Thursday, November 30, 2006
Just Call Me "Cheesesteak." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Midland
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

[via The Countess, a fellow "Philadelphian" - er, Ballmer native. (I'm Trenton-raised, Chicago-braised)]

Monday, November 27, 2006
Peace + Christmas = Satan? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
And all these years, I thought Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Silly rabbit, peace is for Satanists! From CNN:
DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- A homeowners' association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.*

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents believed the wreath was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said. "Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing." Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000, and doubts they will be able to make her pay. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas.

"Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus?" The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver has sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and the board "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive."

The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee. Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything.

Kearns fired all five committee members.
No "signs, flags, etc." that could "be considered divisive"? That would pretty much eliminate any professional sports team paraphernalia, wouldn't it? More at the Durango Herald, from whence the above photo [credit: Randi Pierce] heralds.

* These folks may be confusing the inside of the peace symbol (the forked vertical line) with the inverted "St. Peter's Cross," often believed to be a mark of Devil-worship; although it is actually intended to represent the disciple Peter's upside-down crucifixion, not "reverse" Christian symbolism.

Saturday, November 18, 2006
Did You Hear Malachi? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There is a new website containing a wealth of information about late Chicago artist/political activist Malachi Ritscher, iheardyoumalachi.org:
Demonstration for Malachi Ritscher Saturday, Nov. 18th, 1 p.m. at:

The Elastic Arts Foundation
2830 N. Milwaukee Ave.
2nd Floor

Elastic is four blocks northwest of Logan Square Station (blue line) on Milwaukee. Details and destination site will be announced on-location. Sign-making materials will be provided. Bring a little cash to help cover expenses.
Ritcher was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, and earlier this month, committed suicide by self-immolation in a final act of protest.

Friday, November 17, 2006
Pumpkin Cheesecake, the Bi-coastal Middle-of-the-Aisle Treat 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
What on earth is the gracious hostron to do when some at your Thanksgiving party prefer tasty but prim Midwestern pumpkin pie, while others crave the sophisticated, gently debauched flavor of a New York Style Cheesecake? Sometimes, a good dessert transcends ideological, ethnic, and political boundaries. Rather than encouraging a Big Apple/Big Shoulders indoor football game brawl, try my easy Pumpkin Cheesecake for the holidays.

You'll need a ovenproof deep-dish pie pan (at least 1-1/4 deep) and a hand mixer, utensils found in virtually any self-respecting galley. I don't mess with springform pans myself, and this version delivers a titillating trompe l'oeil effect: is it a pie? Is it a cheesecake? It swings both ways, dahling.Note that with the exception of the extra egg and graham cracker crust - and the omission of the obligatory can of evaporated milk - this recipe is virtually identical to pumpkin pie. That's because a pumpkin pie is basically a pumpkin custard, while a cheesecake is basically a cheese custard. Big secret, right?
  1. Preheat oven to 325°, and use an oven thermometer to verify temperature if you're unsure of the thermostat's accuracy - over- or under-baking is the number one killer of American cheesecakes.
  2. Crush graham crackers (or use an equivalent amount of crumbs), dump into over-proof pie dish.
  3. Place half a stick of butter in the pan. Microwave pan, crumbs and butter for 1 minute until butter melts. Remove from microwave and mix crumbs with butter with a spoon until crumbly and blended. Pat firmly into bottom of pan with spoon and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine room-temperature cream cheese, pumpkin, eggs, sugar and spices. Using a handmixer (and a spatula to push everything down now and then) whisk ingredients together until smooth.
  5. Pour into pie pan, smoothing top with spatula.
  6. Shoo cream-cheese-loving cats away from unbaked pie until ready to place in oven.
  7. Bake for one hour at 325° in center of oven, remove, and allow to cool. Chill for several hours or overnight in refrigerator for best texture and flavor.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Your Trees Are The Wrong Color 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
File under "unfathomable chutzpah"? From CBS2 Chicago:
(CBS) CAROL STREAM, Ill. The Village of Carol Stream has an axe to grind with a rather strange team of con artists. The scammers have been sending phony letters to homeowners warning them their trees do not have the right color of autumn leaves.

