Monday, December 29, 2008

Not-So-Slow Food

Cindy and I just got back from Portland, where we celebrated the holiday weekend with my family. We had a good time hanging out with them, as usual. On the way home, we stopped by a Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. Now, this is the kind of place we'd normally try to avoid, but it seemed like the least offensive option amongst the various fast food joints that lined the highway during our long drive. So imagine our amazement at the plethora of bizarre food items on the menu. Forget about tacos and burritos; most of what comprises the current Taco Bell menu is hardly recognizable as anything remotely Mexican (or American, for that matter). I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch and a side of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. The latter item was relatively simple: deep fried potato chunks topped with nacho cheese sauce and sour cream. I don't know why I ordered it- I guess I was just fascinated by the idea of such a ridiculous and unhealthy side dish. Or maybe Taco Bell's marketing magic was actually working, luring me to their strange, Frankenstein-like food creations against my better judgment. Whatever the case, I still can't explain why I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch. Containing a whopping 37 grams of fat (a regular taco has 10 grams by comparison), this thing consisted of a regular taco topped with "Zesty Southwest Cheddar Sauce," wrapped in a pita, with a layer of melted cheese and bacon pieces in-between. I'm no health food nut, but I'm pretty sure I killed off the natural flora of my digestive tract with that meal. The whole experience reminded me of a hilarious SNL skit I saw awhile back. Looking at it again, it seems like a vision of things to come:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Slow Food

Hi friends,

Brrr! Winter is here, and what better way to warm up than with a hearty, home-cooked meal? Cindy and I recently discovered the joys the crock pot, one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned cooking utensils of all time. I know what you're thinking: how can a cool, hip dude like Mr. Concord possibly be excited about something as stupid as a crock pot? I realize that the words "crock pot" automatically conjour up all sorts of negative images: suburbia, the 70's, blandness, grandma's house. Okay, there's nothing negative about grandma's house, but you get the idea. Anyway, I'm here to tell you that crock pots kick ass, and here's why: 1) Meat cooked for 8 hours in a crock pot becomes amazingly tender, to the point that it practically falls off the bone. And get this: IT MAKES ITS OWN GRAVY. 2) You can find them for around $5 at garage sales everywhere. 3) It's no-brainer cooking: just throw a bunch of stuff in the pot and turn the knob. 4) You can turn it on before you go to work, and when you come home dinner is ready. Plus, the whole house smells delicious. It's like someone lit a beef-scented candle in the room.

So there you have it. Has married life turned me into some kind of domestic monster? Or am I actually the coolest guy on the block because of my love for outdated cookware? I think the answer is obvious. Next week: fun with casseroles!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bamboo Shoots

Last week, Cindy and I had dinner at Snappy Dragon, a Chinese restaurant in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle. In addition to being a nice place to eat, Snappy Dragon (or "Snappy D", as it is known to my friends) is one of the first restaurants I discovered when I moved to Seattle over a decade ago. Restaurants come and go, but Snappy D is still going strong after all these years. Maybe it's the neighborhood, which seems to have escaped much of the hype that infects trendier locales such as Ballard or Capitol Hill, or maybe it's just the lack of good Chinese food in North Seattle. Whatever the reason, this joint will always hold a special place in my heart. It is, after all, the place where my friend Dave once left a one cent tip (he was upset that the food took longer to arrive than it does at McDonald's); how can I forget that? So anyway, we had dinner there last week, and one of the things we ordered was chow mein with homemade noodles. It's an old favorite, and it was as good as it's always been. But then I realized something that I hadn't thought of before: this dish would be so much better without bamboo shoots. In fact, I don't think there's a single dish out there that is improved by the presence of bamboo shoots. Why? Because they are nothing more than filler. They are the Asian equivalent of celery, i.e. they're added to foods not for flavor but for texture. Unfortunately, both bamboo shoots and celery tend to get mushy when cooked, so the texture they add is actually kind of disgusting. Ultimately, both bamboo shoots and celery reduce the quality of dishes they are in. So here's a challenge to all the Chinese restaurants out there: make your food without bamboo shoots, and your customers will be happier. And to all the other restaurants: cut out the celery!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Running for Life

Hey there! Remember me? It's been three weeks since I last posted, and Thanksgiving has already come and gone. What the hell happened? Two words: tryptophan coma. Anyway, I'm back, so let's get started.

As most of you already know, my brother-in-law Steve will soon be undergoing a bone marrow transplant. He has found a donor (9/10 match), and we are confident that everything will work out fine. Not that it's going to be easy, though; he will first need to undergo intensive chemotherapy and then go through the slow process of recovery after the transplant. We've all been impressed with Steve's courage, determination, and spirit in the face of cancer, and we can't wait for him to kick this disease once and for all. And yet, there are still ways that you can help not only Steve but others with his condition as well. Read on.

Steve's fight against leukemia has inspired my friend Trevor to enter the Ironman 70.3 Boise, a triathalon being held in Idaho next June. You may know Trevor as the mastermind behind the Mad City blog. So where do you come in? Trevor is simply asking that you support him by signing up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. That's right, Trevor's going to run, bike and swim over 70 miles, and all you have to do is pay $52 and take a cheek swab. Not a bad deal, huh? And who knows, you might just end up saving someone's life. Check out Trevor's post here. Go, Trevor, go!

Steve's story has also inspired one of his friends, Nic, to participate in another insane athletic event. Nic is running in a series of 13 marathon-length races over the course of 12 weeks in order to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He's named his event "13 in 12", and you can read more about it on his blog here. Thanks, Nic!

