Monday, October 31, 2011

Element of the Month: Ytterbium!

October's Element of the Month:

Atomic Mass: 173.054 amu
Melting Point: 824 °C
Boiling Point: 1196 °C

OK, first things first: we're talking about Ytterbium, element number 70, the silvery-white metal -- NOT Yttrium, element number 39, the silvery-white metal. They're totally different! By definition! Like, at the atomic level!

So the obvious question is, what’s up with the names? Is “Ytterb” Greek for “silvery-white metal”? No, it’s not, at least not to the best of my knowledge. But it turns out that there’s this little village in the islands around Stockholm called Ytterby. It had a little Feldspar quarry going on in the nineteenth century, at the same time that brainy Scandinavian chemists were all fired up for sniffing out new elements. It can’t possibly have more than a couple of thousand people living there, to judge from the satellite photos, but – you guessed it – both Ytterbium and Yttrium are named after it, having first been isolated from minerals found at the local quarry. Except, you didn’t guess all of it: upcoming Elements of the month Terbium and Erbium are ALSO named after this little village. But it keeps going: Holmium, Thulium, and Gadolinium were all also discovered from the Ytterby quarry; by this time, however, scientists had despaired of further ways to truncate or transmutate the word “Ytterby.” So take that, University of California. Ytterby, Sweden, has set a very, very high bar for elemental discovery.

Ytterbium – for it is Ytterbium we celebrate this month – is one of the shy elements, occurring most exuberantly in something called monazite sand, of which it is still considerably less than one-tenth of one percent. There’s not much Ytterbium around in the first place, and it’s somewhat reactive not only to acid but to oxygen and water as well. These characteristics tend to spread an element pretty thin, and in the geological blink of an eye. So, if you come across a jutting outcrop of Ytterbium in the woods, you are no longer on your home planet.

The Centerfold!

Fine and good, but you are a can-do, tool-making human, and you want to know “WHAT CAN I USE IT FOR ALREADY!” Well, it appears to be mostly used as a dopant! And a dopant seems to be a substance that you add in small amounts late in the alloying process to confer subtle but significant properties to your finished product. An analogy might be, if I’m reading all this right, the guy who comes around and offers to put some fresh ground pepper on your salad. The pepper is going to be pretty insignificant by mass, but it will in theory add a certain zest that will make your salad-eating experience just so. Too, sprinkling a little Ytterbium on your stainless steel will increase its strength, and sprinkling a little Ytterbium on laser machinery will make it, um, better. I think.

As far as anybody can tell, Ytterbium isn't especially toxic, but since no one really knows for sure it’s considered smart to pretend it is. Also, if you had a cloud of Ytterbium dust, it could be an explosion risk (as is of course also true of, say, flour). Frankly, you’re never going to be around enough of the stuff to give it much of a worry.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Anguissola v. Antonello da Messina

Sofonisba Anguissola


Antonello da Messina
unknown - 1479


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for one month past posting.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's the Book Arts!

an occasional Thursday feature highlighting the work of Mrs.5000 and other book artists or toilers in affiliated vineyards.

Untitled Postcard
Sara, 2011

Fabric on cardboard, stamp.

This is not a classic book arts piece, but in my mind there is a fuzzy edge out there where books are related to the realm of paper ephemera, and postcards are solidly paper ephemera, and even if a postcard is not strictly made of paper it remains conceptually in that realm.  Know what I'm sayin?  Also of course I will always select items for this feature that underscore that I like it when people send me cool things in the mail.

This fabric postcard, from possible reader Sara of Topeka, Kansas -- although, to tell the truth, I'm not at all sure she follows the L&TM5K, hard as that is to understand -- was made with a chunk from a shirt her son had outgrown.  She didn't do the figurative stitching of the bicyclist, in other words, and she seemed a little apologetic on this point.  I think it's cool, though.  Found poetry.

Pretty cool, no?  The Postal Service has the reputation of being all rule-bound, but if you stick an address on something by gum they'll try to get it where you want it to go.  Personally, I think we should keep them around.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wednesday Quiz breaks exciting new ground in the depiction of violence


The Wednesday Quiz, in its third incarnation, is basically the same old weekly game of knowledge, intuition, inductive reasoning, and willingness to risk public embarrassment in a friendly and moderately supportive environment!!  

Traditionally, it is a closed-book quiz.

It is very possible that answers will come out over the weekend.

