Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Restaurant review: Sal's Famous Pizzeria

I was going through my archives and I found this review that I wrote a long time ago. I submitted it to the New York Times but they didn't run it and didn't say why. I haven't been back to that place since. I wonder if it is still in business?

(June 30, 1989) I'm always on the lookout for charming little family-owned neighborhood restaurants. So I was delighted to come across Sal's Famous Pizzeria in Brooklyn's colorful Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
It was incredibly hot, probably the hottest day of the year, and I was happy to find any place that served cold drinks (apparently, I wasn't alone in my quest to quench my thirst; the grocer on the corner was completely out of Miller High Life) but I was also hungry so I couldn't wait to dig in.

FOOD: 3 stars (out of four) The slices, hot and fresh from the oven are large and tasty, although I prefer more cheese on mine. I overheard the man behind the counter telling a customer that extra cheese was two dollars, which is outrageous, as it's actually more than the cost of the pizza itself.

ATMOSPHERE: 2 stars (out of four) Sal's is a cozy little place. Nothing fancy, food is served on paper plates. Not much seating indoors but I observed many people getting carry out. It could have been cleaner. The sidewalk out in front in particular could have used a good sweeping. The only real decor inside is an ersatz "wall of fame" featuring celebrities, movie stars and athletes. I kind of doubt that they are actual customers of Sal's but I don't know what the significance of their inclusion would be otherwise. Maybe it's a work in progress as there seems to be room for more photos.

SERVICE: 1 star (out of four) Here's where Sal's really needs improvement. For such a small place that wasn't all that busy, the service is incredibly slow. While I was there, I overheard several complaints being called in about late deliveries. The employees have terrible attitudes and spend a great deal of time bickering amongst themselves and having remarkably inappropriate conversations within earshot of patrons trying to dine. Here's an example I caught on videotape:

OVERALL: 1.5 stars (out of four) I'm sorry to say that there are places you'd rather be on the hottest day of the year than at Sal's Famous Pizzeria. I especially would never go there after dark. I don't mean anything by that. I'm just, you know, just saying...

Monday, June 29, 2009

A (seriously) quick, simple, delicious recipe

I do a lot of cooking at home. I enjoy it and I'm pretty good at it. Unfortunately, I don't cook as often as I like due to a number of challenging factors:

  • My schedule is really weird and inconsistent.
  • I don't have a big kitchen.
  • I don't have a lot of fancy utensils.
  • I don't have a lot of money.

So I like quick, simple, delicious recipes. Also, I don't own a cookbook but I do have internet access. The problem is, some people who post recipes on the internet have different definitions for quick, simple and delicious than I do. Often, a search with those words will send me to something that looks like this:

"This is a really easy and delicious meal that you can prepare when you're in a hurry. First, marinate the labuanium trapezoideum crabs in a tagine while you dice the capers for the remoulade..."

At which point I have no choice but to tune out. But here's something I make once in a while that is simple, easy and delicious. It cooks in a crock pot, so the cooking is slow, but the prep time is minimal. If you're old, or resourceful, enough to get beer, can cut an onion and open a can, you're in...


  • Two porkchops (I'd recommend boneless; they're going to fall apart while cooking and you don't need to find a small bone by biting or swallowing it)
  • One can or bottle of beer (See the note below about beer)
  • One onion (I like the Spanish ones)
  • One packet of dry onion soup mix (You probably have at least one packet of this laying around; every home in America does)
  • One can of mushrooms (optional; I know some people don't dig mushrooms. Leave them out if you want. I like them though, so I will leave them in, thank you.)
  • One crockpot (This doesn't work if you don't have a crockpot. If you don't have a crockpot, what is wrong with you? Stop what you're doing right now and go get one. Not just for this recipe, just to have one. Seriously, they're so awesome it isn't even funny.)


  1. Cut up the onion into big pieces
  2. Open the can of mushrooms (unless you didn't get any because you don't like them. See note above)
  3. Open the beer (don't drink it, you lush)
  4. Dump everything into the crockpot (you did open the packet of onion soup mix and poured it in, didn't you? I shouldn't have had to tell you that)
  5. Set the crockpot on low (make sure it's plugged in), put the lid on and let it do it's thing for 7 hours (it'll be done before that but with anything you cook in a crockpot, the longer you let it cook, the better it is)

Serve it with noodles, rice or potatoes. You won't get a thick gravy but the sauce with the onions and mushrooms is really good over starchy food.


First of all, don't worry about DCF showing up and taking away your kids or anybody getting a DUI because everybody got drunk eating this. That won't happen. The alcohol just evaporates during cooking but the beer flavor remains and makes the porkchops taste amazing.

Secondly, if you do a search on cooking with beer, you will find all kinds of advice and opinions from various know-it-alls on what kind of beer to use. There's probably some merit to what some of them have to say if you can sift through the beer snobbery and find notes on why certain kinds of beer are better than others at bringing out flavors in food but who has time for that? You know how when you're out and just trying to enjoy a beer because it's cold and you can drink them fast which is good if you got there late and are trying to make up lost time and some person tries to make you feel bad about yourself by getting in your face, "What are you drinking?! That's pisswater! Ugh! That's disgusting! How can you swallow that swill? You're might as well let a dog pee in your mouth. Gross! I only drink (fill in name of whatever beer you aren't drinking) because I'm a better human being than you are" and how that isn't ever any fun? Don't subject yourself to the online version of that just because you want to make perfect beer porkchops in the crockpot. Just use a beer that you think tastes good and you'll be fine.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For your consideration

The nominees for worst actor are...

