Consider this Hidemi “Just Healthy” Blueberry Mix, a delightful blend of “Freeze Dry Blueberry Nuts,” “Green Tea Soybean” and “Sesame Soybean.” As food products go, it’s charmingly tacky in the way only Japanese imports can be, from the cutesy faux-handwriting labelling on the thick plastic packaging to the vaguely microbial appearance of the bits and pieces enclosed within.

Peeling open the bag reveals a sickly sweet cereal smell, not at all unlike your average box of kiddie breakfast fare, with a variety of shapes and colors to match: tiny matte violet spheres, spiny frosted black oblongs, spiny frosted green oblongs, and large, glossy, peanut-sized beige balls, the stuff of post-apocalyptic fever dreams featuring wildly-mutated candy organisms running rampant through the streets. In contrast, most are vaguely inoffensive in flavor, but the last… oh, that last! So horrible that they didn’t even bother listing it on the bag, because “salty seaweed-flavor soybean” is hardly the most effective way to hook in the casual aisle-browser.

Mmmm, delish! How fortunate that I only ate half the bag before I realized that something was seriously wrong. [Eggy, peering at the packaging: “But look, no MSG!”]

On the bright side, today was Girl Scout Cookie delivery day (yay!), so it’s not all doom and gloom around here.

Travel upcoming: Boston this weekend, NYC next, Vancouver and Whistler with the sibs after that. Should be great, if I can survive this week at work!


Frolic in brine, goblins be thine

Finally watched Ringu on DVD tonight, which opens the door for me to see Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, also released on disc today. I’d already seen the little-known but excellent Korean remake, which scared me completely witless for days (but then, I’m an utter lightweight when it comes to horror flicks), as well as the prequel Ringu 0: Birthday, which made the SIFF rounds in 2001.

The Japanese film is good, though handicapped by the obvious fact that I couldn’t watch it with fresh eyes; with the big secrets out of the way, it was bound to be less spooky, which ended up being the case. The pace is slightly slower, even though its running time is shorter — several scenes present in the Korean version have no analogue — making me suspect that that first remake tightened the pace up and inserted more material to create a denser, more driving sense of tension. No doubt last year’s version will be even more of the same. Still, it works well, though I missed some of the eerier aspects of the Korean (most notably the “soundtrack” to the cursed video, which can still consistently send chills running up my spine). Can’t fault the climactic scene, though! It’s even more shocking and well-done in the original than the version that had me sleeping with the lights on in 2000.

Was cleaning up some music files on my computer and came across this particular atrocity, which for the time being you can sample at your own risk: William Shatner’s rendition of Tom Jobim’s “Insensatez.” How insensitive!


Finding Taghaza

About a third of the way through Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History, picked up in San Francisco while waiting for typically unfortunate airport food to settle. Would never have thought previously that the subject of salt and its path through history could sustain a 400+ page tome, but Kurlansky is engaging and witty and has the peculiar ability to convince the reader that the last ten thousand years of human history is nothing more than the history of salt itself (he, of course, already having written Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World). Along the way are no end of fascinating tidbits as well as snippets of ancient and medieval recipes, such as this porpoise dish from England:

Take purpays: do away the skyn; cut hit yn smal lechys no more than a fynger, or les. Take bred drawen wyth red wyne; put therto powder of canell, powder of pepyr. Boil hit; seson hit up with powder of gynger, venegre, & salt.

Kurlansky weaves the obvious culinary use of salt with less obvious but no less earth-shaking political, social and technological implications of both salt and the salt trade. Already today, I’m sure that I talked my poor brother into a disinterested stupor (during the ride from the airport: “Did you know that the words ‘salary,’ ‘soldier,’ and ‘salad’ all have their roots in salt?” “Oh, shut up!”), so I’ll leave well enough alone and say that I’m enjoying the book tremendously so far, though I’m not sure if I’ll pick up Cod anytime soon!

Recent acquisitions: Kieslowski’s Trois Coleurs trilogy on DVD, as well as Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto: Casa — and if you know me, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Tom Jobim is hardly a combination I can pass up — and Evanescence’s Fallen on CD.

Tomorrow night, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the old digs, and maybe some long-lost friends. More later.


