Later On

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Archive for June 8th, 2021

The Man Who Put Out Fires with Music

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Ted Gioga writes in Culture Notes of an Honest Broker:

I’ve long been obsessed with the hidden power of song. I’m not talking about how music entertains us, or even its higher artistic potentialities, but something bigger and grander. I look to music as a change agent in human life, even as a transformative force in human history.

It perhaps sounds simplistic, but this is the most important core value in my life’s work, the central tenet underpinning in my vocation. Song is a source of enchantment and a catalyst for change. Any philosophy of music—or even a journalistic approach to the subject—that doesn’t respect this remarkable capacity misses much of the point of human music-making

As a music historian, I’ve learned that we hardly possess words to describe this potentiality of song—although each of us feels it in our heart and soul. At times, this power is so strange and beyond expectations, that it almost seems magical. I have tried to write the history of this musical magic, and celebrate its great practitioners, many of them almost completely unknown, even to musicologists.

One of these hidden masters is a man named Charles Kellogg. And in the course of many years, I haven’t met a single music scholar who recognizes his name. I didn’t learn about him myself until long after my student days had ended, and I was already embarked on a career as a music writer. But he’s become a hero of mine, although it’s taken me many years to piece together the basic details of his life story.

I first learned about Kellogg from an unusual source—a book that has nothing to do with music. At least on the surface, that is. In fact, much of my most productive research has been the result of digging into sources of information that apparently have little to do with music. In this instance, my discovery of Charles Kellogg came from a peculiar footnote in the book Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946 by Paramhansa Yogananda.

Here is the footnote in its entirety.

I took note of this remarkable story—if I was looking for music as a change agent, here was an undeniable example. What could be more impressive than putting out fires with your songs? But several years passed before I could learn more about Charles Kellogg.

Finally in 2002, I stumbled on more information while doing research for my book Healing Songs at the Geisel Library, an architectural monstrosity (named after Dr. Seuss) located on the campus of UC San Diego—a strange, claustrophobic facility, but the closest major library to the beach home where I was living at the time. There in the stacks I discovered by chance a book written by Charles Kellogg himself, entitled The Nature Singer, and published by a small California press in 1930. I photocopied a few pages, but decided I needed to track down my own copy. That took several years, but I eventually acquired a rare first edition of The Nature Singer signed by the author. My understanding is that only one thousand copies were printed.

In these pages, Kellogg boasted of musical talents few performers could hope to match. For example, he describes his ability to draw bears to him with his songs. And they came not to attack, but as enthusiastic attendees for Kellogg’s outdoor concert:  “All [the bears] sat down on their haunches. For fully ten minutes this curious audience sat listening with evident enjoyment.” If you’re skeptical, he shares photos to prove it.

After a childhood spent largely in small towns and the wilderness of the Far West, a hundred miles from the nearest railroad, Kellogg gained considerable fame for one of his most esoteric skills: his extraordinary talent for imitating bird songs. From his earliest days, Kellogg had conversed with birds and insects, and by the time he was 16 or 17 he realized he could imitate almost any sound they made. This would be the talent that eventually secured a recording contract for Kellogg and launched him on the road as a vaudeville performer. (His recordings are now available online.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, History, Music

Be Afraid, America; Be Very Afraid

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Michael A. Cohen (the columnist, not the lawyer) writes:

Yesterday, I had an op-ed in USA Today looking at how Republican-controlled state legislatures seek to criminalize political protest in red-state America. I wrote about this issue earlier this year, but that was before any news laws had been enacted. Over the past several months, cooler heads have not prevailed, and Republican state legislatures have passed a series of bills that threaten the First Amendment-guaranteed to right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Here’s just a few examples that I cited in the piece:

In Oklahoma …the Republican-controlled state legislature and GOP governor granted civil and criminal immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” injure or kill protesters while driving away from a riot. In effect, Oklahoma Republicans are making it easier for drivers to run over and potentially kill political protesters.

Not to be outdone, Florida Republicans enacted a similar law as part of a larger “anti-riot” bill. Floridians who block traffic, even temporarily, could now be looking at up to 15 years in jail if convicted. The law also now classifies a public gathering of three people or more as a “riot” and anyone who chooses to participate in such a protest can now be charged with a felony – even if their behavior is not violent.

In Arkansas, a riot can involve as few as two people engaged in “tumultuous” conduct that creates a “substantial risk” of “public alarm.” Those convicted of rioting will also be required to pay restitution – and would face a mandatory 30 days in prison.

