Showing posts from March, 2010

Famous Asian Americans

In recently years, "ethnic" has become vogue. I'll resist a rant about that to admit that there does seem to be more racial diversity portrayed in the entertainment industry now then when I was a kid. People of bi-racial and multi-racial background have especially changed standards of beauty. Still, there is a lot of room for improvement.

So to give a little extra props, and to remind myself why I should be proud to be an Asian American, I present my list of awesome Asian Americans. These are all people of Asian decent, who are also Americans. Their talent has inspired me, and their ethnicity has comforted me. Hopefully I'll be able to keep updating and expanding this list accordingly.

Kristi Yamaguchi
Won gold for team USA at the 1992 Olympics in women's ice skating singles.

George Takei
Best known for his role as Sulu on Star Trek, he also survived the American internment camps during WWII, and is an outspoken gay rights advocate.

Amy Tan
Her award-winning novels, li…

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Frightened Rabbit

A couple weeks ago Frightened Rabbit released The Winter of Mixed Drinks, their third full-length. I picked up a copy within a week of its release, but I really needed to sit and listen to it for a while before I felt ready to give it a proper review here on Tuesday Is For Tunes. This album leaves me conflicted. There are a few tracks that will be strong competitors for my best songs of 2010 list, namely Swim Until You Can’t See Land, The Loneliness and The Scream, and Nothing Like You. But at least as of right now, The Winter of Mixed Drinks probably won’t make the cut for best albums. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that in a few years, I’ll rediscover this album and appreciate Frighten Rabbit even more. At least to me, that is a sign of true genius. Here are some reviews of my choice cuts, tracks I’m am definitely smitten with.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land is a golden track, embodying everything the first single from an album ought to be. It has talented composition, discerning…

The Weekly Roundup: 3.26.2010

Ghost Ranch
This week The Picture Show on NPR featured a series of photographs entitled Ghost Ranch by Craig Varjabedian. Using a large-format view camera, Varjabedian went out to the New Mexico wilderness, and took photos that make Ansel Adams fans like me drool with envy. Black and white, perfectly exposed, Western landscape photography that makes the topography loom and the sky expand. All the photos are from Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, the award-winning book he published last year. It has officially been added to the long list of coffee table photography books I desperately want.
Ghosts, Dudes And Ranches: A Large-Format View Of The American West by Claire O'Neill

The Morning Benders & David Dye
As any regular follower of this internet publication already knows, I really love The Morning Benders, and I want to be David Dye when I grow up. So, clearly my Monday was made when The Morning Benders were featured on World Cafe. Greatness recognizes greatness. I can't w…

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

If you’re ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend going to Preservation Hall on Saint Peter Street between Bourbon and Royal in the French Quarter. Brave the line that frequently wraps around the block, because in this unassuming, dilapidated building you will hear some of the best jazz New Orleans has to offer, and all in a wonderfully intimate setting. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the house band that plays there the half of the year they’re not on tour. When I went last year, I got to sit on the floor at the feet of the trumpet player. Everyone near me was friendly and chatty, and the band took requests for tips. It was one of the best live performances I’ve ever experienced.

Last month, The Preservation Hall Band released a new album, Preservation. Every song on the album is the result of a collaborative effort with a different, respected artist, such as Pete Seeger, Merle Haggard, and Jim James. Besides being a great collection of music with talen…

Veggie Fajita Rice & Beans

My younger brother, Orion, was the first person in my family to try being vegan. And, this is one of the first purposefully vegan recipes I ever concocted, so that he would have something tasty and nutritious to eat at family dinners. Rice and beans both have protein, but when eaten together they provide essential amino acids that your body needs. The rice and bean tag team has been a staple in the diets worldwide for centuries. Go rice and beans! This recipe is pretty basic, but it’s filling and flavorful.
***Yeilds 6-8 servings***
Veggie Fajita Rice & Beans
6c Water
1c Wild rice
1c Brown rice
1tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 Large green bell pepper
1 Large yellow bell pepper
1 Large red onion
2 15oz cans of black beans (I recommend checking the ingredients to make sure it’s only black beans and water)
Fresh ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the wild rice and brown rice, return to boil. Cover, and reduce to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook for 45 …

