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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Four thoughts on the bike cozy

  [Editor's definition: bike cozy or top bar cozy: a little fabric wrap that encloses a bicycle's top bar, and is fastened with snaps, buttons or velcro.]

1. Are you serious?

2. Oh, please.

3. But that doesn't match anything I own... Oh, now I see where this is going.

4. I prefer my bicycles to be naked, the way nature intended them to be, but thank you.


posted by Arlene (Beth)7:50 PM

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recipe: celery and onion soup

  Celery is something I often have trouble using up. I might crave it, but rarely for more than a stalk or two in one dish. What should happen to the rest?

-two tablespoons of canola or olive oil
-half of a large onion, diced
-two cloves of garlic, minced
-a teaspoon or so of fresh ginger root, minced
-three stalks of celery, diced
-1 teaspoon of turmeric
-1 tablespoon of your favorite vegetarian broth powder (optional)
-2 and a half cups of water
-a handful of wide, flat wheat or rice noodles.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil for 2 - 3 minutes. Add the celery, and stir well. After another five minutes, add the spices. Stir well, then add water. Bring to a boil.

Add the noodles, and simmer until the noodles are tender (about 5 minutes for the type I use). Enjoy.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:50 PM

At some point, the ideal came to stand for something superficial and shallow

  The fabulous photo-eye newsletter currently features an article with some retro-cool photographic illustrations - Kodak Coloramas! - and a lot of thoughtful prose. Rethinking the American Dream | (April 2009) performs a review going back to the 1930s book where the "American Dream" phrase was coined, and makes some interesting observations about the way 'the dream' has changed. Economically challenging times can inspire some interesting thoughts about our very materialistic culture, and the article does some interesting comparisons with thoughts from the previous major depression to now.

It is interesting to see how a country can have its ideals change from such topics as freedom from class boundaries, self-reliance, independence and opportunity to merely the freedom to own lots of stuff.
More soberly and less bombastically, Roosevelt, in his 1941 State of the Union address, prepared America for war by articulating the “four essential human freedoms” that the U.S. would be fighting for: “freedom of speech and expression”; “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way”; “freedom from want”; and “freedom from fear.” Like Luce, Roosevelt was upholding the American way as a model for other nations to follow—he suffixed each of these freedoms with the phrase “everywhere in the world”—but he presented the four freedoms not as the lofty principles of a benevolent super race but as the homespun, bedrock values of a good, hardworking, unextravagant people.
I'm certain we have always had Americans who have not been invested in these values, who have always thought of their own comforts first and foremost, but I believe now it is much more acceptable - perhaps even normal - to think only of oneself, and to do so quite publicly. It is not only the business pages that drool over business opportunities in China - not to spread freedoms, but in hopes of getting rich in the absence of each freedom on this list (and, not coincidentally, in the absence of consumer- and worker-favorable regulation). Spreading 'our way of life' is currently about material goods and the worship thereof far more than it is about any other value we may hold dear (or claim to hold dear).

Aside from prescient quotations from days gone by about Americans losing the concepts of the common good and modest successes, there is a discussion about rational, sustainable limits on doing better than your parents. How much better? If they were successful here, how much is enough for you to 'top' them by?

All this AND Coloramas!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:17 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recipe: pumpkin and cheese enchiladas in chipotle tomato sauce

  You know I love enchiladas. I especially love THESE enchiladas. The pumpkin is sweet; the chipotle chilies are smoky... These are also a lovely color.

(I haven't yet perfected my marinated tofu enchilada filling, so these are made with cheese.)

Chipotle sauce ingredients:
-28 ounces of diced tomatoes (canned if in winter; if they are in season, fresh tomatoes, diced, lightly drained, and lightly de-seeded)
-5 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
-half of a large sweet onion (white, yellow, or violet)
-4 cloves of garlic.

Instructions: puree until smooth.

Other ingredients:

-2 cups of pumpkin, baked until tender
-2 cups of onion (white, yellow, or violet)
-5 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
-6 - 8 ounces of grated, organic, local, pepper jack cheese

-10 flour tortillas (lard-free)


Prepare the chipotle sauce as described above.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and cumin until the onions are tender. Mix in with the pumpkin, mashing it to a reasonably smooth texture.

