Dec 26, 2010

Lost & Found: Odd One Out

I adore this picture. It should be in the dictionary next to the definition of "contrast". It's a fairly large photo, so it comes to no surprise that it practically leaped out at me from the pile. All that sea of severe solemnity and in the middle of it the cherub-faced child. And that's not all; everyone of those ladies - and few gentlemen - have character, and hat to match! I just wish I knew what was the occasion.

Dec 25, 2010

Lost & Found: A Bird In A Hand

This image is a minor vernacular masterpiece. When I fished it out of the pile of old photos at the flea market I went "now, that's interesting". It would've been easy to miss, since the actual print is quite small.

Dec 20, 2010

Square America: Christmas

It's almost over! Just another week of stressing, wrapping, spending too much, crowned with a glorious weekend of stuffing yourself till you pass out, and then we can finally get back to normal.


Back in the days when second-hand smoking was good for you. It built character.

Lovely Do, lovely tree.

I have nothing.

Dec 12, 2010

Just the Pretty: Winter

I'm not a big fan of winter in general. I gladly left the the cold, the slush, the scraping of windshields, and the frozen toes behind when I moved to California.

However, even a curmudgeon like me can appreciate certain aspects of winter; the thick blanket of freshly fallen snow, the way it seems to muffle the world, reality itself, slows down time. The way it hangs from the branches of trees, and crunches under your feet.

Certain things can never be perfectly described. To think about it, language is always frustratingly limited. You have to keep spinning it, piling on the modifiers to conjure the right atmosphere.

The right photo has the power to take a shortcut to those memories in the dusty recesses of your brain. Of course, you have to have the memories to begin with. Otherwise the best it can be is a bundle of pretty, maybe something intriguing.

The picture above is worth clicking on to enlarge. There are some beautiful details there. Apparently it is of the Moseley & Motley Milling Co. from Rochester, NY.

Unfortunately, the above photo was printed on textured paper. I hate that; it obscures too much.

Dec 10, 2010

The Future Abhors Sensible Shoes

Obviously. I saw Tron Legacy a couple of days ago at an advance screening. Nice ambiance, standard plot. The costume, set, everything else designers did a fine job retaining the visual style of the original while making it fresh. I even liked the 3D - for once it wasn't gimmicky. The music went well with the whole thing too. Tell me though: Doesn't Daft Punk in Tron sound just a wee bit like Vangelis?

But this post is not about movies or music, it's about shoes. A plethora of Tron-themed merchandise is about to hit the stores, among them the shoes above. I actually like them. They look cool. Not that I would ever wear them, even if the price wasn't deterrent enough. I don't do heels. There are plenty of other, more creative ways to achieve pain and discomfort - if that's your thing. It doesn't have to be footwear. My shoes come from Sketchers.

That said, it's a little thing, but it bugs me to hell: Why do futuristic badass chicks keep running around in high heels? From Seven of Nine to Quorra. (And isn't that just a very L.A. way to spell Cora?) It makes no frakkin' sense! It's not practical!

That's another of many reasons why I love Serenity/Firefly so much: women kicking ass - in boots. Big ass-kicking boots. I can get behind that.

Dec 5, 2010

Flea Market Follies

Last Flea Market of the year. The weather was pretty decent for December.

Not quite warm enough to warrant this. Maybe she's hitchhiking.

And finally, lunch:

Nov 25, 2010

Square America: Together

Monday at work I was tasked with arranging a meeting with Italian business partners who'd be in town on the last week of November. I sent out an email, with a gentle reminder that there was a holiday over here this week. Their reply was "Silly goose, (not exact wording) we're coming the week after. So I had to explain, that if we didn't nail down the time of the meeting by Wednesday noon the latest, there would be nobody around to reply emails or meeting invitations till Monday. The Italians were somewhat surprised - I don't know why; they themselves took the entire month of August off for vacation. And by that I mean the whole country of Italy.

If you live in the US you know what's going on. If not, let me explain. Dive the amateur anthropologist at least should appreciate.

Thanksgiving is a practice run for Christmas; people - generally related by blood or marriage - come together, play out weird family dynamics, watch TV (football), eat way, way too much food, and drop off into a food coma.

There are some variations on the theme; consuming copious amounts of alcohol or playing football (the American kind) may be involved. In some cases both. There's nothing like drunk men ramming into each other on a cold afternoon. The pain will manifest itself the day after.

The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is the day when crazed hordes of people swarm the shopping malls. It's a lot like a zombie movie, but the participants move faster, and there is more carnage.

Nov 13, 2010

iShoot Square

I keep playing with my apps. For a long time Hipstamatic was a favorite. Give me John S lens and Ina's 69 film and I was set.

Occasionally I wandered into B&W territory with one of the Blackeys films.

It's funny how all this digital technology that slowly but surely making film, paper and darkrooms obsolete is the sexiest when imitating what it replaces.

Not that I'm bemoaning the lack of chemical fumes and aching feet of ours spent in darkrooms. Along with me across the world a billion bathrooms also sigh in relief.

