Reuters AlertNet - Peru saves rare frogs from cocktail blender (alertnet.org, 04/28/05). No, really.
As a vegetarian, I make all sorts of jokes about meat desserts, like pork yogurt, or yogurt with "meat on the bottom" (where fruit toppings used to be put in commercial yogurt here in the U.S.). But frog cocktails were quite beyond my ability to develop as humor.Frog cocktails are popular in the Andes because of their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.I detect a big practical joke on cocktail drinkers.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:25 PM
Friday, April 29, 2005
Hee hee hee. Bike Prom, May 27 2005. (bikeprom.com) Yes, sometimes Critical Mass does have a theme!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:58 AM
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Multicultural food traditions: I like this article on a tradition I hadn't heard of before in Mumbai. BBC NEWS | South Asia | India's Iranian cafes fading out (news.bbc.co.uk) talks about how in past centuries immigrants from Iran opened cafes which served unusual (to the locals) confections of all castes and classes. Food fads are favoring other styles of eateries now, but the cafes sound casual, a little run down, and very cozy - just like some of my favorite coffee houses here in SF.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:28 PM
But I don't have any French Roast...
I was sitting at the computer, editing and reviewing digitized photographs for several hours, and noticed that I was starting to crave coffee.
Then I noticed that the house started to smell like coffee. Burning coffee.
I don't have any coffee. I have not made coffee since moving into this house. I don't even know where my espresso machine is. So I took a walk around the house, and there was nothing of any sort cooking in the kitchen. But the smell was getting stronger...
It turns out that the pretty, homemade candle one of S' sister made for us, which had real coffee beans in it and which I had lit in the bathroom, got to an all-coffee layer. Upon reaching the all-coffee layer, it caught fire.
Now my house smells like French roast. (The coffee fire is out after a soak in the bathroom sink.) And I am wondering if I can absorb caffeine through coffee smoke, since being near the candle when tall flames were shooting out of the coffee made me very...perky.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:18 PM
It's interesting that possible causes of cancer beyond smoking and diet don't get a mention here: Worldwide cancer rates 'double' (news.bbc.co.uk, 04/28/05).These statistics show that cancer is still essentially a major disease of the developed world.Yes, but are the small, nonsmoking children and young adults who are getting exotic cancers here in the developed world all to blame due to poor lifestyle choices? Or are there lots of carcinogens all around that should be closely examined?
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:46 AM
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
More writing about food, and food-related program activities. Just in case you haven't read Awkward Meals at Larry's site, go read it.
"Chicks" describes a situation that raises so many questions, I can't even start. It's funny; it's creepy; it's much weirder than when one of S' carnivorous sisters refused to touch the raw meat she was preparing for herself and her family to eat at a barbecue. By far.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 AM
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
From WalMartWatch: and its report That was then, this is now.:'The Buy America Program' is both a committment and a partnership' (Wal-Mart, Inc. promotional material, 1994)The line that impresses me:
Just how much does Wal-Mart, Inc. value its committments and partnerships?...
According to Ted Fishman, author of the newly published China, Inc., “…there’s a Chinese component in virtually every aisle you walk there in Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart is the conduit for all of the output of the Chinese economy directly into American lives.” Fishman also notes, “…70 percent of the things sold in Wal-Mart stores have a Chinese component to them.” And a stock analyst for Gladstone Capital notes that figure is even higher, saying, “They have about 70 percent of their products coming from China, not including the food products.” The “Buy American” program has virtually vanished, as “its shelves bear little trace of the ‘Buy American’ philosophy of its founder,” notes the Washington Post. [CNN, 2/16/05; NPR, 2/12/05; Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 3/27/05; Gladstone Capital Quarterly Shareholders Call, 2/10/05; Washington Post, 10/29/03]Wal-Mart alone accounts for 10 percent of all imports from China.Trade deficit, anyone?
Go visit this site and learn why big box stores aren't helping YOUR local economy.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:37 AM
Monday, April 25, 2005
The BBC discussion of the upcoming Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy film referenced the BBC's own H2G2 website, taken over from Hitchhiker's author Douglas Adams. It has some funny articles, like How To Make Bronze Age Bread, which begins with an acknowledgement that in England, Bronze Age people might not have made bread at all. And then debates why beer was invented.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM
Food IS a political issue: BBC NEWS | Election 2005 | Second helpings of school dinners (news.bbc.co.uk, 04/23/05) describes how the quality of school meals in England is suddenly on the political platforms of all the major British parties competing for election seats.
Jamie Oliver, chef-host of cooking shows such as 'the Naked Chef' and Oliver's Twist is credited in this article with raising public awareness "that it matters what we feed to our children," in what is referred to as the "Jamie Oliver Legacy."
I TOLD you food was political!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:47 PM
Some humor, as forwarded by good friends: Columns: Living will is the best revenge, by Robert Friedman (sptimes.com, 03/27/05) and a draft Living Will (dailykos.com and hundreds of other pages) that has been making the rounds for some time.
I know I should have posted this earlier in the month, but I was avoiding the news. Though I did read Get Your War On, Page 45 and LOVED it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:01 PM
I just spent a very long time looking at all the images in the gallery for World Pinhole Photography Day (www.pinholeday.org/gallery/). Some are interesting. Some are not. But a big 'yaay' anyway to everyone who participated!
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:39 PM
The first three photos in this collection are especially witty: Repros: Photographs by Sylvia Plachy (upenn.edu).
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:35 AM
A fun toy: maps.google.com - click the "satellite" option, and then put in the address of your home, or some place you frequent.
A fun article on this toy is I Can See Your House From Here / Google's close-up satellite photo maps are way creepy, but in a very cool way, by Mark Morford (sfgate.com, 04/08/05).
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:30 AM
Sunday, April 24, 2005
My relationship with Yosemite. I'm back at home and settled in, but my brain is still full of images from Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Not necessarily 'Ansel Adams' quality images, but fondly remembered images from past trips. It's fun to go to such a grand and beautiful place in the 'off season' and have it feel intimate. Intimate enough that I notice that particular trees have grown.
I've been going to Yosemite periodically since I was in kindergarten, when it was my first camping trip with my school, without my parents. But it's more recent trips that have stuck in my mind.
There's a book quote that describes part of what I'm feeling... Oh, let's see if I can find the journal that quotes it. [search] Here it is:I remember that month of January in Tokyo; or rather I remember the images that I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo. They have substituted themselves for my memory. They are my memory. I wonder how people remember things who don't film, don't photograph, don't tape. How has mankind managed to remember?While I vividly remember portions of every trip I've taken to Yosemite, extremely specific details that I have photographed remain foremost in my mind. I remember the way the valley looked under the full moon with snow covering the ground both in a fuzzy romantic way, and in a precise, long-exposure on color film way. When I visit now, those memories overlap.