The Weekly Roundup: 3.19.2010

What’s In A Name?
Ever wonder how places and landmasses get official names? It’s something I’ve often wondered about when traveling through national parks, which tend to have particularly fanciful names. For example, Acadia National Park in Maine has two mountains named North Bubble and South Bubble. But, I find it really strange that anything as solid as a mountain would be named “bubble”. Or, in Death Valley National Park in California I drove out of my way to see a point marked on the map as Artists Palette, just because I liked the name. Apparently, all these moniker matters are handled by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The LA Times this week had a very interesting article on the little-known board, and some of the more interesting cases it has deliberated on. My favorite was a man who tried to get a creek named “Stream of Consciousness”.
Place names are the domain of an obscure U.S. board by Richard Simon
Charles Moore
If you ever read a U.S. History textbook that had a section …


Recently, I've had to start taking the train into the city everyday again. It's a long ride, almost an hour and a half, through a wide range of landscapes. The last time I used the train regularly was several years ago, and I had forgotten the once familiar progression of sights. Here are some shots that attempt to capture my commute as I see and experience it.

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Liars

Seasoned experimental post-rock band, Liars released Sisterworld, their fifth album, last Tuesday to growing acclaim. Any music lover, who appreciates albums as total works of conceptualized artistic expression, will have a lot of respect for this latest effort from Liars. From the album artwork to the website to the tracklist, Sisterworld has been carefully crafted to be a complete listening experience. Success!

Sisterworld sounds just like the name would imply, a bizarre parallel universe that is eerily familiar and shockingly different. Filled with dissonance, the Liars have made a series of songs that draw their audience into this new world. Slower tracks feature chamber strings in minor keys, and are immediately followed by jarring distortion tortured with electro noise. Still, these seemingly disparate sounds are unified by an overarching feeling of beautiful agony and impending doom. Angus Andrews’s vocals and lyrics hint at some story behind this aural journey. Yet, they are in…

Almond Spinach Sauté over Curried Grains

This is a dish I developed to satisfy a range of tastes: salty, sweet, and spicy. It blends some unlikely flavors to some pretty tasty ends. Just as many successful recipes have been conceived, this one started with an accident. I was boiling up some grains, but they tasted pretty bland. I added some salt, and as I frequently do, put in way too much. To balance out the saltiness, I decided to sweeten the sauté with brown sugar, and everything worked out for the better. Still, for this official recipe I cite a little less salt than my accidental amount for the sake of heart health.

To appeal to an even broader range of tastes, I recommend pairing this dish with something sour on the side. So far every time I’ve cooked this, my friend Emily has also made some delicious coleslaw with vinaigrette dressing instead of mayo. The sourness of the vinegar perfectly matches the sweet sauté and salty grains. For the best blend of flavors, serve the sauté on top of the grains.

***Yields 6-8 servings…

The Weekly Roundup: 3.12.2010

Voluntary Sharing
The BBC reported this week on a study published in Current Biology which found that bonobos, a primate relative of humans, voluntarily would choose to share food. As the article admits, it's quite possible that the motivation for this behavior is selfish. However, it is also possible that altruism is not exclusive to humans, but alive and well throughout nature. At least I'm optimistic for the latter.
Bonobos opt to share their food
I was looking for photos of birds when I came across these stunning, brilliantly lit, high speed photos by Andrew Zuckerman. His very professional, flash website is full of stunning images, but I still like his bird photos the best. They were published as a book last year, aptly titled Bird. You can preview a the entire collection on the official website for the book.
Andrew Zuckerman: Bird

Snowy Owl (2009)
NPR Music is offering a free download of an 11-song sampler featuring artists they've highlighted in their SXSW 2…

Tuesday Is For Tunes: The Morning Benders

Big Echo, the new album from The Morning Benders released today, and accordingly they are today's Tuesday Is For Tunes band. For the past week Big Echo has been available to stream in its entirety on The Morning Bender's website, and consequently monopolized much of my recent listening time. This album is golden. It's burgeoning with ripe pop gems that glisten and beckon your ears to dine upon succulent sounds with relish. The Morning Benders have served up a whole lot of sweetness. So when you give it a listen, let your mind take a mouthful, savor it as the juices dribble down, and then take another big bite.

