Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rosie says ...

I have so many issues with this. I like my poetry to have rhythm and flow. Or at least punctuation. This one just clomps along with all the grace of a bull-dyke at a rave. But I like the politics, so ... te presento: Rosie's latest blog entry:

so what happens
when u say the emperor has no clothes
the comb over goes ballistic
via phone to mr king

choices
every minute
every day
everyone

i imagine it is interesting
as celeb feuds tend 2 b
so here r my thoughts

didnt watch
didnt u tube
restrict

i have no time 2 make art now
i am only off friday
which is never enuf
to detox

the pipes get full
bits of sludge
clog the flow

so tiny books
now
express in torn images
my inside

i was raised reading ms magazine
i remember the burning of bras
as women demanded equality
in unison

beauty pageants
where women were paraded around
judged valuable or not
by old white men

it is always old white men

they added a talent portion
and gave away college degrees
they evolved - beauty pageants
and eventually - nearly faded away
for good

remember the seventies

a young girl in nyc
meets a pimp
he cons her into a life of illusion
she works for him

no fun - no fucking - no future
she is owned
when she sneaks out -
to party the night away
he freaks

he roughs her up a bit
shames her in front of the others
teaches her to behave
for his own benefit

and just when we lost all hope
cagney and lacey showed up
they cuff the pimp
they free the girl

marybeth and christine
would never
be friends with a pimp

this is reality tv
like it or not
same same same
as vivi says

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Score one for the the Bishops

I hate to admit that the US Catholic Bishops ever get anything right about sex, but ... in this case ... they might actually be quite a few steps ahead of the popular culture.

Most of The Big Important movies haven't even opened in Honolulu yet, but Babel played for a bit & it blew me away. Most of the actors were quite good, but Rinko Kikuchi's portrayal of a deaf-mute teen in ultra-modern Tokyo was painful and devastating - and provided the emotional heart to an already powerful film.

In the words of the Bishops ... There's Tokyo widower father Yasujiro's (Koji Yakusho) deaf-mute teenage daughter, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), who achingly longs for love. She misses her mother terribly, and fails to see that her businessman father wants to connect with her. Chieko acts out her desperate loneliness with sophomoric pranks (exposing herself to some teenage boys who recoiled from her when they realized her handicap), and, most poignantly, offers herself sexually to an empathetic detective who comes looking for her father.

Right. That's the movie I saw - one about an achingly lonely girl desperate for contact.

Less celibate reviewers than the Bishops, amazingly, were blinded by the sex and saw less:

The Onion AV Club only saw surly Tokyo deaf-mute teen Rinko Kikuchi and her desperate attempt to lose her virginity. To the Boston Globe Chieko was only acting out her hormonal rage. The Village Voice thought Chieko's story was an intriguingly extraneous plot thread, while The San Francisco Chronicle reduced her to a deaf, volleyball-playing Japanese teenager (who) is confused by her burgeoning sexual impulses.

I knew the movie wouldn't be for everyone - it has more emotional than structural coherence. Either you submit to it or fall asleep [as my date for the night did]. But what amazes me is how sex is such an alien landscape for so many reviewers, and that they have such a complete inability to see below the surface of things.

That, and that the Bishops could.

Persian Baklava

This was the big surprise - the first time I've managed to make baklava that didn't turn into a big, gooey mess. I made a mess, but I finally mastered phyllo. I used some organic hippy phyllo from the co-op, and that might have helped ... I think it had a thicker texture than the stuff from the supermarket. I also used an agave nectar that I picked up in Mexico, though the original recipe called for honey. Chilling the bars before I cut them helped; all the butter kept them firm while I sliced. I used a lot more butter than the original recipe called for, and probably double or triple the amount of saffron. It was worth it - saffron and honey is a magical combination. I didn't want a hint of saffron. I wanted to taste it. Otherwise, what's the point?

Persian Baklava

Syrup:
  • 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon
  • 4 to 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon + orange blossom water after it has cooled.
Filling:
  • 1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 pound (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
  • About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1 t crushed saffron, steeped in 3 T butter, for the top layer
To make the syrup:
Stir the sugar, water, honey, cinnamon sticks, and cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (it will register 225 degrees on a candy thermometer). Discard the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let cool. Add orange-flower water.

To make the filling:
Combine all the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place a sheet of phyllo in a non-stick pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 8 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of 8 sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.

Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.

Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.

Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. If the baklava dries out while being stored, drizzle with a little additional hot syrup.

Cuccidati

This one - a Sicilian pastry filled with rum-soaked figs - is like an adult version of fig newtons. I was a bit intimidated by the recipe ... rolling pins are not my friends, and there seemed far too many steps to follow. I was surprised how easy it all was in the end. Next time I might make the strips thicker, so that I can fill them with more figs. One person suggested they would be better without the icing, but I liked the sugar. Another recipe used an anise-flavored icing, which might be a good. Again, I pulled this one off of Epicurious, and have printed my adapted version below.

Cuccidati

For filling
  • 1 cup dried black figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
  • 3/4 cup raisins (3.75 oz)
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup black rum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped

For pastry
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest

For icing
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • a few drops orange oil

Garnish: multicolored nonpareils

Make filling:
Pulse figs and raisins in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.