-Chris Maker, Sans Soleil, as quoted in Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats
The tree I call "our split tree," which is one of thousands with two trunks, graced a homemade Xmas card several years back, and we visited it again during this trip. We know what it looks like in the depths of winter and the warmth of spring.
There is a meadow I call "our meadow" because we've stomped through deep snow there, watched the sun setting in fall, and watched the sun rise in spring. I have photographed a little island of deciduous trees there in three seasons. Each season it's a little different, but always lovely. (Perhaps I'm a little possessive: the always-snowy peak in the background I nicknamed 'Mt. Starlene.')
And on a hike to Mirror Lake, which I've visited on few occasions, there is a rock that I photographed S on during our first visit there together. The cedar behind it is at least 6 or 7 feet taller than when I captured that image, and we had one of those silly 'my, how you've grown' conversations that people have with child-relatives.
There is something lovely about the familiarity of it. It helps me understand why people repeat themselves by visiting the same places year after year, when I generally prefer to explore some place new. I am beginning to understand the charm of familiarity.
Yosemite Valley isn't my favorite part of the park: that honor goes to Hetch Hetchy, off in the northwest and accessible by a separate road than the Valley. Once called the valley's twin, it is occupied by a dam that supplies my hometown with water and power, inappropriately since it is a National Park. I also love Tuolumne Meadows, though I've only once visited specifically to stay there, last fall in the peaceful 'off season,' during which the camp-city is largely unoccupied. I usually TM as the start or ending point of a backpacking trip. There is also a lake, Boothe Lake, along the Rafferty Creek route from TM to the Valley, which manifested as the most lovely lake I have ever seen during a backpacking trip there. The things many of these other locations offer is relative solitude.
The Valley is heavily developed, crowded, and usually full of people whose idea of a vacation doesn't require the park's spectacular surroundings, but rather swimming pools, card playing, camp fires, and shopping. Yet, it is still an absolutely spectacular natural setting, and I enjoy it whenever I can avoid the crowds.
The development of the valley does serve many purposes. It keeps the tourists from trampling the backcountry and hurting themselves, for example. :-) Seriously, it is a good place for people unaccustomed to wilderness to see a lovely natural spot, and for school groups to camp. The shuttle buses have hauled me and my gear from trailhead to car and back again for backpacking trips. The dining facilities have kept me fed during winter vacations when eating 'al fresco' was uncomfortable: at least one meal, at the mildly fancy lodge restaurant, was memorable for its quality. And there are ranger programs and displays which are quite educational.
On this trip, I saw the best interpretive performance I've yet experienced in the National Parks: Buffalo Soldier in Yosemite, a performance by Ranger Shelton Johnson about the history of African-American soldiers in two of California's national parks. He portrayed Elizy Bowman, a Ninth Cavalry soldier and war veteran, and was incredibly engaging. If all interpretive performances were this good, theatergoers would be crowding the schoolkids and tourists out of the parks! You really must see Ranger Johnson's show, if you have a chance. (See Ranger Discovers History in Shadow of Yosemite (theolympian.com, 02/02/03); a short overview article A History Remembered (nps.gov); and Mr. Johnson's excellent site for ongoing research on the lives of the soldiers, Shadow Soldiers in the Range of Light (shadowsoldier.wilderness.net))
There was also a great art exhibit at the Yosemite Museum. The Museum has some great anthropology exhibits, including some fabulous baskets made by recent Native American inhabitants of the area. There is a rotating exhibit in the rear room, and it is currently filled by winners of a contest organized by Yosemite Renaissance (yosemiterenaissance.org), a group that promotes diverse artistic interpretations of the park. The range of work was really impressive! 'Great stuff. So, if you're in the area, go see that, too.
We walked or hiked daily. Snow obscured portions of the high trail to Vernal Falls; snow closed the high trail to Nevada Falls, though the "winter route" trail was still accessible, and so we used it. I hadn't realized that the high trail sometimes fills with snow, since it's sheltered from the sun and enclosed by stone railings in portions. The more we could see of it, packed with snow above sheer cliffs, the more we understood why it was closed.
The falls were full and lovely. Of course.
Food? Oh, yes, food. We didn't have any really memorable meals at the park's concessions this time. A breakfast from the Yosemite Lodge's food court, with 'cheesy scrambled eggs' and fried potatoes, was probably my best experience this trip, and it didn't entirely agree with me. [Amusing aside: the food station attendant asked if I was Irish (no), then whether I was European (no). I assured him that I was born in San Francisco. But he said I sounded... like I'm not from here. I said that I am often accused, or asked, if I'm foreign. It hasn't happened in MONTHS, though! Lately, I've just been asked if I'm a schoolteacher, purportedly because I articulate all of my words so clearly. :-) ] I had a Gardenburger there during another meal, which was (thankfully) cooked on a separate grill from the meat dishes; it was okay, though a little dry, and the fries that came with it were fine. S was generally dissatisfied with his meals, though the blueberry pancakes at the Lodge food court were "fine." I had a decent pasta salad at the Curry Pavillion buffet, and two okay soft tacos. (I was afraid of the 'Spanish Rice,' which looked burned. The refried beans, purported to be vegetarian, were fine.)
S' comments: "The pasta was NOT OKAY." This is about cheese tortellini he ordered from the pasta station at the Lodge food court, which he immediately remarked tasted as if they had been frozen and thawed repeatedly.
He also notes: "the [Curry Pavillion] buffet was slightly better than Hometown Buffet." His opinion of HB is very low.
Things we brought (mostly from Trader Joe's) and enjoyed as picnic breakfasts and lunches: coffee flavored soy milk (tastes a bit like melted coffee ice cream), chocolate soy milk, plain Soy Dream, apple and cinnamon granola, peanut butter and apricot jam on nine-grain, locally purchased pepper jack cheese with TJ red pepper & eggplant spread on nine-grain (mmmmm), Balance Bars, dried pineapple chunks, TJ Matterhorn trail mix, fresh oranges, fresh bananas, fig-newton like bars, and a TJ "mixed olive bruschetta" which was extremely tasty spread on bread.
