Monday, April 18, 2011

SoCal Racist Republican--This Isn't Just Racist, It's Obscene

You know, it gets hard to fight one’s instincts sometimes. Part of me wants to condemn an entire group of people because of the actions of one. Part of me wants to consciously “be charitable” which is how I try to behave towards others when their behavior might be suspect or when I may vehemently disagree with an action or perspective.
But at some point you just have to say “Enough!”. At some point you have to loudly proclaim that there’s just no excuse for a person or their perspective as manifested through their actions and then extend that to the entire group of individuals that they represent.

But this morning when watching the news on KTLA (an independent channel in L.A. which has arguably the best morning show on all of TV) I was appalled, aghast and incensed by the action of an official of the Orange County Republicans who over the weekend apparently thought that it was innocent fun to post via e-mail a photo and caption of Pres. Barak Obama which is totally, 100% racist. The person then had the temerity to try to excuse herself by claiming that it was done as a joke and was not racist.

Here’s the picture sent out by Orange County Republican Committee member Marilyn Davenport:

The e-mail was captioned, “Now you know why—no birth certificate!”

And here is what Ms. Davenport had to say about it:

“I’m sorry if my email offended anyone, I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth,” said Davenport. “In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race.” (LA Times)

Forty or fifty years ago, a U.S. Supreme Court justice said of pornography that he didn't know how to define it but sure knew it when he saw it. Well, I might not necessarily be able to define racism but I sure know it when I see it or hear it. And this is about the most blatant example of racism I've seen in years. I hope Republicans everyone are ashamed of what one of their members has done. (That was one of the worst things my Dad would ever say when we had done something wrong as a kid--"Shamey on you."

Yes, Marilyn Davenport, "Shamey on you." Unfortunately, in your smug superiority you never learned that basic lesson. You have shamed yourself and the entire organization you represent. "Shamey on you."

So, according to her own words she’s either bigoted, ignorant or just plain old stupid. And, by extension, what does that make Republicans in general? I guess I’ve seen more and more of this in the last couple of years from the so-called “Tea-Baggers” and from “mainstream” Republicans.

So, enough! This morning I was going through some old Jimmy Buffett music. Perhaps this lyric is applicable to Ms. Davenport: “Were you born an asshole or did you work at it your whole life?”

I haven’t conferred this award for a while but Marilyn Davenport earned it and deserved it. So here’s to you, Ms. Davenport, the not-coveted “Caput in Recto” Award:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Sioux in The Frozen Four--Time for a Nickname Change?

The Final Four is done. Everyone knows what it is and there’s more money bet on it both legally and illegally than any other sporting event in the nation. Now it’s time for the fun tourney—the Frozen Four, which is the NCAA Hockey championships.

See, I went to a small college which plays big time hockey—the University of North Dakota. They’ve been national champs 8 times and are the favorite again this year as the highest seeded team to advance through the Regionals.

What I’ve always liked is that UND is a small school with 14,000 students. When I graduated in 1973 there were only about 8,000. And yet it goes up against the “big boys” playing in the same conference as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Now, this year’s Frozen Four is being held in Minneapolis about 300 miles Southeast of Grand Forks, North Dakota where UND is located. The other teams in the Frozen Four are Michigan, Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth. And I really, really hope the Fighting Sioux from UND kick some serious butt and win a national championship.

Hockey is a tradition at UND. When I was an undergraduate in the early 70’s we played in a huge old Quonset building that was unheated. If it was 30 below zero outside, it would be about 20 below inside. And the colder it was, the more the building rocked. Talk about a home rink advantage.

But, do you know what I also hope? I hope that they take the championship home and then finally retire the name Fighting Sioux. I know that won’t sit too well with a bunch of people in North Dakota and who graduated from there but it’s time. The NCAA has been after UND to do that for a number of years and the school is the only university in the nation which has not complied with an NCAA request and directive to eliminate nicknames which are considered to be racially derogatory. It’s time.

