Love This Giant

One has to wonder if Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) felt a little in awe of David Byrne, if it was never in the plans for this record to be a 50/50 partnership, or if Byrne’s persona is simply so well defined at this point that it would overshadow most artists. In any case, the mixture here leans heavily on Byrne, which is certainly not a bad thing, but Love This Giant doesn’t take full advantage of Clark’s guitar prowess or hypnotic voice.

Annie Clark and David Byrne

For Byrne, however, Love This Giant represents some of his best recent work. The skittish “Dinner For Two,” with its majestic opening horns and refusal to settle into something comfortable or still, possesses energy Byrne hasn’t displayed in a while. “Tanks outside the bedroom window/We’ll be fine with the curtains closed,” Byrne sings, his voice straining with barely contained frustration and passion. The Dap-Kings and Antibalas must have made for a crowded studio, but they give Byrne and Clark an ecstatic backing track that should be a centerpiece to a live show, a barnburner to bring down the house.

The simple and excellent “Lazarus” feels like more of a St. Vincent track, and when Byrne comes into the song, it provides a new depth and complexity. “Lazarus” is one of the few songs on Love This Giant that shifts dynamics to suit both voices, and the resultant combination is potent. Byrne finishes with the scathing lines, “You will not see my face come morning/I did not come to set you free.”

Hopefully Love This Giant is only the beginning of a partnership that should yield more potent results in the future. One wishes for Clark to let loose a little more, and allow Byrne to mold his galloping rhythms to her punchy guitar lines. With their combined talents, it’s only a matter of time before Clark and Byrne find a balance and deliver something incredible. (

Author rating: 6/10

Reprinted with love and admiration from

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“My Incomplete manifesto on why Prometheus is motivating”

I will never ever ever ever again go to a Sci-Fi Movie.  I have been burned (almost literally if you count how close you seem to the explosions when viewing the 3D versions of these films anyway), too many times.  Tonight was just another example of why I try really hard not to go to these.  I always seem to get sucked in though.

 I am just not a Sci-Fi person. Not only do I already know that there is going to be some manly man who scoffs at people, and offers well timed quips that amble across his mouth surrounded by an impeccably groomed five-o-clock-shadow.  Which is, in and of itself, an oxymoron.  Aside from the thirty something protagonist, there is always a chick in a skin tight suit who predictably sucks his face.  I can deal with the soft character development and the predictable story, but the ruthless explosions and impossible CGI are relentless.  So much so, that I am actually lulled to sleep.  The meter of the booms, flash, and swoosh begins to meld into the low hum not unlike a washing machine and I begin to yawn.  How can you be yawning at a time like this!! “They’re trying to save the earth!”  my husband yells over the din.  My eyes are heavy, my head leans on his shoulder and I begin to dream.  You see, I SLEEP AT ALL SCI-FI MOVIES.  IT IS A PHENOMENON THAT I CANNOT CONTROL.  Aliens vs. Cowboys, SLEPT.

Any Nicholas Cage movie nowadays SLEEP.  Men in Black 3….you guessed it.  I SLEPT!  Don’t even ask about Harry Potter.  You must be joking if you think I didn’t SLEEP!

You see I am  in fact, the polar opposite of the Sci-Fi enthusiast.  I don’t want to be the good guy, I don’t want to find, crush or remove the bad guy.  I don’t want to save the world or bite my nails hoping that someone else does.  Why? because I know  it’s not real and it, in fact, doesn’t even look plausible to me.  Will Smith flying around as a homeless superhero in Hancock, was maybe legendary, but I couldn’t get over the fact that Will Smith WAS FLYING THROUGH THE AIR! and I’M SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT? I’m sorry.  I have my limits.

I don’t like continuous crashing and swooshing and zipping and whirring.  It is not normal and pretty soon all that stuff just melds into white noise and I sleep.  I enjoy real suck face life.  I enjoy the weird moments, the indecision, the bad endings, hanging on the edge of a word.  I buy real emotion.  And of course the real hard won positive stuff that comes with documentary, docu-drama or full on dramatic interpretation.  Lincoln as a vampire? really? that’s another post because not only is this TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE, it’s almost sacrilegious.  I smell a protest on that one.  Comon’ America.  Don’t swallow that.  His memory is one of our national treasures and now he’s gonna join the ranks of Team Jacob and Team Edward? Really? Somehow Team Abe just does not ring well.

Tonight I scratched all my nail polish off to the screeching and drippy sounds of Prometheus.

I watched a woman pull an octopus out of her stomach.  I gazed at enough tubelike worms that I know know what H.R. Geiger’s wet dreams look like.  Unfortunately, the movie relied on a patchwork process of taking winning scenes from other sic-fi movies and jumbling them around so that they were almost unrecognizable from the movies from whence they came.  Okay, it was pretty much a patchwork copy with some obvious low brow CGI.  There is so much panting and sweat, that I wondered if I wasn’t in my evil woman’s boot camp class.

