Sure Seems Like I’ve Heard It Before: New Song by Brit Singer Adele Sounds a Heckuva Lot Like “Kaw-Liga”

Spending almost 2 hours a day commuting these days, I hear a lot of music on a variety of stations.  I don’t know all the new artists, but my ear tells me there’s a lot of lifting from older music.  I can appreciate Lady Gaga’s stands on gay issues, but despite her over-the-top outfits, she’s hardly an original; nor is her music.  A lot of her songs sound a lot like pieces of Madonna’s and other dance groups’ hits.  Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” sure sounded to me like I was hearing the old Swedish group, Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” at the beginning, then segueing in to what seemed very near to Madonna’s “Isla Bonita.”

There was a song with a male singer a month or so ago that was playing that I would have sworn was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”  However, I have yet to catch the title or singer of that song.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sirius radio lately, especially to BPM (the dance music station) and BBC Radio 1.  On both, I’ve recently been hearing this song with a female singer, and I was sure I had heard it before, but just couldn’t place it.  The song is “Rolling in the Deep” by a new British singer-songwriter, named Adele.

I’m thinking that Adele might have been listening to a lot of Hank Williams Sr., the popular singer-songwriter, who died in the early 1950s.  The melody that comes from “Rolling in the Deep” sounds very similar to that of Williams’ “Kaw-Liga,” which I remember hearing a lot when I was a very little kid, because everyone in my family loved that song.  When I listen to the Adele song, I can’t help hearing “Kaw-Liga was a wooden Indian . . . .”

Adele’s version, of course, is a bit more up-tempo and ventures away from the main tune at times,  but it even has a similar drumbeat in the background.

Take a listen to both versions; play the beginnings of both songs, switching back and forth a few times, and you’ll definitely hear how similar the melodies are.  Despite not being able to get “Kaw-Liga” out of my head, I still like the Adele song quite a bit.

Here’s the Adele song:

Now here’s Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga”:

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Tornadoes Ravage Six Southern States After Anti-Gay Actions Taken by Legislatures, Hate Groups, and Individuals from Those States

 All of this has happened in 2011:

    • Tennessee–State Senate panel advances law that would prohibit the discussion of homosexuality in schools.
    • Virginia–The State Attorney General says that state board does not have authority to allow gay adoptions.
    • Georgia–Atlanta Braves pitching coach is investigated for making anti-gay slurs and gestures.
    • Alabama–A lesbian was beaten and then arrested by a group outside a bar.
    • Kentucky–A member of the Masonic Lodge in Lexington was kicked out for being gay.
    • Mississippi–The designated hate group, American Family Association, started a boycott against Home Depot for making donation to a gay organization.

Then, over a 24-hour period on April 27 and 28, 2011, a devastating storm with major tornadoes wreaked its havoc on the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia.  Don’t see any cause-effect relationship here?  You mean you don’t think it was the wrath of God?  Nothing but a coincidence?

Then why does anyone give evangelists, such as Pat Robertson and John Hagee, any credence when they have blamed gay people for events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti Earthquake?

Can’t Get to a Greek Taverna? Get Some Mediterranean Flavor By Making Homemade Tzaziki and Roasted Vegetables

I have fond memories of my Air Force days in Greece (read more here), and especially of going out to local tavernas or finding one near some isolated beach.  Although its cognate in English, tavern, generally conjures up images of a place where men sit around tables with a mugs of beer in hand, sometimes singing chanties, a Greek taverna is the ubiquitous informal restaurant, which almost always has some kind of grill for cooking meat and tables outside, where patron sit under the shade of an arbor or umbrellas.

The typical meal that almost ordered was served in courses.  First came the Greek salad, with chunks of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, thickly cut pieces of juicy cucumber, and a slice or two of onion, all topped with a small slab or two of feta, several dark olives, and sometimes a tart pickled pepper.  Oil and vinegar were already on the table ready for drizzling.  Next arrived long stripped of battered and deep-fried zucchini and at about the same time, french fries.  But think big, chunky home fries here, not thin, McDonald’s style.  Along with the zucchini and potatoes appeared a small plate with the filled with a puddle of yummy tzaziki (sometimes spelled “tzatziki”), the slightly tart, yogurt-cucumber accompaniment for the zucchini and potatoes, and the soon-to-arrive, grilled meat.

Tavernas didn’t usually offer desserts, although some might have had some rice pudding, or something similar, for the asking.  Usually the meal ended with a small cup of thick Greek coffee (others call this Turkish coffee), which could be ordered three ways:  bitter, metrio (a Greek word I still remember, because this is what I ordered)–medium sweet, and glykos–very sweet.  Some other ways to end the meal might be a small glass ouzo, the well-known Greek alcohol, something I never acquired a taste for.  Generally, if something tastes like licorice, it should be licorice candy!

