So ubiquitous is the Bald Eagle in Unalaska, they are referred to as pigeons. As they are generally non-harmful to humans their awesome stature can be taken for granted when these large raptors get up close and personal. Especially large females who are looking for food for their eaglets. Larger than my four-year and two-year-old kids by a wide margin, this one landed on my porch and decided to hang out or an hour or so, giving us quite a show in the interim (she shat all over my deck). She was right in front of my door, so it was a bit of a process to open the door without her hissing and spitting acid-blood in my eyes (I’m not an ornithologist so I don’t know that they don’t do this…). When I made it out the door and we were finally face to face, she either ran out of fecal matter or decided my kids were too big for her to take alone, so she spun and took off. Luckily I had my slo-mo finger on fast-forward and managed to capture it.
“In the Perfected Mahayana – everything, every speck of dust even, can be seen as conditioned arising. Thus even in a hair there are innumerable golden lions.”- Tractate of the Golden Lion — Fazang
“In the Perfected Mahayana – everything, every speck of dust even, can be seen as conditioned arising. Thus even in a hair there are innumerable golden lions.”- Tractate of the Golden Lion — Fazang
My friend Tomohiro once asked me why I was living in Japan, “You not married, don’t have girlfriend, not getting paid shit-ton cash like finance assholes, have no real prospects, kind of smell bad…so why you come to Japan…for the sushi?”
“Tomo, I’m seeking satori…duh.”
“You drink too much beer for satori. Even you run bar you drink all the profit, so why you wanna be Buddhist?”
Actually I get this question a lot. Japanese people are curious about an outsider’s views on what makes Japan attractive. Occasionally whomever it is I’m talking to continues the conversation with another whopper of a mystical/metaphysical/meaning-of-life type of question like, “Can you use chopsticks?” or “Wow, you sure are good at using chopsticks!”
I nod imbecilically and smile, saying, “Chinese food everywhere in America!” while adding, “Oscar Wilde said that when given a choice between going to heaven and attending a lecture on heaven, an American would attend the lecture. Because quoting Oscar Wilde to people, especially in Japanese, gets awkward quickly, the subject changes rather quickly as well.being in a different country can always be described in terms of psychotropic drug adjectives:… Click To Tweet
The Nature of Wabi-Sabi I
Living in Japan for me is akin to the American attending the lecture. In some ways modern Japanese society is nothing if not stultifyingly dense and uniformly micro-managed, with what is said and unsaid, done and not done, suggested and implied plastered like thousands of impenetrable pieces of papier-mâché one atop another over that raw heart of natural truth. This in turn is deceptively mysterious to many western eyes, which perceive one thing yet rarely grasp the subtlety with which the underlying meaning is insinuated, and was more or less over my head when I moved to the hilly countryside of Nagano in 2001. Ooh, ooh, I thought, living like a hermit on a hilltop, going from misty mountain shrine to temple, embracing the local Zen monk’s practices while embalming myself in study of the more ancient pagan rituals of Shintō, the glue that binds the two together, making Japan one of the only countries where almost the entire population is embracing not one, but two religions, while denying that they are at all religious. Hilarious! That and, yes Tomo was right, the sushi. I couldn’t wait.
The first few days and weeks of being in a different country can always be described in terms of psychotropic drug adjectives: Eye-opening, Mind-altering, Consciousness-expanding, Confusing, Ecstatic, Terrifying, Blissful and so on. Upon arriving to my town via well-heeled train from Nagoya, a large industrial center boasting Toyota HQ, a disappointing port, massive humidity and a thriving S&M scene, but not much else on th esurface, I experienced the largest conception-breaking sense of blah thus far, like a massive fur ball you just can’t hack out. The town, situated on a lake nestled in a crevice of a mountain range hugging the Matsumoto plateau, was less than spectacular. Nagoya, full of grays and browns, too had been less than stellar, but you figure well, it’s an urban Toyota production center, the water should be polluted and the skyline full of smoke, trash everywhere and the people rude, call it Cleveland, and move on. Get me to the countryside with green pastures and pristine lakes abutting picturesque mountain ranges off in the not too far distance. Say it to yourself: Japanese countryside. What images come to mind? It’s tough to know what to expect when bred on the ethnocentric western view that samurai and geisha, among other long dead notions of the chivalrous and bloody bygone eras, still hold sway here. Of course these things, ideas, images, are still celebrated as symbols of a great culture in local festivals, holidays, television and movies, much as any country tends to glorify the good of the past while relegating the racism, civil war, genocide, and sheer malevolent human tendencies toward bloodshed, to their proper, poorly-lit corner of history. That is all well and good, but what I, California City Boy, wanted was the pastoral simplicity of centuries ago mixed with a kind of revelatory mystical experience high on an Asian hilltop with crusty old sages and their singly clapping hands, or at least that’s what I thought I wanted, or what I thought I envisioned being so. Not the polluted Suwa Lake ringed by ugly industrial buildings spewing smoke into the greasy sky peppered with a few man-made “photo opportunities” complete with patches of dead and dying grass for depressing roadside picnicking and watching the ubiquitous mobile phone towers replace swaths of trees on the nearby foothills approaching the Japan Alps. I’d rather sit on my electronically heated toilet and listen to the simulacra rushing river sounds meant to cover the embarrassment visitors (probably the Brazilian Mormons again…) would inevitably face by noises caused by my bowel movements. Can you blame me?
Growing up in crowded southern California my family and I would take occasional trips to the desert — to Indio, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Lake Havasu — to camp and fish, get on a houseboat and laze in the lakes created by damming the west’s river arteries or occasionally just sit by the hotel pool in the dry empty 110 degree expanse. Despite not always coming home with a huge catch of fresh trout for dinner or getting massively dehydrated and sunburnt, the key to any kind of enjoyment of the desert was water. It’s a primordial instinct out of which we are born: a stream of life in the vast expanse of death. Without even the notion of water in some form — stream, river, lake, pool, slip and slide, etc. — on the horizon even as a child I knew not to expect much. This was before beer and sex had been introduced in my life, so swimming and fishing in lakes and rivers was almost all I had. Riding in the backseat of my grandparent’s gas-guzzling Ford Granada as we rolled east down Interstate 10 and the cacti started to appear, the landscape shifting from the stacked traffic and houses of the Imperial Valley to a gradually sparser and ten shades browner back country of flat mile after mile desert and mountains in the distance, I never thought about the fact that cities and lakes and everything else were made by man for a reason, nor did I imagine what those reasons might have been. Alternately dumb and curious as most children are, I always had a vision of the desert as the gateway to China and that if only I could dune dig deep enough, I would end up meeting my Chinese doppelgänger halfway and we could, I don’t know, trade shitty plastic toys. Despite the fact that digging through the earth from Death Valley would most likely land you in Great White feeding grounds off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean this notion got stuck somewhere in the ever-growing collection of unexpunged synapses clogging up my head throughout adolescence on into early manhood and, as tends to happen in life under the hallucination-inducing desert sun, got warped. Backward and wrong as it was, my vision of China — and by extension all of Asia — was that of an inverse function of my Mojave desert: raw, verdant green power, growing up and out, full of lakes and unclogged rivers, unstoppable and dangerous, untouched by man’s egotistical manifest destiny sense of entitlement due to nature’s unsurpassed tenacity and perseverance. To me, ignorant of Mao’s Great Leap Forward / Cultural Revolution, the rape of Nanjing, & the 38th Parallel, China / Japan / Korea represented the untouchable preserve, a vast swath of natural resources that as long as it remained intact would always symbolize a cushion to fall back on should we lose sight of whatever it was that drove us onward in our unquenchable search for fuel, that and to provide strength against the harsh realities of life on earth, ha ha, that one again. Yeah, at 8 years-old, I was a strange kid. All-American, but still a bit off in the head.
The fact is today, there just aren’t that many untouched territories out there anymore, even in desertifying China and as well in mountainous Japan. What we, programmed by Reagan’s 80’s network nightly news team, tended to think of as the onetime imperialist’s third world exotic Asian getaway, or rather hoped would be, our “natural” backyard of free and easy resources, has become an experiment in pork barrel construction based upon ease of stripping away vital sources of energy to power our karaoke, latte and ATM machines. Nowhere is this more sadly visible than in the middlingly developed consumer centers of Japan, from Nagano to the north, and Osaka to the south. With the cities, like smelly, sweaty and humid Nagoya, we get the armpit we expect, peopled to the brim, overheated and far too gone to do anything about (or so we think), but with Nagano we get to see an area of onetime vast wilderness in mid-metamorphosis. The strip-mining, dynamiting, clear-cutting, river-damming, concreting, tetrapodding, hillside gridding, mountain-topping is going on right now and continues to justify the existence of the overfed construction industry, itself a propped up jobs program for mafioso swindlers. As an outsider it’s an interesting thing to watch occur all around you as your elderly neighbors in their sardine-packed apartments regularly boast of Japan as a country of natural beauty. I don’t disagree, I just wonder what they mean by “natural”.
The term wabi-sabi is often dropped by people when describing Japan or something Japanese. Despite it being a Japanese phrase, many Japanese people I’ve talked to have little or no understanding of the concept at all and sum it up like my friend Tomo, “In order to understand Japanese wabi-sabi, you need foreigners to explain to you.”
“Why Tomo, why?”
“This shit old Buddha concept man, modern Jap work 12 hours, wear suit, eat hamburger, drink Starbucks, buy fucking Gucci and Louis Vuitton, you know Asian-American? It’s you white people, Richard Gere-san, love this old Buddhist shit.”
If it weren’t negated by speaking of it, as in any basic Buddhist tenet, simply put, wabi-sabi is an aesthetic appreciation of the understated asymmetric beauty of the ephemeral. Wabi and Sabi are actually separate words, rooted in both Shintō and Zen aesthetics. Wabi (侘), coming from Wa (meaning harmony), refers to a poetic kind of simplicity or distilledness, while Sabi (寂) refers to a declining elegance. The word for rust, also Sabi (though using the character 錆) has a similar nuance: the slow and inevitable erosion of time. In a word: impermanence. I have come to understand it from pestering my friends (who never know) and any older people I meet at the neighborhood sake bar (which always elicits a friendly laugh) as being a kind of interplay between “nature” and “society”, the ubiquitous plant vines spreading across the facades of old buildings, the muted flaws of handmade ceramic ware, a karesansui rock garden. Whereas I have always seen wabi-sabi as space and time, respectively, and exemplified in nature itself as the growth of moss on a tree, the intricate and imperfect patterning of wild mushrooms, the way waves crest and trough in the sea. Whichever is correct, the fact remains that man’s perceived dominance over nature is at the root of the discussion and the Japanese are at the center of any debate of how the culture which gave rise to the wabi-sabi aesthetic (though not necessarily directly) has gone on to irrevocably waste precious resources and help alter the world’s natural landscape. The earth, despite being the giver of life, is an admittedly tough place to eke out an existence and this archipelago of roughly 2000 islands, while blessed with some of the most beautiful forests and mountain ranges in the world — Nagano’s Japan Alps being one of them — is especially wild and unforgiving. From the ubiquitous Japanese gardener in Hollywood films to the national obsession with bonsai trees and the relentless manipulation of all aspects of nature in general, a proper look into wabi-sabi required me to start looking at a cursory examination of the ascendancy of Buddhism in Japan in relation to nature and society. So I started asking questions. Then it got weird.
Libraries in rural Japan may have an English language section, filled with Tom Clancy and Curious George and, much like a liquor stores selection of bourbons you have never heard of, offer dubious harlequin pulp full of pulsating members and heaving breasts. This begs the question, “Is this crap published with a large red stamp “Export Only”…?” Fun for a laugh, but just as useless as thumbing through any text on Buddhism, should you even be able to find one, if your kanji literacy rate wallows below 400 characters: an effort in futility. Coupled with the recent internet bubble just having burst worse than Japanese venture capital conglomerates attempts at buying Pebble Beach and 30 Rock in the 80s, online education portals were pretty sparse in the early 2000s and desperately in need of Web 2.0 design aesthetics, what with their scrolling Comic Sans typeface outlined in day-glo edging across flashing headers, images of a pixelated Buddha spinning in GIF ecstasy, mile-long URLs with nonsensical alphanumeric combinations, as if encoded to hide the divine knowledge they offered, but only to a select few…
So with a bottle of the affordable yet tasty Black Nikka Whisky as my partner in crime I stayed home and took advantage of Buddhism via airmail and early Amazon Japan discounts on shipping, and sought out a two-pronged attack of Alan Watts Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion and Joseph Campbell’s Sake & Satori. Hitting just the right balance with Watts’ beery enlightenment and Campbell’s erudite scholasticism made for entertaining education, especially on something so intimate as personal theological development, and by way of books written by outsiders, no less. It has always seemed to me that when I am most in tune with the divine nature of the world I have been outdoors: hiking in the Sierra Nevada or swimming in the Gulf of Siam. It has always felt antithetical to me the discovery of reading of the wonders of the world rather than racing around and finding one’s own. That said, I have read my fair share on the marvels of nature, and it has led me to blossom out of my Californian desert cocoon.
In a nutshell, Buddhism can in some sense be seen as exported Hinduism. Whereas Hinduism was more than just a religion — largely a culture featuring more than just religious practices but also social castes and institutions — Buddhism came about as a way to the teachings of the Buddha for the non-Hindu world. The first type we see is Theravada (Doctrine of the Saints), a mostly monastic form closely related to Jainism, stressing the teaching of analysis, where Nirvana is achieved by experience, investigation and insight. Another form of this is Hīnayāna (Lesser Vessel) whereby Nirvana is achieved by abandoning society and embracing ascetic hardships. At this point in history (around 500 BCE) all Buddhist art is not of the Buddha himself but of the idea of the Buddha, his symbology (i.e. the Lotus) and bigfoot-esque Buddha footprints, etc. This is because of the heavy reliance on the early depiction of the Buddha as disengaged from his body, disengaged from time. He was Nonentity, Buddha Consciousness, God not in the world.
The Buddha’s hand touching the earth is called Akshobya — to not be moved — imperturbable. This is the original form of Buddhism, disengaged from the field of time, a difficult path largely undertaken by the Hīnayānic monks of India, but not meant for regular joes. The next form would be merely to realize that it is possible to be engaged in the field of time while not being moved. Understanding that life amidst the seeming infinite number of opposites which are actually poles of one another and coexist in a necessary harmony is the Mahayāna, one could arguably say the most popular form of Buddhism in north-east Asia (China, Korea, Japan). As opposed to the attempts by the few to throw off life, to discard the impure body, to free the mind, eventually around 100 CE many people came to realize that this was not necessary, that one could, and does, exist in both realms. This is Buddhism for the masses.
Circa 1st century CE, the Buddha in the form of Man began to be represented in art of all kinds. This art signaled the next phase in Buddhism called Mahāyāna (Greater Vessel). The ethos shifted toward a sense of the Buddha who, while being disengaged from Time, is also engaged in it, as God in the world – a kindly superhero Jesus. People are getting the idea of the oneness of everything, Yin and Yang, space and time, and key in this is the Buddha’s teaching of the “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world”. We — you, me, everything — can possess both Buddha consciousness and be present in the world, simultaneously disengaged and engaged from time. Once the Buddha achieves Nirvana, that is to say realizes the Om oneness of everything, he knows that he is not here, yet also realizes there is nowhere but here. There is no distinction. Nirvana, therefore, is everywhere. One need not submit to ascetic monasticism to achieve enlightenment, but rather delve into the world around, and inside, us. Phew, that was close.
In my search for the path toward understanding what the connection between enlightenment and nature, a friend tossed me a bone, in the form of On the Golden Lion, an obscure essay by the Central Asian Buddhist Fa-tsang which dates to around 700 CE. He was a practitioner of Flower Garland Buddhism, which states that the nature of the infinite can be seen in the infinitesimal. He illustrates this using a statuette of a golden lion. The carving of each aspect of the lion — the teeth, the mane, the tail, et al — represents the various phenomena of the universe — stars, planets, black holes, et al — all different in appearance. Yet their unifying characteristic is that they are made of the same material: gold. “Conditioned arising” refers to the seemingly separate nature of everything in the universe: contrived, opposite, unattached: sushi is sushi and planets are planets, but both are made of stardust. Yet in reality, since the universe is composed of in this case gold — gold ears, gold teeth, gold scrotum — all is one, be it gold or sushi. The Avatamsaka (Flower Garland) Sutra says that the differences are all superficial, and that I should accept that the polluted lake is as sacred as the sushi I so love. Thinking is the problem. But like Tomo always said, “Stop thinking so much man, just enjoy the view!”
– Campbell, Joseph & Kudler, David (2002). Sake & Satori. New World Library
– Carter, Robert Edgar (2007). The Japanese arts and self-cultivation. Suny Press
– Fa-tsang (700CE), On the Golden Lion
– Johnson, Norris Brock (1991). Zuisen Temple and Garden, Kamakura, Japan: Design Form and Phylogenetic Meaning. Journal of Garden History
– Koren, Leonard (1994). Wabi Sabi for artists, designers, poets and philosophers. Berkley, CA: Stone Bridge Press
– McCormack, Gavan (1996). The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence. M.E. Sharpe
– Plutschow, Herbert (1999). An Anthropological Perspective on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Anthropoetics 5, no. 1
– Sasaki, Genjun (1992) Linguistic Approach to Buddhist Thought. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
– Tachibana, Toshitsunawe (Ca. 1000CE) Sakuteiki
– Watts, Alan (1999) Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion. Tuttle Publishing
– Young David & Michiko, (2005) The Art of the Japanese Garden. Tuttle Publishing
– Dig to China – http://map.talleye.com/bighole.php
– Jōdo shū – http://www.jodo.org/teachings/nembutsu.html
– Shogoin Temple, Kyoto, Japan – http://www.shugendo.fr/
– Taylor, Jiro The Waribashi Conundrum – http://www.japanvisitor.com/index.php?cID=361&pID=375
– TED Case Studies – http://www1.american.edu/TED/chopstik.htm
– Web Japan (Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) – http://web-japan.org/
“Dove” immediately marches through your ears, into your brain, releasing that oh-so-coveted, smile-inducing, music-generated dopamine…calling on fond associations of some of the upbeat tracks Phoenix put out in years past.
— The Music Ninja
Pillar Point – Marble Mouth
Scott Reitherman was planning to record the second Pillar Point album at home in Seattle, when he received an unexpected invitation — extended backstage in Phoenix after opening for of Montreal — to cut it at Kevin Barnes’ home studio in Athens, Georgia. Barnes said of the music, “I love how hooky/funky/dancey the songs are. As a complete work, the album transports me into a glamorous milieu. It makes me wanna dress in drag and go to a blue collar bar. Ha ha.”
“I couldn’t believe it to be honest,” says Reitherman. “I was overwhelmed; we’re halfway through the tour and I’m already having the time of my life.”
Riding high from the news, the former Throw Me the Statue frontman devoted the next few months to crafting demos that would bring the solemn but sprightly dance-pop sound found on his self-titled debut into full bloom on his sophomore full-length. Once those were ready, Reitherman traveled to Barnes’ house for a month to eat, sleep, and record — often in the late evening and early morning — alongside such guest musicians as drummer Cameron Gardner (Washed Out) and percussionist Philip Mayer (Kishi Bashi). With the arrangements and basic recordings for Marble Mouth firmly in place, Reitherman fleshed out the vocals and lyrics for the full-length over the next six weeks in New Orleans.
“New Orleans was the most meditative and mysterious part of making the record,” he explains. “I wanted to sink into that city and scrutinize the romantic southern sojourn.
“I knew I’d return to Seattle with a finished record,” he continues, “but the big unknown of what the new environment and new collaborators would impart onto the finished record really influenced how wide open and exciting the writing process felt. In those months leading up to going down South I just had fun rolling the question around in my head; what would this record that Kevin and I make together sound like?”
The result — recorded and mixed by engineer Drew Vandenberg (Toro Y Moi, Deerhunter, of Montreal) — speaks for itself as loudly as the records Reitherman blasted in his childhood bedroom, from the twitchy post-punk of Talking Heads to the Top 40 takeovers of Michael and Janet Jackson. It’s more than a mere nostalgia trip, however; much like the red-blooded dance party that is Pillar Point’s live show, Marble Mouth is a therapeutic sweat lodge of bold drum beats and lean synth lines that layer and wrap each song in kinetic skeletons.
Featuring a hybrid approach to the presentation of its heavyweight pop hooks, the album plants one foot firmly in the ’80s, with the other exploring the outer realm of ultramodern electronic music. Meanwhile, sun-baked samples and vapor-trailed verses allude to everything from LCD Soundsystem to Broadcast, with Pillar Point’s surface-level gravitas hiding in plain sight, as sharp as ever.
With its sparkling odes to Seattle’s famous rain clouds (“Gloomsday”), long-distance relationships (“Part Time Love,” “Dove”), and New Orleans and Athens themselves (“Lafayette,” “Black Fly on a White Wall”), Marble Mouth is catchy and compelling in equal measure and about as honest as a pop record gets. “Dance Like You Wanna Die” indeed.
When in Northern California do as the Humboldtians do, go crabbing. Except when there is a harmful going on. Then you don’t go crabbing. You go eating. But here’s what to do when you can go back in.
Crab. Dungeness Crab. Metacarcinus magister. Named by the English Naval Captain George Vancouver after the arrowhead-shaped headland in Kent, England, this super middleweight gets its name from the town of Dungeness in Washington’s Juan de Fuca Strait, the watery border between the U.S. and Canada. Native only of the Pacific coast with commercial fisheries from Alaska to Point Conception, California, “Dungies” are trap-caught, which allows for the release of bycatch (inadvertent fish caught in trap), and therefore considered sustainable by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
There is a small window in the latter part of the year which allows the recreational fisherman a chance to mine the golden ore of coastal bays before the commercial fleet has a chance to set pots toward their Total Allowable Catch or TAC. Though in most areas, there is no set quota but instead, fishermen are only allowed to land male crabs over 6 1/4 inches. To catch Dungies, crabbers set baited pots attached to numbered buoys and wait. We were waiting in sea-kayaks 500 yards from the beach off of Humboldt Bay, a deep water bay famous for big swells, rocks galore and lots of sealife.
A bisque, traditionally made of shellfish, is the French way, ever frugal and resourceful, of using the leftover bits of seafood too ugly for sale at the fish market. Twice cooked–the shells of the crabs, after boiling for 15 minutes, and cracking, are initially roasted in the oven to release the heady sea salt funk flavor you crave. Then, after constructing the framework of the base are added to the soup only at the end to fortify the peaty ocean taste of wind and seaspray in your face as you stand on the cliff’s edge and face oblivion. So get down to business: got your crab permit? Crab pot? Bait? Flask o’ whisky? Wet Suit? Check. Now get out there and get back here to make your woman some, no not soup, nay, bisque de la mer. Crack open some hearty brew while yer at it…
California Dungeness Crab Bisque
Yield: Serves 6.
- Stockpot full of crab shells
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Several sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 15 whole peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons fancy foreign seasalt
- 1 habanero chile
- 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine (Oregon Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc)
- 4 cups of shellfish stock
- ¼ cup white rice
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 lb or more of cooked crabmeat
- 1 habanero chile
- 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Making the crab stock:
- Preheat the oven to 400. After boiling crab, remove meat and set aside. Break crab shells into smaller pieces by putting in a sealed, thick plastic bag and smashing with a tenderizer. You will want to roast crab shells until you can smell the crabby sea emanating throughout your kitchen.
- Remove from oven and place in stock pot, slowly heating the shells in the water, until little bubbles boil up to the surface, and reduce the heat. Do not let it boil, rather maintain the temperature at a simmer. As stirring up the pot can bring about trouble, do not bother the shells too much. Eventually the surface will develop a film of foam – skim this away. Let the shells cook for an hour, skimming the foam every few minutes, until little remains.
- Put the thyme, bay leaves, and parsley in cheese cloth to make the bouquet garni.
- After the foam has abated, add the wine, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, herb bouquet garni, peppercorns and the habanero. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off foam as it rises. Add salt and remove from heat.
- Strain through a large, fine mesh strainer, over a large bowl and discard the solids. Use the stock right away, and freeze the rest (remember to leave at least two fingers of room at the top of your freezer container for the liquid to expand as it freezes.)
- Makes 2-3 quarts. Reserve 4 cups for the crab bisque.
Making the bisque:
- In a larger stockpot than you think you need, melt butter, add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine, stock, rice, habanero and tomato paste. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to continue to simmer until rice is completely cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes.
- Pour into blender, adding two thirds of the crab meat to the mix. Purée until completely smooth and return to soup pot.
- Taste and add cream, gently heating soup until hot enough for serving, checking heat of habanero is not overpowering (if it is, add a touch more cream and deal with it…). Add the remaining one third of the crab meat. Add salt, fresh cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne).
Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
“Kaiyote” is not a word. It’s a made up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote – it’s a word that involved the listeners creativity as to how they perceive it. So it reminds you of things but it’s nothing specific. When I looked it up on online it was like a bird appreciation society around the world, so for me that was a great omen, because I’m a bird lady. A hiatus is essentially a pause, it’s a moment in time. So, to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing, and “kaiyote” is expressing them in a way involves the listeners creativity.
— Nai Palm, explaining the bands name.
Hiatus Kaiyote is a future-soul quartet (Nai Palm (vocals, guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keyboards) and Perrin Moss (drums, percussion)) from Melbourne. Choose Your Weapon released by Flying Buddha in May. Singer songwriter Nai Palm stated she had a vision for Hiatus Kaiyote’s brand of future soul. “I always knew I wanted to be in a band, but I never knew it could be my own conversation.” It didn’t take long for that vision to attract attention. Gilles Peterson of Crossover Jazz fame named them the Breakthrough Artist of 2013.
The band released their debut album Tawk Tomahawk independently in 2012, noticed by numerous musicians including Q-Tip, Animal Collective, The Dirty Projectors, and Erykah Badu. When Salaam Remi of Sony started up the Flying Buddha label and distributed their debut album world wide, later introducing the band to Q-Tip, it led to him featuring on a remix of “Nakamarra” included on the re-release of their debut, that was then nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Performance, performed with Q-Tip himself. The band released Choose Your Weapon in May 2015. Lead vocalist Nai Palm described the album as an “extension” of their debut, and stated she and the band had no intention to make one genre body of work.
“The title Ivy Tripp is really just a term I made up for directionless-ness, specifically of the 20-something, 30-something, 40-something of today, lacking regard for the complaisant life path of our parents and grandparents.”
Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
From Merge Records
Katie Crutchfield’s southern roots are undeniable. The name of her solo musical project Waxahatchee comes from a creek not far from her childhood home in Alabama and seems to represent both where she came from and where she’s going. Since leaving home, Crutchfield has drifted between New York and Philadelphia but chose to return to Alabama to write her first two albums: American Weekend, her debut filled with powerful lo-fi acoustic tracks full of lament, and Cerulean Salt, a more developed and solid narrative about growing up. Both are representations of a youthful struggle with unresolved issues and unrequited feelings.
Waxahatchee’s latest record, Ivy Tripp, drifts confidently from these previous albums and brings forth a more informed and powerful recognition of where Crutchfield has currently found herself. The lament and grieving for her youth seem to have been replaced with control and sheer self-honesty. “My life has changed a lot in the last two years, and it’s been hard for me to process my feelings other than by writing songs,” says Crutchfield. “I think a running theme [of Ivy Tripp] is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming, or just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and to grow from that.”
The band that plays together, produces together. Kyle Gilbride (guitar, keys, synth and tambourine), Keith Spencer (guitar, bass, drums and keys) round out Katie Crutchfield (guitar, keys, synth and vocals). Recorded and engineered by Kyle Gilbride of Wherever Audio at Crutchfield’s home on New York’s Long Island—with drums recorded in the gym of a local elementary school—Ivy Tripp presents a more developed and aged version of Waxahatchee.
“I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see. I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world. I want to present myself in a way that reflects that.”
Crutchfield is accompanied by both Gilbride and Keith Spencer on Ivy Tripp, and the record was produced by all three of them. With the addition of more guitar work, piano, drum machines, and Crutchfield’s vocals in full bloom, we are given a record that feels more emphatic and pronounced. Ivy Tripp opens with “Breathless,” filled with only a distorted keyboard and layers of vocals, showcasing Waxahatchee’s pension for quiet, personal reflection. The record then opens up into “Under a Rock,” a quicker guitar-driven song that lays the foundation for the rest of the album, which as a whole resonates with strong, self-aware lyrics, energetic ballads, and powerfully hushed moments of solitude. Crutchfield’s voice is certainly the guiding force behind Ivy Tripp—commanding and voluminous in the rock song “Poison,” candied and pure in the frolicking “La Loose”—gripping you tightly and then softly releasing you into the wilds of emotion.
Crutchfield says, “I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see. I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world. I want to present myself in a way that reflects that.”
Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago
As the story goes, when legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and given carte blanche to perform at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, he immediately thought of his old jam buddies from the early 1960s, the founding sessions of which had led to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose most hallowed disciples formed the Art Ensemble of Chicago, resolutely documented on ECM. As Roscoe Mitchell recalls, “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off.” To be sure, the conversation between reedmen Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Larry Gray, and DeJohnette himself feels like it’s been going on forever. Despite the fact that these musicians had never recorded before as a quintet, much less played as one, it feels as if they have been plowing through ether on its way to the cosmos all along, and that we can count ourselves fortunate for catching even a snippet of their time on this planet. As if in service of this analogy, the recording is very present in relation to the musicians, while the crowd cheers like some distant panel of stars whose appreciation arrives light-years after the fact.
Mitchell—who plays alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, and Baroque flute—offers two substantial originals to the stage. “Chant” cracks the concert’s outer shell with a sacred tap. From raw, arpeggiated materials it constructs a body from the ground up and, by addition of instruments, imbues it with consciousness. Likewise, every member knows his place in the larger symphony of his setup. DeJohnette pays off his timbral dues with handfuls of Benjamins, especially in his dialoguing with Mitchell, while Threadgill touches off more angular lines of flight. Gray meanwhile appears, stealthily at first but with increasing conviction, to be the psychological impetus behind it all. But it’s Abrams whose torrent of ideas seems most organic. Like a healing energy itself in want of healing, he plays the all-important trickster as Threadgill curls his fist in staunch refusal of suspension. Thus do we return to the center of the spiral, only to find another waiting to be sung. The aptly titled “This” reveals an adjacent facet, fronting Baroque recorder and Threadgill’s bass flute in an excursion of astute reflectivity. Abrams again proves vital to the physical nature of this sound, his pianism attaining downright Beethovenian proportions.
The bandleader’s “Museum Of Time” fuels the Abrams fire. Spanning a gamut from whirlwind to delicacy, its touch provides spatial reference for the reeds and a still larger context for the slippery groove in which DeJohnette and Gray find themselves. Threadgill’s “Leave Don’t Go Away” flips this approach, beginning in interlocking fashion before spawning a lone piano with a mind of its own. Bass and drums jive their way into frame, while sopranino nears bursting from the strength of its inner poetics. And then there is “Jack 5” by Abrams himself. Light cymbals clear the air before late-night sounds ground an alto and all the soulful things it has to say. DeJohnette then takes the reigns and builds his steed one muscle at a time, each part mutually independent of motion.
(Click to hear samples of Made In Chicago)
Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, bass flute
Roscoe Mitchell alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, Baroque flute
Muhal Richard Abrams piano
Larry Gray double bass, cello
Jack DeJohnette drums
Produced by Dave Love and Jack DeJohnette
Recording engineer: Martin Walters
Assistant engineers: Jeremiah Nave and Daniel Santiago
Recorded live August 29, 2013 at the Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park Chicago at the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival
Mixed at Avatar Studio, New York by Manfred Eicher, Jack DeJohnette, and James A. Farber (engineer)
Mastered at MSM Studios, München, by Christoph Stickel
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Saucy and Deep-fried, that’s how I like my sushi.
Sushi’s expensive, so I look for something filling, like the Colossal Roll.
I don’t like the taste of seaweed, and they don’t have soy wrappers here–I don’t know why–so I get the inside-out caterpillar: lots of avocado!
— Typical statements heard at sushi bars all over the United States.
The fact that sushi is considered by many to be a “health food” makes one think about the current state of health in the U.S. Supposing that rice and fish–buried as they are in deep-fried, oil-soaked batter and spicy mayo–are healthier than hormone-filled CAFO-lot raised beef burgers is not completely crazy, especially if it’s the average American middle class citizen making the assumption. Consumers are seeking new food choices and quality appears to be chief among desires. Yet as the desire for better food makes economic headway in the market, we must also look to biological reasons as to why a cuisine as simple and delicious as Japanese style sushi got Turduckened into Franken-roll Sushi American Style.
Sushi American Style
Japanese style sushi is all about the fish. Less about roll-sushi and more about nigiri. Forget the overbearing sauce and taste the subtle flavors of vinegar and fresh raw fish, be they the upfront oily aji to the smooth, buttery sake or the creamy, oleaginous maguro or even the slightly sweet ama-ebi and anago, there are a vast frontier of undiscovered tastes within the world of Japanese sushi, each so exquisitely slight that to oversauce, or in the case of much of the rest of the world–to freeze anything that is harvested from the sea–is to destroy that delicate polish from a discerning palate.
In its own inverse way to the American version, it too is about size. But rather than an 8-piece roll deep-fried and doused in syrupy soy-based sauce, Japanese style sushi, what is called Nigiri-zushi, is really about the process of enjoying life’s small pleasures to the fullest.
Bitchin Roll – Deep Fried Sushi
The western most sushi restaurant in North America, Harbor Sushi combines the best of traditional Japanese sushi & pub food with an American edge. The Bitchin Roll–with fresh Alaskan King Crab, avocado, cream cheese rolled up, tempura fried, and topped with a sweet Unagi sauce–is a great example of that.
But let’s not misunderstand what’s going on. We are taking very delicate fresh seafood ingredients, wrapping them up in flavored rice and seaweed, slathering them in a tempura style batter, and deep frying them in 350 degree vegetable oil for 2.5 minutes until the cream cheese starts to melt. I didn’t actually eat one until I was pretty much black out drunk. By that time it was cold. But I ate three. Three Rolls. COld. Semi-soggy. They were still awesome. I did feel guilty the next day when I managed to remember it all.
To be clear, this style of “sushi” represents a kind of life that, despite my past, I no longer lead, so it is hard to come to grips with the shear sales that deep fried sushi generates. My purer inner self wants to take it off the menu and offer a crispy autumn leaf and barley tea instead with a dry winter twig for teeth cleaning. I cannot fathom the kind of person who goes into a sushi restaurant–sober mind you–and orders something like this willingly, thinking that they are getting anything like a traditional sushi experience. But maybe that’s the secret. It’s nothing like traditional. An even if it were, 1) they wouldn’t know and 2) they probably wouldn’t like it at all…So fuck it, enjoy.