Form cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Trim to a 13- by 10-inch rectangle (chill trimmings), then cut into 4 (10- by 3 1/4-inch) strips.

Arrange 1/3 cup filling in a 1-inch-wide log lengthwise down center of each strip, then fold sides of each strip up over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams.

Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets.

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes.

Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

Make icing while first batch of cookies bake:
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing. Brush icing on warm cookies and decorate with nonpareils (if using), then cool completely.

Makes about 5 1/2 dozen cookies.

Gh'raybeh

This is a rich middle-eastern shortbread that's served during Eid al-Fitr, the three day binge at the end of Ramadan. I've included the way I made them - the original recipe is on Epicurious. I've seen other recipes that call for half semilona flour, which might be interesting.

The spices are subtle - with just the faintest aroma of orange and rose. They aren't really a dessert cookie, but do go amazingly well with coffee.

Gh’raybeh
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup duck fat [the original recipe said shortening, but I refuse to use that]
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water, or to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F.

Beat together flour, sugar, butter, fat, cardamom, rose water, and orange-flower water until a smooth dough forms.

Roll dough into walnut-size balls, then squeeze each into a crescent shape.

Arrange cookies, 1 inch apart, on 2 ungreased baking sheets and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until dry to the touch but still white, 20 to 22 minutes total.

Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

(makes 34)

Cookies

The scale said 202# yesterday, and I knew I was in trouble. Normally I'm thrilled whenever I top 200, but that's in Ordinary Time when I'm going to the gym and eating healthy and only drinking socially. But this isn't ordinary Time and these aren't Ordinary Pounds. I've donned the Royal Purple, and these are Advent Pounds composed of bourbon and cheese and cookies & not much else.

Mostly cookies.

I got inspired last week, and decided at the last minute to bake cookies for Christmas presents. Which was a good idea, except for the fact that I figured it would be better to do it all in one mad rush rather than linger all weekend in the kitchen. I went to the co-op after work to stock up on eggs, butter, cream, & sugar, and then went home, toked up a bit, threw on the house music, set my ambition level to 'Martha,' and got down to it.

By 4am I was semi-delirious, but had enough cookies to feed fifteen small families - and seven different and unique kinds of cookies at that. I wanted to do eight, but I never did get around to the amaretti [though I have the dough made and in the fridge].

Some things didn't quite work - I doubled the bourbon and yet my bourbon balls were still too dry, and the ginger snap recipe I used wasn't gingery enough at all.

Two of the cookies - malouines, an orange-cinnamon wafer, and a mint-chocolate cookie, were really good, but at the end of the day they were just cookies. I'd do them again for Christmas, but probably not during the rest of the year.

The other three, though - gh'raybeh ( a Middle-Eastern shortbread flavored with orange-flower water), a Persian baklava with saffron butter on top, and cuccidati (a Sicilian fig-filled cookie) - were good enough to merit their own post ... and I've got the extra pounds to vouch for 'em.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Behind the Mountains

Dawn and I met my aunt Bev, uncle Bob, and cousin Kaye-Lani for brunch Christmas morning at the Moana Surfrider. It was one of those silly perfect days - a calm ocean, bright blue skies, and a gentle breeze. It was nice seeing family out here again - it's been awhile - and I got a few more pieces of family gossip.

There was nothing outright scandalous this time, though I did finally learn why my grandfather lost his pilot license [something about flying a passenger jet sideways over the grand canyon]. I did hear a bit more about the Norwegian side of my family, including that my aunt Barbara still goes back to visit the Gletne home village every couple years. This was news to me; I thought that my aunt Anna was the last to maintain contact.

My uncle and I vowed to join Barbara next time she goes. I don't even know the name of the place, just that it's a small village east of Bergen. And I don't know anything about the family beyond that the first immigrant, Skora [my grandmother's grandmother], left behind a twin & that her descendants still live somewhere behind the mountains.

That, and that they are short, don't drink, and eat lots of pastries.

Which doesn't sound like my family at all, so it should be interesting.

Friday, December 22, 2006

10.5

I got ten and a half hours sleep last night, and it feels so good. I think this might be my New Years Resolution, to get at least eight a night for a month and see how it goes.

Boy, I needed it. I think I've spent the past month cooking, eating, sleeping, and drinking. I've only been to the gym once since I got back from Mexico, and haven't surfed at all.

The cooking is fun, even if I overdo it. I don't know how normal people clean. I spent two days in the garden prepping for the party, and part of a morning cleaning. I spent a good five or six afternoons cleaning the kitchen. I'm a messy cook, but damn. And it's trashed again after a marathon cookie cooking session two nights ago. And I've spent a couple evenings trying to keep my living room in order.

With all this cleaning you'd think my place would sparkle, and that I'd actually be able to get around to decorating. But nah, it's till a mess. I really do not understand how the rest of the world does it. I mean, not everyone has staff, do they?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dispatches from Another Planet

The truth is, I had no idea who Star Jones was before she was fired from her tv show. It's probably a good thing, because I only have so much hate in my heart and I'm saving it all for the White House.

