Saturday, December 29, 2007

A little cleansing...


Thai noodle soup
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind.
...of the gut that is. After all that delightfully indulgent food over the Christmas weekend, we decided we needed to just slow down a little and have something a little easier on the palate and our digestive systems in general. And if you ask me, nothing does that better than some pipping hot noodle soup. It helps too that the weather tonight has been a combination of icy rain and blustery winds so it was the perfect night for something warm and comforting. If we were back home in Singapore, it would have been a cinch to find a bowl of deliciously simple noodle soup- they are a dime and a dozen everywhere and almost always guaranteed to satisfy. But in this part of the U.S. though- like most things we miss from home- it was up to us to recreate it on our kitchen.

I adapted the recipe for Thai noodle soup from here. Starting with a base of chicken stock, the soup is tangy from the lime and lemongrass, a little spicy from the chilli, and has an interesting depth of flavor from the fish sauce and belachan (shrimp paste). Throw in some crunchy veggies and cooked chicken that we stripped from a roast chicken from the store, and you have a hearty and healthy one-bowl meal that's sure to both cleanse and comfort :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Once

As Jude said, there's a reason why they didn't title the movie "Twice", or "Thrice"; I knew how the movie would end but that didn't stop my heart from aching by the time this little gem was over. It was quite simply- how shall I say this... enchanting.

I've had the soundtrack to the film for several months now and it's a beautiful album in and of itself. But with the film, it takes on a whole different dimension and becomes almost sublime. Some people have been saying how wrong it is that Once isn't nominated for a Golden Globe in the Comedy/Musical category; but it isn't really a musical, not in the Hairspray/ Dreamgirls sense of the genre. In those movies, actors burst out into song as an extension of their characters and the narratives; in Once, the music is the narrative. It represents all that must be left unsaid- all the tremulous emotions, the quiet intimacy, the knowing understanding of what cannot be. There are no huge emotional outbursts, no dramatic climax, no outright declarations of love even; at the end of the day, like a similarly understated and bare-bones love story, Once is a love story distilled to its most basic core- a sweet and sad story about two soul mates meeting, making music, falling in love, and moving on.

I seldom go through all the extra commentaries that come with DVD releases, but watching the ones for Once really gives you a sense of why and how the movie turned out the way it did, i.e. simply and wonderfully beautiful. It's just a lovely take on film-making and music-making in general, and even days after watching it, it continues to haunt me...
I don't know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can't react
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now

- "Falling Slowly", Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fulfilled

What I've made in the past 3 days:
1) 89 individual dark-chocolate truffles (on top of the 87 I'd made the week before);
2) A brioche bread pudding that was enough to serve 10;
3) 6 servings of Belgian endive salad with Cara Cara oranges;
4) A large dish of spicy mac and cheese;
5) Large sweet potato casserole with walnut and brown sugar topping; and
6) One fudgey orange-chocolate brownie

I'd say that's enough cooking for a while don't you think? And we've got so much leftovers in the fridge, I probably won't have to cook for a while anyway...

Food aside, the entire Christmas weekend was most lovely :) Even though Ann Arbor was kinda quiet- almost depressingly so- our Christmas was filled with the warmth, laughter and joy of being with old friends and new acquaintances. With Pikkojoulu on Saturday, Christmas brunch on Sunday, three celebrations over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, plus all the cards, treats, gifts and well-wishes we received, we just want to thank everyone who made our Christmas away from home this year so blessedly wonderful- thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007!

From Hallmark Designs

Here's wishing everyone near and far a truly blessed, meaningful, and merry Christmas! May you receive presents you never want to return; give presents that come from the heart; realize that presents aren't the important thing about Christmas- that friends, family and love are; and may you embrace all the blessings, promises and wonders that the season brings with it!

Luv~
Jude & Serene

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Froth

1. A lovely cup of cappuccino, 2. Frothing cappuccino, 3. Adding the milk, 4. Our new stove-top cappuccino maker!

Look what Jude got me for Christmas! My very own stove-top cappuccino maker! More ways to make coffee- yay! And with its speckled cow print, it's pretty too... :) It's a Mukka Express and it makes the most creamy, yummy cup of cappuccino, you can't tell it was made right at home. This nifty little contraption works kinda like our regular espresso pot, but also froths milk at the same time. Unlike the more complex coffee machines, my new little toy is cappuccino-making pared down to its most essential, easy to use, involves minimal clean-up and everything's done in one pot. I lurve it!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

C.B. and J.D.

I have decided that I will no longer be sad that I won't be home for Christmas, nor upset that I have school stuff to do all the way till tomorrow. Nope, I am going to embrace the cold and the snow, and more importantly, embrace the fact that the holidays are not about where you are but how you feel. Our family and friends at home know how much we're thinking of them, and we know that we're in their thoughts this holiday season too, and that's what matters. And we have our wonderful friends here who, as it says on a set of Crimewave USA cards that we bought, "make the holidays a little less depressing." :)

And so in the spirit of my new resolution, here's one of my all-time favorite videos- the cast of Scrubs doing A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've seen this so many times and it impresses me each time how they managed to so exquisitely meld the characters and overarching narrative on the show with those of the comic strip. If you adore the sitcom and Charlie Brown as much as I do, you'll love this! The writing is perfect, the delivery is downright impeccable as always, and like in the comedy, it's Dr. Cox who saves the day! :)


Buckle up, Charlize. I'll tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please. Here's the deal, newbie. You can stuff your stockings with shiny toys from now until you grow some testicles. But until that stocking is filled with friendship, loyalty, love and devotion, well it's just plum empty. And no you can't purchase those things at Laura Ashley and no you can't win them in the Redbook Giveaway Extravaganza and gee, sorry if these aren't things that you can wind up and watch spin for eight hours. Let me make this exceptionally clear. Christmas is about love. You can't live without other people's love. Not during Christmas, not ever. So go spend that time with your friends and family. And if they laugh at you, laugh with them. And if they laugh at you again, hit 'em and go find some new friends. But for the love of god, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat, don't ever forget this, newbie. You have to give love to get love, so start giving. Now. That's what Christmas is all about, there, newbie.
- Dr. Perry Cox

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our house is a cornucopia of earthly delights

When we first came across the art of Linzie Hunter on BoingBoing, we immediately fell in love with its humorous and whimsical nature. She recontextualizes the subject headings of SPAM emails into colorful and cheeky statements. You can view more of her pieces on her flickr account.

The piece pictured in the photo is titled "Boundless" (after the text it illustrates) and we love its hand-drawn style and retro aesthetic. At $20 (we ordered ours from 20X200), this piece fits right in to our growing wall of silkscreened poster art. Have I mentioned our fascination with silk-screened prints? Someday we will have to get something from Hatch Showprints... Well, that is another blogpost in the making...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas presents 2007

[click for details]

So while it was blizzarding outside and Ann Arbor was getting nine inches of snow, I stayed warm and toasty indoors making chocolate truffles for our Christmas presents this year. For the past two years (see here and here) we've made gifts-in-jars, and while I had wanted to keep the tradition this year, Jude showed me this article from the NYT last week about how easy it is to make your own chocolate truffles. And indeed, it truly is.