Good Gawd. Nice work by the Tween Seesters (the ones with silly names in the credits) on the technical stuff though!

And I think you should still buy the album!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The little engine that couldn't

This is a picture of a window unit air conditioner at the Ringside Cafe in St. Petersburg, a place I've driven past hundreds of times but had never visited before Monday night. We went there specifically to watch local favorite Rebekah Pulley perform. She was great, as always, and so was the service and the food was much, much better than some of had been led to expect. Overall, it's definitely my kind of place and I really enjoyed it. But great googly moogly, it was some kind of hellacious hot up in there. Wooo!
To be fair, it's crazy hot all over the Tampa Bay area right now and people are struggling to stay cool everywhere. People who've lived here their whole lives have commented that this heat and humidity is more intense than anything they remember. I remarked to a friend that it's so prevalent and invasive that it's like living in a world depicted in movies like "To Kill a Mockingbird", where heat is a constant participant in everything that happens and all you can do is open the windows, hope for the best and take comfort in the knowledge that nobody is going to think less of you for having massive sweat stains under your armpits because everybody has them. So you simply can't pick on a place for failing to provide the icy, air conditioned comfort upon which so many of us have become reliant. It's simply too daunting a task. Take a closer look at the control panel of this particular air conditioner:

Yeah, that definitely says 60°. I'm sure it was doing its level best to get to 60°. It may have even believed deep down in it's freon-filled, energy-saving little heart that it was blowing at 60°. But I'm here to tell you...I know 60°. 60° is a friend of mine. It was not 60° in there.

Venting on the day that was

I'm recycling some of this material that I posted earlier on Facebook so I apologize if it's redundant. Just need to get some stuff off my chest and there's no sense in re-writing something I already wrote, just because I wrote it elsewhere, right?

REGARDING THE DEATH OF FARRAH FAWCETT: I was very sad to hear about the passing of Farrah Fawcett, mostly because of the way the celebrity media industry ultimately deprived her and her loved ones of dignity and peace. Perez Hilton, TMZ, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, People and Us magazines and on a local level, TBT's "The Juice*" (don't bother scrolling down for an explanation of the asterisk; it's a pointless affectation, much like the column itself) among many, many others are parasitic scavengers who stalked Ms. Fawcett and documented her suffering for the expressed purpose of pitching advertising to people who would be entertained by such a spectacle. It's not always death and disease (although that's good stuff to them), it's anything that can be exploited for money. This is how they make their living. Isn't that nice?
I've given up on these institutions and the people who comprise them whose actions and beliefs are motivated by greed and profiting at the expense of others. These are people who've chosen their God, or whatever you want to call it, and will do whatever it takes to serve that deity.
However, I hold out hope that those who believe in and strive to be something more, or are at least capable of acknowledging basic humanity, will recognize these institutions for what they are and stop feeding them.

REGARDING THE DEATH OF MICHAEL JACKSON: The well documented eccentric and inappropriate behavior exhibited by Jackson precludes me from saying I was a fan of his. However, I recognize that he was a talented performer and that many people all over the world were very, very fond of him and that those people are in pain right now. I can think of absolutely nothing to be gained at this time by me stating my objections and criticisms of how he chose to conduct himself while he was alive, other than to cause more pain for those who mourn his passing.
Am I missing something?
Because that's not stopping people from doing just that. Why? I need to know what some of you people are thinking. What is the point? What do you hope to accomplish? You're not going to get Micheal Jackson to apologize. You're not going to change his fans' minds. And if there is no point, how miserable do you have to be to want to aggravate another human being who is in pain...just for kicks? Talk about some perverted behavior... Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with some of you people?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blow is just an expression

Have you seen this? It's an ad for something called the BK Super Seven Incher that runs in Singapore, not America, so maybe not, but people are still upset about it. People are also upset about a Sponge Bob ad campaign that ran recently too.
I've written about Burger King's um, unorthodox advertising before but I was still surprised when I saw this. Wow! if you get past the picture and the tagline, you'll find more juicy (heh heh!) ad copy below:

  • "Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER,"
  • "Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce."
Again; Wow! I guess somebody decided that subtlety is a luxury that just can't be afforded in the cutthroat world that is early 21st century hamburger marketing. Although, Burger King stops short of claiming responsibility for it: "Burger King Corporation (BKC) values and respects all of its guests. This advertisement is running to support a limited promotion in the Singapore market and is not running in the U.S. or any other markets. It was produced by a locally-based Singapore agency and not by BKC's U.S. advertising agency of record, Crispin Porter and Bogusky."
Translation: "Oh, those nutty Singaporians! Not telling us how they're using our official logos and imagery to sell our products, for which we pay them. Who knows what those wacky Asians with no understanding of what is or isn't acceptable in our culture (even though it seems their grasp of the English language is pretty solid) with whom we have a fully executed legal contract that presumably includes clauses regarding approval of content will do next?"
They're probably just glad that the picture doesn't show a strategically placed dollop of mayo or two. Dodged a bullet there (so to speak). Still, I really don't want to know what the ad campaign in Thailand looks like. Meanwhile, I think it's obvious that it's just a matter of time before we see an ad that features the Burger King sodomizing Ronald McDonald at home plate during the Little League World Series and then setting him on fire.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You don't own me; A Ridiculously inconsistent poll

