Wednesday, November 30, 2005

GCML Newspaper Column 9-29-05

From The Geauga County Maple Leaf
Chardon, Ohio

"Granddads on Parade"
c. 2005 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

FROM WTAM – 1100: "Twenty years ago, they were breaking all the rules. Now, they’re just trying not to break a hip! For the last time, one more time, again… The Rolling Stones!"
Birthdays may sometimes lose their character in the middle of life. For children, they present an opportunity for celebration, and eating lots of cake! At the senior end of our earthly cycle, they also mark an achievement worthy of festivity. But for those who are in the midst of everything – these days can be little more than an odd diversion. Family nurture, career aspirations, home projects, and the unending march of time overwhelm all else. Focus on such a simple milestone can be lost.

For this writer, a more certain indicator of years gone by came with the September release of a new CD by The Rolling Stones. (‘A Bigger Bang’ / Virgin - 0946 3 30067 2 0) I ordered the disc almost as an afterthought. It was not something that would satisfy a fanatical craving. But in yonder days, the release of a Stones album was cause for immediate consumer action. Early works like ‘England’s Newest Hitmakers’ or ‘Out of Our Heads’ made me surrender disposable income with glee. ‘Aftermath’ and the experimental ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ entered my collection as treasured vinyl nuggets. Albums like ‘Let It Bleed’ or ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ were devoured with gusto. ‘Exile On Main Street’ evoked mystical, mojo spirits. ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ was confident, and seamless. ‘Some Girls’ restored my faith in longevity. It had all the energy of a younger group’s vinyl debut. Eventually, ‘Steel Wheels’ again offered a revived sense of creative urgency. The band seemed able to outlive every era that passed.

Yet in the modern world, I had half-forgotten about this familiar bunch of stoic, rock veterans. In truth, The Stones had become more of an entertainment corporation than a true rock ‘n roll band. Real connection with the street-level artistry from which they developed was long gone. An occasional bit of Ron Wood’s solo work conjured that sort of bluesy vibe with joyful energy. But only the rebel posture of Keith Richards echoed their former glory. Mick Jagger had become a pathetic self-caricature, like Elvis at the end of his career. Rock itself seemed not to matter as it had before. Those who sang "Hope I die before I get old" had gone gray with passing years. Younger folk found video games and pro wrestling more fascinating than the pursuit of heroic musicianship. Our own generation had matured, and shifted focus. We continued to remember, but it was so long ago…

And then, they were back. THE ROLLING STONES. Grandfathers all, dripping with mildew, and leathery from road wear - yet glistening against the background of 21st-Century society. They arrived speaking in tongues that had not been uttered since long hair and denim covered the Earth. Geriatric ghosts of yonder glory, that had refused to embrace oblivion with sweet surrender. They were sold-out, weathered, bombastic, over-promoted, jaded, corporate, profit-rich, and anachronistic… but BACK!

CUE A SOUNDBITE FROM ‘START ME UP’ – An EMT readies his defibrillator (a device to restart a stalled heartbeat) as the song plays. He shouts "Clear!" and the gizmo makes a sound like something from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Then the announcer continues. "YOU can win tickets to see The Stones in Columbus!"

After several lackluster, indifferent recordings, Jagger & Richards suddenly produced a disc of CONSEQUENCE. The opening chords of ‘Rough Justice’ seemed to light a creative bonfire that burned with intensity. Stylistic references to ‘Exile’ and ‘Sticky Fingers’ were plentiful. My first listening also evoked fond memories of ‘Jamming With Edward’ (an obscure session that featured Ry Cooder on slide guitar, and Nicky Hopkins on piano) or some of the vintage bootleg platters that appeared during their golden era. Somehow, the group had been able to artistically find their way home. With a brash detour toward lost horizons, they had rekindled the energy of another time.

A long-time friend wrote from New York with details of the new release and related promotions. He seemed overwhelmed by the naked business savvy of these seasoned rockers:
" Hey Rod… I was in NYC for about a week…I had gone down to the Village to check out record stores and such - ending up getting mostly import stuff… I saw the new Stones disc, but figured it could wait until I got home. I also saw all the old (Virgin) stuff repacked with outer slipcases with an American flag on it! I guess it's some American tour promo thingy - I haven't seen those… also, they had displays of the Stones in the windows of. . . Bloomingdale's!!?? YES, I'LL BUY THE RALPH LAUREN SWEATER, THAT BILL BLASS TIE, AND COULD I GET ‘A BIGGER BANG’ WITH THAT, TOO? Arrrggghh!!!"

