Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Behold the Power of Free Rice!

This may be one of the coolest websites ever! Strictly for word nerds* or those who thrive on external validation. Warning: Just like white rice, it's pretty addicting...

But wtf are these alien words?
bangtail, howdah, hauberk, thimblerig

* Just FYI, vocab level 50 is the highest you can go.


The Center of Things

I'm unequivocal about this: Centered things (think Alice on the Brady Bunch grid) are better than left- or right-flushed things. On my neighborhood stroll this evening, I happened to notice for the first time--I'm not the most observant person I know--a row of houses with doors that have centrally placed knobs, not knockers (those are almost always centered), but knobs! How cool is that? There's an architectural backstory somewhere...

Higher Ground

I have a problem. (Stop rolling your eyes in a D'oh! formation.) I have a plumbing problem. Every few days and only when I'm in the most compromised position, the water in my pipes trickles down to a mere drop, forcing me to trek down to the basement of our house, often dripping in soap, to give the water tank the ol' heave ho. Now, one of the many charming things about living in Argentina is seeing all those adorable water tanks on top of everyone's roofs. I guess I was ignorant or naive or possibly both, but when I first got here, I just thought the Argentines had fancypants taste in chimneys! Anyhow, my current house doesn't seem to have one of those doodads, and it's arguably a good thing. Can you see me crawling on the shingles of my house with shampoo in my eyes? In any case, I need a plumber stat.

(I am most disingenuous about my plumbing problem. I only wrote about it so I can post this lovely quote in my blog.)

"The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water." -- John Gardner

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What I Had for Dinner Instead

An entire bunch of asparagus costs a mere 3 pesos (less than US$1). Here they are sauteed in butter, shoyu, black pepper, and nutritional yeast (the natural msg). They tasted amazing...

Stoked for Stokies

My mind can be a fascinating trapdoor of malaise and turpitude. Want proof? In the past when I've been on a crunchy health kick and undergone a fast (abstaining from all solids for days on end), I would Google-image-surf all fricking day for food porn just to reap torture upon myself, usually ending up in a whimpering puddle of drool over such eye candy: ramen in miso broth, with sliced pork fat and bits of pickled bamboo shoots; mango slices, Fanta orange in ripeness, nestling in Thai coconut sticky rice; red velvet cake, blood red, oozing cream cheese frost; plump prawns curled in fetal position, doused in thick curry coulis; etc. etc. Swoon.

Which brings me to now: Because I was foolhardily ambitious and quit sugar cold turkey a few days ago, my mind has taken up a fanatical fixation with--of all things--candy cigarettes! It's crazy-making! All I wanna do is have fun and light up one of those bubblegum cigs (the Lights version, of course, I am a lady)! I guess I need to go to the corner kiosco and see if they carry candy nicotine patches. Arrrgh...I want candy cig! Candy cig wants me!

(Everyone reading this, please send some. Thnx.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

C is for Change

I wanted to write something profoundly insightful about Argentina's newly elected female president, mostly because people back home keep asking my opinion like I got a relevant one (answer: I don't), and also because well...since I'm on this self-imposed excruciatingly torturous diet, I don't have much in the food department to blog about.

Sadly, I don't have much on Cristina either, at least as an insider. Today at work, my colleagues tried their damnest to answer my interrogation of this timely event, probably wishing I'd just shut.the.fuck.up and let them eat their lunch in peace. The following tremendously rigorous exchange ensued:

me: Did you vote for Cristina? Are you happy she's won?

coworker 1: I didn't vote for her. I don't trust her. I know she and her husband are trying to do the Chavez thing by monopolizing the office. In four years, her husband will run again and they'll keep trading off. Her only talent is being able to sound good on TV. (Oh...snnnnnnnnnap!)

me: She also looks good on TV. So who did you vote for?

c1: The other female candidate [Elisa Carriro].

me: Why?

c1: [shrugs] I didn't want another Kirchner. (At which point I said to myself: Self, that's voting-by-process-of-elimination.)

coworker 2: I can't even stand to look at her [Cristina], let alone want her for president. They are all the same. And the polling place was a mess and stayed open way past late so there was something [fishy] going on. (Prompting me to ask myself: Self, do they have hanging chads here?)