Oh, but apparently I was missing out. This is from the official amazon.com review of her book Shine: A Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Journey to Finding Love . As far as I can tell the review is not a satire.

Or rather, it wasn't intended to be a satire. Personally, I'm viewing it as a piece of found poetry. I've added six ellipses and rearranged the spacing, otherwise, this is it, verbatim.

Star Jones Reynolds had done it all.

College on scholarship,

law school on loans,

and life by faith.


Then why was she feeling so down?


It all began when Star took a close look

at herself

and her life

and realized she wasn't happy with what she saw:

obesity precluded her from crossing her legs,

she needed an asthma inhaler,

she couldn't fasten her own necklace,


and, worst of all,

she got too tired to shop – a disaster

because Star Jones Reynolds is

a seriously committed shopper.


Then she realized something else:

with all her extraordinary accomplishments,

none of it mattered

without true love.


Star decided to make it happen.

She began a personal journey to reconstitute

her physical look,

emotional state,

and already strong

spirituality.


Unless you live on another planet,

you know

Star succeeded in her quest

and did find true love

-- and it wasn't that hard at all.


In Shine, she shares it all

in her wise,

revealing,

irreverent,

laugh-out-loud style.


Part One guides women

toward being their most attractive

physical selves

using Star's personal secrets on

losing weight and

finding hair,

fashion, and

makeup chic


(inexpensively)


Part Two asks tough questions

about emotional preparedness

for a relationship and

shows you how to

think

like

lawyers


Part Three delves into a woman's spiritual life –

discover how to

talk

to

God


no matter what your religion.


Everyone knows

Star Jones Reynolds is a success story,

a happy,

rough-edges-to-emotional-and-financial-riches tale.


Until you read this book,

you won't know how she got there


-- and how you can echo her triumphs


and shine.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cordyceps

Leave it to the BBC to give me nightmares.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Surf Pics

I should have the rest of the pics posted on photobucket later today. Here's a taste of the weekend:


We would wake up bright and early
(Jake, Steve, Tom)

The lifeguard would select the Danger du Jour

Children would frolic in the waves out front
We mostly stuck to the shore
(Doug, Steve, Ken, Tom)
and bar. I mean, kitchen.
(Kurt, Jimmy, Mark, Steve, Tom)
Ritual scarification was all the rage this year.Ken took the professional, action shots
Kelly Slater insisted on ignoring me the entire time.
The sunsets, as usual, were spectacular.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Russians: Millantatore di Credito

As usual, new names are in bold.

Copies of the email “security consultant” Mario Scaramella had shown to Litvinenko were published in the UK. The email was written former FSB agent Evgeny Limarev, and accused Colonel Valentin Velichko (left) and his group of ex-FSB officers, Honor and Dignity, of sending out hit squads across Europe.

The organization, founded in 2003, was ostensible to introduce law and order in the country with a view to establishing a dictatorship of law, where everyone is equal before the law. It also accuses them of being involved in the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

For his part, Velichko has told the press that the group will punish those who rob Russia and the Russian people. There is a long list of so-called oligarchs, officials and politicians who used to make decisions in favour of certain clans. The press has been unable to track Velichko down in recent days.

Limarev (left) fled from his home in the French Alps and went into hiding when his name became public. His homepage, instructs the media to email him regarding dossiers of Alexander Litvinenko, Mario Scaramella, and his future book

The Italian press, meanwhile, has dubbed Scaramella a millantatore di credito—someone who claims to know and have done more than they actually have. One example they cite is a firefight he claimed to have had with the Neopolitan mafia. The only evidence the police found of a firefight were sixteen bullets that Scaramella’s bodyguard had shot into a parked car. One of his sources, former FSB agent Oleg Gordievsky, has publicly called him a pathological liar and a megalomaniac. Italian police are now investigating Scaramella for arms smuggling.

Dmitri Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi are both being kept at a sealed off clinic run by Russia’s Federal Medico-Biological Agency. Both have left a trail of radiation behind them in early November – Lugovoi across London, and Kovtun in Hamburg, where he stopped to visit his family. The German police have opened a criminal investigation into Kovtun. The UK and Russian police name both men as witnesses, but have not publicly called them suspects.

The Russians continue to seek the extradition of Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovsky.

Interpol has joined the investigation, as has Israel. Israel interest is based upon the presence of a number of oligarchs who have defected there, including Yukos executives Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Brudno, and Vladimir Dubov.

Other right wing groups the media is watching include

The Military-Strong State Union headed by General Leonid Ivashov, who was implicated in the assassination of oligarch Anatoly Chubais.

The International Union of Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Veterans, headed by an officer called Dmitry Kamchatkin, and is associated with nationalist party Motherland and the old Russian Communist Party.

Mikhail Trepashkin passed a letter from the prison colony in Siberia claiming that “a very serious group was formed in the FSB at the highest level to get rid of Litvinenko and a number of other people, on the basis that those who are not for us are against us.”

Others are beginning to suspect that the murders are a sign that Putin is losing control, and that rogue elements in the secret services are battling for control.