Lay out the tortillas, and evenly divide the pumpkin and cheese between the tortillas, favoring one edge for ease of rolling. Roll the enchiladas-to-be up, and put them in a pan with half the sauce resting in the bottom. Cover with the remaining sauce when all are rolled.

Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 40 minutes.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:05 PM

Zombie-ness is Cleanliness

  At 12:20 today, word went out that there would be a 4 p.m. zombie SWARM in San Francisco. SFZOMBIESWARM.COM makes it clear that this is a zombie swarm, and not that zombies are warm. Just so we are clear.

The kind of remarks you will not find on most websites, nor being announced on the BART public address system:
Keep your entrails in check and curb your desire to leave your soiled garments behind. Leave the goosedown pillows for the living.
That would liven up the BART PA, wouldn't it?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:48 PM

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Addendum 1 to Bands I Have Seen Live (preliminary list)

  This is actually a slippery slope, coming up with lists like this. Because it only leads to more questions. Questions like... who opened for the Dead Milkmen? Who did Wire Train play with all those times I saw them at Wolfgang's? What did I eat for dinner last night? It frightens me that I am receiving answers.

Between my friends with their scary memories, band stalkers with pages on the Internet, and some notes in my calendar from last year (which demonstrate that, even if I was not paying any attention, I was at least keeping decent notes), I've come up with the following additions to my preliminary list of bands I have seen live.

Aisler Set (pained noises)
Bhi Bhiman
Bobbleheads, The (2009)
Brass Mafia
Carletta Sue Kay (2009)
Catholic Comb, The (2009)
Dead Science, The
Gliss (2009)
Julia Knowles (so I've been told, though I don't really recall)
Marginal Prophets
MC Honky
Minders, The
Mist & Mast
Mister Loveless
Pan American (this was the answer to my characterization about trip hop for whales)
Pigeons or Panthers
Prids, The (2009)
Rob Hall
Rogue Wave

I have tickets for three or four more shows over the next month or two, so I'll probably pretend I never started this list, before it becomes actual effort, rather than merely a mildly alarming amusement.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:41 PM

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Answer: it turns out that many people watch the Watchmen

  Have you ever found yourself saying something like, "He's a great chess player: it's a real shame that he speaks so highly of Mussolini?" Or "Aside from his advocacy of white supremacy, he's a good poet." Or "It was a great book, until he blamed everything on the Jews."

That's how I feel about the Watchmen movie.

I'm not the target audience for Watchmen. Not so much because I was focused on Japanese manga in the 80s and early 90s, and had little patience for the muscle-bound American hero comics. Though there is also that. I'm not in the target audience despite my high tolerance and frequent fondness for dystopian fiction, which I do have. My sci-fi fandom and tendency to see sci-fi movies doesn't count, either. The fact that I saw the film on opening weekend is no indicator. No, the target audience is male viewers who kindly overlook micrometer-thick characterizations of women.

Ladies: if you are not sleeping with a major male character, you cannot be in this film. Of course, there are other requirements, mostly involving parading around in your underwear, but you only exist to sleep with others. There is one exception available to a one hot lipstick lesbian, but she must both appeal to men and die in the opening credits. Sorry.


It's perfectly dystopian for the heroes of the film to all be flawed, to have moral and ethical lapses, to be personally loathsome in some instances, to be a bit mentally off. That was part of the 80s re-evaluation of being American, right? Good people doing bad things with "good" justifications they can't articulate - that was pure Reagan Administration. That works well. But these flaws are only acceptable if you are male, because those kind of flaws could lend too much depth to any female character in this world.

Name a personality trait that any of the women in the film had. See? Sad, no?

If you were in the target audience of the film, you may not have noticed this, or may have forgiven it in exchange for the latex suit and sex scene, which were the primary memorable actions by the young lead actress. You may have also glossed over the lack of sexuality in the male characters who weren't sleeping with the latex lead or her bustier-clad mom. This happens - there are so many freakishly abstract depictions of women in film, that it all may have seemed normal to you, depending on the kinds of films you see. And it happens in other media.


Related digression: when I went back to college on weekends to complete my degree, we were in the second or third semester or so when one of the members of my cohort complained that every book we were currently reading was authored by a woman. He didn't think this was balanced, and he wanted this to be corrected. After a brief pause, another male student took him to task: we had already been through months of material, and without exception, everything else in the class had been male-authored. Why hadn't he complained about the lack of balance then? The first student said he hadn't noticed. It had all seemed normal, these all-male, male-centric points of view.