1. The religion that posits a conflict between the transcendent God, Ahura Mazda, and the agent of evil and chaos, Angra Mainyu, was the state religion of the Persian Empire before Alexander the Great came along. It survives in numerous small communities today, most notably the 100,000 or so Parsis of modern India. (Also, it arguably had a big influence on the modern monotheistic religions.) What's it called?

2. Saccharomyces cerevisiae are a species of fungus that, just by being themselves, conduct the startlingly useful chemical reaction shown below. What do we commonly call these little guys?

3. A student of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and one of the founders of the Jesuit order, he traveled as a missionary in the 1540s and 1550s to modern India, Japan, and Borneo. We speak of St. Francis __________.

4. What 1969 Sam Peckinpah Western spectacular broke exciting new ground in the depiction of violence in the movies?

5. "In the Amsterdam museum, what have we here? The most soulful painter since _____________."

6. Jeremy Bentham referred to it as "the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle," and John Stuart Mill called it "the Greatest-Happiness Principle, which holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." Spock, a fictional character, noted that "logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." They are, perhaps, the 99%. What is the philosophical stance they are espousing?

7. Probably the best-known novel to come out of Nigeria is a 1958 book by Chinua Achebe that takes its title from the Yeats poem "The Second Coming":
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
_____________; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world....
What's the title?

8. What are the two books between Ruth and Kings?

9. This was the first of a series of books about the life of Mr. Harry Angstrom of Brewer, Pennsylvania.

10. This city is the largest in its country, and it used to be the capital, but it's not quite as well-known as its urban neighbor.  What's its name?


Mere anarchy is loosed upon the comments.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Biscuits of Mongolia: #2

The biscuits of Mongolia project is an endeavor of L&TM5K Ambassador to the Post-Soviet Fringe Meaghan. It is republished here by permission.

The biscuits of Mongolia project, #2.

Country of origin: Ukraine.

Packaging languages: Ukrainian and Russian.

Biscuit type: butter biscuit.

Mouthfeel: shattery, burnt caramel undertones, strangely smooth.

Price: 700 tugrugs.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Random Record Review 1: Mozart's Symphonies #40 and #41

The Record: Mozart, Symphonies #40 & #41 ("Jupiter").  Vienna Philharmonic, James Levine conducting.
Format: CD
Year of Release: 1991
Genre: Classical | True Classical | Symphonic

And the first record – but wait, we have a terminology issue. For this project, I guess I'll use “record” or “album” interchangeably to denote the basic unit under consideration. These words both refer to a coherently packaged and marketed collection of songs or other musical pieces, or sometimes a single extended musical piece. Traditionally offered on one or, less commonly, multiple compact discs, vinyl LPs, or cassette tapes, “records” are usually given a identifying cover image and in most cases consist of music produced by a single performer. They tend to be in the neighborhood of forty-five to seventy minutes long. Exceptions are legion.

Let's Try Again

And the first record summoned to stand forward for review – by a process involving both a random number generator and a 20-sided die – is this pairing of Mozart’s final two symphonies. It’s kind of a funny way to start a culling project, because like most people with more than a glancing interest in classic music I think of Mozart 40 and 41 as absolute core collection. Indeed, I own at least three or four recordings of both of them, and none of them are in any danger of being tossed out.

Mozart’s 40th, in particular, has extremely deep roots in my psyche. It was in fact one of the selections on the Reader’s Digest twelve-album boxed set of "Music of the World's Greatest Composers." I discovered this collection waiting inexplicably among my parents’ folk and country records when I was nine or ten, and it would really lay the foundation for all my subsequent taste in music. A few years ago I went to considerable trouble to secure a surviving copy of this vinyl cultural relic, rip it to .mp3, and burn it to CD, so happily I still have that ur-Mozart’s 40th as well as the rest of that formative canon in my collection.

Mozart’s 40th was also the first classical piece I ever heard performed by a live orchestra, at a campus event during my freshman year of college. Any live classical performance is a rediscovery of how much more amazing symphonic sound is in person than it is on a recording, but the first experience of this – how the music can, on a good day, reach right into your body and grab you by the guts – was especially memorable.

