There was a blue moon out tonight. Here's a photo I took from the window of my apartment:
What's that you say? It doesn't look very blue to you? Well that's because apparently "blue moon" is just a colorful term some people use when there's a second full moon that occurs in one month. Yahoo! news has a pretty good explanation of this whack phenomenon.
As you probably know, the lunar cycle is 28 days, and months usually have 30/31 days, so when the full moon falls at the very beginning of the month there will be another one at month's end. This phenomenon, which really has to do with the way we count time in the Roman Calendar and not with anything unique going on in the sky, is not very exciting and not all that rare either: apparently, it occurs on average every 32 months.
At any rate, I decided to use this astronomical event of dubious interest as an excuse to share with you what I think is the most fun version of the song "Blue Moon," the one sung by the early '60s doo-wop group the Marcels.
Marcels - Blue Moon
Second order of business: I'm sure a lot of you have already heard about the Creation Museum which opened this week in Kentucky. This is a museum created by fundamentalist Christians which gives their take on natural history. Its exhibits show Adam and Eve's rug rats frolicking with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden and suggest that a couple of dinosaurs were even loaded on to Noah's Ark. Fossils are presented as a testament to animals that were killed in the Great Flood, which is also responsible for carving out the Grand Canyon in a matter of days (as opposed to the thousands of years claimed by geologists). Indeed, according to the museum, the world is just around 6,000 years old -- not only does this leave no room for millenia of geological transformation and the evolution of life, but it also places creation week after the earliest neolithic human settlements uncovered by archaeologists.
Now of course this museum is totally bonkers and re re: if you're going to embrace a literalist reading of the Bible as your version of how the world came about that's one thing, but it's a whole 'nother level of bizarre to drop dinosaurs into the mix and come up with pseudo-scientific explanations in an attempt to controvert the best theories of actual scientists. Yet, to me, the museum's concept was only slightly more stupefying that this clinker of a sentence that slipped into the NYTimes article mocking it: [in the museum] "evolution gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated as gospel."
The Bible is treated as gospel?! Really?! That's sort of like saying "the Israelites obeyed the Ten Commandments as if they were written in stone." This is worse than the time I found an article in the travel section on restaurants in Mexico City. If you look at the caption under the photo, you'll see how they tell you that this particular restaurant serves fruit drinks called jugos, suggesting that this is the name of some sort of special, local drink. But, as anyone who stayed awake in their high school Spanish class could probably tell them, "jugo" is merely the Spanish word for juice! [No, that is not the Spanish word of the day.] I always thought the New York Times was supposed to set the standard for educated writing in our country, but I guess not. I mean I would be pretty ashamed of myself if I published a sentence as bad as that.
I do have to say though that I love a good "bon not" like this: a phrase in which a word is used to define itself or in which antonyms or synonyms are arranged in such a way as to create an unintentional tautology or contradiction. The all time worst I ever read was in a paper submitted by another student in college. It was in this seminar I took on Alexander the Great in which each week students had to write a short paper on a topic and then hand them out to the other students before class. (Why did I take classes like this? Masochism, I guess.) Anyway, this one girl wrote a paper on Greece after the Peloponnesian War in which she said "The normal agricultural output of Attica was xxxx. But the normal output was not always the norm." The normal output wasn't always the norm?! That really made me cringe with delight when I read it.
Oh one more thing: I have an IMPORTANT UPDATE for everyone RE my "million dollar idea". Not that I feel like any of my slacker / drunkshow friends were REALLY going to do any work on this; but after reading that post Desiree did some research on the Internet, and it seems like someone already patented shower curtain reinforcements. We still can't find any for sale though which makes you wonder whether maybe the powerful shower curtain industry (or "Big Shower Curtain" as I like to think of it) with it's deep pockets didn't get to the guy who patented the reinforcements and pay him off so that the things would never be marketed.
TV SHOW CURRENTLY ON PAUSE: Shear Genius
SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY: chasquido! (= snap!)
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
So tonight I got home from my weekly Spanish class at like 9:30. Rather than drop off my things, change into my gym clothes and head straight up to the gym -- as I told myself I was going to, and as I tell myself I'm going to on all nights like this -- I instead dropped off my things, changed into my gym clothes, opened up my laptop, and got sucked into the black hole that devours spare time that is the internet.
Then my friend Nicole called me (I was shocked to hear my cellphone's ringtone because lately nobody EVER calls me) to tell me that she was watching television and that Just My Luck was on "one of the HBOs." This is a cute, bizarre little comedy that nobody's ever seen starring a pre-rock bottom Lindsay Lohan and featuring a scene in which you can see my pudgy face in the extreme background for a full two seconds.
