05/02/2015 archive

Triple Crown: The Longest 2 Minutes In Sports

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This was no ordinary homecoming.  This was a do-or-die attempt to lay the ghost of years of rejection from the horse-rearing elite and the literati who sat in those privileged boxes overlooking the track and those unprivileged craven hordes who grovelled around the centre-field where he had suffered as a boy.

The clubhouse as I remember was worse, much worse than I had expected.  It was a mess.  This was supposed to be a smart, horsey clubhouse, oozing with money and gentry, but what I saw had me skulking in corners.  It was worse than the night I spent on Skid Row a month later, back in New York.  My feet crunched broken glass on the floor.  There seemed no difference between a telephone booth and a urinal; both were used for the same purpose.  Foul messages were scrawled in human excrement on the walls and bull-necked men, in what had once been white, but were smeared and stained, seersucker suits, were doing awful things to younger but equally depraved men around every corner.  The place reminded me of a cowshed that hadn’t been cleaned in fifteen years.  Somehow I knew I had to look and observe.  It was my job.  What was I being paid for?  I was lucky to be here.  Lots of people would give their drawing arm to be able to see the actual Kentucky Derby which was now hardly an hour away.  Hunter understood and was watching me as much as he was watching the scene before us.

Something splattered the page I was drawing on and, as I moved to wipe it away, I realized too late it was somebody’s vomit.  During the worst days of the Weimar Republic, when Hitler was rising faster than a bull on heat, George Grosz, the savage satirical painter, had used human shit as a violent method of colouring his drawings.  It is a shade of brown like no other and its use makes an ultimate statement about the subject.

‘Seen enough?’, asked Hunter, pushing me hastily towards an exit that led out to the club enclosure.  I needed a drink.  ‘Er… one more trip to the inner-field Ralph I think,’ I heard Hunter say nervously.  ‘Only another half-hour to the big race.  If we don’t catch the inner-field now, we’ll miss it.’  So we went.

While the scene was as wild here as it had been in the clubhouse, it had a warmer, more human face, more colour and happiness and gay abandon – the difference in atmosphere between Hogarth’s Gin Lane and Beer Street.  One harrowed and death-like the other bloated with booze but animal-healthy.

Who would have thought I was after the gristle, the blood-throbbing veins, poisoned exquisitely by endless self-indulgence, mint juleps, and bourbon.  Hide, anyway, behind the dark shades you predatory piece of raw blubber.

The race was now getting a frenzied response as Dust Commander began to make the running.  Bangles and jewels rattled on suntanned, wobbling flesh and even the pillar men in suits were now on tip-toe, creased skin under double-chins stretched to the limit into long furrows that curved down into tight collars.

Mouths opened and closed and veins pulsed in unison as the frenzy reached its climax.  One or two slumped back as their horses failed, but the mass hysteria rose to a final orgasmic shriek, at last bubbling over into whoops of joy, hugging and back slapping.  I turned to face the track again, but it was all over.  That was it.  The 1970 Kentucky Derby won by Dust Commander with a lead of five lengths – the biggest winning margin since 1946 when Triple Crown Champion, Assault, won the Derby by eight lengths.

‘I think it’s time I was thinking of getting back to New York.  Let’s have a meal somewhere and I can phone the airline for plane times.  What day is it, we seem to have lost a weekend.  I need a drink.’

‘You need a lynching.  You’ve upset my friends and I haven’t written a goddamn word.  I’ve been too busy looking after you.  Your work here is done.  I can never come back here again.  This whole thing will probably finish me as a writer.  I have no story.’

‘Well I know we got a bit pissed and let things slip a bit but there’s lots of colour.  Lots happened.’

‘Holy Shit!  You scumbag!  This is Kentucky, not Skid Row.  I love these people.  They are my friends and you treated them like scum.’

Ralph Steadman- The Joke’s Over

If you want to you can watch Kentucky Derby coverage from 11 am ET (on Vs. where it actually started on Wednesday) until 7 pm (on NBC, where they spare you the pre-race hype until 4).

I suppose this is good thing since you can hardly be expected to follow Horse Racing unless you’re a tout or plunger in one of the few forms of gambling deemed socially acceptable (as opposed to Poker, which is not gambling at all) and 2 year olds don’t have much of a record to handicap.

