Change of plans

As I've been wicked-bad at updating this thing, I think I'm going to try messing around with a shorter-form blog over on tumblr. Details to follow.

I'll still be updating here, though. Just less frequently.


Cote d'azur.

I'm in Nice. I'm working, but it sure beats digging ditches. Yesterday was a hard day. Long meeting schedule. Botched dinner plans. Etc.

Still, it's tough to get too upset when, even on a bad day, you're still in the friggin South of France.

I may be a chub chub for saying this, but one of the best parts is the food.

A few things I have eaten in the last day and a half:

A fillet of John Dory with some sort of carrot custard, rosemary, roasted lemon, and a really nice cream sauce.
Lamb terrine with microgreens.
A great peach tart.
Delicious serrano ham.
A Clif bar. (It ain't all glamour).
Steamed mussels with aromatics.
Frites. Which are what french fries aspire to be when they grow up.
Espresso by the gallon. (And by 'gallon', I mean 'tiny cupful'.)
Croissants. Naturally.

And this was all stuff that found its way into my belly despite missing what probably would have been the best meal of my trip.

Still, work travel is always vaguely lonely. I wish I could go fetch some folks from back home, and then come back and continue this trip.


School, Again.

Those of you who read this blog with any regularity are probably in touch with me otherwise, as well. Therefore, it's not exactly breaking news that I will be going back to school starting this fall.

I'll be chasing down a PhD at the University of South Carolina.

I'm a lot of things, all at once, regarding this decision.

These are a few of my feelings about my return to the academic world.

1) Excited. It's a thrill to get a chance to get the sort of personal attention a PhD program provides. I'll be on a path to the next segment of my life. A career, even. In addition, I'll be closer to my family and old friends and Jen, so the location of the program is exciting, too.
However, that doesn't detract from the fact that I'm (2) terrified.

It's been a long time since undergrad, and I don't know how it'll be. Still, I feel (3) oddly prepared. I've been writing researching and teaching and performing for years now, and all of that will help me in this program, whether directly or tangentially. Still, I can't deny that I'm (4) sad about the idea of leaving Chicago, where I've built a life. I'll miss my friends, and I'll miss the city. (Well, I'll miss it 7-9 months out of the year...).

Either way, I've got a few months left to enjoy the city. Plus, it's not hard to visit.

So. Yeah.

School, again.



I was walking downtown today and felt something in my shoe. I got to the office where I work part-time and de-shoed to check out the situation.

It was a British coin.


It's been almost a year since I was in the UK. I have no idea where this coin came from.


Let's cleanse.

I feel like admitting some things.

- I get separation anxiety like a needy beagle.

- I've been reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" for a million years, and am really enjoying it... but still can't shake an addiction to soda. I drink very little alcohol these days, and eat very little red meat. I've never smoked, except for the occasional big stupid stogie on a nice summer night. But soda? This pointless, bubbly corn syrup? Hooked.

- I think "Mandolin Rain" by Bruce Hornsby might be one of my favorite songs ever. (though that's not really a secret. I've told lots of people how ridiculously great I find that song...)

- On my television right now? "Sleeping with the Enemy".

- I sometimes just get on Google Maps and wander through towns and cities to which I've never been.

There. I feel better. Thanks internets. You are the lapsed protestant's trivial confessional.


Things you should do in the next week:

(Based on a list of things I've done in the last week, and really enjoyed. These are things that are cheap or free, and these days, that sure helps... )

1) Go to the zoo. Especially if you have a cheap or free zoo at your disposal.

2) Roast a chicken. A whole chicken is relatively inexpensive, and if you rinse it well, dry it to prevent steaming, season it with salt and pepper, truss it up, and put it in the oven for an hour or so, it will bring you nothing but joy.

3) If you are fortunate enough to have a living grandparent, call that grandparent.

4) Ride a bike.

5) Make faces at a little kid (preferably one you know, and the faces shouldn't be too scary).

6) Write a letter. Not an e-mail.

7) Clean something out. Anything. A closet. A toilet. A drawer. An ashtray. Anything.