I'm not saying it's just Watchmen; I'm just saying this was especially tedious in Watchmen.

At least in X-Men, the female characters had abilities not limited to wearing latex or having shiny hair.


The only real novelty in the film to me was the unrelenting frontal nudity of Dr. Manhattan. This is not something hetero-boy-oriented media usually depict(s).

Those of us who watched lots of anime in the 80s often noticed a trend: the women may have been exploring space in bikinis or doing battle in chain mail thongs, but the boys were as covered as priests of most Western faiths: arms covered to the wrists, legs covered to the ankles, necks covered at least midway, sometimes all the way to the base of the head. Once you notice that in manga, you start noticing that "western" contexts feature more muscle-bound displays of male upper bodies, but only for fight scenes. But men are often stunningly modest.

Not here.

It was also novel that, with the screamingly blue exception of Dr. Manhattan, the heroes were really just normal people who were about 20 percent tougher than normal folks. They were brawlers, really. They evolved from fist-based vigilantism, but didn't evolve far. That was nearly... democratic.

Do I need to write about how Dr. M's martian clock-hovercraft-thing made no sense at all, even if it was pretty? Or how awesomely 80s some of the background details were? Oh, you know that already. Well then: this film could have had some more depth, though I think it wasn't supposed to - I think the flaws of the (male) heroes were supposed to spread to a flat, ambiguous view of a world that they didn't really spend enough time thinking about, a view that we shared with them. It succeeded at that. But I can't imagine watching this again, or recommending it to anyone.


posted by Arlene (Beth)1:06 PM

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good with his tools

  Twitter / markmorford, from famed Mark Morford of the quite wonderful "Morning Fix" as well as Notes and Errata on, is now, well, on Twitter. Not to tell us where he is buying coffee, or which yoga posture he is in right now, but for very concise blogging.

His current formula: one sentence plus a link.

There are some mighty fine links there. Links you might not expect from that one sentence.

My only warning: the vast majority of the links I visited that he posted were most decidedly Not Safe For Work (NSFW). Perhaps even So Very Not Safe For Work, What Was I Thinking Opening That Here (SVNSFWWWTOTH).


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:56 PM

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In chains

  sign in American Apparel window, Valencia Street, San FranciscoThere had been some fascinating signage on Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District in recent months, once it was revealed that chain store American Apparel planned to move in.

When I think of American Apparel, I think of their heinous, unflattering, vaguely pedophile-focused ads, but then I also think of The Onion: 14 American Apparel Models Freed in Daring Midnight Raid (, which made me laugh so hard I cried, and was especially enjoyable since AA advertises on their back cover.

But when the community near the proposed store location found out about it, they were not laughing.

The poster suggests that the hearing was LIVELY.

Yaaay for community involvement!

(As for the vacant space, I could really go for a shop that sells boxed specialty tea...)


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sub-mothra class space flora

  Cunningham Place mural detail, San Francisco, CaliforniaSpring in the day, winter in the night...


[mural detail from Cunningham Place, off Valencia, in San Francisco]


I've been the worst fair-weather cyclist lately. I fantasize about biking, but ever since that hail storm on the Tierra Bella years ago, I just haven't had much enthusiasm for inclement weather. Even though the hail made INCREDIBLE sounds on my helmet. (It didn't make up for the STING of hail.) I know we need the rain. I know I need to bike. I just don't think of these ideas as compatible at the moment.


I posted a few photos of details of fuzzy protea up at Facebook (no login required). Just a few. They are from the UC Santa Cruz Botanical Garden, which is spectacular. I could spend many weeks of my life filling all of my memory cards and shooting very fine grain film there... The collections from South Africa and Australia are impressive. I am saving New Zealand for next time.

Now is a great time there for the 'smaller' (sub-mothra class) protea (some of the larger ones have already bloomed out) and banksia.

Closer to home, it is clear that the seasons are changing. The pink plum blossoms came and went; the cherry blossoms are out in force, and the white plums are barely making an appearance before they are hidden by fresh green leaves... My habits remain thrown off from recent life changes, as I haven't documented any signs of spring's arrival photographically. Not even CAMELLIAS. And you know how I am about camellias.


