In this week’s OC Weekly, an interview with Cynic’s Paul Masvidal

Almost forgot this ran! Then again I was all about Disneyland and hanging with friends yesterday. Anyway, a preview interview for their upcoming show — here’s a snippet:

When rock musicians draw comparisons between their work and poetry, one might be forgiven for looking askance in many cases, recalling too many self-serving, blatantly false claims—like Derek Smalls insisting that his Spinal Tap band mates are on the level of Byron or Shelley.

Cynic guitarist/singer Paul Masvidal’s reference to a muse, however, not only shows his good taste, but also a sense of perspective in an era when music stardom seems far too quixotic a goal.

“The integrity of the art comes before anything, and that allows me to sleep at night,” he writes via e-mail. “Although I do aspire to the pure intention and detached heights of an Emily Dickinson—who never saw reciprocation in her lifetime and yet persevered, delivering a tremendous wealth of poetry. As artists in the public domain, we all have to admit there is a sense of validation that comes when someone ‘receives the work’ and makes it their own.”

Disneyland in approaching dusk

Or at least the California Adventure part of it but whatever. Yesterday friends Dan and J., visiting from out of town, and I went to the park and had a great day of it, thanks to the weather in particular. Took a slew of photos as I went, giving me the chance to work on my ‘take lots of pictures in a busy location showing as little people as possible’ approach. You can view the full set here.

First week done and I am…amused

Highly, highly amused. And pleased. But not in the least surprised.

I muttered in a Facebook update a week back that I rather wished that the whole ceremonial part of the Inauguration could be over and done with just so the guy could get to work and, you know, be president. Obviously this is kvetching on my part, people like a grand entertainment and all. Still, much the same way as it’s always been with me given the course of Barack Obama’s striking career these past few years, I felt less like it was some huge massive historical moment for the nation — even though of course it was — than just a feeling that he looked plenty suited for the role, and things would probably go from there.

As we know now, they have. The blizzard of high profile executive orders coming out has captured a lot of attention right off the bat, covering as they did a substantial number of subjects. Meantime, there’s been the various coffee klatches and meetings and more regarding the economy, Joe Biden’s off to Europe doing the ceremonial rounds, George Mitchell’s off to the Middle East to do the harder stuff, Pentagon’s getting visited tomorrow, the cabinet secretaries are all settling in…it’s good stuff, if one wants to see people actually getting busy with the business of government, and I do. Hey, they are the ultimate public servants, after all.

But I’ve been a bit surprised at others’ surprise at it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeing myself as some sort of figured-it-all-out oracle on the subject. Also, anybody complaining on the right about Obama’s executive actions seems to have forgotten who lost the election and all — hey, now you know how a lot of people felt over the past eight years, so my sympathy level is kinda low. So that’s not surprising, that’s just ‘eh, what are you going do’ type stuff. We could be in a stellar economic and geopolitical situation right now and they’d still be complaining, really.

No, what caught me a bit off guard were friends and acquaintances on the left (or the more thoughtful right) surprised that he issued so many orders and so forth that were in line with what he said he would do during the campaign. It got to the point where I had to say I was surprised at their surprise, and when I was called on that a bit — after all, I am a self-declared arch cynic about the process of power and its self-perpetuation — I reflected on that. Quite obviously I have a certain bias to my preferred candidate of the two on offer in November winning, and I didn’t want to assume that I was seeing things strictly through a rose-colored afterglow.

I had to conclude that, quite simply, I had already taken it as read that he would pretty much hit the ground running and do things straight out of the gate, as I hoped he would do. And so it’s proven. One week is still one week, but hey, he ran for the job, got it, and now he’s getting to work. A certain naivete on my part for making that assumption, which easily could not have been the case? I guess, but intellectually I really didn’t have any reason to assume otherwise — my surprise would have been if nothing had happened, or nothing much.

So I’m pleased rather than surprised, because to my mind there was no reason to be surprised if he did all this, and looked to doing more. And as for being amused? Well it’s already the talk of any number of websites, but the various zings, some understated and a couple more upfront, that have been directed by Obama and his crew to various political opponents have all been done with a mixture of deftness and icily precise aim. Both have had as their biggest target one of the biggest of all, a certain R. Limbaugh, who has somehow gotten it into his head that it’s 1993 again and he represents a new and fresh voice opposing all that doesn’t match with his vision of the world instead of, well, representing being a boring crank complaining into his cups. (Admittedly he’s attracted plenty of fellow cranks, but they seem to be drinking even worse rotgut.)

Now personally I’d always figured that the smartest thing to do with him would be to ignore him, under the presumption that engaging with the type of glory hound like that merely makes him all the more flattered. Instead, there’s been a taking-the-bull-by-the-horns approach on the part of the White House, done with this calculation in mind: “Hey, if the GOP wants to be represented by this guy while Obama stands for the Democrats, I don’t think it’s much of a contest.”

The end result has been talked about already in a few spots — try this link from the Moderate Voice for a good enough summary. Obama’s absolutely killer line to GOP opponents in today’s Congressional meetings about inevitable points of fundamental difference — “I understand that and I will watch you on FOX News and feel bad about myself” — is the kind of thing you almost figure only exists in novels and film scripts, and yet there it is. It’s a perfect dare that’s also a shutdown, because how can you react against it if your move has already been anticipated — and dismissed — by your opponent?

