Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Merry Christmas to all (if there is anyone out there) and lets hope for a great 2008. It will be a big year - Iran, Iraq, the economy, the election, and many changes for my family personally. I leave you with this - 'nite all
Orson Welles reads A Christmas Carol
Monday, December 17, 2007
You can find chef Emeril Lagasse’s name and face all over a dozen cookbooks, 10 restaurants, lines of pots and pans, knives, Wedgwood dishes, spices, salad dressings and pasta sauces, and even a deep fryer.
But as of last week, it will no longer be found on new episodes of his signature “Emeril Live” show on the Food Network. The program taped its last installments and laid off a half-dozen staff members, bringing an end to an impressive 11-year, every-weeknight run.
Viewers will not see a difference for at least a year as the new episodes that have already been taped are shown. But industry executives are scratching their heads over why the network canceled “Emeril Live” — which they speculate became too expensive for its softening ratings — without having a new deal in place, given the role that his program played in the network’s success.
Food Network executives assert that Mr. Lagasse, who declined to comment, remains a valued member of the family. “All good things come to an end, and it was time to do something new,” said Brooke Johnson, the network’s president. “Right now, we’re figuring out what that something new is,” she said, noting that Mr. Lagasse’s “Essence of Emeril” on the network remains in production.
The cancellation of “Emeril Live” comes at a time when the Food Network is undergoing a transformation. Having taken food and chefs from what was once the domain of low-key public television to new celebrity heights, the network finds itself trying to retain the considerable revenue generated by what has become big business, even as it faces competition from all sides.
Executives at the Food Network and its parent, E. W. Scripps, paint a rosy picture of the network’s prime-time ratings. They say its average 2007 prime-time audience of 778,000 viewers is its highest ever and it has had success attracting the younger audiences that advertisers find especially attractive.
But the network’s total day ratings have dipped to an average of 544,000 people from 580,000 a year ago. More significant, its signature weekend block of instructional programs, known collectively as “In the Kitchen,” has lost 15 percent of its audience in the last year, to 830,000 viewers on average. This has left the network owing refunds, known as “make goods,” to advertisers, Ms. Johnson confirmed.
Bob Tuschman, Food Network’s senior vice president for programming and production, said the weekend ratings drop was “nothing we haven’t anticipated.” He said the network’s ratings in that time period grew by double digits in each of the last four years, growth that could not be sustained.
But the slowdown comes at an awkward time for Scripps: in October, the company announced that it would split in two, with the Food Network and HGTV anchoring the planned Scripps Networks Interactive. Scripps’s shares closed at $43.66 on Friday, down more than 18 percent from their 52-week high in January.
Slumping ratings are not the only obstacle facing the network. While the Food Network has been good at creating stars like Mr. Lagasse, Rachael Ray and Paula Deen and giving national exposure to chefs like Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, until recently it has not shared in their success beyond the network. A spokeswoman for the network said it had no stake in Mr. Lagasse’s considerable outside merchandising, for example.
About a year ago, the Food Network began aggressively trying to change that with new deals that were “way more onerous” from the stars’ point of view, said a person who has been affected by the changing strategy, by insisting on a stake in book deals and licensing ventures, and control over outside activities.
Ms. Johnson, the Food Network president, declined to discuss contracts, but noted that as the network has changed in its own mind from a television network to a brand, it has decided that “we like to be in partnership with our talent in a variety of venues.” She added, “To my knowledge, the talent is happy with the deals we have with them.”
Indeed, in the spring, Food Network plans to introduce its first celebrity chef branded product line, from Bobby Flay at the retailer Kohl’s, which in September introduced a line of several hundred Food Network branded products.
And last week, one of its biggest stars, Ms. Ray, renewed her Food Network contract, which was to expire at the end of the year. Ms. Ray got her start on the network in 2001, with “30 Minute Meals.” Last year, she went on to a daytime syndicated talk show, which Scripps partly owns.
The new Food Network deal, to be announced Monday, calls for her to make 13 episodes of a new prime-time travel show, called “Rachael’s Vacation.” But she will cut back on “30 Minute Meals,” to 60 new episodes a year from 80.
Jon Rosen, senior vice president at the William Morris Agency, who represents Ms. Ray, said the cutback will “make her happier and well-rested and enable her to take a breath and concentrate on her total brand a little more.” He said that because Ms. Ray got her start at the Food Network, “we very much wanted to continue that relationship.”
Food Network’s new interest in taking a broader stake in stars’ outside activities, Mr. Rosen said, “is somewhat understandable,” and it can be beneficial to some stars, but “in other cases, it might not work.”
The Rachael Ray deal is vital to the Food Network, which faces increasing competition from many directions. “There’s all sorts of instructional cooking video on the Web,” noted Erica Gruen, a cable consultant, who, when she was chief executive at the Food Network, created “Emeril Live.”
Elsewhere on television, Fox Broadcasting has the reality shows “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” with the foul-mouthed British chef Gordon Ramsay. Chef Daniel Boulud appears on the Mojo network. Anthony Bourdain, who started his TV career at the Food Network, is a star on the Travel Channel.
“It’s not surprising that people move on,” said Derek Baine, senior analyst at the media research firm SNL Kagan, “They pay almost nothing for the people as they are building their careers,” he said. “That’s been their strategy all along.”
Food Network does not even have the bragging rights these days to the top-rated food-related show on cable. That would be Bravo, whose “Top Chef” competition drew an average 2.6 million viewers an episode in its recent third outing, compared with the 2.4 million who tuned in to the third round of a similar cook-off show, “The Next Food Network Star.” (Those ratings are for original broadcasts and digital video recorder playbacks within seven days. Food Network executives said their show, which is the network’s highest-rated program ever, wins when only original broadcasts are included.)
Ms. Johnson called “Top Chef” a copy of “The Next Food Network Star,” but “without the care about the food content, which we bring to everything we do.”
Frances Berwick, Bravo’s executive vice president of programming and production, said the point of “Top Chef” was to help contestants open restaurants, as two have done, "not to become television personalities."
The network’s programming strategy, meanwhile, has also undergone changes, often broadening from its emphasis on the food itself. Mr. Batali‘s Italian cooking show “Molto Mario” was once a constant presence in the daytime lineup, but new episodes ended in 2004. His new series — a food tour of Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman, a food columnist for The New York Times, and the Spanish actress Claudia Bassols — will instead appear in the fall in prime time on public television.
Mr. Tuschman of the Food Network said it had passed on that series. “It was not the right fit for us.”
Mr. Batali, who still participates in the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” competition, said the show had not been offered to the Food Network.
He said the network recently proposed a couple of new projects for him, including one where he would be host of a reality show, and that he would discuss them with the executives in January. “I’m not averse to working with them,” he said.
Still, Mr. Batali said, “They don’t need me. They have decided they are mass market and they are going after the Wal-Mart crowd,” which he said was “a smart business decision. So they don’t need someone who uses polysyllabic words from other languages.”
Ms. Johnson disputed that assertion, but Food Network executives said the network has successfully broadened its programming in recent years, with shows like the extreme cake-building reality series “Ace of Cakes” and “Dinner: Impossible,” featuring a chef, Robert Irvine, in extreme cooking challenges.
In February, the network will introduce “Ultimate Recipe Showdown,” a competition for home cooks, Mr. Tuschman said. The network’s sagging weekend lineup will get three new programs early next year, featuring the British chefs Jamie Oliver and Danny Boome, and the Memphis barbecue restaurateurs Gina and Pat Neely.
Mr. Baine, the cable analyst, said he expects the Food Network, like other cable networks, “to have a really good year” if the Writers Guild of America strike continues and broadcast networks have no original scripted programming. He said any ups and downs in ratings were unlikely to affect Scripps’s plan to split its company into two separately traded stocks.