In Tennessee, simply joining a protest in which there is “isolated pushing” and no one is hurt would now be considered a crime.

The Volunteer State is a trailblazer in anti-protest laws. After Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered for weeks on the grounds of the state Capitol last year, the Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill that made it a felony to camp out on state property. The bill also made it a crime to make it “unreasonably inconvenient” to use a street or sidewalk – and those found guilty could face up to one year in jail. The governor signed it last August.

Other states have passed laws making it illegal to demonstrate near “critical infrastructure” such as gas and oil pipelines. In Florida, it’s now a third-degree felony, punishable up to five years in prison, to deface a monument. In Arkansas, such behavior is considered an “act of terrorism.”

It’s an open question about whether these laws are constitutional or even that prosecutors would be willing to bring cases to court, but that isn’t really the point. As I note in the piece, “The goal of these bills is to make protesters question their decision to demonstrate in the first place. How many Americans would want to risk substantial jail time merely for peacefully participating in a demonstration that the police now have broad discretion to define as a riot?”

The impetus for this legislation is not January 6, but instead, the Black Lives Matter protests from last summer. Republicans appear to be okay with insurrectionists storming the Capitol and putting lawmakers in harm’s way. But deface a monument or block a roadway, and that means war.

Indeed, after several weeks of BLM protesters gathering at Tennessee’s State Capitol building, the GOP-controlled state legislature enacted legislation making it a crime to camp out on state property. Laws that prevent protesters from blocking traffic or broadly define what constitutes a riot seem almost surgically enacted to target BLM activists – and to dissuade them from trying to make their voices heard.

The GOP’s Creeping Authoritarianism

A few months ago, relying on the work of two Harvard political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, I wrote about the GOP’s authoritarian trajectory. This chart comes from their book “How Democracies Die,” and it’s what they call the “four key warning signs of authoritarian behavior.”

What is stunning is that , arguably, the answer to every single one of these questions is yes.

Over the last six months, a majority of congressional Republicans have refused to accept the credible results of the 2020 election. The former Republican president endorsed a violent insurrection, and now congressional Republicans are blocking a full investigation of it. Donald Trump has regularly portrayed Democrats as a threat to America’s way of life and accused them of being pawns of the Chinese government. Now Republican-controlled state legislatures are enacting laws restricting the ability of ordinary citizens to protest, criticize their government, and exercise their right to vote.

Now I am the guy who has praised those Republicans who not only refused to go along with Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election but actively thwarted it. There were many of them, and their adherence to the rule of law is laudable. But, incredible as it may seem, the Republican Party (as currently constructed) is arguably more radical and less wedded to democratic norms than it was when Trump was president. During his four years in office, the vast majority of congressional Republicans were happy to look the other way at Trump’s crimes. Most didn’t want to get their hands dirty. That’s less the case now. Republicans who have challenged Trump or who upheld the rule of law during the 2020 election face tough primary challenges from Trump acolytes. Marginal conspiracy theorists, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, are becoming rising GOP political stars, and, as was the case with Trump, establishment Republicans seem loathe to criticize her for fear of alienating their supporters. In GOP-controlled state legislatures, there has been a feeding frenzy of new voters restrictions, all based on Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Last Fall, I was convinced that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 6:53 pm

Tasting History: How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Other Places & Periods

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Open Culture has a terrific post pointing out YouTube videos on how to cook various ancient dishes. Take a look. Includes photos.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 5:26 pm

Another day, another walk

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Another look at the palm flowers, and an unfortunate iPhone shade on a pretty flower. The middle picture is a close-up of a park lawn that was covered with those small yellow flowers.

3990 steps, again with Nordic walking poles. Maybe I can keep it up. I have a strong suspicion that to keep my fasting blood glucose below 6.0 mmol/L (108 mg/dL) and ideally around 5.5-5.6 (99-101) diet alone is insufficient (albeit necessary); exercise also will be required. So I’m testing that.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 4:09 pm

Basic steps for homemade tempeh

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Black-bean-and-black-rice tempeh after four days.

I update this post from time to time as I learn more from experience. Most recent update June 19, 2021.

Tempeh is a traditional fermented Indonesian and Malaysian soy food prepared from soaked and cooked soybeans by salt-free aerobic fermentation using the mold Rhizopus oligosporus, a fungus. During the fermentation, the dense cottony mycelium produced by Rhizopus binds the soybeans together to form a compact cake. This page has a selection of excellent and informative articles about tempeh.

