Thursday, August 30, 2007

Look at that S-Car-Go!

Originally uploaded by alpharat
If you read this site with any regularity, you're aware of my love for shellfish. Generally, this comes in the form of oysters, clams and mussels, which can all be purchased live and on ice at one of the various fishmongers in the area (they're not exclusively fishmongers, but I like that word).

This love of shellfish also includes snails, which don't live in the water and probably aren't shellfish at all, but they have shells, and I'm not sure how else to classify them.

I've had escargot at a few places, but always at restaurants. The best escargot I ever had was in Paris (go figure!), but I've had it in restaurants stateside as well, and it was always quite good.

A week or so ago, we decided to get frozen escargot from a local gourmet shop as an appetizer to a big Italian Sunday dinner of spaghetti and clams in white whine and garlic. (I know, you're either thinking "more shellfish" or "escargot is French! Why have it before Italian food?" Either response is fine, but it was our dinner so we're allowed to mix things up.)

I'd never had frozen escargot before (although I'm sure most restaurants in the U.S. probably use it, I'd never made it at home). It was quite easy; simply throw it in the oven until it bubbled, then serve it up.


I don't know if you've ever eaten a petting zoo, but while I haven't either, I can only imagine that this is what it would taste like. It tasted like a bunch of dirty little goats running around, knocking children over, chewing on whatever they could get their mouths on and doing their business wherever they pleased.

That's not a good flavor. We pitched the snails without even making it through one.

Fortunately, the rest of the meal was exquisite.

I think we've decided that we will never again prepare snails in our house.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Green Can You Be?

It all depends on how far you want to go.

I eat healthy. I try to go to the Eastern Market for my produce as often as possible. Most of it’s locally grown by small farmers. Much of it’s organic. I’ve tried to grow my own produce, but I don’t have the skills to do it with any efficiency.

I couldn’t do the 100-mile diet (for those of you too new to remember Z writing about it, it simply means not eating anything produced more than 100 miles away - more info is here). I mean I could - I just don’t want to. I don’t want to give up coffee. Or oysters. Or olives. Or French or Italian wines, or California wines for that matter. There are too many things that I’m simply not willing to give up.

I’m not a vegetarian. I probably could be a vegetarian, I eat vegetarian quite often, and I can cook vegetarian food, I just don’t want to be a vegetarian. I like the occasional bloody rare steak. I like pulled pork, sausage and bacon. I like to occasionally splurge on duck. It wouldn’t take much to become a vegetarian; I just don’t really want to do it.

Also, being strict about being vegetarian would be a royal PITA. Vegetarians have to worry about stuff like, “Is there fish oil in this salad dressing? Is there lard in these beans? Is there beef gelatin in this glass of wine?” (Yep, even that last one is true.) Look, unless it’s going to kill me immediately, I don’t want to have to stress about what I’m eating. And I don’t want to face a day where the fact that beer and wine are made with animal products will force me to give them up.

Sorry, If I’ve opened up a horrible revelation to any vegetarians reading this, but yes, many beers and wines are made with various animal products in them.

Local Produce, Imported Cheese
Originally uploaded by alpharat
On this token, I could also really never become vegan. Even if most vegetarians are not overly concerned with minute traces of animal byproducts in their beer, vegans are. Vegans also don’t eat cheese, which I think is against the Bible. I know there was a thou shalt or something about how fresh mozzarella is really good and how Jesus wanted us to have it with tomatoes, basil and balsamic.

So, when it comes to eating, I guess I’m a moderate. I like to eat healthy. I go out of my way to get local produce and to eat organically. I eat more fish than I do red meat, and have no problem going a few days without any meat. I’m OK with this. I could probably leave a smaller footprint on the Earth, and while I do think of that occasionally, right now I’m comfortable with myself.