All you need is two ingredients- good quality chocolate (we used semi-sweet/bittersweet) and cream- and in three steps, you're on your way to your very own little morsel of chocolate heaven. There are time-consuming parts, like chopping the chocolate and coating the truffles in cocoa powder/ powdered-sugar & cinnamon, but I actually found the entire process to be very calming. And because I was working so close to the kitchen window, watching the falling snow while getting my hands all gooey with chocolate was its own kind of sweet pleasure :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Synchronized Mentos-Diet-Coking

A few days ago, Jude and I were watching something on TV about the chemical reaction that occurs when you drop Mentos into Diet Coke. I never knew about the phenomenon and so when I was at Rick and Emilee's last night- with their large projector screen- we decided to look on youtube to see what we could find. Ladies and gentlemen, Synchronized Mentos-Diet-Coking:



What really blows my mind is all the planning and thought that must have gone into this process- contraptions clearly had to be built, tons of experimenting, practicing, and most importantly, impeccable timing and synchronization. It's almost a science!

Apparently, these guys became so famous for their Mentos-Diet Coke experiments, that for their later ones, they actually managed to get sponsorship from Mentos and Diet Coke themselves (and hence the more ambitious scale)


Emilee's question at the end of watching all this was: I wonder if grass can ever grow there again? ;)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Home alone

For the first time since we've been here, Jude and I are not going to be with family for Christmas. In 2003, we were in Florida with his aunt and uncle; 2004, it was Montreal with his other uncle, and for the past two years, we've had the wonderful blessing of being back in Singapore for both Christmas and New Year's. On the one hand, it makes me a little sad that we won't be home for the holidays, but on the other, I'm grateful that we're surrounded by good friends with whom we'll be spending Christmas, and that our families are a mere phone-call or video-chat away... Besides, since we've never been in Ann Arbor for Christmas until now, it'll be nice to soak in a little of the whole all-American snowy Christmas vibe :)

And so to make up for being away from our friends and family at home, I decided I'll hand-write Christmas cards to everyone this year. I've always loved receiving cards or letters in the post, and that excitement of tearing open an envelope or flipping over a postcard will never be replaced by checking email, no matter what people say... When I was younger (a.k.a. when I had more time...), I used to hand-make my own Christmas cards. It would be a whole elaborate process of buying the right card stock, the right matching paper, bows, lots of painstaking cutting, folding, pasting, tying, stuffing, etc. It was a long-drawn process, and I loved it! :) Thankfully, both my sisters still do it today, and I'm glad that their friends will be blessed with the fruits of their thoughtfulness and effort. The practice of taking the trouble to handwrite something (which itself is a quite a gesture since writing isn't quite like typing, with the whole backspace/delete function), buy a stamp, and then mail it out is just one of those unfortunate sacrifices of the Internet that I truly rue. And while I send as many e-cards as the next person, I figured Christmas is as good a time as any to make that extra effort.

Since I'll be making the trip to the post office already anyway, I thought I may as well send cards to our friends who've moved away from Ann Arbor too. And by the time I got to that point, I was like, oh well, I'm already writing 30 cards, what's another few more for our friends here in Ann Arbor?... So then I add up the number of cards I'll be writing in all, and what do I get? A grand total of 52! What started as a bid to immerse myself in this whole spirit of Christmas thing might just end up giving me a hand cramp!...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Open Sourced Video Production? = Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?

To be quite honest, this is the first time I've heard about the Open Source Cinema project. As stated on the the project's website, it's "a collaborative documentary project to create a feature film about copyright in the digital age." I have to admit that I am very intrigued - an entire film project directed by one person, Brett Gaylor, and entirely made of contributions from individuals. Brett even has the script for the film on a wiki. The film is far from complete - but an interesting contribution to the project has emerged from a class, COM276 Intermedia, at Concordia University. Inspired by the work of Bob Sabiston (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), the professor of the class spent 3 weeks with his students rotoscoping 1 - 3 seconds of the following concert video of Girl Talk:






And this is the result:


Impressive eh? Individually, I think that the results of each student's experience with rotoscoping really varied in quality. However, together, the whole video really fits the mashed-up style of Girl Talk's sound. Impressive example of remix culture?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On existence, death and the ties that bind us (virtual or not)

Today I received some very surprising- and somewhat disturbing- news. A friend passed away in his sleep this morning. His name is Colin and he was a schoolmate in junior college when we were both in the Legion of Mary. He was a lawyer and last seen arguing in court on Monday. I haven't really interacted with Colin very much. Last Tuesday, he sent me a "poke" on Facebook. I didn't "poke" back. Now I'm on his Facebook page and going through the condolence messages trickling in. I was actually on Facebook last night, and if I had paid more attention, I would have noticed his cousin leaving a message about his demise on his Wall.

Then I read this article in NYT - "Neighbors Reflect on a Death No One Noticed". To summarize, Christina Copeman, a woman in Brooklyn, passed away at home nearly 2 years ago and no one noticed until now. The most poignant passage from that article reads:
It seems impossible for a person to fall through the cracks like that, to die in her own home and go undiscovered. New York is a big city, but it is impersonal only at a distance. People have neighbors. They have relatives.
This has gotten me thinking about our social networks and the interactions that link us to each other. I know that about Colin's passing because I'm peripherally on his Facebook network. We are connected, no matter how tenuous that connection. In contrast, Christina Copeman's situation had very different circumstances. She had made the decision to isolate herself from her friends, neighbours and her family. And as the saying goes, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" In this case, the passing of Christina Copeman was no louder than a pin dropping in her social network, even though there were clear signs that things were amiss.

There has been much teeth gnashing over the power and abuse of Social Networking software in the past few years. However what's perhaps missed in these discussions is the fact that the connections that these social networks make apparent are intertwined with human emotions despite the fact that they are virtual. I am sure that Colin's Facebook page will stay up there as long as the servers stay up. I am sure that in the years to come, Colin's network will use his page to remember his mark on this world. And I am quite sure that I will come across new messages of remembrances from his friends and family in the years to come. His page becomes a trace of his existence left behind. To quote another NYT article:
Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.
My deepest condolences to Colin's friends and family. And rest in peace my friend.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Singapore human beatbox - Kallang Airport Hawker Center



This had us in stitches for a good 15 minutes!! :) I really think that he should try one of the reality talent shows - Singapore's Got Talent, anyone?

He's speaking in Hokkien and mimicking the following sounds:
1) A cuckoo clock
2) Phone ring and answering machine
3) Police car
4) Fire engine
5) Ambulance

Beats Blake on American idol any day! ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Story of our lives...

