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Monday, October 31, 2005

Social Studies

Thanks to my darling little sister, Jude & I are now almost halfway towards getting the complete set of quarters from all the American states. We were trying to occupy her with something to do while we frantically caught up with work after the weekend in Toronto; so the poor girl was duped by her dear brother-in-law into going through our massive coin collection and ended up getting a crash course in American social studies. She industriously went through all our coins and actually found quarters from 22 states. And the best thing is, it did seem like she was having fun doing it! It's incredible what apparently trvial activities can engender so much joy in kids (oops, I meant pre-adoloscents. She's twelve remember?...) So anyways, here's the list:

1) Rhode Island
2) New York
3) Ohio
4) Georgia
5) Delaware
6) Massachusetts
7) California
8) Pennsylvania
9) Louisiana
10) Vermont
11) Indiana
12) New Hampshire
13) Kentucky
14) Wisconsin
15) Florida
16) Maryland
17) Virginia
18) Missouri
19) Illinois
20) S. Carolina
21) Minnesota
22) New Jersey

Great job Sam!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why life should imitate art...

On some very elemental level, this is how life should be- colorful, bouyant, and free. And in San Francisco of course... When people say "a child-like wonder", this is how I imagine it would be.

Just lovely.

[click picture for high-res video- it'll take a while and you need Quick Time 7. But trust me, it's oh so worth it... This is the low-res version.]

Check this site out for more info on the video clip.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jude Yew: Concert Photographer Extra-ordinaire!!!

Here's a set of my artfully taken concert photos:

Camera: Sony-Ericsson T610
Exposure: As long as I could hold my hand up in the crowd
Aperture: f/????
Focal Length: infinity
Flash: Available Stage Lights

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I've lost my voice and my heart.

I've sacrificed it on the altar of Bono and the Greatness of U2. My trachea strained and stretched as my soul sang for 3 hours along with a man whose presence cannot be captured in words, my awe at the magic that is The Edge, and the hypnotic storm of Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton. I don't even know how I can begin to describe the experience that has forever spoiled me for all concerts to come.

"City of Blinding Lights" with the electrifying light curtains and confetti that accompanied it can only be thought of as roaring, if not seismic, and by the time they got to the pulsating "Vertigo", the words "Uno, dos, tres, catorce" were a needless countdown to a frenzied secular worship of Irish rock gods. The battle hymn "Sunday Bloody Sunday" roused the crowd to such fevered heights of adoration that when Bono asked everyone to turn on their cell phones, everyone dutifully did so, illuminating the stadium into a glorious cosmos of communality, and then promptly text messaged as requested in support of "Pride in the Name of Love", "I Still Haven't Found What I Was Looking For", "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Hourses" set the stage for the moving tribute to Sarejevo in "Miss Sarejevo", and when they played "One" in memory of Rosa Parks, my heart welled up so full I thought I would cry.

I won't break down the concert any further- that would be wrong. You had to be there, to bask in the wholeness of the experience, inundate your senses with the sight, sound and soul that is U2's greatness. You had to be there to see them and hear them for yourself, raise you arms and voices to the rousing anthem of their message. It truly was an almost religious experience. And I've been made a believer.

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go

If I could throw this
Lifeless lifeline to the wind
Leave this heart of clay
See you walk, walk away
Into the night
And through the rain
Into the half-light
And through the flame

If I could through myself
Set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day

To let it go
And so to fade away
To let it go
And so fade away

I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
Wide awake
I'm not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

If you should ask then maybe they'd
Tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Bruised silken sky and burning flag
Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go...

This desperation
In temptation
Let it go

And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so to fade away

I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
Wide awake
I'm not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

Monday, October 24, 2005

Music snobbery and mix tapes in relationships!

I came aross this article, "Who do you love?" on Tiny Mix Tapes and found it hilarious and somewhat true. Finding out the music tastes of someone you were dating was somehow really important back when you were younger. We all know now that's it's not that important but it's fun to think back about back then when you met someone new and your first question was 'Uh ... so ... what kinds of bands do you listen to ..." Why you may ask would someone base an entire relationship on a music collection? Well, as articulated in the article "Simple. Your taste in music is important. Your special love interest's taste in music is doubly so." :)

The author does offer some salvation though ... in the guise of a mix tape. Mix tapes are a sort of middle ground where you can offer the object of your affection some connection with your favorite music. Mix tapes become grounds on which shared catalogues of music are based on in the future. Listening to someone else's mixtape gives you insight into what they are thinking about, it's an obtuse form of signalling. I can't even begin to tell you how much mix tapes matter and what effort and art is required to create the perfect mix tape. Nick Hornby offers some perspective on this in his book High Fidelity,
"The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules."
Do people even make mix tapes anymore? Wait ... I forgot ... it's now called an itunes personal playlist or a podcast :)

BTW, there's an entire sub-culture devoted to the mixtape, check out these links:
  • Thurston Moore's Book on mixtapes "Introduction to Mixtape: The Art of Cassette Culture"

  • A web community , The Art of the Mix, where you can upload and listen to playlists that have been submitted.
  • Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Nouveau Retro Chic

    What I would get if I had $15, 000.

