Salmon again!

May 27, 2010

Earlier this week, I was at a friend’s house for a Beatles listening party. Being generous, I bought food for the occasion, and we cooked together. The grill was fired up and we grilled some salmon, bell peppers and asparagus. It was amazing.

The salmon was sockeye salmon, from the Fresh Market. Previously I had just been using the frozen fillets you can find in any grocery store. But this fillet was huge, large enough for three people, and a beautiful deep orangish-pink, with the skin on the bottom. I had an idea for a salmon rub when I got to my friend’s house. On the counter was an array of spices. I skimmed the labels and settled on some Italian seasoning and some garlic-parsley salt. I just rubbed it on the fillet, and wrapped the fillet in foil. Then it went on the grill.

I hadn’t had a better salmon fillet before. Ever. It was still pink, though cooked all the way through, flaky and moist, and absolutely amazing. And it’s not terribly expensive–$7 for the giant fillet, complete with skin. It should be added, of course, that you should eat the skin when you eat salmon. The skin is very fatty, and the fat is of the omega-3 variety, which has a wide array of positive value. Just don’t eat too much, as there may be an amount of mercury in it as well (but it’s been said that a couple of times a week won’t hurt).

Advertisements

Photo music 2

May 18, 2010

I remember the film processing rooms. They had white walls made of cinder blocks, one long table on one wall, and a sink on the wall adjacent to it. They glowed yellow, creating their own world. I was attached to my friend Michael, and would try to work with him on photography projects. He had good taste in music, though it was a little different from mine over all. Which was ok, because we expanded each other’s musical world.

I had brought a cassette boombox that was small enough to be unobtrusive. It was our lifeline out of the realm that was the photo lab, out of the art complex, out of the campus, out of concrete reality. I remember us, in the dark, cutting the film and trying to load it as smoothly onto the developing reels as possible. Then the light came on, and on came the boombox. It played one of the tapes it frequently played, Pentangle’s first album.

We’d take turns agitating the film tank, laughing and talking, chairs leaning back against the wall. We’d listened to this album maybe a hundred times, driving around shooting photos in the swamp near campus, going over the interstate on random photo hunts. The green grass reflected the light, and the music would run through my head even during lecture. I can hear the bass and see the illuminated screen, the photos by Berenice Abbott, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, the teacher’s hair, long and wild as the spirit of everyone in the class.

The summer slips below the surface. And the siren’s song of love echoes over passing time.

Photo music 1

May 18, 2010

It’s the summer of 2005. I’m in a photography class at University of South Alabama, in what is supposed to be the last semester of my sophomore year. It’s the last week of that semester, and I’m running around frantically trying to come up with photo ideas for my final project.

I haven’t done so well this semester, but that’s not too shocking. The past four or five semesters didn’t go too well either. I’m trying to rebuild my GPA but I can’t focus on anything; I can’t find my drive, through the Lexapro haze. It’s a haze thick and heavy, suffocating any creative energy I could ever have, as it takes away all of my emotion and I can’t feel anything but intense anger or intense hyperactive joy–the two edges of an emotional spectrum.

I can come up with ideas that I’m unable to photograph in the way I want to do it. But all the art is conceptual, not based in any feeling, so I’m failing miserably. Five decent shots I have to do, a series showing how human civilisation destroys everything it touches. Each one I think I got, was jumbled or underexposed and simply doesn’t work. So I ended up with three of the five prints.

So it’s Sunday, before the last day of class. The project is due tomorrow. I’m slaving away in the communal darkroom, trying to move as quickly as possible. I’d run out of RC paper and decided to break open a pack of fibre paper for the project, my first experience with that paper. I’m realising that the prints haven’t fixed long enough, but the lab attendant is trying to get out so he can do something more important to him. In they go to the wash, out they come with nice purple stains. The series ruined, and on to the edition print of one of my photos for the rest of the class. They, inevitably, go badly as well.

I head home, and start trying to matt the final project. I’d bought a matt cutter specifically for this, and I screw up the matting. The time is 4 AM. I decide, as a last resort, to do what the teacher told us not to do: have it done professionally, specifically by a family friend who runs an art gallery.

As I drive downtown at 7 the morning of my final project, I’m listening to the album I’ve been listening to all this week, The Postal Service’s “Give Up.” It’s one of the few albums I listened to this year that really made an impression. I’ve been up all night, and I’m shaking from the morning-after chills and the caffeine as I race through the downtown area toward the gallery. The music seems to balance me out and I somehow am able to function.

It’s five years later. I’m listening to the music that I listened to in 2005 again, almost as an anniversary, as I’m about to process my first film in that length of time. Naturally “Give Up” was the first I had to listen to, and it brought back the memories of the orange sunlight on the buildings and the broken streets, the paintings in the gallery, some leaning against the wall from the floor in preparation for a new exhibition, the green carpet, the black walls of the framing room.

Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in. And we can still swim any day in November.