These meals from home, eaten outside, were our most satisfying. I was very sad that S' birthday didn't afford us more choices. The Mountain Room, which is the Lodge's fancy restaurant, didn't have anything on the menu that I wanted to eat (the one veggie item was in a cream sauce), so I ruled it out when S was non-committal. We didn't have clothes suitable to dine at the Awahnee, let alone reservations, and we herbivores are advised to call ahead to be sure we can be well accommodated. So S' birthday dinner waited until our return, so we could eat at Thai Time, scene of our first dinner together. (Awwww!) And that was wonderful, as expected.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:32 PM
P.S. The developed portions of the Yosemite Valley are currently filled with heavy construction noise and equipment, due to a major underground utility upgrade and its associated trenching. It is scheduled to continue through May.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:30 PM
Yosemite trip report: the short, statistical version
Number of bear prints on our food locker: 1, very large
Number of unintended car collisions we participated in due to highway-closing snow storm: 1
(Number of cars involved (total): 3; Number of injuries: zero)
Number of frightened coyotes spotted in parking area: 1
Number of grazing deer spotted: > 6
Number of 6cm x 6cm photos I was able to take before my 1958 camera broke: 3
Number of times we complained about cafeteria food: > too many
Number of happy sighs induced by cozy, heated tent: > sickening number
Number of fabulous interpretive acting performances by a ranger witnessed: 1, brilliant
Number of trail sections blocked or obscured by snow on hike to Vernal Falls via high trail: > 4
Number of feet of elevation gain during hike to top of Nevada Falls: approximately 1000
Number of times Arlene regretted descending via the Mist Trail: zero
Number of tourists who failed to recognize Half Dome while standing in front of it at Mirror Lake: 1 that we overheard
Number of revisions to forecast for Mirror Lake's future made in most recent 3 decades: 1, major
Number of showers taken by Arlene and Steven collectively over 4 night stay: 3
Silliest conversation overheard:
Woman: "That's the problem with this place: it's nothing but up in all directions."
Man: [long pause] "That is why it is called a VALLEY."
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:29 PM
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Bear paw prints on my food locker? Oh my. To my disappointment, my avoidance of heavy construction at home has come to nothing: no actual construction has taken place. On the bright side, I did use the excuse of heavy construction to take S to Yosemite National Park for his birthday, where we basked in the luxury of a HEATED tent cabin, and experienced snow, clouds, and warm sunshine over the space of just a few days.
I'm too tired to write about the trip right now. Though I haven't been too tired to do some on-line research about the Trinity Alps Wilderness in far northern California, which I've heard some good things about.
But for now, I deserve a long, hot bath.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:20 PM
Monday, April 18, 2005
There is no reason to become alarmed. I'm going to be off line for several days. Heavy construction to repair my house's foundation will begin tomorrow, with noise and vibrations galore. Even if my computer can stand it, I can't. So I'll be hiding out someplace quiet. Someplace with complete, functioning structural foundations.
I had planned to shut my machine down for the duration of the heavy demolition phase, but S doesn't think I should blow my 99.552% on-line statistic at climateprediction.net. So I'm struggling over this.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:03 PM
A new line of dry-storage Indian foods: Trader Joe's is now carrying it's own line of shelf-stable Indian foods. These are Indian dishes which are sealed in foil packages and boxed. They are good for a long time, and are heated in the pouch. TJs used to carry Tasty Bite, which was THE Indian entree series that S and I take on backpacking trips with us. But now TJ's makes their own.
They have three entrees available in boxes in the new display. We bought one of each, but tried just one of them tonight. The dish is called "Pav Bhaji." It's a potato and eggplant dish, purportedly popular in Bombay (Mumbai).
It's kind of strange.
It smells like catsup. This made me not want to taste it. But I did, and it tasted okay. It has an odd texture, though, like very wet mashed potatoes. The image on the box made it look like it contained chunks of veggies, but what came out of the envelope was rather uniform, like it had been put in a blender.
It you are the sort of person who has been thinking, "if only more Indian entrees were more like wet mashed potatoes," this is a dish for you.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:53 PM
Some day, Blogger will support my browser. And then the SPELL CHECKER will work. Won't that be novel?
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 PM
Random domestic scene of the evening: me trying to explain to S why I once liked a dish called "corned beef hash."
No, it isn't very plausible. But was once true. Though only one particular type of very canned, very salty processed meat was permitted to be fried with the potatoes. (The not-so-secret ingredient was salt. Mmmm. Salt.)
It's so abstract to me now, I can't account for it at all.
Speaking of not very plausible, I have a girlfriend who has repeatedly "joked" that I'm secretly a domestic servitude fetishist, and that I may be assertive and creative in public life, but in private I'm very... how did she put it. Wifey? That may be it.
S and I have planned to stage a variety of fake scenes, in which I appear to be giddily performing domestic chores while dressed up. I've only posed for some practice pictures. They don't look very persuasive.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:28 PM
Cherry Blossom Festival: I did make it out to the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday afternoon. I timed my arrival to coincide with some traditional dancing troupes who always impress me. The best dancers in all of these performances and during the parade are always older ladies. They dance like they REALLY MEAN IT, while the younger dances often seem to be going through the motions without understanding what they mean. But it was all pretty.
Did the dancers stand in the sun in a manner which lit them well for my camera? Oh, no.
I managed to attend a tea ceremony demonstration while I was there. It was in a very dimly lit room. Only the end of the ceremony was performed, to cut the demonstrations down to half an hour. It was fun to watch, but lacked the dialogue that I know that portion of the ceremony usually has.
I need to go to a complete, 4-hour tea ceremony. I want to see the whole thing. I don't know that I can be easily trained to participate properly in the ceremony (my Japanese language skills once largely consisted of words for use in buying small objects and asking for help finding trains, but even those are largely gone), but it would be fun to try.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Abstracts. I like abstract photography. (While I've seen the term hotly contested on forums, to me it means images which evoke concepts or moods rather than specific objects.) I have been developing a small portfolio of my abstracts (aegraves.com/abstracts). Creating them has made me look more carefully at other photographic abstracts, and appreciate the thought that goes into making them more than I previously had.
There are many approaches.
I was thrilled to receive a message from a photographer whose work I admire, Troy Litten, who has a very attractive series of what he calls Accidental Abstracts (troyland.com), which he took while advancing film with the lens cap off. Some of the resulting images are haunting, and effectively set a mood - sometimes warm, sometimes eerie.
