Music Mondays: Mixtape #5

This week’s theme is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered musicians. There are many more LGBT musicians than the ones I have included, but I chose mostly bands that you might find at Coachella. Actually, Owen Pallett joked when playing at Coachella this past year, “It’s kind of like the gay ghetto stage with me and Bradford (Deerhunter) and Jonsi.”

Download the mix

1. Bloc Party – I Still Remember
2. Of Montreal – Gronlandic Edit
3. Jonsi (of Sigur Ros) – Go
4. Deerhunter – Helicopter
5. Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy) – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
6. Antony and the Johnsons – For Today I Am A Boy
7. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
8. Vampire Weekend (Rostam Batmanglij) – White Sky
9. Goldfrapp – Ooh La La
10. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position
11. The Gossip – Heavy Cross (RAC Mix)
12. Sam Sparro – Black and Gold
13. Scissor Sisters – Any Which Way
14. Tegan and Sara – The Con
15. Sleater-Kinney – I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
16. Dusty Springfield – Breakfast in Bed
17. Rufus Wainwright – Vibrate
18. The Magnetic Fields – Absolutely Cuckoo
19. The Hidden Cameras – Ban Marriage
20. Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply
21. REM – Man on the Moon
22. Xiu Xiu – Gray Death
23. Queen – Somebody to Love
24. Electric Six – Gay Bar (Bonus track, Non-LGBT artist)

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Open Kitchens: Good Idea?

Recently, I had the following realization: I get the most out of friendships with people who ask themselves why they hold certain values, act in particular ways, or have unique interests.

For the past couple of years, I’ve spent considerable time and energy towards identifying my values so I can ensure that I spend my limited time and energy on what matters most to me. One thing I have discovered about myself is that if I like something, I want to learn as much as possible about that topic. One example is food and restaurants.  When I go out to eat, I don’t want to eat something that I could easily reproduce at home. I gravitate towards innovative cooking that I wouldn’t have ever thought of attempting at home and that requires skills that far exceed my own.  I also love exploring authentic regional cuisine that I am not familiar with.

My strong interest in cooking eventually made me curious about the restaurant industry (just as my passion for music lead me to spend a year researching and eventually teaching a class on the recording industry). I read many sites about food and the restaurant business, I frequently attend food-related panels, and jumped at the opportunity to accompany a successful chef around the Santa Monica’s farmers market to see how local chef’s acquire their produce. I’ve only recently become fascinated with the business-side of the food industry. I’m curious about the choices restaurant owners and chefs make in such a high-competition industry where the odds are against success.

All of this is a very long introduction to the topic that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of months: are open kitchens in restaurants a good idea?

Waterloo and City Kitchen

Open Kitchen at Waterloo & City

I personally love the idea of open kitchens. However imperfect of a view of the restaurant world, it does provide a glimpse of the culture of the particular kitchen.  Some people might also like how you can see with your own eyes the degree to which everything is made fresh and in-house. I love reading books like Kitchen Confidential (and watching the short-lived show) about restaurant life. From the hyper-masculine kitchens filled with drug-use and excess described by Anthony Bourdain, to the strictly professional kitchens of Thomas Keller, each kitchen culture is different and equally fascinating in my view.

There are down-sides to open kitchens, however. Back in October, restaurant-focused website Eater LA published an anonymous tip from a patron at the recently-opened restaurant Waterloo & City located in Culver City:

“The bar stands in front of an open kitchen so we were getting very excited when we saw all of the different meals being sent out. All of a sudden, we heard a man yelling. Startled, we look around and see its the head chef/co-owner screaming and cursing at one of the servers. And he didn’t stop. He literally went on yelling for 5 minutes.”

A typical response by readers to the article was : “In general I think having an open kitchen/food prep area is ALWAYS a bad idea. From the lowly fastfood joint to the high-end eatries, I really don’t want to see my food being made, it repulses me every single time. Keep it behind closed doors and just present the food to me, I want to enjoy my food without being repulsed.”

Chef Greenspan Plating Food (Photo Courtesy of DrinkEatTravel.com)

About a month ago, I had my own experience witnessing some open-kitchen drama. It was my third visit to the Foundry on Melrose in two weeks. My first visit I was seated on their patio, which is the main dining area. The second visit I sat outside, and the third visit I was seated at a table by the open kitchen. I had a great view of the very talented Chef Greenspan, a couple other chefs, and all the waiters waiting to pick up orders.