The 40th and 41st Symphonies, as well as the 39th, were all thrown together over the course of a few weeks in 1788. Mozart, his career on the decline, likely thought of them primarily as money makers to keep him afloat while he tried to score another big hit opera.  Nevertheless, they are landmarks in the history of the symphony. Mozart, like Haydn, wrote scads of the short, light concert pieces called symphonies in the early and middle phases of their career. These can be less than ten minutes long, and most of them, although pleasant enough, don't generally knock our socks off these days.  With pieces like the ones on this disc, though, the symphony is in transition to something bigger, longer, more complex, more dynamic, and more expressive.  Beethoven would take the ball from them and continue expanding the symphony into the epic, thundering form that would dominate the 19th Century.

The 40th is wistful and graceful and poignant, and dear to my heart. The 41st, sometimes called “The Jupiter,” is more muscular and assertive, and like all Mozart it’s terrific, but it has never got its hooks into me like the 40th. This particular CD is on the Deutsche Grammophon label, which is always good. I'm really not sure when it entered my collection.

Decision: Strong Keep.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Andrea del Sarto v. Fra Angelico

Andrea del Sarto


Fra Angelico
c.1387 - 1455


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for one month past posting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flag Friday XXXVI

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Calling it "simple," he gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The twelve-pointed star really isn't especially simple, by flag standards, but it's a simple enough applique job for an accomplished Betsy Ross figure.  I personally find this flag strangely unmemorable, almost generic.  It doesn't do anything wrong, mind you, but neither does it especially stand out.

Grade: B


Parsons: With "bad colours," it gets a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: It's been a while since I got to invoke the concept of "Josh Parsons hates Christmas," but here's a prime example.  We've got red, white, green, and a somewhat fussy crown-and-stars motto in gold.  The crown seems strange to me, as I don't really think of the Tajiks as a monarchical sort of society, but I'm no expert, but my point is, "bad colours"?  I don't get it.  They are such innocuous colours!  Kind of nice, really!

Grade: B


Parsons: Also with "bad colours," but it gets a more generous "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: OK, this flag is a bit of an oddball, particularly in the African context.  If you're like me -- and are we not all rather like-minded folks in this little community? -- you probably look at this one and think "Caribbean."  But no.

The thing about the Tanzanian flag is, it reflects the political history of the country it represents.  I'll just remind you that Tanzania was formed by the 1964 merger of the Republic of Tanganyika -- which had previously been a British colony and, before the First World War, the bulk of German East Africa:

...and Zanzibar, offshore islands that had a brief fling with sovereignty after decades as a British protectorate.

You can see on the flag that Zanzibar brought more clout than you might expect to the union.  With only about two percent of the combined country, they nevertheless got a major redesign of the country's flag, its name, and its constitution (Zanzibar remains semi-autonomous, raising exciting questions of whether its the local or national treasury that's going to cash in if it turns out that the theory of big oil deposits underneath one of the islands turns out to be true.  But I digress.)

Much as I like white stripelets, I seem to have a hard time loving gold stripelets.

Grade: B-


Parsons: Without any comment, it ends up with a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000:  Of the many, many red-white-and-blue flags out there, this one stands out as a clean and distinctive design, striking and with no hint of fussiness.  Somehow, I confess, it has never said "Thailand" to me, and I'm not sure why that is.  But this gives me just a bit of a bias against it.

Grade: B


Parsons: With "bad colours," it gets a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: There's nothing especially wrong with the colours, yet It is a truth universally acknowledged that Togo's flag is a bit of a clunker.  Five stripes is a tricky number -- they are very thick stripes, but yet not the full fledged horizontal fields of a tricolor.  Having the red field come an unusual 3/5 of the way down the flag, and then again to have it be a perfect square, are both odd features.  Though composed of the simplest of geometric shapes, the whole thing has the effect of being strangely misshapen.  I kind of like it for all that; as one of the ugly ducklings among the African flags, it at least has the virtue of being one of the easier ones to remember.

Grade: C+

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Not Quite the Book Arts!

...but it's a painting by someone who is among my very favorite book artists, our own fingerstothebone or, as she calls herself for marketing purposes, Shu-ju Wang.  It's called, a bit cryptically, They've Got Gold Trouble (Gouache on paper mounted on board, 12" x 12"), and it's mine. MINE!  MINE!  MINE!  For Mrs.5000 gave it to me for my birthday!*  That means I can do whatever I want with it, including taking a mediocre picture of it on the back porch:

I think it is terrific.  I feel really lucky to be able to have beautiful things like this right here in my house, where I live.

As a special bonus -- kind of like how a DVD often comes with a "the making of" video -- the evolution of this painting was chronicled on fingers' blog.  You can read about the process, and look at a better picture (and pictures of various stages along the way) here.  It was a year in the making!