Copyright Jorge Cham, PhD Comics

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Texas pride

So I'm sitting in my hotel room in Austin, TX typing this while staring at the clear blue sky outside the window. I braved the bone-chilling cold to get to the airport at 6.00 this morning, and just an hour ago, I was in light slacks and a t-shirt walking down the street as people jogged past me in tanks and shorts. What a difference being in the Central Time Zone makes...

Just so we get a little perspective here...

Austin:

Ann Arbor:

I'm here for a literacy conference, but since it's not really my field (it's for the research project I'm on), I'm actually going to spend most of tomorrow with our friends, Beryl and Yong, who I haven't seen in forever! I'm not sure if we'll have time to tour the UT campus, but it seems like the two of them have my day pretty much planned for me :) I've heard so much about Austin and have really been looking forward to visiting. I just wish it wasn't for work, that I had more time, and that Jude was with me- I think we'd have a ball exploring this "bastion of progressive thought amid Texas conservatism" (nifty quote from here) and checking out the music in particular. One of my favorite bands, Explosions in the Sky is based out of Austin, but they're not playing anywhere in town these two days, which kinda bums me out...

Well, at least there's catching up with old friends, and that's ALWAYS fun! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"I'm... so... ronery..."

Just slightly more than three years ago, I posted something about a certain video clip cheering me up despite a very crappy day. Last night, against my better judgment, I sat down and watched parts of Team America with Jude, and finally saw the scene in its entirety, and I love it even more this time round :) I can't imagine how they managed to make it kinda sad and moving, a little offensive, and hysterically funny all at the same time!



And I have to admit that I've been proven wrong- Team America is actually genuinely funny as a parody of American politics (and of mainstream American blockbuster films as a genre actually); the detail that went into the design and construction of the sets and marionettes was also particularly impressive. I'm still staunchly not a South Park convert (although the Guitar Hero episode was pretty hilarious), but if Team America is any indication, someday, I might warm up to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's brand of satirical humor... ;)

[singing] "I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark,
When he made Pearl Harbor.
I miss you more than that movie missed the point,
And that's an awful lot, girl.
And now, now you've gone away, And all I'm trying to say, is:
Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you.
I need you like Ben Affleck needs acting school,
He was terrible in that film.
I need you like Cuba Gooding needed a bigger part,
He's way better than Ben Affleck.
And now, all I can think about is your smile,
And that shitty movie, too!
Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you.
Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?
I guess Pearl Harbor sucked, just a little bit more than I miss you."
-Gary Johnston, Team America

Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA) video - WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??? **MUST WATCH



This video has been produced as a PR effort to highlight the work that the MDA does - to nurture a local media industry and develop Singapore into the next media hub. All the top dogs of the MDA appear in this video and express their "with-it-ness" by rapping, dancing and chiming words like "y'all".

Very brave of them to do this. However, I have to ask ... WHAT WERE THEY THINKING!!! If any privately-owned company were to employ a PR effort like this, can you imagine the damage to the company's image this video could cause? However, because this is an arm of the government, they might actually get lauded for "thinking outside of the box".

Perhaps this video draws inspiration from a previous effort to show Members of Parliament's "with-it-ness" ... by hip-hop dancing. See below:



One wonders ... are they trying too hard? Hipness and Edginess are qualities that perhaps can't be engineered, unlike the other aspects of society that the government so famously claims that they can.

And as we now all know, the U.S. isn't immune from manufacturing the "cool factor" as well:


















MC Rove

So my question: what's with bureaucrats and rapping??

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's like synaesthesia almost...

After spending almost 3 hours in the kitchen, and another 2 hours eating yesterday, I've come to the conclusion that a Thanksgiving meal is one huge multi-sensory experience. The stupendous taste of the food aside, it's also the sight, smells and sounds that I find both so alluring and comforting. First there are the colours- the warm, deep crimson of the cranberries, the burnished gold of the turkey, and inviting saffron of the world's best sweet potato mash; then the sizzling sound of cranberries bursting in the pan, bubbling gravy, even the clinking of wine glasses being set on the table are a lovely prelude to the wondrous meal to come; and the smells... oh the smells... it's the woodsiness of the poultry herbs that hits you first, but then things come to you in layers after that- the sweet fragrance of the red wine in the cranberry sauce, the mingling of candied and fresh ginger, the earthiness of toasted walnuts, and the warm spiciness of hot apple cider just rounds off the perfection that was our Thanksgiving meal.

See, some people become more eloquent the more alcohol they consume; with Serene Koh, put her in the presence of good food and all her senses are heightened and she's suddenly at her expressive best... ;) I hope everyone had just as a delicious Thanksgiving meal as we did!


1. Spiced cider with butterscotch schnapps and rum, 2. Amazing sauteed brussel sprouts, 3. It speaks for itself I think..., 4. My respledently awesome plate :), 5. Rick's meticulously planned schedule, 6. Getting ready, 7. Jude was in charge of making "dessert", 8. All carved up, 9. The beginnings of a wonderful sauce

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

[Image from Darling Designs]

On this snowy Thursday morning, we just want to wish all our friends in the States a Happy Thanksgiving! And may you always have something in your life to be thankful for everyday of the year!

As always, I'm grateful for waking up everyday and doing something I love- that I'm continually challenged and inspired to think harder, do more, and be better than I was the day before; for supportive parents, loving sisters, and friends at home who I only miss more and more every year we're here; friends here for being like family; for good health- something I never want to take for granted; and for the deep happiness that comes with sharing my life with a most wonderful man... For these blessings, I give thanks this year :)

If you'd share, what are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Counting down two days...

For a non-American, I have to say that for some reason, I really look forward to Thanksgiving. It's not like I identify with the historical or cultural significance of the day, nor do I think that you should set aside just one day out of a year to give thanks for the blessings in your life as if the rest of the days of the year don't count... I think it has to do with the time of the year that Thanksgiving comes round- deadlines are always looming, the weather's turning dreary, and you just need a breather to relax and come to terms with the onset of the 5-month long winter. And everyone knows that nothing says decompress or numbs you from the weather better than a four day long starch-induced coma... Or it could be like my friend, Sarah very astutely pointed out, Thanksgiving is just a huge excuse to cook and eat masquerading as a national holiday, which makes it the perfect day for me :)

This year, we'll be at Rick and Emilee's again to recreate the awesomeness that was last year's deep-fried turkey goodness. Our contributions this year to the potluck are going to be green bean casserole, stuffing and dessert, which was kinda intimidating initially- I mean, these are traditional Thanksgiving staples and not to be messed with by any means. The thing is, I don't relish the idea of just throwing a can of condensed soup into processed beans and baking it into a dour, greasy mess, nor did I want to go all overwrought with something like smoked-oyster sticky rice stuffing in lotus leaf. And pumpkin pie after deep-fried turkey, two kinds of potato, brussel sprouts, green-beans, stuffing and gravy? Really? So I did what all helpless grad students do in a time of crisis. Research (or so I called it...)