And I think that’s the important part. But, I will probably frown at everyone who is less committed to healthy and environmentally sound eating habits than I, and pity those who are stricter. It’s the old “anyone driving slower than me is an idiot – and everyone driving faster is a maniac” phenomena. Something in our psychological being forces us to look at everything relative to ourselves. Einstein said something about relativity, but it was only kind of the same thing.

Now that we’ve set the stage, I would like to introduce you to another dietary/lifestyle group – the freegans. In their own words, ”Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.”

What does that mean? Freegans adopt a vegan lifestyle, but only eat things they don’t have to pay for. I’m not talking about homegrown self-sufficiency either. They dumpster dive for food.

These are the same people who are ”are outraged that people literally freeze to death on the streets while landlords and cities keep buildings boarded up and vacant because they can’t turn a profit on making them available as housing.” OK, we all may be outraged at this, but they take a logic leap and decide that this belief means that they should be squatting rent free in these abandoned buildings.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is simply a way to adopt a political lifestyle to cover up the fact that they’re gross and just a bit underemployed?

I guess I never realized what a capitalist pig I was until now. I like owning property that won’t be taken away (as long as I’m working and paying bills anyway). In fact, I don’t mind working when it allows me to splurge on things like a decent bottle of wine or a plate of raw oysters now and then. And while I guess that may be selfish, I’m not ready to start eating garbage in order to feel better about my impact on the world.

If you want to learn more about Freeganism and becoming a gross person Freegan, they have a Web site. They must use the computer at the library, because, last I checked, most vacant buildings don’t have access to the Interwebs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Drying Out

Despite tornadoes and high winds in the area, we got through the storm pretty well. Better than others, anyway. A few blocks away, trees were ripped out of the ground, and not much further, people lost power for three days. TFN's sister ended up with four feet of water in her basement, as well as a host of fish and frogs who traveled with it.

Apparently, due to the storm coverage, they also bumped the broadcast of the Miss Teen USA pageant. That's a shame, because around here everyone missed seeing this firsthand:

I neither know nor care who won the pageant, but I am extremely grateful that Miss Teen South Carolina was able to confirm my suspicions about beauty queens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weathering the storm

As I'm writing this, I have taken refuge. There is a wicked thunderstorm going overhead right now, and tornadoes have been sighted in the area. I'm hiding out in the basement with a cat and a very nervous dog glued to my hip.

Storms don't bother him, but he's used to lying in the dog bed while they pass. Picking him up and carrying him down the stairs (he didn't want to go) has him feeling like things aren't right.

It's amazing that, in this day and age, we can still be humbled by something like the weather. I'm hiding out in my basement while thunder crackles outside, and TFN's sister, who lives on a river bank, has water inches from her back door and they're waiting to see if the water will still rise.

Now the nervous dog has just thrown up on the tile. Nice. I think it's partly out of nervousness, and partly that he's not used to being carried, especially right after he's eaten. Ah well, off to get some paper towel, hope the house doesn't collapse while I'm upstairs...

Ok, we're back safe and sound and the tile is clean again. Where was I?

Ah yes, we get so cocky about our mastery of the world, it just takes something like the psychotic weather of the past week to humble us up a bit.

If the power goes out, A. I won't be able to access the Interwebs, and therfore this post goes bu-bye, but B. the big thing is that we'll lose the sump pump. Withouht the sump pump, the basement will take on water, especially with all of the rain we've had. Sister in law who lives on the river has FIVE! sump pumps, all laboring to keep the house safe. Power goes out, they're fucked.

It's 2007, we have electricity and the Interwebs and cable TV and Fruit Rollups, yet when a tornado is sighted, I may as well be a Neanderthal hiding in a cave, waiting out the rain. Then again, Neanderthals didn't have Youtube, and they couldn't watch things like this to weather out the storm...

What'd I tell ya? Cat-blogging! All cats all the time!

See you when the storm blows over.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's my party and I'll blog if I want to.