Gestalt Haus (my favorite cafe turned into my next favorite cafe turned into a German bar featuring beer I actually like and VEGAN sausages) removed most of the bike racks. I don't know what that is about. The weissbier is still perfect, however.


I caught a good show last week at Cafe du Nord ( It featured the Catholic Comb, Gliss, and the Prids (all three on While there isn't much point in YOU, dear reader, having a myspace page, it certainly is a handy place for a band to have a page, as music is one of the few forms of content that is effectively being facilitated... I pre-screened all three bands through CdN's links, which sold me on the show.

The show was really enjoyable: the audience was enthusiastic (there was even relatively gentle MOSHING during the Prids' set), and the music was... Well, now that I'm ancient, I'm catching more and more nuances of earlier sounds, of bands from the early 80s, influences I wouldn't necessarily expect in bands with members who weren't alive in the early 1980s. Each band had different early 80s influences, but they were certainly there. New music with old sounds. (All sounds are old, in some ways...)

In William Gibson's book Spook Country, the heroine had once been in a cult band, and is surprised in her fictional now at the increasingly atemporal nature of music consumption, of how people who were too young to have heard her band when they were touring initially are being introduced to her band so long after they folded, of how she was picking up new fans years later... Perhaps some of the sounds I enjoyed in the pre-digital age are finding their ways into young, musical ears and out through their shiny new amps.

I don't write about music often, so I'll just say that I will listen to all three of these bands again, and I hope to see them again live. Their sounds were like nostalgia, without the tedium of actual nostalgia.

This is an endorsement. No, really. I'm listening to Gliss as I type this. Though any and all incoherence is solely my own.


I've already come up with 13 more bands that I've seen live that belong on my 'bands I've seen live list,' and am hoping to have a few more revelations. Especially about who opened at some of those Sleater Kinney shows (other than Quasi and the Quails, and the A-- Set, who dawdled forever and thus earned my loathing), and for Elliot Smith.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:24 PM

The Canadian Flag Is The Key

  I know, on some level, I'm not supposed to enjoy this... but I do.

The lead news story today at my favorite reference website is The Chaser APEC pranks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Why do I like it? I enjoy humor, I enjoy satire, I enjoy authoritarian security officials making fools of themselves.
The most prominent prank was the breach of an APEC restricted zone in the heart of Sydney central business district on 6 September. Julian Morrow directed a fake Canadian motorcade, which was allowed through the restricted zone by police and not detected until Chas Licciardello alighted, dressed as Osama bin Laden.
There's something about their casual faux-motorcade, whose most official-looking detail was a few Canadian flags, that makes this so... So...

Just go read it.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 PM

Saturday, March 14, 2009

They way books look

  I love books. I've written of this before, and have an entire book love web page here about the many ways in which I love books.

Here are just a few quick links of pages about the way books look that I've been staring at:

-Photo-Eye (, an on-line magazine, book shop, and gallery about photo books. I get the newsletter and am visiting this site nearly every week.

-The Book Design Review (, which looks primarily at literature from big publishers.

-The Book Cover Archive (, one of those obsessive projects that I might have thought up myself if I had learned about espresso a few years earlier. (Well, no, not really. I would have thought of the sort of things I'm doing now earlier... Maybe.)

These sites are all full of eye candy, and hints that some people really do judge books by their covers, because the covers are so gorgeous.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Natural history and cocktails (night at the aquarium)

  outside of dark rainforest dome at California Academy of Science during NightlifeEver since the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park was rebuilt, it's been a madhouse on weekends. Just biking or walking past, you can usually see the lines snaking out toward the Sunset District, and sometimes even hear the staff making announcements through bullhorns on how they have already sold out of tickets for the day.

Not being into waiting in line or mob scenes, I avoided the place.

At least, I avoided it until my Cousin took me to NightLife: California Academy of Sciences, the nightclub version of the museum. For a mere $10 for non-members, you can go into the museum for a few hours at night, spend money on strong drinks made at any of the dozen plus bars scattered throughout the building, and see those same exhibits you wanted to see during the day. NightLife is an 21 and over event ONLY, so not only will unfamiliar children NOT mistake you for their mommy and cry when you try to point out their error, but... it feels like a nightclub scene, complete with people all dolled up, pretending to look at piranhas while checking you out. hall at California Academy of Science during Nightlife

It's a younger, less dressy crowd than the members only parties at SFMoMA, and men are better represented. I theorize that this is because it's easier not to embarrass yourself at a natural history museum - it's much easier to tell animals apart than modern painters - and there is a much broader time span available to discuss through interpretive signs - say, the big bang to now, versus the late 1800s to now.