In the end, this is what we settled on: a more traditional stuffing recipe from Simply Recipes and a slightly reinvented green bean casserole from Cook's Illustrated. And instead of a treacly, heavy dessert that no one's going to have room for, Jude's making a yummy Thanksgiving dessert drink with spiced apple cider and butterscotch schnapps. We had it a couple of weeks ago and my dear husband has been dying to recreate it ever since.

Thursday will be a day off for all of us and we're deciding between staying at Rick and Emilee's after to watch DVDs and play Wii till we collapse in a pile of tryptophan-induced bliss, or do a movie marathon at the theatres since there are so many awesome films out right now. Either way, I'm just looking forward to taking the day off from work. And that's one thing I'm definitely giving thanks for :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ghetto of our mind- finally why...

In the three years we've kept the blog, I've lost count of the number of times people have asked us why the blog is named the way it is, and it never occurred to me to blog about it. Well, after stumbling across this video yesterday, I figured it's about time I did.



ghetto of our mind is named after the Rickie Lee Jones song, "Ghetto of My Mind" from the album, Flying Cowboys. Rickie Lee was one of the first things Jude and I discovered we had in common way back when, which pleasantly surprised us both since few people we knew then appreciated the sometimes idiosyncratic quality of her vocals. The album became the first of many CDs and books we started swapping and sharing, which is also why Rickie Lee has had a special place in our hearts ever since :)

She was actually here in Ann Arbor earlier this year to promote her latest album but we both had to be in school and couldn't make it. Bummer... :( It's not just her voice and the originality of her compositions that we love so much, but also the creativity and musical richness of the arrangements. And you can see in the video just how much fun she has making music- pure joy- and she's so genuine with her emotions, it's infectious! The last few moments are particularly precious- enjoy!

Ghetto of My Mind
Saving all my money all week long
So I can go out driving with you
Down on Hollywood Boulevard
On friday night, dressed right
I don't take no trouble smoke at the wall
But I still have that leopard-skin hat
That you gave me way back
Before it was cool
And they took it to school

Here in the ghetto
The ghetto of my mind
Y aqui, the ghetto
The ghetto of my mind

Hey we wild it up, wild it up

I like to dance with my rooner
'cause when we dance I feel like
We are who we've meant to be
He puts his arms around me
I put my arms around him
And I feel satisfied and free
One night I tried my bandanna around his wrists
And we started to sway and it felt so good
And he said " looky here mamma, looky here
I think I better just see you
Safely out of the neighborhood"
That is to say

The ghetto
The ghetto of my mind
Y aqui, the ghetto
The ghetto of my mind

Hey we wild it up, wild it up

Outside my window the noise is all I've got
There are no stars in the sky
Just the sirens and queens
Breaking glass down in the parking lot
That's the world where I live
Sometimes I wonder, oh how can I go on ?
But I know that the world you make inside your head
That's the one you see around, that's what I said
And the one you see
Is the one you make

Inside of the ghetto
The ghetto of your mind
Y aqui, the ghetto
The ghetto of my mind

Hey we wild it up, wild it you...

-Rickie Lee Jones

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A good day

The weather is back in the 50s, the sun is out and shining, the fall colors are still crazy gorgeous, and my friend, Christine is sharing her awesome Red Hot Lover's waffle fries with me for lunch...

AND, it's the Project Runway Season 4 Premiere tonight!!

All is good in Serene's world again... :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Suicide by burger?...

Thanks to Boing Boing, anyone contemplating death by junk food can now find their preferred one-way ticket to gastronomical suicide right here.


Jude and I actually haven't eaten fast-food in a while, but not consciously so. It's not like we're a pair of anti-fast food ideologues who go around pontificating the corporate evils of the fast-food industry. There will always be those Saturday mornings when a quick and hearty MacDonald's breakfast just makes more sense than waiting in line for brunch somewhere, or that rogue strawberry milkshake that we always seem to be craving... But we've definitely been eating fast food a lot less than we used to back when we were up to our necks in coursework and just had no time to cook. These days though, with a little more flexibility to our schedules, a growing awareness of how much money we save cooking at home, and the realization that we need to really be taking care of what we put in our bodies, we've taken to eating at home a lot more.

I guess fastfood's OK once in a while- who can deny the comforting greasiness of a pack of french fries or a slice of pizza? It's when it becomes your default meal choice and when you can memorize all the value meals by their numbers that things become troubling. We can spend all day talking about food subsidies and farming lobbies and why fast food makes economic sense to so many people, but the bottomline is (pun fully intended), fast food isn't nutritious- just throwing apples in a plastic bowl of limp salad does not make it healthy, especially when you serve it with syrupy dressing- and it sure isn't nourishing. So the next time you find yourself eating a fried chicken sandwich and onion rings for the fourth day in a row, ask yourself, is this something your mom or dad would make for you at home for four days straight?

Here’s what it comes down to kids. Ronald McDonald doesn’t give a damn about you. Neither does that little minx Wendy or any of the other icons of drivethroughdom. And you know what, they’re not supposed to. They’re businesses doing what businesses do. They don’t love you. They are not going to laugh with you on your birthdays, or hold you when you’re sick and sad. They won’t be with you when you graduate, when your children are born or when you die. You will be with you and your family and friends will be with you. And, if you’re any kind of human being, you will be there for them. And you know what, you and your family and friends are supposed to provide you with nourishment too. That’s right folks, feeding someone is an act of caring. We will always be fed best by those that care, be it ourselves or the aforementioned friends and family.
-Alton Brown

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tried and tired

I have always loved to write. Not so much in the artistic sense of writing a novel (although that crossed my mind several times until I was about twenty, an English major, and realized that all the greatest writers were dead before their work was recognized...), but more in terms of committing my thoughts and ideas into words. It's one of the reasons why I devote so much time to this blog- to feed the narcissistic desire in me to inflict my writing- of great import or otherwise- on the unsuspecting world. But lately, the process has just been getting increasingly difficult. Maybe it's got to do with being completely exhausted from writing my mammoth 60-page prelim paper over summer (that I only just recovered from), or having written so many different iterations of my dissertation proposal that I don't think I can be coherent about it anymore, or perhaps just sheer academic fatigue (I've been in school for 20 years, people!). Thinking of the next two years and how much more writing I have ahead of me used to be an almost thrilling prospect, but right now, the idea of it makes me want to just crawl under the blanket and not wake up till 2009.

It's just been one of those weeks...
Calvin: I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?

Hobbes: (Reading Calvin's paper) "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes."

Calvin: Academia, here I come!

-Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Say it isn't so!

Just two weeks ago, I was in a skirt and a t-shirt.

