“Let’s Crappy Mustache It Up In Here!”

The Red-headed Kid is growing a mustache. A tiny crappy mustache, because he’s having a contest with his brother. The Butcher and he are now discussing which movies are like diarrhea and which are like terrible constipation. But the most important thing we all discovered is that none of us have finished The Fourth Kind.

If a movie is so crappy that the Red-headed Kid can’t finish it, it is crappy indeed.

How to Improve Vegan Food

Let me be clear. I am not a vegan nor even a vegetarian. But I have had an ongoing discussion about vegan food over the past three weeks with lots of people and I figure that if I, a non-vegan, am having this conversation repeatedly there must be some meat (so to speak) in it.

So, here’s the deal. Vegan food should taste good. If it does, people will incorporate those dishes into their diets. You may not win a philosophical victory–because they’ll still also eat meat–but you will be introducing people to tasty, healthy dishes. That is a victory.

But so very, very often vegan food looks fantastic and tastes like someone just dumped every spice in the cabinet into it. Take this dish I encountered at the library. S. and I met for lunch at the downtown library and there, in the case, was this fantastic looking vegan bean dish. Just from the looks of it, it appeared to have three or four different types of beans, onions, tomatoes, maybe some kind of squash, all in a kind of hearty thick stew. Mmm, can’t you taste it just me describing it?

Well, the dude behind the counter insisted that I should try it, which I thought was weird, but okay. And try it I did and… ugh… no. Not good. It was as if the cook thought “Oh, hey, mustard goes with beans because you put mustard in cowboy beans” and then thought “But I can’t just use yellow mustard because it’s supposed to be fancy, so I will use this fancy pants mustard.” But, of course, different mustards taste different. So, where as the kind of bland zip of yellow mustard might have been a nice compliment to the sweetness of the beans and onions, the fancy mustard’s spices clashed with and almost overwhelmed the taste of the beans. And it was weird because beans and onions and tomatoes all have good tastes that go together. You might not have even needed anything other than a little salt and pepper.

I had macaroni and cheese instead.

I get that spicing things when you don’t have the option of animal products can, at first, seem tricky. But really, vegetables taste awesome. You don’t have to do anything to them. The other thing is that we live in a world where a lot of cultures eat a ton of vegetarian or very-heavily vegetable based dishes. There is no shame in studying what spices they put together and ripping them off for your own vegan dishes. It’s honesty fine if the innovation in the recipe is just in the non-inclusion of animal products. It doesn’t also have to taste like something that has never existed in the history of the world.

But, on the other hand, a vegan dish shouldn’t be “just like” some meat-based dish. I don’t need vegan pork and beans, you know? Just feed me some yummy vegan bean dish. Hell even with yellow mustard and brown sugar and onions. That’s cool. I don’t need fake pork in it. Plus, I like tofu when it’s prepared as tofu. Again, we have lots of cultures who cook with tofu as a thing itself, not as a fake meat. Please, I beg you. Rip them off.

And then, invite me over for dinner.

“Before You Slip into Unconsciousness…”

I went to bed last night at nine thirty. And I slept like I was on the Olympic Sleep Team until 1:30, at which point I woke up feeling so refreshed and alert. If it hadn’t been the middle of the night, I would have felt like I woke up from the greatest nap ever.

I got back to sleep, but the second part of the night wasn’t as restful. I finally just had to get up at six. But hopefully that’s the end of my bone-tiredness.

So, yeah, I did read Greil Marcus’s book on The Doors yesterday and I liked it, but… (ha, I wonder at what point in that sentence you knew there was going to be a ‘but’?) I kept comparing it to Barry Mazor’s Jimmie Rodgers book. Not that they’re anything alike, except that they’re both about musicians whose music has, whether you realize it or not, kind of become ubiquitous and they’re not biographies of those musicians but books that try to really get at something about how the music itself works (though the “work” Mazor and Marcus are focusing on is different).

Something about how Mazor writes makes you want to search out the songs he’s talking about. I didn’t feel like they were “missing” from the text because, even if he was talking about a particular recasting of a Jimmie Rodgers song done by some band I don’t care for, I felt like Mazor described the song in a way that spurred me to look it up on youtube or to spend my dollar to get it on iTunes.

But lord almighty, Marcus’s writing does NOT make you want to go search out some of these live Doors cuts! I swear, it seems like every time he describes a live version of a song it’s like “there’s silence for three minutes and then Morrison makes some sounds that could be him pooping on stage or some attempt to break free of the limits of language.” (That’s not a direct quote, just a summary of many sentences in the book.) You know what I don’t want to spend a dollar on? Jim Morrison not singing while the other guys don’t play the song they’re all ostensibly performing.

But man, I thought it would have been handy to have clips of those specific performances right in the text!

Anyway, I liked the book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I like reading brilliant people write about music that they love in a way that tries to get across the very personal things they’re hearing in the music that makes them love it. Hell, I like to try to write like that.

But one thing I think this book is just indispensable for is really getting at the heart of what went wrong for The Doors. Marcus, I think, has a great grasp on how easily they could have been some kind of “art band” that sat around and sneered at anyone who loved them unironically, if not for the popularity of their hits. And holy shit! I feel like I’ve read a lot about The Doors and I even liked the movie, but I’ve never read anyone who gets across so well the breakdown in the relationship between The Doors and their fans.

I mean, sure, I know the “Jim was a surly asshole drunk who hated everyone” aspect of the myth, but I didn’t realize just how nasty the crowd could be to them. I wish Marcus had speculated a little more on what brought that dynamic about, but I really, really appreciated him spelling it out so clearly.