February 28, 2010

Gelato In The Winter

It should be no secret that I have, quite possibly, the world's biggest sweet tooth. Well, I really hate that expression... but bare with me, because you know what the fuck I mean. I like sugar, in all its forms most beautiful.

For me, a meal is just foreplay before dessert.

Today I passed a new Gelato place on Broadway, near Belmont, in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood: Paciugo. It had about a bajillion crazy flavors, had delicious coffee service, and everything was made with all-natural ingredients. Bonus: while it wasn't "inexpensive," it was actually a bit cheaper than a mass-market ice cream place like Cold Stone Creamery (which uses, almost across the board, really nasty shit in it's products). I fell in love with Paciugo immediately.

One of the kindly gelato-dispensing gentleman employees informed us that the business started in Texas, but each are independently owned (ie, franchised). Still, the place looked really neat (check out this fucking table top!), and had a lot of taste and panache.


The company has over 200 flavors (with a few vegan options) which are rotated regularly.

I ate two flavors: Cinnamon Chocolate with Chile Spice (not listed on their site for some reason), and Texas Pecan with Sea Salt Carmel.

They were both fucking delicious.

February 26, 2010

It Always Wins

Much like "the house," the internet always wins. It doesn't matter what you tried to do, why you did it, or who it was for, the internet levels all playing fields. Take the following video for example, as recently discussed on Boing Boing:

These poor, stupid kids. The lot of them (and their parents) are probably very proud that they made this awesome song and shot an awesome video and totally learned iMovie to put it all together in HD (!!). However, what matters is that on the internet they are a laughing stock, and thus that is what they will be.

Keep in mind, it's terribly important that you watch the video at least to the "guitar solo" at about 2:07. According to Boing Boing:
'Final Placement' is a teen Christian Rock band from Midland, Texas. Dangerous Minds more or less discovered this video of the band earlier this week, and internet infamy exploded.
Sneering at off-key amateur god-pop is easy enough, but what's interesting about the story is this: the young man who plays guitar in this video jumped right into the comment thread, and owned up to how epically awful it was. 'I am not in the band. I helped them out on this song, unfortunately,' he says. "The guitar solo I played— hate it. It deserves to get ripped."
Not everyone feels that way. Someone took his guitar solo and made a loop of it.
While I have a soft spot for Christian rock bands getting their just desserts, something about this feels especially incredible. I think it's the fact that even at this level there is discord among the band members (har har har), which we only know about because of their sudden infamy.

What did people do before the internet, anyway? I can't imagine a life without this sort of joy falling into my lap with the click of a button.

February 23, 2010

The Modern Wing

So I finally visited the Modern Wing of the Chicago Institute of Art (also known as the 'tute) with my partner-in-crime Chelcie. Included are a few random photos from our adventure.

Overall I found the design of the building more impressive than the majority of the art inside, though I'll have to admit a profound level of ignorance when it comes to most "movements" in the modern art world. There were some great pieces (mostly in the American section, to be honest), but by the time we got to the last chunk of galleries there was a bit of sensory overload. The pictures posted here are either some of the random pieces that I liked, or examples of Chelcie and I exhibiting utterly disgraceful behavior for patrons of such a hallowed institution.

No fun in the Modern Wing, for pete's sake!

I would have liked to see more "applied" works, like the interpretations of furniture, architecture, products, and every day objects. It seemed most things were paintings or basic wall-mounted art.

There were, of course, about a million instances between Chelcie and I of, "well, I could have done that..." Though in general we forced ourselves to admit that these pieces weren't necessarily about "skill" in the traditional sense of the word. 

I did find it really lame that 9 out of every 10 items were called "Untitled" or "Untitled (insert a subtitle that could have easily just been the pieces title)" or "Untitled (insert year the thing was made)." For god's sake, just call your shit something.

Also, the film/photography/new media wing was not open for some reason. That's the area I'd like to see most, honestly. I guess I'll have to save that for a visit in the Spring or Summer....

February 19, 2010

Via Pitchfork

Springsteen Defeats Ticketmaster

Springsteen does what Pearl Jam could not by winning a lawsuit based on the ticket seller's underhanded business model.

Food Label Blues.

Via Boing Boing:
Food label designed by "neurological and bodily responses":
From the Wall Street Journal via Good: Campbell's Soup redesigns a label using 'neuromarketing' techniques.

It's staggering to think of how much energy goes into things as simple as package designs. Besides having worked in the ad business for a short time, my time as an adult consumer has shown me repeatedly that my favorable associations with products, especially food, have almost nothing to do with the product itself. It's all marketing psychology. And why not? Why bother with a particular label or logo when something else could be more effective?

The trouble is that, for whatever reason, the psychological approach to selling products is almost always utilized by companies that are selling shit while trying to pass it off as gold. Car, beer, tobacco, food, clothing, and electronics companies are some of the worst that come to mind.