And this is what we're getting tomorrow:


Oh whoopee... :(

Monday, November 05, 2007

Of tropical drinks and simple pleasures...

As I'm typing this, my dear husband and half of SI are probably lounging in their summer outfits, sipping mojitos and enjoying their buckets of insanely fresh seafood while listening to the rush of the ocean by the beach... That, apparently, is the perk of having a conference on Sanibel Island, FL. I wish I were in Florida with Jude- it'd be a far cry from the increasingly chilly cold here in Ann Arbor- the heat's up, I'm walking around in my woolly socks already, and the forecast says it's going to snow on Tuesday! And what does my husband pack in his luggage? Swimming shorts for the beach! But as crazy envious as I am of him being in FL, I'm also really happy he's getting this little break. He's probably going to be working hard while he's there, but at least he'll be enjoying the nice sunshine and balmy breeze. It's been a tough semester for him, and he deserves these simple pleasures :)

My simple pleasure? Spending the evening grocery-shopping at Trader Joe's. I'll be having an insane week and the idea of cooking just for myself on a week like this week doesn't seem fun or therapeutic at all... And so on the shopping list was a bunch of cooking essentials, old favorites, and what I like to call "emergency meal helpers"- those TJ frozen entrees that are always so interesting and yummy too. Haul for the day:
- vanilla & almond granola
- milk
- several boxes of cake mixes (for those occasions when you just have to bring a cake somewhere...)
- green beans
- garlic oil (a little goes such an awesome long way)
- orange juice
- frozen veggie lasagna
- tilapia citronette (doesn't the name just scream, "Delicious!" It was being offered as a sample and one of the yummiest frozen entrees I've tasted from TJ's)
- zucchini
- pesto
- Havarti cheese
- mushroom risotto
- Thai lime and chile cashews (Jude loves to snack on cashews- these flavored ones are really good)
- trail mix bar (breakfast on the run- always important because I'd rather sleep an extra 10 minutes than wake up to make toast)
- carton of chicken broth (a.k.a. lifesaver of all lifesavers)

And now, I'm going to grab a blanket, curl up on the couch to read, and dream of "tropical drinks melting in (my) hand..."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why the lack of attention at last night's earthquake in California?

I am finding it curious that the national and international news outlets I subscribe to (BBC news, The New York Times & Channel News Asia) have scant mention about last night's earthquake in California. Given all the accounts that I've managed to gather, the earthquake registered at approximately 5.5 on the richter scale and its epicenter was near Milpitas, south of the city of San Francisco. I think that 5.5 is a pretty large termor. While, there were no deaths and most of the damage reported tended to broken glass etc, the people who experienced the earthquake certainly expressed their fear and concern. We wrote to a couple we know in CA about it and received the following humorous reply:

"We were at home and he told me to told onto our new HDTV so that it wouldn't fall over! I guess I know what his most prized possession is!"

Coming back to my earlier point, I have definitely noticed great discrepancies in the coverage of news across the various newspapers and channels in the US. Unlike in Singapore where there is a monolithic news entity whose main job it seems is to cover every government official's public appearance. However, there has been almost no attention from international and East Coast news outlets about the earthquake. Is it a "local interest only" story? Is it because there is news fatigue from the news coverage of the tragic fires in California last week? Or is there something else that I am missing? Help me out here ...

Rilo Kiley

After hearing one of their tracks on the radio the other day, Jude and I are a little besotted with the band, Rilo Kiley right now. Listen to this song, "Silver Lining", and you'll understand why.



Apparently, the band has gotten quite a bit of critical attention, in no small part thanks to their lead singer, Jenny Lewis. The funny thing is how much adoration she herself is getting from legions of fanboys. See this for a particularly self-aware, but nonetheless insightful description of the phenomenon that is Rilo Kiley. We really like the band's overall aesthetic and the groovy, vintage, twee pop feel of their music. And the bottom line is, they just write good songs.

Apart from their delightfully ironic lyrics, the band also makes downright awesome videos. This is one of my favorites, "It's a Hit." Never have I wanted more to be a sandal-wearing porcupine...



And who knew taxidermy could be even remotely alluring?...



Any idiot can play Greek for a day
and join a sorority or write a tragedy
and articulating all that pain
and maybe you'll get paid.

But it's a sin when success complains,
and your writers block-it don't mean shit.
Just throw it against the wall and see what sticks.
Gotta write a hit
I think this is it.
It's a hit.
- Rilo Kiley, "It's A Hit"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A year in...


Birthday itinerary
Originally uploaded by jyew.
11:30 - Arrival of transport
12:00 - Lunch @ everyday cook
1:30 - Coffee @ Sweetwater
3:15 - Movie screening of The Darjeeling Limited
5:30 - Retrieve birthday specials
7:00 - Wine and Cheese @ the UM Museum of Art
8:15 - Dinner at eve


This the "schedule" that my dear sweet husband planned for my birthday yesterday. He surprised me with it on Wednesday after I had spent the week pestering him about where we should go for dinner (yes, I am shameless that way...)

I had a great time :) Apart from the fact that I enjoyed everything that we did, more importantly, it was just about spending the day with Jude. This is a busy semester for him- what with teaching and preparing for his prelims- and time is our most guarded commodity right now. So the fact that he set aside almost the entire day to celebrate my birthday with me was more precious than any present he could have bought.

I have few thoughts for my birthday this year. Somehow, once you've reconciled yourself to the fact that you're finally in your thirties, everything else after is kind of moot... I did make a decision though: I refuse to be one of those women who whine and moan about growing old. There is so much in my life right now that I'm proud of and thankful for that growing older has actually been a most awesome journey. I'm in a better place emotionally, physically and intellectually than I had been 10 years ago, and more than ever, secure in the love of my family and friends. And I have the love of a wonderful man who makes me happy everyday. So if this is what it means to grow old, then I say, bring it on! :)

[Birthday photos here.]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tune of the week: Marcel King - Reach for love



I recently got my hands on the compilation set Palatine: The Factory Story 1979 - 1990. One of the tracks that has stood out for me is the above track by Marcel King. It's a track that should have been a hit in the '80s - '90s and seems a little incongruent with Factory Records' other acts.

Marcello Carlin, who maintains the brit music blog "The Church of Me", articulates this incongruence more explicitly by saying:
Produced by Bernard Sumner, it received enthusiastic, if slightly baffled, notices in the music press but sold minimally, even though it filled the floor of the Haçienda regularly; to this day [Happy Mondays lead singer] Shaun Ryder regards it as the best record Factory ever released...

Listening to "Reach For Love" now, it seems like a pop single just slightly out of its time - it should have been a huge hit, but Factory's legendarily crap distribution and marketing facilities militated against that, as did lack of radio play. There is also the question of whether "Reach For Love" was slightly too intense a song and performance to become that huge a hit.

