Posts from August 2005
What is the rockistest idea ever? Well, we have to acknowledge that MTV’s Unplugged notion set a good mark, but I think the Don’t Look Back series of gigs in London, which started with the Stooges at the Hammersmith Apollo last night, sets a new standard.
“Have you ever gone to a concert and wished your favourite band had played your favourite song, then gone home disappointed, because it didn’t happen?” the booklet on the seats starts. Except it isn’t a series where they publish the set list, or promise all the greatest hits – instead they invite, in their words, “artists to present a retrospective performance of one of their works in its entirety.” You probably won’t be surprised that the ‘works’ are albums, not singles. Nor that they seem not to have recruited the Spice Girls, Public Enemy, Willie Nelson, Daphne & Celeste, Dr Dre, Culture, but instead Mum, the Lemonheads, the Melvins and the Dirty Three. How much more rockist could this get?
This isn’t to say it’s bad – I was very keen to see the Stooges reunited to do Funhouse, and tempted by the Dinosaur Jr show, and I’m sure some people around these parts were interested in the Belle & Sebastien gig. The Stooges were great, though actually it was the second half of the gig, when they played other things, that I enjoyed the most, when we got ‘No Fun’ and ’1969′ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. Sadly, despite the booklet’s intro, they didn’t play my favourite song, ‘Search And Destroy’.
The Political Cartoon Gallery scares me. Open for about a year now on Store Street, I am not quite sure how it stays open. Nevertheless if you ever want to be reminded that political cartoons aren’t funny, this is the place for you. It does seem a bit niche and overblown to prove this however.
At the moment there is an exhibition of Churchill dominating the room. Cartoon’s of Churchill do clearly illustrate the problem of political cartooning marvelously. Political cartoons have two premises:
a) caricature of famous people is funny
b) illustrating a poor joke on a news item makes it funny
Somewhere along the line a) and b) morphed into one another, thus we get the Cheshire Cat Blair, the Dunce Bush. And Churchill, well he was a fat pompous fellow who shouted lots. There is a sharp contrast between the war years caricatures (generally lovable, even when stamping on Hitler’s face!) and those surrounding it. The Tory papers made a big deal of the country rejecting him in 1945 (stabbing in the back metaphors) but as time goes on the cartoons illustrate his mistakes as those of an inveterate boozer. War year cartoons have him dressed up as John Bull.
None of them are funny, and few of them add to an understanding of the news item or the nation. Rather it illustrates the key thing about cheap humour, a rushed joke is rarely a good one.
AIM: To establish whether a bad pun can lead you to inventing a delicious new dish. In this case: LYCHEES ON TOAST
APPARATUS: Pestle & mortar; grill
INGREDIENTS: 1 middle-sized tin lychees; 3 slices of bread; 1 slice’s worth of butter for spreading
METHOD: To maximise our chances of making something tasty from a bad pun, three separate forms of lychees on toast are to be attempted.
1. The marmalade method: pulp a number of lychees to a consistency similar to marmalade by crushing in the pestle and mortar, disposing of any excess fluid emerging from the crushed fruit. Squeezing the pulp by hand proves more effective in removing more juice.
Toast one slice of bread, butter it and spread the lychee pulp on it like marmalade, or perhaps jam.
2. The grilled sliced lychee. Toast a piece of bread on one side. Slice some lychees and place them on a single layer on the untoasted side of the slice. Grill the lychee side until the bread around it is toasted.
3. The rarebit. Pulp lychees as per the marmalade method. Toast a piece of bread on one side. Spread the lychee pulp on the untoasted side and grill the lychee side until the bread around it is toasted.
RESULTS: Lychees are mostly juice: when pulping lychees, adding additional lychees to the pulp makes little difference to the total volume of the pulp. In reproducing the experiment, care should be taken not to add too many lychees to the pulping stage, or insufficient fruit will remain for the slicing method.
Taste test were largely positive: the researchers found themselves rather keen on each of the three samples. Least impressive was the slicing method, though that was perhaps due to the lower-than-desirable coverage of the toast with fruity flesh. On the other two samples, opinion was divided.
The marmalade method was helped by buttery yumminess (Use of avocado for this purpose was rejected on the grounds of obvious foulness). The rarebit method had the advantage of slight caramelisation, also leading to an increase in the tasty. None of the three samples lasted long before being wolfed down by greedy scientists. Some researchers suggested that the popularity of the samples was a result of these being the closest thing to real food served thus far in the day, and that people were hungry.