Mixology Monday: Tequila Christmas Cake

Shoots - I missed this months's Mixology Monday (Brenda at The Spirit World hosted Drinks for a Festive Occasion). Still, let me at least offer this up in the spirit of the day. It's not mine, it just floated into my inbox one morning ...


Tequila Christmas Cake:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/8 cu. lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 oz. mixed cashews and Brazilian
  • 1 bottle of top grade tequila
  • 2 cups of dried fruit
Sample the tequila to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the tequila again to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar.

Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the tequila is still OK. Try another cup…just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 1 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Time to sample the tequila to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the tequila. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

Finish the tequila and wipe the counter with the cat.
Cherry Mistamas!!

O L`Amour: Paul Barnes

Direct this morning from Christianity Today:
Further controversy has overwhelmed the American evangelical Church this week as the founding pastor of the 2,100 member Grace Chapel resigns following his confession that he has taken part in homosexual relations.

Having led the church for 28 years, Paul Barnes, who also has a wife and two adult daughters, broke the news to his congregation on Sunday via a video-taped message.

Associate pastor Dave Palmer said in a written statement: “While we cannot condone what he has done, we continue to support and love Paul.”

...

Barnes confessed to Palmer last week, and a board of elders held an emergency meeting on Thursday where they accepted the resignation of Barnes.

Barnes, 54, said: “I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy. I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”

Despite the developments, Barnes confirmed his belief that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin.
Here's "Kaylee" on the reaction of the congregation:
You know, I'm 20 years old and I've been going to Grace Chapel for 18 years of my life and have been graced with having Paul as my pastor. I was there the day they showed the video and no one walked out. At least half the people were crying and the other half was obviously sad. But we don't think anything less of him. And I think it's horrible this is being compared to that guy from Colorado Springs! Paul wasn't accused by anyone, he said it himself. Plus if his wife Char can accept him, why can't we? Plus he NEVER admitted to having sexual relations or anything of the sort with anyone. Us all at Grace love, miss, and are praying for Paul.

And that is going to be the last of my respectful posts on the topic - not only because I seem to have run out of empathy, but because the Reverend's Men of Grace website has so much lovely homoerotic woofiness going on. If the photo on the main page [left] isn't enough to attract men who ... ahem ... struggle, then the description of his summer retreat, Gold Rush, just might: Gold Rush is a great opportunity to enjoy God's creation, deepen your walk with Him, your son, and your brothers in Christ. Bring along your big-boy toys and join in a weekend of fun and fellowship.

And all the while, the Reverend Mrs. was leading the Women of Grace down a path perfect for the stay at home Brokeback Housewife. If only the minsteries weren't so segregated, the reverend might have caught his wife's talk on Resisting the Apple (6 Sept 2006), and been saved! Because while the men were off frolicking in the woods with their big boy toys and learning about Being God's Man by Pursuing Friendship (Tuesday evenings at 7 pm), Char Barnes was teaching the women about Forgiving What You Can't Forget (1 Nov), moving From Marriage to Marvelous (19 April), and How to Be Filled to Overflowing (1 March).

And if only all the buggers had attended the last, and listened with an open mind. She starts by defining a Missional Community as: Two or more people who are sharing life together, pursuing spiritual formation in Christ together and engaging together in whatever form that God is leading them to take.

She backs it up with Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ...
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their
work:

10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who
falls and has no one to help him up!
The next missionaries who knock on my door are doomed ... I am so going to throw this stuff back in their faces.



Monday, December 11, 2006

Crip Rigs

Spent the weekend in Pupukea - Ken had arranged to have the surf house for the opening of the Triple Crown again, and so I fled the city for the North Shore as soon as I was finished with work Friday. I even sold my U2 tickets - when it came down to it, I realized I'd rather be hanging out with the boys in the country than at a concert of a band I never listened to.

So. Friday night, and I wasn't so sure I'd made the right choice. I was exhausted after a long week, while the boys were all feeling quite irie. Which - fine. But it also looked like it was going to be bring your new boyfriend /trick / lover week which - not so fine. In fact - gross [especially given the fact that I didn't have one to bring and was entering the holiday season quite single]. Friday was still a good balance of couples and singles. I wasn't sure what was going to happen Saturday.

Lucky for me [but sadly for some of the others, but since it's my blog I'll be sticking with lucky for me] some of the tricks turned out to be batshit crazy. Friday the cute ethnobotanist from Maui announced that he heard a voice calling him to be an ali`i. I struggled to hold my tongue. He let on that he heard the voice after smoking DMT, doing some acid, expanding his mind with mushrooms, and topping it with a balloon of nitrous to fully open the gates and allow his consciousness to enter into the cosmic dimensions.

I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, as even with all that he was more coherent than some of my friends. But when he told us that he had teleported here and that he was the living manifestation of Quetzlcoatl that I gave up and went to bed. The others suffered his madness the rest of the night before one of them snapped, put him in the car, and drove him back to town.