So there you have it: two good reasons to donate to a worthy cause. Concords Are Better wishes these super athletes the best of luck!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Million Dollar Baby

Yo, check it out: my friend Chris Volinsky is in the New York Times! He's quoted in an article about Netflix, which is holding a contest to see who can come up with the most accurate "recommendation engine" (the program that determines which movies to recommend to a customer). The winner will recieve $1 million, and Chris' team is one of the top participants so far. I've seen my fair share of fame and fortune (um, I won an ice cream-making contest at work), so I know exactly what Chris is going through right now. Stay focused, Chris, and don't let the pressure get to you. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

Hello! Mr. and Mrs. Concord have been busy lately. Since my last post, we spent some time in St. Thomas and St. John vacationing and attending a friend's wedding. The beaches were nice, the weather was hot, and the iguanas were friendly. And congratulations to Jen and Aaron, the happy newlyweds! Anyway, it's good to be back in Seattle. Sure, it's nice to hang out in a tropical paradise, but there's nothing quite like the comforts of your own hometown. Last weekend we went out for brunch at the Volunteer Park Cafe. It was our second visit to the place, and it reinforced my opinion that it is the best breakfast joint in Seattle. I've long complained that too many restaurants serve the same stuff for breakfast: pancakes, omelettes (or "scrambles", or "rumbles", or's all the same, really), french toast, eggs benny, etc. There's a huge variety of cuisines available for dinner, but people are pretty narrow-minded when it comes to their breakfasts. There are exceptions: I'm thinking specifically of Senor Moose in Ballard, which serves Mexican-style breakfasts, and Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont, with it's Hare Krishna-inspired vegetarian offerings. But what if you want something that's not too far out, yet a step above your average American breakfast? Volunteer Park Cafe is your answer. As the name implies, it's a cafe, i.e. you order at the counter and seat yourself, but they offer a decent variety of breakfast dishes in addition to their coffee and pastries. And man, oh man, is their food delicious. I've tried both the breakfast panini (proscuitto, poached eggs, and gruyere cheese) and the carmelized, custardy brioche french toast. Sweet Jesus, they were amazing. Add to that the cool, laid-back vibe and the fact that it's tucked away in a residential neighborhood (always a plus in my book) near Volunteer Park and you've got yourself a winner.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Here he is, your new president. That one. This is the dawn of a new era in American politics, and I can't tell you how happy I am. Just imagine: a president who can speak in complete sentences, who can inspire the American public, who can make logical decisions, and who will improve the international reputation of this country. After eight years of stupidity, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's a good time to be an American, my friends.

Radio Concord is proud to present a special election day tribute to our new president, Barack Obama. I don't mean to reinforce any tired stereotypes, but this one is just too good to pass up:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Sweet Taste of Victory

Hey there,

Before I get started, I want to thank the fine folks at PhinneyWood for mentioning my blog on their website a few days ago. This is the sort of thing that really boosts my fragile ego. Check it out here.

Speaking of ego-boosting, I want to mention something else that happened to me last week. As you know, I've recently become obsessed with ice cream-making, and last month I wrote about an amazing Concord grape sorbet that I made. Let me tell you how it all started. Last summer, Cindy and I went out to dinner with some of my co-workers at the Boat Street Cafe. The dinner was great, but the dessert was even better: creme fraiche ice cream drizzled with cassis vinegar. It was so good that people were raving about it the next day. Since we all knew that the ice cream was home-made, we naturally thought about trying to make it ourselves. I then suggested that we have a competition to see who could come up with the best-tasting ice cream. Thus, the first annual Freeze-Off was born. Three of my co-workers agreed to enter the competition, and I immediately put an ice cream maker on my wedding registry so that I could participate as well. Eleven other co-workers would judge the event. Well, we finally had the Freeze-Off last week. My entry was Cash-n-Carry: cashew ice cream with caramel swirl. I don't mean to brag, but it tasted pretty freaking incredible. My competition was stiff: coconut ice cream with chocolate pieces, creme fraiche ice cream with mixed berries, and chocolate ice cream spiked with hot pepper. After the judges tasted all of the entries, a winner was announced: Cash-n-Carry! That's a picture of my trophy, above. So with my ass-kicking performance at the Freeze-Off, as well as my newfound fame on PhinneyWood, my ego's been running at an all-time high for the past few days. It's a good feeling, my friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Greetings From Grinney

