Monday, February 28, 2011

False alarm

I thought I didn't have any emails from work. But I took the battery out of the BlackBerry and put it back in again and now I have about ten irritating questions from work to answer. Let this be a lesson to you. If you aren't getting emails from work, then the mantra "Switch it off and switch it on again" should not be applied until Monday morning.

All Quiet on the Western Front

My bastard work BlackBerry ran out of juice yesterday and I finally managed to charge it up today and it when it woke up it registered zero - zero! - emails from work. The last one was Saturday evening.
I've no idea how that happened as the work guys seem to work in relays to shovel things to my door on Sundays. Thought I'd finished reviewing standard operating procedures? Surprise! Here's another five I finished on Saturday at 11 pm. It's a work BlackBerry. I don't have a phone. I have this one purely because work wants me to have a phone that lets me know if I need to work at night or during the weekend.

No emails at all on Sunday. That's actually quite odd. Either all the others have developed civilized attitudes to work, or...

Or I don't have an alternative. The world ended and nobody told me?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipes: The Other Dismal Science

My other half says cooking is hard. I say cooking is easy. He cites the lack of proper standard operating procedures, and, even where they are available, the preponderance of phrases like "beat until well mixed", "cook until done" and "heat until hot".

I bought a joint of meat today and the helpful instructions on the peel-off tag read, in full:
Cooking Instructions:
Place roast, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan. Do not add water or cover. Remove roast when thermometer registers 135-140°F for medium rare, 150-155°F for medium. Let roast stand 15-20 minutes. Roast will finish cooking and be easier to carve.
If I followed those instructions, I'd have a piece of beef sitting on a kitchen counter forever, because of course the kitchen never (I hope) reaches 135°F. It's usually around 70°F, in my estimation. If the kitchen was one day to set on fire, I would afterwards come in and take the roast out of the shallow roasting pan and let it stand.

The tag does not mention anything about using an oven or a grill, or what temperature it should be set at. A novice might guess from the instructions, if you realized you needed a heat source, that it should be from 135°F to 155°F, depending on which one you want to obtain, but I think most of us know that's not the case. The options range from 350°F to 550°F, so a hint might be a good idea. There isn't even the slightest estimate of time, so if we want to roast potatoes or vegetables, we can't begin to estimate when to add them to the pan.

And this is a professionally-written label for the meat. On the internet the situation is far worse, as everything seems to be written by amateurs, or possibly pranksters, with the exceptions of recipes ripped off of Madhur Jaffrey without regard to her copyright. Something that tasted right to some beery lunatic in Mississippi or Essex and, after being misremembered, incorrectly typed on to the internet three days later, gets copied and re-copied on to every recipe site. This means that a Google search will bring up seventy recipes for say, butternut squash ravioli in BBQ sauce, and 69 of them will be identical, but surrounded by slightly different ads for a local housewife who has discovered One Trick Of A Tiny Belly, and, amazingly, ads by another local housewife who has discovered One Trick Dermatologists Don't Want Me To Know!

Some of these recipes have missing ingredients. You assemble everything in the ingredients list and then gamely try to follow the drunk instructions until you hit "grate the onion finely" or "add the chopped artichoke hearts". No onions were specified in the ingredients, never mind artichoke hearts. Others are missing steps, so that you are to add the ingredients you blended in step number four, except step number four is to simmer for four hours. Is it safe, then, to just blend those ingredients? Who the hell knows?

The 70th one will inevitably be copied from a 1953 Good Housekeeping and include food ingredients that are no longer legal, such as kerosene, whale oil and maraschino cherries.

For a moment there I went into a dream where the Food and Drug Administration controlled food labeling in the same way they control drug labeling. The package insert would be 40 pages of 6 point type and include every possible interaction, contraindication and side effect. Dosages of the meat for persons under 18 would have not been established, and parents would have to prescribe the food for their kids off-label, risking severe penalties, malpractice suits and civil money penalties if Medicare or Medi-Cal was involved.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RIP Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

I was sorry to hear about his passing.

I'm not at all sure how Nicholas Courtney, Brigadier Alex Lethbridge-Stewart, got to be 81, and subsequently died, but apparently he did and now there is another thing to mourn in the Doctor Who canon.

He always portrayed a large and in charge personality on Doctor Who, although he was regularly undermined as a bit of a blowhard.

I think Doctor Who should concentrate on stopping the deaths of his compadres. They are scaring me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


My little lizard, Grumpy, died today.
Grumpy was a rescue iguana who always seemed to have a note or two in her repertoire missing, hence our appellation of Grumpy. Possibly something in her early upbringing had led to her tendency to pour cold water on anything new. Whatever, she was a healthy and active iguana who graced our house from 1993. She lived with James Jewel Osterberg (Jimmy) and they kept each other happy. She was about nine pounds and five foot long.