Dating sites

May 10, 2010

I admit it.  I have an account on a well-known dating site.  It’s actually my second time having an account on this site.  They have a chat box on there, and this person started talking to me.  We weren’t compatible in any way, and I don’t know why he messaged me to begin with.  However, it did continue, and we decided to move to Yahoo messenger.

x  , : SO!
x , : what do you wanna talk about
me  , : so?
me  , : I haven’t a clue
me  , : hahaha
me  , : I’m not really that talkative tonight
x , : lets talk about hot sexual activity
me  , : uh, why?
x  , : idk…
me  , : hmm
x , : 😀
x , : hmmmmmm
x  , : anyway
x , : (i was joking)
x  , : i mean why would i wanna get in your pants!?!
x  , : heh..
x  , : *nervous chuckle*
x  , : *awkward silence*
x  , : lmao
x  , :  im joking
me  , : hard to tell over yahoo.  heh
x  , : haha
x  , : 😛
me  , : 🙂
me  , : I think I will go to bed after all.  it’s been good talking to you.

This is why I deleted my old account on there.  A conversation like that makes me wonder why I created another one.

Formula (rant)

May 1, 2010

I’ve been searching through catalogues of various record labels in my quest for music that is very personal.  There’s something I notice A LOT, and that is that there are way too many bands who sound similar to each other, and are continuations on the same essential sound, without adding anything at all.  This is especially true for bands of the same genre or category, especially if it’s a recently-coined genre, like “post-rock,” or “freak folk.”

It’s my idea that this is unintentional.  I feel that each member of each band is an avid music listener, and (like most people) listens to predominantly a certain genre of music.  (S)he looks for certain things in the music, certain qualities that make him/her like it, and incorporates those qualities into his/her music.  The trouble, perhaps, lies in knowing that certain patterns in music affect these people a certain way, and they listen to nothing but music with these patterns.  In the end, this leads to sameness and boredom.

This has been going on, seemingly, forever.  You dig into rock records (this genre ESPECIALLY), folk, blues, even jazz and classical, and you’ll find people borrowing things from each other.  Not just borrowing in the sense of musical phrases, but in the sense of certain kinds of patterns in an attempt to make a mood in the music.  This in itself isn’t a problem, as the musicians that last build on these other ideas and create something altogether different.  But when you see bands who borrow way too much, don’t realise it, and then market it as their own, and become POPULAR for it, that’s a problem.  Then, it’s not unique and genuine.

There have been a lot of people who have said that this is simply for commercial purposes, so these guys can have a hit on the radio.  The trouble now, though, is that the radio doesn’t play a major role in the sale of records anymore.  The waters become murkier and the true music fan must search through thousands of record albums to find anything, and if there is a lot of sifting throughout each and every day, the listener can quickly become tired of something, and frustratedly say, “X sounds like Y,” or “Well this sounds typical.”

I’ve noticed this in the past couple of days.  These bands who release record albums in maybe 150 to 500 copies, and every band sounds like the other band which sounds like another band who sounds like someone else.  I came to the conclusion that the reason that records released in such small quantities, up to ten years ago even, are sitting on the shelves in distributors’ storerooms is because no one wants to sort through the sameness.  What’s more, the bands that were once popular become unpopular once people realise that there are so many bands that sound like them, that they have nothing unique to offer.

It’s a frustration of mine.  I’ve fallen in love with one band because of something I saw in them, and my love for them quickly faded when I realised that there were other bands who did it, some of whom did it better (though still the same), and I end up bored and disillusioned.  The process has been costly over the years, buying things in expectation of them sounding one way, when they just sound like everything else.  A lot of record stores don’t let you sample things anymore (one reason I think that the world is losing many of their independent record stores), because the distributors don’t accept anything back once the records are opened.  It’s driven me to search solely on the internet for things, much to the frustration of my former friends in the music-selling field.

This is why I’ve started downloading a lot of things from the internet, and I have to say that I definitely condone it.  It’s the only way to search through stuff at your own pace and (usually) know what you’re getting into.  It also makes me feel a little happier because I can say, “This samey band doesn’t deserve my money, and I don’t care what The Wire or Mojo or whoever-whatever says about it.”  But it makes me feel very frustrated because the process of digging (which a lot of record collectors love–the thrill of the hunt) is so incredibly exhausting that it, in itself, yields so much of the same kind of sounds and copycat bands that are promoted on the websites as being “immensely popular” or “famous,” which bothers me more.

I’ll continue to search for things that are deeply affecting.  But I think that a lot of people have this problem, once they begin to dig beneath the surface and start searching independently for stuff they like.  Just don’t spend money on records that you have no way of checking out.  And, even more, don’t spend money on something just because it’s rare, if you’re into the whole record-collecting-big-money scene.  A lot of records are rare for a reason, and aren’t worth the huge pricetag if it doesn’t affect you.  That’s another gripe of mine, that will be brought up in a later entry.  I’ve used up all my ranting energy today.