I had been a big fan of the old Academy (though the organization's apparent joint position with the museum across the way - that more of the park should be privatized and turned into parking lots for the convenience of its patrons - was loathsome, and has resulted in some very unfortunate side effects), and find that the new building... is a completely different place. The African Hall, full of its stuffed samples of flora and fauna from that large and still-exotic continent, was rebuilt to match the feel of the original, while the rest of the museum feels not just like a new place, but like a new concept of what the museum is for.

rainforest exhibit at California Academy of Science during NightlifeThe old building felt like a Victorian collection of artifacts that had been collected during some imperial expansionist period, with hidden halls and closets that seemed to go on forever, chock full of every possible aspect of conquered lands, and was fun to explore in the way you would expect. The new building, which is admirable in many, many ways, but will take some getting used to, feels like a modern place, engaged with current environmental issues and primarily focused upon non-human life on earth. I imagine that the mission of the Academy has been tidied up, or the new building wouldn't FEEL quite so different.

I'm not saying I don't miss the room full of natural crystals - I do! - but the point of being there is much more clear. I mean this as a compliment.

A few notes: yes, the albino alligator is still in the animal hospital.

Yes, the rain forest will be closed this week. If you're making a special trip for that, wait a week or two. When it is open, be sure to hit it early - they do close that earlier than some other sections.

Yes, the drinks are respectably strong.

Yes, you can actually go just to enjoy the exhibits, and do so without feeling like you are missing the point. That's part of the beauty of it, really. And, unlike me, some stranger probably won't approach you with a camera containing his amateur lion porn to start up a conversation. Unless you are also a freak magnet, in which case, this won't be any different from anywhere else you go.

Yes, I took a few phone photos (other than those posted here), which may be viewed at my phone photo blog or in my Academy By Night album on Facebook (no login required for either, of course.)

entrance to California Academy of Science during NightlifeI enthusiastically recommend Nightlife as a way to see the museum without being hit by strollers; with friends; with a cocktail in one hand; to see the museum brightly lit; to hear a DJ while staring at sea bass; with a date of uncertain conversational skills (if they can't find something to engage you in conversation about here, you likely should not be dating them); or on any Thursday night between now and the end of October when they stop doing this.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:29 PM

Manifestly important and nearly impossible

  Polaroid's instant films were some of the most ingenious inventions of all time. Complicated and clever, in color or in black and white, and in some cases able to produce both a print AND a large format negative at the same time... Instant film was an AMAZING technology. Barely distinguishable from magic, as most great technological advances are.

I shouldn't refer to instant film solely in the past tense: Fuji still makes both cameras and instant films that produce adorable little instant prints. But Polaroid, who had managed to make instant film simple for users by complex manufacturing on the back end, never really made the amount of money on it that could justify the novelty of instant gratification in an age where, it turns out, people actually can wait for a few minutes if it means saving a few bucks.

Polaroid discontinued manufacturing its analog instant films, which I only recently have started to play with, dispossessing countless travelers (who love being able to share prints in far-away places, especially in isolated communities) and many artists, who either relied on the prints for proofing analog shots, or those who had found ways to manipulate the inside chemistry with heat, force, and a bit of disassembly.

Enter The Impossible Project (, an effort to acquire a closed Polaroid factory with all of its equipment, and re-engineer instant film - knowing it is possible, understanding how it was made, and starting over to make it better.

This is exciting.

The splash page tag line for this project is a quote from Ed Land:
Don't undertake a project, unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.
(PLEASE do not use this concept as an excuse not to clean your house.) While I prefer to limit my own activities to a range somewhere between 'totally doable' and 'marginally unlikely,' I admire their pluck... and want to play with their future products.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Love Wikipedia while on the go

  Of course Wikipedia has a mobile site: is the English front page, mobile style.

It's zippy fast, though it likely won't save you from losing entire days following links that suddenly interest you.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:53 PM

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