Ordinary magic

May 11th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

From a New Yorker article about Kirk Varnedoe, the art historian:

The appeal of football wasn’t that it “built character”—he knew just how cruddy a character a football player could have. It was that it allowed you to make a self. You were one kind of person with one kind of body and one set of possibilities, and then you worked at it and you were another. This model was so simple and so powerful that you could apply it to anything. It was ordinary magic: you worked harder than the next guy, and you were better than the next guy. It put your fate in your own hands.

Indulging my inner foodie

May 1st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

After far too many nights of eating pasta for dinner, I decided it was time to do some proper cooking tonight. The farmers’ market has had lovely fava beans for weeks, so I decided to make a sauté of fresh fava beans, onions, and fennel. It was amazingly good. That’s mostly to the credit of the recipe–it was dead easy to make.

I made some orzo to go on the side, so I guess I still wound up eating pasta for dinner. I tossed the orzo (about a cup when it was dry) with a tablespoon of lemon juice, half a red bell pepper diced fine, and salt and pepper. Not very exciting, but the fava sauté is complex enough that a simple side dish was appropriate. (A little feta with the orzo might have been nice, though.) Also, it’s an aesthetically pleasing combination: bright green fava beans on one side of the plate, jumbled with pancetta and strips of fennel in a small pool of sauce, and creamy orzo on the other, studded with little red cubes. Garnish with a sprig of dill and you’re golden.

Pho oey

May 1st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

What is it about the Bay Area and overhyped Vietnamese restaurants? Example one: Tu Lan in San Francisco. People claim it’s the best Vietnamese restaurant in the city. It’s certainly cheap, and the food is more or less okay, but it’s hardly spectacular. Example two: Vi’s in Oakland’s Chinatown. A friend of mine had raved about it, and it’s listed in Zagat’s. I went there with some friends last night, though, and had an utterly forgettable meal (although, again, it was cheap).

People, the Bay Area has much better Vietnamese food than this. Spend a couple more bucks and go to Le Régal in downtown Berkeley or Battambang in downtown Oakland. (Battambang is actually Cambodian, which is sort of a cross between the best parts of Thai and Vietnamese food. The service is spotty, but the food is worth it.)

HOV and pavement: a natural combination

April 30th, 2004 § Four comments § permalink

If you liked The Grey Album–a mashup of Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album–you should definitely check out The Slack Album, which combines Jay-Z with Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. Super-cool stuff.

Incidentally, when The Grey Album came out, I was delighted to learn that Jay-Z also calls himself “Hov’,” which has a rather different meaning in transportation circles. That discovery led me to rewrite some of the lyrics to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement“:

My name is HOV, H to the O V

I drive cars with high occupancy

I guess even back then you could call me

So concerned with air quality. HOV!

I could probably be a bigger dork than I am, but I’m not sure how.

Tunak tunak

April 26th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

This Indian music video is fantastic. If, like me, you have 11 major tasks on your to-do list for the week (not including school assignments), it should serve as a welcome distraction. Tunak tunak, tunak tunak tunak, tunak tunak tunak, tun da da da!

When reading becomes dangerous

April 21st, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

A quotation from Proust, via a rather long New Yorker article about P.G. Wodehouse:

Reading becomes dangerous when instead of waking us to the personal life of the spirit, it tends to substitute itself for it, when truth no longer appears to us as an ideal we can realize only through the intimate progress of our thought and the effort of our heart, but as a material thing, deposited between the leaves of books like honey ready-made by others, and which we have only to take the trouble of reaching for on the shelves of libraries and then savoring passively in perfect repose of body and mind.

“This has been tough weeks in that country”

April 13th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

I applied Microsoft Word’s autosummarize feature to President Bush’s responses at tonight’s press conference. Here’s the 94-word version of his answers:

The Iraqi people need us there to help with security. Saddam Hussein was a threat. We needed to work with people. People needed to come together to work. John?


People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq from different countries. It’ll change the world. We’re an open country. We’re at war. Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It’s a tough time for the American people to see that. The American people may decide to change. Now’s the time to talk about winning this war on terror. Free societies are hopeful societies.

The only flaw in this summary is that it does not urge us to remember the lessons of 9-11.

Poking my head above ground

April 6th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

I’m still here. I’m just busy. Spring break was a few weeks ago. I spent most of it drawing large maps. Last weekend, I saw the Mark Lombardi show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; last night, I went to the Oakland A’s season opener. Now I am wrestling with TurboTax; eating fearsome quantities of trail mix; doing my laundry; and studying, studying, always studying.

See through walls

March 23rd, 2004 § Four comments § permalink

Light-transmitting concrete. “A wall made of ‘LitraCon’ allegedly has the strength of traditional concrete but thanks to an embedded array of glass fibers can display a view of the outside world, such as the silhouette of a tree, for example.”

The inferno of the living

March 20th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

From Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino:

[Khan] said: “It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.”

And Polo said: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

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