At 17 she was an old iguana. Many don't live past 7 in captivity. But eventually the common old-age ig-killer of kidney failure kicked in late last year - we saw the colored urates and the pale tongue - and she started to go downhill.

She's survived by James Jewel Osterberg, who is currently wondering what happened, and I hope we can explain it to him, as iguanas are not good at understanding why today is different from yesterday.

Grumpy is on the right, below, and Jimmy is on the left.

Surfing in on a putrid tide

I always wondered what happened to That Petrol Emotion. I loved Chemicrazy.
It turned out that nothing happened to them. They broke up shortly after and have recently re-emerged as a festival band, like everyone else. That's a shame, unless you're you're a festival goer.

But in the eighties, when I wasn't listening to Pop Will Eat Itself, I was listening to That Petrol Emotion, and they were supplying my jones with a wonderful guitar-based boogie, their completely internalized Chuck Berry riff, endlessly mutating to provide top-shelf pop.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Joy Division Transmission

I'm having a struggle with making the Playmobil (Lego) version of a video be the first music video I recommend for a seminal musical track, but here we have Lego and deep rock meeting, in a video that still manages to meet hipster standards.

Joy Division's Transmission.

Christ, that's a hell of a track. If Lego fails to move you, buy the vinyl instead. I did.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dex Romweber

A friend trawling the intarwebs sent me this Dexter Romweber clip from MTV in 1985. I'm used to Dex being a patriarchal fellow who will school anyone in extreme rockabilly. But here Dex is a teenager living in a garden shed who you in extreme rockabilly. He was always dynamite.

Excellent fucking clip.

Shepard Tone

A few years ago, I was enjoying a meal at Luxor in Las Vegas and the music surrounding me was someone playing a scale that seemed to ascend forever. It continually went higher in pitch. Obviously that was impossible, but that's how it sounded. It was a slow, stately ascent as though someone was ascending Escher's stairs. It wasn't annoying ( I was eating dinner), and it wasn't background music. It was demanding music, but every time I thought it would become transcendent, something happened and I found myself listening to it climb the ladder again.

Yesterday I learned that this wasn't a clever invention of Luxor, but a known phenomenon. There's a way to balance the ascending scale with the loudness of the tone and the loudness of its octave below to fool the ear into thinking the scale is always ascending. It's called the Shepard Tone, and here's an example of it rising, although nowhere near as stately as the one I heard in Vegas. And here's an example of it falling.

As you can imagine, the Las Vegas scale was beautifully worked out, not continuous but resembling that of a keyboard instrument, and it had me captured for an hour. These web versions aren't as hypnotizing, but man, what an illusion. I'm used to optical illusion, but that was the first aural illusion I had. The mp3s I link to aren't nearly as captivating as the real thing in the wild, but I couldn't find the genuine article out there.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Wanda Jackson and Jack White

Here are some videos.

Yes, ma'am

I been thinking...
about the White Stripes farewell announcement two days ago and what I thought about it, and I remembered a meme that had been going around in science fiction circles recently - motivationary misquotes to drive fanboys mad.

Anyway, it translates to rock and roll as well, so here's my entry.

At the risk of over-explaining a joke, I have to credit the original photographer, Pennie Smith, who captured this wonderful but now butchered shot. It was, of course, used on a famous album cover.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola: “Who says artists have to make money?

A sentiment I've thought about before. A hundred years ago there were no 'recording artists', and the idea you could market a product to the masses was unthinkable. Now, it's almost impossible to market a recording to general people. A tragedy, or just one of those regressions to the mean that are fated to occur? Francis Ford Coppola plumpts for the latter.

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

Last Supper

I love me some Last Supper re-enactments, and via Kali Durga of Das Ding an Sich, here's a Star Wars one:

It's from Robin Cook.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Goodbye to the White Stripes - formal announcement

I never actually knew you, but I didn't expect you to formally call it a day.

But you did. On the 33rd day of the year, too. Fare well.

PS does that last paragraph mean I can remix and/or bootleg anything I like? Looks like it does.

New Kills album coming out

Which means the Kills are all over the media. They appeared at the Etam fashion show (warning: NSFW)

More dance and explication here, along with Beth Ditto:

Talking about their new album (print) here.

Or talking (audio) about it here. [link gone]

Or just watching Alison Mosshart dance to Jay Z here.

Or... you can listen to Satellite, a track off the new Kills album here, from Rolling Stone.

I'm looking forward to this album. Satellite rocks.

Here, have an octopus

I love octopuses.

It's from National Geographic.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.