Thursday, February 21, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I don't listen to the radio much here. Even so, it's hard to avoid pop hits as they somehow manage to earworm their way into my subconsciousness, just like in the states. This track, Limon y Sal, by Julieta Venegas, who I think is actually Mexican (wiki's just informed me she was born in TJ! How cool is that?), was everywhere a year and a half ago when I first arrived. Hence, I'm linking it for posterity. I know one day when I'm far, far away, the memories of living in Argentina will flood me upon hearing it.

This year's soundtrack is inescapable if you happen to watch TV. Miranda's catchy salsa-esque Perfecta, all 3 minutes and 44 seconds of it, plays continuously on Sony TV. Seriously. Every other commercial break invokes it! Either the band is related to someone at the station or they have some major dough. Maybe one of the band members is a Kirchner third cousin? Also, how hot is the guy in the lime shirt and orange overalls (despite the lime shirt and orange overalls)? Also, doesn't the lead lady look Almodovarish? Also, is that supposed to be a pomegranate?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Letter for Misha

Misha Bruck, 12/xx/1961 - 2/10/2008

“What does it mean to have lived a good life?”
Lars, age 7: It means that you had a nice time your whole life.
Darya, age 6: It means somebody did something sweet to you, or you did something sweet to them.
Elyss, age 7: It means you had people to love.

Our first talk was on Harry Potter,
when you brazenly called JK Rowling an egomaniac.
You were golden tanned, carefree, having left a boat job
garbed in your bleached white shorts,
an attire that would be lovingly mocked by your wife,
time and again.
You scoffed, “She had the nerve to demand an all British cast!”
I disagreed with you,
but thought it funny your passion
about banal books you wouldn’t dare open.
I didn’t know the fervor you would have
for everyday things,
though they would be later recounted by Emu to me:
edible wildflowers
the Nazis in Argentina
Jon Stewart
dogs and cats and birds
good food and drinks (even sharing my love of Malta)
books, the lot of them
and of course, your wife

It’s a cliché to say we don’t know what we have
until we lose it.
It’s even a cliché to deem that a cliché.
But forgive me, Misha, for not telling you sooner than here:
How kind and good-hearted I thought you were
How grateful I was to have you in Emu’s life
How happy you made her, a cherished wife
And how she found her match in you in these wondrous ways:
the whimsy—
that walks the world with a playful patter
the critic—
that sees the world with enviable clarity
the artist—
that creates and creates
(while the rest of us posture)
the traveler—
that casts the world and oceans as an office backdrop
Morocco, a honeymoon destination

You were something of a maverick,
at times bruised by rules, all rosy colored
at times kicking them to the curb, unsung
but always passing by
with a genuine heart, and brio.

I know you’re somewhere in the outer realm now,
with an eye at Machu Picchu
and a bookcase of facts at your disposal,
crafting that soup café you wanted to open
in the same careful, loving way you built your fountain
in the yard where Lazarus now roams
looking for you.
So it is, that we will one day again feast all together.
But until then—
a toast:
to the good life you lived
and the many people you loved.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


"Of course it isn't necessary, but sometimes a little luxury is necessary." - snooty in-law
"What the hell does that even mean?" - Marie

I'd been watching too many DVD reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, a reliably funny, albeit unglamorous show. So in an effort to reduce my dependence on old sitcoms (last year, it was nonstop The Office, so overplayed in our household that both spawn and I would dream nightly of the characters), I splurged and got digital cable last week. An outright lie--I got it because the thought of not getting 24/7 election coverage this year in English seemed unbearable. So now I'm happily cocooned in BBC and CNN International, no other soundtrack even necessary. Another blatant lie. Because with digital cable, you get about a dozen music-only channels, a decent international mix, though my mainstay so far's been the Opera channel. Washing dishes is so much sexier with Don Giovanni.