[c1 and c2 start rapidly gesturing in castellano about their polling experience.]

coworker 3: I voted for her [Cristina]. I liked how much stability her husband's brought to the country and I want us to keep going in that direction. I mean, they're all corrupt in some way or another. (I nodded in agreement, my face stuffed with delicious lettuce and cucumbers.)

c2: [In a mysterious and rather seductive if-I-tell-you-I-have-to-kill-you kinda way] If you have any memory at all of the past, there's no way you'd want her.

me: Why? Because she's a Peronista? (But my question was again lost as c1, c2, and c3 begin a rapid--and heated--exchanged in castellano.)

Fortuitously, or not, some snot-faced brat--and I say that in the most loving way--came up and took all our attention away.

Oh and there was some talk about what happens if you don't do the mandatory voting. One coworker said nothing happens, because she's had tons of friends who've never voted. Another said occasionally they come looking for you to take you down to the police station. (Dude, I can totally get behind mandatory voting in the US.)

So there you have it, those of you waiting with bated breath for my coverage of Argentina 2007. I suppose I shouldn't quit my day job.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Defense of the Silly

Earlier this week I read the always-stuffy Thomas Friedman's finger-wagging op-ed accusing the Q-for-quiet generation (his term, not mine), the current twenty-somethings, of being too politically apathetic while grudgingly acknowledging how world savvy and well-informed they are. And then I read this young lady's poised response and thought how what she touched on could've been attributed to even the generation before her, i.e., my generation X. This was how we disaffected, cynical Gen Xers (aka slackers) were described by Time Magazine in 1990:

". . .They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix . . . This is the twenty-something generation, those 48 million young Americans ages 18 through 29 who fall between the famous baby boomers and the boomlet of children the baby boomers are producing... By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical. While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today's twenty-something generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . .They feel paralyzed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits…"

Take all that and add to it the flattening of the world (to borrow from Friedman himself), a tragically wrong and expensive war that makes the first Gulf War look like child’s play, and the current unrelenting glut of virtual info--not to mention, tech toys!--I am amaaazed any twenty-something can maintain any kind of political stamina. It is absolutely true that in this day and age, all of us (not just the whippersnappers) are faced with too many causes to support and indignities to battle and so we are overwhelmed into neutral. (Just sign this online petition to make it all go away!)

I remember being reduced to tears by the first Gulf War--I never had any stamina myself--vowing to escape my government by moving overseas some day, feeling hopelessly marginalized in being anti-war (and this was the day before Freedom Fries were even around). Then some 12 years later, I joined others on the streets of LA--spawn in tow--to protest the Iraq Invasion, fully mired in my apathy yet thinking I owed it to him to keep my game face on. Because let's face it: The world can be so fucking depressing and kicks you in the ass in so many ways. Some days I can barely stand to glance at the headlines, let alone read it, so instead I dive straight for the Entertainment section. Perhaps that's why The Daily Show is so appealing--it parcels out bad news in bite-sized portions with enough humor and verve to balm any residual angst. You don't feel crippled with helplessness overload. You feel you are exercising that crucial right to dissent en masse and with a live audience. You can even watch it while updating your Facebook.

I titled this post thusly because I'm glad silly distractions exist to help us cope. This younger generation may have their iPod and HBO, but my gen also has...well, iPod and HBO too (and maybe even an iPhone because we make more money). The silly and the shallow are necessary to allow us to come up for that gulp of fresh air before we are dragged under again by thoughts of rebel suicides and Darfur.

So go ahead, have another laugh at Britney, the poster child for anti-gravitas. And have you been to lately? If not, get thee on over for some good old-fashioned fashion snark.

Self-Portrait with Monkey by Frida

Went to a Halloween party last night dressed as the first lady of Unibrow herself, looking rather like something a cat might drag in, in the Castro.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Lest you think I'm flippant and glib 100% of the time, nope, only 76%. Here's an image that stops me dead. My heart goes out to everyone in my neck of the woods who's affected by the wildfires.

(Picture taken by someone who's not me.)

Someone's Hijacked My TV!

Scapegoating Hollywood for the world's ails is as passé as using dial-up (which, as a cliché, is even passé), as safe as proclaiming Bush can't orate, as edgy as recycling. I suppose if all I saw day in and out were "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and that insipid Brad Garrett sitcom whose title I am uninspired to even lift a Google finger for, I'd think what the fuck myself. But oh Argentina, you marvelous glass house you, let's not cast the first stone, because the last time I couch surfed, your pratfall-style humor left mucho to be desired in the, well, quality-control department. And while there’s dreck in every entertainment industry, the thing about Hollywood is that when it’s good, it is pretty damn good. I was about to list examples but being anal retentive, spent way too many brain cells revising/editing the list.