A girlfriend just sent me a link to the artist Klaus Lange's 2003 Gallery of abstract photographs. (homepage.mac.com/seaklaus/ArtPortfolio) Lange works on a bay pilot boat, and has used his time on the water to develop a specific sort of abstract, based on the paint patterns on the sides of ships. The photos are vivid and lovely, and his titles for them are very entertaining! (Who can resist "March of Squids?")
My friends send good links!
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:34 AM
Saturday, April 16, 2005
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (nccbf.org) begins this weekend - and this year, there are still some cherry blossoms on the trees!
I always enjoy the festival, and especially the parade, which is next Sunday. It isn't as big as the Chinese New Year Parade (chineseparade.com), but has many of its own charms, and falls conveniently between CNY and San Francisco's Carnaval Parade (carnavalsf.com), which will be in late May this year. Also, the costumes are always BEAUTIFUL, especially the kimonos, of which I am especially fond.
I am going to the festival both weekends, and unlike in previous years, I will take photos only in black and white. I realized that I don't really DO anything with the color images I've taken in the past, and that many of my pictures are just attempts to record the beauty of the fabrics worn by performers, without enough regard for anything else. So I'm going to try to break from that mold and look beyond the brocades.
Oh, I hope they don't have ads up behind the performers. I really hope they don't...
For many years, I was an especially enthusiastic Japanophile. This was partly because I thought Japanese anime, the cartoons made there, were absolutely fascinating cultural products. I got together with other like minded individuals beginning in high school and extending through college, and we watched all sorts of amazing and comedic animated films, many of which were unrivaled by anything short of Disney's biggest classics.
Architecture school also played a role. When I was studying architecture, I remember being told by a professor (who was Asian) that my work expressed an especially "Japanese aesthetic" in both form and materials. I used this as an excuse to study Japanese classical architectural details, modern fabric and paper motifs, garden design, and industrial (practical object) design, all of which I admired immensely. I made regular pilgrimages to San Francisco's small Japan Center (Nihonmachi) (sfvisitor.org) to purchase cultural artifacts, especially books, relating to the approach to design I so admired.
In the early 1990s, after I had withdrawn from college due to financial hardship, I realized that my jobs were unable to keep up with the rising cost of tuition and materials, but COULD get me a round trip ticket to Japan. I studied conversational Japanese for a few weeks, got a passport, applied for jobs teaching English in the cities of Osaka and Kobe in Japan, quit my long-term temporary position, bought a rail pass, joined Hosteling International, and flew over with a vague job offer in hand.
I spent several weeks in Japan, touring the country. It was my first international trip, and I did it alone. I was filled with expectations that my design studies had instilled.
It wasn't quite what I had expected.
They were cursed with ugly 1950s and 1970s architecture, too! The cultural sights were fabulous and exhausting. The cities were a mix of historic structures and aesthetic crimes. Gardens designed to inspire silent contemplation were filled with jostling tour groups being addressed by perky women with megaphones. Temples that looked so peaceful in books were as meditative as an airline security checkpoint, thanks to the throngs of domestic tourists behaved like they were at a rodeo rather than a church. It rained heavily and frequently, challenging my photography efforts with day film, and soaking me as I explored on foot. My attempts to find a shared apartment arrangement near where I wanted to work introduced me to some deeply frightening people, living in scary conditions. The hostel system was FABULOUS and allowed me to meet many people, but required that I leave early in the morning and not return until after dinner, regardless of the weather. That meant after sharing a room with an ill person, I had no place to catch up on my rest and fend off their cough.
And the job for which I had a vague offer letter would only become valid if and when a teacher who had given equally vague notice left. And she was unsure if she'd be leaving in one month, or two. I was told that if I waited, I could surely get the job, because the students like "blondes." (My hair was much less red then, but still.)
I had arrived wide eyed and bushy tailed, and left with about 17 rolls of exposed film and an infamous cough which took about FOUR MONTHS to recover from.
And I NEVER ONCE saw a woman in a kimono while I was there. Those travel posters LIE! :-)
The trip was a great experience, though I returned extremely exhausted, alarmed by the conformity of western dress there, disappointed that the design I so admired was so absent from daily life, and tired of struggling every day to communicate. I was _done_. And while I have threatened to return to Japan to make a hot spring tour, or to bike on the coastal road all the way around Hokkaido, my travels have taken me elsewhere.
The experience was extremely valuable. If I could travel alone for nearly a month in Japan, I could do nearly anything! It also helped me understand how cultures are represented for tourism, and why people from abroad have been shocked that I don't surf to work or live in a Victorian. The way cultures are oversimplified and idealized for foreign consumption is something I can better interpret now.
Being a compulsive writer, I have a variety of written records of that visit. Lists of the sodas I drank, all of which were unavailable in the U.S. at the time. A list of exotic candies, including "olive chocolate," which was deep green and generally unlike chocolate. A list of postcards I sent, and what I wrote on them. The dates and locations of my travels to each city. And a collection of fliers, maps, and wrappers which I'm saving up to (someday) make an "artist's book" reflecting my experiences there.
I also wrote up a lengthy letter to my friends, which I was clever enough to save a hardcopy of (that computer is long gone, and the file and media formats would be unreadable now). I wrote it upon my exhausted, ill return home, and it makes the trip sound like an exhausted, ill person makes anything sound. :-) Several of my friends thought I _hated_ the trip for years, which (perhaps because the cold/cough clouded my thinking when I mailed it) had failed to occur to me.
Ooops. I was miserable at the END, but not the whole time! Honest! I'm glad I went! Really!
It also inspired many of my pals to write extensive travel reports of their trips in extraordinary detail. ("Tuesday at 9, we had corn flakes with milk. Mine got soggy quickly.") I was advised by someone on the pal mailing list that this was a bad thing. :-)
I have a dozen items on my to-do list, so I should pretend I can leave the computer and go do them.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:42 AM
Oooh. The SF Center for the Book has a class on pastepapers (sfcb.org). Is anyone I know already making these? Wanna show me how? It doesn't sound too complex, but I'd like to see it demonstrated before I try it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:57 AM
Mmmm. Tapas. Thursday night I went out for the evening with several girlfriends from my old firm, to chat and relax. We started at Dalva, a little dive on 16th Street beside the Roxie with great happy hour prices, and after a few rounds of gossip and drinks, a friend offered to treat my unemployed rear to dinner at Picaro (www.sfstation.com), which is across the street. It's a little, warm, cozy tapas place. (Tapas are Spanish-style appetizer plates.)
