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Every Thanksgiving I make my Sweet Potato Chiffon Pie.
I'm a big fan of the standard pumpkin pie, the one you make with the 15 ounce can of Libby's pumpkin and evaporated milk--it's the Mamie Eisenhower of pies--dependable, straightforward, not too rich or cloying. But after all the mashed potates and bread stuffing and gravy, I need some glamour. I like this recipe because like Ava (check out her museum) the daughter of a poor tobacco farmer from Grabtown North Carolina, it starts with the humble sweet potato and gets the Hollywood treatment.
Actually, I love chiffon pies just for their name alone--lemon chiffon, raspberry chiffon, chocolate chiffon--they sound like the prom queens and exotic dancers who favor that sheer floaty fabric. (I like to think of the delicate lemon as the Donna Reed of chiffon pies.) But Sweet Potato chiffon is my own concoction (adapted from a Marion Cunningham recipe) and my favorite for the way the earthiness of the sweet potato melds so delectably with the airy gelatin, whipped egg whites and cream. Adding bourbon to the recipe just heightens the effect.
I wish I could post an image of this pie, but all I have right now is a debauched slice three days old, with the beautiful whipped cream rosettes mashed down and the crust broken. The glamour shot will have to wait--
Like everyone, I have been quite busy listening to both excellent new stereo and mono box-set reissues of the Beatles catalog, and it is truly revelatory.
But now it's time to redo the Monkees' catalog, I think, which would include FINALLY releasing for the first time their long-lost suppressed masterpiece: The Beatles Suck.
Rhino, are you listening?
I searched for Van the Man after reading Marcus' description in Stranded, and eventually found it somewhere for a reasonable amount in a Goldmine listing. (Jeez, those were the days! Imagine the eyestrain now of old-fart boomers trying to find their latest obsessions in Goldmine ads.) Just like the illustrious rock-crit had said, Van the Man was a masterpiece, and it became one of my favorite Van Morrison albums.
The late 1960’s was America’s revolution of peace that flourished and spread through the rest of the world, even though we were trapped in a grueling war. The children of the revolution were commonly known as hippies, a term many say now with a lick of disdain. It was happy, free, rebellious, and any other term with positive meaning behind it. For myself, being too young, I did not get to experience this era.
And quite oddly enough, the idea I associate most with the love, peace, freedom movement is Donovan--the boy that everyone accused to be a Dylan imitator, and later, to the British government, a leading figure in drug use. But in most households today, as I’ve observed, Donovan is a forgotten legend.
When I first discovered Donovan (my interest spiked after I saw 200 Motels where they mentioned him and associated him with the hippies), my dad regarded my interest as dumb since Donovan was a man of few hits. How could you aspire to make it in music if your idol was barely successful in music himself?
My dad made the bold mistake of reducing the man to a no-name (such as The Starfires, who mysteriously fell off of the Earth after a 45 that everyone searches and pays large sums of money for). In reality, though, Donovan has made hundreds of great songs, has had his run with the best of the bests, and can probably be given partial credit to bringing Led Zeppelin together [Page, Jonesy, and Bonzo played together on “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Later Plant would appear on “Barabajagal” with the Jeff Beck Group, but this didn’t happen until 2 years after the formation of Zeppelin.]
This is a rather involved story so please hang in there.
Van the Man is one of Van Morrison's finest albums. However, it also happens to be a bootleg, an unauthorized, illegal, and raw recording that I first read about waybackwhen in Stranded, a collection of essays edited by Greil Marcus.
Although in Stranded the other writers could only choose one recording (usually an album) to take to their desert island, Marcus spent two weeks compiling his own list, which was actually the most interesting part of the book. Getting to
take tons of records to his desert island was Marcus' prerogative--after all, he was the editor.
Among some of the recordings in Marcus' list that I didn't own or had never heard of at that time was an album called Van the Man, a collection of passionate studio material that Van Morrison had recorded during the early '70s.
Here is a good description of the desert-island classic, Van the Man, that I "bootlegged" from somewhere.
Based on the trailer (click above), that probably wasn't a bad idea at the time.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was Uncle Floyd.
My devotion to this teevee character and his throw-it-against-the-wall programming broadcast via UHF out of New Jersey is rooted in the fact that for years I never saw the program--but only heard about it from my friends in the
New York area. The Uncle Floyd Show was what the rock elitists watched while everyone else was focused on, say, Saturday Night Live.
