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August 12, 2004 - August 5, 2004

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Instapunk080504

Return of The Boss

This is a monstrously cynical poster from Shuteye Town 1999.

ROCK AND ROLL. We know we said we'd keep track of the credentials of the Bush-bashing celebrities. But now The Boss is taking to the campaign trail, and we just couldn't be happier for him. No, we didn't even check to see if he ever graduated from high school. He probably didn't, but we don't care. He's the big guy from New Jersey, and Philadelphia has adopted him too. When he performed, all the tragic Eagles and Phillies fans always came in droves and somehow intuitively understood the blue collar despair of his songs. It was just a perfect fit somehow.

So we're not going to be objective about his renaissance as a warrior in the battleground states for the Kerry campaign. It's just so completely and utterly cool. Last week he was an irrelevant artifact of rock history, blow-drying his vanishing hair in hopes of postponing his consignment to greybeard pop dinosaur status; this week he's a valiant, socially conscious mega-millionaire who knows that the only salvation for America lies in the platitudes of a multi-mega-millionaire who isn't even from New Jersey but from Pennsylvania (by marriage anyway). How great can American democracy get? Shades of "Born to Run." Now he's going to run all over the USA performing a handful of songs in between the genius contributions of James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt, and ticket prices will be so incredibly affordable for all the kids who never would have been able to come up with the scratch for a four-hour performance by Bruce and tycoon E-Street band members like Max the millionaire drummer and clothhead Stevie Van Zandt, the second -- no make that the fifth -- coolest guitarist to take the stage even after he got fat and far too old to carry off his sartorial trademark. It's all just so great that we have to apologize for abandoning our usual hard-edged rationalism. We're fans. Forgive us.

GO BRUCE! Sorry. We should be more restrained. But the truth is, we always looked up to Bruce as a philosopher. How could anyone know more about political science than a semi-literate from Asbury Park who became a millionaire before he reached the age of 21? We've never stopped admiring his ability to cram unscannable syllables into depressing melodies that persuade his loser audiences of his commonness, which is as stark and ineradicable as a tattoo. Who can quarrel with a populist hero of this magnitude, and how low do you have to be to point out that he's spent his entire adult life shuttling back and forth between mansions in Beverly Hills and Rumsen, New Jersey? Who else would be in a better position to persuade the rest of us poor slobs that the only guy who can lead us ordinary folk properly is a billionaire gigolo who spent 30 years imitating his average-joe mentor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

Another triumphant tour, but one that's democratically on the cheap. Another few months of demi-divinity. Fantastic. Who needs a decent album? When you're The Boss, all you need is the next excuse for recruiting a new generation of fans. We're willing to predict, right now, that Bruce is even going to survive becoming truly bald. That's how great he is. No retreat. No surrender. Only bucks. Right on.




Friday, August 06, 2004


Instapunk080604add

It's Harriday!


FIRST BABE OF THE BOOM. He's 59 today. As far as we know, he's still in Rio, basking in luxury and surrounded by golden beauties in string bikinis.

It probably doesn't bother him at all that people don't remember him very well; what matters is that everyone is still following his Way. But it might help us to take a few minutes to recall his destiny, his birth, his ministry, his wisdom, his disciples, and his legacy.

Or not. At any rate, Happy Birthday, Harry.




Thursday, August 05, 2004


Instapunk080504

Corn-Challenged Candidates


"Mon Dieu, Therèse, cherie, what are these long green things?"


"They're corn, dammit. You just peel'em like bananas and chow down."