Previous efforts from The Morning Benders have also made my heart melt; however, they’ve occasionally waxed overly minimalist for my liking with lyrics that sounded just a little too artless to stand the test of repeated plays. Thankfully, this album is different. The Morning Benders have finally matured into a sound that truly showcases their talent and spirit. I’m c…

Vegan Oatmeal Pecan Cranberry Cookies

My best friend and partner in culinary adventure, Emily, helped me develop this recipe over the weekend. Even after eating several spoonfuls of the raw dough (perfectly healthy since there's no diary or eggs, right?), we still had about 3 dozen cookies to serve at the impromptu dinner party that went down that evening. Each and every one was eaten within four hours. Success!

I especially like them, because they're heavy on the oats and extra hearty. However, that aspect combined with the lack of egg makes for a very delicate cookie. Let’s call this the beta version of this recipe with a more cohesive version 2.0 to possibly follow. Please don’t let that deter you from trying this cookie out. Scouts honor: they’re delicious.

***Yields 3 dozen cookies***
Vegan Oatmeal Pecan Cranberry Cookies
1/2c Whole wheat pastry flour
1tsp Powdered cinnamon
1/2tsp Powdered nutmeg
1/2tsp Baking soda
1/2tsp Salt
2c Rolled oats
1c Chopped pecans
1c Dried cranberries (I prefer the kind sweetened with apple…

The Weekly Roundup: 3.5.2010

Indecent Exposure
After the licentious reputation New Jersey developed last fall, you'd think a little thing like the recreation of a famous work of art that just happens to be nude, would be considered rather tame. However, after a recent snowstorm a New Jersey woman worked with her kids to sculpt the Venus de Milo out of snow only to have their neighbors complain to the police. The women chose to cover up the sculpture in a bikini top and sarong, even though she thinks it looks more sexually objectified now. I agree. You can read the full story with before and after photos from the BBC.
New Jersey snow sculpture gets frosty reception
Big Echo
The Morning Benders have made their new album, Big Echo, available to stream in entirety for the week before its March 9th release. I've given my heart to The Morning Benders. The only reason I'm not buying this album first thing March 9th is that I'm seeing them live the next day, and plan to buy it direct from their merch table. L…

Tiny Mantras

Back in October several events came together to completely change my approach to life. My best friend from high school with whom I had been estranged from since high school died suddenly before we could reconcile our differences. At her funeral I saw her family and many of our old mutual friends for the first time in six years. It was very difficult. I had never known anyone who died simply due to an accident. There is a senselessness to such a tragedy that isn't as present when a death is caused by mental or physical illness. It shoves the fact that death can come upon you with no warning, rhyme or reason in your face. And, there is no comfort to be drawn from the knowledge that at least the person is no longer suffering. As I am a fairly self-aware human being, it was impossible to have such an event happen in my life, and not immediately be forced to confront my existential demons. Dealing with my friend's death catalyzed a series of events that have forever changed the cou…

Tuesday Is For Tunes: The Ruby Suns

So, this week’s installment of Tuesday Is For Tunes features The Ruby Suns, and is proudly brought to you by the last of my paycheck. Fight Softly, the new album from the The Ruby Suns that I’ve been keenly anticipating, released today. I used my lunch break to run around the corner to the local record store to pick up a copy along with a ticket to their USA release tour with Toro Y Moi. I now have only $30 to get me through to payday, but it was completely worth it. The diversity and complexity of the aural textures on this album is just what my ears needed.

Ryan McPhun, founder and frontman of The Ruby Suns, must be a music nerd of the highest caliber. The range of influences on this album are staggeringly astounding, including 80s pop and tropicalia. Calypso beat drum tracks blasted to dissonance with distortion flirt with synths freshly bathed in reverb to the serenade of McPhun's misty vocals. The end result is Fight Softly, a cohesive symphony of sounds made by The Ruby Suns …