I enjoyed seeing the speed and precision in which food was plated and sent out and loved getting the insight to how the Foundry kitchen operated. However, it wasn’t long before I saw Chef Greenspan chew out servers and his line cooks. At one point, a waiter returned a plate of their award-winning grilled cheese, saying that the food was cold. Chef Greenspan put his hand on the sandwich, verified that it was indeed cold, and then started yelling something to the effect of, “Even a three-year old can cook a hot grilled cheese!! Maybe I should get a child in here to cook!” Unfortunately I missed what prompted the next display of anger, but later the chef yelled at a waiter saying, “You’re a salesman! Get out there and do your f*cking job and sell it.”

I enjoyed every minute of watching the kitchen, but the several profanity-filled outbursts made my dining companion quite anxious and uncomfortable. It almost ruined her dining experience. I understand her position. Many people go to fine-dining restaurants to have a relaxing, lovely evening where they are treated extremely well and can enjoy their companion’s company without worrying about grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, etc…

Personally, I like seeing how the machine works. I get asked frequently by coworkers why I don’t go to culinary school and become a chef if I love food and cooking so much. It is not the lifestyle for me, but I enjoy these rare glimpses into the life of a cook.

This reminds me of the adage, “There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation.” I guess I’m the kind of person that loves seeing how both are made. What are your thoughts on open kitchens?

Music Mondays: Mixtape #4

This week’s mix doesn’t have an explicit theme, but think you’ll enjoy it.

Cover for Nicktape #4


Tracklist:

1. Fang Island – Daisy
2. Matt and Kim – Cameras
3. Ariel Pink – Hood Internet Remix
4. Tokyo Police Club – What Up (Boots of Danger)
5. Tennis – Marathon
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Simple Girl
7. Waves – Post Acid
8. Jake Troth – Material Things
9. Arcade Fire – We Used to Wait
10. Crystal Castles – Not in Love (ft. Robert Smith of the Cure)
11. Shout Out Louds – 1999
12. Glasser – Home
13. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
14. The Drums – Down by the Water
15. La Plage – Coup de Boule
16. Straylight Run – The Miracle That Never Came
17.  Junip – Rope and Summit
18. Otis Redding – Satisfaction (Live on the Sunset Strip)
19. Weezer – El Scorcho (Live at Reading Festival)

Obama: It Gets Better

President Obama’s name didn’t appear anywhere on yesterday’s ballot, but the national punditry (justifiably) made it about him. As for the results, it was pretty much as expected. I wish the national trends went more blue and California went more red, but the election is over and it’s time to look forward.

It’s easy to get caught up in the polling, gaffes, and debates over the Tea Party. The hard part? Remembering that many politicians on both sides of the aisle fight hard to win elections not for self-aggrandizement, but because they care about their community and want to help their countrymen. There are so many important challenges facing this country. It will take the courage and hard work of politicians from both sides of the aisle as well as motivated citizens to overcome the everlasting obstacles to progress: shortsightedness, greed, prejudice, and laziness.

I feel fortunate that we have a president who is working hard to overcome these obstacles to make this country a better place. When I was following his campaign for president in 2008, I never thought that things would change overnight. And frankly, I didn’t want them to. As frustrating as it can be sometimes (especially regarding civil rights issues such as ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’), I believe that Obama’s incremental approach is the right one. I know that talk is cheap and actions are far more important, but Obama’s “It Gets Better” message helped me, for just a moment, forget about poisonous partisan politicking and think about how political figures can be a force for good. Maybe I am looking for anything remotely honest and positive during this post-election hangover, but I do know that Obama’s words give me hope that one day, things will get better.

“We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage – that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe forall of our kids…

The other thing you need to know is, things will get better. And more than that, with time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.

It will mean that you’ll be more likely to help fight discrimination – not just against LGBT Americans, but discrimination in all its forms. It means you’ll be more likely to understand personally and deeply why it’s so important that as adults we set an example in our own lives and that we treat everybody with respect. That we are able to see the world through other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes – that we never lose sight of what binds us together.