Tampa Bay has been the home of champions as well as some of the all time, bottom-of-the-toilet worst teams in the history of sports. That second part doesn't happen without some terribly inept people in charge. With the latest squabble over the fastest way to destroy a hockey team between the knuckleheads who bought the Lightning a mere year ago turning into a tawdry reality show ("Oren & Len Minus Brain"), now seems like as good a time as any to evaluate just who the worst of the worst is. We're only concentrating on the three major league franchises that currently exist in Tampa Bay. The Rowdies and Mutiny and every fly-by-night minor league basketball, hockey, softball, senior league baseball or roller hockey gimmick that passed through here are all long gone, so their sins are absolved. The Bucs, Lightning and Rays are still around to figure out new ways to torment us. While most organizations are owned by groups or consortiums, we'll be voting on their primary figureheads. Because it's easier and more fun to pick on individuals. You'll find the poll itself in the side bar over there to the right. Vote early, vote often. Here are your candidates...


The Dark - The 0-26 start which was the cornerstone in establishing a new standard of shitty was just an opening act. He also ran Doug Williams out of town, drafted Bo Jackson after Bo said he'd never sign (he didn't), drafted a whole bunch of guys who should have never signed an NFL contract (they did) and hired Leeman Bennett and Ray Perkins, going so far as to dub Perkins "my Lombardi".
The Bright - The orange uniforms. My oh my, talk about bright.


The Dark - Threatened to move the team as a negotiating ploy to get a new stadium with a lease that ensures that virtually every penny that enters that stadium at least passes through his fingers if not winding up in his pocket. That lease makes it extremely difficult for other stadium tenants (like the now departed Mutiny and the University of South Florida) to generate any revenue.
The Bright - For all his penny pinching, he's never been reluctant to spend money on the team. As a result, the Bucs are usually at least competitive and won Superbowl XXXVII in 2003.


The Dark - The Kaiser Söze of professional sports owners, he might not even exist. In spite of being the principal owner of an NHL franchise, not one person in the NHL head office, including a league president and commissioner, ever met him. Another of Okubo's enterprises was Kokusai Green, a company that manages golf courses in Japan, although an investigative report by Sports Illustrated revealed that nobody had ever heard of them, including the Japanese Pro Golf Association.
The Bright - $50 million in cash up front and voila! NHL hockey in Tampa Bay!


The Dark - Had no clue what he was getting himself into...until he was neck deep in it, which resulted in him selling the team (for $2 million less than he paid for it) only nine months after he bought it. King of the catchphrase, he might not have been the first person to rhyme "stud" with "dud", but he seemed to think he was.
The Bright - He infused the franchise with enough cash to keep it from sinking forever and was at the helm when Vincent Lecavalier was drafted and signed.


The Dark - Choosing to operate almost exclusively from way up in Detroit, he never showed much interest in the Tampa Bay community or the team itself as anything other than an investment, which didn't give fans a warm and fuzzy feeling...
The Bright - However, winning the Stanley Cup in 2004 sure did.


The Dark - Pulling a Doug Williams on all star defenseman Dan Boyle was the first step in putting together an expensive roster comprised almost entirely of forwards who couldn't score. He followed up that brilliance when he hired Barry Melrose after 13 years away from coaching, fired him after 16 games back, charged employees to park and then fired over 60 of those employees after a season that produced the fewest wins in the NHL, including the team mascot.
The Bright - Hasn't traded Lecavalier...yet. Also, has nice hair.


The Dark - Hoo boy. Just about everything the Devil Rays did under Naimoli's regime was a massive failure, either through bad luck (freak injuries that derailed the careers of promising players like Tony Saunders and Josh Hamilton) or bad planning (The Hit Show). The team finished last every year. A walking PR nightmare, his gruff manner put off fans, sponsors and media alike. People hated almost everything about this team, including the name.
The Bright - How about the fact that he succeeded where many, many, many had failed before in that he got Tampa Bay a damn team, and by extension, the whitest elephant St. Petersburg had ever seen, now known as Tropicana Field, a viable tenant?


The Dark - It's only a matter of time, and the clock is ticking, before he REALLY starts squawking about wanting a new ballpark, for which we (fans, residents, taxpayers) are going to have to pay a sizable chunk.
The Bright - The 2008 American League Championship was an emphatic exclamation point on a makeover that saw one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports become a model organization.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hop On Pop: A Ridiculously inconsistent exclusive!