If there is one thing that makes me immediately think of Greece, it’s tzaziki.  I never learned to make it when I lived in Greece because if I cooked for myself, I didn’t cook Greek food.  However, when I got out of the Air Force and started living out in the plains of western Kansas, I began to miss the taverna food.  Greek salads were easy enough to replicate, though in those days, and especially living so far from any city, finding feta cheese was difficult.  I also learned to make a great pastitsio, which, for those who don’t know this casserole dish, might be described as Greek lasagna.

Because I like tzaziki so much, I have tried, based on various recipes, to make it,  but I’ve never been completely satisfied with the results.  One reason is because the recipes asked that liquids be drained from the yogurt overnight through a cloth in a colinder.  Even when the other ingredients were added, I never felt like I ended up with very “authentic” tzaziki.

I don’t eat yogurt on a regular basis, so I haven’t paid much attention to it in the super market.  However, in just the last several months, I’ve been hearing Greek yogurt being advertised, so I took a look in the dairy section.  Surprisingly, there were several different brands with quite a few different flavors along with plain.

Most of what's needed to make quick, fresh tzaziki.

Just recently, by trial and error with the Greek-style yogurt, I’ve created my own tzaziki recipe that is quick, and I think compares well with that from the tavernas.  I used my palate to do it without even a glance at my old Greek cookbook.  I have never deep-fried anything, so I wouldn’t even attempt to make the taverna-style zucchini and french fries, but I think this tzaziki goes great with the roasted vegetables and any meat from my outdoor grill.

And now it’s grilling season again.  Last year, I went to Lowe’s (read that post here) and became a first-time gas grill owner.  And I have never looked back.  I love taste and texture of grilled meats done on the grill, not to mention, no extra heat or greasy smoke smell in the house.  But the grill basket I received for Christmas has changed my whole idea about grilling.

These roasted veggies will be even better with some tzaziki slathered on them.

I’ve found that roasting on the grill makes for more delectable vegetables than just about any other way of cooking.  I’ve already tried roasting quite a few different vegetables:  potatoes, carrots, onions, yellow squash, acorn squash, zucchini, okra, bell peppers, and broccoli, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.  Like with grilling meat, it’s important to know your own barbeque grill, especially how to regulate the heat and where the food that you’re cooking needs to be placed on the grill so that it gets cooked like you like it, but doesn’t burn.  Here’s what I do:

Roasted Vegetables on the Grill

Make sure the grill grates are clean.  Then light all the burners on high, close the lid and let the grill get hot.

Prepare the vegetables by washing and cleaning them.  For potatoes, cut off any blemishes or dark spots, but you don’t have to eye or peel them.  Trim and cut carrots.  Cut the stem and bottom ends off of vegetables like zucchini and yellow squash.  Clean out the seeds from any type of peppers.

Cut the vegetables into manageable pieces–about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick works well for most vegetables like potatoes, onions, and squash.  More fragile vegetables such as bell peppers should just be quartered.  Potatoes and hard squash take longer to cook that other vegetables, so if you are cooking these together with other vegetables, zap them in the microwave for a couple minutes to give them a head start; however, you don’t want them fully cooked.

To season, put the vegetable pieces in a big bowl.  Splash on some olive or vegetable oil.  Then sprinkle with seasonings you like, such as black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, chile powder, ground cumin, and oregano.  I also add Kroger brand salad dressing and Asian black pepper sauce.  Use a couple of spatulas and gently stir to coat the vegetables with the oil and spices.  I don’t use regular salt either before or afterwards, but you can lightly sprinkle on salt after the grilling.

When I’m to grill the vegetables, I turn the burner which I’ll use for them to medium, but leave the others on high.  Burgers and steaks usually cook faster than the vegetables, so I start the veggies first.  Place the grill basket on the grill so that you can put in the vegetables without burning yourself.  You could also put the basket on a tray before you go to the grill and add the vegetables.  Layer the vegetables with those that need more cooking time, like potatoes and carrots on the bottom.  Scrape any remaining seasoning from the bowl onto the vegetables; move the basket to the back and close the lid.  After 6=8 minutes, use a long barbeque, tong-spatula to start checking and turning the vegetables.  Gently turn them 3 or 4 times throughout the cooking process to get them golden brown and done.  Cooking time can vary depending on the amount and type of vegetables. Using cooking mitts, carefully remove the basket from the grill.