Next time you go for a box of chips ahoy, or campbell's soup, or little debbie snack cakes, or wonderbread, or anything you might have loved as a kid, check out the ingredients. If you're not a food nerd like me, I'll give you a hint at what you'll find: a bunch of nasty shit masquerading as food, with just enough food-like texture and flavor to pass as something consumable.

Blog Link Test

I just picked a random, bizarre story from my Google Reader feed to link here, in order to see how quickly I could post content on my blog without having to type in code. Did it work?
Man Launches Crayola Crayon Rockets in Nevada Desert [Rockets]: "
He's been working on them for 12 years, but finally John Coker was successful in launching his Crayola crayon rockets. Only four of the eight worked properly, but they managed to soar to 2,928 feet in the Nevada desert.
Trying to keep the crayons and box as realistic as possible, Coker built an eight-pack box slightly larger than scale, to accommodate for the launch rods and fins of each crayon rocket. The full explanation of how he did it is on his site (something to work on once you retire?), but I want to see someone build a Heineken beer crate of rockets instead. Or a 12-pack of sausages. [John Coker via Walyou]

February 8, 2010

Hitsville, USA

I started tracking down The Complete Motown Singles box sets, and my god, they are unbelievable.

I grew up on Motown, but I had no idea how much solid gold this company cranked out every year. The link above is just to the first volume. They'll eventually have 12 volumes (each around 5 discs, and each disc around 25 tracks) that collects all the A and B side singles they released between 1959 and 1972...

I've only loaded the first three volumes onto my computer, and I'm already up to 384 songs!

It's a staggering amount of music, and nearly all of it is incredibly good. If I could build the soundtrack to my films from any music catalogue, it would be Motown.

February 7, 2010

Hi, I'm an arrogant prick.

When I'm in public, I honestly judge people that use Windows-based laptops. Some sample thoughts:
"Jesus, that monitor looks like fucking bullshit. Does it even have a back-light?"

"That touchpad has three buttons, and no multi-touch support? ....Wait, is that a fucking trackwheel on your keyboard?"

"Hmm... With the money they saved by avoiding the Apple Tax, they can afford to pay Dell to fuck them in the ass a second time."

"That AC adapter looks like a fucking door stop, and doesn't even have a mag-safe connection. I should do them a favor and trip on the cord now."


I've never really liked coffee. I still don't (I say this while cozying up to a large cup at Borders).

A few times (very few) over the course of my 5 year college career I resorted to drinking the stuff, and the experience was mixed. Yes, it helped keep me awake when I needed it... but it tastes like molten dirt, and it makes my armpits feel uncomfortably hot. With no caffeine tolerance (something I work very hard to maintain, even today), the slightest level of consumption feels like a mega-dose. I saved caffeine for those coup de grĂ¢ce moments, when I really needed to overcome some academic or creative deadline.

For most of my college days (which are only a month behind me) I either deliberately abstained from caffeine out of some distorted puritan work ethic ("Caffeine is cheating! I've got to muscle through this!"), or downed an energy drink as an alternative.

I just don't like the taste. I, for some reason, prefer tasting Red Bull or Monster over something that normal people have been drinking since at least the 1600's... Tea is completely out of the question.

However, I think I've grown an appreciation for coffee at long last, and it's because I finally have a ritual. For one, I don't drink coffee at home, I only buy it out (which means I drink it rarely). Two, I order a medium coffee in a large cup, so that I have room to mix at least 1/3 of the concoction with soy milk. Three, I add a fuck ton of "natural" sugar while it's still piping hot. Four, I add the soymilk after the sugar, to ensure the sugar is properly caramelized and to bring the temperature down to a "kid safe" level (which is the only way I can drink it safely). More so than the beverage itself, I like having a way of making it.

I honestly wouldn't drink it if I had to drink it straight.

So what changed, if I still don't even like the flavor? For one, the above steps at least make it palatable. Though here's the sequence of events that brought me here:
  1. I am very epicurean about things like chocolate, fine whiskey, and sometimes wine. I like developing a palette for nuances, and some foodstuffs lend themselves to that attitude very well.
  2. Coffee is one of those things, so I figured eventually I'd grow to appreciate the stuff (It's probably strange that I love whiskey, yet hate coffee...but so it goes).
  3. I started waiting tables about two months ago, and now have to report to work at 6:30am at least three or four days a week.
  4. I have a diagnosed case of parasomnia, which is a fancy way of saying my body has no concept of a regular of predictable sleep schedule. Sleep for 14 hours? Stay awake for 30 hours? Sure!
  5. Whatever childish notions I had about "muscling through" my fatigue are now gone, because my survival instinct has kicked in: sometimes I simply have to make it through the day, and coffee is the only thing that'll work.
To embrace coffee at the ripe old age of 28 feels, well... anticlimactic (though embrace probably isn't the right word... more like reluctantly acknowledge?).

Maybe someday I'll be able to drink the stuff "raw," but for now that's not even a goal. These days it just tastes like a shit (with a hint of sugar and soymilk).