Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aren't You Hungry?

Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I've started adding tags to the food and drink posts at Chicagoist for maximum SEO (that's "search engine optimization" for those of you who don't live online). And it paid major dividends yesterday with our latest "One Great Sandwich" post, which as of this morning is the fourth most popular link in Google when I type "breaded steak" in the search bar (the third most popular is last year's profile of Uncle Johnny's. I think that Freddie's is going to see a lot of business in the upcoming weeks from the curious. So will Chef Efrain, after yesterday's article in the Sun-Times on underground supper clubs that I wrote. Amelia e-mailed me to show me that the story was picked up in her company's daily e-mail newsletter, which goes out to over 200,000 subscribers.

I start a new job on Monday, and I'm anxious to finally get out of the house and work. It's also the first straight office gig I've had in ten years, but the atmosphere is laid back so I can wear jeans to work (although if I had to wear slacks I made certain I could still fit in the ones I have).

It also means that I have to finish the prep work on all my current freelance obligations this weekend. I have a story due for Time Out Chicago next week and two pieces for the Sun-Times the week after that. So I should stop screwing around here and hit the floor running.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You Can't Control Nature

A Controlled Environment
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I was going through some old photos yesterday and came across these shots from the Bonsai room that the Brooklyn Botanical Garden from five years ago. This one really stood out because of the color of the changing leaves.

I miss my bonsai trees.

I've been listening to a lot of Orchestra Baobab since I returned from Anne and Pete's place in Roselle last night. It was the first time I made it to their home since they moved out of town (and the neighborhood) and they've put together a beautiful home. Anne and I got to talking about Cuba, for some odd reason. I think she mentioned that a relative is enthralled with it, to the point of having visited the island proper.

Not counting my mandatory visits to Guantanamo Bay when I was serving in the Navy, I've been to Cuba twice myself, so I grok the allure. Having just finished work on a story on Cuban sandwiches it's also fresh in my mind. Even with the current embargo, Cuba has served as a vital nexus between the Old and New worlds. It served as a frequent port-of-call during colonial times. The cultures and traditions of African slaves and Spanish colonials were absorbed by the native populace, who then added their own flavor and returned the favor to West Africa, who absorbed what the Cubans added and made it their own. That Afro-Cuban music still influenced West Africans even during the early embargo years was amazing; we didn't get to hear it until five or six years ago. I remember the first time Baobab played HotHouse and there were some anti-Castro Cubans in the house grooving on the music. We always got a handful of them at Cuban-themed shows; the night HotHouse was shut down in 2003 for license infractions Orquestra Aragon was on stage. But that's a story for another time.

On this particular night with Baobab on stage, someone asked for a rum-and-coke with a lot of lime. I was still at the point where I would enjoy a drink or four behind the bar during a show, and when he raised his glass and said "Cuba Libre" I (wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt) returned the toast with my beer and said, "From this side of the bar, she already is." I was feeling my oats, to say the least, and had to be pulled away from the bar when we started arguing.

You can hear the cross of influences in Orchestra Baobab's music. The sax is pure jazz, the melodies reminiscent of son montuno, the vocal harmonies come from Senegalese Wolof tradition. It all coalesces here in the song "Cabral" from A Night at Club Baobab. I'm sharing it with you below, along with the rocking track "Kelen Ati Leen" which is a guaranteed rump-shaker that betrays some serious funk influences that would make both James Brown and Fela proud.

Orchestra Baobab: "Cabral"

Orchestra Baobab: "Kelen ati Leen"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Winamp Screen Capture

My Winamp Screen Capture
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I've always been a fan of Winamp, one of the few things AOL gets right these days. This is the screen capture of their 10th anniversary addition (version 5.5). it includes a new skin called "Bento" that approximates the iTunes appearance, integrates with iPods better (without a separate plugin), and loads quicker than iTunes, Windows Media, and other players.

Winamp 5.5 also has a built-in browser that allows you to browse your favorite websites while listening, and a media monitor that searches popular MP3 sites for new downloads. This is a great feature because it allows the user to check out and catalog his or her favorite music blogs. Right now I'm listening to the Funky 16 Corners blog, one of the best classic soul sites around.

It still has its drawbacks. For example, if you made any DRM-protected or other fairplay songs from iTunes, those songs won't be added to the Winamp jukebox. Lucky I still subscribe to eMusic, so the libraries are easily integrated.

Speaking of, I'm absolutely digging the new eMusic remote downloader. It allows me to both automatically enter my downloads into my preferred player and sync my playlists at the same time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why I Have a Home Bar

Clown Arm Wrestling
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Between my hard drive crashing under the weight of a fucked-up registry and a urinary tract infection Emmy developed over the weekend I'm just glad to see the weekend in sight. Deadlines are finished, for the most part, I have some more work in the hopper and a possible job interview in the works.

But the double whammy of the hard drive and Emmy threw me into crisis mode. The former started up last week, when I downloaded a virus somehow that just infected the hard drive with trojans. My friend Brian came through with a copy of the installer that he gave me when I installed XP, but it wasn't enough. I had to uninstall everything and start from scratch. The silver lining in all this is that the reboot didn't delete my music library or, more important, my writing.

Emmy started peeing blood Sunday, thick enough that I didn't hesitate to wait until Monday to take her to my regular vet. So I called a cab and loaded the two of us up for the ride to the Emergency vet on Clybourn. Thank God for CareCredit, otherwise I don't know what would have happened. Some Clamavox and antibiotics and Emmy was feeling better by Tuesday.

All this overshadowed a chance encounter with a reader of this site, which shocked the hell out of me as I didn't think anyone outside of folks I know read this. This particular reader is working on a piece for the Tribune Sunday magazine about the Stearns Quarry, which is now the future nature preserve across the street from McGuane Park. I referred him over to B News, as they have the native history on the quarry he might need for his piece.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Scott and I had an e-mail exchange yesterday about, of all things, the Spice Girls, and my contention that Melanie C (aka "Sporty") turned out to not only be the most talented one of the bunch, but the hottest one, as well (Scott readily admitted that while Ginger was his favorite, her junky trunk had turned into a "hatchback"). Don't believe me? Take a look at the reunion photos and see for yourself.

Then I was goofing around You Tube a couple days ago, before a trojan I inexplicably downloaded nearly crashed my hard drive, and I found this which is currently getting heavy rotation on the sudoPod:

And then there's this. While I can take or leave the song, it reinforces my argument about Ms. Chisholm's hotness (I'm miming cat claws right now):

Finally, I'm all over the new Angie Stone record, which is a great addition to the newly re-launched Stax Records. Check this out:

Now I really have to get back to work.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Retro Goodness

I'm just getting started on a long overdue deep cleaning (man was my pantry a mess), but I wanted to share this video. It's to promote the new Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings record, and man does this remind me of old "Top of the Pops" or "Old Grey Whistle Test" clips:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Halloween in the Books

Racer X Unveiled
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Dig how my mask has a reservoir tip. A couple older folks got the costume right away. One asked how old I had to be to understand the character, and I said that once the live action Speed Racer movie comes out next year, I'll just need to be twelve.

I've uploaded some of the shots from this evening to flickr. Best of all, there were no Amy Winehouse sightings this evening.