happy 2008! (year of the rat)

Pie tossin'

New York was good. Felt different than previous visits, though. I wanted to visit some other cities on the way back but didn't really find any good bus deals in time. How is there no chinatown bus between D.C. and Va Beach? So strange.

So I did try to make a pizza the other day. It actually came out decent but I definitely made some mistakes:

a) The dough should always lean towards being a bit too wet before letting it rise. It's strange when dough dries from air - just feels crusty like old playdoh and makes it hard to shape later.

b) Gotta work on pie tossing skill. Let the dough warm up a bit without touching, then start working it really fast into a natural circle without folding anything. I think I overworked one and it started to dry out.

c) Put down a LOT of flour on your working surface...basic stuff I know. Nothing creates a panic like trying to slide your pizza into the oven with the heat blaring at you and the damn pie sticking while you frantically try to pick up and re-adjust the fragile limp dough. AHHHH!

d) Need a pizza stone/ceramic thing. I thought heating up a metal pan would work, but it was hard to get the pizza onto it because it would slide around. Also the metal warps when heated. Ceramic all the way.

e) Just because you get fancy looking canned tomatoes doesn't mean they'll taste good (I'm looking at you overpriced-minimally-labeled-pseudo-authentic-san-marzano can). I think the sauce was the weakest link in the whole equation.

On the last one the dough was messed up so I thought I'd "improvise" and make a calzone. I tossed a bunch of stuff and folded it like a taco...what I ended up with was a saggy u-shaped bread thing with sauce and melted cheese inside. Probably not the right way to do it.

NYC happenings

Heading up to NYC this weekend for a few things:

Blip Fest (8-bit music festival)
Orange Drink show @ Pianos NYC
Harry Partch Performance (possibly)
Neapolitan style pizza (I want to learn how to make this...anybody have a 900 degree oven I could borrow? So far Coal Fire in Chicago is my favorite)

Keep Reachin' Up!

Here's a sample from Spinnerty + Hopper's latest mix CD: Keep Reachin' Up! comprised of tunes written by contemporary funk composers emulating and expanding on that "classic" sound.

'MERIKA. Libarty comes in a V8 engine!

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post was the insane air traffic these days on the beach. When I had to walk down to the bus stop, I think I witnessed at least ten fighter jets scream through the air, I'm guessing headed home from an aircraft carrier on the ocean to the nearby naval base. But jesus, these damn things sound like they are tearing a hole through the sky. If you've ever been to an air show, you know what I mean - it's like taking a giant sheet of paper the size of the sky and slowly ripping it in half. If you don't cover your ears and you are within a few hundred feet, the pain is kinda excruciating and mind numbing.

That morning I had woken with this terrifying dream I was stuck in a San Francisco earthquake - only to wake up realizing the trembling I was feeling was from a giant jet returning home from Iraq. Kinda disturbing.

Today when I went on a bike ride down the beach, I couldn't help but notice something new: a fleet of military helicopters flying probably only 100 feet up in the sky. I mean, glancing up I could see the face of the pilot, it was that close. It feels kinda eerie to witness these helicopters and fighter jets flying overhead. I don't know if people around here find it comforting, but just knowing these things representing death and destruction liberty and freedom are literally looming overhead - it kinda freaks me out and makes the whole situation that much more real.

As I biked back home, it appeared that they were closing the boardwalk for the festival of lights they do every year. Basically every year, the city decorates this long stretch of beach with christmas lights in the shape of nutcrackers, drummer boys, santa, dolphins and mermaids playing catch with a beachball, and various other imagery.

Despite my love of things that go blinky in the night, a number of things weirded me out this year (and also proved how 'merikan virginia beach is):

1) Helicopters and jets were flying overhead. 'MERIKAN!

2) There was a GIANT christmas light display in the shape of an american flag with the words: GOD BLESS AMERICA underneath. DOUBLE 'MERIKAN!

3) They closed the beach sidewalk to pedestrians and bikers. CARS ONLY! In fact, several "security" types yelled at me, "EXCUSE ME YOUNG MAN, THE BOARDWALK IS CLOSED". I threw strawberry sherbert (sherbit?) in their face and continued on. I guess I wasn't creating enough pollution to have a right to be on the beach? V8 engine = 'MERIKAN!

4) The first car to cruise the boardwalk was a nice yellow Hummer. Ironic, yes, but definitely 'MERIKAN!

I think the guy yelling at me to get off the boardwalk really pissed me off though. I didn't really mind any one of those things, but the combination of all of them really added up to a fucked up picture in my head.



$1.50 Suburban Adventure


Growing up in Virginia Beach, there wasn't a whole lot to do. We generally had to make up our own fun or just get in a car and go somewhere...anywhere. The idea of driving around aimlessly, usually from one store to another store, basically summarizes what we call a Suburban Adventure. It was mostly about just hanging out with friends, having fun, and becoming incredibly determined to accomplish some goal, like finding a place that sells sour patch kids, playing four square in the local walmart, or visiting every single thrift store on Va Beach Blvd to rummage through their dusty record collections.