* It must be said that Mrs.5000 seems to hedge on this point a little bit, trying to imply that she got it "for us for [my] birthday."  I don't even think that phrase makes grammatical sense, do you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I never travel without The Wednesday Quiz.


The Wednesday Quiz, in its third incarnation, is basically the same old weekly game of knowledge, intuition, inductive reasoning, and willingness to risk public embarrassment in a friendly and moderately supportive environment!!  With a minor twist that will probably make it rather difficult at first!  

Traditionally, it is a closed-book quiz.

It is very possible that answers will come out over the weekend.

1. It's a hormone and neurotransmitter that increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels, dilates air passages, and basically gets you either all fired up or all in a panic. It is more commonly referred to by its popular name. (Indeed, it seems like the name I have in mind for it here isn't even used outside of the U.S., so international participants may think of this as question 5b.)

2. Probably the greatest single figure in the history of scientific study of barnacles -- he dedicated much of his career to them -- was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln. The two men are perhaps equally famous. Who am I talking about?

3. The Princess Imogen is the heroine of the Shakespeare play with the memorable stage direction Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. What is the play called?

4. Whoops!  I accidentally erased another title from a movie poster!  What is the name of the classic film here advertised?

5. You hear a lot about this place if you read much history. It was a major center of the Eastern Mediteranian in the first millenium c.e., a major center of early Christianity, and the main center of European control of the crusader kingdom. Why don't we hear about it these days? Well, a series of earthquakes didn't help anything, but it was the 1268 sacking, burning, and massacre of its inhabitants that really knocked the city off the map. Welcome to _______________.

6. Introduced in the 1990s as an alternative to beer and wine coolers, this product -- a flavored malt liquor -- was heavily marketed and, for a time, quite popular. Interest tailed off rapidly, however, and the massive MillerCoors alcohol-producing conglomorate eventually discontinued manufacture in 2008.

7. Between the Lancastrians and the Tudors came this lively family -- brought to life vividly, if perhaps a little unfairly, in Richard III.

8. Introduced in the 1990s as an alternative to crime dramas, hospital soap operas, and situation comedies, this product was heavily marketed and, for a time, quite popular. Interest tailed off, however, and the massive Fox media conglomerate eventually discontinued manufacture in 2002. And here is a picture of one of its sets:

9. He wrote "A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally," "A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her," " I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train," and various other clever things.

10. You expected The Arnolfini Portrait, but here's something else by the 15th century Dutch master for a change.  What is his name?


Put your answers in the comments in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Biscuits of Mongolia: #1

The biscuits of Mongolia project is an endeavor of L&TM5K Ambassador to the Post-Soviet Fringe Meaghan. It is republished here by permission, although I haven't yet held up my own half of that agreement.  I better get on that.

The biscuits of Mongolia project, #1.

Country of origin: Ukraine.

Packaging languages: Russian, Ukrainian, English (GB), and Kazakh.

Biscuit type: butter biscuit.

Mouthfeel: dust and ashes, slightly gritty.

Price: 550 tugrugs.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Ossification of Music

Do you ever think you were happier with your music collection when you just had the four cassette tapes and the little cassette-tape case still with twenty empty slots, with only new and fresh and consciously chosen music on hand and more expectations to your name than reminiscences?  Well, of course you don’t; that’s ~my~ memory, not yours.  And it’s a false memory to boot, ignoring as it does at least a cubic foot of vinyl albums.

But you see my point.  Over time, music collections tend to clog up like bad plumbing.  There is very little incentive to get rid of any given album.  It’s not like anybody is really going to want your old CDs, and besides that they are good, or at least not bad, and they have that one song that you used to listen to in college on them.   And you might feel like listening to them again sometime.  And since this logic is flawless for any given record, music collections as a whole grow into bulky, unlovable repositories of our past and never-quite-abandoned musical tastes, with more cumulative running time than we will ever, ever have listening time to appreciate.  They have music for every mood, but this includes quite a few moods we don’t experience anymore.  And, because they obligate us to keep looking over our shoulder at the music of the past, they somewhat cut us off from new musical experiences that might be, you know, cool.

This has only been exacerbated by the migration of music away from tangible media.  Since it is so easy to download something because of something some guy said on a friend’s Facebook, and then completely forget about it, digital music collections are completely unruly.  To be honest, I even don’t really have a good sense of how much music I have on my two computers, let alone the actual contents.  It’s a lot.  A lot.