Unfortunately I found myself wishing I was. Sometimes It looks as though some of the women are in enough pain that they actually FEEL LIKE  a twenty pound gooey H.R. Geiger razor toothed  octo-alien is going to erupt from their bellies, but it’s just the burpies and the crunches.

I have now found my motivation to continue my women’s boot camp. I want to be fit enough to survive an alien invasion, to outrun zombies.  If a real life invasion is any where as confusing, underwhelming and unimaginative as Prometheus, I should only need a few classes.

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Kettle Belle Chronicles: “Why I’m hostile to exercise”, or… “follow the way of the Wrecking Belle in the Real Madrid T-shirt and yoga pants.”

I sometimes toy with the idea of attaining exercise god status. The black yoga pants wearer,  that adored symbol of strength and power.  The all knowing being whom saunters into Pinkberry without a care or a ripple on her behind.  I endeavored to be the cut / toned / tony-excessively smooth pantaloon wearer.

I embarked on this journey with some reservations but higher than proper expectations.   I only wanted to do this if it fit nicely within my carefully crafted idea of invigorating exercise, and I painted a pretty good picture of the journey in my mind.  A precise one in fact.   I would accept it if it was moderately tiring but yet refreshingly rejuvenating.  If I could meet other ladies and affiliate with them and we could form a team of supportive women working toward the goal of being ridiculously hot!   Where shared experience and hardship made the journey that much easier and rewarding.  I couldn’t picture myself caring much about some sweat.  It might only serve to make me look like Jennifer Beals sans chair but still like Jennifer Beals.  I had the curly hair that hung around my face uncannily like her…when I didn’t blow dry that is.  And  I accepted that I may feel a modicum of pain, but that soon my muscles would be toned and sculpted.  But how much pain would be bearable?  And, as I would learn, I wouldn’t get to determine that.

Well it hit me like a kettle bell on the side of the temple when I found out that there was no magical group of women welcoming you into their leg pumping lair. The women arrived, threw down their keys, knock-off sunglasses, squeezed their water bottles into cubbies and threw their white towels round their necks.  They visually organized eachother, preened, hands on hips slowly checking out newcomers.  There were no smiles, just long gazes, that if you caught one, a sort of straight grimace was returned.  I seemed to have entered a paddock of overweight racehorses readying for competition.

I wasn’t exactly sure why all the life lessons I had had drilled into my psyche about ‘listening to pain’ were lost on the Exercise gods.  I reasoned, I was the person who was feeling the pain, the person whose brain was responsible for the urgent messages to cease and desist whatever the particular activity was at the moment, so why was ‘ignoring the pain’ the instruction that I was given? .” I had discovered the essence of the problem that I had with ‘exercise’  Do they believe that our minds are separate from our body? Does the body not work in conjunction with the brain?  does the brain not field signals from the body and then decide what actions to take?  Is it then wise that we keep working the body in the repetitive manner when the body is clearly saying, “NO YOU CANNOT KEEP THROWING THAT KETTLE BELL OVER YOUR WANING LEFT SHOULDER AND EXPECT NOT TO LAUNCH IT INTO THE CHEST OF THAT ELABORATELY SWEATING CROATIAN WOMAN!

We began with two laps around the building and were told not to stop.  One of the evil geniuses was stationed at the opposite side of the building to ‘keep an eye on us and make sure we did not stop.  Our herd returned bounding for the water fountain.  Seconds later we swang kettle bells to and fro.  We then did burpies until dizziness set in. We lifted heavy bars while doing jumping jacks. We swung ropes as though ceaselessly straightening them out.  We did squats that threatened to re-open our episiotomies.  Even if they were given to us years ago.  “Wider, Wider!”  How My mind begged my mouth to shout, “yah? let’s see you open that wide!”  We did push ups, chin ups, and fast weights to keep the cardio effect going.   We army crawls and the dreaded burpie.  Every time my body began to revolt, writhe with the equivalent of a physiological scream, heart pulsing out of my chest easily seen by passers-by, like some comic book grinch in love, and I would point at my chest signifying my lack of breath, The exercise god (female or male),  Impervious to my impending heart attack, would glance at me momentarily finally offer a deliberation,  “you can go further, you can do it Christine!”  As I looked up with long eyes, intentionally trying to clear my double vision, my soaked shirt seemed to bangle in the wind like some latvian wet towel air conditioner.  My jello thighs danced. My exercise god lavished a wide smile unto me saying, “THERE YOU GO!!!” Usually finishing off with the dispassionate and quite routine 90’s meme “YOU GO GIRL!!!”

