Two quick food stories of interest

Full work day and I’m off to the garden tonight — we’re well under way there for our forthcoming move to a new location — but these two stories caught my idea today:

  • It’s one thing to get yourself a slew of fresh vegetables, it’s another to know what to do with them. This NY Times story is merely the overview that it is, but still provides a couple of useful pointers and reminders — I’m not here to get into a raw food vs. cooked food debate, mind you, so don’t take this as me getting involved much on that front! An interesting bit:

    What accompanies the vegetables can also be important. Studies at Ohio State measured blood levels of subjects who ate servings of salsa and salads. When the salsa or salad was served with fat-rich avocados or full-fat salad dressing, the diners absorbed as much as 4 times more lycopene, 7 times more lutein and 18 times the beta carotene than those who had their vegetables plain or with low-fat dressing.

    Fat can also improve the taste of vegetables, meaning that people will eat more of them. This month, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported on 1,500 teenagers interviewed in high school and about four years later on their eating habits. In the teenage years, many factors influenced the intake of fruits and vegetables. By the time the study subjects were 20, the sole factor that influenced fruit and vegetable consumption was taste. Young adults were not eating vegetables simply because they didn’t like the taste.

    “Putting on things that make it taste better — spices, a little salt — can enhance your eating experience and make the food taste better, so you’re more likely to eat vegetables more often,” Dr. Clinton said.

  • Meanwhile, who knew that kiwi fruit, aka the renamed Chinese gooseberry, would have taken root and thrived in…Italy?:

    Italian kiwi took root here in Latina, and Renato Campoli was its pioneer. Thirty years ago, as a young man, Campoli was one of the first Italians to plant the fruit, almost on a lark.

    “I was looking for something new to do in agriculture,” said Campoli, suntanned and with thick white hair.

    The tomatoes, beets and cows raised on his little family farm didn’t yield much of a living.

    A friend in Sweden had come across a mysterious fruit called a kiwi, and he challenged Campoli: Plant that!

    Mangia, as they say.


Up later today — Sparks do ‘Propaganda’

And another treat of a set it should be. The Kimono show two days ago was every bit the treat one would expect, though it was also amusing to see that due to the packed-in crowd for that one that not only did occasional amateur camerafolks get in the way of the main camera, but more random comments from attendees and/or staff were overheard. Just like actually being at a show, really.

As ever, the show can be accessed here, while the final version of this entry below appeared in this Arthur issue, second part.


The year being 1974, it would have been perfectly understandable for a massively successful band – in the UK, America, anywhere – to have had some kind of over the top demi-airbrushed rock myth album cover. This was the era of Houses of the Holy, Diamond Dogs and the like. The new titans of the age needed celebrations of their own triumphs of the will.

So logically Ron and Russell appeared on the cover of their followup to Kimono bound, gagged, Ron behind sunglasses and Russell’s mane of hair in full windswept flow, looking somewhat aggrieved at being stowed in the back of a small motorboat going at full speed. The small insert in the corner showed the two in a similar pose photographed in more congenial surroundings but no less annoyed, while the back cover had them stuffed into the rear seat of a car that their backing band had taken into a body shop. On top of the small insert was printed, stamped almost, the words “SPARKS PROPAGANDA.” Now that fame was theirs, the idea of celebrating it straightforwardly must have seemed terribly uninteresting.

In ways Propaganda was a simply a logical continuation of Kimono much as Woofer had continued onward from the debut. The producer remained the same, the backing band jiggled a bit, with Ian Hampton replacing Martin Gordon on bass, but otherwise kept up the same glam-rampage approach, and the album was even released the same year as Kimono, a turnaround time that these days can’t be done without press agents telling you a year in advance about ‘two part albums’ and similar nonsense. Of course, the potential danger lies in burnout or retreads – and the Maels, as time has shown, are immune to neither. But here, everything was in sync.

The start of the album, though, was like something they hadn’t tried before – a strictly a capella performance from Russell on the title track, overdubbed singing provided wordless melody and rhythm as well as words, packing in everything from wartime slogans to militaristic imagery to that thing called love in about twenty seconds. Then a slamming, stentorian delivery from the full band heralds “At Home, At Work, At Play,” and the combination of theatricality, giddiness, hyperspeed melodies – not to mention turn-on-a-dime tempo shifts and pauses – makes it all the clearer that by this time Sparks had come pretty close to being sui generis. They were already unusual enough by the first two albums but by this time they were essentially their own scene, and even songs like “BC,” which on this album feel just a touch like a ‘typical’ Sparks number, would be utterly atypical for practically anyone else.