So here's a tip: Stop importing junk* like The Bachelor and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. There’s a host of brave, smart, well-crafted movies and TV shows that still manages to awe and inspire, making us think differently in an age when being derivative is pretty much the norm. Don’t shoot the messenger--just use your God-given talent to spam filter.

Having said that, I can fully get behind the loathing of Disney for inflicting High School Musical and its multitude spinoffs on an unsuspecting generation. (So if you come across a Mickey hate graffiti in the near future...)

* I know it's the guilty-pleasure thing, the liking-a-bad-boy-while-hating-yourself thing, but lord help me, I kinda dig "Two and a Half Men." So there, I outed myself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music to My Ears

Just got this email from my awesome new sister-in-law, who'll be visiting us over Thanksgiving break. Is she a sweetheart or what?! And yay, to real T-day feasting! Last year we hit up Kansas for their version, which wasn't bad considering, but still, it ain't no Nannette cooking! Tryptophan heaven, yo vengo...
Well I was just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner and I have a few questions. First, will we be able to get a nice fresh turkey? Second, do they have Stouffers stuffing? Third, do you have a pan to bake a turkey in? Just wondering. I would love to stay home that day and the night before and make some of my favorite foods. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream, egg noodle with turkey gravy stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, all that good stuff. Do you think I will have a problem finding some of the things I would need? If so, I will bring what I can on the plane.

The Supermarket Shelf

Everybody knows you (mostly) can't get spicy grub worth shit in Buenos Aires, so was I excited to see Hellmann's Picante Ketchup (sombrero hot) at my mom-and-pop mart. The only thing is...there's not one lick of difference between it and the original! I seriously don't get it! I mean, on a spiciness scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this at a 2 and Taco Bell's mild sauce at a scorching 10. So hell, mann, thanks for getting my hopes up!

On the other hand, the BBQ sauce tastes exactly as you'd expect it to, which may not seem worthy of note to you Americans reading, but this most precious of artificial flavoring is very much nonexistent here, despite the proliferation of asados and such. So Danica canica!

And lastly, I am an ardent fan of the cherimoya, the most delectable and wishy washy of fruit. (It's equal part overripe apple, pineapple, mango, and commercial bubblegum, all duking for dominance.) Third in the hierarchy of edible ovaries most cherished by theshortestfuse (and trailing only behind the exquisite mangosteen and almighty durian), cherimoyas have always been too goddamn expensive in California, maybe because they're imported from Ecuador and Peru? But here in glorious Argentina, the beloved cherimoya retails at about 4 pesos each! My cheri(moya) amour and I, we will never again part!

Java Junket: 8

Glück Café. Café Borgia. 10.5 pesos. 10/24/07

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Congratulations on the New Bundles of Joy!

My younger sister's apple tree has just given birth to baby apples! Squee. Or rather, they birthed a while back but she's just discovered them. (For the record, my younger sister is much cuter than Gwynneth Paltrow.)

Java Junket: 7

. Café doble con leche y crema. 6.5 pesos. 10/21/07

Sunday Is Bake Day

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, newly emerged from the oven

Bizarro World

I'm shiftlessly layabouting in my gorgeous backyard, a pitcher of Paradise tropical iced tea nearby, wistfully trying to recall what life was like back in the states in a manner that only grass-is-greener types can understand. The details of being someplace else are usually vague and can elude me altogether. And it never fails to surprise me how when I'm here, I can't imagine being there, and the vice, she versus.

But don't cry me a river, as I do believe I have the best of both worlds. My stay here in Argentina is punctuated twice a year with a visit stateside, so it's 4.5 months here, 4-6 weeks there, etc. etc. Not bad... Still, you know how sometimes the ratio of things can feel just a tad off? Kinda like how there's too much peanut butter relative to chocolate in a regular Reese's cup, whereas with the mini-version, it's the perfect proportion? I'll break it down for you linear thinkers: In a large cup, pb/choc > 1, and IMO, you need 1 or less to get the perfect bite, meaning I would even allow for more chocolate than peanut butter in this gastronomical equation. Now admire the design of a mini-cup: pb/choc = 1! It's one-bite right or one bite makes might!