I just realized that a few days ago signaled another year of this little site. Actually, it was Saturday which signaled the day that I inauspiciously started one of the blog things on the internets two years ago with this little blurb. At that moment, Kit Burns was framed! was born. In just two years, it has become a multi-million dollar juggernaut of the the literary world, and there's nowhere to go from here but up!

Blogging has been a lot of fun. I've met some great peeps on the internets, and read some great writing. While my interest has ebbed and flowed in doing it, it has never gone away completely, and it probably won't do so anytime soon.

I do want to thank the investors who've made this possible, those who took the risk of laying out the venture capital in the early days, and I am happy to know that I've made you more money with this project than you could have possibly imagined. Between merchandising, action figures and the film rights to Kit Burns was framed! The Movie, we could all retire tomorrow. But then, the boredom would kill us, wouldn't it? So lets just get back on the bus and take this one as far as it will go.

There are also a few others who've I relied upon for influence and connections, without which we never would have been able to manage the information acquisition we had, or the legal wrangling that has at various times kept most of the staff here at Kit Burns was framed! out of prison (and to Jordan, who took one for the team, we're still appealing!). You all know who you are, and while I respect your desire to remain nameless, I did want to thank you.

And, since I don't know what else to say, let me just share a few photos that I took Saturday, the second anniversary of our inception.

This is how we do fountains in Detroit.

Detroit fountain

Cats and a giraffe.

kitties and giraffe

Ciao! Thank you, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

The newest addition to our family

Nicole's new baby
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I'd like to welcome this lovely young lady to our family. She's TFN's new ride, and don't let her good looks fool you - she's tough.

You'll notice she looks a little uncomfortable in the photo. That's because she's sitting in the living room. She's claustrophobic and hyperactive. She hates sitting still and really hates being inside. Unfortunately, the weather has been less than cooperative.

Rather than criticize her claustrophobia or hyperactivity as flaws though, we choose to celebrate them. As soon as the weather breaks, we'll take her to environs more comfortable for her. I'll be sure to get a photo of her in a more natural state then.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For Jamie

While I put a lot of stuff on my blog, I also am pretty secretive. I talk about a lot of fun stuff, but really, I keep my personal details to a minimum.

Sometimes, though, it feels good to write something down, even if I don't feel like sharing it with the world.

So I've decided to write about Jamie. Jamie was a rockstar of the highest order. Jamie could drink you under the table without a second thought, but he would never hold it against you.

I first met Jamie when he played keyboards in the Lust. They stayed with us the weekend that they came into town. I was blown away by his charisma, his friendliness, his lack of attitude and his infectious smile.

During the weekend they stayed with us, we talked about a ton of stuff. Jamie was eloquent and intelligent, and not at all wrapped up in being a rock star. On the first night he stayed with us, we walked through my yard in the dark, drinking beer and talking about everything from religion, to history, to food and the state of my struggling (now failed) attempts at a vegetable and herb garden.

We pulled out a whiskey bottle and passed it back and forth, drinking and laughing.

I slept on the lawn that night.

Jamie didn't get riled up about anything. When The Lust played at the Old Miami that weekend, the soundman at the bar was abysmal, yet he was unphased no matter how angry his bandmates were. And when his bandmates stood on the curb, heatedly arguing about how to load their gear, he stood off to the side with Nicole and I, smirking with that twinkle in his eye.

For as enamored as I sound of Jamie, it doesn't touch the connection that he and Nicole made. That weekend in our little house, the two of them sat at the kitchen table for hours, well past the time the sun came up that morning, talking about a wider and deeper range of topics than you could imagine. They forged a friendship that night.

When the Lust left, Jamie told us to come visit him at the Double Door whenever we were in Chicago and we would never pay for drinks. He was right, and it was detrimental to me on more than one occasion, but as always, he and Nicole would sit and chat well past close. She loved that kid.

Friday night, Jamie took his own life. We found out Saturday afternoon on our way to a party. Nicole broke down in tears on the street. She didn't want to go to the party crying, but I dragged her in, feeling it was better that we were among friends at the moment than in the alley behind the house. We tucked away for a bit, and then proceeded to try and enjoy the night.