There’s a slightly more winsome jauntiness on Propaganda at points – musically if not necessarily lyrically, almost as if Ron and Russell were creating World War II vaudeville singalongs for their temporarily adopted home country. The Gilbert and Sullivan worship had already been at least partially if not totally consciously clear but started to gel in full here. “Reinforcements,” playing around again with ideas of love and/as war, almost begs a high-kicking chorus to be backing Russell on stage, even with the full band ripping in and pulling back from the arrangement and finally wrapping up with competing choral vocals over a steady, friendly stomp and shake. In a different vein entirely was their attempt at a proto power-ballad “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth,” down to the strings and heroic guitar solo. With a lot of background echo – check the drums towards the end! — Ron on what surely must be harpsichord and a beautifully alien midsong break where Russell sings in fragile tones over heavily flanged violins, it’s something else and then some.

As for lyrically, where to begin. Again, about anything was up for discussion or used as was seen fit, while Ron’s eye for the knowing cliché in the title again reigned supreme – besides “At Home At Work At Play,” there was “Thanks But No Thanks,” “Something For the Girl With Everything” and but of course the album-concluding “Bon Voyage.” “Achoo” might be the one song with a sneeze as its title – it’s definitely the only one that starts “Who knows what the wind’s gonna bring when the invalids sing,” while “Who Don’t Like Kids” takes the whole question of offspring and creation of same with a eye that’s rather unsentimental: “There’s more in the wings, shall we bring them on or/Shall we just sit and talk ‘til the early morning.” “Don’t Leave Me Alone With Her,” one of the album’s best songs – hearing Russell’s worried tone on the chorus is him in his actorly heights, while the break to just piano and vocals before the final moment is a classic bit of theatricality — also has some of its best words in the portrait of the feared titular figure:

“A Hitler wearing heels
A soft Simon Legree
A Hun with honey skin
De Sade who makes good tea.”

The rest of the band keep things moving as before – Dinky Diamond’s drumming might just have been the secret weapon in the end, as good as moments like the concluding spiraling guitar break on “Thanks But No Thanks” — and on “Something For the Girl With Everything” they pack it all into just over two minutes. Yet another spangly melody, Russell in falsetto overdrive, blasting guitar riff mania towards the end and a hysterical conclusion.

The idiot joys of today

Just a catch-all of things that are idiotically joyful. They make me happy in their unrivalled stupidity.

  • Three generations back or so, Stalin’s Russia dealt with its troublesome artists by executing them or otherwise finishing them off. In Putin’s Russia, they send flying penis toys — NSFW, obviously — to annoy their chessmasters in opposition. I’d suggest this is actually progress.
  • Uwe Boll is at heart a goof, and he can be as much of a goof as he wants to be. Anyone who decided to take him on in that boxing match takes him far more seriously than he himself does. But I do like the fact that for the adaptation of Postal that’s about to be released, he seems to have decided he wants to make a live-action South Park film. There is, needless to say, nothing wrong with this:

    The first sequence of the film, which opens on Friday, portrays 9/11 hijackers squabbling over the precise number of virgins who will be awaiting them after their martyrdom. The scene switches to a World Trade Center’s-eye view of an oncoming jet.

    As the movie’s scattershot plot rocks along, the audience gets a long full-frontal look at a nude Dave Foley, the boyish comic best known for his work in the Kids in the Hall comedy troupe and on the television show “News Radio,” who portrays a sleazy satyr of a cult leader. By the time the film’s protagonist, played by Zack Ward, uses a cat for a silencer, the boundaries of good taste have been left so far behind that the Hubble Space Telescope couldn’t spot the border signs.

    Earlier this month he received an e-mail message from the chief buyer for the Regal Entertainment Group, the largest theater chain in the country, informing him that Regal would not be exhibiting “Postal”: “While I have respected your past work this film falls short of the type of product the Regal Theater Group would consider commercial.”

    Mr. Boll denounced the decision as politics. (The film portrays President Bush as not only in league with Osama bin Laden but also in love with him.)

    Above all else, a cat as a silencer? Genius, really.

    Anyway, the opening of the film is here. I take no responsibility for any conniptions you might suffer.

  • Finally, while it’s a couple of days old, I firmly believe that the ILX-spawned EVIL GUIDE DOG meme must spread. Please do your part.