We ordered a carafe of their strong sangria, and dined lavishly. We had spicy potatoes (patatas bravas) in a very elegant chili-cheese sauce, though there has to be a better way to describe the sauce so it sounds as sophisticated as it was. We enjoyed the PERFECT Spanish omelet (often called tortilla Española, but which has another name there), a tall fritata-like cake of tender, thin, layered potato slices baked with an egg custard holding it together. It is a remarkably simple dish which they prepare to perfection, and which is somehow more than the sum of its parts. We had fresh, crisp artichokes in a garlicky hot dressing, which was delightful, but which made me sweat garlic for about 14 hours. My friends also ordered some pork skewers, which they consumed happily but didn't review for me in detail.
It was wonderfully satisfying! Picaro is a good place to take friends, and I'd like to go with the same group again!
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:57 AM
Friday, April 15, 2005
Mmmmm. Coffee. Mmmmm. More coffee. Mmmmbbbzzzzztttt!! I hung out with a girlfriend who makes great espresso drinks. She has one of those cool, old Italian espresso pots, and uses great, strong, fresh coffee in it.
She made me an espresso today when I was chatting with her. It must have been 12 ounces or more.
It was strong.
It was good.
I drank it all.
I am now (after 10 p.m.) cleaning house and doing chores at something slightly short of the speed of light. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:11 PM
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Sylvia Plachy. Last night I went to a lecture given by the photographer, Sylvia Plachy, at the SF Art Institute, sponsored by PhotoAlliance and Aperture West. I subscribe to Aperture, and so was invited by mail.
The SFAI building in North Beach always intrigues me. Being there, and waiting in line with students to hear the lecture, gave me a weird feeling. A time warp feeling. Years ago, when I was an architecture student, I had an assignment to study this building in great detail. I produced a booklet of drawings dissecting it. To make it, I'd visited the school several times, measured it by footsteps, took slides, made sketches, and then reduced the building to drawings plainly expressing my intimate familiarity with the structure(s). I got comfortable there, and would visit the school spontaneously to enjoy the views from its rooftops. Going back now, after so many years, but still feeling so familiar with a place I only studied briefly, is an odd thing. That work was all part of a different life.
A young photographer, Jessamyn Lovell, whose work I am familiar with through SF Camerawork, spoke first. Her touring portfolio is an autobiographical collection of images from her troubled home. Her family experienced a variety of disasters, large and small, and she documented them carefully. She did tease the audience, though, by failing to explain the story behind her image Mommy with Gun, Cato, NY, which is the image I remember her for. She was only willing to say that it involved a llama and a drunk farmer.
Then Plachy took the stage, along with three slide projectors, which she used to present her work in triptychs. After a few chugs of beer, she was a charming and pleasant presenter, and it was great to see her work projected large. Much of the work was from her new book, Self Portrait with Cows Coming Home, and it was delightful to hear the stories behind the images. Plachy is VERY engaging, and I was laughing out loud at her stories. She also displayed work from her assignments around the world, including color work, which she would point out actively to tease an audiencemember who doubted she'd done any. She's a fabulous photojournalist AND artist!
It was also great to be able to compare her work to that of Lovell who went before her. I sometimes flinch at the way female photographers are expected to create bodies of work around domestic themes: home, babies, weddings, and the social fabric which is supposed to cover and consume us. Everyone has what is called "personal" work, done only to please themselves, and no one should pick themes for another artist based on their social identity. I don't mind when women CHOOSE that as a topic, but I often have an underlying suspicion about why I hear about a photographer, and why her images are receiving publicity. So it was great to be able to compare the work of a young art school graduate, who was expected to make images of shiny purses at school, but was taking images of her handicapped mother in an unkept home with her spare time AND be able to compare it with the work of a grown-up who has been developing her portfolio over 40 years about a country she left in childhood. My brain was stimulated. Both artists were documenting the idea of home, but for one it was immediate and consuming, and another it was a country from which she'd fled and returned, by choice, to explore. Nothing was cliché.
Plachy's images are especially gorgeous. And... there's something very humane about them. They're not all studio-perfect. Some are a little soft. Some are very sharp. Some are harsh. People move and blur, and not to impress someone with faddish studio effects: it's just her range of ways for capturing the world. I could stare at her work for HOURS. And now I also know the photographer is a wonderful and entertaining person.
So if you have a chance to hear Plachy speak, DO NOT MISS it.
Also, the nighttime view from the roof of the SFAI building is INCREDIBLE. I may have to go to the cafe there, just to bask in it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:26 PM
I love the library cafe! After a morning spent keywording (and forgetting the names of some of my favorite plants, which makes the keywording much less effective than it should be), I went to the library to do some photography research. Oh, yes, and to take a few photos of the inside of the library with my 1950s camera, because I never have, and very much want to. The research went well, but eventually my lunch wore off, and I needed a hot meal to keep me going until my evening appointment. I love the little cafe in the basement of the SF Main, and so I went there first.
The specials included TWO different vegetarian lasagnas, and the usual menu of gorgeous sandwiches and filling snacks. The dining area was filled, and good food smells were subtly wafting around. It's a popular place!
I had the pesto spinach lasagna. It only took a short while to heat up, and came in one of those boat-shaped dishes. It was piping hot, and everything was just the right texture and flavor. It had both a pesto sauce and a tomato sauce in it, which is just the way I like pesto lasagnas, so I was thrilled. It came with a small piece of focaccia, and a crisp green salad, on the plate beneath the boat. It was VERY satisfying! And it cost just $6 and change including tax, and I was able to go right back upstairs and continue my reading afterward. It was so good, I did want to stay and have dessert, but I am quite well padded and don't require dessert at all.
But I'll get it next time.
The coffee drinks are good there, too. Eating in the library is fun!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:27 AM
Calzone's. I called up a girlfriend of mine who I hadn't heard from in a while, and during our lengthy conversation, she said, "Do you want to go out to lunch? I've got this coupon..." It was already 1:30 in the afternoon, but my stomach is on its own schedule, and eating an early dinner sounded fine. Especially if she was treating, which she was not, though I didn't figure that out until late.
The odd hour meant the place she'd planned to take me was closed between meals. We walked up the hill and went to Calzone's at 430 Columbus in North Beach. Calzone's is in the center of North Beach's tourist district, but despite this it's good. Their pastas are fresh. Their pizzas are on very fresh, delicate, thin crusts. The food is consistent. I started taking friends there back in the early 1990s, and they were always satisfied. But I think the food is fresher and better now. And yes, I like it better than the Stinking Rose, which is just okay. My friend also liked the decor, which included shelves filled with all sorts of Italian canned goods: she thought it felt casual and comfortable.