The exercise gods believe in “pushing oneself” It’s a rite of the baptismal font of back sprains.  The ungainly church of belly crunches and impossibly performed burpies.  “If you push yourself, you will surprise yourself.’  ….”If you push yourself….you won’t be sorry…”  “If you push yourself you will be so proud!”  I find an extreme dichotomy in the fact that the women or men that are ‘coaching’ you, many of whom you do not know from Adam or Eve, are ripped beyond belief and do not remember their own days of cookies and carmel macchiatos. Well not really anyway.   Those discretions are seen through skinny-latte coloured glasses. If you ask them, the cookies are remembered as necessary ‘Tiger Milk Bars” maybe only two a day, and the caramel macchiatos are declared but suddenly remembered as intermittent at best.   The bad ‘ol days of minimal muscle and ripped adipose are forgotten and that is the disconnect.

Half way into the reality of the work out, the dry throat, the slight dizziness.  The women wince in pain and look up as they rise from doing push ups.  They begin to knowingly glance at each other.  The tired faux warrior princesses realize that they need each-other.      They begin to look for the affiliation that they narcissistically did not seek in the beginning of the workout.

Class after class this social machination repeats itself.  Ignore each other, then feel pain and affiliate. Rinse and repeat. Do they like it?  Do they like communal pain? Additionally, Do they enjoy paying the Exercise Gods to “make” them push themselves?  I offer that they do.

Part of the motivation comes from pure peer adulation for ‘just doing it’ being ‘brave.’ I was recently told I was a ‘real trooper’ I kept going in part because I didn’t relish the idea of letting everybody know that I thought it was ‘too hard‘ for me.  I had just been given the rather militaristic moniker of “Trooper” and I was feeling a tad nationalistic at the time.  I pictured myself a sort of stylized  Jane Q. Public  upholder of the exercise ethos. Well, within my circle of soft-bellied family and friends.

Ultimately, I found that the exercise gods wanted me to believe that my body was my enemy and that I must conquer it with my Jedi mind.

It was not proper to let my body tell me that one or another exercise could not be done.  Somehow I was to overcome all of the brutal messages that my body was sending me about my pain and satiety.  I really WANT TO DO THIS, but my analytical nature may be getting in the way, oh! that and my muscle capacity!  How can I know whether I can actually do this? …Guess I’ll just have to trust the ‘wrecking belle’ in a Real madrid T-shirt and Yoga pants.


Stay tuned for hopefully twice weekly updates on “The kettle Belle Chronicles” (Written by unwilling exercise maven, Christina Long) about the ugly and hopefully someday ‘beautiful’ side of cardio / strength training classes in Los Angeles on “The Trouble With Milk.”

biKos : –MuSIc 4 yOuR pOst mOdErn HEaRT–

I wonder if the Czech 5 year-old who sent an email to his uncle, carefully scribing his english into phonetics, really understood his eponymous action. That earnest phonetic declaration would eventually come to name one of the best post modern bands in Los Angeles.

Gabe Pearlman’s nephew closed his email that night, “bikos i love you” instead of the intended ‘because I love you.’ It was that innocent and earnest declaration, that stuck with Pearlman for seven or so years and it was the word, “bikos” that would later be the clear choice when he was tasked with naming his newfound art-audio ensemble.

Pearlman, from Culver City with it’s duality of green lawned homes and famous arts district, was a self-described athlete. In the late nineties, he went to a particular rock show. “It wasn’t just any rock show, it was Elliott Smith”. As Gabe says, “words can’t describe how I felt after seeing that show.” Gabe knew he wanted to play guitar. Hearing Portland’s Quasi only further fueled him.

Nurtured in an environment of music, where his mother wrote finely crafted songs on piano, that could only be described as ‘mystical,’ Gabe’s mother inadvertently extolled the theoretical value of the structure of songs, and immersed him in language, it’s context, even the lyrical sound of words themselves. Later, taken with the allegorical quality of Joanna Newsom’s lyrics and the unmistakeable polyrthymic quality of her music, Gabe learned to play guitar and kept adding to a book of collected poetry. His first explorations into voice training found him signed up for a class “…with a bunch of middle school girls who sang in musicals..” Gabe says with a laugh, ” …but I learned a lot, I sang a Rufus Wainwright song for my first recital”

What happened next could only be called a organic machination with a decidedly serendipitous outcome. Over the years, Gabe continued playing and writing; and as he looked around, he noticed that he shared a similar musical taste with some of his best friends. Gabe had met Austin Wester, Jaron Halmy, at the “Culver-Palms Family YMCA Youth & Government program and Daniel Hur had been a high school friend. The tinkering began, and soon the guys were jamming. The next stage in the lineup was found at a mutual friend’s party. Gabe had heard Dave Jones play and worked up the nerve to ask him to join Bikos. A veteran of L.A. Punk, Dave originally carried the bass duties with the illustrious Magnolia Thunderpussy, and later played with El Vez, Josh Haden, That Dog, and Carnage Asada, (whom he still plays with today). Mustering the nerve Gabe asked Dave to join bikos, and Dave jumped at the chance. In a weird turn, it was later found that Dave, who is a bit older than the others, had been a ‘babysitter’ for some of Austin’s friends when they were young; taking them to Jawbreaker shows and the like.