Other perks I'd missed from my previous incarnation as watcher of digital cable:

- onscreen TV guide, making it easier to keep track of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," which seems to follow no rhyme or reason in scheduling
- the helpful "Info" button, particularly living abroad where movie titles get changed (and not always logically translated either). It's kinda like immersing oneself in a twisted game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." I see an incomprehensible movie title on Info, take note of the actor names--Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson--and 1, 2, 3 seconds later... scream verily unto myself: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days! Oh-so fun. Ready to play along? Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham-Carter, Tom Hulce ... (no Googling allowed!)
- more frequent current eps of The Daily Show with my beloved Jon
- More Asia coverage, or just international coverage, and not just news stuff. Yesterday I caught a half-hour show on my favorite Bollywood actor, Shah Rukh Khan
- possible Tifaux feature

Having said that, the BIGGEST nonperk is the loss of our SAP function! SAP, if you don't know, allows you to undub any program and restore it to its original language. With SAP, we were able to turn the Simpsons back into English. Needless to say, someone in the house who's not me isn't very happy with digital cable. And to assuage guilt, yesterday someone who was me went out to buy him a DVD collection of Futurama.

Gig: Photo Hunting!

I've decided to start doing weekly photography challenges, since my Java Junket (I had to look up the name since I'd long forgotten it) was such a raging success at keeping me unbored. (Careful readers may detect a tad of sarcasm.) Also, I covet a digital SLR and hope to have one by my next post (as in country, not as in blog writeup), so practice, practice, practice.

This week: heavy

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I is for Inefficiency

It never fails to amaze me how difficult it is to procure a simple train ticket in Argentina. Six times out of ten the ticket machine is out of order, at which point I cross the tracks to visit the other machine (neither ticket booths are manned after early afternoon in my little town), where nine times out of ten "exacto cambio" is lit up. Okaaay, but here's the rub: The fare is no longer a handy 50 centavo, as the rate's just been raised to 65, requiring me to search deep pockets for a friggin 10 centavo piece--not that plentiful to go around--and the unfuckingbelievably elusive 5 centavo piece! Arrgh. So what this ultimately means is that in sheer disgust and utter frustration, I end up jumping the train without a ticket. But hey, that's OK, because five times out of ten there's no one to collect it at my destination anyway.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Home Free Home

The Workhorse vs. the Showhorse

Long but well worth it.

Oh yeah, and this.

I was talking to an old friend last night and joked about how just as I won't let Oprah (arguably my most-despised American after Dick Cheney) influence my book choices, likewise with presidential candidates. What I meant to say was, even when I've wanted to tackle a novel widely critically acclaimed, something happens as soon as I spot that O label, and I'd sooner curl up with Danielle Steele than be caught with it. (My almost-exception being Night, by Elie Wiesel, which was on my Amazon wishlist years before gaining endorsement by her maudgesty. Honest.)

What I meant to say was, I have always had a difficult time with the cult of personality, Oprah or otherwise, and this blind worshipful thing in the media with Obama (did you read the fanboy article by Chabon?), whom I like OK, is irksome. I guess I inspire the opposite of that maternal adage: If everyone jumps off a cliff, would you?

See for me, it comes down to the heart vs. head thing, and it's why no matter how many lavish talks my born-again folks glob onto me, I just.don' Promises of heaven and eternal soul sound purty, but homegirl needs the nitty gritty, or just evidence, lots of it. I'm not willing to will a half-full glass out of thin air.

So what I'm trying to say is, given the state of our country, I don't want a prez who'll take a bit to get his feet wet, who conveniently has no record of human failings up for attack. And really, I'm rather pissed at Obama for throwing himself in the way right now, when what we want is to wrestle the WH away from the Repugs. Come back in 8 or 12.

But what I really, really want to say is, this is the first time I've actually liked our top two, and that fact alone gives me hope. No audacity needed, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dumpling Dearest

Southern California has a huge Asian demographic, and if I remember correctly, in my premed program at UC Irvine, we actually outnumbered whites by 3:1. So it's no surprise that not only can you find grub of every ethnicity there but it's almost always sensationally prepared. And I'm not talking Disneyfied PF Chang or anything with higher than a B health code rating, but grimy little grub towns like Little Saigon or Thai Town, where the more health code violations served up, the tastier your dish is likely to be. (Just kidding, sort of.)