It wasn't until we got home that night that I really broke down, full of sadness, frustration and anger about it all. For a few minutes, I think I grieved deeper than I ever have, until I went to bed out of exhaustion more than anything else.

It's strangely appropriate that it started raining here on Saturday, and hasn't stopped yet.

The hardest thing to deal with is the anger. When Maria passed away earlier this year, I was able to be angry at the cancer that took her away from us, her husband and her daughter. With this, I can only be angry with Jamie. I miss him so much, but I'm angry with him, too.

He was an amazingly special person, one that I feel fortunate to have considered a friend despite the fact that we only spent a limited amount of times together. I'm sure we're not alone in this regard; I'm sure he touched a lot of people that way.

I can only hope that he's found peace, and escaped what he was running from. He will always be missed, and fondly remembered.

(Edit - I removed Jamie's last name as this post was generating a lot of traffic, and I don't want to cause pain to anyone; if you know me and you know Jamie, you know where to find it, but I know Jamie had eight bazillion friends I didn't know, and the rambling of someone they don't know probably may not be the most cathartic for them.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cat-blogging! All cats, all the time!

Cat on a hot red couch
Originally uploaded by alpharat
So, I was at the site for Mental Floss magazine, today (it’s one of those sites that’s part of my daily rotation), and I stumbled on a post about bloggers, and this thing they do called blogging.

Paraphrasing a bit, they searched around the Interwebs to find what various authorities and sources were saying about “the average blogger.”

They turned up some quotes, and I was looking at them, as well as at the stories, to try and figure out how “average” I am.

"The average blogger is a 14-year-old girl writing about her cat." - Alexander Halavais, assistant professor of interactive communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut

Ok, while I beat that age demographic, I have blogged about Miss Mina on more than one occasion. What’s wrong with that? Anyway, cat blogs are very popular with some folks, especially crazy cat ladies.

Another study they pointed out said that “most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated. The 'average blog' thus has the lifespan of a fruitfly”

OK, while I haven’t been ultraregular on my updates, and while I blame it on my “job blog”, I do try to update at least once a week. Granted, there were times, in my bloggish youth, where I could update three times a day, every day. But age catches up with us. Occasionally I’ll get those bouts of energy, but right now, it’s not so often.

The biggest one that makes me wonder was a statement by the CEO of Google, who said that the “average blog” is read by one person. That makes me wonder how average I am. I think I get two or three readers, but I’m not exactly sure.

What if no readers came to this site, would it change anything?
Sadly, I think it would. Part of this whole blog thing, for me at least, involves the exchange of ideas, thoughts, revelations and inspirations. If nobody visits a blog, does it make a sound?

Anyway, for better or for worse, the post is here. Do me a favor though. Before you go, drop a short roll call comment at the bottom of the post, to alleviate the idea that I may simply be average.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hi, my name is Ryan and I’m esoteric…

Il calore e insopportabile.
The heat is unbearable.

That seems to be the trend as of late. The heat has been stifling lately, creating the type of temperatures that force one inside to hide in the dark, next to the window air conditioner (or in my white trash neighbor’s case, has them sitting in lawn chairs shaded from the sun – by their van).

I read a news article that said we can plan on the next 10 years or so being cyclically warmer, too. That is, whether or not you believe is global warming, the next 10 summers are going to be hot simply because they will be. If that’s true, I’m heading up to Alaska for a few, because I like to breathe air, not wade through it.

Now, then, global warming - is it real? Apparently that depends on who you ask. There are people who say it’s coming, and we’re accelerating it – unfortunately, I am told that those people are being paranoid and melodramatic, simply because they love grant money and hate America. Those that say that global warming isn’t happening are, I am told, simply government shills on the take from big businesses with bigger check books (but at least they don’t hate America).

