Essential Beans & Rice

This is an absolute staple in my house; quick, tasty, substantial, and open to endless variations.

  • 1 box Spanish rice (I use HyVee’s, thanks Jill!)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  1. Make the rice according to the stovetop instructions on the box.
  2. You can add fresh chopped bell pepper and/or chopped onion when you add the water and tomatoes. Or crushed garlic, if you like garlic.
  3. When all the liquid has cooked off, turn the heat off and add the beans. You can also add drained canned or cooked frozen or fresh corn at this point. You could even add chopped fresh mushrooms.
  4. Season with cumin, hot sauce, maybe a bit of lime juice. It doesn’t really need extra salt (there’s enough in the rice’s seasoning packet and the canned tomatoes). I also strongly recommend using a hot pepper flavor (like hot sauce, cayenne, or crushed red pepper) and not using black pepper.

Free shows

I discovered podcasts this week.

I needed a soundtrack (well, news, actually) for my new exercise gig, and went searching.  The BBC is up and running now, but in the course of finding that I also found some gems in the music section.

Many of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” live concerts are available, including a stellar Radiohead show and sets from Spoon, Ted Leo + Pharmacists, The Hold Steady, and a bundle of other indie-ish heroes.  Also, several “song-of-the-day” options are available from sources like KCRW in California, KEXP in Seattle, and The Current in Minneapolis.  (I’m counting on one of these to feed my appetite for new jams after my Paste subscription runs out; their monthly sampler is kind of tame for me.)

THE PROBLEM IS that this stuff shows up in iTunes’ “Podcasts” directory, not the main music library.  !!!  So I figured out how to fix it:

1. First download some stuff or subscribe – in iTunes, go to the iTunes store / podcasts / music / NPR / NPR: Live concerts from All Songs Considered podcast

2. Click “Get episode” for a show you want
3. When download is complete, go to “Library / Podcasts” in left bar of iTunes – change the view to “View as list” – and expand “NPR: Live Concerts…”

4. Right-click (control- or command-click for some Mac users) the concert and click “Convert ID3 tags…” Select v1.0 and click OK.  (This is the critical step; iTunes puts podcasts in the podcasts directory based on tags in the higher versions that don’t exist in v1.0.  So, when we are deleting that part of the tag, and will then be able to re-import to iTunes.)

5. Right-click the concert again and click “delete” – click “remove” from the iTunes library – click “keep file.”

6. File / add to library – navigate to the file (unless you’ve changed how your iTunes keeps your library, it’s under YourLoginName / Music / iTunes / iTunes Music / Podcasts / NPR… – click OK
7. Now it’s in your music library! You’ll probably want to edit the tags so it shows up as an album with the artist’s other stuff. It’s one long track, so you might also think about checking the “Skip while shuffling” option.

MR|Review – U2, "No Line on the Horizon"

“No Line on the Horizon” realizes a nearly-complete synthesis of “The Unforgettable Fire”’s aching, open-skied soundscapes and the amped-up, cut & pasted “…Atomic Bomb.”

u2noline.jpg Must-hear!
Fans only
Skip this
Owww! My ears!

Walking a middle line critically, I find “No Line…” to be a good album both in context of the band’s discography, and the current state of rock music. It hits the right touchstones and pushes some boundaries, though individual listeners seem to be hearing more of either one or the other.

The opening title track matches an ominous “Achtung”-ish verse with a neo-classical-U2 chorus organically, sounding vastly better than it looks on paper. “Magnificent” succeeds almost in spite of demo-level lyrics and melody – a bit more revision would have gone a long way – yet this is the familiar story of much of U2’s best work. Producer Brian Eno’s famous preference for early takes and spontaneous performances shines through, and generally works, the fact that it’s been five years since U2’s last album notwithstanding.

To the record’s vast credit, seven of the eleven songs have lodged in my mind for whole days in the week or so since I picked it up. Nothing galvanizes a universal moment quite like “Beautiful Day” did; nothing tries; “No Line…” generates its glimmers of infinity in the particulars. “Moment of Surrender” finds its connection standing at the ATM, “I’ll Go Crazy…” in self-deprecation, and the impeccable “Breathe” in simply surviving from one second to the next.

I fully expect these songs to gel further on tour, in the tradition of “Bad,” “A Sort of Homecoming,” “In A Little While,” and “New York.” “No Line…” isn’t as self-contained as the band’s essential “Achtung Baby,” with its de- and re-constructed edgy pop, or the eternal anthems of “The Joshua Tree.” It wrestles with uncertainty. It swaggers (“Get On Your Boots”) and stretches (“Unknown Caller”) and asks if that’s what we want from U2 in 2009.
Can we stand it?

Bono shapes insights like “The stone was semi-precious/We were barely conscious/Two souls too smart to be in the realm of certainty/Even on our wedding day,” vivid images (“She said ‘Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear’/Then she put her tongue in my ear”) then climbs up to the pulpit crying “Soul rockin’ people on and on/C’mon ye people/We’re made of stars… Stand up for your love” – do we need him to choose? Contradiction, imperfection; forces in a tension that, for the moment, produce magic.
I was prepared to love this record and, accordingly, bought it on vinyl. It was the right choice; songs that variously soar, burn, and pummel are predictably over-compressed on CD and digital.

“No Line on the Horizon” is a rewarding listen, becoming more substantial with time. It sits comfortably with “War,” “The Unforgettable Fire,” “Pop,” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” in U2’s second tier of studio efforts; perhaps, rather than the gushing of fans and griping of haters, the range of critical responses is a solid indicator of U2’s improbable relevance.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience.

U2 Live on Letterman

I haven’t assembled my thoughts on “No Line On The Horizon” yet, but I did record the audio from U2’s week-long stint on The Late Show with David Letterman these past five days.  They played:

Monday – “Breathe”

Tuesday – “Magnificent”

Wednesday – “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”

Thursday – “Beautiful Day”

Friday – “Get On Your Boots”

Anyone who would like a link to all five mp3s can leave their email address in the comments (Example: howie (at) theinternet (dot) come – this format will help prevent robots from picking up and spamming your addy); I’ll email out a .ZIP via YouSendIt a week from today.  They are 192 kb; I recorded the audio (sadly) not from cable TV but from the digital broadcast signal, so they’re not the cleanest ever, but if you’re either 1) a U2 fan or 2) interested enough to request the files, you won’t care.  They sound alright.

Mostly, I’m always interested to hear how the band performs the songs live, without all the studio overdubbing and mixing tricks they have increasingly relied on.  I tend to like the live arrangements better. -h