There’s also a further complication involved for those of us who are married or otherwise engaged in joint property ownership.  In the wedded household, not one but two people must overcome the inertia of ownership if anything is to be discarded, and this applies doubly to something so comfortable and innocuous as dated media.


1)      lamanyana has been doing this thing on Facebook where he’s been listening to all of his vinyl records (a sizeable pile, too) in alphabetical order.  You don’t have to know me very well to anticipate that I think this idea is SUPERCOOL.

2)      I was surprised, when doing the four-year L&TM5K retrospective, to learn that some people actually enjoyed the essentially random record reviews that I was posting here for a year or so. 

So put all of this together and, what the hell, why not a new project?  Here’s the plan:

1)      Every couple of weeks, I pick a record at random from my collection.  No mean feat, since the collection sprawls over multiple media and hard drives, but I think I’ve got a crude system in place.

2)      I listen to it a few times.

3)      I make either an affirmative decision to keep it, or I toss it… to Mrs.5000, with a note indicating that it is “nominated for removal from the collection.”  (This will obviously have to be done with discretion and tact in situations where, for instance, the record in question has been Mrs.5000s since her college days.)

4)      I write up a glib little essay or review of the record here.

5)      And, over time, perhaps I evolve some sort of catalog of what music I actually own, and in what format, and – if it’s on a computer – where I might find it. 

Interspersed with all of the above, I think I will, just for fun, get ten (10) CDs at the upcoming Friends of the Library sale – it’s the weekend after next – and play that game again too.  What the heck.

We’ll see how it goes.  For now, I’ll go see how my random music selection system works.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Amigoni v. Andre

Jacopo Amigoni


Carl Andre
b. 1935


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for one month past posting.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's the Book Arts!

an occasional Thursday feature highlighting the work of Mrs.5000 and other book artists or toilers in affiliated vineyards.

Congratulations to Atlanta's prestigious Emory University, which has joined the elite group of institutions across this great continent with a original work by Mrs.5000 in their rare book collection!!  Here's a peak of what you have to look forward to, if you happen to be in the greater Hotlanta area.

Mrs.5000, 2011

Accordion-fold with collage and acrylics; cotton-wrapped polyester thread, perforated circuit board, airplane linen, watercolor paper and wood veneer on poplar. 6 pages. 4.25 x 3.5 x 2.25 inches. 2011. Unique.

"Interlinear" will be at The City of Roses' own 23Sandy Gallery until October 29th, at which point it moves to its new home in Georgia.  So, if you live west of the Rockies, you will probably want to plan your month accordingly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

James Stewart and Kim Novak in: "The Wednesday Quiz"


The Wednesday Quiz, in its third incarnation, is basically the same old weekly game of knowledge, intuition, inductive reasoning, and willingness to risk public embarrassment in a friendly and moderately supportive environment!!  With a minor twist that will probably make it rather difficult at first!  

Traditionally, it is a closed-book quiz.

It is very possible that answers will come out over the weekend.

1. This play features a scene on the seacoast of Bohemia from which an unfortunate character is made to "Exit, pursued by a bear."

2. Whoops, I accidentally erased the name of the movie on this poster! What's it called, again?

3. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, thought that "cry of praise emitted during the worship of Athena started in North Africa, because it is often employed by African women, who do it extremely well." What's the word for kind of high-pitched trilling that is still customary at various occasions today throughout North Africa and the Middle East, among other locations?

4. Where's this?

5. It's that word for the idea that the whole universe only exists in your own thoughts.

6. He's the hero... no, wait, he's the villain... well, anyway, he's the main character of Crime and Punishment.

7. What are these?

8. Tchaikovsky had three, but only one that gets much attention. Beethoven had five, Mozart had twenty-seven, Brahms had two, but Bach had none at all, having been born too early. What kind of music are we talking about here?

9. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004, when he was elected to the Senate.

10. The world's largest supplier of sporting apparel was called "Blue Ribbon Sports" when it was founded in 1964. In the 1970s, it renamed itself after the Greek goddess of victory. It is of course ________.


Put your answers in the comments before being elected to the Senate.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Michael5000 Kitchen: Curry Bread


Great cooks do not hesitate to improvise, to follow their muse into new culinary terrain.  This recipe was wholly improvisational.  Indeed, it was inspired entirely by circumstance.

