You're sick of the song but you can't get it out of your head. You need a nap. You should've eaten some of those delicious cookies you made but instead sent off to your darling daughter, who might be working hard, but I promise you she doesn't have this song running through her head. Organic chemistry, pfaaa!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

What Happened to Blogger?

What a trial it was to try and bring over the reunion piece into blogger from Word. Has anyone else ever had this problem? The fonts changed, you couldn't edit them, pictures came over in different sizes and print came over in different fonts. It was a nightmare. Plot has no idea what happened and neither does Dak Dumbutton.

It's such a beautiful Saturday. The Duck's teacher and friend, with whom she has worked for several years now, is coming over for dinner tonight with her husband. This should mean plenty of Spanish, And probably no baseball talk. Also, no Miami-Indianapolis game. Truth is, Plottie doesn't really care very much.

You can't beat Pantzarosalata, especially when the beets come right out of your own garden. A little garlic, some ground walnuts and a lot of olive oil. Should be quite a feed.