I got the video quote above from the excellent BBC america blog "Anglophenia".

What fascinates me about this track is how little known it is despite it's awesomeness. I would have surely hit the dance floor with my "side punk" hairdo when I was a teenager ;) I see some parallels between this track by Marcel King and Lee Osler's "Back to Ypsilanti" that I raised in a previous blogpost. Both are tracks that have a very obvious pop/dance appeal and in my opinion should have been much popular. But for one reason or another, both tracks and their performers have faded into pop obscurity.

I did a little investigation into Marcel King and apparently he was the lead singer for a motown-esque band called Sweet Sensation that had a number 1 hit with a song called Sad Sweet Dreamer. I am sure you've heard it before. I've attached the youTube video below for good measure.

Tragically, Marcel King has since passed away. The result of a brain hemorrhage, as stated on the "Find a grave" website (???).


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mystery present

So I opened the mail-box today and was surprised by an early birthday present, a beautiful ivory scarf from Anthropologie! But there was no enclosed card and no return address on the purchase slip. Few people know of my penchant for all things Anthropologie, and even fewer know our address, which leaves me a little baffled at who my secret gift-giver is...

But whoever it is, thank you! It's a gorgeous scarf, with lovely embroidery, and beautifully packaged. It comes at the perfect time just as the weather's turning chilly and I have a feeling I'm going to be wearing my first birthday present of the year a lot over the next 5 months!

Thank you, thank you, whoever you are! :)

*Update: My sister, Sherri called last night and hurriedly screamed into the phone, "It's me! It's me!" She wanted to be absolutely sure no one else claimed credit for her lovely gift :) Thank you again!

Boys will be boys...

One of several high-points at our friend, Dan's birthday party yesterday (for another, see here) was watching Jude and Tobin test the boundaries of each others' "tickle threshold"... I'm so glad I managed to capture the moment :)

[click for The Tickle Sequence]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An extended Like Water for Chocolate moment...

These days, when Serene Koh gets upset, she cooks. I figure it's cheaper than therapy. Or shopping, which is what I would have done in my past life. But since that requires funds I do not currently possess- and Ann Arbor isn't what one would consider the shopping mecca of the world anyway- cooking it was today...

I was feeling a little crummy that I had to squander my Fall break on a meeting in my windowless basement office instead of being to do my own work. And so when I got home in the evening, I raided the fridge and cooked up a teeny-mini storm. For dinner, it was sup kum hor fun, which is basically pan-fried rice noodles with seafood in an egg-based gravy (adapted from here). It's pure comfort food from home, and something readily available at many food stalls in Singapore. Jude and I haven't really found anywhere here that does a good version so I figured what we crave and can't get outside, we'll just have to recreate on our own... It turned out pretty well, and quite close to the real thing, actually- my mom would be proud! :)


For dessert (yes, I was that upset...) I made a simple apple crisp from Simply Recipes. It calls for hardly any ingredients at all, and was ridiculously easy to make. We had some slightly tart Michigan Honey Crisps lying in the fridge which are perfect for this recipe. The apples should be tart because you don't want the dessert cloyingly sweet like an apple pie. It ended up being a most delightful juxtaposition of texture and flavor- the sweet and buttery crunchy oat topping against the tender, slightly tart apples (the flavor intensifies beautifully as it baked), served warm and made even more yummy with a scoop of cold, creamy ice-cream...


So yes, it was one extended Like Water For Chocolate moment- channeling all my frustrations into the cooking. Thankfully no one cried after cake or went into a quail-induced frenzy (mostly because I didn't make cake or quail. Ok, sorry... Go read the book.) I feel much better than I did this afternoon and we had a good dinner plus yummy leftovers- almost makes being moody worthwhile. But only almost... :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lawrence Lessig on Corruption



Something that I came across via BoingBoing. I have been curious with Lawrence Lessig's new preoccupation with corruption, ever since he announced it in June this year. Having spent 10 years dedicating himself to the fight over intellectual property and copyright, Lessig has chosen to take on a new concern for the next 10years. The above video constitutes as his first public thoughts on the topic and I have found it a very stimulating watch.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grace is Gone

I love John Cusack- always have. Ever since his boom-boxing days in Say Anything, he's been that celebrity crush who's always accessible somehow... He's not out-of-reach swoonworthy like Brad Pitt for example, or incredibly debonair like George Clooney. He just comes across as that guy who'll take you out on a date on a bus, make you laugh till your guts hurt, and then watch you as you stuff your face with a giant ice-cream sundae and not judge because he's having one too...

I was upset when they turned High Fidelity into a movie, but he (and Jack Black) saved it; I can't believe I sat through Must Love Dogs, but was at least grateful for the delightful chemistry between him and Diane Lane; and Serendipity has got to be one of the most formulaic and predictable romantic comedies ever made, and yet it was made somehow watchable because he was in it. I think people too often think of John Cusack as a comic actor more than anything else, but part of his allure for me is that aside from the goofball charm and sparkling wit, he is also often capable of exuding a kind of ordinary sadness, an everyday melancholy that's not dramatic or overwrought. Even in his comedies. You empathize with his plight, laugh with him, laugh at him, sometimes, but then you feel a little sad too, and you just want to reach out and give him a hug...

But this... this is heartbreaking.
[click for website and trailer]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Across the Universe II

So it's been about two weeks, and I'm still mersmerized by the song. Unbelievable. It's just one of those songs you can listen to over and over again, and with each time, you discover one more thing about it that just gets to you...

To begin with, the lyrics contain just some of the most evocative visual imagery committed to song:
Words are flowing out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe...

Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as
they make their way across the universe...

Yesterday, John Lennon would have been 67, and if nothing else in the world, the man was a poet. And the entire song just goes on like this- waves upon waves of sumptuous poetry.

My cousin Terri and I had a conversation- ok, it was more of a one-sided outrage on her part- about who has made the better cover of the song. Until the movie, I'd only heard the original, and the one that Rufus Wainwright did for I Am Sam.



I love the gorgeous guitar instrumentation, and it is an absolutely stunning video (although Dakota Fanning does scare me a little). It helps that Rufus' signature drawl is ever alluring, of course... But Terri opened a whole other world when she recommended Fiona Apple's cover, featured on the Pleasantville soundtrack (which explains the video a little):



The video isn't as well-shot as Rufus Wainwright's but what she has done to the song is just beautiful... All lush and shimmery. And her voice has that amazingly mellow, melancholic yearning that's just perfect with the lyrics.

Enjoy, and I hope the song stays with you as it's staying with me... :)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This is Jude's most anticipated film of 2007

* UPDATE * Just discovered 2 pretty good articles in today's Sunday New York Times about the movie and the band.
- "The Cult of the lads from Manchester" by Dennis Lim
- "Music to brood by, desolate and stark" by Simon Reynolds
(Reynolds is one of my favorite pop culture critics/theorists and he's written several times before about Joy Division. Most recently in his book, "Rip It Up and Start Again", he chronicles the years postpunk music was active.)