As many of you may know, former pro wrestler and Hillsborough County commissioner (I honestly don't know which of those two credits should be listed first) Brian Blair was arrested on Sunday (Father's Day) and charged with two felony counts of child abuse after he beat up got in a fight with had a physical confrontation with had a misunderstanding with his two teenage sons.
Below is an exclusive interview I pretended to conduct with Mr. Blair. I didn't attribute fake, silly "answers" that I made up on behalf of Mr. Blair to a bunch of legitimate questions; to do that would be disintegrityarianishy journalism. And since real journalists already frown on how some of us bloggers conduct ourselves (they do, seriously; if you want to ask them yourself, you can probably find some by looking through some of the recently submitted employment applications at your local Subway). Instead, I used Mr. Blair's actual words as answers to a bunch of fake, silly questions I made up.

ME: Mr. Blair, um, so...what's up?
BRIAN BLAIR: "It's a real, I guess, unfortunate situation, that it's a misunderstanding that could have been prevented."
ME: Well, yeah...but I was referring more to you being arrested on two felony counts of child abuse, not the mullet you wore when you were a professional wrestler.
BRIAN BLAIR: "This has had a profound effect on my children, my entire family"
ME: I see your point. But in regard to domestic violence...
BRIAN BLAIR: "...an intolerable and horrible crime"
ME: Sure, I think most people would agree. Which must have made it really hard for victims to understand why you voted last year to cut funding for a county-sponsored domestic violence crisis center...
BRIAN BLAIR: "If they were there, I think they'd understand the situation"
ME: Right on. Bunch of pussies. Say, you wouldn't happen to be a big fan of Chris Brown, would you?
BRIAN BLAIR: "...we have worked tirelessly to advance our shared values and common goals."
ME: I can dig it. I've always wondered, how does a county commissioner relax after a stress-filled day of family values, protecting the rights of bullies to harass gay kids, and hanging out with Micheal Jackson and Bill O'Reilly?
BRIAN BLAIR: "...the last thing that I'd ever do is hurt a kid."
ME: Whoa! A kid? Couldn't you find any worthy opponents closer to your own age?
BRIAN BLAIR: "...my wife is OK"
ME: I'll bet. Didn't you once get your ass kicked by a tray of dirty dishes?
BRIAN BLAIR: "It knocked the dog doo-doo out of me"
ME: Uhh...how did you get dog doo-doo in you?
BRIAN BLAIR: "I was in the best mood of my life. I was with my family. We were all smiling and happy, and I was - I know that I - I had a clear mind, if that is what you're getting at. I don't think I took any kind of medicine. I was just a happy camper."
ME: Note to self; don't go camping with the Blairs...
BRIAN BLAIR: "We took a lot of pride in being able to adapt to whatever the audience wanted."
ME: Where the hell did you go camping? Tijuana?
BRIAN BLAIR: "Yes! But not initially."
ME: I don't...um, I don't think that we, you know, need to hear any more about that...
BRIAN BLAIR: "...it's not good for the boys as a whole."
ME: Yeah, that's sorta what I was thinking too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Everybody...get in line.

I was at a store yesterday, waiting in line along with five other people, to pay for a purchase. A man came into the store with a bag, walked right past everyone waiting in line and asked the clerk, who was serving someone at the time, if he had to wait in the line if he wanted to return something. When the clerk answered yes, he reacted angrily and stomped his way to a spot at the end of the line and fumed.
Somebody...please...help me understand.
I mean, I get that he didn't want to wait in line. I'm very impatient and waiting in line is so overwhelmingly unproductive on so many levels that few things in life aggravate me more. The fact that there's nothing you can do about it doesn't comfort me. In fact, it just frustrates me even more.

Nothing you can do about it, Clark. Might as well just stand here and wait.
What?!? I'm an American. I can do anything I want!
Nope, not now.
Why? Why can't I do anything about it?
There is no answer. It's just one of those things.
That's stupid. I don't accept that. There's an answer for everything.
Hush, now. And stand still until it's your turn to move forward another 18 inches.
AAUUGHH!!! I'll kill you and everybody else here!!
So yeah, I understand that.
What I don't understand is the mindset at work here. What was he thinking? Did he really think that the clerk was going to make people who got there before him to spend their money, wait while she gave him money back? Did he really think he didn't have to accept the stupid reality that everybody else does? I'm standing in line, he has to stand in line. Who does he think he is?
Some of you humans, man. I just don't know.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Belated birthday greeting

Holy moley, I forgot to wish my buddy Prince happy birthday! It was two weeks ago and I missed it. It's not that big a deal because the way our friendship works is he shares music with me, I pay him for it, and otherwise we leave each other alone. Also, my understanding is that Prince doesn't even celebrate birthdays. Still, it's common courtesy to acknowledge it, so I am, even though I'm late.

I own all of his albums (no bootlegs, thank you), including most of the stuff he's done on the side and I've seen him in concert three times. I'm often asked by people why I have a Prince fixation, since it doesn't seem from outward appearances that I would have much in common with him...

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES - Aside from where our legs, arms and heads are attached to our torsos, we look nothing alike. He's black, I'm white. I'm tall, he's short. In overall physical stature, I'm about five of him. In fact, if we ever fought in a kung fu movie, he'd have to morph into five of himself and attack me from different angles to even have a chance of defeating me.