Seattle, like any decent American city, is a city of neighborhoods. People in this town enjoy being part of a community, and they often take pride in the neighborhood they live in. Due to Seattle's abundance of hills and water, the neighborhoods here usually have well-defined borders, and many have a distinct character that sets them apart from the rest of the city. Capitol Hill, West Seattle, International District, Georgetown...each of these areas has its own identity. But when people ask me which neighborhood I live in, I sometimes hesitate for a moment. I live on North 75th St: is that Greenwood or Phinney Ridge? The two neighborhoods sort of blend together, and it's not clear where the border is. Common sense says that the border between these two 'hoods is where Phinney Ave turns into Greenwood Ave, around 67th St. But according to Wikipedia, the border lies at 80th St. Because of this confusion, it's hard to say which neighborhood I live in. So from now on, I will be referring to my neighborhood as "Grinney". Grinney is my name for the area between 67th and 80th, and I consider it a distinct neighborhood in its own right. Pretty soon everyone in Seattle will be talking about that hip, new neighborhood called "Grinney." Folks, you heard it here first.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Hi kids,
Exactly one year ago today, I decided to start a blog. My goals were simple: to inspire people, to share my innermost thoughts and desires, and to rave about Concord grapes. I had a dream to unite this great nation under the banner of all things grape-related. If everyone discovered the joy of Concord grapes, we could all lay aside our differences and learn to love one another. It was an ambitious goal. I knew the rough road that lay ahead, a road littered with sleepless nights, excessive drinking, and obsessed fans. But sometimes you have to pay a price to follow your dreams.
Let me tell you a story. Earlier this year, as I was traveling through California, I met a man named Joe. Let's call him Joe the Electrician, since he worked as a sales clerk at Radio Shack. Anyway, he told me that he was going to quit his job so that he could open a produce stand and sell grapes. Green grapes. He told me that his neighbors were so infatuated with green grapes that he figured he could make over $250,000 a year selling them. When I mentioned that Concord grapes were superior to the green variety, he was puzzled. Surely, he said, there is no way to make $250,000 selling Concords. And I said, you're absolutely right. You'll make maybe $10,000 a year, tops. But your neighbors will learn to love Concords, their quality of live will improve, and the entire community will call you a hero. With those words of inspiration, Joe opened his first Concord grape stand in June. Months passed, and then last week, I called Joe. I asked him how his business was going. I asked him if the current crop was as plump and juicy as the last. After a lengthy barrage of expletives, he explained that he was going bankrupt and his life was ruined. And so it goes. Friends, this is a story about sacrifice. It's about forgoing the American dream (i.e. making shitloads of money) so that others can enjoy the sweet, sweet flavor of Concord grapes. It's about spreading the juice around, so to speak. Because even though Joe the Electrician's life is in shambles, there is a bright side. People in Joe's neighborhood got to experience the glory of Concord grapes for the first time in their lives. They will always remember the day they stopped by that cranky old bastard's fruit stand, bit into a luscious Concord, and let the purple juice drip down their chins and onto their shirts, staining them permanently. And that, my friends, has made it all worthwhile.
Concords Are Better is one year old today. Happy birthday, Concords Are Better!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Cheese-Biscuit in Paradise

Hi folks,

Cindy and I just got back from Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where we were attending the wedding of our friends Sarah and Michael. They graciously hosted us at a beach house they rented for the wedding and the few days leading up to it. Several other friends were staying there too, so it was fun to hang out with them and pitch in a little with the wedding set-up. As for the wedding itself, it was fantastic. The setting on the water was beautiful, and it was a pleasure to meet all of Sarah and Michael's super-nice friends and family. The happy couple also performed probably the greatest first dance I have ever witnessed. And let's not forget the wonderful toast that Cindy gave to the newlyweds. It was a great time all around.
I need to mention something crazy that happened to me during the reception. After a few drinks I got a case of the hiccups, so one of Michael's friends told me he knew how to get rid of them. He applied some acupressure to my chest, and voila, the hiccups vanished. Amazing, right? No, the amazing thing was that another friend who was standing next to me immediately started to hiccup. It was a freaking hiccup transfer, people. I'm telling you, there was some serious mystical energy floating around that night.
The day after the wedding, we got some egg-and-cheese biscuits from Miss Helen's, which is a tiny bakery located inside of a local gas station convenience store. Normally I'd be skeptical of anything cooked at a gas station, but these biscuits were awesome. Moist and buttery, they reminded me why biscuits are one of the greatest foods on the planet. It was a perfect end to a perfect vacation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Hey folks,

Cindy and I will be in North Carolina for the next few days, so this is the last post I'm going to write for at least a week. We'll be attending the wedding of Cindy's best friend Sarah and her husband-to-be (and professional blog commentor) Michael. We couldn't be happier for them, and we're looking forward to spending time with them during this special occasion. Now onto today's post...
It's hard to believe that the presidential election is less than a month away. If any of you watched the debate tonight, you saw a smart, confident candidate clearly stating his opinions and his plans for our country, and another candidate who seemed out of touch and uncomfortable (not to mention slightly creepy) talking to the audience. I'll let you fill in the names. Last Friday's vice-presidential debate was even more of a contrast. For someone with so much experience, it's surprising that McCain would choose a running mate who has exhibited such little understanding of key political issues. As far as I can tell, Palin was chosen due to her reputation as a political outsider, as well as for her spunky personality. If this is an example of McCain's judgment skills, let's imagine how he would fill out the rest of his cabinet. How about Carrot Top as Secretary of State? Why not? He probably doesn't know anything about politics, but he sure knows how to pull a giant rubber hamster out of his pants. As for Attorney General, how about my friend Dave? What the hell. Dave is a total maverick; who else but a maverick would order strawberry shortcake for dinner? I could go on, but the message should be clear: You want a president who is serious about improving the lives of Americans, not someone who plans to continue the backwards-thinking policies of our current administration. For this reason, Concords Are Better is endorsing Barack Obama for President in 2008. Go 'Bama!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ladies Man

I knew my friend Trevor was popular with the ladies, but I had no idea he was an international sex symbol. This is what I found while flipping through my subscription copy of Vogue magazine:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Grape Expectations

Hello friends,

You may have read a recent post in Echo and Hum about our new ice cream maker. It's true, we've been a bit obsessed with it. It's amazingly easy to make delicious ice cream with this machine. So far I have made Cash 'n Carry (cashew ice cream with caramel swirl) and Lemon Bar (lemon ice cream with pieces of pastry crust). Both were excellent. Cindy made the also-excellent and very rich Gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut ice cream). Well, it was only a matter of time before I decided to experiment with the mother of all flavors: Concord grape! We're right in the middle of Concord season, so I took the opportunity to make Concord sorbet. And it totally rocked. Here's the step-by-step process:

