Monday, February 25, 2008

The Song that Never Ends

Lumpy Variation 3B, which you can hear in the Box Widget over there in the sidebar, is being included in The Song That Never Ends, a John Cage-inspired collaborative composition composed of randomly mixed and layered single-instrument tracks submitted by different composers. You can read more about it and hear earlier versions of the piece at the site. The randomly juxtaposed tracks are sometimes startlingly beautiful.

By the way, given that maybe one and a half of the 22 posts I've made this year have had anything to do with cooking or eating, it's about time I officially gave up any pretense that this is still a food blog. Time passes, priorities change, focus wanders. What we eat and how we eat it continues to be a subject that holds a lot of interest for me, but there's just too damn much other stuff to write about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pamelia Kurstin

Have you ever goofed around with a theremin? It's the earliest electronic instrument. You play it by moving your hands through magnetic fields. One antenna controls the pitch, the other controls the volume. Simple, and fantastically difficult, like most simple things.

Watching Pamelia Kurstin play the thing, it strikes me that it may be the most flat-out sublime instrument ever. No clumsy user interface, like a keyboard or strings or a hole to blow into. What it responds to is the way you move your body through space. What an incredibly pure way of making music.

I'm in love.

Update. If you have 20 minutes or so to spare, you really should see this video of Pamelia performing her original piece "Stockholm." Go here and scroll down and click on her picture. It's pure electronic sex.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Searching for the Big Yellow Joint

As regular readers and close friends of mine are aware, there are certain things about which I am an unabashed dork. No apologies. I like myself this way.

So it should come as no surprise that this past Sunday I spent about three hours wandering around Balboa Island, humming "The Big Yellow Joint" and looking for the site of the Bluth family's frozen banana stand. If you don't know what I'm talking about, if by some bizarre misjudgement or oversight you've missed out on Arrested Development, the greatest sitcom of the modern era, you must consider yourself culturally stunted. As your friend I sincerely urge you to sit down with your DVD player and devote a weekend to rectifying this tragic condition. Seriously. Click over to Netflix right now--look, I'll even put a link here--and add all three seasons to the top of your queue. Just do it. Go. I'll wait.

(The hands of the clock spin around in fast motion. Pages fly from the calendar. The reader returns from Netflix.)

Cool, so you did it? Good. Ok.

Anyway, I didn't find the spot, exactly, but what I did find were two actual frozen banana shops. They're three doors apart, and each one claims to be the original. I'm sure there's a story here.

Maybe back in the 1940s a disgruntled employee quit his job at one stand and opened his own. Maybe it was two brothers who had a big fight over who was going to run the family business, and the younger one ended up standing in the street in front of the shop shaking his fist and declaring, "By God, Cornelius, I'll show you! I'll open my own shop!" Which he did, three doors down, using the recipe his father developed, thereby creating a split in the family that lasted for generations, and even today the two branches of the family don't speak to each other. You can kind of see the germ of ideas that eventually blossomed into actual Arrested Development plots right here. Of course the woman who served me my banana had no idea of the history of the two shops.

The banana itself? It's an actual frozen banana on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in your choice of toppings (I got the works). It's not the most transporting snack food experience I've had, but who am I to knock traditional Balboa Island cuisine?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Paddy's Blog About Crete

My friend Paddy, who is currently in Crete and living a much more beautiful life than you are, is blogging about it. He's a great writer. Go have a look.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lumpy: Two Versions

When I first started playing around with electronic music, I took kind of a maximalist approach. It amazes me a little to look at some of my first efforts. Tons of VST plugins hooked up every which way, loads of samples, full orchestration, to the point that I can't even tell what I was thinking then. I put insane amounts of time into the stuff, too, and of course it all sounds like crap.

The further along I've gone in this medium, the more pared-down the work seems to get, and the happier I am with the results. Lately I've been seeing how far I can go using just one sample and a minimum of effects. This thing I banged out today is in that vein, and I'm pretty pleased with where it's going. It's a bit of spacey minimal quasi-dub built around a sample of piece of 2" PVC pipe being slapped with my open hand.

Then, just for giggles, I recorded another version. Same notes, same music, but this time the sample is me coughing.

I bet Brian Eno does this kind of thing all the time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fry, Deglaze, Reduce Mix

  • Chicken piccata, an old weeknight standby for me: get a couple of boneless chicken breasts, split them laterally, pound them to a thickness of 1/4", salt and pepper them, and dredge them in flour. Combine the juice of one lemon with 1/3 cup each of chicken stock and white wine. Saute the chicken in olive oil till it's golden brown, and remove the pieces to a plate. Pour off most of the oil in the pan, pour in the wine mixture, and stir to loosen and dissolve the brown gunk. Add a tablespoon or so of capers. Boil and reduce by half. Turn the heat down to low and swirl a tablespoon or two of butter into the sauce. Return the chicken to the pan and let it get acquainted with the sauce for a minute or two before serving. Sorry for the lack of photos. I ate it all before I could get across the room to where my camera was.

  • It's too late for you Super Tuesday people, but readers planning to vote in upcoming Democratic primaries should be aware of this heretofore-tragically-unknown candidate. Mr. Mercer believes the government "must regulate government sleepers and government regulations authorized thought, ideas, acts, actions, rights, wrongs, controversies, facts, issues and circumstantial evidence through intelligence research, law research, law enforcement research and criminal law research implementing ROTC communications research innovating education national and international." An inspirational message for our times, I must say. I think he may be computer-generated.

  • I'm once again heading to Orange County, California next week. Swimmin' pools, movie stars. Conference rooms. I'm looking forward to this trip a little more than usual, though, since I'll have a couple of free evenings, and we're staying in a hotel that looks like the velvet pillow on the lap of luxury.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Super Tuesday Mantra


Just keep repeating that when you go to vote, and you'll do the right thing.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008

Addiction Loves Company

Here, let me help you meaninglessly fritter away some of your finite, ever-decreasing, and irreplaceable time on this earth.

(It's a game, although to call it that belies its insidiousness. An unholy marriage of Tetris and Sudoku. A horrible, evil thing.)