bikos moved from jamming in Gabe’s room to Dave’s garage playing against a backdrop of black flag, husker du, and saccharine trust posters. Soon the space was filled people, found art, strings of pearl lights, the smattering album covers pinned to the walls and ceilings. A homage to the band’s favorite sounds, and letters. Dave played bass, Daniel growled on lead guitar, Austin pounded the drums, Jaron tapped on the keys, while Gabe sang. A summer conference saw a friendship with Michaella (Miki) Burton and during an ad hoc audition during some down time at the conference, Gabe invited Miki to sing for the voice of “Carmen” in a song the band penned called, “Waldo and Carmen Sandiego”… after working on that song with Miki and hearing Miki’s playful yet mysterious voice, the band implored “well? is she in the band??” the answer was clear, her voice belonged.

The true bikos sound is a handmade occurrence, nothing forced, a post- modern-punk inspired sound that is in love with love, dying to be touched. It uses words, in and out of context, double entendres and signature bikos’ solid songwriting. The wordplay and energy wears an earnest nod to Saul Williams, Aceyalone and wears some of it’s hip hop alliteration on it’s sleeve. Vocally, Pearlman’s voice is playful, manic and yet welcoming with a histrionic quality that only serves to intrigue the listener. The music recalls David Byrne, Pere Ubu, Modest Mouse and Neutral Milk Hotel, to name a few. The Pearlman /Burton unique vocal entanglement gives cause to wonder if the bikos sound wasn’t what the The Brazilian Girls’ were really aiming for after all!

The first record, “Make your Sound Sound” (released in November of 2011) was mixed by Dean Nelson, known for his work with Beck, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Thurston Moore, amongst others, was completed with a successful Kickstarter project. It extols a diverse roster of songs ranging from the staccato post punk rant “You Want it” to “Silhouette Vase” a smartly written punk song that opens with shades of a jangly Cure song and closes with an unexpected punk vibe.

The Second record an E.P., entitled “Let Down Your Avant Garde” was released on April 3rd of 2012 and carries on that eclectic spirited word play. It is a more focused effort with songwriting that seems more confident, punchy and honed. It includes songs such as post punk anthem

“Y3k which includes a punchy post punk rant and Burton’s perfectly layered vocals.

“…too late to round down.
no documents of stay.
the new fate, its coming ’round. yet I’m still in a haze…
“…In 999 we were neighboring carnations but I gave up before the calendar year
It was much the same for y2k
broke it off fearing the end was near…”
“…what are we gonna do in 2012?
It’s said the world, world, world won’t make it through What are we gonna do in y3k,
if I can’t see my time turns into you?”

Ultimately a deftly written and inquisitive diatribe into the uncertainty of our modern times.

“Disobey The Wand” is a serotonin enhancer effortlessly swinging through several time changes with Pearlman and Burton crooning in tandem, “Yours is my favorite face, Your lips are my favorite taste, your body’s my favorite place, it’s silhouette my favorite trace.”

Songs like, “Fun, Fun, Fun at the MJT (Museum of Jurassic Technology) present a melodious ode to stumbling on love and actually “getting it right.”

“Waldo and Carmen Sandiego” is a tongue in cheek, clearly impossible love-rock duet between the two well known kids characters.
A comedic yet longingly human exchange.

See bikos live they’re fresh from recording their second full length record with Dean Nelson and the first record and E.P. are still available.

bikos live is more fun than watching L.A. hipsters eat hybrid “Pizza-Salads” amidst Melodious Vintage electronica, which by the way, is apparently a super common things to do in L.A. these days…

So Raise your serotonin levels with bikos’ post-modern musical idiosyncracy. It’s the sound of vulnerability, the longing for joy and connection, and…Oh yes…a bit of a glockenspiel.

Ai Meja! Maria De La Luz’ Capirotada : Memories of old and new

Ahhh Capirotada…The smell and taste of it brings back memories of my grandmother Maria De La Luz (Lucy) collecting bread pieces, me wondering why and ends with a full belly and a smile.  As a child I wondered what the heck my grandmother was going to do with all those stale bread pieces saved in a plastic bag.  Finally she fesssed,  “Oh Meija, I’m going to make capirotada, it’ll be good, you just watch!”

My grandmother a few days after marriage in Fort Worth Texas. She had been making Capirotada for her brothers and sisters many years by this time. She probably learned from an aunt as her mother had been passed away many years by this time.