After boiling the grapes in some water, add sugar and lemon juice. Then strain the mixture and let it cool before putting it in the ice cream maker for 30 minutes:

Freeze the mixture overnight and you get this glorious stuff:

I think the message is clear: you need to get one of these machines right away. And you need to eat more Concords!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Last week Cindy and I tried a new restaurant in Ballard called Ocho (yes, this was the same night we bought our shoes- magic was in the air). And it was great. It's a tapas bar, which is not exactly new in this town, but it's closer to the real thing than anything else I've come across around here. My beef with Seattle tapas joints is that they're basically fancy restaurants with smaller plates. You wouldn't go to one of these places to get a drink and just hang out, because it's essentially a fancy restaurant. Ocho is different. It's small and low-key. Half of the place is taken up by a bar, with a few tables on the side. One look at the list of tapas (written on a chalkboard on the back wall) and you'll notice that most of them are around $4-$5. That's still higher than what you'd find in Spain, but lower than other places in Seattle. But what about the food? We had six plates between the two of us, and all but one were fantastic. They had the best garbanzo beans I've ever tasted (sort of a bean stew, with bacon and arugula), and I'm normally not that crazy about garbanzos. Oh, and get this- Cindy ordered a Coke...and it was 50 cents! When was the last time you saw Coke on a menu for that price? It's as if there were a rip in the fabric of the space-time-restaurant continuum. So I'm going to go ahead and give this place the Concords Are Better seal of approval. That's high praise, my friend.
This week's selection on Radio Concord is Sea Wolf, who we saw in concert recently:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Walking On Air

I was thinking today about my new shoes. I bought them at Market Street Shoes in Ballard a few days ago. They're stylish yet functional. Most importantly, they feel great on my feet. Gone are the days when I could throw on a pair of Converse All-Stars and be good to go. I'm a 38 year-old man now; bunions and callouses are part of my daily life. Years of chronic fungal infections have left my toes permanently disfugured and in a state of constant pain. Well, that's all going to change. These new shoes make my feet feel like they're wrapped in cotton. They're made by a company called Ahnu (according to their website, the name is derived from the ancient Celtic word for "pillowy comfort"), and they are a pleasure to wear. I don't think there's a man or woman alive who doesn't appreciate the luxurious feel of a new pair of shoes. Here's a picture of them:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

America's Funnyman

Hey! How's it going? I've been enjoying married life for about a month now, and it's been fantastic. So much so that the whole blogging thing just sort of fell by the wayside. I know, I know, it's the same old excuse, but I swear I'll start posting more frequently. I'm going to write a lengthier post in the next few days or so, but today I'm simply going to share something very special with you. Do you remember how I mentioned that my friend Trevor gave an awesome speech at my wedding? I have been deluged with e-mails from people begging me for a copy of that speech. Dear friends, your prayers have been answered. Today I present to you...Trevor's speech!

Thanks to my sister for capturing this magical moment and posting it online.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Era

Hi folks,

It's been a while, hasn't it? Normally I'd give some silly excuse for my lack of blogging, but this time I'm proud to say that I've been busy with something far more important: I got married! Not only that, but I got married to the most wonderful woman in the world. I think you know her- she writes that charming little blog called Echo and Hum. What can I's been like a dream. I feel incredibly lucky, and I've never been happier in my life. It's also been a very busy time for both of us, what with the wedding planning and the honeymoon, so I hope you can understand why blogging took a back seat to all of this for the past several weeks.

The wedding was great; highlights included the beautiful ceremony, Trevor's excellent speech, and just hanging out with all of my friends and relatives. It was an honor to be in the presence of all these people who had flown in from across the country just to be with us on our special day. I'm pretty sure the entire readership of this blog was in attendance (thanks for coming!), so I don't need to explain how nice it was to enjoy the warm, sunny weather in such a gorgeous setting. I hope everyone had as good of a time as I did.

After the wedding, Cindy and I went to Kauai for our honeymoon, which was awesome. I'll save the details of that for a later post. Instead, I'd like to mention something of more immediate concern. As I mentioned a couple months ago, Cindy's brother (and now my brother-in-law) Steve is currently battling myelodysplastic syndrome, and he will need to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant. If you haven't signed up for the National Marrow Donor Registry, now's the time: from September 7-22, the $52 registration fee is being waived. The chances of matching to Steve is slim, but you could end up saving someone else's life. More info can be found here. Make sure you enter the promotion code to get the fee waived: NASC262101.

Finally, I'd like to mention something that all of you should be excited about: My friend Trevor has a new blog. I've been pestering him for months, trying to convince him to start a blog of his own, and now he's delivered the goods. Thank you, T-Bone! Now, if only Michael would start a blog...

