Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cuisine Chimera: Thai Meatloaf

Cooking is a favorite pastime, a great creative outlet and often a wonderful excuse for doing strange experiments.

I love Thai basil. Tonight's wondering: Is there a way to mate the often loathed American meatloaf with Thai cuisine to produce a pleasing result?

Answer: Two of two familial guinea pigs gave my first stab enthusiastic thumbs up.

There's probably still some tinkering to be done before submitting to RecipeZaar, but here are the details.
20 oz. pack of ground turkey
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (more wouldn't hurt, used baby portobello)
1/2 chopped water chestnuts (like 'em and they add a little crunch)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic (might not be necessary, used the milder stuff from a tube)
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce* (this sort of stuff; testers said it was spicy, so cut in half if you like things one star rather than two or three stars)
2 tablespoons chopped thai basil (don't even think about subbing ordinary basil for this)
1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Combine ingredients and add to small bread pan
3. Cook for 30 minutes, remove and drain (pour out juice; gets pretty juicy; do this to avoid making soup)
4. Cook for 30 more minutes
5. Enjoy
Yey! Another new invention!

Excellent Optical Illusion

My son introduced me to these impressive, inverted-face optical illusions from Grand Illusions. They come in the form of free PDF files. Download, print, cut and fold. If you're interested in such things or you want to amaze your kids, the exercise is definitely worth the effort. There's a demonstration video on the page as well.
p.s. Check out the site. They sell a number of really cool gizmos and illusions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Death of a Balloon

Death of a Balloon

Triptych of my stepson

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vicious Circle

Vicious Circle

Probably a repost in this blog... an old shot I came up with for a photo contest...

I Fought the Battle of Trinidad & Tobago

Artist: Loney Dear
Song: I Fought the Battle of Trinidad & Tobago (Amazon mp3)
Disc: Sologne
Year: 2007

Monday, November 24, 2008

Synechdoche, New York

A few thoughts on Synecdoche, New York.

Maybe someday Charlie Kaufman will jump the shark inside a shark inside a shark. If he does, we'll undoubtedly spend the aftermath trying to figure out if it was really a shark or merely a tetrahedral hallucination swimming in a four-dimensional pool inside the head of man driven insane by reading Gödel, Escher Bach.

I wonder if Synedoche is the most cynical film I've ever seen or if it somehow reedemed itself in the end with a glimmer of hope. It's not the first time I've sensed cynicism from Kaufman--as much as I enjoyed it, I found Eternal Sunshine to be among most cynical films I'd seen in a very long time.

At what point does one's search for truth and meaning become a white whale overzealously pursued until all that remains of one's life is just the search and the search alone? And how hollow and devoid of meaning will one's life be if one becomes so consumed by such a quest?

Synechdoche led me back to such questions.

Perhaps, like Ebert, I need to see the film a couple more times, but I wonder if Kaufman, by taking over the director's chair this time, gave himself too much rope. Is the film too Kaufmanesque for its own good? Even so, the master braintwister never fails to fascinate, intrigue and reward me with brilliant, quirky looping through mentally self-referential worlds.

Basic synposis spoilers follow, so hit the brakes now if you so desire...

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an unhappliy married director whose production of Death of a Salesman earns him a MacArthur grant and enough money to finance his relentless magnum opus, a play that ultimately becomes so obsessed with truth it goes all crazy ouroboros on itself morphing into a play about the real life of the creator of the play and the world inside that play... (um, if you know Kaufman, you get the picture). Questions of life, meaning, truth, belief and regret are, of course, mercilessly woven into the mayhem (at least that's what we believe).

It'll give you something to talk about over a drink. If nothing else, maybe it will cleanse your palette enough to promise a guilt-free viewing of the next Apatow release.

Crowds & Noses

Google added the ability to vote on the goodness of search results. I'm left wondering how well this will actually work and what effect it will have on the quality and visibility of the information we receive.

For quite a while, James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds has been in vogue. Along with it, some have even believed that if we can simply build a virtual market around some desired real truth, such as an election, the truth will eventually spring forth from glorious wisdom of virtual crowds engaged in virtual market action.

In light of the recent financial crises, however, nobody's looking terribly smart--not the crowds, not the experts, not the players in the market, not the millions burned by the housing bubble, not the legions of professional economists failing to predict the catastrophe.

I'm skeptical of the wisdom of crowds. It doesn't take much investigation or analysis of our society to realize "best" and "most popular" are often not merely different but sometimes even diametrically opposed to one another. (As easy as it would be to pick on particular individuals no-talents, I shall resist.)

If anything could have averted the current financial crises, it might have been time-honored wisdom and principles in our culture regarding spending, borrowing and thrift. We seem to have collectively forgotten them, thus forcing ourselves to collectively rediscover them. (This is why Plato and Aristotle and Shakespeare are still relevant, still important, and more than mere pale, dead guys who wrote ancient stuff about ancient worlds.)

Will Google's new voting improve search results? It's hard not to see how the change won't make the most popular results even more popular and intensify the Zipfian effects, but I'm sure they've thought of that. They're smart folks, but I don't see how how there are any quality metrics being assigned to the voters themselves. When "best" and "most popular" are in opposition, will things get even worse? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Finally, a favorite anecdote from Richard Feynman:

"This question of trying to figure out whether a book is good or bad by looking at it carefully or by taking the reports of a lot of people who looked at it carelessly is like this famous old problem: Nobody was permitted to see the Emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the Emperor of China's nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think the length of the Emperor of China's nose is, and you average it. And that would be very 'accurate' because you averaged so many people. But it's no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don't improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging." - Richard Feynman, Surely, Your Joking, Mr. Feynman

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pest Control

Last year I hired a pest control service.
This year they clearly want the job again.
Phone call after phone call after phone call.
Message after message after message.
How can I get rid of them?