CULTURAL BACKGROUND - We're both midwest boys but he's a black guy raised in a predominantly white city and I'm a white guy raised in a predominantly black one. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I listened to more Parliament Funkadelic growing up than he did and that he heard more Led Zeppelin growing up than I did.

LEISURE ACTIVITIES - He loves basketball. I haven't cared about the NBA since Charles Barkley retired.


Ummm, no.

So I don't know. How or why does somebody need to justify something like a personal preference? His music appeals to me, I think he's a brilliant live performer and a gifted musician and I admire his commitment to being unique and independent. He's my favorite, that's all.

So happy birthday, dude. Even if you don't celebrate it, I appreciate having you around.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Anniversary!


1541 - Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto crosses the Mississippi River.

1778 - American forces enter Philadelphia as the British withdraw during the American Revolution.

1812 - The US declares war on Great Britain, beginning the War of 1812.

1815 - Napoleon Bonaparte's troops are defeated by the French at Waterloo, Belgium.

1873 - Suffragist Susan B. Anthony is fined $100 for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential election.

1898 - The Steel Pier boardwalk opens at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

1928 - Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, with a 21-hour solo flight from Newfoundland to Wales.

1983 - Sally Ride becomes the first US woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

2006 - I wrote the first entry in this blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

High Fashion

It's my opinion that there are only three kinds of garments: shirts, pants and dresses. Everything else is a variant of one of those three things. "So what are socks, smart guy?", you ask. And my answer is that socks are a variant of shoes, which are not a garment. But if I had to classify them, they'd be pants because they go on the legs. Specifically, the feet part of the legs.
With that, I'm probably not the first person who would expect to be invited to a screening of a "Valentino The Last Emperor", a documentary about a legendary fashion designer. Imagine my surprise when I was. Last Friday night it was screened at Tampa Theatre and director Matt Tyrenauer was on hand to discuss the film and answer questions. I love going to screenings where you can interact with people involved with the making of the film because the process of filmmaking is interesting and different with each film. To me, there's value to these interactions, even if I can't relate to the film itself.
I'm not saying it isn't good; it is. It's actually more about the hilariously complex relationship between Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giametti (who, to me, looks exactly like Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw in "JFK") than it is about fashion. This glimpse into haute couture showed me a world that doesn't remotely resemble anything I know as real life. Between the amazing clothes, lush homes scattered around Europe (so many of them were featured that I actually lost count) and the kind of things that would upset him, Valentino might as well be from another plant. The fact that Tyrenauer has created a film about a world with which (I'm guessing) no normal person can possibly relate that is still entertaining is an achievement in itself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Carol's Corner: Grocery Stores

(Something my mom and I have in common; we see weird things happen in grocery stores...)

Today on my lunch hour I decided to go to the local grocery store which is right around the corner. It is a locally owned small chain on the order of Florida’s Publix. I only got 3 items so I went to the quick check out lane. As I am approaching the counter I see a man with a big cardboard box on the counter. I get next to him and see that he is buying a chain saw!! Now, this is just a grocery store chain not a mega store like WalMart. Of course they also had whole boneless ribeyes at $4.99 a pound. Maybe the idea is to get a whole ribeye and the chainsaw so you can go home and slice your own steaks. OK I understand now.

On my way home from work there is a Kroger store which I stop at also. They send out a weekly flier and last year they had a sale on Lean Cuisine dinners. Now the problem I had with this one is that if you bought 10 of the frozen dinners you got ½ gallon of ice cream for free. Isn’t that defeating the whole purpose?

I lead a pretty boring life. I guess that most of my excitement seems to come from the simple task of grocery shopping. Well, I guess we get our thrills where we can.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Homemade Music Symposium wrap-up

I think it may be time to officially admit that I'm getting old. I'm writing this on Sunday night following a three hour nap after getting home from the Homemade Music Symposium in Ybor this weekend. Although, the last part of today was spent outside in what I was told was a heat index of 105° so maybe I have an alibi.
Anyway, the event itself was fantastic. A great mix of business and music with artists and industry people mingling and sharing ideas. The state of the music industry itself, which can best be described as "in flux" (which I believe is Latin for "dying painfully") and how to survive and thrive was the theme throughout. Brian Childs of
ninebullets.net went so far as to proclaim that any attempt to make a living as a professional musician was basically doomed unless you can use your music to draw people to shows so they can buy tee shirts. That's sobering and a lot of people probably didn't like hearing it but it's the reality we live in now. The encouraging thing was seeing how many people still want to be musicians in spite of everything. The fact that now maybe more than ever it is not an expressway to fame and fortune would seem to indicate that these people have a genuine passion for their music itself which can be seen as nothing but a positive development.
If you didn't go and wanted to, here are the three important themes:

  • Have and maintain an online presence.
  • Play live, often.
  • Repeat steps 1 and 2 as necessary (as necessary = always).
Now, here's the not-quite-as-important stuff that I know some of you have been looking for.
These are the contents of the goody bag that was waiting for me in my hotel room suite at the Hampton Inn. Why did I get a goody bag? Because:
A) I'm a big shot blogger and the things I write are important and change people's lives and they love me for it.
B) I'm a big shot blogger and I can either build or destroy entire empires with but a few keystrokes, bitches.
C) Some people are just nice to me for some reason.