Speaking of which: this week's selection on Radio Concord is from the most recent Stephen Malkmus album, which Michael sent me recently. Enjoy:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Tricks

Hey folks,

If you read the post I wrote a couple weeks back, you know all about my amazing idea for Root Creme. The concept was to take the creamy, vanilla-flavored mixture at the bottom of a root beer float and sell it in bottled form. I was going to make millions of dollars, become a hero to children across the world, and retire on my own private island. Well, today I learned an important lesson: God sometimes likes to shit on your dreams. That's right, kids. Look at the image to the left. That is what I found today while wandering through the aisles of a 7-11. When I saw that bottle, my heart sank. I suddenly realized that the future path of my life had changed, and it no longer involved limos and piles of cocaine. It's an awful feeling, like being fired from a job, or like discovering that one of your favorite musicians is a Scientologist. But I know that I'll eventually get over it. I went through the same thing years ago when I came up with the idea for the Breakfast Pizza, only to find a nearly identical product in my local grocery store several months later. So I can deal with this latest turn of events. In fact, I have several other great ideas in my head that are just waiting to be turned into reality. But if anybody steals my idea for the Griscuit, goddamn it, someone's gonna get hurt.
Oh, I guess you are probably wondering how the A&W Float tastes. It's good, but maybe with a little too much artificial vanilla flavor. I prefer the real thing.

Today's Radio Concord selection is from Bright Eyes, the Omaha, Nebraska-based singer/songwriter who also goes by the name Conor Oberst. He has a new album out which I haven't heard yet, but this song is from last year's album Cassadaga. Check it out:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Treats

Hey there,

How are you doing? Living the dream? As for me, I've been enjoying the summer here in the Northwest. You know what that means- bike rides, kite-flying, mowing the lawn without a shirt on, skinny-dipping at the local community pool, etc. But do you know what I like best about summer? Root beer floats. That's right, my friend. Call me old-fashioned, but there's nothing I like better than a frosty mug on a hot summer day. Why, it was just last weekend that Cindy and I were driving back to Seattle from Portland. About halfway through the three-hour drive, we stopped off at a roadside diner to take a break. The weather was hot, we were tired, and we were craving something cool and refreshing. Cindy ordered a root beer float, and goddamn, it was delicious. It's amazing how a mere two ingredients can combine to create something so wonderful. And do you know what my favorite part is? It's the leftover soda-melted ice cream mixture at the bottom of the mug. Hell, I would be satisfied just drinking that stuff by itself. Which brings me to my latest invention: Root Creme. That's right, I'm going to take that creamy, vanilla-flavored root beer (the "dregs", if you will) and put it in a bottle. Pretty soon, you're going to see this thing in the refrigerated section of every grocery store across the nation. And people will go crazy. Is that a genius idea, or what? Now I need to come up with a mascot to promote this concoction. I'm thinking of a beige-colored hippo wearing a parka, but I'm still working out the details.

This week's tune is from Andrew Bird, who we saw perform a few days ago at the Woodland Park Zoo. It's a cover of an old WWI-era ballad about soldiers returning home from the war. Enjoy:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lost and Found

Hello friends,

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything, but things have been busy around here. As many of you may already know, Cindy's brother Steve was recently diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. Cindy and I have been spending a lot of time with Steve and the rest of the family, so that's been the main focus of our lives for the past few weeks. We're optimistic that he'll recover fully, although he will require a bone marrow transplant. We're all wishing Steve the best of luck on his road to recovery. You can read more on Cindy's blog here.

If there's a bright side to any of this, it's the quality time that Cindy's family has been spending together. One of the things that we've enjoyed is watching old episodes of the TV show Lost. Since none of us had watched it before, we started with the first season on DVD, and it wasn't long before we were all hooked. I know, we're a bit late to catch on; at this rate, we'll probably start watching The Sopranos around 2012. For those of you unfamiliar with Lost, it's about the survivors of a plane crash that strands them on a mysterious island. Think Gilligan's Island, but way better. Each of the characters has a hidden past, and the island is full of strange surprises. The way the plot slowly reveals its secrets makes for some seriously addictive television. I could go on, but it's best to discover it for yourself. All of the past episodes are available on DVD, or you can watch it online for free here.

This week's song is a new one from the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Steve's a fan, so this is for him.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cute and Creepy

Hola amigos,

After an unusually long rainy season, it seems like summer is finally here in Seattle. But that doesn't mean I'll be wasting my time playing in the sunshine; no, I'll still be slaving away in my dark, cramped computer room so that all of you folks can continue enjoying your weekly fix of blog heaven.

This week's post features a couple of things found on the World Wide Web. First up is a website called Angry Alien. Cindy's friend Beth recently turned us on to this site, which features 30-second reenactments of popular movies as performed by cute cartoon bunnies. Only the essential plot points are illustrated, and each clip speeds by at a hilarious pace. All of 'em are great, but my favorite is their version of Brokeback Mountain.

Next up is Monstruos Diabolicos, a webpage devoted to 80's-era Mexican monster trading cards. The cards are pretty cheesy, but the drawings are so low-budget that they end up being way cooler than any of the slick American trading cards I remember from my childhood.

This week on Radio Concord is a song by British musician Robert Wyatt. Originally a drummer for the 60's psychedelic band Soft Machine, he was paralyzed in a freak accident early on and has spent the remainder of his career making solo art-rock records. Here's a song from his latest album:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is Cindy's birthday. Here are some facts you should know about her:

- She was born in Guam.

- One of her life goals is to learn to play the banjo.

- She can speak both Spanish and German.

- Cindy once scored the only goal of the season for her first grade soccer team because the goalie was doing a cartwheel.

- She likes cats.