And while I don't believe for a second that he was able to teleport to other places and dimensions, I can't explain where the take-out Chinese food came from the next morning. It was sitting there on the counter, half-eaten, and a good fifty miles from the nearest late-night Chinese restaurant.

It was a beautiful morning. I woke up feeling refreshed, and - with Quetzlcoatl gone - got to catch up with the guys. Tom and Steve are back for the season, and Tom introduced me to a wealth of new music. Too much, actually - my brain wasn't able to retain any of the band names. I'll hit him up later for some "best of" recommendations.

The contest was off. Jake and Ken went to surf at Hale`iwa. I was happy to chill with my book. Later I went with Tom and Steve to Waimea for a swim in the rapidly growing surf.

Saturday night was still looking like it was going to be new-couple night, even without Quetzlcoatl - but we still had some drama ahead. This came in the form of a hard-drinking Californian who was madly in love with ---, and walked in and announced that they were engaged as of that morning.

It was a bit embarassing when he came into the house, because apparently we had all met him before ... and had all forgotten him. The conversations went something like this:
Hi. I'm Michael
I'm JR. And we've met before.
Oh, I'm sorry. I don't remember.
So you forgot when we met?
Yeah. Sorry. Where was it?
I was at Kurt's birthday party.
The one with the porn stars?
Yeah.
I remember the porn stars.
You really don't remember meeting me?
Did we sleep together?
No.
Well then. No. I really don't remember. Sorry.
and then:
Hi. I'm Tom
We've met
I'm sorry. I don't remember ...
... and repeat, with Steve and Doug.

I'd say poor guy, but he wore out his welcome. I walked him to the store [he was scared of the dark? or just not allowed to go out alone? I wasn't sure], where I learned that he was on the Board of Surfrider [and yet he knew nothing about Surfrider's policies. I lost a bit of respect for him for the lying, but even more for being so lame about it. If you read this: don't lie about surfing to a surfer, dude], and that he was a millionaire.

When he announced the last ... oh, I'm a millionaire ... he hit a speed bump and went flying face first into the pavement. We were walking, mind you. Slowly. He fell twice more on the walk to the store. I resolved to slap --- when we got back to the house and demand that he give back the ring under the threat that, as a brother, I would bust up any wedding ceremony between the two before it ever finished.

He was ahead of me. JR tried to leave that night, but the same speed bump that caught him on foot caught him in the car, and he ended up in the ditch and not the highway. --- drove him back in the morning.

And then the fake drama was pau and the surf was up!!! We wandered to Pipeline and caught about eight heats of the first round. Ken was tougher, and stayed most of the day. The waves were stunning - I'll look around on You Tube for some clips.

We were sitting near where the surfers entered the waves, so we got some great candid views. Going in I was all about Kelly Slater (left) - I'd seen him surf in other years and he really is among the greats. Other guys are tough, but I've never seen anyone integrate with the water like he does. Think Rudolf Nureyev, only on water. And I'm not gushing just because he's hot. He's that good.



But there was plenty of eye candy on the beach, including one muscled blond thing who kept distracting me from watching the contest. I didn't realize until he slipped on a jersey that he was Mick Fanning (left) - the Australian superfreak who's ranked number two in the world. Ken had heard some stories about how he tends to end up naked when drunk [I go to all the wrong parties], and Tom found this article in Surfer Magazine where he talked about posing nude for the Australian Sportbook [Why not, he's quoted as saying, I've got a pretty crip rig].

Note: Google has been no help. I want a copy of that Australian Sportbook, whatever the hell it is! Someone? Anyone? I'll love you forever if you find me a copy! If he keeps it up the Superfreak might replace Ian Roberts (left) as my favorite Aussie sports star. I know I've got this reputation for not liking blonds, but seriously. I'm equal opportunity.

Hunks aside, the day belonged to local boy Jamie O'Brien (left). He and Kelly Slater were in the same heat. Kelly had the grace, but it was Jamie's backyard wave and he rode it inside out. He was like one of those skate punks you see at the park, constantly airborn and doing fancy tricks for the crowd. Kelly would give a classic, picture-perfect ride. Jamie would follow with a muscular shot through the tube and then follow it with a 360 backflip off the lip of the wave. A few times they took off on the same wave, one taking the front and the other shooting out the backdoor just before it would close out.

It was a beautiful match-up - easily the best I have ever seen.

The rest of the weekend was pleasant. I saw Alessia at Starbucks; we made peace and I apologized for threatening to have her and everyone she knew deported. I pulled a fat girl out of the surf at Waimea while her parents looked on, completely oblivious to the fact that she was close to drowning [and also oblivious to the fact that the lifeguard's announcement that this is not Disneyland and most of you should not be in the water was directed at people like them]. I read a lot, laid around in the sun, and overall feel quite refreshed and ready to tackle a new week.

The Geeky Connoisseur

It's Monday morning, and I'm feeling a bit ahead of the curve ... the New York Times Style Section just announced that Istanbul was the "party destination of the year" and "the latest hot spot on the European clubbing circuit." Per the Times:
You feel the buzz most intensely along the teeming pedestrian boulevard of Istiklal Cadessi —a kind of Street of Sound in central Istanbul. Come nightfall, strings are tuned, amplifiers are plugged in, needles drop into grooves and microphones crackle to life at Babylon, Indigo, Balans and dozens of other pubs and clubs that lurk in the labyrinthine side streets.
To which, for those of you who rolled your eyes at my stories - Ha! I told you so!