Tempeh has excellent nutritional value — much better than tofu, also made from soybeans, because tofu is more highly processed and to some degree refined. In terms of nutritional value, edamame (cooked fresh soybeans, a whole food) is better than tofu, and tempeh is better than edamame (because tempeh includes both the beans and the fungus mycelium).

I make Malaysian-style tempeh, with the soybean hulls left on. (Indonesian tempeh removes the hulls.) I leave the hulls on because (a) it’s easier, and (b) the hulls have nutritional value.

In my experience, homemade tempeh is much better than packaged tempeh I buy in a store — plus it’s satisfying to grow your own, as it were, and you can experiment by using different beans, boiled raw peanuts, cooked intact whole grains, or a mix. 

I started a while back, and I’ve gradually identified the success factors to the point that I can now make a good batch on purpose. Here’s a summary of my lessons learned and the method I now use:

  1. I often use soybeans, but you can use instead (or in addition) black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and so on. You can mix in cooked intact whole grain (spelt, kamut, brown rice, black rice, or the like) or boiled raw peanuts. Avoid using spices, many of which have anti-fungal properties (one reason they are used in making foods such as sausage: they act as a preservative).
  2. Cook beans without using baking soda or salt — use plain water.  (I had a series of failures until I realized that the baking soda was making the beans alkaline, and Rhizopus requires an acidic environment.) Cooking method: Soak beans overnight, drain soaking water using a sieve, then put the beans in a pot and cover well with water and simmer until done. I’ve found that beans are not so apt to boil over if I don’t cover the pot. However, with the pot uncovered, it is necessary to add water during cooking because of evaporation. I usually make a batch of 2 cups of uncooked beans.
  3. Rhizopus prospers in an acidic environment, and that is achieved by using vinegar (apple cider, white, brown rice, and wine vinegar all will work: the acidity is what’s important). You can choose between two times to add vinegar: (a) toward the end of cooking (for the last 15-20 minutes), in which case add 2 tablespoons of vinegar per cup of uncooked beans (thus I add 1/4 cup vinegar for my 2-cup batch) and continue cooking until beans are done; or (b) after the beans have been cooked, drained, dried, and cooled,  in which case use 1 tablespoon per cup of uncooked beans (2 tablespoons for my 2-cup batch).
  4. The best way I’ve found to dry the cooked beans is to drain them through a sieve and then spread them on a clean dishtowel. Using a paper towel, press the beans gently and rock them back and forth. You can also use a hair-dryer, but be careful not to get too close or the blast of air will blow the beans off the towel. Rhizopus likes a little moisture but definitely not so much that the beans are wet.
  5. Leave the beans on the towel until they’ve cooled. The common advice is to let them cool to 95ºF (35ºC), but it’s simpler just to let them cool until they are close to room temperature. Being cooler is not an issue, since they’ll warm up as you incubate them.
  6. After the beans have been dried and cooled, put them into a bowl. If you’re adding vinegar using method (b), add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of uncooked beans. Then add either one packet of tempeh culture or — presumably — a chunk of tempeh from the previous batch. I still need to experiment with the latter.
  7. You can spread the beans in a layer in a flat glass dish, but I generally use a Ziploc fresh-produce bag because those bags are nicely perforated for ventilation. Also, if the beans are in a dish and unbagged, the mold results in fuzz that puts some off. In a bag, instead of a surface fuzz, the mold forms a velvety smooth coating like the boating on a Camembert. The Ziploc bags are also a good size for a 2-cup or 3-cup batch: if the beans are spread evenly through the bag lying on its side, so that the bag is filled side to side and top to bottom, the layer is a nice thickness. I like the thickness of the 3-cut batch, though often I will halve a slab to make two thinner slabs (not so easily done with a 2-cup batch).
  8. Incubation can be done initially in an oven on the proofing setting (if your oven has that) or in an oven with the light on and the door slightly open. For various reasons I decided to build my own tempeh incubator using rigid 1″ foam insulation board (sold in 24″ squares for projects; three of those square provide enough, once cut, to make an excellent incubator — details at the link). I lay the bag on a raised rack over a seedling warming pad (see link), whose thermostat lets me regulate the temperature.
  9. Incubate at 88ºF (31ºC) until Rhizopus is well started. This will take at least 12 hours and maybe 24 or longer. My most recent batch took 18 hours before the mold started to appear. Eventually you will see white patches of mold — it will look as though there are steamy spots inside the bag. At that point reduce the thermostat to 77ºF (25ºC) and allow the batch to continue to work for another 24-48 hours.