Repeat all / Repeat one

The current playlist rotation: The So and So’s, The Silver Session (amazing!); Mango Pirates, garage surf; Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sweet Revenge; a whole bunch of Pizzicato Five and UTADA Hikaru.

Back from Boston, and need sleep very badly. More later!


All under heaven

Saw Zhang Yimou’s latest, an historical martial arts pic by the name of Hero. Essentially, it’s an alternate take on Chen Kaige’s The Emperor and the Assassin, with spectacular wire-fu action and a fabulous cast (including Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen, Zhang Ziyi…) thrown in for good measure. It is, not surprisingly, very beautiful to look at, with startling use of colors and stunning compositions. One particular battle, between Maggie Cheung’s and Zhang Ziyi’s characters, takes place within a torrent of brilliant yellow leaves and is utterly breathtaking! The film also makes a nice showcase for Jet Li, who sure has made a lot of terrible films of late.

As pretty as it was to watch, the running time (a brisk 90-something minutes, effectively reduced by a Rashomon-esque plot device) works against the movie. The characters are barely developed, and when not fighting devolve into talking heads. Also, the story seems to have the distressingly simplistic message that the ends justify the means, ignoring the fact that the first emperor of China committed countless atrocities on the way to becoming the ruler of “all under heaven.” This is something which Chen’s earlier film portrays quite effectively, and in a time when people seem to be blindly reaching for simple answers to complex questions, I’m not sure Hero’s message sits too well with me. Still, if you can filter that out, it can be a real treat.

Struck by meta-deja-vu today, three moments + one feeling: De Tarde, Vendo o Mar: The Sound of Brazil is a strange creature, a Brazilian bossa tribute album to Japanese pop singer/songwriter Yumi Matsutoya. Was stealing a listen, mostly due to Bebel Gilberto’s presence as vocalist, when I started to get the feeling that I’d heard two of the songs before. Realized quickly that they — “Mensagem com batom” and “Envolvida em ternura” — had been used, in their (admittedly very different) original versions, as the opening and closing themes of Miyazaki’s Majo no takkyubin (a.k.a. Kiki’s Delivery Service). Later on, Pizzicato Five’s “Baby Love Child,” which I’m now convinced was featured in a Futurama episode I’ve seen more than once; and finally (and strangest of all), Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” whose nagging familiarity turns out to be a result of its use as the closing credits music in Chris Coutts’s Tales for the L33T: Romeo + Juliet (!!).


Humor me

Sat still, widemouthed

Thank you, begonia, for the song. It was the best thing ever. Seriously.



Novelist Edmund C. Bentley
Wrote poetry, too — subsequently
He and his strange middle name
Have gathered their own little fame.

More from Salt:

To enforce the law against suicide, it was ordered that the bodies of people who took their own lives be salted, brought before a judge, and sentenced to public display […] Breton historians have discovered that in 1784 in the town of Cornouaille, Maurice LeCorre had died in prison and was ordered salted for trial. But due to some bureaucratic error, the corpse did not get a trial date and was found by a prison guard more than seven years later, not only salted but fermented in beer, at which point it was buried without trial.



It looks inevitable now, sad as that is. Some excellent commentary from those more eloquent than I could ever be:

In brighter news, it looks like the ANWR drilling plan will be defeated on Friday. So, at least something good is happening in Congress.

After the blast of lightning from the east,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth,
All death will he annul, all tears assuage? —
Or fill these void veins full again with youth,
And wash, with an immortal water, age?

When I do ask white Age, he saith not so:
“My head hangs weighed with snow.”
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
“My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified,
Nor my titanic tears, the seas, be dried.”
Wilfred Owen, “The End”


I want my country back!

Trying not to cannibalize Geegaw so often (sorry, Miranda!) but needed to share this particular entry, which managed to do what I was sure was impossible: get me excited about a presidential candidate for the first time in years*. Watch the video, read the words, find out what Howard Dean is all about.

I’ll certainly be doing the same.

* I swear, in 2000, the only good thing I can remember about the election was a front page article in a Cairo newspaper, shortly after the Florida debacle, with large pictures of the two candidates: “Bush” and “al-Gore.” I was still getting a giggle out of that during the months of mess afterwards.


And sometimes…

It has to get better.

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