This controversy has been going on at UND for 40 years (I remember it rearing its head in the early 70’s during the height of Native American activism to the extent that UND went for a couple of years with the seal of the University as the logo on its hockey jerseys rather than the Indian head that had been the image for years and years).

A few years back, a major benefactor of UND donated $100 million to build a new hockey arena festooning it with thousands of Fighting Sioux logos which would cost millions to remove. This was done intentionally to keep the name and image of the university the same. There was even a major story/expose of this in Sports Illustrated and other articles in newspapers across the nation and on major TV news networks.

There has even been legislation passed this year in North Dakota and duly signed by the Governor defying the NCAA and requiring that the name “Fighting Sioux” be retained. A rationale has been presented claiming that the worst that could happen would be that UND couldn’t host any NCAA play-off games or wear their “Fighting Sioux” jerseys on TV. Come on, that’s not the point.

But it’s time. Time to move on. I recall moving to a small city in Iowa in 1992 that has a small Methodist affiliated college, Simpson College. I got to know the President of the school quite well and he told me the story of how the college had changed from a nickname of “Redmen” to “Storm” shortly after he became the President. He said that it was pushed through at the request of the NCAA and also because it just wasn’t consistent with the school’s Methodist heritage. And he also said that within 4 or 5 years by the time a new crop of freshmen had gone through the school that the new name would be part of the ongoing culture of the campus. And, interestingly, this was accomplished and alumni donations neither dried up nor went down.

I’ve always been proud to have attended college at the University of North Dakota. I’ve always been proud of the “Fighting Sioux” name and logo. But now, I’m actually getting a bit ashamed of it because of the never-ending controversy. I still have a “Fighting Sioux” license plate bracket on my car but will change it to a generic UND bracket. Here’s my bottom line:

I graduated from UND in 1973—38 years ago. I have never told anyone that I am a graduate of the University of Fighting Sioux. I’m a graduate of the University of North Dakota. It’s time to do the “right thing”.

Until then, here’s hoping UND goes on the ice tonight and kicks some serious University of Michigan ass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finally on American Idol...A Guy Who "Sounds off Likes He's Got..."


Finally there’s a guy singing on American Idol who can…
Sound Off Like You Got A Pair!!
I’ve been hoping this would happen for years.

I’m not looking for Barry White. He wasn’t really a singer anyway. More like a romantic rapper. A cross between Snoop Dog and Rod McKuen. But a voice from deep down in the well.

I always thought it would be a guy with “tats” and a “goat”. But instead we got baby-faced Scottie McCreery. This kid’s only 16. He’s giving up his high school baseball season to be on American Idol.

And he sings bass. Cool.

He sings country. What? You can’t sing bass and sing “pop” songs anymore? Last night he tried to sing MoTown. Country style. It kind of worked.

Do you think this young guy has practiced in front of a mirror—mugging to get that note out of the side of his mouth with his “impish” expression? Kind of reminiscent of McCauley Culkin slapping aftershave on in “Home Alone”.

But this guy’s fun. He can sing a low note. Recently, Randy Jackson said, “Dude, that’s a young lady killer note.” Yep, a well sung low note can do more “lady killing” than screeching out a high note in falsetto. That’s what I call “sounding off like you got a pair.” And from a musical perspective, it’s harder to do. It actually takes more practice, better control of the diaphragm and more control to sing low than high. Ask any alto because it’s the same with female voices.

What I’m hoping he’ll do is channel his inner Tennessee Ernie Ford as he keeps going with his country style. Remember him? He was big in the 50’s and 60’s in country music.

But, this young man is going to need more than that if he’s going to be the next “American Idol” (and quite frankly I don’t see that happening). So maybe he’ll check out some of the best low voices over the years. Unfortunately there haven’t been too many in the last 20 or so years. How about my favorite and my favorite song of his? Lou Rawls. “Lady Love”. Now that’s singing some soul—low and romantic.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cheap Bastid Finds Affordable Fish!