I guess it’s up to you where you want to side, but there are some indisputable facts. One, it’s damn hot. Two, polar bears are drowning. The fact that polar bears are drowning probably should be telling us we need to fix something. But it won’t. Not until there are people in the right places who are more concerned about sound environmental policy than about pushing some caribou out of the way so they can drill for oil.

My biggest/best global warming argument is this: whether or not you believe global warming is happening, or if it’s cyclical or man-enhanced, what’s wrong with being green? I like mountain biking. I like getting out in the woods. I like nature. Don’t most of us like nature? Then why not simply agree we all need to be nicer to the outside simply because it’s the right thing to do?

Believe it or not, I didn’t intend this post to be about this. My Italian phrase a day calendar just set me off.

What did I want to talk about? Well, I think it’s going to be a long and winding road getting there, so I hope you packed a lunch, because I’ll be taking the scenic route.

Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records.
Well I do. So fuck him and fuck you, too. –Eminem

I don’t bring it up often, but Eminem is incredibly talented. His rhymes are tight, and his lyrics are great. It’s not something that gets mentioned often though, because allying one with Marshall aligns you with his fans, and… well I told you about my neighbors sitting in the shade of their van.

Plus, he doesn’t dis Detroit, like a certain punkass who’ll remain nameless in this context.

For those of you who think I may be slipping a bit, this is Barb Object (the band is I Object!). She’s very punk rock.

And for those of you who may think I went way to far and too easy with that one. This is Towers Of London. They’re pretty punk rock, too.

And, just for one more, we’ll let the Towers slow it down with an acoustic number. Also pretty punk rock.

So what is punk rock? Somebody has the answer…

I just got a screener copy of a new film, called Punk’s Not Dead. It was really great, and if/when you get the chance, see it. It’s a documentary, but not a solid historical documentary. Basically, the filmmaker interviewed punk musicians, both old school and new school, and talked to them about what punk means. The ideal. It’s pretty entertaining, and pretty eye opening, as the basic message is that about the only thing you have no right to do is to tell someone else that their idea of punk rock isn’t.

To sum up, Eminem is pretty punk rock. And he’s from Detroit. And another guy is also from Detroit and is not as punk rock as Eminem. I Object! Is punk rock, and so are the Towers Of London, and so is everyone who wants to be punk rock (except the aforementioned unnamed guy from Detroit). And Punk’s Not Dead is a good movie, and if you want to read my full review (blatant self-promotion), you can read it here.

Oh, speaking of blatant self-promotion, the film also talked about the classic “punk episode” of Quincy M.E., and I wrote a post about it here, with links to clippy goodness.

Getting back on the road that has nothing to do with Eminem or global warming, it’s been a great biking season, if a little accident prone. Case in point: due to unrelated spills, TFN and I ran in the Tree Farm Relay a few weeks ago sporting a matching pair of broken ribs. Broken ribs hurt. The only known treatment for a broken rib is beer. That’s a little known fact, but try it if you’re ever in the situation.

Another thing I wanted to point out the importance of the brain bucket. Long story short, TFN took a huge drop in the bottom of a pit, hitting the ground at about 15-20 MPH. She hit the ground hard and slid a few feet. She walked away with the aforementioned broken rib and a bit lighter after leaving the proverbial pound of flesh peeled away on the ground. Oh, and she had a cracked helmet.

It’s not the first time I’ve watched people (including the best rider I know, my personal bike guru) take some sick spills with little or no consequence that would have been much worse had their brain not been in a bucket. I will never ride a trail without a helmet, I will not ride with anyone who isn’t wearing a helmet and although we never did when we were kids, I wear a helmet on the road, and my kids will bike in helmets too. Man, it only takes one small lapse of judgment, one second where you’re not paying attention, to launch you over the handlebars. If you’ve got a brain bucket on, it’ll probably be more painful, because your friends will never let you live it down but it’s rude to make fun of people in a persistive vegetative state from a head injury.

