01/24/2015 archive

Random Japan

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Fancy a cuppa? We explore the UK’s unusual takes on Japanese green tea

 evie lund

In the UK, where I’m from, people get really passionate about tea. It’s the first thing you offer someone who is a visitor to your home, and remembering how someone likes their tea made is one way of showing that you care about them. We’re also fussy about the ritual behind making tea (you should see what happens in my house when someone puts the milk in first). In this way, we’re kinda like the Japanese.

In Japan, they drink green tea rather than black tea, but their attitude towards it matches ours. It’s both something for all-day long refreshment, and for special occasions. They’re also really into the ceremony behind it, with chadou, or tea ceremony, being a celebrated art in Japan.

The Breakfast Club (Diss Track)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgRap had it’s origins in an African-American form of poetic competition called Dozens which consists of the exchange of elaborate rhymed insults

If you wanta play the Dozens

Play them fast.

I’ll tell you how many bull-dogs

Your mammy had.

She didn’t have one;

She didn’t have two;

She had nine damned dozens

And then she had you.

The first academic study was in 1939, but it’s certainly much older than that with some attributing it to Zulu combat traditions or various Nigerian and Ghanan “games”.  Like Scrabble it can be played for sport or for blood (my Grandmother was a fierce Scrabble player and practically had tantrums when I hit her with words like rhythm or phlox, particularly when triple letter scores were involved).  The loser is the one who can’t find a come back or gets angry.

Kind of like blogging.

Lest you think pre-combat boasting and call-outs a particularly African tradition, it was a common practice in many classical cultures to muster “armies” to face each other and engage in taunting and then send forth a champion (or several) for individual duels to decide the victory.

Successful empires like the Egyptians, Macedonians, and Romans were decidedly unsentimental about things like that and would generally just slaughter the lot of you where you stood no matter how hard you sang or witty you were, but the Bronze Age Greeks indulged- read the Iliad.

Anyway it certainly goes back much farther than 1939. In 1929 Speckled Red recorded a song called “The Dirty Dozen”-

I like yo’ momma – sister, too

I did like your poppa, but your poppa would not do.

I met your poppa on the corner the other day

I soon found out he was funny that way.


Hip-Hop developed out of a branch of early techno-funk from Detroit (other off shoots were Techno which I like and Disco which is evil anti-music).

The early center was the South Bronx where the movement got a boost from equipment looted during the New York City Blackout of 1977 (kind of like capturing a Carillon or an Organ and using it to make music instead of cannons and cannon balls).  I had thought for many years that Debbie Harry’s Rapture was simply another Elvis-type rip off but as it turns out she was simply an early adopter who happened to be white and female.

During the mid to late 80s the Los Angeles ‘Gangsta Rap’ scene emerged and by the early 90s it was the dominant movement in Hip Hop.

Now when we say ‘Gangsta’ we mean that many of these artists had affiliations with the Crips and the Bloods and boasted in their songs about street violence and drug use and dealing.  Eric Wright (Eazy-E) founded the seminal ‘Gangsta’ label, Ruthless, probably out of crack income.

Just keeping it 100 folks.

Now as everyone on the right coast knows, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere (and in fact many of the most prominent West Coast artists were originally from New York or Philadelphia) and by 1991 we have the rumblings (when you’re a Jet you’re a Jet, from your first cigarette, to your last dying day) of discontent from those left behind in the person of the otherwise unremarkable Tim Dog in a song about Compton.


So anyway by 1994 the East Coast has seen a resurgence and the hot new labels are ‘Bad Boy’ (based in the South Bronx, run by A&R Records and ‘Puff Daddy’ Sean Combs and ‘Death Row’ (based in LA and run by Suge Knight).  Their most prominent artists were Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.) from Queens and Tupac Shakur a New York ex-pat.

Tupac accused Combs, Wallace, and Andre Harrell of participation in a robbery where Shakur was shot 5 times.  They denied it.  Knight took a dig at Combs and Wallace during an awards show and a friend was fatally shot.  Knight bailed out Tupac from 5 counts of sexual abuse and he signed with Death Row.

In 1995 – 96 Tupac wrote numerous songs aimed at Combs and Wallace and in September of 96 he was killed in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas hours after beating up a Crip.  Wallace was shot dead in another drive by in Los Angeles in early 1997.  No one was charged in either murder though it was widely suspected tha Knight was involved in both.

And with the death of Sonny and Sollozo the great Rap War sputtered out.

But ek you say, what does this have to do with 19th Century Art Music?