(There is probably a slightly larger nugget of truth in one of those items than the other two)

I took a few minutes to pose for publicity photos for the new buddy cop drama starring myself and Kelly Brophy ("rhymes with trophy"). One's a fashion designer, the other's a writer. Both wear glasses. Neither has a real gun. Coming this fall to Fox.

One of my dinner companions was on a mission to eat ALL the ketchup in Ybor City Saturday night. She is out of control and needs to be stopped. Maybe it's a case we can cover on our buddy cop show this fall.

The great Rebekah Pulley played at New World Brewery Saturday night. It is always a privilege to see her perform. I got to see other remarkable artists over the course of the weekend, including Lorna Bracewell, 10th Concession, Lee Hinkle, Bunko Squad and Ronny Elliott.

This is Emily Roff. I think she is amazing and truly gifted. I've seen her play twice and was blown away both times. Regardless of the state of the music biz, I find it very difficult to understand how she is not a bigger star than half the people you read about in Rolling Stone.

Here are some more pictures, taken by Kelly Hickman, who is as at least as talented in her own right as any artist mentioned here.
PS: She also took the picture at the top of this page.

CDs for sale

Lorna Bracewell @ New World Brewery

Rebekah Pulley @ New World Brewery

Ronny Elliott @ The Bunker

Mixed messages, via Twitter

Fired up about "Sticks..."

I've been a contributor to Tampa's best blog, "Sticks of Fire" for over two years now. But beginning this week, I will be posting content there that will be available exclusively at "Sticks...".

What will I be writing about? That's a bad question. Because I have no idea and the clock is ticking rapidly towards a Monday evening deadline. All I know is it will probably be Tampa Bay-centric unless it isn't.

So go there to see stuff that you won't find here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In case you didn't know, baseball and beer go well together

"Attaway to stomp 'em. Stomp the piss out of 'em. Stomp 'em when they're down. Kick 'em and stomp 'em. Attaway to go boys. Pound that old Budweiser into you and go get them tomorrow."

"Attaway to stomp on 'em, men. Pound that Budweiser into you and go get 'em tomorrow."

"Give him some low smoke and we'll go in and pound some Budweiser."

"You'll never get them out drinking Dr. Pepper."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baked and confused

Doesn't that chicken look good? I know!

I love chicken and I eat it often. With my local grocer always having packages of five or six leg quarters for under $4, how can I afford not to? I like to coat it with bread crumbs, some Adobo and bake it in the oven and have some kind of vegetable on the side. That's like, maybe $1.50 a meal.

My problem is, for whatever reason, I just can't seem to remember the very simple baking instructions. Is it 350° for 45 minutes, is it 450° at 30 minutes or is it 700° for 5 minutes, is it 45° for 30 days or is it something something else? I know, I should just stick a post-it note on the 'fridge but it's one of those things, like updating my address book or feeding my cats, that I just never seem to get around to.

So like in most cases where I need an instant answer to a question, I turn to the internet. Unfortunately, sometimes the internet, and the people who contribute content to it, are a little too clever for my own good. It seems like the simpler the question, the harder it is to get an answer. Here are some of the answers you're likely to find when you type "how do you bake chicken?" into your favorite search engine*.

  • "This is the rule: when cooking chicken breasts with dry heat, use high heat and cook for a short period of time. When using moist heat, use low heat and cook for a longer period of time. Now when I say longer, that doesn't mean hours. Grilled chicken breasts cook in 8-10 minutes, while poached breasts cook in about 15 minutes. And here's another tip: when cooking with dry heat, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness so they will cook evenly." Who wrote this, the Riddler? There's no mention of temperature and what is moist heat? I live in Florida where it's always moist and hot. Does that include my oven? Or should I move to Phoenix?

  • "Use a meat thermometer...Chicken 165°-175°" That's very helpful, except I have neither a meat thermometer nor a calculator that performs algebra functions. Don't tell me what the temperature of the chicken needs to be, tell me what temperature I need to cook it at to get it there! It's not about the process, it's about the result.

  • "Skin and wash chicken. Place in pan add sliced bell pepper, onion soup mix, and 1 cup of water." I don't need assistance in making it taste good. I already do my own thing in that regard. I just don't want to get salmonella.

  • "To make peeling easy, place shallots in a bowl of warm water, and soak until skins loosen (they'll be wrinkled and cracked), about 15 minutes. Using a paring knife, slip skins off." What? Who the hell even said anything about...what? Shallots? What is that, a gay onion? Come on!

  • "You can bake chicken whole or in pieces and season it any way you like." Well, I guess it's good to know the Libertarians have an opinion on the matter, even if they don't have any answers.