Way back in the long, long ago one of my favorite things was to go out for Friday night fish-fry. It was always 3 or 4 couples and we’d go to a place called Scharner’s On the Shore just north of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

At this part restaurant/part-tavern we would enjoy the freshest, tastiest perch in the world. As owner Willie Schartner was fond of saying, “so fresh, it was swimming this morning.” And it was true. The waters of Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay teemed with perch. At the time, the daily limit for sports fishermen was 100.

Oh but man, could Schartner’s make some tasty perch. The place would be packed. Friday night fish fry is a long term tradition in Wisconsin and anyplace close to the Great Lakes. You’d get 2 butterflied perch, slaw and fries for $6. Or you could get double perch for $8 or even triple perch for the princely sum of $10. I was usually good for double perch and occasionally I’d choke down a triple.

We’d talk about the week just ended and the weekend just starting, about what was going on with our kids and neighbors and the politics of Sturgeon Bay—population 9,000. I haven’t been able to do that in about 20 years now, ever since leaving the Wisconsin in 1992.

Even worse, I haven’t had a fish dinner in about 3 years. The price of fish has gotten just too damned high. I used to buy salmon every once in a while but that’s gotten up to $11-$12 a pound. Even catfish is now $7.99 a pound. And you’ll never, ever find fresh perch in Southern California—they never heard of it.

And I’ve fantasized about it. I drool every time Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri go someplace that serves catfish “po-boys” or fried catfish with hush puppies.

Then last week I saw an ad in our Stater Brothers weekly flyer. Some fish called “Swai”. It was $2.99 a pound. And I asked myself, “Self, I wonder what Swai is?”

Ain’t Google grand? I was able to find out what this fish is and actually get a whopping helping of TMI. According to and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, swai is a fish native to Southeast Asia and is typically farmed. It’s related to catfish and is part of the Pangasius family. “Swai is a white-flesh fish (typically available in fillet form) with a sweet mild, taste and light flaky texture that can be broiled, grilled, or coating with bread crumbs and fried…”

And that’s what I wanted to do—fry it. And yep, it was good. Really good. Partly because it was cheap and affordable and partly because it’s clean, white and very light tasting. There’s almost no “fishy” taste and in fact, very little taste at all. Of course that means that it needs seasoning or sauce or something to give it flavor.

So, I picked up about 5 filets at Stater’s—about 3 lbs worth. And yep, it’s white, firm with very little fish odor. Perfect for my plans which was to fry it with a flour and corn meal coating. Here’s the simple recipe for it:

Cheap Bastid’s Pan-Fried Swai

• 1 ½ filets of Swai per person (about 12 oz of fish)

• 1 cup flour

• 1 cup corn meal

• 1 cup milk

• Seasoning to taste (salt & pepper or Cajun or Southwest)

Cheap Bastid’s Summer Slaw

• ½ head green cabbage

• Red onion

• 1 roma tomato

• ¼ cup lime juice (appx 2 limes worth)

• Salt & pepper

• 1 tablespoon sugar

• ¼ cup (appx) canola oil

First, prep your slaw. Cut the cabbage into strips about 1 inch by ¼ inch. Chop up about ½ cup red onion into short strips and chop the roma. You can also add some fresh jalapeno pepper or cucumber or even apple—whatever you have and want to throw in. Put it all in a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice into the mix, add some salt & pepper and put in the sugar. Stir it all up and put in the fridge for the flavors to meld together while you do the fish.

Rinse and blot the fish to make sure it’s clean. Lay it out and season it—be somewhat liberal with the seasoning (I like to season the food not the flour mix). Put the milk in a flat container and mix the corn meal and flour together in another flat container.

Turn burner onto medium (about 5 o’clock) and add the oil—enough to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan. Immerse each filet in the milk and turn over then dredge through the corn meal/flour mix making sure it’s well coated. Shake it off over the mix so there’s not too much excess. Then lay each filet in the oil.

