From December 2013

HOB in NOLA, January 2

Hey everybody, I’m here in Slidell, Louisiana, clacking away at Dad’s computer. I’ll be in my favorite place to be for New Years Eve tomorrow: New Orleans. Its my 3rd year in a row celebrating the New Year in that city and it still hasn’t become old. Usually I leave the Big Easy to head back to San Francisco on January 1rst but since things fell mid-week this time around I’m staying until the 3rd, which means I’m in town for Leon Blanda’s show at the House of Blues on Thursday, January 2nd!

Show starts at 8pm and will be in the Voodoo Garden unless it rains. Then it will be at another part of the House of Blues. Just ask someone when you get there. Say something like, “Hey, were da comedy show at?” And they’ll point you in the right direction. Just show up at 225 Decatur St in New Orleans at 8pm on Thursday night and you’ll figure it out.

SF Sketchfest

There’s more Google bus protesting today, with things in Oakland getting way out of hand, but I won’t be posting my opinions on the matter this time around. So you can all breathe easy.

No, instead I wanted to make sure everybody who comes here is aware of my upcoming shows at SF Sketchfest. The dates are now listed on my Calendar and you can check out the sweet, sweet performer page that the good people of Sketchfest put up for me here.

Comedy festivals are awesome to do and its particularly great that this one is in my own backyard. The whole list of events is here and let me tell ya, there’s a shit-ton of great shows this year. Really glad to be a part of it.

edit – my calendar is fucked right now. Just go to the sketchfest website for the shows. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

Red Beans and Rice

I made red beans and rice for the first time yesterday. I had planned on doing it for the past couple of days and I’m glad I did, it was just what I needed after spending most of the weekend working on a freelance project and watching the Saints get demolished by the Rams (why is it always the Rams? Is this some fucked up unbalanced karma from Hakim dropping the god damn ball?)

Anyway, the recipe I used was from Tom Fitzmorris’ website nomenu.com. Tom is the host of New Orleans’ long-running Food Show, a radio program that could only exist in a city like Nola. Its three hours of restaurant and recipe talk shoe-horned in an ESPN affiliate station. The live callers are the best part of the show. Usually I hate the call-in portion of any radio program. No one offers anything really interesting to say and often they just embarrass themselves on the air. Not with the Food Show. You get a lot of great info and its all told through thick New Orleans, Metairie or St. Bernard Parish accents that you won’t hear anywhere else in the country. Recently one caller brought up red beans and rice and after hearing their discussion I decided to take a crack at it.

Truth be told, I used to hate red beans and rice as a kid, and with good reason. It was commonly served for lunch at whatever Slidell, Louisiana school I was going to at the time and it was always god-awful. Its amazing that I like any food at all considering how often I ate public school lunches (always). I remember they were something like fifty cents, or maybe a dollar once I got into high school. At the beginning of the month you would go to a booth with a 20-spot and someone would hand you a bunch of red raffle tickets as if you were going to the world’s saddest carnival. The only ride was disappointment. The best case scenario for lunch was something that had no flavor at all, otherwise it was just nasty. Which is what public school red beans and rice were. I’m not sure of their ingredients other than kidney beans and white rice but I strongly suspect that dirt was a crucial element. It was often served with a dry, frowning piece of cornbread that was so bad it can only be described by its own flavor: public school cornbread. Not surprisingly, I hated cornbread for years. Thankfully I got over my hatred for both of these normally delicious foods. Especially cornbread. I mean, really, how do you fuck up the buttery and flakey goodness that is cornbread? Easy, you add dirty ass to it. Fuck that cornbread.

Allright, now that I’m done venting, here’s Tom’s recipe, which can be viewed in full here. I mostly stuck to it, any additions I made are in bold.

1 lb. dried red beans
1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
12 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. savory (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water. You probably want to rinse them off, too.

2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).

3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.

4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick. Cook at a higher heat or for longer than two hours to make the soup matrix a little thicker. Tom prefers his red beans and rice more “soupy”, which is apparently more traditional. I like the new, thicker variety, which just requires you to cook off more water.

5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. You will need more salt, definitely. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley. I added in the bacon, crumbled up into bits.

The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat. This isn’t optional in my book. I used four small/medium sausage links cut into small disks. Don’t chop the sausage up into little bits like an idiot. They should be little hockey puck disks. I also wouldn’t get caught up in finding a sausage that says “Louisiana”, “Cajun” or “andouille”. That shit can be hard to find and sometimes unnecessarily expensive outside of Louisiana. Look for something that is smoked. Ideally you want something smoked and spicy but smoked is more important. You can always add cayenne to make the shit spicier.

Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.

Serves six to eight.

A Few Thoughts About That Thing…

Hey, did you guys see that thing in SF today? You know, the thing all over the twitters?

Yea! This Thing:

BREAKING: Protesters Block Google Bus

In case you missed it, a Google Bus was stopped by activists this morning protesting its use of city bus stops to transport tech employees to Mountain View without compensating the city for use of the stops (whew). I was stoked to read about this. Yes, there is apparently something, “in the works” to regulate these buses as some blog commenters have pointed out but nothing has been done up to this point. And even when a deal is reached its hard to imagine it not greatly benefiting the tech firms. Unless, of course, the people speak out.