Already open in Europe, this clip is an interesting mashup from vintage footage of the band with scenes from Control, the biopic about Ian Curtis, the deceased lead singer of the now defunct band, Joy Division. Based mostly on the book "Touching From a Distance" by Deborah Curtis (the wife of the deceased protagonist), the film is directed by Anton Corbijn and features the relative fresh faces of Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Reading up in anticipation for this movie, it seems that most of the live audio footage features performances done by the cast themselves. I am eager to hear how they've interpreted the music. You can view the official trailer below:



Joy Division, the other bands that they spawned - New Order etc, the record label that they helped shape - Factory Records, the cover art for each of their record releases designed by Peter Saville, and the nebulous genre of music that they were credited with - postpunk, were a very important part of my teenhood.

There's hot chocolate...

...and then there's Peruvian drinking chocolate.

The kind of chocolate you sip, not gulp; that doesn't need the unnecessary adornment of marshmallows because you don't want to to ruin the deep, dark richness of something so gloriously amazing; it's the kind of drink that doesn't just go down your throat, it slides- slowly and smoothly, allowing you to taste every complex flavor, every velvety molecule...

So Jude and I were at Whole Foods for dinner and we decided that instead of coffee, we'd try something different tonight. We got hot chocolate instead, and the guy at the coffee bar suggested that we try two different kinds- one Peruvian and one Costa Rican, just to taste the difference. We got the Costa Rican one first and it was good, one of the better hot chocolates we've had.

Then he made us the Peruvian one.

And with one sip, Jude and I stared at each other like we had just experienced something phenomenal. Because it almost was. We were literally floored... It is the single best hot chocolate we've ever tasted. Like espresso is to coffee, this has got to be the best way to really taste liquid chocolate. Served only in a small cup, this single-source artisan hot chocolate has very little milk content, which means you get to taste the deep intensity of the chocolate. And like good wine and coffee, good drinking chocolate is heavily influenced by its region of production. Because the region of Peru that produces this chocolate is also abundant in bananas and orchids, this means the chocolate is infused with very complex flavors that mingle sweet fruity notes with rounder, deeper floral ones...

So yes, Peruvian drinking chocolate at Whole Foods- the most luxurious $1.99 you will ever spend... :)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Eames Elephants

Jude and I love a well-designed piece of furniture as much as the next couple, but in particular, we both really appreciate the Eames designs (and what they've done for Herman Miller) for their modern simplicity and clean lines. Charles and Ray Eames are renowned for their designs that while stunning in their own way, are not obtrusive. Most importantly, the two of them were able to beautifully meld functionality, design and comfort into everything they made, choosing flexible three dimensionally shaped materials that would better support the human form rather than upholstery. One day, we tell ourselves, we will have one piece of Eames furniture in our house. One day... :)

So anyway, in honor of Charles Eames's 100th birthday, the Eames Office is making available the iconic Plywood Elephants in limited quantities. They were never in production, and hence have never been put on sale. Now, for $1907, those of you with some spare cash can own a small piece of design history. For regular folks like us, we'll just have to make do with a most delightful stop-motion animation, "A Gathering of Elephants" put together by Eames' grandson for the occasion.

[click for streaming video]

What works is better than what looks good. The looks good can change, but what works, works.
-Ray Eames

[As seen in Boing Boing.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Love song for a ...

** UPDATE: According to the ever insightful Pitchforkmedia website (and thanks to Jude's music guru-ness), there's controversy a-brewing with the SNL short. Apparently they lifted the backing track from a certain Richard D. James, a.k.a Aphex Twin. Check out the original below and compare it with what Adam Samberg did with the track.


--------------

This was the highlight of our Saturday night- watching Andy Samberg and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 croon a love song to Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... Yes, you heard right- the guy who rapped fiercely about Magnolia cupcakes, the Chronicles of Narnia and Justin Timberlake's D*** in a Box has done it again!

Saw the mp3 on srah's blog and remembered that I should share this before NBC rips it off YouTube. This is making me so happy on this rainy Monday afternoon :)


[In the eventuality that the video is removed, you can watch it here.]

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Across the Universe

It is a story about a boy and a girl, falling in love. Throw in bowling, psychedelia, Bono, Ohioan cheerleaders, the draft, Selma Hayek(s), strawberries, the Beatles, and a whole lot of heart.

And it was quite simply, beautiful...

Some of our favorite scenes [don't click if you don't want to be spoiled!]
1) An incandescent scene at the bowling alley when Jude first falls in love with Lucy. (feat. "I Just Saw a Face")
2) A brilliantly choreographed scene at the enlistment office. (feat. "I Want You")
3) A soulful rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination.
4) For everyone who feels that "Hey Jude" is one of the most overwrought Beatles song (I'm living with one such person...), watching this in the context of the film will change your mind.

Love, Love, Love.
Love, Love, Love.
Love, Love, Love.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It's easy.

Nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love. (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need).

Yee-hai!
Oh yeah!
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.

- "All You Need is Love", The Beatles, from one of the most uplifting final scenes you'll see in a while.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Soup kitchen


Roasted sweet potato soup
Originally uploaded by jyew.
So it was officially Fall on Sunday. And you can tell- the leaves are slowly turning color (yay!), and the weather's becoming cooler too. Which makes it a perfect time to make some hearty, soulful soup. Actually, more importantly, Jude's in the middle of a root canal procedure, so rather than just subsist on jello and yogurt, I thought a more substantial soup would be good for him (menu for the following week: mac n' cheese, leftover soup, mashed potato, more soup, rice porridge, noodle soup, did I mention soup?...)

Considering how simple this soup was to make, the end result is really quite satisfying. I cubed up sweet potato, some carrots and onions and roasted them for about 30 minutes with 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil. Throw that into 3 cups of simmering chicken stock and puree. I used a hand immersion blender but a regular blender or food processor works. We don't have either one and a hand immersion blender's just easier coz you do everything in the same pot. Simmer for a little while longer. Garnish with spring onions/ chives/ cilantro and serve.

I like the consistency of any kind of pureed soup to begin with- full-textured, rich and hearty. This one was nice coz the sweetness of the vegetables was rounded with just a hint of spicy cumin dancing on your palate without overwhelming it. The best thing is that the starch in the root veggies turns into this creamy goodness when you puree so you don't need any cream to make the soup smooth and velvety. Which means it's uber-healthy too! You probably can use a mix of other "roastable" veggies as the base- squash, pumpkin, potato, parsnip. But I love the golden saffron colour of the sweet potato and carrot- it was like putting sunshine in my mouth :)

It was truly comfort food on a chilly evening, and Jude went back for seconds, so I think my roasted sweet potato soup did good :)

Promises kept

It took me a few days to write about it since it's one of those movies that startles you as you're watching it- assaults you almost- then it sits in your mind for a while, lingers on for a few days after, and then begins to take new forms...