8) Listen to the following songs: Good Man by Josh Ritter. This Must Be The Place by Talking Heads. Let it Whip by the Dazz Band. Concrete Schoolyard by Jurassic Five. Life Is A Highway by Tom Cochrane. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man by Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson.

9) Lay a smooch on someone.

10) Offend cynics with an overly saccharine list of things to do.

End of Dispatch.


A few words on the Oscars.

- Let no man ever say that Hugh Jackman is talentless. Singing. Dancing. Comedic timing. Beyond thinking he made a pretty good Wolverine, I've never really thought about the guy, but now I'm convinced.

- The coin that Phillippe Petit (from Man on Wire) made disappear was found this morning off the coast of Argentina.

- I came in second place in a winner-take-all Oscar pool, and fully blame the Academy for underappreciating the sound mixing and editing in Wall-E.

Most entertaining Oscars in a long time, in my humble opinion.


Adobo a-go-go.

I listen to this great podcast called "The Splendid Table" with Lynn Rosetto Kasper. It's a show about food and cooking and all that jazz, and it's great.

I know. I'm a party animal.

She's been really big on this recipe for this Filipino dish called Chicken Adobo. (Adobo from the Spanish word for 'marinate'... Chipotle peppers, for example, are canned in adobo sauce. Which is mexican, but from the same Spanish root.) I've been meaning to try it and finally did.

It kicks ass.

You take chicken thighs (I used chicken quarters, and seperated them first into thighs and drumsticks) and marinate them for about a day in vinegar and soy sauce with a ton on garlic and black pepper. (You can also put in a tomato. The recipe calls for a whole canned tomato, but I didn't have those on hand. Instead I peeled and cut up a fresh tomato and threw it in the marinade. It turned out really well.)

After it's all marinated and awesome, you cook it in the marinade for 25-30 min at a low bubble, then pull out the chicken and brown it in olive oil.

Cook, then brown. It's a killer thing.

You skim off a little schmaltz from the marinade, boil it down by half, and pour it over the chicken on a bed of rice.

Full recipe here: http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/20985

It's tangy and peppery and garlicy and really good. You use around 5 times as much vinegar as soy, because if you use too much soy it gets stupid-salty when you reduce it. It all seems like too much when you put it in to marinate, but I can vouch for the fact that it is not.

I ate half for dinner last night and the other half for lunch today.


My cat, Sunkist, has been chilling down South for several months now, as I've been running all over the place being a deadbeat pet owner. That's okay, though, because she's been hanging out with Jen and Jen's giant cat, Stanley.

Stanley must way twenty pounds, and that's not twenty pounds of fat. It's twenty pounds of feline muscle.

Plus a little fat.

Anyway, I miss her, and miss having another creature in the apartment that has a pulse.

Jen just sent this picture, and I like to imagine that it's a picture of SK flying, ninja-warrior style, through the air with a smokey, overcast sky in the background.

Kitty-San! Attack!


Bizarro World, courtesy of the economy.

So, economy in shambles. 20,000 jobs a day going down the crapper. People freaking out.

Still, one of the strangest parts of this whole economic situation is the elevation of Paul Krugman to household-name-status. He's a star. It's only a matter of time before there's a calendar of hearthrob economists floating around out there.


"Kandid Keynesians"

"The Invisible Hand-some"

Sure, we'll all throw up in our mouths a little when we see them, skinny and pasty wearing only suspenders and cut-off chinos, but we'll all be smarter for it in the long run.



So I'm trying not to eat so much red meat.

I know. It tastes amazing. I still love beef and REALLY love pork (more than anyone should love the meat of any animal that doesn't sweat), but both are pretty bad for you and pretty bad for the environment and generally better left as "sometimes food".

(Having said all that, I do have plans of one day building a structure on property I do not yet own specifically dedicated to curing my own ham. I'm especially interested in crafting my own proscuitto or serrano, and would love to make nice, salty country ham, too... but I digress...)

Still, cutting down on red meat has me trying some fun new things with fish, chicken, and... tempeh.