You can do about 3 at a time in a medium skillet. Don’t get them too crowded or you’ll do more steaming than frying. Check the bottom after 4-5 minutes and flip the filet when’s it’s golden. Cook another 4-5 minutes then put onto a plate covered in 2 layers of paper towels to drain.

Serve it all up and enjoy. (By the way, what to do with the left over corn meal/flour and milk? Pour the milk into the corn meal/flour and add an egg, stir it all together. Add more oil to your pan and make hush puppies).

Cheap Bastid Test: Well, how’d I do? I spent about $5 on fish for this meal (and have another 2 filets at $3.50 in the freezer—we’re going to do fish tacos next week). The slaw cost less than $1 (head of cabbage $.79 and I used half). Add the milk and flour, corn meal and oil and the total for the dinner was about $7. Not too bad. It’s a bit pricey but the cheapest “fresh” fish you’re going to come across.

The next time I do it, it’ll be in the oven with lemon/butter and herb. This fish has very little flavor. So it needs to be seasoned. Oh, and by the way we use “seafood cocktail” sauce—except we didn’t have any. But we always have ketchup and prepared horseradish—and we like it spicy.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Little Boys, Grasshoppers and Rocks

This morning was gardening time. It’s not easy to “garden” on the balcony of an apartment. But, we bought some tomato plants a week and a half ago at the local farmers market and it was time to transplant them into bigger pots.

The reason, of course, that it’s not that easy to grow a garden on a balcony is that space is really limited when you have to get your hands dirty mixing soil and transplanting the plants. Balconies are also a bit limited in making sure that the plants are sited so they get optimal sunlight, but we try to make do. Plus, I hate the thought that anytime you grow anything here in Southern California you have to go out and buy dirt.

We’re going to try to get a bit of a crop this year. I’ve got 2 pots with Roma tomatoes in them—a total of 6 plants which might need transplanting yet again—and I’ve got 2 pots with a “grape” tomato called Juliet. So we’ve got romantic tomatoes in Roma and Juliet (hey, I know it’s a bad pun but that’s our sense of humor). Last time we grew tomatoes, the “crop” was so meager that we not only named the plants but we named the individual tomatoes too. I think that “crop” ultimately cost about $20 a pound to grow.

So I got done gardening and needed to take out the garbage that was created. I bundled everything up and went down the stairs to the dumpster. I heard a little kid talking and what sounded like rocks bouncing off the building. It was a kid who lives in our 4 unit building. He’s about 5 and he was throwing rocks at the ground, peering intently and then throwing more rocks.

I tossed the garbage sack in the dumpster and turned around to look. He was throwing rocks at and trying to kill a 3-inch grasshopper. Every time he’d toss a rock, the grasshopper would, well he’d do what grasshoppers do, he’d hop a few feet. I looked at him and said, “Hey, are you trying to kill that grasshopper?” He shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head.

I don’t know but maybe I was thinking about karma or something but the older I get, the less inclined I am to kill critters—unless I’m going to eat them. “That grasshopper didn’t do anything to you did it? It’s not nice to kill defenseless animals.”

He’s looking at me like I’m the typical old fart bossing him around. So I said, “why don’t you watch him and what he does? Grasshoppers are cool.”

No wonder he was looking at me that way. I sounded like Earl Pickles—the quintessential old fart. But I walked away back to the stairs and our apartment. As I got to the stairs, I looked over my shoulder.

There he was, squatting down head cocked over looking at the grasshopper. And I thought to myself, “You done good. Look at that little boy, fascinated by that grasshopper. He’s enjoying it now.”

Then I saw the rock. The kid pushed the rock down on top of the grasshopper and shmooshed it.

There are a couple of morals to this story.

• A grasshopper has a pretty good chance of survival when someone’s throwing rocks at it. It ain’t got a chance when someone’s shmooshing it.

• Little kids haven’t changed. They still like to amuse themselves by whacking grasshoppers (I hope he doesn’t come across a wasp’s nest next).

• And, I have descended solidly into old fartdom. And now I’m heading towards curmudgeon.

Ain’t gardening grand.