The comedy schtick of Floyd and his cast of misfits suggested a paradise where whatever you could think of you could actually do on television.
Much of what we take for granted now--especially the homemade ineptitude of a youtube video or the intentional messiness of hipster tv commercials--were all present on Floyd's program taped in what seemed like someone's garage.
Memphis has Elvis and Rockford Illinois (my very nearly hometown) has Cheap Trick, the great and extant Power Pop band. I saw them back in the mid 70s at the Rockford Armory, a big concrete square where the sound ricocheted off every surface like rifle shot and made me deaf for days.
We know that geography shapes music--you couldn't have Jimmy Buffett without Key West, Fats Domino without steamy New Orleans, Dolly Parton without the Smokey Mountains. So it stands to reason that you can't have Cheap Trick without rock-rich Illinois.
There's a lot of Rocks in Illinois and southern Wisconsin--there's Rockton, Rock Cut State Park, Rock County just across the border in Wisconsin, with the mighty Rock River running through it all. This isn't Mt Rushmore sized rock, it's crushed rock, rock quarries, rocky limestone ledges squared off at neat right angles. It's the bedrock beneath the famously plainspoken midwestern character.
Like all manufacturing towns in the midwest, Rockford is a thirsty town, with a generous array of establishments for slacking ones thirst, like Rocky's Tap and The House of Bottles.
Eight In The Pants.....
Joe Meek is a genius...even today his music still floats. His music drifts into the general consciousness of humanity, blowing minds away, and gracefully waltzing out as if nothing happened.
I can only name one of Meek’s songs if asked, although I listen to I Hear A New World on a daily basis (“It’s good for the soul,” I tell my mother). The one track I can name is “I Hear a New World” because it is the title track, and the name is repeated over and over again throughout the song. The main reason behind me not being competent enough to name the song would probably be because I view the album as a concept album. Thinking of the album as one huge song enables me to invent my own meaning behind it, without the definitive boxes of song titles.
It’s not really a huge concept album, though. The songs still remain in the average “50’s/60’s Pop” standards never breaking four minutes. So unlike, Roger Waters’ albums for Pink Floyd that bring the listener on an epic journey through the human psyche, Meek takes the listener through space which proves to be about 15 minutes shorter than the average Waters album takes us. Not to say that’s a bad thing because it allows me to listen to it in one sitting (when it comes to music my attention span magically increases).
Meek's songs still shock me. It amazes me to even fathom that an album such as this could have been produced in 1960. The album still makes me think as if I’m on a new planet in another galaxy of space; it utilizes the basic idea of endless possibilities.
The Birchfield family of Carter, Tennessee learned old time mountain tunes and ballads that their father and uncles played as part of the local mountain culture. Joe and Creed were born in the early 1900s and raised on Roan Mountain in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guitar-player Bill played the guitar upside down and backwards. Joe’s wife Ethel traveled with group telling Appalachian stories and singing ballads.
Creed and Ethel are gone now and Joe at 89 is no longer playing but, you can still see Bill and Janice. Bill is doing the fiddling now with Janice still on the washtub.
Janice remains nonplussed about the day the Sex Pistols spent at her family’s homestead in Roan Mountain, Tenn. She still feels that Johnny Rotten, the late Sid Vicious and company were just nice boys. (The same goes for Boy George, who, according to Birchfield, just showed up in the driveway one day.)
The above-mentioned flock of British bad boys became aware of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers when punk icon Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ infamous producer, sampled some of the mountain band’s music on his own 1982 hit, “Buffalo Girls.” (The song held fast on Billboard’s Top 10 list for months, and was even re-sampled by Eminem on his 2002 recording “Without You.”)
“We had a pig roast and a dance,” Birchfield remembers of the Sex Pistols’ visit to Roan Mountain. “They loved it. They wanted us to teach them how to dress like mountain people, with coonskin caps and so on.”
This is one of the most moving experiences ever filmed about the subject of trying to recover from a psychological illness.
The poster seems "shocking," but that's only to get you into the cinema or to rent the DVD.
Further, the experience of the website reinforces the powerful statement of the film.
Perhaps, though, the film speaks more to a southern mindset, so maybe that's why I like it so much.
Anyway, go for it!