As it was, we both ended up banged up but still able to race. So, to reiterate, put your brain in a bucket, OK?

2007 Tree Farm Relay

Oh, and for those of you who’ve been keeping track at home, Team Angry Monkey gained a few new members, but I really wanted to introduce this one . We’ll be starting her training very soon. It’s how Yoda recommends these things be done.

Taking the scenic route once more, we got hooked up with a group called Beat The Train. Beat The Train meets at 6:30 in the AM on Saturday at Historic Fort Wayne in an area of Detroit that one doesn’t usually even drive in. From there, we ride out bikes across the city, through Mexican Village, Wayne State, Greektown, Mt. Elliot cemetery, the Heidelberg Project, Bell Isle, Downtown, The River Walk… 33 miles later, we’re back in Mexicantown for breakfast.

It’s an amazing way to see the city; first of all, we rode through neighborhoods I don’t even like to drive through, but there is the whole safety in numbers thing, and 20 cyclists had no problem.

Also, as we went through downtown, there were a ton of business owners, opening up shops and restaurants for the day, who said hello and actually thanked us for coming into the city. It’s the kind of thing that continues to make me want to have faith in Detroit.

Ok… I think I’ve run out of thoughts for the moment… if anyone can tell me what this post is about, you know where the comment area is. There may even be a secret message in here, but if so, I didn’t put it there…

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wild in The Streets of Windsor

TFN went to Toronto on business this week, and I took her to the train station in Windsor. First we went to a great little Irish pub for some fish and chips and steak and Guinness pie.

As we sat in the front of the bar, things started to get a little crazy in the street out front, as people streamed by in cars and vans, yelling, cheering… and waving the Iraqi flag.

Unfortunately, due to current circumstances, I got very worried that this may have something to do with events in Iraq or in the U.S. We are, I don’t need to tell any of you, at war with Iraq. Whether or not you agree with it (I don’t, but that’s not the point of this), I was faced with the image of Iraqis celebrating in the street while I was in another country. The implications are thus: if this street celebration were due to war-related events, there was a good chance that the border, located about a mile away from where we were at, would close. I would end up stranded in another country for a bit (a big bit, depending on the nature of the event). I like international travel, but I wasn’t in the mood for that.

In the end, the celebrations had nothing to do with the war. The Iraqis celebrating in the street were celebrating a victory, but one from the soccer field. Iraq beat the Saudis in their first ever Asia Cup.

It’s nice to see this kind of celebration and nationalism related to events that happen on the football field. It’s sad that circumstances forced me to think the worst at first.

Why can't we fight wars on the soccer field instead of on the battlefield? Perhaps we're heading that way. Did it ever occur to you that there may be an ulterior motive for our buying Beckham into the U.S.? Other than that he comes with a Spice Girl I mean? Maybe we're working toward building a soccer team to end war with.

I doubt it though. Even if that were the plan, with Iraq's victory, we're a long ways out from having a team to send out to win. Years probably. (Hmmm... then again, that sounds like the way things are anyway.)

That's a dilemma. Ask yourself this: if we could send a soccer team to Iraq tomorrow, to play and loe to Iraq, with the end result being everyone shaking hands and saying amicably, "You win, Iraq. You're clearly the better in this competition. We're going to pack up and head home." Wouldn't that be preferable than the loss of many more lives, both American and Iraqi, as this war trudges on. What if we could end the war that way, sans soccer team? Simply say, "you win," and go home.

Of course that won't work, though. Even if we could walk away now, we're obligated to help clean up the mess we made. When you were a kid, if you went over to someone's house to play, made a mess, and left without helping to clean up, you didn't get invited back. America doesn't want to be that kid. We're already the bully, among a bunch of other things.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get so political, so I'm going to end the post and regroup before I start talking about one of my favorite things - bikes and bike-related things.

Also, unrelated to this event, it took five minutes to get across the border into Canada, and close to an hour to get back in the U.S. That’s just the state of things right now.