Homemade Tzaziki (Trip to the Outhouse Style)

  • 1 small container of Greek-style yogurt (5-6 oz.)
  • 1 very small cucumber or 1/2 of a larger cucumber peeled
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 small scallion (green onion) including part of the top, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar (you might try lemon juice too)
  • black pepper

In a food processor, pulse the garlic and green onion until very fine.  Add the vinegar and pulse in.  Add the cottage cheese and pulse until creamy.  Add the cucumber that you’ve cut up into chunks.  (If the seeds in the cucumber look mature, scoop them out and discard them.  Don’t add them into the mixture.) Pulse until the cucumber is in smaller bits.  Sprinkle on some black pepper and add the yogurt.  Pulse until all the ingredients are just blended.

Make the tzaziki at least a couple of hours before your meal and store in the refrigerator.  It will keep in a covered container for 2-4 days in the refrigerator.  Serve in a bowl or on a plate with a little olive oil drizzled over the top.  If your meal is more formal, serve on small individual plates.

This recipe makes about 2 cups, which should be quite enough for a 1-family meal.  You could increase the amount by doubling the ingredients except for the garlic and green onion.

A Sunday Drive: In Search of Bluebonnets

Barely out of the car, Annie is panting in the hot sun at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. These were some of the few bluebonnets we encountered.

Having finally accomplished the long-put-off doing of my income taxes before noontime, and with the yard and garden work already finished for the weekend, I coaxed Annie into the car and off we headed out 290 in quest of bluebonnets.

The bluebonnet is the the Texas state flower, and for a few weeks in spring, the roadsides and pastures can be ablaze in color from the bluebonnets and other wildflowers, especially the Indian paintbrush

Without seeing a glimpse of a bluebonnet, we drove as far as the quaint, old town of Chappell Hill and turned onto a side road.  This asphalt lane, like so many other roads in the Texas Hill Country, seems to be filled with natural beauty and history.  It never ceases to amaze me how on one piece of land you’ll see a humble dwelling that probably was once a share-cropper’s house, and then, not even a quarter mile down the road, a 6 or 7 figure “swankienda” stretches out into the acreage.  But these, along with the green meadows and wooded creeks, make for a drive that forces you to go at a speed slower than that of Granny going to church.

After about 50 miles of driving, a small, hillside field showed off its indigo glory, but the cars and motorcycles that were already stopped left no place to pull over and try to take pictures of a small dog romping amongst the bluebonnets.

So on we went a few miles, and ended up at Washington, Texas, which is the place where the Texas Declaration of Indepedence from Mexico was signed.  Many years ago, a big part of the area was made into the Washington-on-the-
Brazos State Park
.  It’s really a wonderful place, not too overdone with the history part.  There’s a museum and a visitors center, but there are also places to picnic and lots of trails to walk and discover the history as well as nature’s beauty.

With a 92-degree south wind pushing at us, a maybe mile-long walk was about enough to do in a guy and a little dog.  I’d brought water for her, which she lapped up when we got back to the car, but after getting the AC going, I began looking for a convenience store to find a cold drink for myself.

We did find some bluebonnets in the park, but either it’s still a bit early or the drought has caused the bluebonnets to suffer this year.  Whatever.  We had a good day on our quest, finding more than the flowers.

Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. This looks like a replica to me; maybe some of the boards are original.

Some of the flowering plants growing along the pathways. The pinkish-purple appears to be a native verbena. The white blossoms on the other plant were pretty, but the stem looked very prickly.

The park has many trails to wander, some along the Brazos River. Here and there, youll find informational signage, telling about the history of the site, but these signs do not interfere with just enjoying the tranquillity of the area.

Pieces of history, like this old water well, are evident throughout the park, but because the park has not been "over-developed", the visitor can almost feel like he is discovering artifacts.

Located outside of the state park, current-day Washington, Texas holds hardly more than some kind of eatery and a post office.

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Take Your Choice of Preachers: Bible Sneaker or Plastic Smiler; Yeah, You Take Your Choice, Not Everyone Is That Naive

Mine is a quiet, one-block, cul de sac street.  In fact, even though a couple of families have teenage kids, I didn’t know it until I had lived in my house for about six months.  Aside from lawn mowers and edgers, the loudest it gets around here is on the rare occasions when the Vietnamese family that lives catty-corner plays Asian music out of their garage.  I’ve gotten to know a few of my neighbors enough to invite to my house or be invited over, but with the rest, it’s mostly a wave here and a “how’s it going” there.

My neighbors across the street fall into the “how’s it going” category.  They are a pleasant enough couple.  I had heard that the husband was a “preacher,” but that didn’t bother me, and they certainly like my dog.  And generally, anybody that likes my dog, I like.