There is no clear favorite this year with-

Gate Horse Jockey Odds
18 American Pharoah Victor Espinoza 3 – 1
8 Dortmund Martin Garcia 4 – 1
2 Carpe Diem John Velazquez 7 – 1
10 Firing Line Gary Stevens 8 – 1
15 Frosted Joel Rosario 9 – 1

all in the single digits of what will ultimately be a 19 horse field after 3 qualifiers (International Star, El Kabeir, and Stanford) scratched since Friday morning along with one alternate, Tale Of Verve.

It’s really mostly an excuse to wear hats that would be rejected from a 5th Avenue Easter Parade or Royal Wedding and get tanked up on Bourbon that is best sipped with a soda chaser and not muddled up with mint.

Mint Julep


  • 4 cups bourbon
  • 2 bunches fresh spearmint
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar


To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.

I suppose I might mention this is the 141st edition.

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

Enchiladas, Tostadas and Tacos

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Lightness is not an attribute usually associated with enchiladas, the most comforting of Mexican tortilla foods, writes Martha Rose Shulman. But these enchiladas, filled with a mix of blanched seasoned chard and succulent diced chayote squash and covered with a classic cooked tomatillo salsa, are both light and incredibly satisfying.

Greens and Chayote Enchiladas With Salsa Verde

Lightness is not an attribute usually associated with enchiladas, but it is here.

Huevos Rancheros

Fried eggs on warm corn tortillas, topped with cooked tomato salsa – it’s a classic dish.

Chard and Sweet Corn Tacos

These sweet and spicy tacos can be filled with chard of any color, or other greens like beet greens or amaranth.

Bean Tostadas

This is by far my most popular tostada, appealing to both vegetarians and meat-eaters.

The Breakfast Club (Unfinished)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThe thing about Shubert is that he actually completed 7 Symphonies and a large body of other compositions and didn’t really leave very much  unfinished in comparison with other composers who often labored longer than his entire lifetime of 31 years on one singular work they considered their magnum opus.

Schubert was remarkably prolific, writing over 1,500 works in his short career. The largest number of these are songs for solo voice and piano (over 600). He also composed a considerable number of secular works for two or more voices, namely part songs, choruses and cantatas. He completed eight orchestral overtures and seven complete symphonies, in addition to fragments of six others. While he composed no concertos, he did write three concertante works for violin and orchestra. There is a large body of music for solo piano, including fourteen complete sonatas, numerous miscellaneous works and many short dances. There is also a relatively large set of works for piano duet. There are over fifty chamber works, including some fragmentary works. His sacred output includes seven masses, one oratorio and one requiem, among other mass movements and numerous smaller compositions. He completed only eleven of his twenty stage works.

On the other hand he did die relatively young, some say due to complications of syphilis or Mercury (which was commonly used to cure it) poisoning.

So he was a James Dean type character that people could impose their own interpretations on after his death and he soon rose to great heights of popularity in the Art Music crowd in particular because of this supposedly “great” unfinished work that was merely #8 of 9 (or 10 depending on who you believe).  Among his admirers were maybe Beethoven (because serious musical historians, doubt the veracity of that story) but certainly Listz, Schumann and Dvořák.  He is beloved by a certain type of Art Music fan not just because he led an appropriately Byronic (said descriptively and without a trace of byrony which is a pun and not a misspelling) existence, but because his music was considered a bridge between the late Classical style of Mozart and the early Romanticism of Beethoven.

Compared to his contemporaries he was a tunesmith, putting together new melodies, rather that a technician stealing folk songs and orchestrating them so I think he deserves a little recognition for that.  I just feel that the adoration lavished on the “unfinished” Symphony by virtue of its unfinishedness is mostly projection.  It isn’t even his only unfinished one, he laid out the sketches for a Symphony in D minor mere weeks before his death.  He also wrote other symphonies you know, including today’s 9th Symphony which is nicknamed “Great” since it mostly is.

It’s hell on the Woodwinds and String Section though and is performed less frequently than it might be due to the difficulty (lazy musicians).

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

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 York Times Editorial Board: More Excuses on the Patriot Act

Software designers have a term – “minimal viable product” – to describe early versions of things like iPhone apps that they can rush to market. The idea is to get something out and refine it as they go along. That’s the argument being made for a measure in Congress that would modify the Patriot Act to make it somewhat harder for the government to conduct mass surveillance of Americans without regard to whether they committed any misdeeds.