    ELP's laser turntable plays warped records, scratched records, and even records snapped in two.

    Old technologies don't die, they just upgrade.

    Countdown III

    I had a hard time sleeping last night- was entertaining morbid thoughts of planes self-combusting, shoe bombs, poisoned airplane food (airplane food *is* kinda toxic no? c'mon, rock-hard scrambled eggs??), and sociopathic homicidal flight attendants.

    BUT, I have just spoken to my family- they've landed safely in New York and are now hermeneutically* ensconced in a rambunctious yellow cab ripping through some NYC freeway at breakneck speed on a cloudy and rainy Saturday. Terrific, and here I was getting all worried for nothing...

    *oops, I meant "hermetically"- thanks Allison, and your trusty :)

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Countdown II and Cows

    The next time I hear from my family, we'll be in the same timezone!

    And on a totally different note, this is courtesy of Jude: I Am Cow by the Arrogant Worms from Canada. Imagine yourself in a bovine cathedral as you listen (or a sweeping Disney animated movie). Here are the lyrics for greater insight. Trust me, it's a potentially transcendental experience...

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005


    Ok, so here goes...

    • 72 hour and 15 minutes till my parents and sisters arrive on American soil
    • 155 hours and 15 minutes to the U2 concert
    • 159 hours and 45 minutes to my 29th birthday
    • 173 hours and 45 minutes till my family arrives in Ann Arbor
    • 237 hours till we leave for Niagara Falls for the weekend together

    You go do the Math. Me, until the U2 concert on Tuesday, I'll be that person with her head between the congressional testimonies collection in the archives library, her nose in Meira Levinson's The Demands of Liberal Education, an eye towards my quasi-experimental design textbook, and some other bodily appendage hanging onto my Pilot V5 Extra Fine pen scrawling incomprehensibly on the pages of my history and policymaking notebook. Oh, and I have two lectures to prepare. Which might mean I probably would also only have had an average of 4 hours of sleep a night.

    But it would be so worth it :)

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Peter Pumpkinhead

    So, this post is not meant as a paen to the Crash Test Dummies (nor did we really name our pumpkin Peter...), but to commemorate our very first pumpkin carving experience. Today was a big game for Michigan (which we eventually won over Penn State- finally!...) and the pumpkin carving thing was an attempt at a theme tailgate. So instead of beer, we had apple cider with malt and rum, and instead of your regular tailgate staples, we had orange-colored candy, candy corn, apple cake, cream puffs and chocolate cupcakes- in other words, more Halloween than football comfort food.

    Anyways, it was great fun- there're more photos on Flickr. I saw a picture in a book yesterday and got the idea of tilting the pumpkin on its side and using the stem as a snout of sorts for our carving instead of the regular stem-on-top Jack-O-Lantern. Supposed to make it appear more human-like. I dunno, I think it kinda works even though our carving ended up looking sort of astonished more than anything else- I call it the "huh-what's-going-on-dude?" expression.

    I also think it looks more scared than scary. Then our friend Dan put things in true Halloween perspective- wouldn't it be more important to then ask, what is it scared about? Now that's creepy...


    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    eBay Humour

    Who knew that there would be a day when eBay posts would garner over 500,000 hits after the item was sold. You have to read this ad for yourself to believe. I came across this delightful find via apophenia about some guy who is trying to sell his leather pants. He titled the ad "DKNY Men's Leather pants I unfortunately own". The author of that ad kept up his deadpan humour in his answers to the various questions that people posted on his ad. The pants were finally sold in Sept 2005 for $102!!! And for some reason, eBay is keeping his ad up! He even has a blog that's worth a read!

    Death Cab for Cutie

    It was a concert defined by the encore. Had the set ended with the jaunty The Sound of Settling, I would have been satisfied, but not ecstatic. It would have been a good concert, but not a great one. There were all the gems from their earlier album, but also some of the duds from the new one. But the encore made all the difference.