The letters say the trees must be replaced to comply with village codes. Phony village letterhead was even used for the letters. So far, no one has been caught.
No further details, but since the senders are referred to as "scammers" rather than "pranksters," I'm assuming they're offering to help homeowners "comply" for a not-so-nominal fee.

Friday, November 10, 2006
farkleberries Links du Jour 164: The Moose Invasion Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 


XIII Stoleti: The Best Gothic Rock Band You've Never Heard Of 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

[UPDATE: One sole three-minute video segment of video exists on YouTube, which looks like XIII. Stoleti at one of the annual "Castle Party" concerts in Europe. No further details available, but you can watch the first half of "Elizabeth" performed live.]

It's not easy to surprise this music fan after over three decades of collecting, and I admit I'm often late to the party when it comes to appreciating new bands. But this one is a fascinating find - and a challenging one to explore, since the band is virtually unknown outside of Europe. Czech goth masters XIII Stoleti (Czech for "13th Century") have been on the scene since 1992, lauded as that nation's "Sisters of Mercy, Cassandra Complex, and Bauhaus rolled into one."

Founded by brothers Paul and Peter Stepan (with current bassist Martin Soukup and Ollie Rysava on keyboards) the band melds heavy gothic crunch and poetic lyrics with the chilly synth-rock Eastern Europeans gobble up like candy. They're good - really good - and they hail from Jihlava, CZ.* Czech goths, you ask? Let's face it: from winter's darkness on grey concrete cityscapes, to medieval spires and cathedral ossuaries, Central and Eastern Europe ARE Goth, personified. Heck, even Chernobyl is goth, if you ask me.

So...I got my hands on a copy of their midperiod 1998 album Ztraceni v Karpatech ["Lost in the Carpathians"] around Halloween (when else?). This 7-song album closes with the show-stopper anthem "Elizabeth," a grand 7:45 paean to Alzbeta [Erzebet] Báthory, the Blood Countess of Cachtice (part of Slovakia near the Hungarian border) - the one that allegedly tortured and exsanguinated over 600 maidens to preserve her youthful beauty by bathing in their blood. Creepy, yes - but a pretty amazing song, nonetheless.
Elizabeth by XIII Stoleti [Translated by L.R.]

Jako černá orchidei vždy k ránu uvadáš, (Like the Black Orchid, ever fading by dawn)
noci plné temných tanc?, píse? nepoznáš. (Nights filled with shadowy dances, their songs to you unknown)
Nahé tělo vzýváš rudou koupelí, (Your naked body arises from beneath the crimson spell)
temné tóny varhan veže hradu hlídají. (Dark organ tones; the castle towers guard well)
[: Elizabeth, tvá krvavá cesta bohu hříchem se zdá, (Elizabeth, your bloody path a sin against God)
Elizabeth, jsi hledaná, milovaná. :] (Elizabeth, are you seeking, beloved...?)

Zrozená jsi v horách temné Transylvanie, (Born of the mountains in dark Transylvania)
moc a křídla draku ve tvých žilách koluje. (Might of the dragon's wings that flows within your veins)
Prastarý je národ který zrodil sestru svou, (Ancient the land that gave birth to your kind [sisterhood])
jsi jeho bílé svědomí, dcera temnot krá?í tmou. (Within its purest conscience, the Daughter of Darkess in shadow treads)

[: Elizabeth, tvá krvavá cesta bohu hříchem se zdá,
Elizabeth, jsi hledaná, milovaná. :]

