Tuesday, December 27, 2011

of pizza, dancing, and regret

I got a pizza stone for Christmas so, naturally, one of my goals for 2012 is to learn how to toss a pizza. Fortunately, world champion pizza tossers like Tony Gemignani are gracious enough to provide instruction via YouTube:

At the beginning of December I somehow acquired an uncharacteristic desire to learn how to tap dance. Because why not, right? At the end of the year I hope that you'll expect a similar performance from me:

Looks like I need to learn how to do the splits too.

I hate how fast 2011 flew by. I think part of the reason it did was because during certain parts of the year I wanted it to. In particular, I remember wanting the summer to fly by. I was anxious to establish a decent running habit, a feat not so easily accomplished in our summer desert (limit myself much?). And I knew I'd be starting school again in the fall and was looking forward to that. So with eyes focused on future, the summer really did fly by. Looking back, I'm reminded of how Yoda described Luke Skywalker in my favorite movie ever, "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph."

I've never had anyone tell me that life seems to pass by slower as you get older. I have yet to hear that. Time only seems to go by faster and I don't anticipate that ever stopping. I'm not advocating the practice of hanging on the past; I just know that I can enjoy life despite an unfavorable environment, despite the hype of an exciting event in the near future. It's just plain stupid that I would wish for a part of my life to go by faster than it should. I hope that I never do that again.

Friday, December 23, 2011

in defense of pie

I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like cookies. Or cake. I've met a few people who don't like cupcakes. Which I don't understand. Because if you like cake why wouldn't you like cupcakes? Maybe those people just don't like that cupcakes have been the "it" dessert over the past couple years, and it is therefore cool to hate cupcakes, the same way hipsters are required to hate any semblance of mainstream. I'd be lying if I said that I've never adopted that attitude at one time or another.

Image from here.

What I don't understand, though, is when people tell me they don't like pie. I just don't get it. Really, what is not to like? Flaky, buttery pastry crust. Rich, overflowing fillings. I mean, c'mon. Sure, I get that some people don't like fruit and that they like it less when it's all soft and mushy, but don't they know that pies come in non-fruit varieties? French silk (fancy for chocolate pie) was my favorite as a teenager. You can make a pie out of anything: I've seen brownie pies, cheesecake pies, pies made from peanut butter, Oreos, ice cream. A favorite regional dessert in Quebec is tarte au sucre or sugar pie (think pecan pie without the pecans).

And what about lemon meringue, key lime, and pumpkin pies? Yeah, they're fruit-based but they lack the fruit chunks of an apple or cherry pie that might scare away a frugaphobe*. And for those that dislike cooked fruit, I've made my fair share of peach pies whose filling never saw an oven. I dare you to find something wrong with sweetened fresh fruit and a tasty crust.

To any pie haters out there reading this post I strongly urge you to reconsider your prejudice. You're only excluding yourself from a realm of decadence so uncommon in the dessert world.

*A word that I made up to describe someone who doesn't like fruit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

this much delight

This week, taste-making music blogs like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound reported their top 50 albums of 2011. I'm always curious to read through these lists, although I never have the desire or capacity to verify most of the releases. As I perused this year's rankings -- which I often disagree with, even if CoS was a little more "on" than Pitchfork this year -- I was reminded of a tweet I stumbled across back in August:

I don't know this Brian Cook guy -- a musician, I believe -- but he couldn't have voiced my thoughts on the state of modern music any better. (Also, how awesome is Twitter's new "Embed this Tweet" function?) It's no surprise then that my favorite album from 2011 is neither safe nor boring.

The Big Roar by The Joy Formidable

One Tuesday morning last April my buddy Buster sent me a text, "Are you going to The Joy Formidable show tonight?" Having only heard of them I hopped on Grooveshark (I believe this was the pre-Spotify era) and listened to a couple tracks from the The Big Roar. I liked it. I replied to Buster, "Count me in."

OK, I know I'm not an old man but sometimes I feel one. I miss the days when I had the wherewithal and vitality to go see a band relatively unknown to me, and on a "school night," as older folk are prone to say. Going to see The Joy Formidable that evening hearkened back to my high school days when the only thing stopping me from going to just any old show was, well, nothing.