“I think it’s a great move; there are very few stand-alone cable network stocks rights now,” he said. “It’s pretty solid, despite some ups and downs in the ratings.”
Working hard and getting ready for Christmas. We have a real tree for the first time in a while. Here is one you've probably never heard:
"Truckin' Trees For Christmas" mp3
by Red Simpson, 1973.
available on Trucker's Christmas
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
From The Daily Sun -
Led Zeppelin returned to the stage last night with their first full set in 19 years — and younger members of the crowd had heard nothing like it.
Manufactured pop is ruling the charts and young music fans are an impatient sort.
Maybe that’s why the bars at the O2 Arena in Greenwich filled during some of the band’s winding rock epics.
But their classics proved music doesn’t rock like it used to. Tracks like Whole Lotta Love and Stairway to Heaven had every one of the fans — who included Liam Gallagher and Sir Paul McCartney — on their feet and shaking their fists.
Original members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were joined by dead drummer John Bonham’s son, Jason, 41.
The trio — with a combined age of 183 — burst on stage and opened with Good Times Bad Times, the first track of their debut album.
Robert Plant — wearing jeans not quite as tight as they were in his heyday — still had the energy to strut his 59-year-old body across the stage.
Page, 63, and Jones, 61, kept less energetic pace with him.
As the band settled into a series of songs old and new, grown men in the mostly middle-aged and male audience began playing air guitar. Some of the old Zeppelin remained — during a monumentally long instrumental, Plant had time to go off stage as Page continued to play.
One thing not so new was when in the middle of Dazed And Confused, Page got out his violin bow and started to play his guitar with it, in his trademark style.
After more than an hour the bulk of the fans got what they seemed to want most — a rendition of Stairway To Heaven.
When the lights went out a massive demand for an encore brought them back to play Whole Lotta Love. The adulation of 20,000 almost-equally tired fans ringing in their ears, they trooped away into the darkness.
Fans of all ages had travelled from around the world to see the group and they weren’t disappointed – giving huge ovations and raving after the show.
American Lisa Anderson, 57, said: “Everyone around me agreed it was an absolute triumph.
“I saw them a few times when I was younger, but for me this was the best show they’ve ever done.
"It was worth every penny."
Support act Paolo Nutini, 20, told The Sun: “I wasn’t alive the first time around but I’ve seen the footage on DVD.
“Now watching them live, I’ve been taught a true musical lesson.
“They were just so intense and so tight, even after all these years.
“I was just blown away.”
Two songs have hit -
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I love my wife, I really do. Today she bought tickets for us to see Van Halen. This would have been great had today been in the year 1984.
Instead I get to see some lounge act. great. maybe dave will do a split.
But we will hear some great new ...nevermind
Growing up we spent hours playing in the woods behind our house. If you went far enough you came out to a house with a big barn. This was Brad Delp's house.
I don't have a single friend that doesn't have some fond teenage/early twenties memories associated with this legendary album, which Brad Delp is ultimately responsible for. If it's not the greatest debut album in the history of rock music, I don't know what is.
These are the demo's that grew into this historic album.
I found it in the trash
Saturday, December 8, 2007
“This, we have to say it, is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses,” Cosell said. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps of all the Beatles, shot five times in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead ... on ... arrival.”
This was how millions of people, including my father, heard the news, late at night, during the Monday Night Football Game.
I woke up the next day for school and walked into my parents room to tell them I didn't feel well. My father told me what happened. I spent the entire day listening to the radio and watching the news reports and tributes.
For the first time in my life Walter Cronkite reported on something that I could relate to, the death of a man I never knew, but that meant something to me. I recorded Cronkite's words on a Sears tape recorder, holding the microphone to the TV. I knew that for the first time I was part of something that effected people like me - all over the world.
If the same thing were to happen today, how much more of a media frenzy would we see, and would that frenzy make the central event – the death of a famous and relatively young father, husband and musician – seem larger or smaller?
I don’t know the answers with any certainty, but I fear that the central fact – the story of the death – would become smaller than the story of the story. That’s something to chew on some other time, though.
When I look back, the events of December 8, 1980, just become sad. I, like all other Beatles fans, lost something that night. And I think it took some time – more than days, more than weeks, maybe more than months – for that to sink in.
Paul McCartney, confronted in the early morning with the news of Lennon’s death as he emerged, tired, from a recording session, could muster no more than, “It’s a drag, innit?” His seeming callousness brought bitter criticism. But think of this: How would any one of us react when told, at the end of a long workday and in the view of a phalanx of cameras, of the death of our childhood friend and long-time business partner? Would we have the words? Most likely not. It takes some time for the import of any life-changing event to sink in.
And when it sank in, over months, Paul did for his friend the best he could. I saw McCartney in concert in Tampa in 2005, and maybe midway through the show, he said he was going to perform a song he wrote “for my dear friend, John.” There was applause, and McCartney said, “Yeah, let’s hear it for John!” and the crowd erupted with one of the loudest and longest ovations I have ever heard.
And then McCartney took up his guitar and performed the song he wrote for his dear friend, John: “Here Today,” today’s download.
Paul McCartney – Here Today (1982)
3.46 MB mp3 at 192 kbps
Interview with Nick Vergo Conducted by Brian Fisher
16 October 2002
The people that have taken barbecue, the art of cooking barbecue or the skills of cooking barbecue in a sense commercial probably are restaurateurs, or people whose family had been in the restaurant business and may have had someone that helped in the family restaurant business that they liked to barbecue.
The Rendezvous is a perfect example. The Rendezvous never opened up to be a barbecue restaurant. My father had a vegetable meat and three place on Union Avenuecalled Wimpy's. He was partners with his brother in law and they were selling meat loaf and mashed potatoes and they had a hamburger. On the hamburger you could get mustard, pickle, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, Durkees. You know, a thousand different things.
Right across the street from him was a Crystal. He was selling like ten hamburgers a day and, then, the Crystalthey were carrying ten out at a time and there were a thousand people. They were selling ten thousand hamburgers a day and he was selling ten and he was giving people all these options.
He and his brother in law didn't get along. Well, they got along they just had a difference of views. My father said "I'm going to open up: I'm going to bake hams and sell beer." Make a ham sandwich and sell beer. He went in the basement of the building where Wimpy's was and opened up the Rendezvous.
There was an elevator shaft in the building that was not used anymore so he built a smoker. He was buying his hams, cured hams, from Louis Feinberg, Feinberg Packing Company. So he started a fire, put the hams up and smoked his hams to give them a little more flavor. And, you could buy a small beer or a tall beer, a 10 oz. or 12 oz. beer. He said if "I open up my ham sandwich place, I'm not going to give people any options." You're going to get it on rye bread only and, your only options, there would be two options. You could either get it with cheese or without cheese or you could get it with mustard or without mustard and that was it. He served it with kosher pickles on the side and a couple peperonccinis. Or, he'd make you a plate. He'd slice the cheese up; make it into little sticks; put some ham on it, pickles and peppers; put it on the table and that was it.
Back then, downtown was the only shopping area of town. People were one car families. On Saturday's, during the week the people that worked downtown, the men that worked downtown, the window dressers, the sales clerks. They'd all come down to the Rendezvous, have a sandwich and a beer waiting for their wives to come pick them up in the only car in the family.
Eventually, it got to be a little bit nicer place. The wives would come down; they'd have a sandwich with them and that's all you could get, ham sandwich. He had ham, cheese, and salami. The same salami now is the same salami that we started with, made in St. Louis by the John Volpe Company. I'm not a big salami eater but I don't want to eat anybody else's salami cause this one is so good.
He was open just for dinner. It was a snack bar. Rendezvous Snack Bar was the original name of the restaurant. On Saturdays, it was shopping day. The husbands would drive the wives downtown. The wives would go shopping. The guys would go down to the Rendezvous and have a ham sandwich and a beer. Television wasn't hardly in. This was in the late forties and the early part of the fifties; wasn't television. Guys just sitting around, eating ham sandwiches and drinking beer waiting for their wives to get through shopping and go back home.