Their promo for the start of Monday Night Football aroused similar confusion. Mick Jagger and the NFL… partners for the new millennium? On the screen, slick choppers rolled down a video highway as an announcer boasted of upcoming games. Music of the Glimmer Twins yowled with authority. "See it all on ABC in September!" It was easy to imagine that somewhere, the specter of Brian Jones was laughing over the irony of these erstwhile ‘bad boys’ being used in a business promotion.

The Stones of old were skillful at harnessing controversy to aid in promoting record sales. Their silly flirtations with mock-satanic forces are well known. Almost any sort of negative publicity seems to have elevated their commercial viability. Mick seemed to have revived this tactic with the sneering protest ‘My Sweet Neo Con.’ Internet watchdog Matt Drudge immediately pounced on the tune. But it seemed to receive little notice elsewhere. The track was buried amid other, more compelling works on ‘A Bigger Bang.’ (Strangely, the melody echoed ‘Everything’s Turning to Gold’ which was a b-side from the 1970’s.) Always politically astute, the band seemed to be striking a pose between opposition and commerce. As with Vietnam-Era anthem ‘Street Fighting Man’ the firm of Jagger & Richards displayed much ability to achieve divergent goals without wasted energy.

Also notable was the inclusion of songs that seemed to flow from Mick’s breakup with Jerri Hall (in 1999) and the pleasure-gone-stale of his numerous ventures into debauchery/infidelity/extra children/headline production. This introspective mood added a hint of lyrical maturity to their usual diet of cocky verbiage, and cheerful misogyny. Taken as a whole, the disc shows how an aging group of hipsters can evolve over time, while retaining their unique outlook on tuneful art.

Happily, the lasting glory of Rolling Stones recordings is contained not so much in philosophy, as in their sound. The expert distillation of early rock, blues, and country influences they evoke has unflagging appeal. On ‘Bang’ this Berry-esque, minimalist thrash is pure and direct. Whether hearing ‘Gimmie Shelter’ on 8-track tape in a yesteryear context… or ‘She Saw Me Coming’ from the Windows Media files in my computer… the legacy remains timeless.
So long as the mummified Keith Richards can hoist his guitar, and rubbery cohort Jagger can prance with arthritic steps across the stage, they will continue. Age be damned! Our world still needs The Rolling Stones.

Questions or comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Thoughts At Large' Newspaper Column Nov. 10, 2005


c. 2005 Rod Ice All Rights Reserved
From The Geauga County Maple Leaf Newspaper, Chardon, Ohio

"Happiness is a bowl of warm Menudo." - Fred G. Sanford, on ‘Sanford & Son.’

