Fancy Paperclips

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When David and Chor Pharn visited from Singapore a few weeks back, they brought some interesting Japanese-made paperclips as a gift.  They were in transportation-themed shapes and made for some fun photographing.  Go macro lens, go!

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Train

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Bike

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Plane

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Car

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And a box of small airplane paperclips, which looked nice in black and white.

Very thoughtful and fun gift.

 

 

 

Sleep Deprived

I’m more of a morning person and Tawn is more of a night owl.  Last night, as I was lying in bed starting to doze off, he came in and wanted to talk to me about Something Important.  Of course, I ended up being awake, unable to fall back asleep. 

After an hour or more of lying there awake, I got up again and decided to do something productive with my time.  Several hours later, pushing 3 am, I decided I had better take a sleeping pill so I could get some rest.

Unfortunately, I forgot that I had asked my sister to call me in the morning so we could discuss an upcoming vacation.  So at 7:30 my phone rang and I answered it and started my day.

Despite running for 45 minutes in the morning, hoping to get my circulation going, I’m still dragging.  It is 4 in the afternoon and my head aches and my body is tired and I just want to sleep, but I don’t want to mess up my sleep cycle this evening so I’m going to try and avoid napping.

Rats.  Usually I’m such a good sleeper, too.  Let’s hope this doesn’t cause me to get sick before we leave for the US on Thursday.

 

When Did Glee Become Gay?

Glee

Not that long ago we were having lunch with a couple we know from California.  They’re a straight couple, the husband is a pilot (which is a relatively macho profession, I guess), and they really enjoy the TV show Glee.  The husband was mentioning how much guff he gets from fellow pilots – the vast majority of whom are male – about this.  Of course, the running conceit of the show is that the glee club students keep getting bullied because being in show choir is “so gay”.  That got me to wondering, when did the idea of being in glee club become gay?

Male Performers

Consider examples of men singing through the ages: Think of the cowboys who had a guitar or harmonica, singing by the campfire.  Think of the family gatherings a century or more ago where different members of the family would play instruments or sing in the family parlour after dinner to entertain each other.  Think of the famous opera singers with their rich voices.  Think of the bad boys of rock and roll, hip hop, and punk.  Think of Bruce Springsteen, for goodness’ sakes. 

None of these strike me as particularly effeminate.  Sure, I can make the jokes about Brokeback Mountain (“wasn’t just the harmonica he was blowing…”) and there are the occasional Freddie Mercuries and Frankie Goes to Hollywoods as counterexamples.  But for the most part, being a singer was a sure way to get the girls.  So when did glee club in school get this negative association?

The good news is that, in an age when the arts budgets are the first on the chopping block in local school districts, it seems that the TV show Glee has sparked some new interest in show choirs at high schools across the US.  Both my mother and her father were music educators and I’m sure they’re happy for anything that renews interest in music at the school level.

 

Goddess Tubtim Shrine

Tucked behind the Nai Lert Hotel, alongside the San Saeb canal and underneath an ancient ficus tree, lies a shrine dedicated to the goddess Tubtim.  Originally a spirit house, the place where the spirit of the land (who was disrupted by your building on it) would reside, the shrine evolved over time into an unintentional fertility shrine as more and more worshipers brought offerings of phalluses.  Ranging from the symbolic to the highly realistic, the collection fills the area around the shrine.

While my friend David and Chor Pharn were visiting from Singapore, we stopped by for a look.  Here’s a short video to give you a sense of the setting.

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A healthy selection of phallus-shaped offerings left around the largest ficus tree at the shrine.  The irony is, sex toys are illegal in Thailand so if you were to try to bring a legitimate dildo into the country, you would be stopped.  By highly realistic phalluses for the purpose of spirit worship?  That’s okay.

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Some of these phalluses are quite detailed.  And at least one has studs in it, perhaps representing the Folsom Street Fair community?

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Normally, spirit houses have some small sculptural figures meant to represent both the spirits as well as those who are there to entertain and serve them.  So many figures have been added that they are arranged on two adjacent shelves.  You can see the San Saeb canal in the background.

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The figures include representation of parents as well as a host of animals.

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Also, there are more than 100 traditional Thai dancers to keep the spirits entertained.

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And, inexplicably, a pair of male dolls.  Barbie’s gay brother Eric and his lover Stephen?  The women on the upper shelf are all ladies in waiting.

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Who’s living in the spirit house?  I spy a kitten!

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This one seems to have a fungal infection.  Experiencing any itching or burning sensation?

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On a tangential note, I thought I’d share this picture of the jasmine garlands that are sold by local flower vendors.  These are the types of garlands that Tawn and Chor Pharn were trying to make in this entry.

 

Malaysian Roasted Root Vegetables with WORLDFOODS Chilli Coconut Marinade

Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade Recently, I was invited to attend a dinner sponsored by WORLDFOODS, a Malaysian based maker of high quality Asian-inspired sauces, marinades, chutneys, and pastes.  I walked away with a bag of several of their 51 different products and a challenge: come up with and blog about new and creative ways to cook with their products. 