Mr. Feinberg said "you need to expand your menu a little bit." Dad said, "I know that but I don't really know what to do." So he got some chickens and baked chickens, cooked them on the grill. (He) did the same thing (as they do with ribs)- 18 inches off the fire. Cooked chickens on there. He couldn't give them away. Nobody wanted barbecue chicken, grilled chicken. He got oysters on the 1/2 shell. He said, "I think oysters are great." Our flower beds at our house, my parents house, the beds were made with those shells from the oysters. Lasted about a year. The oysters were just a pain. (He) Wasn't selling very many of them.
Mr. Feinberg said, "Well, I've got these ribs." He (Mr. Charlie Vergo) said, "I don't know very much about ribs." He had a guy that worked for him whose name was Little John. Little John, I don't know that he was barbecue man, or not, but he know how to cook ribs.
We cook our ribs over a very hot fire. We cook 18 inches off the fire and the fire is as hot as we can get it. We cool it down to keep it from catching fire. But we want it, generally, to be as hot as we can. We want to actually sear the ribs and keep the juiciness of them. We don't cook slow. We want to cook our ribs in an hour and fifteen minutes.
Other people talk about we cook them hours and hours and hours. Well, they're cooking at such low temperatures, if we left our ribs in there for that long, they'd just be charcoal when they got through.
My father's father was a restaurant man, made chili during the depression- chili dog with our cole slaw, the cole slaw that we have on the table, a mustard based slaw for a nickel. That was the same idea that my father had with the ham sandwich. He was going to sell you a hell of a ham sandwich and not really make very much on the ham sandwich. But, if you came in and had three or four beers with it, he'd kill you on the beer. He was going to make his money selling beer.
My grandfather was going to make his money selling Coca-Colas and pies. He was a baker by trade and just baked a hell of a pie. You'd come in a get a hot dog for a nickel, a foot long hot dog for a nickel, with chili and slaw. Cokes were a dime. Coke was more than the hot dog was. He made a penny a hot dog, but he made 3 or 4 cents on the coke. He was just selling hundreds and hundreds and thousands and thousands of hot dogs and lots of Cokes and the pie. .35 cents for a piece of pie, well the pie didn't' cost him but about a nickel to make. A slice of pie was only about a nickel. That was the same idea that my father had. Get them to come in for the sandwiches and sell them a beer or a Coca-Cola. He made money off the coke.
Burger King is a perfect example. They've got 11 items for .99 cents. You can go and get all 11 items and you're out 11 bucks, $10.89. You think, well god, I got 2 sacks of food for $11. For $11, if you got two of their combos which is let's say the double cheeseburger, a large coke, and a large fry, you get two of those, that's $10 dollars right there.
They're making their money off of the Cokes and the french fries is what it boils down to. Cokes and the french fries are where the money is. Coke cost them a dime or fifteen cents and they sell it for a dollar forty nine.
It was the same thought of my father. He said, I'm going to get them in here, get them to buy a sandwich and get them to buy a coke.
Mr. Feinberg came along, said "you need to try these ribs out. They're really good. They're loin ribs. They come off the pork chop." There're spare ribs that come off the belly and they're called back ribs because they come off the back. My father says "Well, I don't know very much about cooking ribs. But we're just going to put them on the grill and cook them just like we did the chicken. Get them done. Take them off and serve them."
Little John was a vinegar man. He said, "You need to have vinegar on your ribs because it makes them tender and it helps keep the fire down a little bit." He just knew. He'd been around. Probably been over to somebody else's house and said I like the way that barbecue tasted and I like it because of the vinegar. Our slaw is vinegar, mustard, and sugar.
My father said, all right, now we need to season it. Well, my grandfather made chili. Chili's got salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and oregano. It's kind of a Greek chili. He said, "I'll mix that seasoning up, the same thing that we put in the chili, cause the chili tasted good. It tastes good because of the seasoning. The seasoning would good on the ribs." They put the seasoning on the ribs; tasted delicious. Served them to the table.
"Charlie, these ribs are delicious but you're calling them barbecue ribs and they're not red. They need to have that red." So he went and got a container of paprika and added it to it. Stirred it up. It was red and that's what we have today.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
• As a bar band, R.E.M. played indistinct covers of the Everly Brothers, Patti Smith, and pre-Loaded Velvet Underground songs. They were fueled by atypical Athens boredom; weekly lunch meet-ups, and a similar love for folk and post-punk music. In ryen, the four-piece crafted the near-perfect (so long as 20-minute records are concerned) Chronic Town, an EP which contained at least three classics.
• It's a mystery how R.E.M. had found their style already on their first EP. Mills and Buck were already skilled with jangles, and Stipe's voice was in tune. Two years later that mixture gained them honor for the Album of the Year. Though there was nothing wrong with Stipe's voice, it was hard to understand single sentence he sang. There was something very intimate in his voice, the most beautiful post-punk you'd ever hear.
• Ironically, R.E.M. had made a back-to-basics album without any establishment as a real band. The raw DIY ethic and low-fi production gives the music a charming appeal that made Sonic Youth's early releases somewhat of historical pieces. Chronic Town has its share of odd influences derivative of late '70s post-punk. "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)" is, in fact, a tribute to the Cure's "Jumping Someone Else's Train." The catchiest tune is "Wolves, Lower". If you won't sing along to the simple call-and-response chrous, maybe you're dead!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
No music here.
I have a friend, Lauren, who's recent blog (www.thelunarroom.com) really bothered me. The story of The Who in Cincinnatti circa 1979 just expands on her recent experience. I remember as a child thinking it was cool to see The Who on the newscast when I woke up that morning. It was almost as if something I ( as an almost teenager) thought was cool, was being recognized by them.
Then I listened as the news reporter said that many people had died at the concert. People died trying to listen to music. I couldn't understand. I still can't.
No music or bullshit today, just an account of what happened that day in Cincinnatti. Thanks Lauren.
"Dan Reed, Music Director at XPN, recalls his experience at the Who concert tragedy at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum:
I was a ticket holder and witness. We got our tickets about a month before, and I drove two hours from college (I was a freshman) to meet my friends. It was a cold Monday evening. We arrived about an hour before the doors were to open. The tickets were not reserved but “festival seating”… the sooner you got in, the better location you could get to see the show. Despite the cold, we were psyched… it was our first time seeing the legendary Who. I was personally enamored at the time with Quadrophenia. Who Are You was their most recent release, but I had been listening non-stop to Quadrophenia at that time. I was 18, and that album spoke to me in many ways. I’ll admit that I was dissappointed that I would be seeing the Who sans Keith Moon, but I was still very excited.
When we arrived, there were maybe 1000 people already there. We stood in line in front of four glass doors, but the pushing and shoving got really annoying, so we dropped back and stood on some light pole fixtures to wait for the doors to open. Up there, we had a view of what was going on in the front of the line, and none of it was good. We observed people clearly panicing, falling and crying out. A man emerged from the fray, sweating, wide-eyed, missing shoes and most of his clothing. He found a uniformed Cincinnati police officer, and told him “Man… you GOTTA get up there and put a stop to this… people are really getting hurt!” The cops’ response was “What in the hell do you want ME to do about it?” It was a pretty scary show of indifference, and - in light of what was about to transpire - not very suprising.
The best we could tell, there were 4 doors open… 4 doors for a crowd of well over - I’d say - 2,000 people by now. We saw fists flying, and a sort of vapor rise up over the crowd in the cold December night. Just about then, we noticed that another bank of doors north of us had opened. We jumped down and went in without much pushing at all. As I looked over to my right - where all the pushing was taking place - I saw people still pressed up against the doors, and a pile of shoes at the entrance. It was a crazy scene.