I told you, these guys were Rock Stars.  Back in the day when I was into QXR our Bando lingo for that was MozartBachandBrahms as in “Did you hear about (latest scandlously gyrating pop icon)?”, “No, I only listen to long haired music, MozartBachandBrahms.”

Now Mozart and Bach are easily justified (though listed in the wrong order) as being representative of the Classical and Barouque periods of Art Music.  Brahms on the other hand, is no Beethoven nor even a Wagner.

He was, however a leader of the older and more conservative school of Romanticism that arose after Beethoven which focused more on Beethoven’s more traditional elements rather than his raw theatricality.  Liszt and Wagner were all about the pyrotechnics.

So in the mid-1800s this petty and pointless feud broke out between musicians and composers who were overwhelming German called The War of the Romantics.  It was hardly noticed by anyone else in the Art Music world because they were working out their own nationalistic, emotive, and programmatic aspirations.

Personally I find the music of Neudeutsche Schule earnest and overweening to the point of self-parody and am interested only in the ironic sense of its inherent contradictions and influence on broader historical movements (the rise of Fascism for instance).  The Leipzig school is much easier and more restful if a bit boring and derivative.  It’s not without its own sophisticated charm however.

The first piece for your consideration today was written by Brahms in response to a pointed request from the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an Honorary Doctorate, that some form of dedicated musical reciprocation was expected.  So he wrote a compilation of collegiate drinking songs titled the Academic Festival Overture which he deliberately overscored and stylized as a musical pie in the face.

F#@k You Breslau.  It remains a great hit among student musicians to this very day and is among his most performed works.

A companion piece from the same year is the Tragic Overture.  It emphasizes the Romantic detachment from narrative and a complicated formalism and allusion to other composers, Beethoven in particular.

A German Requiem is considered his masterwork (it’s certainly the longest and most orchestrated) and is controversial only in the sense that it’s based on the Lutheran Bible, concentrates more on the comfort of the living than the pitiable condition of the dead, and contrasts with his disinterest in organized religion at all.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Let Your Freekeh On

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Chefs are coming up with all sorts of inspiring ideas for grains, and I was lucky enough to learn about some of them at last November’s Whole Grains: Breaking Barriers conference organized in Boston by Oldways and the Whole Grains Counsel. [..]

One of the new old grains that peaked my interest at the conference was freekeh, a green wheat product that is popular throughout the Middle East but seems to be just catching on here. It has a smoky/earthy flavor, the result of the production process that I describe in this week’s freekeh salad recipe, and it is bound to win over the hearts and palates of those who can still appreciate wheat.

Cracked Farro Risotto (Farrotto) With Parsley and Marjoram

The farro lends flavor and results in a more robust dish than a rice risotto.

Freekeh, Chickpea and Herb Salad

Teff Polenta With Toasted Hazelnut Oil

A comforting dish with a strong flavor.

Teff Polenta Croutons or Cakes

These croutons have a toasty and crunchy surface with a still-soft center.

Amaranth Porridge With Grated Apples and Maple Syrup

A satisfying breakfast porridge with sweet and grassy overtones.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New Times Editorial Board: Playing Politics on Iran

Normally, the visit of a world leader to the United States would be arranged by the White House. But in a breach of sense and diplomacy, House Speaker John Boehner and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, have taken it upon themselves to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to Congress to challenge President Obama’s approach to achieving a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Mr. Netanyahu, facing an election on March 17, apparently believes that winning the applause of Congress by rebuking Mr. Obama will bolster his standing as a leader capable of keeping Israel safe. Mr. Boehner seems determined to use whatever means is available to undermine and attack Mr. Obama on national security policy.

Lawmakers have every right to disagree with presidents; so do foreign leaders. But this event, to be staged in March a mile from the White House, is a hostile attempt to lobby Congress to enact more sanctions against Iran, a measure that Mr. Obama has rightly threatened to veto.

Eugene Robinson: What Is the GOP Thinking?

There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over … abortion and rape.

I’m not kidding. In a week when President Obama used his State of the Union address to issue a progressive manifesto of bread-and-butter policy proposals, GOP leaders responded by taking up the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”-a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But a vote on the legislation had to be canceled after female GOP House members reportedly balked over the way an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape was limited.

The whole thing was, in sum, your basic 360-degree fiasco.

At least there are some in the party who recognize how much trouble Republicans make for themselves by breaking the armistice in the culture wars and launching battles that cannot be won. It looks as if the nation will have to stand by until GOP realists and ideologues reach some sort of understanding, which may take some time.