As a nation we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; most of all, to be true to ourselves. That’s the freedom that enriches all of us. That’s what America is all about. And every day, it gets better.”

Election Day 2010: Propositions 25-27

It’s Election Day! Undecided on how you are going to vote today? Read some of my thoughts on Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown, the Senate Race, Prop. 19, and propositions 20-24. Once you’re caught up, read below for some thoughts on propositions 25-27 and then head to the polls!

Voting Machines

Prop 25. Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass Budget and Budget-Related Legislation from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Retains Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Taxes. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Prop. 25 is one of the more complicated and important of the propositions in this election. California is one of three states that requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature to pass a budget. Ideally, the super-majority requirement would force the Democratic majority and the Republican minority in the legislature to work together to pass a fair and balanced budget. In practice, this requirement encourages the minority to hold-the-line. Instead of compromise, we go many months without a state budget.

Some policy analysts believe the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget and raise taxes is a big reason that Sacramento is so dysfunctional. I’m not so convinced that changing the requirement to pass a budget to a simple majority will solve all of our budgetary problems, but it’s worth a shot. I believe the 1990’s citizen commission was correct in their assessment: “There is no evidence [the two-thirds vote] does anything to slow the increase in state spending. Instead, it encourages horse trading [and] pork-barrel legislation… Stories abound of ‘buying’ votes to reach the two-thirds.”

The proposition will still keep in place the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes. However, I’m a little concerned that a simple majority requirement would lead to increased spending and make it easier for fees and other unofficial taxes to be raised. On the other hand, I’m tired of the unsavory compromises that resemble buying votes.  In the end, a budget SHOULD only require a simple-majority. That is the main job of the state legislature and a two-thirds requirement just doesn’t seem justifiable to me. Yes

Here are what others have to say:
LA Times: Yes
Sacramento Bee: No
San Diego Union Tribune: No
Howard Jarvis League: No
Courage Campaign: Yes
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce: No

Vote
Prop 26. Requires That Certain State and Local Fees Be Approved by Two-Thirds Vote. Fees Include Those That Address Adverse Impacts on Society or the Environment Caused by the Fee-Payer’s Business. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

To fully understand this initiative, you need to understand Prop. 13 (1978) that established a two-thirds requirement for future tax increases. This proposition would extend the two-thirds requirement to “fees” which currently require only a majority vote.  Many of the fees that Prop. 26 is designed to limit deal with offsetting damage to the environment. These include cleaning up oil spills and taxes on beverages to fund recycling programs.

The simple story of Prop 26 is that business interests including oil, tobacco, and alcohol companies don’t want any more fees that are levied to pay for the damage they do to the air, water, and public health. Easy NO vote.

Prop 27. Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting With Elected Representatives. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute

For the same reasons I am in favor of Prop. 20 that would empower a citizens

commission to redraw congressional districts, I am opposed to Prop 27. which would eliminate the citizens commission to redraw state Assembly and Senate districts. A Yes vote on Prop. 27 would mean invalidating Prop. 11 passed by voters in 2008. The only reason I can think of to vote in favor of this proposition is if you are a hard-line Democrat that wants to see the Democratically-controlled  legislature draw unfair but politically-advantageous district boundaries. I’m voting NO because gerrymandering is unfair, undemocratic, and just bad policy.

Just for Fun: Lt. Governor Race. Gavin Newsom vs. Abel Maldonado

Gavin Newsom and Bill Clinton
Lt. Governor may be the least important job you’ll be asked to cast a vote for in this election.  Even Democratic nominee Gavin Newsom said when he was running for Governor, “What does the lieutenant governor do? For the life of me, I don’t know.” When Newsom dropped out of the race for Governor and instead ran for Lt. Governor, those words came back to haunt him. But, you know what, he was just being honest. The Lt. Governor just makes a few minor appointments, sits on a few boards, and waits for something to happen to the Governor. Despite the office being minor and the fact that I have nothing against Abel Maldonado, I’m most excited about putting a little ink dot next to Gavin Newsom’s name. He’s well-spoken, passionate, and adds a little excitement when compared to other California Democrats (I’m looking at you Jerry and Barbara). I’m voting for Gavin Newsom, but hopefully he doesn’t get too bored waiting around for something to happen to Jerry or preparing for his eventual run for Governor.