The show was outstanding. The band lived up to their reputation as one of the world’s most incredible live performers. Kenny Jones - the late Keith Moon’s replacement on drums - was more than servicable. After the show, as we walked out of the coliseum, we observed all of these news trucks - NBC News, CBS, etc — and all kinds of other assorted media ALL OVER the pavilion outside. We knew then that SOMETHING had went down. Did somebody O.D.? We turned the radio to WEBN (Cincy’s long-standing rock station) when we got to the car, and heard the terrible news. We were all sick to our stomachs… we had actually seen some of this going down. Even though we did not understand at the time the enormity of the tragedy we were witnessing, we still all felt a sense of - I don’t know - maybe guilt over not doing something. I still have that feeling to this day every time I think back on this event.
We all got to a bank of pay telephones as soon as we could and called our parents. My dad had heard Howard Cosell interrupt Monday Night Football to report the tragedy.
This was an accident waiting to happen. I had seen Led Zeppelin at the Coliseum two years before (again with the dreaded “festival seating”) and had commented to a buddy that night that “somewbody was gonna get killed here some day.” The shows at the Coliseum were always crazy… it was anything goes at the doors. "
Monday, December 3, 2007
Can you tell I'm ready to get home? This is what I'm cooking on Wednesday night for dinner -
1 pound tiger prawns (21/25 count), peeled and de-veined (500grams)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil (15ml)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper (5ml)
½ cup prepared mustard (125ml)
2 tablespoons honey (30ml)
2 tablespoons orange juice (30ml)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (15ml)
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (15ml) + 1 tablespoon (15ml)
8 pineapple slices ¼" thick
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
3 green onions, finely diced
4 cilantro sprigs, leaves only
4 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1000ml)
Pepper to taste
8 large flour tortilla (8inch/51cm)
¼ cup vegetable oil for brushing and grilling (60ml)
Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a medium size bowl whisk together lemon pepper, mustard, honey, orange juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Slice red peppers into 6 pieces and remove seeds. Oil each piece with vegetable oil.
Peel, core and slice fresh pineapple into ¼ inch (6mm) thick slices and brush with vegetable oil.
Preheat barbecue to 425°F/210°C or high heat.
Prepare cheese mixture by placing jalapeno, green onion, cilantro, cheese and onion in a bowl. Mix together. Place in the refrigerator until needed.
Oil barbeque grate and place shrimp on the grill, cook for 1 minute per side (or until bright pink in color). Baste constantly. Remove from grill and let cool.
Remove shrimp tail and slice in half, lengthwise and set aside.
Reduce barbecue temperature to350°F/175°C or medium heat.
Oil barbeque grate and place pineapple and peppers on direct heat. Grill pineapple for 1 minute per side or until nice golden char marks are achieved. Baste constantly with the honey glaze.
Grill the peppers for 1.5 minutes per side. Baste constantly with honey glaze.
Remove from the grill and slice red peppers into small bite size pieces. Slice pineapple into quarters.
Lightly brush Quesadilla skins with vegetable oil. Divide cheese mixture over 4 shells and top with shrimp, pineapple and red peppers. Cover with another oiled quesadilla skin.
Reduce barbeque temperature to 250°F/120°C or medium low heat.
Oil grill grate and place quesadillas down on grill and cook for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip quesadilla over and grill for another 4 minutes.
Remove from grill and slice into wedges.
Yield: 6 servings
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I was reading about Elvis and it occurred to me that his greatest accomplishment in the history of music was pushing all the Black recording artists out of the Memphis market and up to Chicago. Now, this might sound crazy but let me go on. Before Elvis had his first hit at Sun Records with Mr. Sam Phillips, Sun was in the business of recording Black artists -see, Mr. Phillips had a penchant for recording real R&B even though he wasn't making much money doing it. There was no money because those records weren't played on Rock radio, unless of course they were covered by the acceptable White artists. So, before Elvis recorded at Sun, it was known as the place where Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton and Elmore James, amongst others, had been recording. The financial success that Sun Records experienced due to Elvis recording a few hits there caused Mr. Phillips to reconsider his passion for real R&B - needless to say he dropped all his Black artists and focused solely on White artists. The result was two-fold -1st- Sun attracted the likes of Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash (not so bad) -2nd- the barren market for Black artists sent all the local bluesmen up North to Chicago where they hooked up with the Chicago bar blues scene led by Muddy Waters ... blues as we know it today wouldn't be without this migration. So, we get to Elmore James, one of those very migrants who landed in Chicago - the haven for Black artists trying to make a living in the blues. If you aren't familiar with what Chicago bar blues sounds like let me say this: The style is regarded for being loud and heavily amplified stomping blues that induces hollering. Mr. James can be heard hollering his heart out on "So Unkind", "Anna Lee", "Standing at the Crossroads" and these are just some of the stand out tracks. If Elmore James gets you shaking, considering looking into Chess Records - it's where all the hip-cats were signed. Oh, and remember to thank Elvis.
I do have the Chess Records 15 CD Box Set that I will raid at another time.
Elmore James - Dust My Broom
Well, Sunday finds me on the road again. Too much time away from Alli and the boys so I turn to The Beatles. I' m sure the boys are having pancakes at Mika's by now...
Anyway, here is some great music first from the Let It Be sessions. This is the original (not Naked) version that was supposed to be released.
Second, is the evolution of Strawberry Fields, great for your I-pod.
Enjoy, and I can't wait to get home -
1-14: George Martin mix of Let It Be material (in fact Glyn Johns mix)
15-20: "bonus trakcs" live from the Apple Studios roof-top - 30 Jan 1969
01 - One After 90902 - Rocker03 - Save The Last Dance For me04 - Don't Let Me Down05 - I've got A Feeling06 - Get Back07 - For you Blue08 - Teddy Boy09 - Two Of Us10 - Dig it11 - Maggie Mae12 - Dig It13 - Let it Be14 - The Long and Winding Road15 - Get Back16 - Dont Let me Down17 - Ive Got A Feeling18 - One After 90919 - Dig A Pony20 - Get Back
Strawberry Field Forever - Santa Isabel Demos
01 - George Martin On Strawbery Fields Forever
02 - Warm Up
03 - Take 1
04 - Take 2
05 - Take 3
06 - Take 4
07 - Take 5
08 - Take 6
09 - Rehearsal
Strawberry Field Forever - Kenwood Demos
10 - Electric Guitar Overdub Rehearsal
11 - Electric Guitar Overdub
12 - Playback And Chat
13 - Double-Tracking Vocal
14 - Playback
Strawberry Field Forever - Kenwood Demos 2
15 - Take 1
16 - Take 2
17 - Take 3
18 - Take 4
19 - Take 5
20 - Take 6
21 - Take 7
22 - Take 8
23 - Mellotronvocal Overdub Rehearsal
24 - Mellotronvocal Overdub Onto Tak 7
25 - Tape Loop And Backward Speak
Strawberry Field Forever - Sessions 1
26 - Take 1 With George Martin
27 - Take 1Strawberry Field Forever - Sessions 2
28 - George Martin On Remakes 1 & 2
29 - Take 2
30 - Take 3
31 - Take 4
32 - Take 5
33 - Take 6
34 - Take 7
35 - Take 7 With George Martin
Strawberry Field Forever - Sessions 3
36 - George Martin On Remakes 3
37 - Take 25
38 - Take 26 With George Martin
39 - Take 26Penny Lane Sessions
40 - Penny Lane Overdub Sessions
41 - Strawberry Fields Forever - Secret Track
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Very rare early recordings including Mick Jagger with the Little Boys Blue in 1961.
Twenty-four of these 32 cuts come from such BBC sources, but what will pique the hardcore Stones aficionado's interest the most are the first eight tracks, which have rarely if ever before surfaced.