The first product I used was their Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade.  It was a weeknight and I needed to prepare a quick meal.  One chicken breast and thirty minutes later, I had a tasty protein ready to cook and add to a salad.  There were two things that caught my attention about the marinade:

First, one reason I cook a lot is that I want to know what I’m putting in my body.  Looking at the ingredient list, I was pleased to see familiar, pronounceable words.  No artificial colors, preservatives, flavorings, MSG, or gluten.

Second, the flavor was remarkably good and remarkably authentic.  Unlike a lot of “Asian” products that are watered down versions of popular sauces, the WORLDFOODS products have the same ingredients (and the same amount of chilies!) that you find when eating these foods in their home country.  While available worldwide, you won’t find any “Americanization” of the flavors.

Wanting to find ways to use the marinade differently than its traditional use, I put the right side of my brain to work.  The idea I settled on was to do roasted root vegetables, something I associate more with olive oil and rosemary, and use the Chilli Coconut Marinade as a glaze.

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I decided on a combination of yams and beets (about 1.5 pounds or 750 grams total), with two yellow onions and a handful of garlic cloves.  These were scrubbed and, except for the yams, peeled.  Then I sliced them into approximately 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.

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When I cut open the yams I was surprised to discover that they did not have the orange-colored interiors I am familiar with.  Instead, they are purple.  In the end, the flavor wasn’t that different, although it did lead to a slightly more monochromatic dish than I had anticipated.

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Once the root vegetables, onion, and garlic were combined, I coated them with about 1 cup (200 ml) of WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and 1/2 cup (100 ml) of chicken broth.  You can substitute water or vegetable broth, if you wish to keep the dish vegetarian.

The vegetables were poured in an ovenproof dish and then placed in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to keep the vegetables coated with marinade.  There is enough marinade that it forms a bit of a pool at the bottom of the dish, helping cook the vegetables by steam as well as direct heat.

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Once the yams and beets were getting soft but not yet fully cooked through, I stirred in about 4 cups (90 dl) of kale, washed and cut into wide strips.  The dish returned to the oven for about ten more minutes, enough time to finish cooking the root vegetables while still leaving the kale a little crunchy.  You can cook the dish for longer if you prefer your vegetables softer.

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Uncommitted to the idea of this being a fully vegetarian meal, I also pan fried a plate of Northeastern Thai style sausage called Sai Oua, sliced it, and served it on the side.

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The end result was very nice.  The marinade had thickened into a nice glaze, coating the vegetables with a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce which countered the natural sugars in the yams and beets.  The kale provided a fresh contrast that made for a very satisfying meal.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and look forward to trying it in other dishes, as well as to trying their other products.

While WORLDFOODS is based in Malaysia, its products are available in major countries across the world including Australia, the UK, the United States, and Canada, as well as most Southeast Asian countries.  To locate a store which carriers their products near you, use this store locator.  In the United States, you can also order WORLDFOODS products for home delivery through MyBrands.com

Full disclosure: While I am not being paid or otherwise compensated to write this entry, I did receive the products for free and dinner that night was paid for by WORLDFOODS.  It’s important to me that you know that the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not bought or paid for by others.

 

Ruining Our Lives for an Ideal

Certified Copy A few days ago, I finally caught the film Certified Copy at the local art cinema.  Directed and written by Iranian Abbas Kiarostami and starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, the movie is an afternoon-long discussion by a man and a woman as they visit a Tuscan town.  Their conversation covers a lot of ground and it is never clear whether they are or are not a married couple.

As the story opens, we see that he is an author in town on a Saturday afternoon for a speaking engagement about his new book, in which he argues that copies of masterpieces are as valuable as the originals themselves, in that the copies can bring us to the originals and a greater appreciation of them.  She is in the audience but has to leave early, giving her number to the organizer of the event.  

The following morning, he shows up at her shop and she drives him to a nearby town to see a famous painting there that was, after hundreds of years being assumed to be an original work, determined eventually to be a copy.  It is on that journey that their conversation happens.

I won’t talk about the film as a whole, although it is worth watching.  What struck me, so much so that I grabbed a notepad from my bag and scribbled it down, was a phrase uttered by a secondary character. 

The man and woman stop for a coffee at a small shop.  The man steps outside to take a phone call and the old lady running the shop speaks with the woman.  She assumes that the man and woman are married, an assumption the woman does nothing to dispel.  In fact, the woman complains about her husband’s long absences for work, propensity to shave only every other day, and his other faults.

The old woman running the shop observes that it is a Sunday morning and the man has taken his wife out for some coffee, whereas most men would instead choose to sleep in.  “It would be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal,” she admonishes the woman.

It would be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal.

That line seems a very apt piece of advice, both about relationships (certainly!) as well as our lives in general.  It also seems to balance nicely the entry I recently wrote about being the best possible version of ourselves.  While perfection cannot be achieved and we should certainly strive to be our best, what is the value of striving if the cost is the ruination of our lives?

 

My Winning Photo – Xanga Site

Quick plug for a Xanga site you may not know about.  It is titled MyWinningPhoto and it holds a weekly photo contest.  A theme is announced, Xangans go out and take photos related to the theme, then the photos are posted in one place and we can vote on them.  Turns out (probably no surprise to you), there are some pretty talented photographers on Xanga.

If you’d like to check out this week’s contest, which is on the theme of “yellow”, the link is here.