I thought while back in VB, I'd try an adventure without a car - by taking the bus around town. While the bus system has been the butt of many jokes in VB (sparse service, limited routes, overwhelming dominance of cars), having lived in Chicago I thought I'd give it a shot to see if it is possible to get around VB without a car.

I set out with an admirable SB goal: find a notebook and running shoes.

I think I left my house at around 4:30 pm, with $1.50 in hand, and waited at the nearby bus station for about half an hour. I saw a bus go by, but waved it on 'cause I thought it was the wrong one. After waiting another ten minutes, I realized the bus I wanted wouldn't come until 7:30 pm. Ok...I would have to pick up the bus I wanted much farther down, on 19th street. So I started walking down the beach, about 30 blocks. I could've waited for another bus to take me that distance, but I'd have to wait another hour. So by the time I got down to 19th street, I saw the bus I wanted and ran towards it.

When I got on the bus at 6:08 pm, I paid the fair and sat down, only to have the bus driver tell me we had to sit around for ten minutes before we could start going. Nobody else was on the bus. We started going at around 6:20 pm, picking up a few people on the way as we winded our way towards Norfolk.

I got off the bus around 7:00 pm near Pembroke Mall. This area is the manufactured "downtown" district of Virginia Beach. Back in the day, this area only had a small sized mall and a movie theatre. Now they've constructed some moderately tall sized buildings bunched up together in one spot, with Town Centre Dr. road running through it. The local "skyscraper" is a tall parking garage about 30 stories high with a large pole and blinking light at the top. Laughable, but endearing - you have to give them an "A" for effort. It wouldn't be half bad if there wasn't a monstrous four lane semi-highway bordering one side of it. This road is freakishly unfriendly to pedestrians, which means getting off the bus and crossing this street involves a 60 yard sprint. This place was built for cars, and I felt like a small human running wildly through its deserted parking lots to avoid getting hit.

First stop was a giant Barnes and Noble which is hard to miss, so picking up the notebook was pretty easy. I then crossed a parking lot to get some soup at a Schlotsky's, which brought back some strange memories (my friend's band once played a show in this parking lot). I meandered through the "downtown" district and found myself lost in a sea of construction and buildings just tall enough to obstruct my view of what was down the road. After finding the massive sports store outlet, I found the shoe section and then my shoe-buying phobia kicked in so I quickly ran out of there.

Heading back home, I walked about 3/4 a mile down the boulevard searching for the bus stop. It was pretty hard to find as the street lamps combined with car headlights pretty much silhouettes anything in the distance. I waited about twenty minutes and picked up the bus around 8:20, which was suprisingly crowded. I fell asleep only to wake up as the only person left on the bus. We were back on 19th street. This bus was supposed to go all the way to 68th street, so the driver asked me where I was headed. He then quickly got in gear and started trucking down Atlantic Ave. Then all of a sudden two blocks later, he stops the bus in front of a subway, tells me "I'll be right back" and jumps out. I thought maybe he had to go to the bathroom or something, but as I look harder, I see him standing in line to get a sandwich.

Sure enough, ten minutes pass by and he comes running back with a sandwich and large soda in his hand. Too funny.

He dropped me off near my house and I think I walked through the door at 9:30 pm.

I can't imagine trying to use this bus system reliably as an alternative to driving a car around these parts. Things are just way too spaced out. It's tough and there is little flexibility with timing. The schedules also run at odd times and not always bi-directionally. And then when you get off the bus, most likely you'll have to run across huge intersections of traffic to get to your destination. Kind of exhausting in a man-vs-machine sort of way.

But it was pretty hilarious and with a group of friends during the summer could rival the best driving adventures. Although don't count on getting home on time!

Oh Yea, It's Pomegranate Season

Get 'em while they are hot.

OiNK, Saul, Trent

No doubt you've heard the news about the popular bittorrent website OiNK being shut down. Here's a short article with Saul Williams and Trent Reznor, talking about why they released their new album in the Radiohead style and Trent explaining how he was an OiNK user.

They're not stealing it because they're going to make money off of it; they're stealing it because they love the band. I'm not saying that I think OiNK is morally correct, but I do know that it existed because it filled a void of what people want.

In stock!

Saul Williams w/ Trent Reznor...Album Release

Hey guys,

Just a heads up about another D.I.Y. digital distribution strategy. Saul Williams has released his new album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! (produced by Trent Reznor of NIN) online, and has given the option to either pay $5 and download the album in your preferred format - options available are 320 kbps, 192 kbps, or FLAC (lossless). The other option is to pay $0 and download the album in 192 kbps. I kind of like this strategy even better than the Radiohead release, mainly because it lays out the options very plainly. For me, I immediately opted to pay (they support Paypal too) and get the FLAC version. It looks like they are using Amazon's S3 service to deliver the album.

Site: http://niggytardust.com/saulwilliams/download