* For people who wound up at this blog because a search engine sent them here in response to that question, the simple, short answer is 45 minutes at 400°.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Homemade Music Symposium

Between the decline in popularity of traditional so-called "terrestrial" radio stations, the abundant availability of music online and changes in the public's individual tastes, the recording industry as we know it is quickly becoming extinct. Understandably, many people within that industry, artists as well as executives, are very nervous while they wait to see how things shake out. Smart people, however, are not waiting at all and are already exploring new and different ways to connect with their audience in an effort to remain artistically and commercially viable. Those who can anticipate and stay ahead of the trends (the failure to do so, particularly in regards to the internet, is the biggest single reason the old paradigm is dying) stand to benefit the most. The days of big contracts (front loaded with tricky clauses that may or may not yield big pay days) and high exposure may be over but a new age with artists having greater freedom, control over their output (including ownership of their masters) and more real money finding it's way into their pockets (as opposed to some number written into a contract that only exists in that document) could be right around the corner.
So if you're a young artist looking to enter this turbulent market, how do you know what to do first? Well, a good place to get some ideas and network with people who could be of assistance is this weekend's Homemade Music Symposium, taking place at various locations in Ybor City. Presented by The Artists & Writers Group, Homemade is "designed to help musicians develop and compete in the modern commercial environment" and will feature workshops, guest speakers and performances. I plan on attending in the hope of meeting and working with new artists. I'm especially interested in the workshops on Saturday that cover marketing and media. I really hope to see people there.

Here's the event schedule, but of course there is more info available at the official symposium web site.

Wednesday - June 10 2009
The Dirty Shame - 7th Ave and 20th St in Ybor City (
7:00 PM An Evening with
Tony Michaelides Stories from the ’24 Hour Party People” scene in Manchester UK and the birth of Punk and Rave Culture — Tony presents his personal reflections on relationships with icons like Tony Wilson from Factory Records, Martin Hannett, Joy Division, and The Happy Mondays with some never before seen video and audio.Free and open to public

Saturday - June 13 2009
HCC Art GalleryHCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center (
9:00AM - 10:30AM Opening Reception. Coffee and nibbles.
9:00AM - 7:00PM One-day show. Special exhibit featuring art works inspired by music and music makers. Featuring a live generative deconstruction sound/performance installation by AVAACC.

Main Stage HCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center
10:00 AM Poets of Popular Song. The Lyrics and Lyric Writers of the Great American Songbook
Rosa Rio, Paul Wilborn, Eugenie Bondurant
Noon Lunch Network with area professionals or check out some of the great restaurants in Ybor City
1:00 PM TuneCore and Digital Media Distribution.
Peter Wells, Co-Founder of TuneCore
2:00 PM Area Record Labels and Artist Managers Panel.
Ivan Peña (Mohawk Bomb Records), Brett Steele (Steele Management), Joe D'Acunto (THX MGMT), Steve Dube (Decadent Suite)
3:00 PM Alternative Media Promotion: Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, and the Blog Network.
Julia Gorzka (Social Media Consultant), Megan Voeller (Editor, artsqueeze.com), Darrin Guilbeau (siliconeadvantage.com), Stephen Hammill (Creative Loafing), Bryan Childs (ninebullets.net)
4:00 PM Marketing, Touring and Band Management: Content Managing for Bands.
Joran Oppelt (Creative Loafing), Ivan Peña (Mohawk Bomb Records), Stephen Hammill (Creative Loafing), Shawn Kyle (REAX Magazine), Joe D'Acunto (THX MGMT)
5:00 PM How to Get the Most Out of a Studio Session.
Steve Connelly (Zen Recording), Wes Price (Polysound Studios), Brian Merrill (Studio B), John Stephan (Springs Theatre)
6:00 PM Meet the Press: Area Music Critic Panel.
Julie Garisto (St. Petersburg Times and tbt*), Curtis Ross (Tampa Tribune), Lee Courtney (WMNF Radio), Scott Harrell (REAX Magazine), Leilani Polk (Creative Loafing)

Studio TheatreHCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center
3:00 - 6:00 PM Theatrical Concepts in Video Recording.
Stan Arthur (Filmmaker and Musician), Fred Smith (Grown Man Brand). Featuring Hypnophonic Band.

Rehearsal Hall HCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center
3:00 PM The Pranayama of Voice.
Denise Moore (jazz vocal stylist and yoga teacher)
5:00 PM Using Your Electronic Press Kit and Website to Put More Money in Your Pocket.
Ivan Pena (Mohawk Bomb Records)

HCC Art GalleryHCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center
3:00 PM Special exhibit featuring art works inspired by music and music makers.

Saturday Night Showcase - June 13 2009
An evening of Special Guests and Performers at Venues All Across Ybor $5 per venue or $10 for an All-Access Pass (Sold at the Symposium and New World Brewery)

New World Brewery1313 E 8th Ave (
8:00 PM - 1:00 AM Homemade Symposium Showcase. Featuring Will Quinlan, Rebekah Pulley and the Reluctant Prophets, Lorna Bracewell, Skull and Bone Band, and 10th Concession Sonic Departures: Avant Garde InterludesFeaturing the Aripeka Stompers (Clogging), Rayzilla (Psychedelic Bass), Lee Hinkle (Avant Garde Zarb), John McCoy (Nintendo DS Techno), The Hole (Ukulele)

Crowbar 1812 17th St N (
8:00 PM - 1:00 AM Mohawk Bomb Records Showcase. Featuring Hat Trick Heroes, The Orchid Thief, Ascending to Avalon and Rise of Saturn