- She is the world's biggest Bonnie Prince Billy fan:

Happy birthday, Cindy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Hey kids,
I'm sorry that I haven't posted anything recently. I spent the past week on the road with Cindy driving down the Oregon coast and hanging out in the Bay Area. It was a great trip, and you can read all about it on her blog, Echo And Hum. While you're at it, check out Three Blind Moose, another great blog by one of Cindy's friends. Both of these blogs are way more entertaining than the one you're reading now, so hop on over there right away.
I also want to apologize to Ben Gibbard and Colin Meloy for the unnecessarily mean post I wrote last week. You guys obviously have lots of fans who adore your music (including many of my readers), and it was wrong of me to pass judgement on it when I haven't really given your albums a fair listen. It's understandable that you two might be upset about all of this, so I'm offering a truce: I'll stop ragging on your bands if you'll stop calling me repeatedly at odd hours of the night. Deal? Good.

The only thing I have to share with you folks today is a NY Times article on flavor tripping. Apparently there is a West African berry called "miracle fruit" which causes taste buds to temporarily make everything taste sweeter and more delicious. After eating one of these berries, lemons taste like candy, beer tastes like milkshake, and cheese tastes like cheesecake. It sounds pretty wacky, and I'm curious to try it. Who knows, I may end up changing the name of this blog to "Miracle Fruit Is Better". Now, if only there were a berry that made Death Cab sound like the Replacements...

Today on Radio Concord is a song by an up-and-coming Seattle band called Throw Me The Statue:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Evil Twins

Look at the pictures above. Who are these guys? Are they brothers? Twins separated at birth? No, they are the frontmen for two of the most popular rock bands in the Northwest: Seattle's Death Cab For Cutie and Portland's The Decemberists. The former band is led by Ben Gibbard (top photo) and the latter by Colin Meloy (bottom photo). Has anyone ever noticed that these guys look nearly identical? Same pudgy face, same shaggy haircut, same taste in western shirts. They probably even share the same optometrist. But here's the biggest similarity of all: both of their bands are completely overrated. No, their music isn't terrible, it's just very average. So average, in fact, that it's a mystery how either of them became popular in the first place. And yet The Decemberists recently played to huge crowds at a Barack Obama rally in Oregon. It's hard to imagine anyone getting pumped up for a politician by this band. And Death Cab played for the Dalai Lama during his visit here last month. I'm sure the Dalai Lama enjoyed the show; he's totally into sensitive white-boy indie rock these days. Okay, I realize that I'm being a bit harsh. And maybe I just haven't heard the right songs to be convinced of their talent. So if anyone out there can tell me what I'm missing, I'm all ears.

To contrast with the aformentioned bands, Radio Concord is presenting you with a song by one of the most underrated (and unheard) bands from the Northwest: The Whip. They were only active for a very brief period at the start of the decade, but it's fair to say that if they ever got the chance to play at a Barack Obama rally, there would be rioting in the streets. Their ex-bassist/vocalist continues to pummel eardrums with his current band, Big Business; if they ever roll through your town, I encourage you to check 'em out.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Middle America

Hi folks,

I just got back from Oklahoma, where Cindy and I were attending the funeral of her grandmother. That event is a little too personal to discuss in a forum like this, but I will say that I'm glad I went, and I was fortunate to meet a lot of Cindy's relatives while I was there.

I found Oklahoma to be interesting from a cultural perspective. Here are a few observations I had during my visit:

- The tiny town of Gage, where the funeral was held, is one of the vanishing towns of America. I can imagine that Main Street was a hub of activity 50 years ago, but everything is boarded up and deserted nowadays.

- Every medium-sized town has a WalMart. I wonder if that explains something about the previous observation. We also happened to drive through Kingfisher, the birthplace of Sam Walton.

- Beef tastes especially good in Oklahoma. Maybe it's fresher there.

- If you're ever in Oklahoma, make sure you visit the city of Guthrie, home to the largest historic district in the country. We didn't have time for more than a drive-through, but it looked cool.

The Radio Concord song of the week is "White Winter Hymnal", by Seattle band Fleet Foxes. Enjoy:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Radio Concord

Hello friends,
Today marks the debut of Radio Concord, an ongoing feature on this blog aimed at keeping you up to date on the current music scene. Thanks to streaming audio websites such as SeeqPod, iLike, and Imeem, it's easy to discover and listen to all sorts of new bands. In fact, there is so much music out there that it can be overwhelming. My computerized assistant LABRUSCA has been busy scouring these sites to find music that it thinks will match the tastes of the Concord demographic (thirty-something, college-educated, lots of free time). From now on, each blog post will include a song that I, er, LABRUSCA has recently discovered and deemed worthy enough to share with you folks.

This week's song is "Fools", by The Dodos. I don't know too much about these guys, except that they are a guitar-drums duo from San Francisco. Check it out:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Hi folks,

Mr. Concord has a cold this week. I'm sure you're all eager to hear me whine and complain about how miserable I feel, so I'm going to spend the entirety of today's post focusing on my sickness. Specifically, I'm going to talk about cold remedies. Since everyone gets a cold from time to time, this post should provide you with some useful information.

I seem to get sick about once a year, and as a result I've become somewhat of a connoisseur of cold medicines. Here's a brief overview of what I've tried in the past:
Pseudoephedrine- One of my faves. This drug has been more difficult to obtain recently due to its role in the production of methamphetimine. As long as you don't go to the store looking like trailer trash, the pharmacist will probably sell it to you without any hassle.
Phenylephrine- Most over-the-counter remedies use this now instead of pseudophedrine. It's a poor substitute, in my opinion. The Hyundai of cold medicines.
Dextromethorphan- This is a cough suppressant, but in large doses it can act as a hallucinogen. I'm no junkie, but if you're going to suffer through a horrible cold, you might as well reward yourself.