So here's my favorite dim sum place in Orange County. My family's been coming here for more than 20 years now, and I've watched myself age right along with the little old lady cartpushers. The place's not as feverishly patronized as those in Monterey Park. In fact, a name search on turned up nothing, which pleases me to no end as it's horrific enough to wait 40 minutes for a table on the weekends. But man, is it worth it. The dim sum here has an appealing Chinese-Cambodian fusion, which basically means more heapings of fried garlic in everything. It's a good way to mix up the LA organic sprouted food living in which I indulge occasionally (although admittedly not enough). Ying and yang. Crash and burn. My m.o. in a salty/sweet nutshell.

Here are just some of what we sampled during our last visit. And fuck you blogger for screwing up my captions again! (They tried to make me go to html tables and I said, no, no, no!)

shu mai: plump shrimp in translucent rice paper

some kinda shrimp/pork dumpling, in stew

pork with water chestnuts

battered, deep fried (some kinda) fish with roe. sounds nasty but tasty to bite into into a belly full of eggs.

soft tofu stuffed with shrimp paste

my fave: taro balls with meat filling in a crunchy potato flake? shell

sticky rice with Chinese sausage with bits of scallion

fried turnip cake with chives, incredible texture and taste

the only dim sum dessert I like: sesame balls with red bean filling

a typical overburdened cart

chili paste: the sine qua non of any dim sum experience

: Play

I've decided to start doing weekly photog challenges, since my Java Junket (I had to look up the name since I'd long forgotten it) was such a raging success at keeping me unbored. (Careful readers may detect a tad of sarcasm.) Also, I covet a digital SLR and hope to have one by my next post (as in country, not as in blog writeup), so practice, practice, practice.

So this week: narrow

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Force Fed on Durian Love

When I was a wee lass growing up in Phnom Penh, one of the signs that my oft-traveling father was nearing home was the kitchen appearance of the thorny sexy durian fruit in all its spiky glory (people die wandering below its trees unaware, just so you know). Much is written about this most-maligned fruit in the foodie world that I needn't bother. Oh OK, I will bother. It's like the foie gras of the fruit world, neatly dividing eaters into two camps: slaves and heretics. Unlike foie gras, the only torture to be endured is the scent; the taste is not unlike heaven.

So when pops came home from his travels to France or the states, we kids would gather around the fruit, giddy with excitement as our taste buds started Pavloving away. Pa would show off his durian brandishing skills with much pomp and circumstance (I'm talking to you, Anthony Bourdain!), deftly prying each compartment gently open to expose plump custardy membranes, each one curled in undisturbed slumber. Then we would devour them, thoroughly, sitting in a circle, until one by one, the custard disappeared. Much more than just the taste, durians to me have always stood for poignant reunions and homecomings, long ago centered around my father, until a few years ago around my younger sister who strayed the furthest from the rest of us (picking her up from the airport meant a trip to the produce section of the 99 Ranch Market), these days around myself when I return home from Argentina.

Long live the durian! Also--you haven't lived until you try my mom's coconut sticky rice with durian pudding. Wanna meet mom?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Admit It--You Missed Me!

I've had little inspiration lately, dear readers; hence, the lack of posting. Perhaps my sole energy's been too focused on eating and napping and shopping and lounging and eating some more, with little brio left to lift a posting digit. Because I'm constitutionally lazy, I won't bother to recount the heartstopping excitement of my nearly 7-week break. Instead, a photo montage... BTW, other than my possible ineptitude, why is it so effin' difficult to post multiple pictures in blogger? I want a scattered layout with captions, y'all, but instead they get jumbled in one congealed column. Any tips out there not involving html tables--I'm only willing to divert my napping energy so much.

Edit: Never mind, I'm a slut to flickr mosaics now...