    For the first few batches I did not reduce the temperature, and as a result the mold spored, which results in dark grey or black areas. The tempeh is still good and perfectly edible, but some find the black spots off-putting. That hasn’t happened since I started reducing the temperature once the mold is established.

    Note: I found 3-cup batches were best removed from the incubator altogether — that batch size generates enough heat that it needs to be in the open air. Put the batch on a rack that holds it above the table. That transition generally happens after day 1. I go for 3 more days, 4 overall from start to finish.

    I’ve noticed that when the batch is out in the open on the rack, sometimes gray areas will appear on the bottom where the fungus has starter to spore. When I see that, I turn the batch (the slab in its Ziploc bag) over, and the gray areas are soon overgrown, white with a new mycelium covering. I usually turn the slab about every 8 hours.

  10. When you consider the batch done, remove the block of tempeh from the bag and cut it into pieces that will fit your storage containers and refrigerate it.

Regarding temperature

For a 2-cup batch (a batch made from 2 cups of uncooked beans), after initial incubation at 88ªF, I just reduce the thermostat to 77ºF and finish the batch. When I made a 3-cup batch (2 cups uncooked black beans and, cooked separately, 1 cup black rice), after the initial incubation at 88ºF, I found that it was best to remove it from the incubator altogether and put it on the table, on a rack that held it above the table, and just it go for the rest of the time — four days is what I usually do. See the discussion of temperature in this post. Update – The  3- cup batch came out fine.

Use in cooking

I usually cut off a piece and fry it like a hamburger patty in a little olive oil and use it to top a dish. If the piece is thick, I cut it in half to make two thin pieces. After frying a piece of tempeh, I sometimes cut it into squares to use like croutons in a salad. Or I dice the tempeh and cook with with a few chopped cherry tomatoes and onion chopped fine. You could sprinkle squares of fried tempeh with salt and some garlic powder to add flavor, or marinate them (see the recipe for tempeh bacon). I also make tempeh breakfast sausage and tempeh bacon. Sometimes I dice a portion and use the pieces in a stir fry, stew, or chili.

Here’s a 2-cup batch of soybean tempeh in process in my homemade tempeh incubator. The left photo was taken after about 12 hours at 77ºF (25ºC). I let it work for 24 hours more, and the result is shown on the right.

The difference between eating tempeh and eating mushrooms

At right is a piece cut from the above batch of soybean tempeh — the first batch where I knew exactly what to do and why. (The photo looks a lot like a candy bar, doesn’t it? But those are soybeans, not peanuts.)

The short, soft velvety coating is like the covering you see on Camembert, though the fungus on tempeh is Rhizopus oligosporus, and the fungus on Camembert (and Brie) is Penicillium camemberti. In either case, beans or cheese, the fungus colony forms a soft white crust. The job of Rhizopus, however, differs from that of Penicillium: the fluffy, white mycelium of Rhizopus welds the together beans to create an edible “cake.”

The fungus is why tempeh is more nutritious than edamame: with tempeh, you consume both the bean and the fungus mycelium. Note the difference between Rhizopus and the fungi we eat as mushrooms. When you eat mushrooms, you eat the spore-bearing bodies of the mycelium and don’t even see the mycelium, the actual fungus of which the mushroom is merely the “fruit” that bears the spores. In the case of mushrooms, the mycelium remains hidden underground — but when you eat tempeh, you eat the mycelium itself.

The Rhizopus sporing bodies don’t even appear if the tempeh maker knows what he’s doing (as I now do). They form when the tempeh is incubated at too high a temperature. Though edible, their appearance (black or dark gray) is off-putting to some. To prevent sporing, keep the incubation temperature at around 77ºF (25ºC) once the tempeh fungus colony is established. In the photo of the sample above, the snow-white mycelium is clearly visible.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 1:24 pm

Clarified Milk Punch — and other milk-clarified drinks

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Doesn’t this look worth a try?