David Sirota: Big Tax Bills for the Poor, Tiny Ones for the Rich

American politics are dominated by those with money. As such, America’s tax debate is dominated by voices that insist the rich are unduly persecuted by high taxes and that low-income folks are living the high life. Indeed, a new survey by the Pew Research Center recently found that the most financially secure Americans believe “poor people today have it easy.”

The rich are certainly entitled to their own opinions-but, as the old saying goes, nobody is entitled to his or her own facts. With that in mind, here’s a set of tax facts that’s worth considering: Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy. In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent). [..]

Of course, if you aren’t poor, you may be reading this and thinking that these trends have no real-world impact on your life. But think again: In September, Standard & Poor’s released a study showing that increasing economic inequality hurts economic growth and subsequently reduces public revenue. As important, the report found that the correlation between high inequality and low economic growth was highest in states that relied most heavily on regressive levies such as sales taxes.

In other words, regressive state and local tax policies don’t just harm the poor-they end up harming entire economies. So if altruism doesn’t prompt you to care about unfair tax rates and economic inequality, then it seems self-interest should.

Mark Weisbot: In Syriza, Greece Has a Real Choice

Greek voters should not be intimidated into voting against the anti-austerity party.

Here we go again. There is talk of Greece exiting the euro, and the German government has tried to say that it would be no big deal for Europe, then apparently walked back from that position. At the same time, the German government appears to be trying to influence the Greek election scheduled for January 25 by saying that if the left party Syriza wins, a Greek exit will follow. [..]

We have seen most of this story before, but the way it is presented in most of the press can be confusing. Most importantly, all this talk of how financial markets will respond to the election is somewhat misleading. The financial markets are not the driving force here. Rather, it is the European authorities, led by the European Central Bank. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt in July 2012, when he put an end to the financial crisis in Europe with just a few words, announcing that the bank was “ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.”

He didn’t even have to back the statement up with any hard cash. Yields on the troubled European governments’ bonds – including the potentially euro-meltdown-size debt of Italy and Spain — went into decline and the financial crisis of the euro was over.

Joshua Kopstein: In Obama’s war on hackers, everyone loses

Persecution of Barrett Brown offers chilling preview of cybersecurity proposals

For weeks, President Barack Obama has been pushing a set of controversial cybersecurity proposals. He prominently mentioned the plans during his State of the Union address, stressing the need for legislation, using that classic political pretext for demolishing civil liberties, protecting children.

“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” he said during the speech, dutifully ignoring the elephant in the room: the U.S. government’s role in doing much of the same.

But Obama’s proposals are a mixed bag of old and dangerous ideas. He wants to create information-sharing regimes between private companies and the government to detect threats as well as expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the draconian anti-hacking law that the government used to prosecute the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz. Both steps would not only be ineffective at improving cybersecurity in any practical sense but also further empower the government to go after activists and journalists such as Barrett Brown, who was sentenced Thursday to 63 months in prison

Henner Weithöner: Coal Casts Cloud Over Germany’s Energy Revolution

The energy market in Germany’s saw a spectacular change last year as renewable energy became the major source of its electricity supply-leaving lignite, coal and nuclear behind.

But researchers calculate that, allowing for the mild winter of 2014, the cut in fossil fuel use in energy production meant CO2 emissions fell by only 1%.

Wind, solar, hydropower and biomass reached a new record, producing 27.3% (157bn kilowatt hours) of Germany’s total electricity and overtaking lignite (156bn kWh), according to AGEB, a joint association of energy companies and research institutes.

This was an achievement that many energy experts could not have imagined just a few years ago.

On This Day In History January 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 24 is the 24th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 341 days remaining until the end of the year (342 in leap years).

On this day in 1848, A millwright named James Marshall discovers gold along the banks of Sutter’s Creek in California, forever changing the course of history in the American West.

The California Gold Rush began at Sutter’s Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” With the news of gold, local residents in California were among the first to head for the goldfields.

At the time gold was discovered, California was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was ceded to the U.S. after the end of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848.

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report the discovery of gold. On December 5, 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress. Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the “forty-niners”, invaded the Gold Country of California or “Mother Lode”. As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters took over his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned about the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,00 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850. The sudden massive influx into a remote area overwhelmed the infrastructure. Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.[13] Wherever gold was discovered, hundreds of miners would collaborate to put up a camp and stake their claims. With names like Rough and Ready and Hangtown, each camp often had its own saloon and gambling house.