From The Bluff At Ebey’s Landing

ebey-landing

Out Of Office: 2014-2015 Holiday Edition

Winter-Season-With-Happy-Holiday-I know, selfish, right?

I finally return to blogging after a year and a half break, and less than a month later I go on vacation?!

Sorry, folks.

I’ll be with the family, celebrating the holiday that isn’t Hanukkah, for the next few days, and I may not be able to post anything new until the 28th or 29th.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!

R.I.P. Joe Cocker

cockerwoodstockMan, it’s been a brutal December for rock & roll.

Joe Cocker, Iconic Rock Singer, Dead at 70

Even if The New York Times insists that the “celebrities die in threes” thing is a myth, I know I wasn’t alone in wondering who would be next, when music legends Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan died on two consecutive days earlier this month.

And, while it took a couple of weeks, it’s one of the creepiest things ever that the third to fall turned out to be Joe Cocker.

As I mentioned in my post mourning the loss of Keys:

…while most who do know and love his music associate him first and foremost with The Rolling Stones…I most closely associate Bobby Keys with his work on my all-time favorite live album, and the film for which it was the soundtrack, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen.

I even included a clip from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, featuring a gorgeous Bobby Keys solo.

And then, in my post honoring Ian McLagan, I listed the many musicians that McLagan played with, among them…Joe Cocker.

How strange is life and death, that these three — two of them 70-years old at the time of passing, the other 69, all of them major players in the glorious rock heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, and all three having made music together — should pass on within the span of three weeks?!

Well, what else can I say about Joe?

My cousin Richard gave me a vinyl copy of the 1970 release Mad Dogs & Englishmen, approximately 10 years after it came out, and I admit that I was slow to take to it. I didn’t recognize many of the songs, and I had yet to fall in love, as I decidedly am now, with the R&B and soul music that Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, et al. were clearly channeling at the time.

But, something led me to hold on to that record, and now, as I’ve said, it really is my undisputed, all-time favorite live album.

If I had to use one word to describe Joe Cocker’s greatness, I would use the word commitment, because, when you watch and listen to Joe perform, you see and hear a man committing himself to the music to the fullest extent possible, giving himself over to it completely, giving all of himself without reservation.

There’s no way to fake what he did, and it’s my personal opinion that if you don’t find the following at all stirring, if this 20-piece band, replete with full-blown choir, doesn’t course through you with the power of love, well then, you might want to check yourself for a pulse.

Rest in peace, Joe, and thank you, thank you, thank you for the many years of beautiful music!

The Somewhere-In-Between Class

the-in-betweenSomething has always bugged me about the “shrinking middle class” meme in commentary on politics, government and the economy.

Whenever I encounter it, my thought is something like, “Isn’t it more important that we talk about persistent and rising poverty?”

But when I read stuff like the following title of a Pew Research Center piece on wealth inequality, my question changes to, “Has the term middle class lost all of its meaning?”

America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record

If a gap is widening, how can what we’ve always called middle class still be in the middle?

I mean, just thinking literally for a moment, from Dictionary.com (emphasis of equidistant in bold added by me):

mid·dle

\mi-dəl\

noun
1. the point, part, position, etc., equidistant from extremes or limits.

According to Pew (my emphasis added in bold):

In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times

In addition, America’s upper-income families have a median net worth that is nearly 70 times that of the country’s lower-income families, also the widest wealth gap between these families in 30 years.

Now, I was never very good at math, but even I can understand how, if upper-income families have 70 times the wealth of lower-income families and 7 times the wealth of so-called middle-income families, so-called middle-income families are not equidistant to lower-income and upper-income families in terms of wealth.

I find this surprising, because, you know, a lot of people who ARE very good at math are economists and/or write about economics.

It seems rather unscientific that we just continue using the phrase middle class as if there were three economic classes and one of them was right in the middle of the other two.