Sure, there are compromises, Americans are told, but we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The bill is a “critical first step toward reining in” surveillance by the National Security Agency and is a basis for more reform, said Human Rights Watch.

Except the Constitution is not Candy Crush. [..]

The American Civil Liberties Union believes the bill doesn’t sufficiently tighten the definition of the terms used to justify data collection, or properly limit the retention of information about people who are not suspected of wrongdoing, or require meaningful disclosure of so-called “backdoor” searches of databases by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It does not appoint an advocate to argue before the FISA court on behalf of civil liberties; instead, it simply appoints a panel of experts to advise the court, where only the government is allowed to present a case, in secret.

Paul Krugman: Ideology and Integrity

The 2016 campaign should be almost entirely about issues. The parties are far apart on everything from the environment to fiscal policy to health care, and history tells us that what politicians say during a campaign is a good guide to how they will govern.

Nonetheless, many in the news media will try to make the campaign about personalities and character instead. And character isn’t totally irrelevant. The next president will surely encounter issues that aren’t currently on anyone’s agenda, so it matters how he or she is likely to react. But the character trait that will matter most isn’t one the press likes to focus on. In fact, it’s actively discouraged.

You see, you shouldn’t care whether a candidate is someone you’d like to have a beer with. Nor should you care about politicians’ sex lives, or even their spending habits unless they involve clear corruption. No, what you should really look for, in a world that keeps throwing nasty surprises at us, is intellectual integrity: the willingness to face facts even if they’re at odds with one’s preconceptions, the willingness to admit mistakes and change course.

And that’s a virtue in very short supply.

Anna Feigenbaum: The profitable theatrics of riot control

Militarized policing was designed to destroy the dignity of those who contest power

The unrest in Baltimore after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after he was critically injured in police custody has reopened longstanding debates over public-order policing. Where does protest end and rioting begin? What counts as violence? Is property damage ever legitimate? Listening to Fox News analyze the meaning of the word “thugs,” it feels as if we are doomed to repeat Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “Riots are the language of the unheard” until we are blue in the face.

Baltimore, like Ferguson, Missouri, has seen the deployment of a hypertechnologized warrior-cop style of policing that has become unnervingly familiar, with recent exposés focusing further attention on the militarization of law enforcement. But these practices of so-called riot control are far from new.

Riot control is – and always has been – about criminalizing acts of disobedience by controlling people, public space and even the air we breathe. The disturbing forms of policing we see in Baltimore provide a small window into a sprawling, transnational business with roots in colonialist violence.

Andrew Elrod: Fast-tracking free trade is good for profits, not people

Congress should resist Obama’s push for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Upon signing the Trade Act of 1974, President Gerald Ford declared that the new trade agreements to come “will mean more and better jobs for American workers, with additional purchasing power for the American consumer.” The bill established the fast-track procedures that prohibit congressional amendments to trade and investment treaties; it was, he said, “one of the most important measures to come out of the 93rd Congress.”

Ford was right about that. Thanks to fast track, trade policy has become increasingly centralized in the office of the president over the past four decades. Though they expired for the first time in the aftermath of NAFTA, fast-track powers were again authorized under George W. Bush in 2002, allowing his administration to sign an astounding 11 trade agreements before Congress again revoked the powers in 2007. Today President Barack Obama would like to start the process again. He is now urging Congress to grant fast-track powers for the next six years, in part so his administration can finalize negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest investment treaty in history, encompassing 12 nations that account for 40 percent of global commerce. House leaders will begin canvassing votes today, with early indications suggesting that the president’s effort may fall short. And for good reason.

Donald Earl Collins: Freddie Gray: Don’t let the 1% determine police reform for the 99%

The history of policing in the US has been one of protecting private property, money and lives of the affluent and politically powerful, at least since the NYPD’s founding in 1845. Any new efforts at police reform – calls for which are growing stronger with each new death of an unarmed person of color at the hands of the police – will be unsuccessful if they exclude revisions to this most basic of reasons for the existence of modern law enforcement.