My girlfriend had a sausage sandwich with garlic fries. The fries were good, though they looked battered, and that always frightens me (what's in the batter?), so I only tasted a few. She said the sausage was bland, but I think that was the purpose of the option on the menu: to serve as a mild, safe choice for meat eaters.
I had the broccoli di rabe linguini, with sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, roasted garlic, and a chili oil. It was FABULOUS. All the veggies were moist and tender without any sogginess. The linguini was as wide as chow fun, but very thin, and delicate enough to tear if you tugged at it with a fork. It was VERY satisfying, and smelled wonderful. (My friend could smell it the entire time, and observed on how fragrant AND beautifully presented it was... Yes, I'm hoping it makes her choose something with more veggies next time. We'll see.)
My recommendation for Calzone's as a good place to take your friends is thus maintained.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:10 AM
A few very neo-conservative scientists have decided to name species of beetles after members of the Bush administration. Which is fine. What I really like about the article, Beetle boost for Bush and friends (news.bbc.co.uk, 04/14/05), is the understated caption the BBC inserted beneath a photography of the politicians, which says simply, "The beetles bear no physical resemblance to their namesakes."
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:50 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Heard at the video store: two young men pass the "Super Size Me" DVD display. One says to the other, "That's a good movie. NOT boring."
What a review!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:09 PM
The dairy lobby strikes again: U.S. nutrition guidelines are going to recommend increased milk consumption, thanks to financial and political lobbying rather than real nutritional needs. This is discussed in Dairy guideline draws dissent (sfgate.com, 04/13/05). But as this article points out, the reasoning that supposedly justifies increased milk consumption - namely, to prevent bone fractures - has no scientific support. Here is a sample from the article, which would be good to read in its entirety:'Most of the world doesn't consume dairy at all and has very low rates of fracture,' Willett says. The British are told to get only 700 milligrams of calcium a day, but have only about half the fracture rate that Americans do. In China, calcium intake is about 400 mg a day, almost none of it dairy, yet fracture rates are at least three times lower than in the United States.But the dairy industry sure has a lot of money!
...Seven long-term studies done in the United States, England and Sweden show no 'important reduction' in the risk of breaking bones when calcium intake is increased, he says.
In the Nurses' Health Study at Harvard, women who drank two or more glasses of milk a day were at least as likely to break a hip or forearm as women who drank one glass or less, he says.
If you read the whole article, you'll also get the milk industry's point of view. Which is that if there is a nutrient you need, you should get it from their product, instead of from a balanced and varied diet.
Nestle, an author of books about the political influences that control nutrition information here, remarks in the article that grown animals do not drink milk, and yet their bones develop just fine. I can almost HEAR people's heads spinning over that...
Many people don't remember the caveats that came with the old fad diet, "the Zone," which warned about the direct connection between high protein diets, and the inability to absorb calcium. The protein interferes.
I think a lot of people never read that far into the book, prefering the parts about how thin they were going to look instead. :-) That fad died, and new ones have sprung up in its place. But basic nutritional guidance, about getting a balanced diet and eating a variety of foods, is still something the public tries to ignore at its peril.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:51 AM
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
It's funny how the Indian dishes I enjoy in restaurants are all slightly different from each other. Baigan bharta is delicious, but slightly different at every restaurant. This probably relates to the tradition of not measuring spices and other ingredients strictly, which allows each chef to develop their own (internally consistent) style. Though it makes it hard on me, as a home cook, who wants very similar results. All the recipes for any dish seem to vary wildly, and they're all good, but not precisely what I'm after.
But it's fun to eat my way through the research. :-)
I made two dishes from Food-India.com - Vegetarian recipes on Monday night: palak paneer (replacing the paneer, which is too rich for me, with tofu) and "mashed eggplant (baigan ka bharta)." Both are very tasty; both are not quite like what I eat in restaurants. I served them with home made raita (a cup of plain yogurt, a grated cucumber, dashes of paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper), basmati rice, and a gingered pear chutney a friend gave me last year.
It's a very satisfying meal. So I recommend the recipes, which are good, but not standard restaurant fare.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 AM
Monday, April 11, 2005
There are 12 days, six hours, and several minutes remaining until Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (pinholeday.org). Are you ready?
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:18 AM
*yawn!* It's one of those cool, grey mornings that usually inspires me to say that I will finally do my ever-accumulating film scanning duties and stay indoors all day, but I can tell by looking at local webcams (www.kron4.com) that the sky is clearing in a few locations where I'd like to shoot some film.
I have been reading about more antique, now "alternative" photographic printing processes, and am excited to try more.
Arlene, you have a color injet printer. Why aren't you satisfied with that?
Oh, for lots of reasons. It's not continuous tone. It's not archival: the ink has no guaranteed life span before the colors spoil or shift. It thinks that gray is made up of little black dots, instead of made up of a continuous layer of gray pigment. It has a seemingly linear approach to adjustments, whereas chemical materials respond with curves (some parts of an image respond to the chemical faster than others, changing the overall relationships between sections of the image). And I don't learn anything new by hitting the 'print' button.
Later this year I'll be able to afford a much fancier printer, which will have optional REAL gray pigment options, archival inks, and will allow me to make prints permanent and colorful enough for commercial sale of some of my favorite color work. I'm thrilled with that: I will LOVE being able to output my own color prints, without using a lab or hazardous chemicals. But for my monochome work, I want to have far more tools in my toolbox.
There are always movements in the art world to figure out how we got to where we are now. Artists examine and experiment with the conceptual and technical development of a medium in all its steps, or at least the ones that seem interesting, and photography has been going through such examinations continually. There has been a resurgence in interest in the oldest, most basic processes even as technology continues to change the way people take and use images. Long before my grandparents were born, photography became a popular medium; up until my grandparents were children, all sorts of products, chemicals, and procedures were in common use that made incredibly lovely prints, especially monochrome prints. Despite their charms, many of these products have been phased out as fashion changed.
I just finished reading Coming Into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing Processes, edited by John Barnier (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2000). It describes the basic techniques for a wide range of processes which had a heyday generations ago, and were eventually replaced by new techniques and trends, but which had characteristics which have not been matched since. It's an interesting book, and has raised my curiosity about several processes I had not considered before. There are two in particular that are fascinating: carbon and the use of 'printing out papers.'