The first four songs are labeled as dating from a tape of Little Boys Blue, a just-pre-Rolling Stones lineup of the group, recorded (probably at a private rehearsal) in late 1961.
Track 1-4 : Little Boys Blue, recorded Dartford, South London, late 1961.
Track 5,7,8 : Regent, 20th & 21st November, 1963.
Track 6 : Chess, 8th November, 1963
Track 9-15, 19-26 : BBC Saturday Club, 1964
Track 16-18, 27-29 : Joe Loss Show, 1964
Track 30-32 : BBC Top Gear, 1964
Down The Road Apiece
I Ain't Got YouLeave Me Alone
It Should Be You
That Girl Belongs To Yesterday
Ain't That Loving You Baby
Don't Lie To Me
Walking The Dog
Bye Bye Johnny
I Wanna Be Your Man
Roll Over Beethoven
Little By Little
I Just Want To Make Love To You
I'm Moving On
Not Fade Away
High Heeled Sneakers
Meet Me In The Bottom
You Can Make It If You Try
Confessin' The Blues
Down The Road Apiece
It's All Over Now
If You Need Me
Around And Around
I Can't Be Satisfied
LINK Part 1
LINK Part 2
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
- Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, then drain and blot them dry with paper towels. Using kitchen shears, make a lengthwise cut through the shell, down the back of each shrimp. Use the tine of a fork or the tip of a bamboo skewer to pull out the vein if you see one. Remember, not every shrimp has a visible vein. Place the shrimp in a large bowl.
- Place the Old Bay seasoning, Cajun Rub, coriander, black peppercorns, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir to mix. Set 1-1/2 tablespoons of this rub aside for the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining rub over the shrimp and toss to mix. Stir in the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir to mix. Let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.
- Place the beer in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the cream and let boil until the mixture is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes more. Add the corn syrup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon slices, hot sauce, brown sugar, and garlic, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1-1/2 tablespoons of the reserved rub. Let boil until thick and syrupy, to 6 minutes. Whisk in the butter, piece by piece, and let the sauce boil until heated through and well-combined, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste; the sauce should be highly seasoned. Keep the sauce warm at the edge of the grill. Do not let it return to a boil.
- Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
- When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the marinated shrimp on the hot grate and grill until just cooked through, 1 to 3 minutes per side. When done, the shrimp will turn a pinkish white and feel firm to the touch.
- Transfer the grilled shrimp to aluminum foil pans and place the pans on the grill. Pour the sauce over them and cook for a minute or so to warm the shrimp in the sauce. Serve the shrimp at once with the sauce slathered over them and crusty bread and grilled corn on the side.
- Note: To speed up the grilling process, skewer the shrimp on bamboo skewers. You'll need about 8. Use skewers that are 10 to 12 inches long and place about 6 shrimp on each. When you thread the shrimp on a skewer, insert it near the head and tail ends so that the shrimp looks like the letter C.
- It's a lot faster turning 8 kebabs than all those individual shrimp.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
This is the latest addition to the I-pod for my trip to Pittsburgh and Raliegh:
"British soul, jazz and R&B phenomenon Amy Winehouse made fun of her boozy reputation as her 45-minute set came to a close at The Mod Club Theatre on Sunday night. "I love these Shirley Temples," said Winehouse, 23, as she swigged from a red paper cup on stage, during the second of two back-to-back, sold-out shows. Essentially, the weekend gigs in Little Italy marked Winehouse's performing debut in T.O. given the last time she was here she only did a showcase performance for invited guests in support of her 2003 debut, Frank. This time out, Winehouse, backed by the stellar-sounding, 10-member Dap Kings, performed tunes primarily from her critically acclaimed 2006 sophomore effort, Back To Black, a Motown-style soul album that includes the breakout hit, Rehab. But before Winehouse took the stage, the Dap Kings, which included a three-man horn section, performed their own One Time to build excitement for her arrival. When she finally did appear, in a white tank top that showed off her heavily tattoed arms, all eyes were on her trademark beehive hairdo, heavy black-eyeliner-rimmed eyes, and tiny frame. The striking image did little to prepare the audience for the big-sounding voice to come on such Back To Black highlights as the title track, Tears Dry On Their Own, Love Is A Losing Game (which she dedicated to a male fan at the front who just had the title tattoed on a body part), Rehab, and Me And Mr. Jones, the jazzier Frank tunes Cherry and F--k Me Pumps, and a spirited cover of Liverpool band The Zutons' Valerie. As she belted out songs, Winehouse often stretched one arm high above her and bent down to accentuate the big notes although she could learn a thing from her two male backup singers' inspired dance moves. Winehouse was mainly on her best behaviour -- pointing out that her father and boyfriend were both in the audience -- "my two favourite men!" At times though, she did ramble on a bit, like her long-winded explanation about how she often screws up Me And Mr. Jones in concert, and when she sat down at the front of the stage on a couple of occasions mid-song, it seemed like she was running out of steam. There was also a noticeable titter throughout the audience when she asked for another drink during the show. Still, Winehouse, in her own unique, politically incorrect way, is a bit of a throwback as a performer and somehow she carries it off. Having talent helps. "We really love being in Toronto," she said. And we loved having her.
01 - Addicted
02 - Just Friends
03 - Cherry
04 - Back To Black
05 - Wake Up Alone
06 - Rick-stacy Rap
07 - Tears Dry On Their Own
08 - He Can Only Hold Her
09 - F*ck Me Pumps
10 - Love Is A Losing Game
11 - Valerie (w/ Band Intro)
12 - Rehab (w/audience)
13 - Amy Chats
14 - Me & Mr Jones
15 - You Know I'm No Good
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
01. Come Together02. Something03. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer04. Oh! Darling05. Octopus’s Garden06. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)07. Here Comes The Sun08. Because09. You Never Give Me Your Money10. Sun King11. Mean Mr. Mustard12. Polythene Pam13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window14. Golden Slumbers15. Carry That Weight16. The End17. Her Majesty
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
5259 Poplar Ave. (at White Station Road) Memphis TN
Essay by Joe York
Some historians put the number at around three hundred, others simply say he had a herd of them, but they all agree that when Hernando de Soto and his six hundred soldiers landed somewhere near Tampa Bay in 1539, they had pigs.
As de Soto fought and finagled his way across the unseen South, his soldiers prodded the pigs from campfire to campfire, ate them by night, and by day breathed their pock-filled pork breath for the first time into southern skies.
From de Soto's ill-fated entrada (which left his febrile ribs forever marinating in the Mississippi) to the day Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn strolled into the original Corky's on Poplar and strolled out with four slabs, pigs and politicians have been bedding down together all across the South.
Interview with Barry Pelts Conducted by Brian Fisher
Barry Pelts: In 1972 the family had been in the furniture business for 40 years. In '72 they sold it to an insurance company out of Jacksonville Florida . That was when the insurance companies had lots of money and they were looking to diversify and my dad and his father and his brother sold it. And from '72 to '73, he was out of a job and he needed a job. He had a little money, a little chunk of change, nothing that he could live the rest of his life off of. He a little time where he could spend 6 months to a year trying to find out what he wanted to do.
He saw an ad in the paper for a restaurant that was for sale called The Public Eye which is in Overton Square in Memphis . He told his parents maybe I'd like to buy this restaurant. The restaurant was similar to -- it had barbecue on its menu it featured barbecue but it also had a big bar. it wasn't a barbecue joint. it just happened to feature barbecue on its menu and it was a bar mainly. Probably the mix was 60-40 food to alcohol which is a high mix of alcohol.
His parents thought he was crazy. He'd never cooked an egg in his life. He didn't know one thing about cooking. But he went to his father and said "you know this what I think I'm going to do this" and he said "I think you're crazy." But he went and bought it. He brought in my dad's brother and law- my mom's sister's husband who had some catering experience in Chattanooga . No barbecue experience but had been around food. More than my dad had been around.