Cough Drops:

Hall's Mentho-Lyptus- The gold standard. Decent menthol content, with a fresh, minty finish.
Hall's Ice Blue- These have an even higher menthol content, so they're sure to get the job done. Slightly harsh afertaste. A real man's cough drop.
Luden's Wild Cherry- I remember eating these when I was a kid. The active ingredient here is pectin, which means they're totally worthless. For babies only.
Ricola- This one has a nice, sweet flavor, balanced by notes of peppermint and sage. The menthol content is rather low, though.
Robitussin Honey Center- This is by far my favorite cough drop. As the name indicates, these are filled with delicious, soothing honey. I would eat these even if I didn't have a cold. Five stars.

That's all for now. Not the most entertaining post, I know, but I should be in better shape next week. Keep me in your prayers. Love, Grape Boy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shat is the Shit

Hola amigos,

I was hoping to post something really substantial today, but unfortunately my cyber-assistant LABRUSCA wasted away most of the past week watching robot porn. So the only thing I have to offer you is a couple of classic clips featuring the one and only William Shatner. Before the Priceline ads, before "Boston Legal," before even "TJ Hooker", there was this:

...and this:

Finally, I have some great news for blog-heads everywhere: my fiancee, Cindy, has started a new blog called Echo and Hum. I can guarantee that it will be just as entertaining and informative as Concords Are Better, only a lot cuter. Maybe you should check it out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Replacements Revisited

Hello friends, and welcome to another edition of Concords: Behind The Music. This week's subject is the Replacements, one of the most influential rock groups of the 80's. Four of their albums are being reissued this week, so it's a good opportunity for me to pay tribute to these guys. No other band at the time was better at combining the raw energy of punk with first-rate songwriting. If you aren't already familiar with their music, now's the time to take a closer look.

The Replacements had a huge impact on me as a teenager. They were the first alternative band I became obsessed with, and they shaped my musical tastes more than anyone else that I can think of. I still consider their album Tim to be one of the great rock-n-roll records of all-time; it's a perfect balance between the noisy thrash of their earlier records and the more mainstream pop that they made later on. The albums being reissued this week are from the pre-Tim era, which means that the songs might sound a bit rough to the uninitiated, but there are plenty of inspired moments nonetheless.

Here are a couple of tracks from those early records. The first song is one of my favorites from their album Hootenanny. It's a good example of the kind of loud, tuneful rock that they were known for. The second is an older song that finds them in mock country mode, which is unusual given that they were primarily a hardcore band back then.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Automatic For The People

Hey there,

Another week, another blog post. That's my new resolution, anyway. You wouldn't believe the piles of mail I get begging me to blog more frequently. I won't argue the fact that I'm probably lazier than most bloggers, but you've got to admit that the quality of my posts is pretty freaking high. So in order to calm the rabid hysteria of my readership, I will try to write a new entry every week from now on. Now, I know what you're thinking: how can Mr. Grape Boy find the time to produce online brilliance every week? Read on.

Some of you may have already read the article in yesterday's NY Times about Philip M. Parker, the guy who's written 200,000 books. If you haven't, I encourage you to read about him here. The gist of the article is that he doesn't actually write anything; rather, he's programmed a computer to create books using complex algorithms which require very little human input. Search his name on and you'll find a seemingly endless list of books on topics ranging from acne rosacea to Indian bathmats. Apparently, these books are little more than lists of references and internet databases with some generic text inserted to make them feel like they were written by a person. It's a great idea, even if the result is not exactly compelling literature.

Here's where Concords Are Better comes in. In order to keep up with the demands of my devoted fans, I have designed a computer program (code name: LABRUSCA) to write all future entries for this blog. From now on, you will be reading a computer-generated post each week on a variety of subjects designed to appeal to the average Concords reader. LABRUSCA will choose a topic at random, link to a YouTube video, steal an image off the internet and upload it, throw in a few references to grapes or donuts, and tie it all together with some half-assed, sarcastic comments. In other words, these new posts should be virtually indistinguishable from ones I've written in the past. Hold on to your mousepads, my friends- the future is now!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Two for One

Hello grape-heads,
I don't have any major revelations this week, so I thought I'd just share a couple of random things I found on the web. First is an online quiz that will tell you how many 5-year-old kids you could take on in a fight. Not exactly indispensable knowledge, but you never know when you might be ambushed by a gang of crazed kindergarteners. Or when you might feel like kicking some ass at the local playground.

Second is a map of the U.S. showing the regional nicknames for soft drinks. I've seen this before, but it still amazes me that people in the South will refer to any brand of carbonated beverage as a "Coke". Also, the map is really pretty to look at.

What do these two websites have in common? Not much, except for the fact that you'll probably be pretty thirsty after fighting all those 5-year-olds.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Good guitar solos

Hi folks,
Since my previous post focused on bad guitar playing, I thought I'd turn things around this week and show you an example of good guitar playing. Think of it as Music Appreciation 101, Concord grape-style.

Here's a video of one of my all-time favorite guitarists, John Fahey, playing live in 1978. When you watch this clip, I want to you to be aware of the following: 1) Observe how Fahey uses a single guitar to create a complete song. Vocals and rhythm section are unnecessary and would probably detract from the quality of the music. 2) Notice that there is no self-indulgent soloing. Although he is not as technically accomplished as some guitarists, every note Fahey plays is perfectly placed and essential to the structure of the melody. 3) Listen to the way Fahey uses the techniques of traditional folk guitar fingerpicking to make music that is both highly expressive and modern-sounding. 4) Check out Fahey's hair. It is a total disaster. Even with this major distraction, the music is strong enough to hold our attention until the very end.