Food on a practical level is nourishment for the body. But taken as a work of artistry, it is a gift to our human constitution, and the soul. Preparing meals with the flair of a household chef can be rewarding. By creating such culinary traditions, we offer a bit of ourselves to future generations. Family recipes may be passed across the years with love. Each is a thumbnail portrait of the cook who designed, and shared, the dish. In addition, food can be satisfying intellectually. Assembling the elements of a foreign edible can evoke a sense of wonder, and revelation. The adventurous cook may eventually be moved to exclaim: "Do people really eat this stuff?"
When I was a teenager, this kind of discovery through skillet experimentation was common. While my Mother displayed a wonderful ability to produce tasty meals from nearly anything available, Dad chose an alternate path. Though lacking in the traditional skills of a household chef, he was unafraid to test ideas on the stovetop. Always a seeker of unusual dining fare, he inspired the rest of us to remain open-minded toward meal alternatives. In particular, his habits were pre-disposed toward the production of folksy, rural creations. He introduced us to redeye gravy with dry, boarding house biscuits. Also present were fried green tomatoes, skillet cornbread, and country ham. Yet our journey went beyond the simple pleasures of a laborer’s supper. Papa tried to incorporate widely diverse flavors as an addition to the steadfast sustenance of Mom’s expert cooking. This expansive view of world habits made us explorers at heart. In the library, or in the kitchen, we yearned to visit new horizons.
Most memorable was Dad’s attempt at making a colorful, traditional soup called Menudo. (This Mexican concoction is incredibly diverse in character, like jazz music or post-modern art.) From a magazine recipe, he assembled the needed ingredients carefully. Included were pig’s feet, whole coriander and lemon wedges. When cooking, the pot seemed ready to explode with potency! The yield of his attempt was a dish that brought respect and understanding of other cultures, while filling our bellies.
Mom considered the raucous food with tolerance. But her disbelief could not be concealed. This curious mixture did NOT look like anything that had appeared in the Ice Household, before! My brother and sister had no interest in trying a bowl for themselves.
Only Dad and I enjoyed the soup. It was a moment that defined our own culinary dispositions.
Many years later, memories of that meal continued to echo. Canned replications from the GOYA Company did little to satisfy my craving. I hungered for a steaming pot of the stuff, in all its rebellious glory! Yet the original recipe was nowhere to be found. A search on the Internet revealed many different versions, all of which incorporated the most basic element – honeycomb tripe.
Asking for this product made my local butcher smile with puzzlement. He seemed dumbfounded by my desire for the cattle by-product. "We get requests for that once in a while," he said with good humor. "So, how do you use it, anyway?"
I pointed a finger in the air. "I need the tripe for a Latino soup made with peppers and beans and… all kinds of things!"
The Butcher grinned. I could tell that he half-wondered if I was joking. "Sure… that sounds interesting. A taste of Old Mexico…Now all you need is a Corona Beer with lime…"
My description continued. "Some call it ‘Hangover Soup’ because it is reputed to be a traditional cure for drinking too much," I said. "Haven’t tested that myself, though. It just doesn’t seem likely."
He nodded. "Well, they’ve got different ways, south of the border!"
I agreed. Already, thoughts of stirring the pot of Menudo to life had taken hold. I drifted into a daydream of fresh meat, hand-selected vegetables, imported spices, all bubbling in an open kettle…
Now, my task was clear. I had to decide what form the 21st-Century concoction would take. Somehow, I wanted to strike a more perfect balance between authenticity and taste appeal. Success came from blending ideas found in cyberspace with my own preferences. Born was a spicy stew that proved to be filling, and delectable:
1 ½ Lb. Beef Tripe
¾ Lb. Thin-Cut Pork Chops
8 oz. Hot Banana Pepper Rings (half of 16 oz. jar, with juice)
15 oz. Tomato Sauce
15 oz. Beef Broth
15 oz. Sliced Potatoes
15 oz. White Hominy
15 oz. Garbanzos (Chick Peas)
7 oz. Sliced Green Chiles
1 Large Spanish Onion
15 oz. Pinto Beans
2 Tsp. Minced Garlic
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes
2 Tsp. Culantro Molido (Ground Coriander)
2 Tsp. Comino Molido (Ground Cumin)
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tsp. Hot Sauce
1 Tsp. Black Peppercorns (crushed)
2 Tsp. Chili powder
Directions: Slice beef tripe and pork into small squares or strips. Cover with water in crock-pot and cook 6-8 hours on low setting. Pour off water when done (this will remove the strong aroma of the tripe.) If you are gifted with a hearty constitution, just cook the tripe, pork, and a few pepper rings with the beef broth and water, for a pure taste! (I used this method.) THEN, add the remaining ingredients. For the cumin, coriander, and juices, use your own judgement. I eventually added liberal amounts of these as the cooking progressed. (The cumin and coriander help give menudo its unique flavor.) Then, cook one more hour, on high. This mixture of tasty ingredients will develop into a potent dish. Serve with warm tortillas or corn chips. The result should be Muy Bueno!
I enjoyed the recreated Menudo both as a rewarding meal, and a trip back to yonder days. It demonstrated the durability of household traditions. Also proved was the ability of universal elements to translate well, in any setting. The language of art, music, or cooking, is universal. Anyone, even a midwestern soul from Ohio, can appreciate a taste of distant lands.

Questions or comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to:


Thompson, Ohio - My computer is my friend. It is amazing to think that I spent most of my life without such an appliance in the household. I live for the opportunity to enjoy a Canadian beverage whilst using my PC in the pursuit of writing excellence.

Nothing from my neighbors tonight. They must be asleep at this late hour. Because I leave work about 1 AM, this is evening to me. I haven't even had dinner, though the outside world is lost in slumber. My quirky schedule means I am out-of-sync with other folk. But I have grown used to this condition. 22 years in the service industry (retail) has warped my psyche.

I've become quite a Phil Hendrie fan. For those who may not be familiar with this twisted fellow, he is a California Disc Jockey, gone talk-show satirist. Hendrie performs voices for all the guests on his Premiere Radio Networks program. He encourages callers to participate by arguing with the 'guests' (all Hendrie himself) on the air. At first, the performance seemed completely asinine. Then, I 'got' the joke. (It is a send-up of the talk show format.) Suddenly, I was hooked. I can't get enough of Hendrie. Check out his website for further explanation. (

Since my divorce (three years ago) I've also become a fan of Jerry Springer. In truth, his show has long been a favorite 'guilty pleasure.' But in these recent years, the violence and sarcasm holds even more meaning. Springer is an intelligent liberal who chose to sell his soul for TV fame. He seems to have the fault of many 'progressive' minds - wielding intelligence without moral grounding. As a Councilman in Cincinnati, he erred with a prostitute. Later, he surrendered the promise of following Phil Donahue by following a tail-spin into ratings success and profitable infamy. Now, he has a serious 'Springer On The Radio' program to offer a difference from the standard Jerrry-Jerrry fare. He is compelling, if also disgusting.