The Roosevelt1812 15th St N (
8:00 PM - 1:00 AM Project 3.0 & Tek-nique Entertainment Present Re:Create The Art of Upcycle "Upcycling the practice of taking something disposable & transforming it into something of greater use and value."Art & Live Works By:Carlos Pons Paz, Isiah Perkins (Boundless Creativity), Efrin Rebugio Jr. (Everyday Research), Christine Galas, Greg Latch (Y.A.A & Ybor Art Colony)Performing live:Dynasty, Slimm Hustle, Shardz of Glass, Dj Furious and More TBA Poetry By: Xzanthia, Katie Punto + More

Arts on 9th 1513 E 9th Ave (
8:00 PM - 1:00 AM New Performers from the Next Generation. Featuring Next Exit and Friends

Sunday - June 14 2009 Free and Open to the Public
Ybor City Museum State Park 1818 E 9th Ave (
1:00 PM Stephanie Carpenter
2:00 PM Hypnophonic Band
4:00 PM Francillia & Lorna Bracewell
5:00 PM Ella Jet featuring Experimental Pilot

Tre Amici @ The Bunker 1907 19th St N (
1:00 PM In Vogue: Tips on Promotional Photography.
Jesse Stehlik (Stehlik Photography)
2:00 PM Bunko Squad and Ronnie Elliott
3:00 PM State of the Scene Town hall meeting to discuss pertinent issues in the area music scene
4:30 PM Insights from the Engine Room
Tony Michaelides
6:00 - 8:00 PM Homemade Wrap Party

REAX Space1911 19th St N (
1:30 PM DIY Sound Recording
Stephen Hammill (Creative Loafing), Brian Merrill (Studio B), Alastair St. Hill
4:00 PM Using Homebrew Software in the Nintendo DS and Audiomulch
John McCoy

Arnold Martinez Gallery1909 19th St N (
1:00 PM Steve Vaclavik
2:00 PM Papos Frassica
4:00 PM Emily Roff

Mermaid's Slipper1903 19th St N (
1:30 PM 10th Concession
2:30 PM Liz Hollister
4:00 PM
Fred Slutsky
4:30 PM Charlotte Lee
5:00 PM Harry Hayward

Tuesday - June 16 2009 Free and Open to the Public
Main Stage HCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center (
7:30 PM Theatrical Music for Solo Percussion. Lee Hinkle, Doctoral Candidate at University of Maryland, and Robert McCormick, University of South Florida Professor of Percussion, will present a concert of contemporary percussion music that incorporates a variety of performance genres into the art of percussion. Highlights include the Daniel Adams marimba duo "Road Traversed and Reversed" and the Florida premiere of Stuart Saunders Smith's "The Authors for Marimba / Vocalist".

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poll: Which is dumber?

WARNING! If you've never visited these sites before, don't come crying to me later about the two to four hours of your life (your actual browsing time will probably vary) you can never get back. http://www.omnomnomnom.com/


(PS: I made the omelette picture)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tampa Law

Check out this advertisement on a bus stop bench in my neighborhood...
More importantly, check out the picture on the ad...
Look at the professional attire. Look at the steely focus in the facial expressions. Look at the defiance expressed in the body language. Look at the overwhelming gravitas oozing out of every pixel of this photograph. What these lawyers are telling you is that they will tolerate absolutely zero nonsense when it comes to handling your legal affairs. What they are willing to tolerate, however, is your hot, sweaty ass and back smooshed all up against their serious pusses while you wait for a bus.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A short conversation about The End of Days

"I'm not going outside today."

"Why not?"

"Do you not know what today is?"

"It's June 6th."

"Yes! June 6th, 2009. 6-6-9. Do you know what that means?"

"It's how today is listed on the calendar, which is the sequential system of reckoning time, with reference to the beginning, length, and divisions of days, months, years and centuries?"

"Yes, exactly! The Mark of the Beast, signalling that the end of the world is nigh! Armageddon. Judgement Day!"

"I thought that was 6-6-6?"

"A 9 is just an upside down 6. Didn't you go to Sunday school?"

"So why are you staying inside all day?"

"The streets are going to run red with blood and the world is going to be consumed in fire. I don't want to be out there in that. I just put new batteries in my smoke detector and I have a fire extinguisher. I like my chances a whole lot better in here than out there."

"Don't you think you had more of a legitimate reason to worry three years ago, on June 6th, 2006? The actual 6-6-06?"


"I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Yeah. Probably."

Friday, June 05, 2009

For the benefit of Mr. Koert

I don't know why I didn't hear about this story when it happened. Maybe I was drunk too. Maybe there are just too many stories about Gasparilla assholery to keep track of. Impossible to tell at this point. The important thing is if statements like this are any indication:

"The government has no proof that Koert knew they were law enforcement officers" in the inflatable vessel, Fernandez (Koert's lawyer) wrote. "This was the evening of Gasparilla. There had been guns and cannons firing and blasting all day long. There had been boats and ships 'invading' Tampa. … Frankly, Koert may well have believed that he was defending Tampa from invading marauders."

...then the trial is going to be as entertaining as the incident itself.

Gasparilla; your source for year-round fun!