The control group of people who did not like lychees wanted nothing to do with this experiment, but who cares what they think, the lychee-hating freaks?
CONCLUSION: there is not yet enough data to prove that a bad pun will necessarily lead to deliciosity, but the state of delicious can be inspired by poor quality wordplay.
or: the beast of hackney revisited
at the weekend i got an exciting couple of emails from a Mr GEOFF C. in ref. my “three skinned bears” blog7-post of august last year. With his permission, I reproduce an extract (my emphases):
“Hi. It seems the weirdness is back visiting the marshes again. Have you read about the crocodile seen in the river recently? Also, there are a few other odd events in the area that you may not yet know of. Firstly, a small UFO crashed into the river in 1957. Apparently it was seen by a bus driver and a policeman. The second event was in about 1975 or 76. Three youths came across a large number of skinned big cats (tigers pumas and lions) in the marshes just west of the low railway bridge at the end of Coppermill Lane. I remember this event very well as I was one of the three youths…”
AIM: To see if the BabyBel advert is correct and that BabyBels break the laws of conservation of energy by being able to bounce higher than where they were dropped from.
METHOD: This is a thought experiment because Tim thought it might be anti-social to his neighbours to drop cheese off of his balcony. And they might think he is a menk (which he clearly is as he has no salt in the house). However if we had done it, we would have stationed someone three storeys down to make sure the coast was clear of all neighbours, and then got Rob to drop the BabyBel.
RESULTS: It is difficult to say what the results would be of this thought experiment, nevertheless a close look at a BabyBel suggests no super-elastic qualities to the wax surrounding it. One would imagine when dropped the BabyBel, rather than bouncing to a greater height than whence dropped from, would probably bounce about two inches at most. And the wax would deform a bit. It would be unlikely that the wax would break though, and therefore the BabyBel would remain intact and edible. Here is one we mocked up to look like what we think would happen.
CONCLUSION: If we had done this experiment (which we did not do) it would probably tell us that adverts LIE.
I won’t add to the general goodwill flooding towards Miranda July’s indie flick, Me And You And (A Dog Named Boo) Everyone We Know, except to say that it really is that nice. And it is a nice film where lots of kids are being very sexual. It is in many ways like a happy version of a Todd Solenz movie. We understand the peril of a seven year old meeting up with the person he has been having explicit conversations with on the web. Do we need to see an abduction, or just accept he got lucky with his online sexual predator (drippy museum curator who is near horrified at the person she had been flirting with). But this sequence, and the blow job sequence, are explicit about the so called innocence of children in these sexual situations. Kids are interested in sex. But unlike Solenz, July finds their potential fumblings in the area not so much a cause for horror, or creepiness, but almost sweet and funny. The edge of danger is there, but July reminds the adult sexual viewers, that they were once crap at this too. Indeed it is interesting to see that the adults in the film have the most trouble with relationships, the kids get on with it.
Also: E-mail would not have happened without AIDS: Discuss.
I had one of those meetings today where we do ‘creative work’, this means our meeting environment was filled with TOYS including my new favourite toy EVER viz. GEOMAG. GEOMAG is a simple construction toy consisting of a load of small metal balls and a load of strong magnets cased in colourful plastic. The balls form nodes for the magnets and so you can create SHAPES. For someone like me this provides endless pleasure, I am the kind of person who always doodles in geometric forms and now I could do it in 3-D! In a meeting!! Eventually I had to put the GEOMAG down when I dropped it in the middle of someone else’s presentation. It is now very much on my Christmas list.
Do check out the GEOMAG site linked above which is slightly on the mental side, proclaiming the toy to be “the most intelligent form of entertainment ever seen” and containing a five-page disquisition on the manifest disadvantages of rival product SUPERMAG (boo, hiss).
AIM: To see if avocado is nature’s butter (2). If it is, can you bake a cake with avocado instead of butter?
APPARATUS: Cake tin with removable base, various bowls, electric whisk, blender, sieve, dessert spoon, sharp knife; 4 eggs, 12 oz self-raising flour, 3/4 cup milk, 3 small avocados, a sprinkling of sugar.