It's the same in the world of avian egg: Quail egg is vastly superior to chicken egg in terms of its albumen:yolk ratio. Anyone who's ever gagged on egg white knows what I'm talking about. Having said all this, I will entertain the idea that occasionally, bliss is achieved only in a non 1:1 scale--the Oreo cookie vs. filling being the classic example. (And those diabolical charmers at Nabisco have preyed upon this weakness in creating their Double Stuf spinoffs.)

What does this have to do with anything? Well I sometimes wonder if 4.5 months here is just too darn much albumen or peanut-butter filling. Perhaps the ideal quota for me is 2.5 months (or even 3), followed by a quick plane ride home to get my fill of bagels and boba.
(Notice I'm not even positing a 1:1 ratio.) In any case, usually approaching my fourth month here, I begin to feverishly mythologize about what will be once I'm back in the land of the free! It's rather lame of me since everything revolves around food and clothes, but there you have it.

Anyway, because I'm a list whore, here're my must-dos for the next home visit, just for starters:

- Zen Zoo Tea, in Brentwood, home of the most awesome iced soy mint green tea. Also where I saw David Duchovny eating dim sum with his two adorable brats.
- The City Bakery, in Brentwood, for their heavenly pretzel croissant and brioche French toast laced with caramel brittle. Also, you need a spoon to drink their tarlike hot chocolate. Also where I saw Helen Hunt sitting in a corner with her laptop.
- California Roll Factory, on Santa Monica Blvd. Not the fanciest but hell, you can't beat their ingenious roll combos and spicy mayo.
- Buffalo Exchange, on La Brea, retro fashion at cheapo prices
- Thai Town, on Hollywood Blvd! Anywhere, everywhere, oh sweet Thai Town...for sure, Palm Restaurant for the Thai Elvis show.
- Movies, independent, foreign with English subtitles, the lot of them!
- Griffith Park Observatory: Haven't been back since it's reopened. Since I'm in the nabe, the culty Pinkberry frozen yogurt too
- Ethiopian food on Fairfax
- Bookstores, corporate as well as indie, spending hours on end lollygagging willy-nilly, being able to use my 20% teacher discount...
- The beach! PCH to Malibu, Venice Beach and those drum circles, Santa Monica Promenade, Laguna Beach with my niece and nephew
- Artesia, Little India! Footlong masala dosas, the Naz8 theatre with new showings of Bollywood film, where the concession stand serves up hot, piping samosas at intermission
- Driving!
- Ebay!
- Netflix!
- And of course, seeing the people I love.

(Edit: Upon rereading this list, it's becoming abundantly clear to me what a shallow creep I am. GOD!)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oui, Oui

This jam-packed French-like bistro served up some awesome lemonade that had bits of floating mint. The hummus was meh, typically dry and lacking tahini. Still, it was a lovely spring day, sunny and breezy as swirls of foliage found their way into our hair and drinks.

Yet Another Emotionally Magnificent Experience

Checked out this cafe-cum-bookstore today in Palermo Hollywood, called Eterna Cadencia. It was so utterly beautiful--I wanted to lick every centimetre of it with my eyes. Just like Thomas' English muffins, it had nooks and crannies aplenty, one of which was an entire hideaway den in the rear. The icing on my lust cake (no, it wasn't the hot waiter whose pic I slyly snapped): the ode-to-Paul-Bowles breakfast! Not to mention, the English section was short on Grisham & ilk and long on Kundera. Thunk goes the eternal cadence of my heart. Hey, EC...will you marry me?

Java Junket: 6

Nina Café. Capuccino (w/tarta de manzana). 8.5 pesos. 10/20/07

Pictured also is a waffle with dulce de leche, drizzled warm...

Ignorum Diem: Ignore the Day

I rather like this:

My philosophy is, live life "two days at a time." One day at a time is unrelenting. Two days, well, if I drink too much or eat too much, I can just do better tomorrow, on my second day. Honestly, I don't even understand the success that "One day at a time" is having.

From the guy who plays Toby on "The Office" (how's that for D-listing?) It reminded me of this unpithy saying I used to carry around by the Austrian writer Peter Handke. The beneficent Google's failed to get me his exact words. Damn.