Read about the candidates I didn’t cover at the LA Times and print our your custom ballot.

Election Day 2010: Propositions 20-24

Tomorrow is election day and time is running out to decipher the confusing ballot initiatives and to decide which candidates to support. Since I’ve already covered what I consider to be the three most interesting contests (Prop. 19, Whitman vs. Brown, and the Senate race), I decided to jot down some quick thoughts on the other contests. Propositions 20-25 are below, with more to follow tomorrow.

California 2010 Election

Prop. 20: Redistricting of Congressional Districts

An easy Yes vote for me.  Two years ago, I voted for Prop. 11 which established a “citizen commission” to redraw state district lines. This proposition would do the same thing for congressional districts.

When legislatures are allowed to draw boundaries, they create seemingly incomprehensible and misshapen districts to benefit either the political party in power or to create safe seats for incumbents.  Pictured below is one district in Illinois that no nonpartisan, ordinary citizen would ever find fair. Expect a full post about this phenomena known as “gerrymandering” in the near future. In the meantime, consider voting “Yes” on this proposition providing an acceptable solution.

Gerrymandering

Prop. 21: Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge To Help Fund State Parks And Wildlife Programs. Grants Surcharged Vehicles Free Admission To All State Parks. Initiative Statute

This was a very difficult choice for me, but I just can’t bring myself to support Prop. 21. I’m a big fan of protecting and funding California’s parks and beaches. I just don’t believe this is the best way to fund them. I traditionally vote against most propositions because I believe its the job of the legislature and governor to work together to pass a budget. Going straight to the voters with numerous small taxes and fees leads to budgetary messes that takes flexibility away from the legislature. “Ballot box budgeting” has many unforeseen consequences and I’d rather see the parks and wildlife programs funded in more traditional means. No.

Prop. 22: Prohibits The State From Borrowing Or Taking Funds Used For Transportation, Redevelopment, Or Local Government Projects And Services. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Sacramento shouldn’t be taking money away from local governments, but this is a complicated issue that shouldn’t be handled by an initiative constitutional amendment. Want to responsibly address the problem? Reignite the debate about Prop 13, the underlying cause of this bizarre budgeting. No.

Prop. 23: Suspends Implementation Of Air Pollution Control Law (Ab 32) Requiring Major Sources Of Emissions To Report And Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming, Until Unemployment Drops To 5.5 Percent Or Less For Full Year. Initiative Statute

Doesn’t get much easier than this. NO. This proposition sponsored by the oil companies would kill the landmark climate change legislation passed 4 years ago.

Prop. 24: Repeals Recent Legislation That Would Allow Businesses To Lower Their Tax Liability. Initiative Statute

I’m a little torn on this one, but will vote No. Whether or not you think the legislation cutting business taxes was good public policy, I maintain that we shouldn’t use ballot measures to overrule the budget-making process in Sacramento. Our budget process is already a disaster. Overruling compromises in Sacramento will make it even harder to get anything done.

CHECK BACK SOON. MORE TO COME

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Music Mondays: A Love Letter to Los Angeles Part II

Building on last week’s mix, I present 18 more Los Angeles-based bands for your listening pleasure. Roughly speaking, the mix starts mid-tempo, slows down a bit, and then rocks out near the end. Click here to download the mix.

A Love Letter to Los Angeles II

Tracklist:
1. Sea Wolf – You’re a Wolf
2. The Deadly Syndrome – Eucalyptus
3. Saint Motel – Butch
4. Young the Giant – My Body
5. Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight
6. Voxhaul Broadcast – Leaving on the 5th
7. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – 40 Day Dream
8. No Age – Eraser
9. Nosaj Thing – Aquarium
10. White Sea – Mountaineer
11. Baths – Nordic Laurel
12. Flying Lotus – Kill Your Coworkers
13. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
14. The Soft Pack – Down on Loving
15. Bad Religion – Los Angeles is Burning
16. Oingo Boingo – Weird Science (Extended Dance Mix)
17. Nico Vega – Beast
18. Say Anything – A Walk Through Hall (Alternate Version, Unreleased)