My chosen Hipstamatic combo has a pronounced greenish tint. Sometimes it works brilliantly. Other times it doesn't.

These days I more often just take a regular photo, then if I like it run it through lo-Mob.

This app applies frames and visual effects after the fact, giving more control to the user.

Lo-Mob has a lot of options, but I'm unfailingly drawn to the "vintage instant - reframed" setting.

I have thing for square images.

Oct 29, 2010

Chocolate Loaf

I'm a sucker for food porn. Oh, wipe that prudish scowl off your face. I know you've stood at the shadowy end of the cookbook isle many a time, perving over glossy spreads that sent lustful messages to your tummy and those traitorous salivary glands, and you thought, "I must have that!" Do not be ashamed of your desires, let your inner food-slut out.

One of my Pasadena blogger friends linked a chocolate cake recipe online. It was intriguing, and came with an absolutely smutty photo of the cake itself. Unfortunately, the recipe contained some gluten-free fussiness. I'm from the old country; I like my gluten, thankyouverymuch. However, the use of banana, molasses, and ground almonds in a chocolate cake tickled my fancy, so I ventured forth to create my own, simplified version.

Baking lies at the crossroads of art, alchemy and butter. It's all about the balance of flavors, wet and dry ingredients, temperature and timing. It gets more complicated when you take only certain components of an existing recipe, and decide to experiment. Add the element of metric conversions, and the outcome is unpredictable; you may discover gunpowder.

Chocolate Loaf


1 stick (4 oz) butter (softened at room temperature)
3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
4 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher)
3/4 cup dark molasses*
3 tbs ground almonds (or hazelnut flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 ripe banana (mashed)
pinch of salt
some brown sugar


Preheat over to 325º F

Butter a loaf pan and dust it with brown sugar.** Set Aside.

In a large mixing bowl mix together flour, ground almonds, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside.

In a bowl mix butter and molasses till smooth and creamy. (Keep a scraper handy, so you can scrape down the sides of the bowl.)

Add the eggs one by one, fully incorporating them in-between.

Mix in the melted chocolate.

Mix in the banana.

Add the flour mix, and blend well.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted comes out dry. (Some use knives, but skewers leave smaller holes.) Let it cool.

It's my first time making this, and if there's anything to complain about is that it hasn't risen as much as I thought it would. Perhaps more baking powder is in order? Otherwise it's good - moist, chocolaty, and has just the right amount of sweetness. It goes well naked or with jam.

I'm thinking, one could add chopped walnuts or pecan to the cake.

*Molasses usually come in a thick liquid form, but I use Billington's Natural Dark Brown Molasses, and it comes in a sticky, but granulated mass - like brown sugar. I found this product on the shelves of the local supermarket, and it sent me on a molasses-themed self-discovery. I was surprised to learn that it's made by a UK company. They are organic and fair trade, so even better. In the US their products are available in some supermarkets, and on Amazon.

**It's a common practice to dust a greased pan with flour when baking, to help the baked goods separate from the pan. However, when it's something sweet, one can use sugar instead of flour. You'd think it would make the cake stick, but not so. The sugar caramelizes during baking, adding an extra dimension of flavor to your dessert. Regular brown sugar is too clumpy for this, so I use the crystallized kind - it's commonly available in the US these days. If you don't have it, regular sugar will do.

PS. I have none of the skill, equipment, and light to shoot professional food porn. You have to live with my amateur dirty pictures.

Oct 27, 2010

Gooey Pumpkin Cake

It is, from now, till the end of December, and even beyond, the season of pumpkin. Time to try some new twists on the old favorites. This recipe is loosely based on Paula Deen's Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake, that itself is a take on Gooey Butter Cake. Now, I've eaten Gooey Butter Cake before, and it's so sweet that it'll make your teeth fall out on the spot. A whole box (16 oz) of powdered sugar in the filling will do that. I've also seen Paula Deen and TV, and she's the kind of person who'd deep-fry a stick of butter and serve it with gravy. So I made some changes.

I used brown sugar, because it has nice flavor. To enhance it further I added some molasses. I believe that the dark, deep richness of molasses go exceptionally well with pumpkin. I also changed the crust (yellow cake mix, really?) to one made out of cinnamon graham crackers. It could, of course, be regular graham crackers with cinnamon added.

Gooey Pumpkin Cake

16 oz cinnamon graham crackers, ground (it can actually be slightly less)
8 tbs (4 oz) butter, melted

8 oz cream cheese, softened
15 oz can of pumpkin
8 tbs butter
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs nutmeg

Preaheat oven to 350ºF

Combine the ground graham cracker and butter. Pat the mix into the bottom of a lightly buttered 13x9" baking pan.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and the pumpkin till smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Add sugar, cinnamon, molasses, nutmeg, and mix well.

Spread the pumpkin mix over the cake and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. It should still be jiggly in the middle when you take it out of the oven.

Oct 17, 2010

Today's Theme: Fishy

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere.
(Dr. Seuss)

One Fish

Two Fish

Blue Fish

Red Fish