So of course I had to watch that at least long enough to re-live my film debut (that's a story for another blog post). Then I decided to have a bowl or two of this amaranth flakes cereal I bought from Whole Foods over the weekend as part of my alterna-grains kick (cf. the quinoa post). Before I knew it, it was like 10:30 and I figured I had better go to the gym already or forever hold my peace.
When I got back about 45 minutes later, I went to the bathroom to take a shower and there the sight of my shower curtain brought to mind the million dollar idea that came to me about a week and a half ago.
Now I am not one of those people who are always coming up with "million dollar ideas" for products that might be advertised late at night on basic cable channels for $19.99; what happened is that I was at work, and I asked my friends Desiree if they made reinforcements for shower curtains. You know reinforcements: those little white rings that you use to keep sheets of paper in your binder after you've comprimised one or more of the three holes the metal loops go through? (Ha! As if I ever kept my papers in a binder when I was in school! Oh, it is to laugh. )
Anyway... Desiree told me that such a thing did not exist, and she kind of smiled a little bit pondering how naive I am regarding the ways of the world. When I heard the bad news I was like "damn" because two of my shower curtain's little holes were indeed ripped clean through so that the left end my shower curtain falls off the hooks and hangs limp (cf. photo supra).
I seriously thought these things might have existed, and I had even been looking for them on the internet a few days before.
Desiree was like "I have the same problem." and I was like "why don't they make these things? I'd buy 'em!" Des said she'd buy them too.
So that's my idea, someone should invent shower curtain reinforcement: little, water resistant plastic rings that are adhesive on one side for you to use when the integrity of you shower curtain's holes get compromised. And 2 out of 2 people in my informal poll said they would purchase this product. I mean, I guess buying a new shower curtain isn't that expensive, but this would be easier (and more environmentally sound) and plus I really dig my shower curtain and don't want to have to go shopping around for another one.
So, readers, if one of you with the requisite know-how wants to steal this idea and run with it I clearly don't have a patent or anything so feel free. You could even keep all the cheddah, just as long as you send me a complimentary box or two!
SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY: izquierda
TV SHOW I HAVE ON PAUSE: the Family Guy
WHAT I ATE FOR DINNER: sliced turkey and soy faux-chedder on a corn tortilla with a little Israeli salad.
SONG I'M CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: The Modern Lovers - Roller Coaster by the Sea
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
In a movie,
even if nothing is happening on screen,
even if the camera remains focused for a time on the same stationary object,
the film still races through the projector at 24 frames per second.
Thus, the image before your eyes is continuously being replenished,
replaced by a new if identical image at the same constate rate.
The projectionist does not hold still on one frame.
The rush of the celluloid through the machine does not stop, slow down or speed up.
It is just like the flow of time.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Happy Memorial Day, everybody!
So today's blog post is basically dedicated to awesome things which not everyone's been exposed to.
First there's quinoa: quinoa is a plant in the goosefoot family which is cultivated primarily for its edible seeds. It is not technically a grain, because it is not a grass, but it is easily mistaken for a grain because of the striking similarities in texture and taste between quinoa seed and other cereals.
Quinoa is a hearty plant which can survive at high altitudes, and it was first cultivated by the Incas who revered it as the "mother of grains."
Today many new-age nutritionists regard quinoa as a "superfood": it's lower in carbohydrates than other cereals, it's gluten-free and thus easy to digest, and it is high in fiber and protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids. Thus quinoa is healthier than wheat or rice.
I've been cooking with quinoa recently. It often makes a good substitute for rice, couscous or pasta, and it's easy to prepare. Like I said, it's more nutritious and it has a nice flavor. All you need to do is buy quinoa seed and rinse it; then put 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water in a pot, bring it to a boil, then cover the pot and let it simmer on medium-low heat until the quinoa has absorbed all the water (around 15 minutes) stirring occasionally. It's basically the same as cooking couscous.
I've made this dish a couple of times, which was inspired by a recipe I found online, where you sautee a bunch of asparagus with some garlic and onion (in olive oil). Then you add a can of chickpeas (perhaps some shredded carrots) and quinoa. Season it with some salt n pepa and the juice of a lemon. It's really delicious and it combines quinoa with asparagus -- which is also good for you and which I enjoy, much like Doctor Juvenal in Amor en los tiempos de la cólera, because it makes my urine fragrant.
The rest of the things I think you should all get on board with are all TV shows.