Now Capirotada was a word I could just not get my head around.  Capirotada.  Capiro-WHAT??  I was six years old.  I think I was only being fed two syllable words at school.  Yes Capirotada is a weird word and I have no idea what the origin or etymology of it  is.   That being said, I’ll probably look that up in a minute and add it to this post….  But Capirotada  is a  rich bread pudding derrived of collected and deliciously stale bread.  The bread can be french bread, white bread, wheat or sourdough.  If it’s stale it’s actually better due to the slight sour taste that it imparts in the final dish.  The bread is then soaked in three kinds of milk (for some people it’s preferable to use a mexican condensed milk, and this Mexi-gringa prefers “la Lechera”), and to the uninitiated, a very strange tomato / onion / pilloncillo / clove concoction which is boiled and reduced to a sauce with some tooth to it. 

Originally “Capirotada” was a typical spanish dessert using ingredients placed in layers. Originally there was Olive oil, Cheese and eggs, The second layer added the meats, probably partridge!  (shudder)….The given name comes from “Capirote”  which was a hat that that was worn by Spanish noble women in the early 15th century.  Capirote come from the Latin word “Cappa”  which is cape or cloak.  Today’s Mexican Capirotada is certainly cloaked!  Those bread pieces are hidden and layered with many ingredients!  As the dish was prepared for more of the population and ceased to be exclusive to nobles, meats were left out and sweet overtook savory.  At some point the dish gained more of a religious significance and was prepared during lent so as to provide Christian denizens of the middle ages, sustenance in the way of protein (derived from the cheese and nut ingredients).   As is still common today,  during Lent, meat per se, is not allowed.   The ingredients and recipes for Capirotada have been recorded by the Holy Office of the Inquisition and saved to this day in the archives.

Pre-dating the Spanish appearance, Capirotada’s gastronomic ancestors can be traced back as far as Ancient Rome.  Seen in a dish called  “Sala Cattabia,”  The Romans used a bread for this casserole dish which was baked, covered with a layer of goat cheese, and then layered with chicken, cucumbers,  onions, and pine nuts.  This concoction was cooked with a dressing of raisins,  honey, pepper, and vinegar.  Spainards brought this or a dish like it to  ‘The new Country”  (that would be us  peeps here stateside), who eventually modified it to become the varied Capirotada we know today.  Capirotada is viewed by many Mexican and Mexican-American families as a reminder of the suffering of Christ on Good Friday.  Holding special the symbolism of this ancient dessert, Mexicans believe capirotada’s bread represents the Body of Christ, the syrup, his blood, the cloves, the the nails of the cross.  They believe that the whole cinnamon sticks represent the wood of the cross.  Some say the  melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud. The truth is that a version of this dish was being served  in Spain at the time of the Conquest.  Here is where you imagine Conquistadores  abducting and  pillaging villagers and then feeding the stragglers dessert nice huh?  While the the conquest was vile and not to be glossed over by history books, the Spanish did bring changes in gastronomy and this one was good.    Mexican Capirotada has evolved to include specific types of Mexican ingredients including a special brown sugar called pilloncillo which is produced and prepared into a large cone and  Queso fresco, a Mexican farmer’s cheese.  The inclusion of  a sweet / savory  tomato ,onion, clove and cinnamon  broth begets a rich and delicious complexity within the pudding.  Some people add  peanuts or pineapple and even add festive cupcake sprinkles on the top of the entire dish.

There are alot of versions of bread pudding possibly all originating during biblical or Roman times, but the one nearest and dearest to my heart is my grandmother’s recipe, and yes it’s a MEXICAN bread pudding.  Although she is half Basque Spanish and half indigenous Mestizo Indian (of the Aztec blood line, a tribe called Tarahumara to be exact ),   The most important thing to me now about Capirotada is it’s power.  My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease and her memory is fast fading.  When talking about Easter last year, I asked her if she could remember her recipe for Capirotada, I was hoping I could glean a few of her special ingredients, to make sure I was making it right.  I really wanted to make sure and carry on a part of her wonderful food tradition, but I also just wanted to jog her memory.