According to this book, the carbon process was wildly popular with both photographers and art printers. It made incredibly detailed prints - this is what a REAL carbon copy was! A popular European printing house of the 1870s cranked out 1500 prints a day from its workshop. Photographers loved it for their fancy work. More than thirty two colors of monochrome emulsions were once available from a single manufacturer here in the U.S. THIRTY TWO COLORS! Heck, you don't get that kind of choice range from modern papers now!
The process seems tricky, in that involves coating one paper with the emulsion, exposing it, and then using warm water to try to transfer the emulsion to another sheet of paper. There are lots of things that could go wrong. But it also seems worth trying.
The other process I was unfamiliar with, but which sounds intriguing, simply involves the use of "printing out papers," or "POP" papers. They are purchased gelatin silver papers that can be contact printed through exposure to the sun, and which manifest an image right away, so you can control your exposure as you go. (Current conventional gelatin silver papers look the same before exposure as they do after: it isn't until you develop them that an image appears.) POP papers don't require developing (you have an image as soon as exposure is complete), though they do require chemical treatment to stabilize the image so it won't change or fade, and tone it to the color of your choice.
They both sound great.
As I've mentioned in this space before, I am a complete fanatic over one of the 1840s antique printing processes known as 'cyanotype,' and find it so delightful/addictive/satisfying/amazing that I'm planning to try several other processes to see if they're anywhere near as fun. I have a kit to test out gum bichromate printing sitting downstairs with my other chemicals even now. I have had self-restraint so far only because my haphazard garage workspace is about to undergo a lengthy foundation repair project that involves heavy construction and disconnecting my sink. I don't want to contaminate my kitchen with some of the unpleasant chemicals involved in these other processes, so I am pretending I can wait patiently until S helps me prepare a suitable space at the end of construction. Theoretically, we will build a counter near the sink for all the trays I'll need, so I won't need to work on the floor or the table saw, as I usually do now. I'll be able to put up a sign and claim that corner of the garage is my "studio." :-) So I'm excited about that.
So it will be a few months before I post images from the other processes. But I will. Stay tuned!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:17 AM
Is nothing sacred?!? Habaneros for those who can't take the heat (sfgate.com, 04/09/05) describes how Texas A&M has developed a mild habanero chili.
What's the point of THAT?
NuMex Suave Red and Suave Orange seemed like a good idea to someone. They still have a flavor. But. But. But!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:14 AM
This sounds like a joke: how is RSS like conveyor belt sushi? (One quarter of you are asking, 'what is RSS,' while half of you are asking, 'what is conveyor belt sushi? Is it better or worse than the sushi that comes around on the little boat in the little moat?') Turning the web into 'sushi belts' (news.bbc.co.uk, 04/11/05) at least managed to come up with a photo illustrating conveyor belt sushi, but it raises questions.
Like, why is the sushi in plastic boxes? If people are eating there, what purpose does that serve? (Do people sneeze more in England?) And if it's part of to-go eating, why aren't the plastic boxes flat and stackable?
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:40 AM
Sunday, April 10, 2005
S is a housepainter, and recently cleaned a house in a damp area that needed extensive 'power washing' and repeated scrubbing to clear off the moss and lichen which were growing merrily on the building. The building had an overhang with eaves, and just before he was about to use his high pressure sprayer to de-moss the area, he spotted a bird's nest. He decided to relocate it to a safe place.
He delicately removed the nest from the building, only to discover that it contained two, very recently dead baby birds.
There's something so poignant about his find. The whole idea that some poor birds had their home and family and plans, and that something happened to one of them which destroyed it all. All that potential, withered away.
The idea of the nest he found is absolutely haunting.
There was an image in a recent issue of PDN of large, perfect looking penguin eggs which had completely frozen solid, suggesting the same tragedy. The article explained that penguin mothers need to hunt after laying eggs, and so penguin fathers keep the eggs warm. The mother will hunt for both of them, and bring food back to him. If she dies while hunting, he'll have to choose between starving, and leaving the eggs to freeze. Starving doesn't save the eggs (if he isn't alive, he isn't warm), so he has to abandon the eggs to hunt, which generally dooms them. So frozen eggs tell you the fate of the mother and imply hardship for the father as well.
For those of you who had fantasies of being penguins: reconsider.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 AM
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Wow. That's all I can say. Bloggy's Blog (bloggylog.blogspot.com). Explanation here (ibiblio.org/bloggy).
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:40 AM
Friday, April 08, 2005
Simple eggplant spread and sauceThere are many eggplant sauces, but this one is very easy. It is delicious on fresh bread, or tossed with pasta and a little extra olive oil.
-1/4 cup or more of olive oil
-2 medium globe eggplants (5+ cups), finely diced
-4 or more cloves of garlic, minced
-1/2 a yellow or white onion, diced
-1/3 cup of green olives with pimentos, halved or coarsely chopped
-a dash of crushed red chilies
-a handful of fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
-salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, and when hot, add the eggplant. Sauté the eggplant until the oil is well distributed (though it will disappear for a while due to absorption), and cover for about five minutes, stirring every minute or so. Between the steam and the oil, the eggplant will become softer, darker, and more tender. Add the garlic, onion, olives, and chilies, and continue to sauté, covering it now and then, until everything is tender (about 15 minutes). Add the parsley and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This tastes good right away, but perhaps is even better after it has sat for a few hours.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:24 AM
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Two-thirds of world's resources are 'used up' (guardian.co.uk, 03/30/05). But you knew this.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:52 AM
Why everyone should support comprehensive health care systems. So Angola is dealing with an outbreak of Marburg, an Ebola-like disease. If you read the Hot Zone or any of the other good books about 'the new plagues' that kill within days and are highly contagious, this isn't really news. But if you read Angola struggles to cope with virus (news.bbc.co.uk, 04/07/05), you can see that part of the reason that the mortality rate is so high is that there is no health care infrastructure that can handle such a serious outbreak.
Here in the U.S., many people (generally those with private coverage) do not believe in socialized medicine or public health care systems. They figure they are covered, and who cares about everyone else? They're not thinking clearly, because if everyone in public around them gets a plague and can't be properly treated for it, they'll get it. Watch them having fits when the next SARS-like disease begins to spread in North America, and they want SOMEONE to quarantine infected people, but can't articulate who that SOMEONE would be.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:31 AM
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Halloween in April! I don't like to post images of myself, but this one is sufficiently ridiculous thanks to the costume that I can include it. This was taken by the nice folks at Photocrazy.com at the Valley Spokesmen's 29th annual Cinderella Classic (100k) over the weekend. (valleyspokesmen.org) .