The Times' new urban style section has been doing alright by me [or I've been doing alright by them, I'm not sure which]. I don't know the latest ethnic restaurant in Brooklyn, or live in a once forgotten but now cool neighborhood. I did, however, stumble upon rye a good eight months before Eric Asimov declared it the world's great forgotten spirit, distinctive, complex and delicious. It offers a tactile pleasure unlike any other whiskey in the world [11 Dec 2006]. It is being rediscovered, he wrote, thanks to a sense of geeky connoisseurship among whiskey lovers.

Then the Minimalist noted that his column on no-knead bread has been discussed on more than 200 blogs [which, no matter how oblique, I'm going to claim as my first mention in the Times].

Shoots, they've even claimed that Waikiki is showing signs of "urban chic" and that downtown is on the edge of being hip. Their words - I'm not sure I agree with the last bit. We have far too many lounges where everyone looks great, but precious few places where people like to get actually get down.

Still, it's nice to know that even though we're isolated we're not totally provincial.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Russians: Friday Dec 8

I'm about to go three days with no internet or news ... and I'm sure I'll miss plenty of drama. Here's today's developments. I'll only hyperlink new names.

Akhmed Zakayev says that he saw symptoms of polonium poisoning in Chechnya. Nikolai Patrushev (left), Director of the FSB, calls the claims nonsense.

BBC Russian service FM broadcasts into Moscow and Saint Petersburg were disrupted from Nov 24, the day ofter Litvinenko's death, to Dec 1.

Tony Brenton, the British Ambassador in Moscow, has been being harassed by the Nashi (leader Vasily Yakemenko, left), a Kremlin-backed right-wing youth group, since he gave a speech to an opposition group in July.

Scotland Yard's interview with Andrei Lugovoy was postponed again, with no explanation given.

Russian media reports that Dmitri Kovtun is seriously ill.

The third Russian businessman at the Millenium, Vyacheslav Sokolenko, claims that he was in town for a football match and never met with the others.

CNN identifies two factions vying for control of the Kremlin amid speculation that Litvinenko might have gotten caught up in a power struggle.

Per CNN: One is headed by Igor Sechin (left), the shadowy deputy chief of Putin's administration who is believed to have a KGB background and leads a grouping of nationalistic and hardline elements in the military and security forces dubbed the "siloviki."


The other centers on Dmitry Medvedev (left), a first deputy prime minister and old ally of Putin, and includes some of the country's most powerful oligarchs.






According to the Times, Litvinenko had uncovered a plot by the FSB to seize or extort funds from former Yukos Oil Company executives. The Kremlin had seized the $10 billion dollar energy agency, and sentenced its billionaire president Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) to prison in Siberia for nine years. Other executives were murdered or jailed, while at least a dozen fled to the UK.

Litvinenko had flown to Israel before his murder to meet with Leonid Nevzlin (left), second in command at Yukos. Nevzlin is cooperating with Scotland Yard, and reports that Litvinenko had revealed to him a plan by the FSB to extort funds through intimidation and murder.




And finally academic Julia Svetlichnaja claims that Litivineko's plan was to blackmail those on the FSB hit list. She claims that Litvinenko approached her for assistance in the plot.


North Shore

Well ... I didn't get too far with the home makeover this week. I was planning, per Gary, on clearing the shelves and walls of everything non-essential, and then taking a minimalist approach to starting over.

We both forgot that nature abhors a vacuum. I would clear a space, and it would magically be filled by more junk. It would just happen. This is going to be a bigger battle than I thought.

Part of the problem was, I was trying to dosome prep-cooking for the weekend. I'm heading up to Pupukea with the surf gang tonight, and I offered to cook from Sat to Sun morning. I thought I had laid out a rational plan of attack, but I grossly misjudged the amounts. I wanted to do a gumbo, and picked up some sausages and ducks. I did it in true hunter style - I made a stock out of the back bones, and rendered fat from the skin to make my roux. I thickened the stock with the livers and lots of okra.

In the end, I destroyed my kitchen ... and produced enough gumbo for a small army. I had to pull the restaurant stock pot off the back shelf for this one. I froze half of it, and still have enough for fifteen to twenty guys.

I also made more tiki syrups to bring up, for sunset mai tais on Saturday and prosecco drinks on Sunday morning. Tonight, while up there, I'll mix up the starter for the bread. I intend to feed my boys properly. The full menu:

Sat Morning: Chorizo con papas, tortillas, fruit salad
Sat Afternoon: Whatever
Sunset: Mai tais, cheese, olives, bruschetta, crackers
Dinner: Gumbo, creamed corn, watermelon and feta salad, tomato salad, fresh bread
Sun Morning: Eggs with cheese, bread, homemade pate, prosecco

It didn't seem that ambitious, until I actually got down to the shopping and prepping. The shopping, prepping, and cleaning up took up three pretty full evenings. Good think I do this for love and not money.