First, there's How I Met Your Mother. If you're not already familiar, this is an awesome sitcom featuring Neil Patrick Harris (better known as "Doogie Howser"), Alyson Hannigan (better known as the "band camp girl"), and that tall guy who was in the movie Slackers (aka Jason Segel). The premise (which is all but forgotten by the second season) is that in the future the voice of Bob Saget is telling his kids the story of how he met their mother, and said story revolves around him and his post-college twenty-something friends living in Manhattan. It is hilarious and original (way better than, say, Friends) and the only reason more people don't watch it is because it is on CBS which is known for broadcasting not-so-trashy-fun reality shows (Survivor, Big Brother, the Amazing Race) as well that CSI crap, the Ghost Whisperer featuring the bosomy Jennifer Love Hewitt, and a bunch of other stuff that your grandparents may watch. But, I promise you, How I Met Your Mother is a hip, funny show for young people which just happens to be on this network.
TV show number 2 I saw for the first time today, and it's called the Riches. It's on FX, and it stars Brit sh comedian Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as the parents of a family of Irish American travellers who adopt the identities of a wealthy couple who died in a car crash. And as if that's not enough, they settle in Baton Rouge, Louisiana! Learning about the culture of the Traveller's, who are basically like gypsies, was interesting, and in the three episodes I've seen thus far the story's really sucked me in.
And speaking of alternative lifestyles... TV show number 3 is Big Love: the HBO drama about a family of polygamists living in Utah which is starting up again this month. Bill Henrikson (Bill Paxton) left the separatist-Mormon community he was raised in to live with his three wives in suburbia where he owns a successful home improvement store. The show really paints a picture of what life must be like in this part of the country, and it portrays the Church of Latter Day Saints -- whose adherents always seem friendly and wholesome regardless of how strange their theology might be and which seems like the height of normality compared with the show's polygamist sect -- in what I think is a very fair light. Chloe Sevigny is wife number two, who is the daughter of the polygamist community's prophet. I had never really been impressed with her acting abilities before I saw this show, but she rocks this part in her pilgrim outfits with her pious, aristocratic comportment and her spoiled, daddy's-little-girl outlook on life. If you have HBO, I say definitely check it out!
SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY: dulce
Quinoa photo is taken from wikipedia and is in the public domain. Photo of Chloe Sevigny as Nicolette Grant is taken from HBO's Big Love website (link above).
Sunday, May 27, 2007
More troubling news out of Russia.
First, there was the curious case of Aleksander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent who was poisoned with the radioactive isotope Polonium-210. Before that, the Russian State dismantled the Yukos Oil company and jailed its founder, Mikhail Khordorkovsky, in order to consolidate goverment control over the energy sector.
Then the Russian parliament adopted legislation against non-governmental organizations, which they accused of being tools through which foreign powers sought to subvert Russian society.
Also, in their campaign to silence voices of opposition, Putin and his allies have shut down or taken control of all independent national television stations. And assassinations and violent attacks on members of the press who dare criticize the Kremlin (and whose attackers are never brought to justice) make Russia the third most dangerous country for journalists after good ole Iraq and Algeria.
Then, last month, chess legend Garry Kasparov, who is now the leader of the United Civil Front, part of the "Other Russia" anti-Kremlin coalition, was arrested for participating in a banned demonstration in Moscow.
And now the latest: today, around 100 gay rights activists took to the street in Moscow to protest the mayor's refusal to allow a gay pride march to celebrate the 14th-anniversary of Russia's decriminalization of homosexual activity. These protestors, who included several EU lawmakers and human rights activists, as well as Nikolai Alexeyev, the leader of Russia's gay rights movement, were harassed and beaten by a homophobic crowd of Orthodox Russians and right-wing nationalists before many of them were arrested. According to Volker Beck, a German MP participating in the protest, he and other demonstrators were subject to police brutality during their detainment.
The rolling back of democracy in Russia is a very sad and disturbing phenomenon, but I did notice something amusing at the bottom of one article I read about this latest incident.
It seems that Yulia Volkova and Elena Katina, the members of the faux-lesbian pop duo t.A.T.u., were in attendance at the fateful rally before things got out of hand!
You may remember Tatu (I refuse to write out that stupid capitalization and punctuation more than once); their biggest international hit was "All The Things You Said" off of their album 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane [how eurotrash is that name?!]. They were marketed as lesbian schoolgirls, but it was all a publicity stunt. Whenever anyone would ask them a question about their sexuality (such as "Are you two really lesbians?") they would distract everybody by being like "It is ok to be who you are! We love each other. Kiss, kiss. We are from Russia! Look at our boobs!" Then I guess they admitted they were really straight and everyone immediately lost interest. Apparently, their unique brand of high-pitched screeching to techno beats was not strong enough to stand on it own. But, whatever, I'm sure those girls were giggling all the way to the bank.