Now, for those who consider tempeh a pretender to tofu's crown as the top of the meat substitute heap, I say nay. Tempeh is a nice source of body and substance in a vegetarian dish, but should NOT be considered a meat substitute. It's nutty and hearty and really nice marinated and pan-cooked. It's got texture ENTIRELY different from tofu, which is good. Tofu is usually fairly gross.

My favorite lately is this:
Take tempeh (which, if you have a Trader Joes nearby, especially, is really inexpensive. 1.69 or so per package) and slice it into strips, each maybe a quarter to a half inch in thickness. Marinate that in some soy sauce, adding plenty of cinnamon, ground mustard, and paprika to the mix. Cook that in a nice hot pan for a few minutes per side, trying to get a nice crispy outside on the tempeh. ( use a non-stick pan with no added oil, but that can sometimes get a little problematic with the soy runoff burning in the hot pan. It doesn't hurt the tempeh, just might make your kitchen a little strong-smelling for a bit.)

Take some nice bread (I like a sourdough or tuscan pane) and put a little chevre or other creamy goat cheese on each slice of bread. Don't overdo it on the goat cheese, but make sure each slice has a nice coating. Add the cooked tempeh, make a tasty sandwich, and then grill that, either in a sandwich press or in a pan. Cut in half. Enjoy.

Flavorful. Filling. A nice meat-free dish is which even I, a raving omnivore, don't miss meat in the slightest.


"All the single ladies, All the single ladies."

Ok, Beyonce.

Seriously. Please, sit down for a second and listen to what I'm about to say. Get your producers in here. They need to hear this, too.

The fact that a song gets stuck in your head all day long doesn't mean it's a good song. Ask anyone who's ever heard that "song that never eeeeeends" from Lamb Chop's Playalong.

Therefore, when I'm walking around, unable to get "If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it" out of my head, I don't think you're a talented performer or a savvy marketer. All I think of is that I'd love to get that song out of my head without using a claw hammer to do so.

Furthermore, that song has usurped "Bombs Over Baghdad" as the top of the list of songs that white people like, but have no idea how to dance to. If we can't step-touch, we're basically lost. I'm sure people go nuts when that song comes on at a club or what-have-you, but roughly thirty confused, Caucasian seconds later, they're standing in a confused circle, moving erratically to syncopation their hips can't comprehend.

(Which leads me to another topic: White people insisting on standing in a circle on the dancefloor. It happens at every wedding where there's a DJ, and it never fails. I blame some sort of pagan-druid instinct in our WASPy reptile brain.... but I digress....)

So. In short, Beyonce, et. al., that song is annoying. And not in a good way.

Thanks for your time. You're really pretty and have a nice voice.


State of the New Year.

'ello, all.

It's been a bit. It's 2009 now. I'm not sure why we I'm not writing this from Low Earth Orbit, petting my robot dinosaur, but oh well. I guess the future isn't the future.

Then again, we also haven't had to fend off any zombie apocolypses, either, so take the good with the bad, I suppose.

What's new? Well, the above image is of an igloo that used to be my car. Its transmission decided to take a break before Christmas, so now it's just a tidy little curb ornament. That's useful, however, because it serves as an awesome snow collector. We're getting pounded here, people.


Christmas was great. So was New Years. My Grown Man brothers and I bought each other toys. Good toys. Remote controlled helicopters. Transformers Mr Potato Head. Belt-fed Nerf guns that fire 3 darts per second.

I guess it is the future.

I got to spend some time with the lovely Jen. We went up to the mountains for a bit. All great stuff. 2009 is fairly solid so far.

What's next? This week, I have a deadline, am participating in a mock trial, and am performing at Sketchfest. That's all by Thursday. Yowzers.

More on all that later. Here's a cool little random thing. I heard about this on an old This American Life on NPR. Back in the late '90s, a couple of artists (Komar and Melamid) hired a market research firm to find out what people wanted to see in a painting. They did this in several countries, and below you can see what they produced for the US, based entirely on poll data.

A blue-hued landscape with mountains, deer, a family, and George Washington.
You can see the most and least favorite paintings for all the countries here:

If you want to hear the episode, I recommend subscribing to the This American Life podcast.

Subscribe to Radiolab too. And The Splendid Table. And Filmspotting.