Since it's an all-female ride with a Cinderella theme, there's a lot of princess and fairy tale-oriented humor & costumes: women with cone hats with fabric coming out the top, poofy sleeved outfits like some of those bridesmaid dresses Dawn had in her collection, fairy wings, lingerie outside of cycling clothes, wedding hair decorations, etc. There's no formal competition, but we're all pretty chatty, and so we wind up praising everyone whose outfits we like all along the route. There's a lot of glitter and camp, and we're lucky we don't fall off our bikes when someone in a witty outfit passes us. Last year I wore a tiara and the boa (and clothes). The dress was very "floaty" and had a big bow on the back, so I got a lot of laughter and compliments on my extreme girliness this year. But there were some wicked witchy-stepsisters who really went all out, and an impressive team of butterflies. There are images that give you a good feel for the costume themes at Glenn James Photograhy - 2005 road rides. (glennjamesphotography.com)
The ride now has a maximum allowed participation of 2,500 women, and it sells out every year. It is GREAT. Women and girls of all races, shapes, sizes, and ages do this ride. This was my 5th year, and I'm bummed that I skipped the 25th anniversary ride, because I really wanted the jersey.
I'm not a clothes horse (duh) and could happily wear jeans just about every day (except for when I'm backpacking, because they never really dry), but OH HOW I WANT THE JERSEY. The design for the 30th anniversary Cinderella jersey for next year's ride is already on display, and is GORGEOUS.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:47 PM
S had some Blow Monkey's songs going through his head, and so we're listening to Animal Magic (my LP) and I'm spouting trivia from The Official Web Site for Dr Robert (drrobert.net). The album is from 1986, and when I bought it I remember taping it and forcing some of the other swimming teachers to listen to it in a car on the way to or from the water slides in Manteca. And the eldest in the group liked it. Which was a relief, because it was his car, so I could listen to the whole thing.
When I was a swimming teacher. I was young, a bit too thin, insecure, and spent every dime I had on records, which brought me endless joy. That was many years ago, and maybe... 10 jobs ago? Maybe.
1. mother's helper (babysitter when mother is home, for a neighbor)
2. cat sitter (repeat job over many summers, with several clients)
3. door sweeper for a neighbor
4. swimming instructor's aide
5. locker room attendant
6. computer department intern
7. teacher's aide (work-study)
8. department office aide (work-study)
9. architectural Librarian, assistant to the specifications writer, and drafting intern (architecture firm)
10. misc. painting (work-study)
11. long term law firm temp coder, coding QC supervisor, paralegal, database rebuilder, etc. (temp agency)
12. litigation paralegal (clerk, paralegal, and senior paralegal)
Anyway, this record is part of my life's soundtrack from an intense time, so it's an experience to listen again. Dr. Robert is no longer a porcelain-faced child with enormous hair, but instead looks like a real grown up and lives in Spain. And he has a good website, as an added bonus. Who knew?
The Blow Monkeys turned up in my endless lists of bands I loved that I had neatly written all over peechees, binders, notebooks... I came across a bunch of those lists recently, when purging some of my old papers that had been stored in my mother's garage, and think it's funny I don't do that now (being a compulsive writer of so many sorts.) I've redirected lots of my fan energy into other pursuits, which is okay, but means my folders look... suspiciously clean.
Working in law for 12 years can do that to a girl.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:07 PM
Monday, April 04, 2005
Masochism update: someone now thinks S sounds like Depeche Mode, but they can't spell it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:31 PM
Masochism? S is a musician, and when I first met him, he was in two active bands, had CDs full of songs he'd recorded alone in his basement (playing all the instruments himself), and swag from has past bands. S' active bands have broken up in the spectacular, melodramatic ways that bands do, and S has again been recording songs on his own, playing all the instruments, in the basement.
For kicks, he periodically posts some of this output up at garageband.com. I always know when he does this, because he then spends weeks ranting about the contradictory commentary he receives in the song competition the site has, where people get to rank/rate/vote for songs they like. The last time he posted songs, he kept climbing in the rankings, but was still offended by the lack of coherent criticism. A lot of it is, "I really like the string part," when THERE IS NO STRING PART, and it doesn't appear to be a joke comment. Or, "I'm confused by the jazz references," when there are none. Or comparisons to bands that his music sounds 0% similar to. You get the idea.
He gets all worked up about the meaningless commentary, but it's not like it's surprising. I've watched couples get all excited because they finally installed some hopelessly insipid ring tone on their phone, and they sit on the streetcar, playing it over and over... What could they possibly say about music that would be meaningful?
I think that hyper specialization has made people good at one thing, and useless at everything else. Art (in all forms) is now something you BUY, not something you make or have a personal, well-grounded opinion about. Heck, EVERYTHING is something you buy, or try to buy: style, smooth thighs, white teeth, a nice house, "taste," your sense of belonging to your culture... Since everything you can purchase has to have novelty value, art (as a commodity) can come in and out of fashion, which further complicates the potential for criticism. 'It doesn't sound like everything else on the radio' can actually be a NEGATIVE criticism for some people (which is scary). [Heck, I told a girlfriend about a pasta dinner someone made for me, and she actually said 'oh, is pasta primavera IN again?']
I suggested that S needs a community of like-minded musicians who care about the same sort of music that he does, so he could get criticism based on references that he could respect. This inspired another rant about how 'musicians are ***holes,' and so such communities are nearly impossible to form, and always involve drummers that you can't be in the same room with.
So, he has my sympathy, but he's doing this to himself.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:07 PM
Sunday, April 03, 2005
I'm alive and mostly well. I've been laid low with allergies on and off this week. I biked the Cinderella Classic yesterday, and am resting my legs from that. Today I stuffed my face and watched movies with friends. I'll write more when I'm not headachy from staring at a TV screen for hours.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 PM
Friday, April 01, 2005
The world is "richer" than ever before, but hunger is INCREASING in many regions of the world. Including war torn regions: Children 'starving' in new Iraq (news. bbc.co.uk) The UN says that hunger among children has doubled since the U.S. came into power in Iraq.
It also discusses the immorality of letting people starve anywhere in this day and age. Which should be obvious, but isn't. Even here, in a rather religious country, plenty of people feel that other people starving far, far away is part of their god's plan, which is beyond human comprehension. Whereas their own starving could never be permitted to happen, and would be a failing of some other system. Funny how these things work...
I think it depends on whether you have a cooperative or a competitive vision of how the world should be. If your view is competitive, why help others unless they're some advantage directly to you? The folks in the cooperative vision are the ones helping others, because they feel it's the right thing to do.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:53 AM