They bought it in '72-'73 and they operated it until '84. But between '72 and '84, I would say probably closer into the late seventies, my dad had an idea of what he really wanted to do and that was to do a real barbecue "joint." Cozy. Instead of seating 260 people like this other restaurant, seat less than 100 people. Have the servers. When you walk in, you have the 50's music. You have the servers wearing a bow tie and a white jacket. Being the Old South, but making it a fun environment, not stuffy.
'84 is when they opened. But in about '82, my dad said I'm doing it. he sold his interest in The Public Eye to my uncle. He waited for literally two years- maybe not that long. It was that long. But he had owned The Public eye with my uncle while he was looking.
He pinpointed this location you see on Poplar Avenue- 5259 Poplar. And he said, "if I'm going to do this, I'm going to go in with the absolute "A" location and, if it fails, I'm going to know at least I went in. . .You know a lot of people, if you don't go in with your gun loaded and it fails, your always going to question yourself.
The other thing is service was never really. when you went into the ghetto the food was really what sold itself. He wanted to bring service up to the level where the quality of the food was. He did that.
I could tell you a lot of our competitors and I'm friends with a lot them. I could go there on certain days and their barbecue I think is as good as ours. But the question is, if you go there 10 times in a row, is it going to be consistent.
If you go into dinning the room the person at the expo station- that's a manager. You go out on a catering. We just don't send employees out. We have a catering captain that's a manager, a salaried manager. So everywhere you have contact with the food, its' a manager. We do food at the Pyramid. It's a manager out there supervising it.
They have no concept of how much volume we do in dollars and I don't want them to know that. I want them to think that we're still that that barbecue joint. It just so happens that we do a lot of volume. I still want to that we're a small, family owned operation.
Let's face it. Nothing will be as good as when it comes right off the charcoal pits. We wanted to still be able to bring what we felt was an "A" quality rib- maybe not an "A+." We did that in '93. That business has been growing exponentially every single year and that's been great for us just like the mail order business. You've got the whole country to tap into.
National mailing, we'll advertise once or twice a year in the Wall Street Journal- not enough to make a dent.
Grocery, Memorial day to Labor Day are your crazy time, but the business is great year round. The month of December mail order you'll do 40% of your annual business in 14 days. We'll have days when we'll ship 4,000 orders a day during Christmas. On Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, we'll ship out 130 packages a day. Big Difference.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The stuff of legend: Forty-six years ago (October 28, 1961), an 18 year-old man by the name of Raymond Jones entered NEMS record store in Whitechapel, Liverpool, to place an order for a local band's German-only 45 of "My Bonnie." NEMS manager Brian Epstein, who prided himself in having a copy of every record available, had never heard of this single nor the band who recorded it: Liverpool's own Beatles.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
"As a determinedly permanent resident of the West Coast, the furor Bruce Springsteen's live performances have kicked up in the East over the last couple of years left me feeling somewhat culturally deprived, not to mention a little suspicious. The legendary three-hour sets Springsteen and his E Street Band apparently rip out night after night in New York, Province-town, Boston and even Austin have generated a great tumult and shouting; but, short of flying 3000 miles to catch a show, there was no way for an outlander to discover what the fuss was all about.
Certainly, I couldn't find the reasons on Springsteen's first two albums, despite Columbia's "New Dylan" promotional campaign for the debut disc and the equally thoughtful "Street Poet" cover of the second. Both radiated self-consciousness, whereas the ballyhoo led one to hope for the grand egotism of historic rock & roll stars; both seemed at once flat and more than a little hysterical, full of sound and fury, and signifying, if not nothing, not much.
A bit guiltily, I found anything by Roxy Music far more satisfying. They could at least hit what they aimed for; while it was clear Springsteen was after bigger game, the records made me wonder if he knew what it was. Whether he did or not, with two "you gotta see him live" albums behind him, the question of whether Springsteen would ever make his mark on rock & roll -- or hang onto the chance to do so -- rested on that third LP, which was somehow "long awaited" before the ink was dry on the second. Very soon, he would have to come across, put up or shut up. It is the rock & roller's great shoot-out with himself: The kid with promise hits the dirt and the hero turns slowly, blows the smoke from his pistol, and goes on his way.
Or else, the kid and the hero go down together, twitching in the dust while the onlookers turn their heads and talk safely of what might have been. The end. Fade-out.
Springsteen's answer is Born to Run. It is a magnificent album that pays off on every bet ever placed on him--a '57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records that shuts down every claim that has been made. And it should crack his future wide open.
The song titles by themselves --"Thunder Road," "Night," "Backstreets," "Born to Run," "Jungleland"--suggest the extraordinary dramatic authority that is at the heart of Springsteen's new music. It is the drama that counts; the stories Springsteen is telling are nothing new, though no one has ever told them better or made them matter more. Their familiar romance is half their power: The promise and the threat of the night; the lure of the road; the quest for a chance worth taking and the lust to pay its price; girls glimpsed once at 80 miles an hour and never forgotten; the city streets as the last, permanent American frontier. We know the story: one thousand and one American nights, one long night of fear and love.
What is new is the majesty Springsteen and his band have brought to this story. Springsteen's singing, his words and the band's music have turned the dreams and failures two generations have dropped along the road into an epic -- an epic that began when that car went over the cliff in Rebel Without a Cause. One feels that all it ever meant, all it ever had to say, is on this album, brought forth with a determination one would have thought was burnt out years ago. One feels that the music Springsteen has made from this long story has outstripped the story; that it is, in all its fire, a demand for something new.
In one sense, all this talk of epic comes down to sound. Rolling Stone contributing editor Jon Landau, Mike Appel and Springsteen produced Born to Run in a style as close to mono as anyone can get these days; the result is a sound full of grandeur. For all it owes to Phil Spector, it can be compared only to the music of Bob Dylan & the Hawks made onstage in 1965 and '66. With that sound, Springsteen has achieved something very special. He has touched his world with glory, without glorifying anything: not the romance of escape, not the unbearable pathos of the street fight in "Jungleland," not the scared young lovers of "Backstreets" and not himself.
"Born to Run" is the motto that speaks for the album's tales, just as the guitar figure that runs through the title song--the finest compression of the rock & roll thrill since the opening riffs of "Layla" -- speaks for its music. But "Born to Run" is uncomfortably close to another talisman of the lost kids that careen across this record, a slogan Springsteen's motto inevitably suggests. It is an old tattoo: "Born to Lose." Springsteen's songs -- filled with recurring images of people stranded, huddled, scared, crying, dying -- take place in the space between "Born to Run" and "Born to Lose," as if to say, the only run worth making is the one that forces you to risk losing everything you have. Only by taking that risk can you hold on to the faith that you have something left to lose. Springsteen's heroes and heroines face terror and survive it, face delight and die by its hand, and then watch as the process is reversed, understanding finally that they are paying the price of romanticizing their own fear.
One soft infested summer/Me and Terry became friends/Trying in vain to breathe/The fire we was born in.../Remember all the movies, Terry/We'd go see/Trying to learn to walk like the heroes/We thought we had to be/Well after all this time/To find we're just like all the rest/Stranded in the park/And forced to confess/To/Hiding on the backstreets/Hiding on the backstreets/Where we swore forever friends....
Those are a few lines from "Backstreets," a song that begins with music so stately, so heartbreaking, that it might be the prelude to a rock & roll version of The Iliad. Once the piano and organ have established the theme the entire band comes and plays the theme again. There is an overwhelming sense of recognition: No, you've never heard anything like this before, but you understand it instantly, because this music--or Springsteen crying, singing wordlessly, moaning over the last guitar lines of "Born to Run," or the astonishing chords that follow each verse of "Jungleland," or the opening of "Thunder Road" -- is what rock & roll is supposed to sound like.