The Author's son fist bumping with Lucy, his Great-Grandmother

I was desperate to jump start any other memories surrounded by food and family and friends.   Initially I was sad to find that she could not remember ingredients, but she remembered the act of making the capirotada!  In thinking about it, I realized that I could ‘just get a recipe online” (the most authentic I could find of course), and then query her on the particulars of it.  What would she remember? Maybe we could do a process of elimination.  Did she add peanuts? Well that was a yes.  Did she add pineapple? or other fruit?   I had to laugh because mostly she remembered  toasting the bread and layering the pan.  She didn’t remember any pineapple, but she did remember peanuts.  She was insulted when I asked her about sprinkles…so that was a no!  One day she said “Leche” (but I already knew that!)  Still one day she said “sauce” cebolla and tomato…So I selected the recipe with most of the ingredients she had mentioned, and was the oldest syle of preparation, and went to town.     I was so happy to hear some of these things coming back.  She knew that she loved to make Capirotada and and that everyone on the street would stop by to have some and talk.  Her friend Joyce was very clear in her memory, which was very nice to hear, as Joyce was her very best friends and unfortunately passed away in a very sad manner later, but my grandmother’s thoughts of her were happy and included how they used to talk over capirotada and a bit of iced tea.    Funny how older memories can be eased from Alzheimer’s patients via the memories of food.  I finally made my (grandmother’s)  capirotada.  The next day I returned to her “home” with an entire tray of the pudding.  I cut that first wonderful piece as the word got out to caregivers who crowded around.  I served a piece to my grandmother.  Her hand shook, he glasses slipped a little.  She pushed them back up.   She chewed and smiled, she said, “oh Mejia…THAT’S  THE BEST CAPIROTADA that I’ve EVER HAD! ”  Now… my grandmother is not one to dole out compliments easily… or exclusives like that.   She’s usually in her chair complaining and uttering the word “Bah!” when she can’t stand something, or if there’s a situation that she can’t control.  Or in frustration when her  opinion doesn’t get the proper response. So, I was filled with surprise and joy because…well…because she was!

There’s something about that savory bite of cheese hidden within the flavors of cinnamon, cloves and raisins. It’s a natural pairing, even if I did think it was strange as a child. boy how our tastes change as we grow.  This special batch of capirotada  seemed to spark, for my grandmother, a visual, multi-dimensional memory of a happier time. A time when she proudly fed family and friends and would sit down and chat in her kitchen.  A kitchen she misses so dearly!  All she has a is a little room now but it’s necessary for her care.   Funny how food carries such  intense experiential feelings.  Memories through food can be so useful for alzheimer’s patients and for all of us.   Now my grandmother is requesting that I make  her cocido!  and bunelos!   I’m pretty worried about re-creating those recipes,  but I’ll try …. just to help her remember….

"Lucy" about 1946

Maria De La Luz’ Capirotada

1 24-inch loaf of French bread, cubed and toasted (about six cups)
2 cups of brown sugar or 16 oz. of piloncillo
2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup of raisins
½ cup of dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup of butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Make a syrup by boiling the sugar, water, cinnamon and cloves together for 10 minutes or until it’s slightly thickened and reduced.In a greased large cast-iron skillet or an 8×8 cake pan, place half the bread and pour over it half the melted butter. Toss to coat. Drizzle about ¼ cup of the syrup over the bread and toss to coat. Layer on top of the bread the cheese, pecans, raisins and dried apricots. Place the rest of the bread on top, drizzle over the remaining butter and then pour over the rest of the syrup. Make sure that each piece of bread is properly coated in syrup.Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for fifteen more minutes. I like to eat it warm.

Serves 8.

Work to Ride: Polo that’s not just for mad dogs and englishmen

When you fall of the horse you HAVE TO get back up!  is what Karen Hiner says to kids that come to “Work to Ride”  ‘Even if you’re not gonna keep riding immediately, you MUST STILL  get back on the horse!’  Getting back on the horse, ‘doing the work’ and ‘staying with it’ are part of the mantra at “Work to Ride” a program in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia.  Founded in 1994, at the Chamounix Equestrian Center.  It’s a  non-profit community-based program that aids disadvantaged urban youth.

Not everyone comes from the mean streets, but some of these youths do.  In 1999 Lezlie Hiner invited them to come and muck out stalls, turn out the horses, exercise them.   If the kids learned to take care of, and Shepard the animals properly of course, then she would teach them to ride….and more, maybe even develop a Polo team.    Lezlie did just that. but  she also helped  the kids get to and from practice and helped them with their homework.  Lezlie designed the program as a long-term commitment for  7 to 19 year-old youth who must commit to a minimum of one year of participation.  The kids must remain through high school graduation, and return to Chamounix to mentor new participants. Most of these kids have never played a sport or even mounted  a horse, so fear is a common obstacle for new participants. “When you first start, it’s scary because everything is new. Once you fall off once, that’s scary. It takes you awhile to get over it, but you eventually move on,” star Polo player Kareem Rosser said.

Today these gifted young Polo players compete in the national interscholastic polo division, and regularly play teams representing Yale, Cornell and the University of Connecticut.Hiner, never having had kids of her own, is the “mother” to all these kids, she’s happiest about keeping them off the streets, giving them something positive to do, helping them create some self-esteem.  Caring for animals and mentoring others does a world of good for people. “When the kids are at the barn they can lower their street antennae and just be kids,” she says. “They don’t have to look over their shoulders and worry.”Although the barn has become a second home to many of the kids, they do eventually have to return to their neighborhoods. This past October 14-year-old Mecca Liles-Harris, a starter on the polo team, was murdered, along with her mother and mother’s boyfriend, in her West Philadelphia home. The crime remains unsolved.But with the persistence, tenacity and belief in the dreams of these kids, Hiner and team  have given youth a chance to branch out and discover a sport that once seemed closed to them because of race and economic barriers. Those barriers shouldn’t exist for kids or anyone, and Work to Ride succeeds in tearing them down.