Freddie Gray is just the latest in a long list of men and women of color who have died during a police encounter in the last year, a list that already includes Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Miriam Carey, Tamir Rice, Antonio Zambrano-Montes and Michael Brown. Some have suggested that one possible solution is the introduction of police body cameras, which are far from being the panacea they are made out to be – the purchase and maintenance of which just happen to benefit corporations. That is why it is vital that any efforts to fix our broken police departments are not one-off trends promoted by and for the benefit of elites.

Robert L. Borosage: The Sanders Challenge

Tweeting that “America needs a political revolution,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders threw his hat into the race for the Democratic nomination for president this week. Sanders is in many ways the mirror image of Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive favorite in the race. She has universal name recognition, unlimited funds and a campaign operation overrun with political pros. He is not widely known, has little money, and has never run a national campaign. Sanders is not easy, not blow dried and not scripted. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal — a full throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal.

Sanders will focus his campaign on the great challenges facing the country: a politics corrupted by big money, and an economy where the rules have been rigged by the few to benefit the few. That reality won’t be changed by politics as usual, where the viability of a candidate is measured by how much money he or she can amass in the backroom “money primary,” and the message of a candidate is judged by its poll-tested ability to appeal to voters without alarming donors. It will take an independent political movement to change our course — and Sanders will run as its Tom Paine, summoning Americans to save their democracy.

On This Day In History May 2

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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 2 is the 122nd day of the year (123rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 243 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 2011, Osama bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, died . He was killed in an attack on the compound where he was hiding outside the Pakistan capital of Islamabad. U.S. President Barack Obama announced on national television that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by American military forces and that his body was in U.S. custody.

The raid began around 1 a.m. local time, when 23 U.S. Navy SEALs in two Black Hawk helicopters descended on the compound in Abbottabad, a tourist and military center north of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. One of the helicopters crash-landed into the compound but no one aboard was hurt. During the raid, which lasted approximately 40 minutes, five people, including bin Laden and one of his adult sons, were killed by U.S. gunfire. No Americans were injured in the assault. Afterward, bin Laden’s body was flown by helicopter to Afghanistan for official identification, then buried at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea less than 24 hours after his death, in accordance with Islamic practice. [..]

A break in the hunt for bin Laden came in August 2010, when C.I.A. analysts tracked the terrorist leader’s courier to the Abbottabad compound, located behind tall security walls in a residential neighborhood. (U.S. intelligence officials spent the ensuing months keeping the compound under surveillance; however, they were never certain bin Laden was hiding there until the raid took place.) The U.S. media had long reported bin Laden was believed to be hiding in the remote tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border, so many Americans were surprised to learn the world’s most famous fugitive had likely spent the last five years of his life in a well-populated area less than a mile from an elite Pakistani military academy. After the raid, which the U.S. reportedly carried out without informing the Pakistani government in advance, some American officials suspected Pakistani authorities of helping to shelter bin Laden in Abbottabad, although there was no concrete evidence to confirm this.

Beltane: Fire and Folklore

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You call it May Day, we Pagans cal it Beltane. It may be a day for workers to take to the streets and protest oppression but for Pagans and Wiccans around the world it is one of the eight sabbats of the Wheel. It is a  celebration of fertility and birth. Beltane, the old Gaelic name for the month of May, is the last of the three Wiccan spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times. It is one of eight solar Sabbats and one of the only that has not been Christianized.

Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since. [..]

On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: “Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn” – “Between two Beltane fires”.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying”. Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring.

May birching or May boughing, began on Beltane Eve, it is said that young men fastened garland and boughs on the windows and doors of the young maidens upon which their sweet interest laid. Mountain ash leaves and Hawthorne branches meant indicated love whereas thorn meant disdain. This perhaps, is the forerunner of old May Day custom of hanging bouquets hooked on one’s doorknob?

Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of May Day morning with garlands of flowers and/or branches of trees. They would arrive; most rumpled from joyous encounters, in many areas with the maypole for the Beltane celebrations. Pre-Christian society’s thoughts on human sexuality and fertility were not bound up in guilt and sin, but rather joyous in the less restraint expression of human passions. Life was not an exercise but rather a joyful dance, rich in all beauty it can afford.

So dance around the Maypole, light the fire, sing and bang the drums and don’t forget to wash you face in the morning dew.