And so, in the spirit of accuracy, I hereby propose this simple remedy:

From this point forward, instead of using the inaccurate and misleading The Middle Class, we should all start using: The Somewhere-In-Between Class.

I know it’s a mouthful, more syllables and keystrokes to deal with, but what’s more important, convenience or truthfulness?

Video Fridays: Hanukkah Edition

Well, I’m barely keeping my head above the water right now, what with my interfaith family and I simultaneously partaking of both Hanukkah and Christmastime.

So, for today’s Video Fridays installment, I only really have time to post a video and run.

Without further ado, here it is, the best.Hanukkah.video.ever!

WARNING: The following contains profanity. Please DO NOT watch if you are easily offended.

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Plastic-Eating Fungus Revisited: Plastic-Fungus Fusion Food

plastic-wasteBack in March 2012, I wrote about some scientists who had discovered a fungus in the jungles of Ecuador, a fungus that can eat plastic.

At the time, I applauded the discovery as an exciting possible solution to the HUGE global problem of plastic waste, but I also expressed some lighthearted caution, imagining a scenario worthy of a sci-fi/action/thriller movie, wherein the fungus mutates, escapes, and feasts on all of the plastic we’re still actually using, plastic we depend on for a great many things.

A scenario I never in a million years would have imagined, however, is one I stumbled upon today, wherein an Austrian design firm, LIVIN, has teamed up with scientists at Utrecht University, to move beyond the fungus eating the plastic, and toward a more holistic-if-unappetizing, food-chain-integrated approach:

Introducing, via GOOD.is’ Jed Oelbaum: The Fungi Mutarium

The device uses fungus in little cups made of agar (a seaweed-based jelly) to digest sterilized plastic, which is metabolized into the fungus, leaving no traces of the original waste. But that’s not even the best part: after the plastic is digested, the agar cups and their resultant contents are completely edible. Yes, that’s right, these fungi actually turn plastic into something you can eat.

Well Jed, maybe that’s something YOU could eat, but I ain’t touching it! Ewwwwww!

(Not entirely incidentally, they call the agar cups “FUs”, which had me wondering whether or not this wasn’t just an elaborate hoax, but my further Googling on the subject seems to point to it being legit.)

Now, something Jed Oelbaum doesn’t explain is why the photos he included seem to suggest that the Fungi Mutarium is apparently meant to be operated wearing nothing but a Soviet-grey nightgown…

fungi-mutarium1

…and the fungus-plastic fusion food is apparently meant to be eaten wearing nothing at all!

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Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!

But, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The folks at LIVIN have gone so far as to design a line of utensils to be used specifically for the consumption of this product.

And while these guys try to make it sound appetizing…well…ewwww!

Scratch the fungi off the wall of this sensual cutlery and simultaneously mix with the sweet or sour sauce that tops your favorite agar FU.

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The shape of the moon spoon glides along your agar FU to reach even the tiniest fungi fruit bodies on it. It can also be loaded with the delicious agar „meat“.

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Anyway, to see the Fungi Mutarium in action, check out this brief, Stanley Kubrick-esque video presentation:

Baby, It’s Dark Outside: Life Near The 49th Parallel

solsticeWhen most people talk or write about about the shortage of sunshine here in Bellingham, Washington, in late autumn and winter, including myself — When Wednesday became Sun Day in Bellingham — the blame is usually placed on the prodigious rain and clouds we’re kinda known for.

But, this only partly explains the sunshine deficit.

The other reason has to do with the fact that we are very close to the 49th Parallel, latitude 48° 45′ 1″ N, to be exact.

To put it in less scientific terms: Today the sun will set at 4:14pm, the shortest day of the year.

With the sun rising these days at around 8:00am, which happens to be when my work day begins, this means that I wake in the dark and it’s still dark when I leave my office at 5:00pm.

Brutal.