We saw Eastern Promises over the weekend. And it was good. Elegantly and unnervingly good. There were parts of it that I found really hard to watch, and I haven't had such an intense experience at the cinema in a while. There were scenes you weren't just watching, but actually experiencing on a very physical and visceral level, and that made me uncomfortable. But not in a bad way. There are movies that annoy you because they push all your wrong buttons, but gratuitously; and then there are movies like Eastern Promises that move you by precisely pushing the wrong buttons, and subverting your expectations, but in a way that makes you question why you harbored those expectations to begin with... Does that make sense?

And Viggo Mortensen is a fascinating actor to watch. He scares you almost with all that tight, taut control, and then suddenly offers a glimmer of compassion that's at once a surprise, but also so natural in retrospect. The contrast between him and Vincent Cassel's impulsive, explosive personality is exquisitely conceived; their complex relationship is almost- but only almost- more riveting to watch than what simmers just beneath him and Naomi Watts.

Jude and I had initially thought the ending was a little abrupt, but as I mulled over it- I told you this movie lingers- it could have ended no other way. So many layers left for you to contemplate on your own, motivations to question, and intentions left unknown. But it all makes sense in the grand scheme of the film. It's uncomfortable alright, but you're watching a David Cronenberg film- I suppose one does not expect a warm blanket and a kiss goodnight...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Adieu Marcel...


I am sad I never got to see you perform live...

Others have whitened their faces, blacked their lips and eyes, and leaned into a nonexistent wind. Others have plucked petals from invisible flowers, struggled to win a ropeless tug-of-war, and chased after butterflies only they can see.

But no one has ever done this sort of clowning with more absolute belief than Marcel Marceau. His lithe and expressive body and his gestures — so liquid, his hands sometimes appeared to have no bones at all — are only part of it.

The mechanics of his craft — the boiling down of gesture to its essence — can be learned. But not his ability to "mine" mime for the veins of emotion and pathos he found in it. Wistfulness, yes. Street mimes can manage that. But anguish, hope, innocence. These are harder...
-Bob Mondello, All Things Considered

To hear/ read the rest of this remembrance, click here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Otters holding hands...

You've got to have a heart of stone to not go awwww.... over and over :) And watch it all the way till the end!


[seen in Nicole's del.icio.us]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Really achieving your childhood dreams - Randy Pausch



I was alerted to this webcast by Rick and Emilee and I have to say that this is the second time that I have watched a webcast and wished I was present in the audience (the first being Noam Chomsky's presentation in UM). This lecture and the Chomsky one were well worth the hour and a half I spent watching them.

This is a capture of the webcast lecture given by Prof. Randy Pausch of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. This was advertised to be Prof. Pausch's last lecture. What makes this lecture even more poignant is the back story of Prof. Pausch's battle with cancer and how he realizes the fact that he doesn't have much time left.

Prof. Pausch's lecture was at once inspiring, a little sad and renewed my faith in the field Human-Computer Interaction. Those of you working in the field of HCI know that you can easily lose the forest for the trees. Prof. Pausch's lecture tells you to stop for a while and savour the forest that you are in. And more importantly to work to grow that forest to inspire others. I have already recommended this lecture to several friends and thought that I would share it on this blog as well. You don't have to be in the field of HCI to appreciate Prof. Pausch's message.

(As a footnote, I managed to get this webcast as a torrent. I have shared it on the blog because I thought that it was a very inspiring lecture. I do not own the rights to the video and would happily take it down if asked to.)

Hello Aiden!


It wasn't so long ago that I introduced our adorable niece, Amelia on the blog, and now it's time to welcome her little brother, Aiden! The little one arrived over the weekend, and we're so happy for Jude's brother and sister-in-law :) Congrats, Joe & Carol!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

RIP "Shakey" Jake Woods September 16, 2007






A nice article about Shakey Jake from the Ann Arbor News can be found here.

Audio file from WFMU's 365 days project (2003) accompanied by a nice little write up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Transitions

So the weather's been doing that freaky thing when it's Summer one day and Fall the next. We've been having 60 (sometimes 50) degree days (10- 15C) the past week or so and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm excited about Fall coming, but the weather transition's been so sudden that I don't think I'm quite prepared. The trees aren't even turning color yet! We've been so tempted to turn on the heat the last few nights but told ourselves no- we've never had to turn the heat on before end-October and we're not going to cave in so easily. It's the freaking middle of September!

So I was stuck at home doing a whole bunch of transcribing yesterday and decided to "warm" myself up by going for a run. The sun was shining really brightly and I figured it was probably warmer outside than in our chilly bedroom. Bad mistake. It was frigid outside (by September standards) and although I did warm up after the first 10 minutes or so, I think I caught a chill. My work-out wardrobe clearly needs some work. I'm not have a fever or anything, and I don't have a cold, so I don't think I'm sick. It's just that lethargic feeling you get when you know you're on the cusp of coming down with something... So I've been pumping myself with juice and hot tea all day (I know, strange combination, but it seems to be working). And I'm sitting here in my flannel PJs simultaneously trying to transcribe some more and resisting the urge to just crawl under the covers and sleep the day away...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Yes I can...

Whenever I'm struck by those moments we all encounter when I am momentarily paralyzed by the fear that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing with my life, I remember one of my favorite scenes from You've Got Mail (yes, everything in Serene Koh's life can- and has been- explained by that one movie. Shut up.) Anyways... who needs Anthony Robbins and his motivational system when all you have to do is to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks? It's like walking into Chipotle and having them ask you what burrito you want; suddenly, you're in control, all becomes clear, your life has purpose, and you know exactly what you want!: "Carnitas, black beans, less rice, and salsa verde. No sour cream, no cheese. And guac. Please!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clash of the not-so Titans...

[Picture from the Associated Press]

**Update: We won!!!

I'm not a football fan- I don't even understand the game still- but believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's game against Notre Dame. Jude and I are not going but we'll definitely be keeping tabs on the score. Testimony to how fascinating I'm finding all of this- not so much the game itself- but how Michigan's struggling to keep up its image as the "sacred caretaker of college football", I actually followed the score online for the Oregon game last week (and watched the crushing 39- 7 loss in slow motion so to speak), and for the first time ever, read the sports section of the NYT to see how our fall from glory was being received by the wider press. Sadly, words like "massacre", "a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle falling apart" and "humiliation" were used liberally. This scathing report by the Detroit Free Press seems to suggest that there are more than a few people out there who see this all as "delicious payback" for years of proud- and some say, exploitative- dominance by the two teams.

A winless Michigan facing a winless Notre Dame for the first time provides irrefutable evidence that God has a sense of humor.
- Drew Sharp, The Detroit Free Press