Outstreched arm

Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's the little things

If you've ever shopped for a snack in a grocery store - and I'm sure you have - I'm willing to bet you've missed an unsung treasure. I'm talking about those random, individually wrapped, two-ounce pieces of cheese you can find in the deli fridge. They're usually in a basket of some sort; miniature wedges and blocks looking like culinary rejects, but far from it.

Think of them as samples, only better than anything the nice old lady on aisle 5 will hand you on the end of a toothpick. I see these morsels of curd at my local store which is a notch above the Safeways of the world; I'm sure you have something similar in your neck of the concrete. Here are my reasons for worshipping at the temple of miniature cheese:

  1. It's cheap. You probably won't find a chunk priced at more than $2.50, and I've seen them as low as 40c. It's getting impossible to find any food this cheap at the store, and the price-to-deliciousness ratio is off the charts here.

  2. They'll feed you more than you think. Sure, one or two ounces doesn't seem like a lot, but eat slowly and let it fill your mouth like good wine, especially because...

  3. These are typically not your orange cheddar, baby swiss, and monterey jack. Instead, because they end up on the side of the cheesemonger's block more often (because of their price and non-blocky nature), the varieties you'll find in the basket normally include French gruyere, goat milk gouda, fontina, leyden with cumin, and other flavor-packed beauties, at least some of which will be new to you, I'm sure.

Delicious handheld cheese for $1.50. Grab a piece of fruit (say, anything but a citrus) and you're eating like a Frenchman. That's a good thing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Negative Nancy

Some brief observations on two recent works of art:

  • The Beastie Boys' The Mix-Up lives up to its name: something got misplaced somewhere alright. Weak, uninteresting, and sadly funkless, it makes The In Sound From Way Out, their mid-1990s effort in the same vein, seem like an underrated jazz jewel in comparison.

  • I never liked Wes Anderson. I feel slightly better when I remember that I at least didn't have to pay to watch the 13-minute prequel to his new movie. It's called Hotel Chevalier and it's available on iTunes free or charge. It's also lame as hell; its mock gravitas and fake mockery (I don't even know what he's shooting for, to be honest) fill me with all sorts of questions, like why is this man directing movies instead of shooting classy nudes for Vogue?

  • All albums by Regina Spektor are interesting the first one-third of the time you hear them. Then they get quite viscerally annoying. She can write a good hook; too bad she proceeds to drive it into your earhole over and over.

Turn that iPhone upside downphone

I take a lot of walks and I listen to a lot of podcasts. I'm also forgetful so I often find myself half a mile from my house, ready to enjoy some KERA Think or The Ethicist, but without any headphones to stick in my ears.

Back in the days of iPods, that would have been it. But iPhone has a speaker, right? Believe it or not, I've listened to entire podcasts by holding up the iPhone to my ear.

Now, podcasts aren't phone calls, so they won't come out of the smaller, ear speaker. The sound will come out the bottom, bigger speaker, so for optimal performance, flip your iPhone upside down. Really - the sound will be very loud and more "direct".

It's still a little goofy, but it beats listening to cars.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The iWFMS and more

Today's iPhone update added two and a half big features, in my opinion.

The double-click preference is huge. I went for a walk after updating my iPhone and I used it constantly.

The double-spacebar trick is simple and cute.

The iTunes WiFI Music Store Store on iPhone (say 3x fast) is pretty neat - it loads quickly, searching is very simple (but informative) and it does what it should, and no more. I have one question, though. The following happened when I docked my iPhone after purchasing a track on it

1. The purchased song was copied to the computer
2. iPhone synced its usual dataset (bookmarks, contacts, etc).
3. The same song got copied back to the iPhone

Why the copy-back? Did the track change in some way? Was more info about it downloaded by iTunes after it was copied from the iPhone?

I can't say I care too much. The whole process was speedy, elegant, and enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Salt to taste

I'm one of those people who say that they never measure ingredients when they cook. Of course, when pressed, I'd say it's not ALL ingredients that I eyeball; in baking especially, that method doesn't work. But measuring black pepper, flour for roux, or olive oil? No way.

Except when I follow recipes closely, busting out the measuring cups and spoons, two things happen. If the recipe is good, it turns out really good. And, more importantly, as I measure out the pinches and smidgens, I think about how much I would have used had I been estimating. The measured amount is almost always much different.

The conclusion? My culinary instincts aren't all that great.

I wonder if there's a bigger lesson to be learned here - something about how, when you think you've got something all figured out and you don't need to double-check or refer to the manual, maybe you ought to do it anyway every now and then and calibrate your instincts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

You like?

Here's the thing: A History of Violence really wasn't all that. It had some interesting scenes but overall it felt like the comic book it was. This is why I went to see Eastern Promises cautiously optimistic.

And hey, it was pretty damn good. It's not a very deep "analysis" of the Russian crime web, and it's not terribly insightful. But it has a solid story, it's economic with its characters and sets, and it lets Viggo shine. It's surprising how "small" the whole thing feels, actually. MY memory of it places all the happenings in two or three rainy days, a few brief encounters, and a mild dose of Godfatherish paternizing by calmly threatening father-figures. No biggie. Fun.

P.S. I still don't get the title "Eastern Promises". I'll feel really stupid when someone explains it to me, I know.