Russians: Other Players

I'm loving the internet. I feel all Veronica Mars. On to the remainder of the cast:

Litvinenko met four men on November 1, the day he fell ill. Some are witnesses, some are suspects, and all have tested positive for exposure to polonium-210.

Italian security consultant Mario Scaramella (left) met Litvinenko at Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly to warn that he had recieved an email saying that the two of them and Italian Senator Paolo Guzzanti were in danger. Guzzanti headed and Scaramella was an advisor to the Mitrokhin Commission, a McCarthyesque body set up by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi to investigate Russian ties to Italian politicians. On Dec 1 the Italian press published intercepted phone calls of Guzzanti telling Scaramella to collect false information linking center-left Premier Romano Prodi to the KGB.

Andrei Lugovoi, a former FSB operative, met Litvinenko four times in the month before his murder. Their final meeting was 1 November at the Millenium Mayfair hotel. Scotland Yard has been attempting to interview him in Moscow, but the meeting has been delayed numerous times. There are news reports that Lugovoi is suffering organ failure from polonium poisoning, but his lawyer, another ex-FSB officer, Andrei Romashov, denies it.

Lugovoy once was a bodyguard for former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar(left). Gaidar was found unconscious on Nov 24 while at a conference in Ireland. He recovered, but doctors suspect he had been poisoned. Gaidar and his ally, the oligarch Anatoly Chubais, have blamed "adversaries of Russian authorities," but did not name the FSB directly.

Businessman Vyacheslav Sokolov was at the Millenium Hotel meeting, but there is not much information on him in English.

Dmitry Kovtun (left), a business associate of Lugovoy, was also at the Millenium Hotel. There have been media reports that he is in a coma, and the Russian Prosecutor General has open a case investigating the attempted murder of Kovtun. Romashov initially dismissed the reports of Kovtun’s illness as lies.

Others persons of note:

Lord Bell of Belgravia, aka Tim Bell, handled the Thatcher’s media campaign in 1979. Later he became an adivsor on "the promotion of democracy" to the Iraqi government. Berezovsky has been one of his clients for the past four years, and Bell has been handling media inquiries regarding Litvinenko.

British toxicologist John Henry was first to suggest that the mysterious illness of Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko (left, before and after) might be dioxin poisoning [note: Boris Berezoksky helped bankroll Yushchenko’s campaign]. When Litvinenko became ill Goldfarb contacted Henry, who initially suspected thallium poisoning and worked pro-bono on the case.

Svetlana is a Russian woman in London who claims to have information regarding a smuggling operation involving nuclear material.

Russia's Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev claim to be cooperating with Scotland Yard and the 9 British police in Moscow pursuing the investigation

Other major defectors who have been in the news include Yuri Shvets, [major in the KGB from 1980-1990; sought asylum in the US in 1994], Oleg Gordievsky [highest ranking defector ever; colonel in the KGB, London bureau chief, rezident, and a British double agent; he betrayed by Aldrich Ames, arrested by the KGB, escaped, and fled to the UK in 1985], and Vladimir Rezun [GRU worker, defected to the UK in 1978, publishes books as Vladimir Suvorov].

So there you go. The Russian Secret Service is being accused of staging a series of bombings in order to justify invading Chechnya. Oligarchs and mafioso are working with ex-spies and Bush's brother to "promote democracy." Someone or some group is poisoning them one by one. And journalists who delve into any of this are gunned down in the streets.

All I can say is, good luck to Scotland Yard.

Russians: The Oligarch

In Russia, meanwhile, the media is accusing Britain of being in a panic. Both the government and the state-controlled news put forward various alternate theories - either that he accidently poisoned himself while trying to sell the nuclear isotope to Chechen rebels, or that Litvinenko's associate, the fugitive oligarch and reputed mafioso Boris Berezovsky (left), was behind it in an attempt to destabilize the Russian government.

Berezovsky, once Putin's ally, is now one of his fiercest critics. He, along with former Chechen rebel commander and foreign minister of the Chechen government in exile Akhmed Zakayev (left), were part of Litvinenko's inner circle in London.

Here's Berezovsky's timeline:



1989

With Perestroika under way Berezovsky enters the business world. He will go on to become Russia’s first billionaire. He was rumored to be targeted by the Russian mafia due to his connections with Chechen mafia.

1994

Berezovsky survives a car bomb attack. The FSB assigns Litvinenko to investigate, and the two become friends.

1996

Berezovsky forms a group of oligarchs, the Big Seven, to bankroll Yeltsin’s election campaign. The Big Seven controlled most of the media outlets, awhich become dedicated to "all Yeltsin all the time".

Berezovsky becomes engaged in peace negotiations with Chechnya, and formed sympathetic ties with Chechen rebels.

In a Forbes article Godfather of the Kremlin? American journalist Paul Klebnikov (left) portrays Berezovsky as a mafia boss who had his rivals murdered. Berezovsky sued the magazine, which then retracted the claims.

Klebnikov is assasinated in Moscow in 2004.


