Wednesday, December 3

United State of Pop 2014

DJ Earworm mashes up 24 of the biggest hits from the past year, and somehow creates something more listenable than any of the individual tracks.

Literary Lights

My English-teacher wife might appreciate these for our bathroom.

Wednesday, November 26

Aimee Mann also has a new xmas song

With the Both, who we'll be seeing next week at her annualish Xmas concert. This interview from Slate prompted me to look up the hilariously over-the-top lyrics to Alone Again (Naturally). Go read them, they're a hoot.

Wednesday, October 22

Elliot Smith

E.S. killed himself (probably!?) 11 years ago today. Huge loss. Chronic depression is a bitch.

Wednesday, October 15

Ricky Jay

I ran into magician/actor/raconteur Ricky Jay at an Art Spiegelman presentation on wordless comics and woodcuts. I said "Ricky Jay?" And he said, "Why, yes, " and I said "You're awesome!" He laughed and said thanks.

Living in L.A. Is alright sometimes.

Tuesday, October 7


No one you know under the age of 40 has any memory of a world where the Clash did not exist.

Thursday, October 2

Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon
Based on Anthony Bourdain's version from his Les Halles cookbook

2 lb stewing steak, cut into 1.5 inch cubes. No fancy cuts, and no lean meat -- you want 20% fat.
1/4 cup olive oil
4 onions, or 3 if they are ginormous; chop into a 1/4" or so dice
2 tbsp flour
1 cup burgundy -- it doesn't have to be great, but you're going to end up drinking the rest of the bottle, so don't skimp too much.
6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bouquet garni -- a couple bay leaves, some thyme and Italian (flat-leaf) parsley wrapped up in a little cheesecloth bag
additional flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper
2 big spoonfuls of demi-glace (optional).

Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom metal pan (important: don't use non-stick, or try to brown all of the meat in multiple pans at once; you want to build up a nice fond in your cooking pot, as well as render the meat fat and juices for your stew) heat the oil on high until it is shimmery, but before it starts smoking. Add a portion (probably a quarter or so) of the meat and brown it well on all sides. You need to leave space between all the chunks of beef in the pan so that they will sear and brown. If you crowd the meat in the pan, it will steam and turn grey instead. Take out the meat as it finishes and set aside. Depending on the size of your pot, this could take 3-6 batches.

When you're done with the meat, throw the onions in the pot and lower the heat to a medium-high. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Sprinkle the flour over them, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Then add the wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape all the fond off the bottom of the pan.

When the wine has gotten to boiling, add the meat back to the pot, along with the carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni (as well as the demi glace if you have it). Add enough water to cover the meat by about half (e.g., if your meat and veg take up 4 inches in the pot, you want the water to come up to about 6 inches in the pot.) Bring this to a boil, and the turn it down to a simmer for about 2.5 hours, give or take. The onions and garlic will completely disappear into the broth, which should start to thicken toward the end. The remaining wine should disappear into you and your guests' gullets.

Every 15-20 minutes, check on the dish -- ladle off any foamy or scummy looking brack on the surface of the stew, stir it, and scrape any fond from the pan. When done, remove the bouquet garni, ladle into shallow bowls with maybe a boiled new potato or noodles, and garnish with some chopped flat parsley.

Makes about 8 servings. Fortunately, it reheats well; you can add additional wine or water if needed the second day.

Wednesday, October 1

Your Astronomy Horoscope for the Day

The stars and planets are going to continue doing their thing with no effect by you or upon you. The Universe is largely empty, and entirely void of message or meaning, but try to be nice to people today, regardless.

Tuesday, August 12

On the Death of Robin Williams

I went through a medium-sized spell of depression shortly after my daughter was born, maybe around 9 months after. I had been unemployed for about 2 years, and was feeling like a complete failure. Like I had blown all my capital in the tech industry, and was now 40-something, and felt like I was not technical enough to be terribly hirable. And also 40+ in an industry that fetishizes youth.

I'm only writing this down because these are the sort of feelings I tend to eat, and swallow them deep inside because it would be better if I'd never had them. Even now the experience is receding a bit and if I don't document it now, it will soon never have happened. And maybe this helps someone see that someone else felt this way.

So I was supposed to be the happy new father and didn't feel that way at all. In fact my daughter was at an age where I could sense her frustration at trying to express herself and not being able to -- the "I have no mouth and I must scream" stage of development. And it made me want to jump out of my skin. Nothing worse than feeling you are supposed to be in the happiest time of your life and being literally unable to sit still with your own thoughts.

And you can't really quantify depression, and there's no point in it, but I would say I was moderately depressed. I don't know if I can say I was suicidal, but it seemed like that was certainly one possible option. I never got to the point where I started making efforts to actually bring that about. But I am sure if my brain chemistry were 10% more fucked there is a chance I would not be here to write this.

And I don't know who is reading this, but you probably know me: I am not exceptional. I am just some guy you know. And if I have actually entertained the possibility of suicide, probably a lot of people you know have, too. Perhaps you.

And it's an option! Not a great one, but I understand why someone might choose it. At the time it seems like things are never going to feel "normal" again. It's ridiculous to say, "Well, you have to consider the feelings of your spouse or children." That literally has no bearing when you are feeling like this is the end of the line. It's not callous disregard. It's just "this is the time to check out."

I got lucky. Circumstances changed and I started to feel less hopeless. If I had been wiser I would have been seeing a therapist -- your G.P., great as she may be, can prescribe anti-depressants but really is not qualified to treat mental health issues. When you are depressed, taking care of you is probably the hardest thing to do. But confide in someone about how you are feeling, and let them help you. It is probably the best thing you could do for the person you know who needs the most sympathetic handling right now -- you.

Robin Williams is not "in a better place now." He simply has ceased to be. By choice -- and I actually feel people should have that choice. But it's a permanent choice. You don't get a do-over. This is a beautiful world, for the time being, at least. Eat all of it. Love. Play music. Teach a kid how to swim. Learn how to cook traditional cuisine of a random country selected by a dart thrown at a map. Road trip. Cross-stitch. Parkour.

If those options don't sound more appealing than shuffling off this mortal coil, or even just pulling the covers over your head for the next 12 hours, you need to be talking to a professional in the mental health field, ASAP.

Nanu nanu.