Jméno je tvým štítem a domov sklepením, (Your name accursed, your home forever entombed)
chladný kámen náhrobkem, jen jméno tvé, nic víc. (On your chill gravestone your name, nothing more)
Moc a síla v??ná co se v krvi ukrývá, (The eternal power that sleeps within the blood)
pokořené vrásky ?asu v tváři nepoznáš. (Never will your countenance know time's withering shame)
[: Elizabeth, tvá krvavá cesta bohu hříchem se zdá,
Elizabeth, jsi hledaná, milovaná. :]
[: Elizabeth, tvá krvavá cesta bohu h?íchem se zdá,
Elizabeth, jsi hledaná, milovaná. :]
My Czech is rusty (that's being kind) and please forgive those AWOL diacriticals. I'll try to fix the UNICODE tomorrow. However, my blunted English transformation loses the Czech language's acute angles and phonemes, so apologies in advance. For obvious reasons I can't host actual tracks from XIII Stoleti here, but a Prague fan has kindly offered a few for streaming on MySpace, including "Elizabeth" - give them a listen for yourself.

* Just up the E50 highway from Brno, where yours truly was born.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Greetings, Fellow Autodidacts 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Well, er...no. Can't say I paid attention during 100% of high school, or anything close to that. But the intervening twenty years or so (and that little diversion called COLLEGE) might have improved my prospects. Honestly, if our educational prospects ended with high school, we'd all be thoroughly f---ed.

I mean, stuck in Iraq. [Via Gershwyn]

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
R.I.P. Malachi Ritscher: Chicago Artist, Antiwar Protester, Self-Immolator 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: A thoughtful perspective from a blogger who personally knew Ritschler can be read at BRIC BRAC.

If you kept an eye on Chicago news this week, you may have spotted this eerie little piece:
Nov 3, 2006 12:28 pm US/Central
Body Spotted On Ohio Street Feeder To Kennedy
(CBS2) CHICAGO A body was found at the Ohio Street feeder ramp on the Kennedy Expressway.

A motorist reported reported to police that a statue was on fire, and firefighter later found out a fire had been set near an iron sculpture at the feeder ramp. State police said a body was been found, and authorities later said the man who died may have set himself on fire. A white sheet at the base of the sculpture read, "Thou Shalt Not Kill."s

In the view from Chopper 2, the sculpture, called "Flame of the Millennium," had burn marks on its base, and what was reported to be the body lay at its side, covered in a white sheet. A gasoline can and a tripod were also spotted at the scene. A videotape and camcorder were also found, according to state police. A Chicago Police Bomb and Arson Section sergeant said a video the man took might have indicated the man lit himself on fire.
That was no burning statue. The charred figure engulfed in flame was one Malachi Ritscher, a Chicago artist/musician who had staged his final performance: a videotaped self-immolation next to one of its busiest expressways, alongside a sculpture intended to welcome those entering our fair city, the "Flame of the Millennium.".

Ritscher was also known as an anti-war activist, and here he can be seen prior to his arrest during the 2003 Chicago Iraq War protests (photo taken by Dan Sloan, courtesy Chicago Indymedia.com) We haven't seen much more about Ritscher's sad end in the mainstream media. This may be partly because papers like the Sun-Times have a policy of not publicizing suicides; and partly because Ritscher's suicide recalls the infamous image of Buddhist monk Thich Quan Duc's self-immolation in protest of the Vietnam war, an association best left untouched for various reasons. From the Savagesound tribute page*:
The metaphor for his life was winning the lottery, but losing the ticket. In the end, the loneliness was overwhelming. He was deeply appreciative for everything that had been given to him, but acutely aware that the greater the present, the higher the price. He was a member of Mensa, and Alcoholics Anonymous since 1990. For him, sobriety was virtually getting a second chance at life. He practiced a personal and private spirituality, seeking to connect across the illusion that separates us from each other. Reportedly, his last words were "rosebud... oops".

Near his end, he was purchasing real estate in Vancouver with the intention of eventual emigration, unable to reconcile his conscience with his tax dollars financing an unjust war. He frequently took short trips to New York City and New Orleans, where he made more recordings of concerts. Europe seemed more civilized to him, and he experienced Paris and Amsterdam, Germany and Switzerland, as well as Madrid and Barcelona.
It's no mystery why the story has damped like a lone drop down a dark well. Ritscher, all but anonymous outside a specialized artistic circle, certainly qualifies as a private individual, and private suicides as a rule don't make the MSM regardless of their manner or motivation. Certainly, had a celebrity chosen to end their life in this manner we'd see a major swath of coverage.