COUNTRY STUFF. It's inevitable that pampered millionaires are going to make fools of themselves from time to time when they seek to rub shoulders with us commoners. It happened yesterday in Iowa, where both Kerry and Bush were trying so hard to demonstrate their solidarity with the ordinary citizens whose votes they need if they are to secure the most powerful office in the world. The agent of humiliation in both cases was corn. Monsieur Kerry seemed to be overwhelmed by the very existence of this ubiquitous vegetable, brandishing 'ears' as if they were rustic sceptres awarded him by adoring peasants. To prevent any reoccurrence of this faux pas, we are forwarding the following little exegesis on the history of corn to the Democratic National Committee. We hope they take advantage of this opportunity to educate Mr. Kerry about a subject he might find useful in campaign visits to come. (NOTE TO INSTAPUNK READERS: You don't need to read the text word for word; it has been chosen especially to be as dry and academic as the towering intellectuals of the people's party prefer their reading to be.)

Over a period of thousands of years, Native Americans purposefully transformed maize through special cultivation techniques. Maize was developed from a wild grass (Teosinte) originally growing in Central America (southern Mexico) 7,000 years ago. The ancestral kernels of Teosinte looked very different from today's corn. These kernels were small and were not fused together like the kernels on the husked ear of early maize and modern corn.


By systematically collecting and cultivating those plants best suited for human consumption, Native Americans encouraged the formation of ears or cobs on early maize. The first ears of maize were only a few inches long and had only eight rows of kernels. Cob length and size of early maize grew over the next several thousand years which gradually increased the yields of each crop.

Eventually the productivity of maize cultivation was great enough to make it possible and worthwhile for a family to produce food for the bulk of their diet for an entire year from a small area. Although maize agriculture permitted a family to live in one place for an extended period of time, the commitment to agriculture involved demands on human time and labor and often restricted human mobility. The genetic alterations in teosinte changed its value as a food resource and at the same time affected the human scheduling necessary for its effective procurement.

Native Americans of New England planted corn in household gardens and in more extensive fields adjacent to their villages. Fields were often cleared by controlled burning which enriched not only the soil but the plant and animal communities as well. Slash and burn agriculture also helped create an open forest environment, free of underbrush, which made plant collecting and hunting easier.

Native Americans discovered that, unlike wild plants and animals, a surplus of maize could be grown and harvested without harming their environment. Tribes in southern New England harvested great amounts of maize and dried them in heaps upon mats. The drying piles of maize, usually two or three for each Narragansett family, often contained from 12 to 20 bushels of the grain. Surplus maize would be stored in underground storage pits, ingeniously constructed and lined with grasses to prevent mildew or spoiling, for winter consumption of the grain.

George, on the other hand, appears to have some slight idea about what corn is; he just doesn't know anything about eating it. For example, even in Iowa, they don't generally consume it raw. So we're sending this recipe -- courtesy of the Fanny Farmer website -- to the Republican National Committee in hopes they'll find someone to prepare and serve some corn on the cob to the Texan-in-Chief, who has probably never seen a bright green field full of plants that a human being would want to eat.

There is nothing like fresh corn on the cob, quickly boiled, spread with lots of sweet butter, and sprinkled with salt. Two ears per person may seem like a proper serving, but appetites run high when corn is in season and freshly picked. Click here for information about choosing and handling corn.

Just before cooking, husk the corn, pull off the silky threads, and cut out any blemishes with a pointed knife. Drop the corn into a large pot filled with boiling salted water. Cover the pot and let the water return to a boil again, then turn off the heat and keep the pot covered. After about 5 minutes, remove enough ears for a first serving. You can keep the remaining corn warm in the water for another 10 minutes without its becoming tough. Serve with lots of butter and salt.

Everyone in both parties says they wants to win Iowa. Well, if the Dems and the GOP are serious about that, they'd better learn that this particular state is a gridwork of roads at right angles to one another, subdividing a giant field of corn. Learn what it is, learn how to cook it and eat it, and you'll have a shot at wooing the voters. You might also be the beneficiary of a marvelous bit of wisdom: eating freshly cooked corn on the cob with an ocean of butter and a half ton of salt is a bit of heaven. But don't tell the Iowans you found all this out from a native of the place where the very best sweet corn in the world is grown -- southern New Jersey. Unfortunately, all that midwestern corn tastes like dirt and is only good for feeding the pigs. That's something the jayhawks would probably rather not know.




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