  However, what these neighbors did after I arrived home from  an out-of-town, Christmas holidays trip still colors my view of them.

One night a couple of days before New Years, I was sitting watching a movie and the doorbell rang.  When I flicked on the porch light, there they were smiling, saying they had something for me.  During our quick chit-chat, an aluminum-foil covered paper plate was shoved into my hands; then a few more niceties were exchanged, and they headed back to their house.  I knew when the plate was given to me there was something else with it, but not until I had gotten into my lighted kitchen did I discover what accompanied the somewhat haggard (I love all the connotations that word brings ) plate of candy was a Bible.

It rubbed me the wrong way immediately, and even though a few days later, I threw everything into the trash, including the untouched candy, their little “present” makes me feel uncomfortable when I see these otherwise nice neighbors.  I think it’s pretty presumptuous of people to push off religious materials anywhere, but for neighbors to try to sneak me a Bible takes a lot of nerve, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of religionists do.  They somehow think they know what other people need.  These people don’t know anything about my personal beliefs, but I doubt that they would try to give a Bible to the Sikh family that lives a block away.

I wonder how they’d feel if someone tried to bring them a Koran.  Actually, if I wanted to push the “neighborly” envelope a bit, I’d cook up something tasty and slip a DVD of “Queer as Folk” under it and take over to them.  But, I do think they are decent enough people and are just who they are.

These people are a far cry from another Houstonian preacher, Joel Osteen.  Last Sunday morning, between gardening and coffee, I was flipping through the channels; there he was–with his smile, more plastic and longer-lasting that that of a Miss American pageant contestant.  That, along with the forever-blinking eyes and sing-song, nasal voice, made me click over to another channel in less than 30 seconds, but not before I saw “Joel Osteen Tickets” flash across the bottom of the screen.

It seems like  ever since the Osteen’s bought the Summit (more recently dubbed the Compaq Center), the former home of the Houston Rockets’ games and other sports events, to be his Lakewood Church, Osteen has been on the big-time gravy train.  I knew there were books and all kinds of TV interviews, where he has all kinds of unkind things to say about gay people.  Then last year, he bought a $10.5 million house in Houston’s swank River Oaks.  You’d think what is made from the crowd at the Houston location would be enough to make do.

But follow up on the “Joel Osteen Tickets”, and you find that he’s selling out huge venues, just like Lady Gaga–for Gaga-like ticket prices.  “Discounted” tickets are going for as high as $485 for one “show” in Raleigh, NC.

Do they sell tickets when the pope makes appearances?  I never heard that Billy Graham did, or Oral Roberts, even when he was doing all the laying-on-of hands “healing”.

It sure looks like it’s big business, but for every snake oil salesman, there are the hundreds, or thousands, who want a nip of that snake oil.

I’ll take the Bible sneaker over Mr. Plastic Smile. The former probably has his heart in the right place, but is a bit misguided; the latter is just a salesman, in not too convincing of a disguise, especially when those pockets are so filled up.

Now That April Fool’s Day Has Passed, It’s Time To See How the Garden Is Growing

Annie is always ready to assistant in checking out how the garden is growing. (4-2-11)

When it becomes garden time, this blog could be one of the most boring in all of the blogosphere; however, my little patch helps keep me on an even keel, so I like to add a pic here and there just as a record for myself of what I planted when and how things are growing.

It’s just been about 2 weeks since I put in the last photo, but the entire plot looks so much greener.  The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and most of the beans have started on their second set of leaves.  I didn’t over-plant this year, so I’ve had to go back and drop in a seed or two in places where the originals didn’t sprout.  I have a total of 7 tomato plants and 4 sweet peppers, not counting the 1 volunteer tomato that I discovered a couple days ago; it probably came from the compost that I added last winter.

I need to get in and hoe out the chickweed and elm tree sprouts that would cover the ground if it weren’t for the vegetable plants; however, unfortunately–or fortunately–we have had enough odd showers to keep the garden soil a bit too moist for that task.

The neighbors across the street are having a garage sale, which they started preparing for before 6 AM.  Of course, Annie couldn’t stay settled with the commotion, so we’ve been up since that time; quite early to get up on a Saturday, but I’ve gotten the back patio swept of most of the remaining oak leaves and the nasty pollen crap that they put out in the spring.  I love my shady oak tree, but keeping the patio clean is an almost never-ending story.  Oh well, just like my garden, the patio with its shade-covered pergola is one of my favorite parts of my house.

OK, yes, it’s Saturday, and now 10 AM; it’s time for a shower and out to take care of any number of errands.  Tomatoe cages, for one.  Definitely need more tomato cages.