    Ben Gibbard came back on his own for a gorgeous acoustic rendition of my favorite track from Plans, I Will Follow You Into the Dark, which got everyone either dead silent in a trance, or singing almost religiously along. But the piece that sealed it for the band was Transatlanticism. No question. During the opening chords, the theatre first burst out into rousing cheer, and then in moments, everyone was kinda stunned into an almost reverent silence. One of the best-written songs in years, and undoubtedly Death Cab's defining track, I smiled to myself when the girl behind me gushed to the opening strains of the song, "Oh my god- 7 minutes of pure bliss..." The sound clip does no justice whatsoever to the almost epic anthem. It harks back to a time before Death Cab was co-opted by the O.C. and before it converted an entire generation of Juicy and Abercrombie&Fitch-wearing teenagers to geek chic music. Transatlanticism- the best of Death Cab for Cutie.

    The Atlantic was born today and i'll tell you how...
    The clouds above opened up and let it out.

    I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere
    When the water filled every hole.
    And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
    Making islands where no island should go.
    Oh no.

    Those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.
    I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat.
    The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flood lands to your door have been silenced forever more.
    The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
    It seems farther than ever before
    Oh no.

    I need you so much closer [x8]

    [instrumental break]

    I need you so much closer [x4]
    So come on, come on [x4]

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Believe it or not...

    I can bake!!

    Okay, so I cheated and used prepared crust instead of making it from scratch, but that would probably have been asking too much of myself. There is no shame in being an insecure baker.

    This pear pie recipe is from my friend Linda whose chocolate chip cookies are downright scrumptious, and I mean "rob-a-grandma-shove-a-Girl-Scout" scrumptious... So I was kinda surprised when she offered this recipe to me- like hello? Did I not tell you about my fiasco with the granola bars/ chunks/ crumbs? What would possess anyone to think that a person who could screw up putting together ready-made ingredients would be able to deal with raw eggs and flour? Her disarming faith in my inadequacy was so misplaced I was almost moved.

    But I do like pears- much more fragrant than apples, and less tart in general, and I've never had a pear pie before. One of our favorite desserts is the decadent poached pear with warm chocolate pudding from Tamade in Singapore (which Jude surprised me with for a birthday picnic a few years back. I was thrilled of course- it's so easy to please me when it comes to food...) Anyways, so here I am, finally on Fall Break, and what better way to celebrate the first day of reprieve than to slug a blow to my ego? Let's try Linda's pear pie! I don't think it's her own recipe- she said she got it off a show or something, and it really IS very easy. I improvised it a little by using two varieties of pears. The recipe calls for half a dozen Bartlett pears, but I used a couple of Bosc pears too. Bartletts are crunchy I think, and Boscs a little more tender, so I figured using them both might be kinda of interesting. So here's the recipe:

    1 unbaked prepared pie shell
    5 to 6 large Bartlett pears to fill pie shell, peeled, cored, and sliced (or 3 Bartletts and 3 Boscs)
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
    4 tablespoons flour
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    1) Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.
    2) Fill the pie shell with the pear slices. I alternated each layer with the different pears.
    3) Beat together the sugar, butter, flour and eggs. Pour over the pears.
    4) Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
    5) Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake 1 hour.
    6) Cover the edges with foil to prevent over browning during the last half hour of cooking time. Serve warm.

    Trust me, it really is idiot-proof. Check it out...

    It was wonderful... almost brought a tear to my eye (yes, yes, it's been a rather emotional week...) Cooked pears have an almost alcoholic fragrance which goes really well with that faint scent of vanilla (the house smells great now by the way). It isn't as pretty as the ones you get at the store, but if anyone asks, I was going for the rustic look all along... *grin*

    Jude's first slice (yes, he had two!)...

    It looks kinda squishy around the edges but that's just the custard which turned out surprisingly well. I was afraid I added too much flour, but it was just nice. Bound the pears together perfectly. And I was right about using two types of pears- the filling was soft, with just a little bite. I think the key is slicing them thin.

    Ok, that's it, I astound myself- they might be hope for me afterall... Betty Crocker, eat my dust!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Creature Comforts

    Noooooo! Say it isn't so! Visited Stan's blog only to see this article, and my heart then proceeded to break into a million little wallaces and gromits... Aardman Animation's warehouse in Bristol burned to the ground this morning and with it, all the original sketches, storyboards and figurines of my beloved Aardman characters. I literally let out an audible intake of breath followed by what must have sounded like a semi-shriek meets a dismayed moan...