The songs, the best of them, are adventures in the dark, incidents of wasted fury. Tales of kids born to run who lose anyway, the songs can, as with "Backstreets," hit so hard and fast that it is almost impossible to sit through them without weeping. And yet the music is exhilarating. You may find yourself shaking your head in wonder, smiling through tears at the beauty of it all. I'm not talking about lyrics; they're buried, as they should be, hard to hear for the first dozen playings or so, coming out in bits and pieces. To hear Springsteen sing the line "Hiding on the backstreets" is to be captured by an image; the details can come later. Who needed to figure out all the words to "Like a Rolling Stone" to understand it?
It is a measure of Springsteen's ability to make his music bleed that "Backstreets," which is about friendship and betrayal between a boy and a girl, is far more deathly than "Jungleland," which is about a gang war. The music isn't "better," nor is the singing--but it is more passionate, more deathly and, necessarily, more alive. That, if anything, might be the key to this music: As a ride through terror, it resolves itself finally as a ride into delight.
"Oh-o, come on, take my hand," Springsteen sings, "Riding out to case the promised land." And there, in a line, is Born to Run. You take what you find, but you never give up your demand for something better because you know, in your heart, that you deserve it. That contradiction is what keeps Springsteen's story, and the promised land's, alive. Springsteen took what he found and made something better himself. This album is it. "
GREIL MARCUS(RS 197, October 9, 1975)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
His biggest hit ever "Brown Eyed Girl" was originally titled "Brown Skinned Girl"...think about that next time you are listening to the oldies station...
Brown Eyed Girl (Alternate Version)
Thursday, November 1, 2007
You probably already know what eventually happened to STAR TREK; how NEMESIS (the most recent theatrical film in the franchise) underperformed both fiscally and artistically. How ENTERPRISE…TREK’s most recent television incarnation…failed to keep the attention of fans or find new viewers - and was jettisoned four years into its projected seven year run.
This conjunction of unfortunate events left The Powers That Be in a quandary. Clearly, STAR TREK had the potential to continue generating a great deal of revenue for all involved. And, just as clearly, the current style & vibe of STAR TREK were not being embraced by the masses.
What to do? What to do?
One proposal came from (then) TREK overlord Rick Berman & a production team which included Jordan Kerner and Kerry McCluggage. They considered a STAR TREK variant that was part re-launch, part prequel, and maintained established franchise continuity while exploring a period of TREK lore that had previously been spoken of only in broad strokes.
The result was a project tentatively titled STAR TREK: THE BEGINNING. I’m assuming this name would’ve changed…it’s a crappy title. Scripter Erik Jendersen (HBO’s BAND OF BROTHERS) was brought in to develop the concept, which resulted in a first draft screenplay that ran 121 pages long.
This project was ultimately scuttled; word is it was ditched due to a dramatic regime change at Paramount.
JJ Abrams was subsequently brought in to re-launch STAR TREK in an entirely different fashion, and THE BEGINNING slipped quietly into history…forgotten by most, and understood by precious few.
Let’s change that.
What follows is a detailed write-up about the screenplay for Erik Jendersen’s STAR TREK: THE BEGINNING.
THIS IS NOT THE UPCOMING JJ ABRAMS PROJECT!!!
THIS IS ABOUT AN ABORTED PROJECT THAT IMMEDIATELY(?) PRECEEDED THE JJ ABRAMS REBOOT, AND IS COMPLETELY UNRELATED (TO THE BEST OF ANYONE’S KLNOWLEDGE) TO ABRAMS’ UPCOMING STAR TREK FILM!!!
This is, simply, a geeky exploration of STAR TREK history; a (hopefully interesting) insight to a TREK that might have been…not dissimilar to an article I posted earlier this year about Harve Bennett’s defunct STAR TREK: THE ACADEMY YEARS screenplay.
And, even though this project has been canned and will almost certainly never be made, please know that...
THERE BE HEAVY SPOILERS HERE!!!
With this in mind, let’s get started…
First off, I'd like to offer a huge, heartfelt, hug of a thanks to Nasty Nick for making this article possible. Deeply appreciated.
WHAT KIND OF STORY IS THIS?
To put a pretty fine point on it, this is very much a classic War story set in the STAR TREK Universe. This is a sprawling tale…its structure evoking countless World War II films in particular.
THE BEGINNING takes traditional war genre structures/clichés and applies them to STAR TREK; a formula we’ve never seen before. For example, there are (literally) love letters written between characters…read in voice over…as one character heads off to battle, and the other sits at home worrying and waiting. THE BEGINNING is about a group of folks newly graduated from the United Earth Stellar Navy who are forced to go their separate ways in a time of great upheaval. Some head into war, some find other purposes, while all hell is breaking loose around them.
In structure, the story very much resembles STARSHIP TROOPERS mixed with the madness surrounding Pearl Harbor. As a whole, the script is extremely military in nature. How extreme? In one sequence…during a crisis…an Admiral orders two guards to stand down from their positions. The first guard receives a set of instructions from the Admiral, ending with “I’m ordering you to leave your post.” The first guard scurries off. The Admiral gives the second guard his orders, but the guard doesn’t budge. The Admiral then remembers to tell him “I’m ordering you to leave your post” – only then will the guard stand down.TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SETTING…TREK’S GETTING KINDA CONFUSING!
It begins on Earth during August-September 2159 (this would place it between ENTERPRISE and ORIGINAL SERIES continuity).
The human race has a lot going on: the United Earth Stellar Navy (UESN) is a military attempting to find its place in the changing political landscape, and hone its interaction with a recently formed Coalition of Planets. Earth is changing…politics are changing. Extraterrestrials are becoming accepted and common members of our society, but this is also altering the way humans think, and the way things are done.
There’s talk of UESN merging with Starfleet, which would essentially militarize the exploration-based Starfleet. “Peace is too important to be left to politicians” intones one Commodore.
The NX-Omega is ready to fly – the first Warp 8 capable ship ever built (Warp 8 was the maximum warp stated for THE ORIGINAL SERIES Enterprise).
And…oh, yeah! There’s that mammoth Romulan attack fleet approaching Earth using a trajectory which conceals it behind Earth’s moon.
SO, THIS IS THE ONE WITH NO ESTABLISHED CHARACTERS IN IT… RIGHT?
There’s one character we’ve seen before in TREK - it’s Andorian Commander Shran. He’s the blue dude with antennae played by Jeffrey Combs in ENTERPRISE.
Another character we’ve heard about (but never seen) also appears. Skon. Who is Skon? There’s a line in STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK in which Vulcan High Priestess refers to Sarek (Spock’s dad) as “Sarek, child of Skon…” Skon appears here as a Vulcan Ambassador to Earth. I.e. Spock’s grandfather is a principal character in THE BEGINNING.
The NX-02 (Columbia) – also seen in ENTERPRISE - appears twice in the script. It’s in an orbital shipyard and gets blasted pretty thoroughly.
References are made to Archer & Enterprise being at Risa (TREK’s “pleasure planet”). Figures; they’re as ineffectual as always.
Denobluans ( Dr. Flox’s species from ENTERPRISE) are seen, but don’t play a critical role.
MACO (Military Assault Command Operations – the supertroopers introduced in ENTERPRISE) are present, and do play a role.
Tellarites (the pig guys) appear.
There are several allusions to the future TREK universe, which are mentioned below.OK…THEN…WHO ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?
This is principally the story of Tiberius Chase. He’s the UESN’s best pilot but can’t get into Starfleet because of his family’s bad rep. He has the heart of a warrior and the soul of a poet. He’s extremely talented and highly ambitious, but he’s being held back in life because of his family name. The Chase clan, it seems, is associated with a para-military militia here on Earth who fear for the purity of the human race…they feel our gene pool will be contaminated because too many alien species are coming to Earth.