If you have the dedication, the tenacity required to play polo (oh and you clean alot of stalls and help out at "Work to Ride" ) there are alternatives to Philly's mean streets. Polos isn't just for mad dogs and Englishmen!

Work To Ride Accomplishments & Acclaim

  • 1999 Work to Ride made history with the first African-American Polo team in the nation.
  • 2003 Work to Ride was featured on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
  • 2004 Work to Ride was featured in Sports Illustrated by acclaimed sports writer Gary Smith.
  • 2005 & 2011 & 2012 Work to Ride Eastern Regional Interscholastic Polo Tournament Champions
  • 2005 Work to Ride’s Jabarr Rosser was voted #1 National All Star player.
  • 2006 Work to Ride was featured on HBO’s Real Sports for an update on the 2003 airing
  • 2007 Work to Ride featured on MSNBC’s “The Today Show.”
  • Work to Ride included in The Horse exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History , NY, NY
  • 2008 –  2012 WTR team compete in the Unicef Cup & Emir of Katsina Charity Shield, Nigeria, Africa
  • 2009 Most Caring Coach Award, USA Today
  • 2010 Sydney Rutledge and Teeny Jeannie win DVPTP  small pony championship
  • 2011 Cowtown/WTR wins National Interscholastic Polo Championship becoming the 1st African American team to do so
  • WTR’s Kareem Rosser and Daymar Rosser #1 and #3 National Interscholastic All Stars
  • WTR’s Kareem Rosser awarded Polo Training Foundation Male Interscholastic Polo Player of the year 2011
  • WTR’s Kareem Rosser featured on ESPN’s E60 October 2011
  • WTR’s Kareem Rosser selected for the Team USPA 2012
  • WTR’s Kareem Rosser plays for USPA in Junior Tournament at Metropolitan Polo club, Tianjin, China
  • 2012 WTR’s Daymar Rosser, Brandon Rease and Julia Smith make SE Regional All Star Team

Face Time With Gil Franco – (Post humous post: “A Nuclear Free World”)

Just yesterday I was agonizing about what issue to focus on and write about and subsequently post for “The Trouble With Milk.” There are literally so many political and social issues swirling around in my head that I have probably written ad nauseum about them on Facebook.  My friends and I agonize over a particular political event or bill and it’s very existence, then ostensibly verbally castrate the offending politician in a manner of comments below a status in a lexicological way we find ourselves clever, jovial but mostly “united’ under a cause or idea.  Ultimately we ruminate on ‘the way things SHOULD be and this process usually ends up in a  call to arms to create facebook page that underlines our point.  Two such pages were recently bourne this way, “Hey G.O.P., Get OUTTA MY VAGINA!”  and also the “Todays GOOD news!.”

The first one was a result of Republican party backing of rhetoric that spawned a bill poised to take away the medical benefits for contraception for working women.   The later came from a rant that fostered a virtual tidal wave of people tired of bad news, depressive stories and shock reporting.   One pal and I posited that surely there are more ‘good and hopeful’ stories in our lives than the media cares to highlight, so maybe WE SHOULD MAKE A PAGE!!! of course! of course!  that’s what we do!!!  We are page making activists!  This page would tell the world about all these good things that happen in our world!  I Posted about some photographers’ kind and species accepting encounter with a family of wild mountain gorillas,  My friend posted about the failed abduction of a small girl and the eventual capture of her would-be kidnapper.  I have to say, it did (and does) raise one’s spirits reading all the ‘good outcome stories’ on that page.    As I was looking inward at all the prosaic clutter in my gut and the angst I carry for this world, I actually  heard someone whisper my name in  my ear.  It but a breathy sound and very near.  I’ve been conditioned to disbelieve such things but something told me this was quite possible actually audible!  But who and why would someone say my name?  I did not recognize the voice.  I was all alone and  shrugged  it off not wanting my mind to wander into all things “paranormal” because this would no doubtb ilicit a frantic call about ghosts and hearing ‘sounds’ in the house’ to my poor husband concerned with fighting traffic on his way home.  I picked up my iphone and to my mild surprise it was lit up with the screen  open to ‘Favorites” (I have never seen that screen) it was on the O/S of the phone in the Contacts section.  It read “Gil Franco”  Well, this was my father’s email address!