1998

Litvinenko goes public with claims that the FSB order him to assassinate Berezovsky

1999

Berezovsky elected to Duma. Although he supported Putin’s campaign for the Presidency, he was opposed to the Second Chechen War.

2000

Berezovsky sets up Liberal Russia party. Putin begins investigating him for corruption, and Berezovsky escapes to London. Alex Goldfarb (left), Berezovsky's right-hand man and Chair of his International Foundation for Civil Liberties, helps Litvinenko and his family flee Russia. Litvinenko moves into Berezovsky's north London house.

2003

Berezovsky goes into business with Neil Bush, the younger brother of the US President.

Berezovsky formally changed his name to Platon Elenin

Berezovksy claims that Chechen separatists have acquired a portable nuclear bomb, and only lack one “minor detail. Recent speculation is that polonium-210 could be that minor detail.

2005

Berezovsky helps finance Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and the campaign of president Viktor Yushchenko.

2006

Litvinenko becomes mysteriously ill (left). Goldfarb acts as spokesman during the affair. Litvinenko eventually dies from radiation poisoning, and Berezovsky accuses Putin of murder.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spy Wars: The Federal Security Forces

The only way I made it through Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in school was to make my own list of all the characters. Without it I would get completely lost in all the Russian names. I was having the same feeling when I was trying to read articles on the poisoning of KGB defector Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko (left). It sounded better than anything Le Carre has done recently, but I couldn't keep track of all the characters. I didn't find any easy reference chart online (where's the BBC when you need 'em?), and so I figured I'd spend a few minutes making a cast list of my own so that I could follow the story.

Well. I had no idea how insanely big this story actually was, nor how far back it went. I geeked out on this one, and ended up with a three page list of facts, dates, and players. I'm hooked on this. It's big, it's scary, and thanks to the internet we can follow it in real time.

Litvinenko fled into exile after going public with accusations of corruption within the Federal Security Forces, or FSB (Federal'naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoi Federatsii). He claimed to have evidence that the FSB was behind a series of apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 that the government used as a pretext to declare war on Chechnya. Furthermore, he claimed that the elevation of Vladimir Putin (left) to the presidency of Russia was, in effect, a coup d'état orchestrated by the FSB. He blamed Putin for his murder. Looking at the history of Litvinennko and the FSB seems like a good place to start, then.


1991

Gorbachev disbands the KGB following an attempted coup.

The SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, or Foreign Intelligence Service) takes over intelligence gathering and analysis. The KGB’s military counterpart and rival, the GRU (Glavnoe Razvedyvatel'noe Upravlenie, or Main Intelligence Directorate), remains intact.

Boris Yeltsin becomes first President of Russia.

1995

Yeltsin forms the FSB as the investigative & enforcement oriented successor to the KGB.

1998

Putin becomes first civilian head of FSB.

18 Nov 1998

Five FSB officers organize a press conference accusing Major-General Eugeny Hoholkhov and Captain Alexander Kamishnikov of ordering them to assassinate oligarch Boris Berezovsky and FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin (left) and to kidnap the brother of businessman Umar Dzhabrailov. The officers include Litvinenko, Lieutenant-Colonels Alexander Gusyk, Major Andrey Ponkin, and Colonel V. V. Shebalin

20 Nov 1998

Gunmen assassinate Galina Starovoitova, leader of the Democratic Russia party and opponent of FSB powers.

1999

A series of apartment bombings in Russia kills 300 people. Prime Minister Putin blames Chechnya, and leads to the Second Chechen War. Litvinenko claims that the FSB planted the bombs to create a pretext for war. Litvinenko arrested and jailed.

31 Dec 1999

Yeltsin resigns while being investigated for money laundering. Putin becomes acting President of Russia. Putin later grants Yeltsin full pardon.

9 March 2000

Journalist Artyom Borovik, who is investigating FSB’s role in the bombings, is killed in a small plane crash.

2000

Litvinenko flees Russia with his family.

2002

Human Rights activist Sergei Kovalev (left) forms the Kovalev Commission to investigate the bombings. The commission collapses after Chair Sergei Yushenkov is assassinated [17 April 2003], Journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin poisoned with thallium [3 July 2003], and Legal Counsel Trepashkin jailed for “disclosing state secrets” [Oct 2003].


7 Oct 2006

Unknown gunmen assassinate journalist Anna Politkovskaya (left), who was investigating abuses in Chechnya. Litvinenko begins to investigate her murder.




1 Nov 2006

Litvinenko meets two business associates at the Millenium Mayfair Hotel, and Italian security consultant Mario Scaramella at the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly. Later that day Litvinenko falls sick and is admitted to Barnet General Hospital. Doctors originally believe that he has been poisoned by thallium.

23 Nov 2006

Litvinenko dies of poisoning from the nuclear isotope polonium-210. On his deathbed he accuses Putin of being behind his murder.

2008

Putin's second term as President expires. Russian dissidents claim that he is planning a coup ahead of that time.

Media reports that there are currently more than 30 known Russian spies operating in Britain for both the SVR, and the GRU. They are believed to report directly to two controllers in London, known as rezidents.