Of course, the glorious flip-side of living at this latitude is that we’re awarded with loads of daylight in the summer, with the sun setting after 9:00pm, giving me 4+ hours of daylight once I’m free from work.

It’s quite the pendulum, but, for me, the summer abundance more than makes up for the winter scarcity.

And, look at it this way: winter solstice becomes a GREAT excuse for a party, a celebration of the returning of the light, cuz starting tomorrow, the daylight will start increasing a little bit everyday, baby!

Woohoo!

Hanukkah: The Festival of Oily Food

hanukkah-miracleSo, that right there, via NPR.org’s Sandwich Monday series, is Dan Pashman‘s contribution: the Hanukkah Miracle.

It seems appropriate to share this, as tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights, although I do so with the following disclaimer:

WARNING: This post, if the above photo hasn’t already done so, may induce the following side effects: learning, laughter, salivation, craving, hunger, or, depending on one’s personal dietary inclinations, disgust, nausea, projectile vomiting.

As Dan explains:

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle at the ancient Temple on a night when the Jews thought they had only enough oil to light the candles for that one evening. To their delight, the oil lasted eight miraculous nights, and that’s why foods cooked in oil are a common part of the Hanukkah observance…

American Jews eat fried potato pancakes (latkes), but in Israel, Jews celebrate with a different oily, fried food — doughnuts. I’ve brought these two customs together to create a new sandwich: the Hanukkah Miracle.

Here’s how you make it: Slice a glazed yeast doughnut in half and fry it in butter. Flip it inside out, spread sour cream on the bottom and applesauce on the top, and insert a potato pancake. (You want the sour cream closer to your tongue to accentuate its flavor.)

Now, I grew up in a latke household, and what Mr. Pashman doesn’t explain is that latkes are usually served with applesauce and sour cream. And, while I LOVE this, to some, bizarre combination of ingredients, the thought of stuffing those three elements between a glazed doughnut that has been fried in butter…

…yeah, here comes the nausea.

I do recommend you check out Dan’s piece at NPR.org, although with one more warning: it contains a graphic photo depicting his 4-year old daughter consuming the Hanukkah Miracle.

Adventures In Graph Innuendo

Listen, either I’m the biggest pervert in the world, or many, many minds should be blown by the fact that the following graph actually made it past the editors of Forbes.com and onto the interwebs, accompanying an article titled How Successful People Squash Stress.

stressgraph

How does this happen?!

How can anyone look at that graph and not see what I see, and I’m not even on the staff of a fairly prestigious publication, where people get paid good money to know stuff about the power of imagery, symbolism, and suggestiveness?

I mean, even with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, it was obvious to me that all I had to do was remove the erect penis in order for this to be a perfectly respectable visual aide for the article!

stressgraph2

The most unfortunate thing, of course, is that what Travis Bradberry writes in this piece is actually quite good and contains very helpful information that could increase the wellbeing of a lot of people.

Hopefully, it still will, once we’ve all stopped laughing.

Video Fridays: Barbershop Sexual Healing

ragtime-galsTo paraphrase the oft-quoted Most Interesting Man In The World, I don’t always watch TV (no cable and no antenna), but when I see clips on the interwebs, many of my favorites come from Jimmy Fallon, previously from his stint on Late Night, and now on The Tonight Show.

And as I tried to select this week’s Video Fridays, given I’ve been in a bit of a funk this past week, I wanted something light and funny, and the following clip delivers heaping portions of light and funny.

Fallon hilariously calls the barbershop quartet that appears in this recurring bit The Ragtime Gals, and I love these bits for several reasons. First, there’s the contrast of the early 1900s, painfully white genre mixing with contemporary, decidedly non-white songs. Second, barbershop singing is NOT easy, and yet these are done very, very well.

The Ragtime Gals have been joined by guests in the past, notably Justin Timberlake and Kevin Spacey, and this past week Steve Carell is featured in this awesome version of the Marvin Gaye classic Sexual Healing

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend!