Tea for the Bloggerman

T5AotW: Week 21
December 28, 2008, 10:30 pm
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Week 21

1. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Miles and Coltrane, nuff said.

2. Discography by Pet Shop Boys
“Where the Streets Have No Name (Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You)” is excellent, as is other songs.

3. The Best of The Velvet Underground
Lou Reed and John Cale, nuff said.

4. New York by Lou Reed
A very good solo album by Lou Reed. About New York. What else is new?

5. The Byrds’ Greatest Hits
Jingle-jangle goes the 12-string guitar.


America Reads
December 23, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Misc., Tea | Tags: , ,

I had an interview with the America Reads chapter at UNLV yesterday and I was hired! Starting in January, I will be going to yet-to-be-determined elementary schools in the valley on Monday-Wednesdays to tutor struggling students in reading. I think this will be a great opportunity to serve my community, get teaching experience, AND make some extra money. I’ll still be working at Michael’s Books on Friday and Saturdays so there is no worry there. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it all though. Two jobs, six classes, plus other planned activities (book club and poetry readings at the bookstore, blues guitar/harp workshops in Henderson, etc). Oh boy oh boy I’ll be busy.

In tea news, my “Green Tea Starter Set” from Den’s Tea came in the mail today. A bunch of samples of green tea plus some informative pamphlets on Japanese green tea for $3 shipping included. What a deal. I tried the sample of Sencha Fuka-midori that came with the set and I love it. I’ll will definitely be buying more of it in the future. Much better than the Maeda-en brand Gold Sencha I have been drinking for the past week. Also, the tea from Den’s has a noticeably larger amount of caffeine in it. I had two infusions of it and I’m bouncing around the house.

T5AotW: Week 20
December 22, 2008, 9:27 pm
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Week 20: December 22nd

A day late but nobody reads these anyway.

1. American Airlines theme song
I found this 7” at the thrift store the other day and what a find! It’s from 1975 and it was a promotional record sent to employees of American Airlines to debut their new theme song and advertising campaign. The first side has a message from Bob Crandall who I guess was a big shot with the company at the time and the second side has the full theme song. It’s wonderful stuff.

2. One from the Heart soundtrack by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle
Between Tom Waits’ monumental albums Heartattack and Vine and Swordfishtrombones is this oddity in the Tom Waits ouevre. Sounding nothing like Tom Waits’ other work, this album is both a stand-out and outstanding. Beautiful jazzy-lounge melodies accompanied by Gayle’s lovely voice. The instrumental Tango on this album is, in my opinion, a sort of coming attractions for the material on Swordfishtrombones.

3. December by Chris Botti
I saw Chris Botti in Montreal at a free tribute concert to Leonard Cohen. He inagurated the concert and the whole jazz festival with a beautiful trumpet rendition of “Hallelujah” and later on in the evening he came down to the stage to play “A Thousand Kisses Deep” with the lyrics to the song being projected behind him. This album not only contains his rendition of “Hallelujah” but also a wonderful selection of Christmas music that would make any jazz lover’s belly shake like a bowl full of jelly.

4. Hymns of the 49th Parallel by k.d. lang
I like k.d. lang’s voice. She is very nice. Two great Leonard Cohen covers on this CD, plus other covers by famous Canadian singers. The only real downside to this album is her cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.” It goes on FOREVER.

5. Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979 by Leonard Cohen
LC himself. What can I say about Leonard that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before? This is a great CD of beautifully-recorded live tracks. Until the live album is released from Leonard’s 2008-09 tour, if you want a taste of the live Leonard experience get this.

And she brings you tea and oranges…
December 20, 2008, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Tea | Tags: , ,

It finally happened: I have become obsessed with tea. I have been a lifelong tea drinker, ever since my Grandmother made me a cup of her Orange Spice tea when I was really little. I always drink tea. At restaurants I drink tea, at work I drink tea, at home I drink tea. Tea tea tea. This is nothing new for me.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to loose leaf tea. Wtf, no tea bag? Yes. I was in Lititz, PA and I went into an herb shop sold loose tea. I got four kinds: Russian Caravan, a berry blend, spearmint for my stomach, and orange spice. I also bought a strainer. Since trying that loose leaf tea there was no going back. I was hooked on the good stuff.

I started ordering tea online, trying all different kinds of black tea and life was good. However I recently saw a documentary on tea that has changed my way of thinking about tea. In the documentary they show how the tea is grown, harvested, and processed, as well as an in-depth look at how to brew tea, what pottery to use for what kinds, and what some of the most expensive tea looks like. I was amazed. So intricate! I had to give it a try. I was going Gongfu.

This is the start of my tea journey, so I’ll be adding entries here on that journey. I went out to the Japan Food Market here in Las Vegas and bought the following: a packet of Maeda-en Sencha green tea, Maeda-en Hojicha roasted green tea, and a small Kyusu (Japanese clay teapot for brewing green tea) and cup set. The following day I bought a small timer, a measuring cup (shaped like a chickeny egg), a small stone water pitcher, and a lobster butter warmer that I have converted into a teapot warmer. In the very near future I plan on going to Chinatown to look for some Chinese teaware so that I may venture into Gongfu-style Oolong and Puer-eh. Until then, this is what I have. It’s going to be a fun and tasty journey.


The Politics of Spongebob
December 15, 2008, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: ,

With winter vacation in full-swing, I have had a lot of time to lazy around and watch cartoons. Well I just watched an episode of Spongebob Squarepants I had not seen before and I am quite impressed.  Now I love Spongebob, but I didn’t think it much as a vehicle for politics, but I was wrong!

This episode begins with Mr. Krabs singing the joys of money and of greed. When he finishes his song, a wealthy businessman and his associates enter the Krusty Krab looking for the owner. It is soon revealed that the wealthy businessman is none other than the man who engineered the ruthless takeover over many of the mom-‘n-pop restaurants in Bikini Bottom and transformed them into chain restaurants. He offers Mr. Krabs a truck full of money for the Krusty Krab and he accepts.

Soon Mr. Krabs finds retirement not quite what he expected and goes back to the Krab to get a job. Upon returning to the Krab he finds how drastic the changes are. Even though the restaurant looked more impressive and had many more customers, the new owners controlled the staff with an iron fist, forcing them to follow regulation upon regluation. The Krabby Patties were no longer handmade with love from the finest ingredients. Oh no. They were made on a conveyer belt using artifical food substitutes. To quote the new manager of the Krusty Krab: “our customers are quite satisfied with the contrived and the mediocre.”

Mr. Krabs realizes the error of his ways and reveals the horrid nature of the food they have been serving. The people run in fear, the machines malfunction and destroy the Krab, Mr. Krab buys back the restaurant, and they start over from scratch. Overall, a happy ending.

This is obviously a social critique at big chain restaurants like McDonalds and Starbucks who drive independent businesses to ruin so they can make ridiculous profit hocking their third-rate products to unsuspecting and unthinking consumers. While this may be good business, it cuts the heart out of the American economy: the belief that with hard work, dedication, and innovation, great success is possible. This ethic has been largely replaced by corportate greed and the tendency for the American consumer to jump off the proverbial cliff like lemmings. It is a sad fate.

The second part of the episode involves Spongebob being worried that his “laugh box” is wearing out and that he needs to stop laughing forever. A political interpretation of this portion will follow shortly. Kidding!

T5AotW: Week 19
December 14, 2008, 6:51 pm
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Week 19:

1. Heathen by David Bowie
Got this LP at Cash4Chaos, a little punk rock store near the university. $8. This LP is selling for around $70 on Amazon.com. Pretty sweet. This is one of Bowie’s best albums, from 2002. It’s a very dark and moody album. Not that anyone cares my opinion.

2. Blue Valentine by Tom Waits
“Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minnenapolis” is my favorite Christmas song.

3. Hunky Dory by David Bowie
“Queen Bitch,” “Life on Mars?” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Changes.” Great album.

4. Diamond Dogs by David Bowie
Another great Bowie album. Many of the songs were written to be a part of a musical based on George Orwell’s 1984. The musical was never made but the songs exist.

5. Heartattack and Vine by Tom Waits
Got this the same day I got the Heathen record. I love this CD. A perfect bridge between Tom Wait’s gritty lounge music to his hard-driving bluesy avant garde theatrics. I consider this to be his “Station to Station.”

T5AotW: Week 18
December 7, 2008, 10:42 pm
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Week Eighteen: December 7th

1. King of the Delta Blues Singers by Son House
I don’t have a real copy of this so I used a photo of Son House for the picture. The title of the album expresses my opinion of Son House: he was the alpha and the omega, chillun. I recently re-retuned one of my guitars to Open G so I could play Death Letter Blues. Such a moving song, so emotional. I love Son dearly.

2. Iggy Pop
I have NOT been listening to Fun House this week, but I have been listening to a lot of Iggy Pop this week this will be my stand in. Mainly “The Passenger” (fun to play along with on the harmonica) and some assorted other songs. There’s an interesting video on youtube of Iggy playing “Louie, Louie,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “Pablo Picasso” on an acoustic guitar. I didn’t know the Iguana was left-handed until I saw that video. =]

3. Red Patent Leather by New York Dolls
The New York Dolls are new to me but they have taken my mind by storm. I am very much interested in early punk, especially live early punk shows. There’s something about the energy of the performances that appeal to me. This is a solidly good New York Dolls album that displays this never-ending pool of energy that early punk shows had. Plus the NYD had such a strong blues influence to their sound, it’s delicious. They cover Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” on a couple of albums and Mr. David plays his harp on a number of tracks on this CD. Good stuff.

4. Anti- Sampler
The only songs I’ve been listening to on this are “Dig Lazarus, Dig!” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and the track by N.A.S.A featuring Tom Waits. The Nick Cave song is okay but could be stronger, but the Tom Waits song is surprisingly excellent. Tom Waits can take any musicial genre and call it his own, and rap is no exception. A great collaboration, but I hope Tom leaves it at that. I would hate to see a full studio album of Tom hip-hopping it up. I can see it now. Bowler hat and black blazer with a Flava Flav clock and grill. Lord don’t let that happen.

5. The Alligator Records Christmas CD
Bluesy holiday songs. William Clarke and Charlie Musselwhite do some excellent harmonica blowing on this.