It is worth mentioning that I once went to a John Fahey show in Tacoma with my friend (and blog nemesis) Trevor. Fahey was in such terrible form that his playing could easily have been included in my previous post. Apparently, Fahey suffered from alcoholism and other health problems during his later years, and he died in 2001. If you want to hear more of his music, I recommend that you check out any of the albums he recorded in the 60's. These are classic records by a true musical genius.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Worst Guitar Solos Ever

Hey kids,
I just discovered these funny clips on YouTube (courtesy of the BoingBoing website): videos of some of rock's most famous guitarists playing excruciatingly bad solos. In reality, some prankster has overdubbed his own intentionally awful playing over these clips, and the result is hilarious. Two of my favorites are of Eric Clapton and Steve Vai, if only because these guys are amongst the finest purveyors of "guitar face." Totally awesome.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chew On This

Hello dear readers,

As many of you now know, I recently opened a restaurant. The name of it is "Chew", and we specialize in nouveau Pan-Asian tapas with a Northwest flair. Really, it is like the most perfect food ever. Maybe you read that 4-star review of Chew in the Seattle Times, or perhaps you saw me on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. If not, let me tell you about the place. Chew is located in the heart of downtown Seattle, right next to a bunch of other fancy restaurants. It's very cozy, only three tables and a small bar, and it's built inside of a giant, hollowed-out tree stump. The walls and furniture are lined with aluminum siding from the old Kalakala can't get more local than that, can you? The decor is very vintage-modern post-industrial chic, whatever the hell that means. But let's move on to the star of the show: the food. Here's a sample from our award-winning menu:

Braised mutton tips with fennel jelly and baby artichokes...$15
Corned oxtail fricassee and panko-crusted filberts in a geoduck demi-glace...$24
Seared pygmy lobsters with sun-dried crabapples and mango-veal compote...$22
Quince and pigeon stew, with a side of fig sauce...$17
Half-dozen pheasant eggs, soaked in brandy and pomegranate soda...$19
Whole baby seal, grilled "Fukuoka"-style, on a bed of candied turnips...$30
Lavender oil-infused sea cucumbers laced with shiitake-habanero aioli...$14
Willamette Valley buffalo cheeks with blackened chard and cinnamon sticks...$24
Curried yams with daikon-rutabaga chutney and wild boar confit...$22

And for dessert...concord grapes, of course!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Every Vote Counts

Well, the 2008 presidential campaign is rolling along at full force now, so it's time to start making some decisions. John McCain ("McLame") pretty much has the Republican nomination secured, but the Democratic ticket is still up for grabs. It's a tough choice between two top-notch candidates. That's why I'm here to help you decide.

During the last presidential election, someone had the genius to ask the American people, "Who would you rather have a beer with: George W. Bush or John Kerry?" Suddenly, all of the differences in politics, experience, and character of the two candidates were boiled down to a single, succinct question that everyone could understand. Like I said: genius. It's no surprise that the winner of that poll eventually won the election. So it only makes sense to ask a similar question of our current Democratic presidential candidates. Since the majority of this blog's readership is comprised of potheads and wackos, and since both candidates have a history of drug use (Clinton hasn't admitted as much, but let's be realistic), I ask you this: Which candidate would you rather smoke a joint with? Take the Concords Are Better poll!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Fine Art of Name-Calling

Hey folks,

Sorry for the long delay since my last post. I know it's been a bitterly cold winter, and it was wrong of me to deprive my fans of the warm, fuzzy feelings that my blog posts provide. I have an excuse, though: I spent much of the holiday season out of town (Portland and Albuquerque), and I recently got engaged (yes, there will soon be a Mrs. Concord). Plus, I've just been a lazy ass. In the grand scheme of things, this web journal kind of got pushed aside. But no longer. Your latest fix of blog heaven has arrived!

If you're like me, you've been paying close attention to the 2008 presidential race. And, if you're like me, you've noticed that something very important has been missing: nicknames. Yes, the history of American politics is filled with nicknames, and I would argue that this country's long tradition of political name-calling is what makes our nation so great. Here's a comprehensive list of past presidential nicknames, if you're not convinced. So I believe that it is my duty as an American citizen to provide you, dear readers, with the official list of nicknames for the 2008 presidential race.

First up is Barack Obama, who shall now be referred to as "Obamarama". I feel that this nickname accurately conveys the sense of youthful exuberance that has surrounded his campaign from the beginning. For Hillary Rodham Clinton, it's "Hillbilly", in partial reference to her redneck husband ("H-Rod" was a close runner-up). On the Republican side, you've got John McCain, who's nickname will be "McLame". Although this may be misinterpreted as an insensitive reference to his status as a physically disabled veteran, one must realize that his disability only involves his arms (which he is incapable of raising above his head) and not his legs. Okay, let's keep going...Mike Huckabee is now "The Huckster" ("Fuckamee" would be too risque for most people), and Mitt Romney shall be known simply as "The Mormon". Let's see, who's left? Oh yeah, there's Ron Paul ("Ru Paul") and Ralph Nader ("Nadir"), if he decides to run again. I think that covers it. Yesterday's Super Tuesday ("Supa Tuesday") results are in, and it looks like it's still a tight race for some candidates. Close enough, I think, that the new list of nicknames could very well tip the balance of the elections. Here's to an exciting race in 2008!

Brian ("Grape Boy")