We're enjoying a 'heat wave' here after the first significant snowfall of the season. It is almost 60 degrees F as I write this. Amazing, since we just got 15 inches of snow in Thompson, last week. Locals like to joke that this township (at the Eastern limit of Geauga County) is 'the buckle of the snow belt.' It is a reputation very much deserved.

But... I'm listening to 'Coast To Coast AM' with George Noory. My cheese breadsticks are almost done. Time to close here, for now. Peace! Tune in for more from your humble blogger, in the near future...


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Going For Two

Location - Ohio, jewel of the midwest. home of presidents, aviation, football history, and heavy manufacturing. Plus, the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

Subject A - A rough day for NFL fans in Cleveland. Our Browns were humiliated whilst trying to compete with the Minnesota Vikings. (They beat us, 24-12.) We're used to loooong seasons here on the Northcoast, so it is not completely surprising. Things will get better as Crenell implements his plan for success. But until then...

Subject B - Link Wray passed away last week. I was a hero for many people like myself who have known disaffection with the mainstream world, and found that ROCK could give a sense of purpose and hope when that was needed. His seminal 'Rumble' was one of the greatest guitar instrumentals ever recorded.

Subject C - WTAM 1100 is one of my favorite companions throughout the day. This Clear Channel outpost has a fine selection of syndicated and local talk programs. As I write this, Art McCoy is speaking from his 'Black On Black Crime' forum. Tomorrow, I'll catch a bit of Jerry Springer in the morning... then Mike Trivisonno in the afternoon. Such an embarrassment of riches. Wow. I love 'TAM.

Subject D - The photo above is from Halloween. My idea was to reflect the rural nature of local culture. Surprisingly, almost no one recognized me at work. (My typical attire is a shirt and tie.)

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Episode One

Here we go, my belated entry into cyberspace on a Tuesday morning. It is after 3 AM in Ohio, and I've just finished a two-pound bag of smokies from Trumbull Locker Plant. (Route 534, north of Hartsgrove, OH) A sensible person would've gone to sleep hours ago. But I've got too much to ponder just now... so here's to another Sam Adams 'Black Lager.'

1) Reported in my DAVIE ALLAN fan group (Yahoo) was the sad fact that Link Wray has passed into rock'n roll oblivion. I couldn't help but observe that he can now jam with Jimi Hendrix. He will be missed... what an incredible fellow. I have wanted a Danelectro 'Longhorn' (Guitarlin) for years because of seeing him in vintage photos with this axe. In past years, I was proud that my wedding anniversary was on his birthday, May 2nd. (That fact alone made me feel guilty to get divorced, three years ago.) Davie mentioned to all of us that own his unique 'fuzztone' was partly inspired by Link's raw sound. Wray was punk before punk - grunge before grunge. God bless his memory.

2) I got in a final ride of the season, today. It was 48 degrees F outside. Balmy weather for a ride through the country! We've got snow moving in here before Thanksgiving so I wanted to be fully tattooed with road grime before putting the Hawg away. Can't quite believe that the summer passed so quickly, but we say that every year in Northeastern Ohio. Even with the chill of winter looming, it felt good to eat up some tarmac. My 'Heritage' seemed happy to be out of the barn, once more.

3) Haven't even started anything for the newspaper yet. (I write for The Geauga County Maple Leaf of Chardon.) This is too typical - I get strung out on side projects and lose track of my bread-and-butter work. I'm putting together a proposal for YAMAHA USA (Star Motorcycles) to incorporate the music of Davie Allan. Meanwhile, it's the holiday season, and my full-time job is frantic at the moment. (Retail Management.) So, where are my priorities?? I've had a notion to write about the state of manufacturing in America, since Chevrolet has just announced major job cuts for Ohio. But it is a well-worn subject. The global economy is producing shifts of responsibility and success that we've never encountered before. Even my father and brother (both Republicans) drive Japanese cars. Life isn't as it was fifty years ago.

Okay, I'm a young baby-boomer (mid-40's) so I have to ask... does anyone really read this stuff? Where do you find the time?? While growing up, all I wanted to do was crank up my vinyl albums (or 8-track tapes) and find a hott babe to share the moment. Where does this new world of cyberevolution come from? I wonder... but still, this is the purest form of democracy we've seen in the US for many, many years. Godspeed those who take pen in hand (or computer keyboard) and translate thoughts into text! Write on!!

More as this develops...