I.e. they are Terran isolationists, who’ve fashioned a cult-like community in the Muhlig-Hoffman Mountains in Antarctica. They found a place once used by Nazis who escaped to the remote locale after World War II. There is Nazi tech around them – like prototype aircraft shaped like saucers. Tiberius left this funky bunch…his urge to see what’s out there…to grow and expand…was too strong to resist. Despite this defiance, many around him still will not trust him. They’re all about embracing new life and new civilizations, but aren’t sure what he’s about.
Tiberius is in love with Penelope Gardner, an Admiral’s daughter. Penelope is “a school teacher from Iowa”. For those who don’t remember, James Tiberius Kirk is from Iowa. There’s a lot we can infer from the above few paragraphs. My conjecture is that these are Jim Kirk’s ancestors, and that the “Kirk” family name may have been adopted to escape the shadow of the Chase legacy. Could be wrong about this, though.
Tiberius rides a Harley Davidson Aero-Bike.
Other characters include (but are not limited to) Lieutenant Jaxx. Skal – the Vulcan who designed the NX-Omega’s warp engine. Admiral Gardner (Penelope’s dad – who struggles valiantly to marshal Earth’s defenses against the Romulans). Ensign Ogg (Maori from New Zealand), Otto (Tiberius’ father).OKAY, SO WHAT’S THIS THING ABOUT IN BROADSTROKES??
Tiberius has graduated UESN academy but his efforts to get into prestigious Starfleet are being stonewalled. He occupies his time by courting (and banging) Penelope (the Admiral’s daughter) while the NX-Omega Warp Tests are being conducted at the Saturn Flight Range (Chase was expected to fly the mission, but got canned from that as well). He’s a little lost, and finds himself increasingly lacking in purpose: he’s deeply devoted to a system which does not view him with affection.
While hanging out one morning with Penelope, Tiberius can’t peel his eyes from the sky. There’s something different about the sky this day…he’s not sure what it is. Then he sees the tiny speck of light, an odd star in a clear morning sky. But the star unleashes beams of death towards Earth: Romulans are attacking us, wrecking full-scale devastation in very short order!
But this isn’t even the PRIMARY attack force, which (we learn via Vulcan intelligence) is a little over two weeks away. At this point, segments of the movie are identified by superimposed titles (i.e. “D-Day Minus 3”, “D-Day Minus 2”, etc.)
Attacks on Honolulu, Beijing, Moscow, Athens, Cairo, London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Lisbon Power Station are either referenced or seen. A mammoth, ongoing space battle between Earth forces (UESN and Starfleet), factions who rush to Earth’s defense (Tellarites, Andorians under Commander Shran, Vulcans) ensues. The line against the Romulans is being held, but barely. Think TREK space conflict on the scale of a George Lucas film (the opening of EPISODE III comes to mind).
UESN and Starfleet facilities swing into action globally. We see Subterranean Facilities (SUBFACs) in Victoria, Paris, and China assembling munitions, churning out fighter craft, processing war supplies, etc. – action is set in several of these facilities.
What do these damn Romulans want? Our surrender. Why? Seems those green blooded bastards have been engaging in ethnic cleansing across the galaxy – they want to ride the universe of their wussy Vulcan offshoots once and for all. They’ve been moderately successful thus far, but Earth won’t surrender its Vulcan population (a defiance for which the Romulans were thoroughly unprepared, hence the need for the second wave of ships). Earth’s response to the Romulan demand for surrender? “Nuts”.
But…the truth of the matter is…we’re slowly, and certainly, losing & don’t stand a chance when the other Romulans get here. Reinforcements won’t reach us quickly enough. And Tiberius Chase doesn’t like to lose…
He hatches a plan…a foolhardy, dangerous plan no one will listen to: he wants to fly to the heart of the Romulan Star Empire and wreck havoc there before the primary Romulan attack fleet arrives “offshore Earth”. He wants to fragment the Romulans’ war making capability from within.
The higher-ups will not listen to him & summarily dismiss him. But a few folks are willing to embrace his glorious madness.
Chase and his bizarre, make-shift crew (including Skal – the Vulcan Warp Engine designer mentioned above) acquire a nuke from the Antarctica isolationists, then hijack a small ship called the U.S.S. Spartan - forcibly staffing it with hostages taken at its Saturn Drydock anchorage. Some of these hostages are confined to quarters, as they’re unwilling to participate in such a direct violation of orders. Others begin to understand that even a desperate, crazy, final hope for victory is better than no hope at all – and become willing crew members (and accomplices).
The brave little Spartan and her misfit crew leave our solar system with its nuclear bomb on a lonely trek to Romulus – where danger, uncertainty, and probable defeat await.
WOW! WHAT THE HELL? THAT SOUNDS REALLY DIFFERENT THAN OTHER TREKs WE’VE GOTTEN!
One of the most interesting elements of THE BEGINNING is how it knowledgeably and consistently embraces the tenets and principles of STAR TREK, but tells its story in a decidedly Un-STAR TREK way. This is a formula I’ve championed for quite a while – whenever people say TREK is “tired” and should be allowed to “rest”. My contention is that there’s nothing wrong with the TREK franchise in essence…and there’s still plenty of juice to be found in it. The problems its currently experiencing lie in the way TREK was telling its stories, and in the stories it was telling. It has lost the edge and vibrancy which drew audiences towards mythos to begin with.
Jendersen addresses these issues from its opening sequence: it’s comfortably TREK, but clearly told through very different eyes – through which see the TREK universe in a decidedly different style.
Is THE BEGINNING perfect? No – not by a long shot. There is a TOP GUN vibe running through portions of the script (Academy graduation material & how space fighter combat is conducted) which could’ve worked…but would probably register as a little too jarring in the final product. The young heroes call each other “bro” on several occasions – I get the modern
informality they’re going for here, but…you know…
The last quarter of the script (the anti-alien anarchist having a nuclear weapon that Chase drags off to Romulus) seemed a little too convenient & over-the-top…but there’s a funky, Verhoeven quality to it that, if directed right, could’ve been rather amusing (deliberately).
Finally, I don’t know if Chases’ desperate plan actually makes a whole lot of sense.
Obviously, it would’ve been feasible to address all of these issues in future drafts (again, this was the first & only draft written).BUT…WOULD IT HAVE WORKED?
It’s hard to know when such a radical reboot is in play. Whether or not they liked the story’s rough-and-tumble, balls-to-the-wall, semi-retro vibe…I think fans would’ve appreciated the heart of this story, as it picks up on one subtlety that often defines the most successful TREK stories:
TREK is, essentially, a duality…a contradiction. One on hand, it’s about heroes bringing values and their definition of “civilization” to societies and worlds who do not yet think like we do. Which is, at its core, a bit imperialistic. On the other hand, our heroes often achieve their objectives…even their survival…by bucking the same standards they attempt to spread, and by doing things their own way. It’s not that the system is “bad”, necessarily…it’s just not always the best means to an end.
This conflict is very much at the core of THE BEGINNING, evidenced by one single comment by Chase in a message to Penelope:
”…I will still, and forever, wonder how one can go boldly and follow at the same time?”
Jendersen’s script understood the heartbeat of STAR TREK, which is more than can be said for much of the TREK we’d seen in the years before it.
THE BEGINNING doesn’t exactly end. It partially resolves, but also promises TO BE CONTINUED. Where Jendersen’s macro story would’ve headed is unknown at the moment – although I’m told the tentative arc called for three films.
Given Berman’s track record throughout the franchise, especially towards the end of his tenure, it seems dubious that the right style would’ve been brought to THE BEGINNING…the right sense of wonder, abandon, or roughness. Berman’s work was too homogenized to make room for such profound changes in artistic approach.
None the less, Jendersen’s script is an imperfect-but-hugely tantalizing glimpse into a STAR TREK that might have been. And, some may argue, a tasty sampling of what it should become.