And that’s just for starters. Read Paul Adams’s article in SevenFftyDaily:

At the New York City restaurant Quality Meats, Bryan Schneider, the bar director of the Quality Branded group’s restaurants in New York, Miami Beach, and Denver, serves a cocktail of one part rye whiskey and two parts Angostura bitters. It sounds potentially undrinkable, but it goes down smooth. The secret? Milk washing, or milk clarification, a technique with centuries of history that’s currently enjoying a fresh burst of popularity and finding its way into cocktail recipes around the world.

Working in 10-liter batches, Schneider mixes 20 parts Angostura with 1 part lemon juice, then stirs that deep maroon liquid into an equal amount of fresh cold milk. After a minute of stirring, the mixture, now tomato red, starts to form clumps as the milk curdles from the lemon’s acidity. Schneider lets the liquid sit overnight, then strains it through cheesecloth. What comes through is a perfectly clear amber liquid that could pass for whiskey but smells intoxicatingly spicy and floral and that tastes familiar yet different—bitters without the bitter.

It works because milk contains proteins that bind to certain molecules associated with bitter and astringent tastes—polyphenols, in particular—and when the milk curds are filtered out of the spirit, those bound-up molecules are filtered out too. Oak tannins in aged spirits are another popular target for milk washing, as are the tannins that naturally occur in tea. The phenomenon of polyphenols being bound by milk proteins was established in the 1960s by researchers in the tea industry.

Packing a Punch

Milk clarification has been around for centuries in the form of milk punch; the technique was used to strip the edges from rougher spirits. In his book Punch, David Wondrich reprints Mary Rockett’s recipe from 1711: “To make Milk Punch. Infuse the rinds of 8 Lemons in a Gallon of Brandy 48 hours, then add 5 Quarts of Water and 2 pounds of Loaf Sugar, then Squize [sic] the Juices of all the lemons; to these Ingredients add 2 Quarts of new milk Scald hot, stirring the whole till it crudles [sic]; grate in 2 Nutmegs, let the whole infuse 1 Hour, then refine through a flannel Bag.”  

While it might not be quite mainstream yet, milk punch has enjoyed a resurgence lately. It established an early foothold at Eleven Madison Park in New York City, where one version or another has been on the menu for years. That’s where Eamon Rockey, the director of beverage studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, first came across it in the mid-2000s. He now sells his own Rockey’s Milk Punch by the bottle. It’s made, he says, from “pineapple, apple, green tea, black tea, lemon, and neutral grain spirit—a classic punch.”

Another effect of milk washing is the way it transforms the texture of a spirit. The milk proteins that curdle and are filtered out aren’t the only type of milk proteins present: Casein forms the curds, but, Schneider says, whey proteins that are dissolved in the liquid stay behind after filtering. They give the resulting drink a silken mouthfeel, and in shaken drinks, they produce a voluminous and lasting froth on top.

At Dante in Greenwich Village, Liana Oster, the head bartender, keeps novel milk punches on the seasonally changing menu. “The first one I made was a roasted banana milk punch, with chai tea as the base,” she says. “We used a rich Jamaican rum and Rhum J.M VSOP and maple syrup. We clarified it with goat’s milk, which gave it a little tang at the end. I think it’s one of the best drinks I’ve ever made.”

In her current rotation is a refreshing milk punch with peach, chamomile tea, Strega liqueur “for its herbaceousness,” says Oster, rhum agricole, and Scotch. “The milk transforms the Scotch—it takes away the kick in the face. And it adds that amazing silky smoothness.” Oster has experimented with . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. LBJ used to drink a mix of milk and scotch on the rocks.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 1:16 pm

RazoRock’s ADJUST is a terrific razor

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This is the softest boar brush I’ve experienced, and it easily aroused an excellent lather from Declaration Grooming’s Cuir et Épices shaving soap in their Milksteak formulation.

This morning I was struck by how very comfortable the ADJUST is, and then immediately by how very efficient it is. I have it set at the default setting — dot right above the error — and it works like a charm. The feel in the hand is unusual because of the handle’s length, but the long handle in this case seemed a benefit, giving me a better grip and better control. All three passes went extremely well. It’s hard to believe that a razor of this quality — an adjustable TTO no less — costs just $15. Recommended if you like either adjustable or TTO razors, and doubly recommended if you like both.

I applied a splash of New York aftershave to a totally smooth and undamaged face and am now enjoying the feel of my smooth and supple skin. Great products — Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, Declaration Grooming Milksteak-formula shaving soap, the ADJUST with a brand of blade that works well in it for me — make for a great shave.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 11:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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