But no matter. In the universe's unfathomable calculus, the sound of one body burning roars and crackles just as loudly, even if no one is there to hear it.

* I received an email from a reader, shortly after this posting, that indicated the Savagesound "Rest in Pieces" page (note its third person tone) was written by Ritscher himself, shortly before his death. [To read the comments, click the "permalink" at the head of this post to go to the post page, and go to the bottom of the page] In that light, I will read it again, in much greater depth...I should have suspected. Who else would know Ritscher's "supposed last words" - besides the police, at this point?

The chi-Improv music forum has a post about a memorial for Richter
Ritscher's MySpace page
Chicago Indymedia: The Death of Malachi Ritscher and "Martyr for Peace"
Savagesound's "Out of Time" tribute
Infoshop news
UPDATED: More on Gapers Block and Boing Boing.

Good Morning, Eighth of November 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This morning, did you happen to feel a sensation akin to waking up from a particularly unpleasant dream where you're being chased into a dark basement by zombies and axe-wielding [Jim-]crow-headed madmen yelling "Macaca! Macaca!", only to discover the basement door opens onto a thousand-foot-drop cliff face, and you're suddenly

falling falling FALLING

{thump} and then, you're just drooling absently on your pillow, three cats pawing at your face begging for breakfast. But at least the zombies are gone for the day. For the first time in years, I'm breathing a sigh of relief after Election Day.

UPDATE: Pinch me. Donald Rumsfeld is apparently resigning.

Thursday, November 02, 2006
"My Name's Sandy West, and I'm a Drummer." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"One night in the Summer of '75, I saw this guy in this weird orange suit in the Rainbow parking lot at closing time, and my girlfriend said, "That's Kim Fowley. He's made records with Alice Cooper." So I walked up to him and said, "My name's Sandy West, and I'm a drummer." And His eyes lit up. He called me the next day to give me Joan's number. She took about three buses to get to my house. She had a little Sears guitar, but she had perfect rhythm. Who ever heard of a 15-year-old girl with perfect timing? We'd go to Kim's apartment in Hollywood every weekend, writing songs and auditioning people." - Sandy West, [on the origins of the Runaways in] SPIN, 2001
Sad news to report from the music world. While reading photographer/artist Theresa K.'s website Punk Turns 30, I learned that drummer (co-founder of the Runaways, with Joan Jett) Sandy West passed away on October 21st in California after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. She was 47. From USA Today:
West died Saturday night at a hospice in San Dimas, east of Los Angeles, her manager Mara Fox said. She was diagnosed a year ago. West was only 16 when she started the Runaways in 1975 with Jett, a singer and guitarist. Along with band members Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, they had such hits as Cherry Bomb and Born to Be Bad. "We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer," Jett said in a statement. "I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world."
Sandy West recently appeared (prior to her diagnosis) in the acclaimed Runaways documentary, Edgeplay, where she recounts the exciting-but-turbulent time touring with the band - and her often difficult years after the group's dissolution - in revealing interviews with filmmaker Victory Tischler-Blue, herself a former bandmember. LA Weekly's Jonny Whiteside laments that
...West’s work was so grossly underrated by the many who reserved the Runaways little more than scorn. Plagued by the perpetual, misogynistic chicks-can’t-really-rock syndrome, the Runaways were an exceptional torpedo to that tired hulk, and West herself represented perhaps its most convincing refutation, because she didn’t do anything but just-fucking-straight-ahead rock it. [continue reading "Goodnight, Drummer Girl"]
West had continued to record and perform in recent years; her label, Rocket City Records, has released a special statement in honor of the late performer.

MORE: Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways at Sacred Dogs Entertainment (pick up a copy on DVD)
Sandy's record label, Rocket City Records
The Runaways Official Website, who report "The public celebration of Sandy's life will be on December 9th, 2006, at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA. [more info soon available on the website]
Minneapolis/St.Paul Cityblogs: "RIP Runaways Drummer Sandy West"