The author of the article made some reference to how Tatu, while not being actual lesbians, had caused quite the international stir with their erotic girl-on-girl schtick "in recent years." My first reaction was "dude, that was like ten years ago!" but apparently, according to no less a source than Mr. Wikipedia, this all happened in 2002-2003. I guess it got old so fast that it just seems like longer ago. And apparently they are still producing music: good on them!
Anyway -- and I have to give credit where credit is due -- before the storm, my friend Nicole introduced me to the most awesome song by Tatu, which I had never heard before and which is 100x better than "All The Things You Said," called "Malchik Gay." At first I was like "oh no, I hate Tatu"; but it's one of those songs that you think is stupid but at the same time you can't help but sing along. And then before you know it you're hooked. I thought it was only fitting that I should take this opportunity to share this gem with you especially given its name which means "gay boy".
t.A.T.u. - Malchik gay
Photo of St. Basil's Cathedral by Dmitri Azovtsev http://fotki.azovtsev.com. Photo of Tatu by Konstantin Koutsyllo/Reuters.
Memorial day means the beginning of summer (although our calendar may need a little tweaking to bring the holiday of our national cult in line with the actual solstice). In celebration, I've created a mix which you can download and enjoy called "Urban Summer." The first part of the mix, Day, evokes summer days in the city: the mix of lethargy and pent-up sensuality, sweltering heat radiating from asphalt and not a swimming pool in site. Here's the track list:
- 883 - La lunga estate caldissima
- Jurassic 5 - Concrete Schoolyard
- Joe Cuba - I'll Never Go Back to Georgia
- Janis Joplin - Summertime
- Lauryn Hill - Every Ghetto Every City
- Sergio Mendes & the Brasil 66 - Pais Tropical
- Belle & Sebastian - Legal Man
- Five Stairsteps - Ooh Child
- Lily Allen - Everything's Just Wonderful
- Fifth Dimension - The Age of Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In
- Manu Chao - Minha Galera
- Isley Brother - Summer Breeze
- Sundays - Summertime
- John Barry - Midnight Cowboy Theme
- Joe Cocker - Hot Town Summer in the City
Random link of the day: Algerian sistahs are doin' it for themselves
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Heliotrope: a plant that turns towards the sun
Thursday, May 24, 2007
SONG I'M CURRENT LISTENING TO: Katia B - Are you sleeping?
Paranoia Agent tells the story of a series of attacks which take place around Tokyo, the perpertrator of which appears to be an 11-year-old boy outfitted with a red cap, inline skates and a metal bat. Oddly enough "lil slugger's" victims all seem to be people who feel like they're emotionally trapped, and in some ways their attack brings them relief. The series explores this social phenomenon from different angles and shows how it affects the lives of a crosssection of characters. If you've never seen Paranoia Agent and you like serious cartoons, you should definitely rent it. Like I said, this is very mature anime and there's nary a giant robot in sight.
In the meantime, I'm happy to see Satoshi Kon is still working, and, although it doesn't look like I'll get a chance to see it in the theatre, I will definitely rent Paprika when it comes out on DVD.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
WHAT I MADE FOR DINNER TONIGHT: two wraps with broiled salmon, avocado and tomato which I ate with ketchup (it was a crazy amount of food)
TV SHOW THAT IS PAUSED ON MY DVR AS I WRITE THIS: Ugly Betty
MY SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY: platillo volador
COOLEST THING I FOUND ON THE INTERNET WHILE GOOFING OFF AT WORK TODAY: Mysteries to Behold in the Dark Down Deep: Seadevils and Species Unknown
Alrighty then, that's just about enough content for my first ever blog post. How about I conclude with a little blurb that I wrote down in my notebook the other day:
I can remember riding uptown on the streetcar on sunny afternoons. This was back when I was unemployed in Nola -- part of the leisured poor. I would have smoked before I left home and now, as I rolled past Saint Charles Avenue's mansions and the oak trees whose canopies shaded half the street and whose roots jacked up the sidewalk, my clouded mind felt a communion with the spirit of the City.
I have since learned that psychoanalysts have dubbed this sensation the "oceanic feeling": the sensation of being dwarfed by an entity whose limits you cannot hold in your mind, of your consciousness being overwhelmed and subsumed by its immensity. This is the feeling which overcame the poet Leopardi on his ermo colle and which one may experience staring out at the ocean or up at the night sky.
Some psychologists, sidestepping the metaphysical implications, suggest that this sensation of oneness with the surrounding infinity is a throwback to the womb.