How to bake a very basic cake (using civilisation’s butter ie butter itself):
i. Beat 8 oz of sugar into 8 oz of butter, until smooth and fluffy
ii. Add four eggs
iii. Gradually fold in 12 oz of self-raising flour and 3/4 cup of milk
iv. Pour into a cake tin and place in an oven for about an hour.
Straight away an important issue arises: is the goal eatability (is the result CAKEY AND NICE?) or edibility (is the result merely NOT HORRIBLE)? Three decisions had to be made: how much avocado flesh to substitute for the 8 oz of butter; whether to make initial allowance for the distractingly unscientific potential yukness factor of 16 oz of avocado and castor sugar in the mix; and how long to bake. On the assumption that further tests will establish ideal amounts and proportions for DELICIOUS NICE CAKEYNESS, we decided to use our judgment to aim for a minimal eatability.
Hence: in a weight-for-weight substitution, we traded 8 oz of butter for 8 oz of avocado (= flesh of about two and half small avocados). And – since sugarfree cake is no contradiction in terms – we decided on a minimal chefly sprinkle of sugar only (sinkah argued for NONE, brahnie casting the expert’s vote for the sprinkle after a late taste test).
The question of length in the oven was again answered in an ad hoc fashion – by checking by eye and nose and finger-pokage every five minutes after half an hour. In the event, it was in for about 40 mins, at which time we thought it seemed ready enough to take out, allow to cool, divide up and sample.
First discovery: butter beats to softness supremely easily. But avocado doesn’t MELT, and if the avocado is even slightly unripe, squeezage by hand, however diligent, can leave lumpy bits. Nor are whisks and blenders much help. We resorted – once we had added the beaten eggs – to pouring the mix through a sieve and pushing what wouldn’t flow through with the back of a dessert spoon. The mixing of the cake dough then proceeded uneventfully, except that we started to get excited in its late stages because it felt and looked more and more like “proper” cakemix (this was in fact the point brahnie suggested that we add a little sugar after all).
[secret sidenote: in my hand-written notes, 3/4 cup of milk had become 3-4 cups of milk – but luckily brahnie wz advising at this point on consistency, and proportion disaster wz averted] [i only realised this when looking back at the book just now]
The cake – for cake it clearly was, by sight and smell – was removed when it became obvious that it had risen well, at least in the centre, and was browning nicely. It had formed a crust – the upthrusting cakemix below had then cracked this crust, hardening itself as it squeezed through, like fresh magma. After beling allowed to cool for a while in Tim’s bedroom, it was served out to GENERAL
DELIGHT TOLERANT ACCEPTANCE: it had a cornbreadish texture and flavour, went well with other things, and by the end of the evening was almost completely finished (one small remaining slice-worth was thrown away uneaten).
CONCLUSION: Avocado is indeed nature’s butter. This particular mix was a wee bit doughy and uncooked in the middle still, unsurprisingly wasn’t especially flavoursome – it didn’t TASTE of avocado at all – and rose in a problematic way, given its rather leathery crustiness (not at all at edges, maybe too much in centre). As noted above, experiments with proportions (more avocado for moistness?; more baking powder for lightness?) and further tasteable ingredients (sweet OR SAVOURY) would certainly produce excellent cakey or indeed bready results. Also Tim had no salt.
APPARATUS: Frying pan. 4 Eggs. A small avocado.
METHOD: The mashed avocado was smeared on the pan which was then brought to the heat. When the avocado was clearly hot, the lightly beaten eggs were then added. Usual scrambling technique was employed (Chris took over at this point as I prepared a bowl).
RESULTS: The eggs started scrambling as normal, though quickly took on an eerily greenish tinge. However the lack of conventional fat was not a problem, and after a couple of minutes something which resembled perfect, if green, scrambled eggs was arrived at. When served (remember, they still cook out of the pan), the eggs were nice and creamy, if slightly lacking in a key flavour. That key flavour was either discerned as
a) butter (duh!)
b) salt (many of these write up may turn of Tim’s lack of salt)
c) something giving it a kick.
When tabasco was added, they tasted fantastic.
CONCLUSION: Initial conclusion was that step one in proving that avocado was nature’s butter was complete. However some dissent was raised when we found out that Isabel makes scrambled eggs without butter in the first place, and hence the butter is just a flavouring. That said, the green eggs with tabasco was a HIT! Num num!