We used to trade articles via email, messages of hope and status on his condition and mine on the kids and family.   Maybe these were serendipitous happenings meant to put me on a path to think of him i thought.  My father died from A.L.S. better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  In a weird way after he was diagnosed I thought , ‘Gee, one of the biggest craziest baseball fans,  was God was an extremely black humored chap so dedicated to his schtick that even in these dire circumstances we would care to pin such an ironic moniker to this poor man? Anything for a joke.  Or was he an angry god thinking of some earthly misstep my father may have taken? Either way my father looked at this disease as that terrible thing that got him, but at least he was in the company of Lou Gehrig.  I touched the lit up line with my father’s name and email address. The sun had just set and the blue glow set off the entire room.  I selected ‘facetime” just for a lark, half wondering if i’d hit the roof if his face would appear.  What if I actually talk to him!   I stared at my own face as the phone reflected back the words, “calling Gil Franco” and the phone attempted to  resolve for about two minutes, and I let it.  I even posited what  I’d say ” Hi dad!  Did you hear about Mitt Romney and can you believe that Rick Santorum?  Wow!  It’s been one really reprehensible primary hasn’t it!” What do you think about Geraldo Rivera’s remarks on Treyvon Martin?   I was sure my dad wasn’t missing a thing.  He was quite possibly the most well written arm-chair activist in his tiny his corner of Central California penning a column called “Left in America” for The Tule River Times.  Politics were a drama, a game and constant fodder for jokes, but also ideas for change and peace.  He wrote till his heart’s content.  That is until his body lost control slowly and he became a locked in soul.   I turned off the phone and swallowed that little lump in my throat that had begun to form. Immediately I knew what I was supposed to write or at least had an idea.  I had a picutre more like it. Of the box that was the only thing I was given when he died.  I received all of his writing.  His entire library of rants, prosaic letters to the editor that spawned full op ed articles that clearly won him liberal fans in the area.  I retrieved a few of the articles and re-read the first five.  I settled on one about A Nuclear Free World.   I have never been able to supply the familiar friendly word flow that yet can gently turn on a dime and cite facts suporting one or another statements as my father could. while I have a great personal remembrance for political events and their place in our American timeline, my father’s recollection was unparalled.  He also had a photographic memory, a love of metaphor and a passion for a better world.  For these reasons I selected this particular article.  At the time of my father’s writing career, it was just he and an underwood typewriter and although computers came into our homes, he preferred to tap out his ruminations and drive them down to The Times’editor.  Receiving a computer from me a couple of years before he got sick he quickly learned the world of email but still refused to pen his articles on keyboard. Nudging him into cyberspace, and one of his professor friends wrestled some of his better rants from his clutches and  posted them on his “progressive writer’s bloc” website,

where one article remains today, with a note about his passing.   But now, dad…welcome to my blog. I hope everyone enjoys this piece.  Even though it was written in 2002, it is strangely applicable for this time. It is as timeless as you are.


The recent revelation that North Korea, has violated agreements with both the United States and South Korea by failing to end its nuclear program is being interpreted by some as strengthening the hand of the Bush administration to attack Iraq.  These rogue, erratic states that comprise the infamous “axis of evil” obviously cannot be trusted, some say, so let’s stop messing around and just knock ’em out.”

But rather than making a compelling argument for a military solution (or solutions), the new complication in North Korea actually points out the absurdity of seeking military solutions.

The U.S. military is well aware of the horrendous costs of a war with North Korea, and this has, in the past, tempered the military option.  Perhaps this is also why the immediate U.S. response has been measured and reasoned.  Seeking help from our allies in the region to find a peaceful solution.

But what sense does it make to have a foreign policy that says we’ll negotiate with North Korea, a state that is conceivably more of a threat because it already has such weapons, but we’ll preemptively strike Iraq because we THINK it MIGHT be developing these weapons?

Unfortunately, many countries around the world have or are developing weapons of mass destruction.  We can’t possibly go around the world waging selective preemptive strikes against them.

That would, without a doubt, not only signal perpetual war, but also global destruction as attacked nations unleash their deadly weapons not only on our allies but on us as well.

We must also remember that our goal right now should be to break up the terrorist network that attached us on September 11 – not be the unilateral global vigilantes.

The only way to deal with Iraq and North Korea is to use diplomacy, regional pressure and the United Nations as ways to press for disarmament.

In addition, we cannot ask countries to selectively disarm.  In areas of intense , such as the Middle East and East Asia, there must be regional disarmament.

Finally, we can’t continue to say that other countries must not develop weapons of mass destruction while we, by far the mightiest military power on the face of the Earth, continue to refine these deadly weapons.

In fact, we are now developing more ‘useable’ nuclear weapons and have outlines a scenario for their use against Iraq.

To make the world safe from weapons of mass destruction, the United STates must begin to live by the same set of rules we would like to impose on others and seriously embark on a course that will truly lead us to a nuclear weapons-free world.

(Page 4, THE TULE RIVER TIMES, November 7, 2002 )