It so happened that Mrs.5000 decided to purchase a new bottle of curry powder, despite the fact that there was still an inch or so of spice left in the bottle that we already had.  Needless to say, I inquired after this seemingly rash stewardship of resources, but Mrs.5000 was ready with the reasonable retort that she had had our existing bottle of curry powder "probably since college."  Now naturally one does not discuss a lady's age, but to give you an idea of the time frame here it is relevant to point out that I composed many of my own college papers on a "typewriter," and that Mrs.5000 is a bit of a cradle-robber.

To further underscore her point, my dear wife had me close my eyes and sniff each of the bottles in turn.  One smelled strongly of curry spice; the other smelled like the fading memory of an Indian restaurant.

So fine, the new bottle made sense.  But what to do about the old bottle?  The suggestion that we "just toss it" was of course unacceptable, as I am not one to write property off lightly and there was no positive indication that it had become especially poisonous.  I undertook to find a good use for it.

The Recipe:

What I did was, I made a batch of my go-to bread machine recipe for "potato bread," which is basically a white bread recipe that includes about 1 part mashed potato flakes for 8 parts flour.  Then, before I pressed the button that makes the bread machine spring to life, I dumped all of the remaining olde curry powder into the baking vessel.  And then I waited three hours.

The Results:

You might be surprised how well this worked.  The spice did not interfere with a beautifully rising loaf, for one thing.  The house started to smell fairly awesome after a few hours, and when the machine chirped we found that we had a very tasty savory bread on our hands.

It was also quite yellow.  That would be the turmeric talking.

It was, like most bread, delicious while warm from the baking, but it also seemed more flavorful after cooling.  It was perhaps less versatile than most breads -- no good for peanut butter and jelly, for instance -- but I found it was pretty good with hummus and even ventured a reasonable cheese sandwich.  I even ended up sharing a piece, after several caveats, with a teenager, who described it as "different but pretty good"; I should mention, though, that this was an especially polite teenager.

If you would like to experiment with your own Curry Bread, it occurs to me that you need not put away a store of curry powder now so that it will be ready to use many years hence.  Indeed, you -- or I, for that matter -- might experiment with using smaller quantities of fresher, more potent spices in our bread recipes, and see how that works.  After all, as I said at the beginning: great cooks do not hesitate to improvise.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing (Portland Actors Ensemble)

The Play: Much Ado about Nothing.
Directed by: Asae Dean, for the Portland Actors Ensemble

Genre & Setting: We have already encountered Much Ado About Nothing twice before, once in Ken Branaugh’s exuberant funfest and again in a typically drab BBC adaptation. This time it was an in-the-park performance on a lovely summer day. More exactly, it was performed on the campus green of Reed College, with that intellectual institution’s stately Eliot Hall forming an appropriately old-worldy background. The genre is “one of the comedies that are hard to remember the title to,” with some distasteful unpleasantness toward the end.

The Gist, which will obviously involve spoilers: This is the one where everybody has to stage an intervention to get Beatrice and Benedick hooked up, and where poor little Hero gets humiliated at the alter after that bastard Don John slanders her, because her fiancé Claudio is dumber than dirt and insufficiently imaginative to ask even the simplest of questions.

The Adaptation: The Portland Actors Ensemble puts on a good show, so there was a large crowd. We were stuck a long ways from the stage at a right angle to the action, but got our fair share of entertainment just the same. The “stage” was just a patch of the lawn with a few trellises set up as entry and exit points. You had to pretend you didn’t see the “offstage” actors, which was no problem whatsoever and added a kind of spontaneous charm to the proceedings.

In these circumstances, I pretty much focused on and enjoyed the jolly first half, and then kind of let myself drift and enjoy being out for the afternoon in the second half. It was nice.

I’m used to finding the musical intervals in Shakespeare pretty embarrassing, but a highlight of this performance was the songs. The “Hey Nonny Nonny” business that the play starts was especially great, belted out by a glorious alto singer whose name I wish I had caught, as she isn’t identified in the program. Man, she had pipes.

Oh, the other exciting moment came when I read in the program that the title of the play is to be read as a pun that could mean much ado about “noting,” which is to say overhearing, of which there is a great deal in this play. This discovery yields the exciting possibility that I may eventually be able to associate the action of this play correctly with its name!

Prognosis: I miss summer already, don’t you?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Alma-Tadema v. Altdorfer

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Dutch; worked in England


Albrecht Altdorfer


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for one month past posting.