That night ended up being one of the best on-a-whim shows I've been to in recent memory (and not because they've been fewer than I'd like). At a visit to the Joy Formidable merch table, I happily surrendered the cash to purchase The Big Roar and now, with new ears, comparing the album to the band's, um, truly formidable live performance, I discovered one of those rare records nearly capable of what studio albums can only really attempt, capturing the energy of a live performance.

This video is from a year and a half ago so they're a little unpolished and Ritzy sings a bit flat at times but hey, that's rock and roll.

There aren't too many bands out there that mix rock, punk and pop as well as The Joy Formidable, and even fewer doing so with the economy of a three member line-up. They're destined for a bright future, and by extension, so is rock and roll:

Amen, brother.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I might be getting sick. I'm not surprised because there's definitely something going around. And I haven't been eating well, and keeping my apartment dust-free is a daily battle to which I too often resign to defeat, which won't be much of a help in fighting off any potential illness.

It was my intention to stay up a little later to work on my French term paper -- my very first "graduate" project -- that I am embarrassingly behind on, but if my body is threatening sickness, I'm probably better off fighting it now by getting some sleep.

Scout -- my dear feline companion -- is in heat right now, which might be one of the most annoying things ever. Especially with all the rolling around she does on my couch -- I don't know how or why such a small cat manages to produce so much extra hair (Jenny knows how badly my couch collects pet hair (because she gave me said couch)). When Christmas is over and I'm a little less busy I'm getting her spayed.

Oh yeah, the other day Scout peed in my bathroom sink. Yeah, I was a little mad at her, but I was more amazed than anything that she would know to go in a place where it drains and wouldn't make a huge mess. She's a smart cat. But why she didn't go in her little box is beyond me, she hasn't done anything like that since she was a tiny kitten.

And she seems to enjoy depositing hairballs around my apartment, like the one she left me on my bed last week. Today's hairball -- at the foot of my bed -- was thankfully a bit easier to clean up. The next place I live will have a yard where she can frolic, shed, roll around, throw up, and urinate as she pleases.

A lot of people like to include photos in their blog posts. I do too, most of the time. But only when it really adds something to the post or when the photo is the focus of the post itself. Otherwise, I feel like adding photos is pandering, at least when I do it. Because, for me, blogging has mostly been about writing. Not because I'm good at it, but because, simply, I like writing and I like reading. So even though I could share several photos here -- the piles of dust in my apartment I sweep up so often (aging brick walls are incredibly overrated) or some of Scout's hairballs -- I'm choosing not to include any in this post because sometimes it feels good to just write.

Also, I think some of my neighbors might be drinking, they're being uncharacteristically loud.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

and one more thing

The other day I finished listening to the audio of this book:

Image from here.

In the past, I've described Apple products as phenomenal (iPod, iPad), smug (iPhone), too rich for my blood (Mac), and a necessary evil (iTunes). After listening to this biography, I've gained a great respect for Apple's integrity in the creation these products. Steve himself described it best:

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you make great products. But the products, not the profits, were the motivation.

Interestingly, Apple -- a company with little concern for profit, supposedly -- is one of the most valuable enterprises in the world. (I wonder what would happen if we applied that same integrity, passion, and outlook to everything we undertake in our lives.) And while I'm not about to go out and buy a brand new Mac or switch my Droid for an iPhone, my general opinion for these products has certainly increased.

Steve Jobs' commencement speech at the 2005 Standford graduation has become somewhat legendary. Walter Isaacson said of this address:

The artful minimalism of the speech gave it simplicity, purity, and charm. Search were you will, from anthologies to YouTube, and you won't find a better commencement address. Others may have been more important . . . but none has had more grace.

If you haven't heard it yet, you owe yourself the 15 minutes it takes to listen:

"Because believing that the dots will connect somewhere down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference."

P.S. I went the audiobook route on this one because:
a. I can't say that I've ever completed a biography, so I thought I'd have better luck listening to this one rather than reading.
b. I don't have time to read right now (I don't really have time for blogging either, but here I am); but I can always listen to audiobooks while driving, working, cleaning my apartment, walking my cat, making dinner, etc.
c. I was able to score a free version from Audible.com.

P.P.S. I don't really walk my cat (though I daresay she could benefit from it).

P.P.P.S. It's only fitting that I finish writing this post on my new iPad (the acquisition of which was more a coincidence than a result of having pseudo-read this book).