In the Shade

The High Seas!

"The High Seas!"

An exaggerated claim penned by a marketing department wordsmith.
In reality, they're surprisingly close to sea level.

Too big to fail

The list of companies "too big to fail" continues to grow, yet the bankruptcy of Linens 'N Things goes on relatively unnoticed, in spite of the looming catastrophe promised by its demise. Perhaps we can do without linens, but will we be able to do without things? That's the whole economy, my friend. It's all things. Save them, save them now!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Belief vs. Knowledge

There are times when you merely think you rock.
And there are times when you know you rock.
Such is the case with this 1984 airband rendition of Def Leppard's Photograph.



London, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nebraska: cheaper than military school

Nebraska has a safe haven law meant to offer immunity to parents abandoning newborns at hospitals, but lawmakers apparently neglected to include an age limitation.

"Please don't bring your teenager to Nebraska," Gov. Dave Heineman told CNN. "Think of what you are saying. You are saying you no longer support them. You no longer love them."


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Easter Parade

The Blue Nile's Easter Parade. This time with Rickie Lee Jones. Simple, poetic, impressionistic, sublime. Close your eyes and listen.

Artist: The Blue Nile (with Rickie Lee Jones)
Song: Easter Parade
Disc: A Walk Across the Rooftops / Birthday Cards & Silent Music
Year: Original:1985 / 2000

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yes Men Strike Again

Think-outside-the-box activists The Yes Men struck again, this time printing and handing out 1.2M copies of a fake edition of the New York times with news of the end of the Iraq War and other false but wishful stories consistent with their modified subtitle: "all the news we hope to print."

BBC News

Synecdoche & Kaufman

Continuing on the subject of film, Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite filmmakers and Adaptation (2002) is one of my favorite films of the past decade. (Warning: If you like films that go easy on your brain, Kaufman is not for you.) I've yet to see his latest, Synechdoche, New York, which Roger Ebert recently reviewed:

"The film is confused, contradictory and unclear, so I am informed by those unmoved by it. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly grades it 'D plus' and has what I agree is a reasonable reaction to this film: 'An artist makes a movie that is so labyrinthine and obscure, such a road map of blind alleys, such a turgid challenge to sit through that it sends most people skulking out of the theater -- except, that is, for a cadre of eggheads who hail the work as a visionary achievement.'

I imagine he speaks for a majority opinion on this film. I am resigned to belonging to a cadre of eggheads hailing "Synecdoche..."


Following is the trailer for Adaptation, which is one of the few films I've seen with a structure I'd call 'recursive'. If you watch the film, here are a few facts that I think will make it more enjoyable:

1. Susan Orlean is a real person (played by Meryl Streep) who really wrote a book called The Orchid Thief. 2. Orlean really commissioned Charlie Kaufman to adapt this book into a film. 3. Kaufman really developed a case of writer's block, failed to adapt Orlean's screenplay and instead wrote a screenplay about how he failed to write the screenplay (since he couldn't adapt, he adapted). 4. Somehow he managed to successfully pitch the screenplay about his failure to adapt to author Orlean and get her to give him the go ahead with the film. 5. Kaufman doesn't really have a twin brother Donald--presumably, Donald represents Kaufman's alter ego, the devil on his shoulder, wanting to sell out to Hollywood a la Bruckheimer. 6. Unlike Nicholas Cage (playing Kaufman in the film), Charlie Kaufman in real life is pretty skinny and has quite a bit of hair on his head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Das Leben der Anderen

I've mentioned it before, and I will again--given its recent on demand availability at Netflix: The Lives of Others. Probably my favorite film from 1987 2006.

"It's an intricate, ambiguous and deeply satisfying movie, a tautly plotted tale of state surveillance and personal betrayal that ultimately becomes an ode to the transformative power of art." - Dana Stevens, Slate

Monday, November 10, 2008



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Downtown Los Angeles at Night (1988)

Another clip following the theme of YouTube as a window in time. Set to jazz, three minutes and fourteen seconds driving downtown L.A. at night in 1988. Long gone Thom McAn pans by. &c.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hologram Interview

Interesting new video technique, "hologram interview" on CNN.

via Make

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


For quite some time, I've advocated research into geothermal energy. Looks like Google and Warren Buffett have gotten into the game. Yey!

"Geothermal energy may be the most prolific renewable fuel source that most people have never heard of. Although the supply is virtually limitless, the massive upfront costs required to extract it have long rendered geothermal a novelty. But that's changing fast as this old-line industry buzzes with activity after decades of stagnation.

Billionaire Warren E. Buffett has invested big. Internet giant Google Inc. is bankrolling advanced research. Entrepreneurs are paying record prices for drilling leases in places such as Nevada, where they're prospecting for heat instead of metals."


Note: Referring to geothermal as 'renewable' is a misnomer, imho. You're sucking energy from the Earth's core. It's not renewable. It's just vast.

Compressive Sensing

Good Compressive Sensing introduction video from Microsoft Research:

Compressive Sensing

via Nuit Blanche

Sunday, November 02, 2008

After Life

For quite some time, I've been a Netflix subscriber. Their "Watch Now" catalog continues to grow, and I'm happy to see some favorite independent films and foreign films showing up on the list. I may wind up making a recommendation from time to time.

"Kore-eda, with this film and the 1997 masterpiece 'Maborosi,' has earned the right to be considered with Kurosawa, Bergman and other great humanists of the cinema. His films embrace the mystery of life, andencourage us to think about why we are here, and what makes us truly happy." - Roger Ebert


Song: Paris
Artist: Friendly Fires
Disc: Friendly Fires
Year: 2008