Honestly, my first thought was, “what took so long?” In a city known for its activism, its been really quiet around here. Aside from a pathetic “anti-gentrification” rally were a small crowd beat up a Google bus pinata, there haven’t been a lot of organized protests on the matter. Which is surprising given that every other article I read about now has to deal with evictions, rising rents and a City that is rapidly losing its character. “When do we reach our boiling point?” I wondered. Occupy SF wasn’t that long ago, I’ve seen what happens when people get pushed too far.

So finally, today we get a well organized protest with a clear message. And then this happens:


Google Guy

Man was I pissed! What an asshole, right? Twitter sure was pissed, too. Facebook was pissed once it heard the news from Twitter. Everybody’s pissed everywhere.

Then this happened:
Fake Google Employee Was An Actor, Union Organizer, And Occupy Mainstay

A staged event! Holy shit! Well, I got all pissed off at this guy. So did Twitter and Facebook. The blogs who reported on the guy were extra pissed because they felt they were deceived. We’re all still pissed but now for different reasons!

Luckily for me I have a friend in Nato Green. While I like to believe I’m a reliable left-wing guy who shows up at his town hall meetings and supports activism, I really know very little about protesting and how it works. For example, I never knew that there is the occasional theater act. Protesters like Max Alpern, the real name of the fake Google employee, will act out the scenario that they are protesting against. This theater is obviously an act to those who are watching it. Being a comedian, I immediately got this. This guy Max was putting on a show and the media being the dummies they are thought it was real and reported it as such. Or maybe they knew it was fake and reported it as real anyway for the added exposure. After all, the Guardian was the paper that uploaded the video of Alpen and distributed it as fact despite their having interviewed Alpen as a member of Occupy a couple of years ago.

Not everyone gets to have Nato explain things to them, though, so the chorus of, “this guy ruined the protest” is still ringing out. The online news sources are really butt-hurt; the SF Weekly felt the need to write an article chastising his actions. Everyone seems to think that Alpern should have turned around after his performance and acknowledged it was theater. If what Nato tells me is true this is absurd, it would be like me saying, “just kidding!” after every joke. I’m doing comedy, you get it – he’s doing theater, you should get it. But then I read a comment by Boots Riley that made me think even a bit further. Responding to a friend of mine who made a point about the theater getting all the attention rather than the protest, Boots wrote, “Few would have heard about it if not for the theater.” He’s right. He’s so right that I wondered, “What if Alpern did really try to dupe everybody into thinking he was a Google employee? Would the end justify the means?” Since that is what happened regardless of his intent (for the record, I believe he had no intent to fool anyone) I think the answer is yes.

I’ve learned that protesting has a lot to do with visibility and disruption. Not long ago I was one of those people who didn’t understand Critical Mass. “All it does is clog traffic and piss people off, what’s the point,” I’d think. Well, that’s exactly the point, dummy. Without the big show no one pays attention to these causes. I read some comments about the bus protesters stating that they’re just holding up traffic and keeping people from work. They’re being a nuisance, not solving a problem, etc. This argument is silly when you get right down to it. If not the disruption, what’s the alternative? Ask politely? Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Everyone did ask nicely, a whole lot of times. And nobody listened. So now we are stopping your bus or filling your traffic lanes with bicycles until you do listen. If part of that noise is a guy impersonating an antagonistic figure, so be it. The attention to the issue is what matters.

Alien

Great news, I’ll be appearing in SF Sketchfest this year in three shows. I have all the dates. I’ll give those out in another update.

Also, I’ve lost my voice. Will probably write about that later, too.

For now, I just re-watched Alien at the recommendation of Joe Tobin. This was always one of my favorite sci-fi movies but it’s been a while since I last sat down and enjoyed it. All I’ve gotta say is, man, what a fantastic-looking fucking movie. I mean, I always loved the tone, atmosphere and slow-pacing, but on this viewing I really found myself admiring the cinematography and set design. The Nostromo is a kaleidoscope of lights, buttons and switches, some that do nothing and others that self-destruct the vessel. There are two particular parts of the ship that I find really impressive. There is one near the main controls that has a pentagon-shaped light source on the ceiling, casting great halos around the crew while the light from the consoles illuminates their faces. The other is the white, “lite-bright” room where the crew communicates with the computer, “Mother”:

Yea, there’s no good reason I can think of as to why the room looks like that, but damn it looks good nonetheless. Then there are the alien planet sets that appear absolutely massive. In an era where matte paintings and miniatures were the only way of executing these types of effects its pretty amazing how seamlessly everything looks. Pair this with the dark lighting, occasional lens flares and haunting sound design and you have yourself one really sensory-satisfying film.

Most people I talk to about the Alien franchise tend to say that James Cameron’s “Aliens” is better than Ridley Scott’s original. I (and Joe Tobin, apparently) feel like its comparing apples and oranges. “Aliens” is a mile-a-minute thrill ride with colorful characters and a great, wider-reaching story. “Alien” is a slow burn; it’s classic 70’s pacing that takes a long time to set the stage and then gives you a massive payoff at the expense of a larger narrative. Given the awesome look of the film, it deserves the shuffling and plodding. We need the time to take in just how awesome each shot looks.