    These are some of the loveliest creations of animated art, and have made me smile in a way only few others have- Hayao Miyazaki and Tim Burton come closest. Even the characters of Pixar, while wonderful, like A. O. Scott said in his review, lack a certain depth.

    I am sad.

    I'll be counting sheep tonight as I fall asleep, Aardman sheep...

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Puppy love

    [click on Gromit for movie review]

    Apart from our friends Dave & Jen's three-legged dog, Maggie and my sister's stuffed toy puppy, Angel (which she's had since she was 7 and who we must of course believe has a life of its own independent of her), this is my favorite dog in the whole world, and has been for the past ten years, ever since A Close Shave. Even better than Snoopy.

    'Cause unlike Snoopy, Gromit would make me a pot of tea.

    " might compare Gromit to Shrek, who has the genetic advantages of Mike Myers's Scots burr, a bevy of celebrity-voiced sidekicks and rivals, and state-of-the-art computer-animation technology. Good for him. But Gromit, made by hand and animated by a painstaking stop-motion process, has something Shrek will never acquire in a hundred sequels: a soul."
    - A. O. Scott, New York Times

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    An American Tale II

    So, a follow-up to Monday’s class:
    I came home today to an email from the student whose grandfather’s immigration records came up on the Ellis Island website. This is what she wrote:

    Dear Serene,
    I told my father what activities we did in class - dealing with family history moving to America and what was on the Ellis Island website. He was so happy he started to cry. He was not only happy that you looked up his father, but also that I was able to tell the story of my grandparents in class. It was an interesting conversation because then we talked about how my grandma came to America through Cuba (which I forgot). And then how she lived in America illegally - and one of her family members here turned her in to the authorities. They were going to send her back to Armenia, but the senator stepped in and kept her here because she had been living in America for 15 years.

    Thank you for everything,

    I think I’m going to start to cry…

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    An American Tale

    I had a good class today. Not that I’ve been having bad classes these past Mondays, it’s just that I haven’t been feeling that they were particularly inspired in any way. The class I’m teaching is a hard one to get across to students- Education in a Multicultural Society. I bring up issues of equity, race, class, and teaching children in disadvantaged areas. Most of my students grew up in suburban neighborhoods and will probably eventually teach in suburban neighborhoods, so I think they find it a little difficult to see the applicability of the course to their future teaching career. It doesn’t help that the first few lessons are on the history of American education which is even more remote. So I guess that sort of explains the rather lackluster response I’ve been getting. I don’t take it personally- I’ve come to accept it as a function of the course content.

    But I think the class had a breakthrough today. We were discussing immigration and Americanization and their relationship to education in the late 19th and early 20th century. I thought it would be interesting to get my students to ask each other about their family names, how their ancestors came to this country and their ethnic extractions- basically to bring the topic closer to home so to speak. I also showed them a page on the Ellis Island website which allows you to search for people who arrived in America via Ellis Island. One girl then shared with the class about how her grandfather had fled the Turkish massacre of Armenia in the 1910s and came to this country. It was clear that it was a part of her family history that she found painful to recollect so I think the class really appreciated her opening herself up. Then we decided to see if we could find her grandfather’s immigration records through the website since she knew that he had come to Michigan from New York after arriving on Ellis Island.

    And we did.

    His records popped up in a second. He arrived on Ellis Island from France on May 24, 1912 onboard a ship called Le Havre and he was 26 years old. And I think that was the defining moment for the class. To see how palpably one’s past is so inextricably tied to one’s present. The girl didn’t cry or anything but she was visibly moved, and the class knew that something had changed.

    Things were somehow different for the next two hours. I don’t think they suddenly liked the course any more in that split moment, or liked me any more for that matter, but I reckon they began to realize that there may be more to this course than dead men and a dead past. I take no credit for what took place today, but it was just kinda neat to have been there when someone’s defining sense of who she is gained new clarity and perspective.

    Sunday, October 02, 2005

    Wake me up when September ends...

    So it has. And October looks set to be just awesome! My favorite season will fully descend upon us in all its golden resplendence, all these luscious fruits and hearty veggies on sale at the markets, we get a Fall break to ease the doldrums of our scrambling existence, Death Cab for Cutie will be here in less than two weeks, Irish gods shall storm the Palace at Auburn Hills for what is certain to be the night of our lives on the 25th, and best of all, my family is going to be here just the day after that for a good six days.

    There is nothing not to love about October...