And for Rush? Well, more stories like this one, please — and I have a feeling they will increase. To quote from the Moderate Voice story:

…he’s getting lots of ink, Internet attention and broadcast time. But he’s unlikely to be the GOP’s ticket to regaining the support of the public — unless the party wants to write off many independent voters, Democrats who don’t like the Democratic party’s far left, and moderate Republicans who don’t like the way Limbaugh has demonized Republicans who aren’t conservative enough for him. A Rushuplican party would not do well as a thoughtful, bigger umbrella Republican party.

Obama knows this. Rush doesn’t. The contrast is illustrative (and the latter’s followers will need it outlined and explained in great detail in order for them to understand it, I suspect, but let that pass…).

But in the end, one week is one week. One month, one season, one year…we’ll all know more then. So far, though, one hell of a start. Best as ever to keep a line in mind from friend Mackro today: “…there’s less difference between Obama, Clinton, GWB, Bush I, Reagan than most Americans, especially Obama fans, realize.” Quite true, both positively and negatively, I think. The trick will be to see how much or how little difference in the end. Political Blogger Alliance

Curried cauliflower with tomato paste over rice

Another Mark Bittman winner from How to Cook Everything, but as per usual with some slight variety. In this case, the recipe called for tomatoes, but I had none around, either canned or fresh. However, I did have a can of tomato paste I wanted to use, so I semi-impulsively added that instead. The curry mix was created from scratch — I missed the coriander but had everything else to hand — while the rice had been cooked already and the bread from the loaf from last week I’m still working through. Quite good and I may well do something like it again in the near future.

Yesterday’s sunset…

…was pretty sharp, I have to say. Got lucky to catch this while out and about.

And a relaxed weekend on the whole, but various thoughts bubbling up about books, films and more besides. The upcoming week will be quite busy at work due to some extra stuff I’m doing but we’ll see what thoughts surface! Also more pieces soon to run in the OC Weekly, the Quietus and elsewhere…

“36 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea”

Well, this was amusing to note. It should of course be said that Carmel, like any number of places that rely on the tourist trade to one extent or another, gets plenty of attention like this in travel sections and magazines, so seeing another Carmel story isn’t a surprise, and of course this can’t be the first Carmel story in the NY Times. Nor will it be the last — the whole idea is to go back, revisit and update from time to time, each time talking about finding ‘the real Carmel’ or whatever place is being talked about.

As per such time-specific pieces there’s too much about trying to cram everything in and too little about, you know, enjoying your time. So I get to look at something like this and try and square it with my own experience of Carmel, which for me means going home, sleeping in, wandering about as desired and enjoying everything about the place at leisure. If I miss something one time back, I’ll catch it the next time through. But then again anybody who lives in a place that gets the tourists will recognize that phenomenon, where the tour buses go past the monuments that to you are just the regular everyday skyline and mental geography.

Further, and utterly unsurprisingly, the whole idea is ‘yeah, please come here…preferably if you’re made of a lot of money.’ The accompanying slide show underscores this a bit — the photos are all great but also made me wonder if I was viewing a high end clothes catalog instead. (Not too surprising, really — have I ever mentioned the couple of times I’ve seen Ralph Lauren around down on Ocean Avenue?) Such is image, luxury, conspicuous consumption — whereas if I had written a piece like this I would have mentioned RG Burgers, low-key, relaxed and a favorite of the whole family’s, and where old students and athletes who my dad taught or coached almost always seem to run into him whenever we’re there.

Still, there’s plenty of crossover between Carmel as I know it and as it’s described in the piece, and many spots are singled out that I would always recommend to visitors — the Mission Ranch is a bit of a no-brainer, and my sis, my cousin George, his wife Pilar and I all had drinks there one night during the holidays. Similarly I loved the mentions of Bruno’s and the Cheese Shop, and Point Lobos, the Mission and the 17-Mile Drive are certainly all that. (And I did have to appreciate a piece on Carmel that acknowledges Pebble Beach but didn’t dwell on the various hotels and restaurants and things there — though I almost wonder if they felt that in this economy that might be one step too far in terms of what to focus on.)

In all, as mentioned, an amusement. But it does make me glad that I can call it home.

Sauteed rapini with rice and tatsoi salad

So earlier today I idly mentioned to a friend who knows her cooking that I wanted to figure out what to do with some tatsoi and rapini I had around. Her suggestion: “Tatsoi salad with sesame vinaigrette & toasted genmai, stir fried rapini with garlic & ginger, sushi rice?” Me: “That sounds like a good idea!”

The rapini recipe I followed was this crispy rapini recipe, though I admit this didn’t quite turn out as I expected, so it was more of a heavy sautee. Not something I normally do with greens because of the overcooking out of the healthy stuff in it, while I should have chopped more of the stems in half, frankly! But still had its points, and while it was more of the brown basmati rice instead of the sushi rice suggested, it was all quite hearty.

The salad was the real focus for me, though, since I’d rarely done tatsoi without cooking it somehow, even if only slightly steamed. I trimmed the stems and chopped up the leaves a bit, while the vinaigrette recipe I chose came from here, and very tasty it was. Happily I’d also had some genmai tea around — it’s essentially a dried tea leaf/fried rice blend — and the added crunch to the salad was a treat.