Well it’s my first morning of wearing contact lenses.  As in, I just got them from the contact lens place.  They told me how to put them in, and I did it fairly quickly.  It’s hard to fight the natural instinct to close your eyes when you see a finger with a curved plastic object on it coming straight at them.  There is no amount of self-destructive behaviour that will ever prepare you for a finger, anyone else’s or your own, coming at your eye.  What’s more, you have to pry the eye open to make sure the thing goes in, because blinking would mess up the process.

If any comparison could be made, I guess it’s like smoking.  Or in a severely extreme case, doing psychedelics.  You don’t fight it, you just let it happen.  You let the finger come at you, and don’t think twice.  In the end, I simply felt a little weird for a few minutes afterward, and was glad that I could see.

If you have astigmatism, things might be weird for a while and your eyes will need to adjust.  If you’ve worn glasses for twenty years, then your eyes definitely need to adjust as well.  Well, I have both cases, so my eyes need to adjust a lot, and right now the world through my left eye is a drunken one.  The right eye is ok.

Taking the lenses out is another matter.  You have two fingers then, coming at you, in a pinching position.  That’s a little bit more intense for your reflexes.  With practice, I managed to get mine out once in the office.  I had to do it with no one looking.  That may be for two reasons.  First, the simple fact that I’m doing something where I’m definitely vulnerable to being startled and injuring myself.  The second being that the nurse reminded me of a CEO for some corporation.  She spoke one-on-one as if she were giving a motivational speech to a room full of people–hand gestures and all.

I couldn’t wait to be out of there.  And from having CEO nurse lady shining her penlight into my eyes, and the eyestrain from her expecting me to read the eye chart afterward, I definitely did fumble my way out of the building.  The experience leaves your mind fairly numb, and you don’t want to think afterward.  But at least I have contact lenses.  And tomorrow will be better.

So that’s what you get for $20 a month, a nice, natural-looking you with no glasses, and some harrowing experiences in front of a mirror.

Amazing herb bread

April 27, 2010

Well, I have again made some herb bread.  Since I’m incredibly impatient, I like to make a quick bread.  I got my basic recipe out of a vegan cookbook.

3 C all-purpose flour; 2 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp dried basil; 1/4 tsp dried thyme; 1/4 tsp dried marjoram; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 tsp black pepper; 1 1/4 C soymilk-plain (though I’ve used “original Silk” and it works great); 2 Tbsp olive oil. I also added 4 chopped sundried tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly oil a 9-inch loaf pan.  Mix the dry stuff in one bowl (including the tomatoes) really well.  Then, in another bowl, put the wet stuff, and pour it into the dry mix.  Mix it well–I use a hand mixer.  You’ll see it clumping together as you do it.  Transfer the dough to the bread pan, and spread it out.  Optional:  spray the top lightly with canola oil, and sprinkle black pepper on.

Then you bake it until golden brown, and a toothpick stuck in it will come out clean (about 40 minutes).  What I like to do is to actually broil it in the last five minutes to make sure the top is nice and brown.

Put it on a rack to cool for twenty minutes or so before you cut it.  You’ll get something that looks kind of like this:

It won’t come out blurry though, unless you live inside a cellphone.

I had a couple of slices of bread, along with some stirfried broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and tofu, atop a bed of rotini.   I stirfried the vegetables in canola oil for the omega-3 content.  This makes for an incredibly filling meal, and I have the urge to go out and exercise even though it’s not all that fattening.

art delta

April 17, 2010

Out of laziness, I have not gotten guitar strings in a month.  But I did borrow a friend’s banjo.  What’s interesting is that after a little while of fooling around with it, I discovered that improvising is a little bit more difficult for me on banjo than on guitar, and therefore the creation of a lot of songs doesn’t come as naturally.  However, I did manage to figure out several songs on the banjo, and eventually write one that has lyrics.  If you’ve heard any of my music (some of it is at http://www.reverbnation.com/sgaston ), you’ll know this is unusual.

Anyway, so I learned to play “The Sinking of the Reuben James” (Woody Guthrie), “Paths of Victory” (Bob Dylan), “Days of Rum” (Marissa Nadler), and “Here It Comes” (Hurray for the Riff Raff).  I also managed to figure out “John Henry” (traditional) and “Sail Away Ladies” (Uncle Dave Macon via John Fahey) from how I knew to play them on the guitar.  All of this is in either open C or Cm, which is a tuning I use ALL THE TIME on the guitar.

Also on the photo front, I have plans of playing with medium format film.  I planned to buy this:

This is the Mamiya C220.  I hadn’t seen one of Mamiya’s C series until a onetime photography friend and I shot photos together.  I’d been impressed with his art for a variety of reasons, and liked the clarity and detail that the medium format has.  And, since I’m moving from a standard SLR 35mm, I’ve gotten used to interchangeable lenses.  The only affordable medium format cameras with interchangeable lenses are in Mamiya’s C series.  So there’s convenience.

It’s mainly a new medium to explore though.  It’s even simpler than my Pentax K1000

which is fully manual…except for a light metre.  (Not my photo…my camera’s actually a lot more beat up, but I do use a telephoto lens quite frequently.) Without the on-board light metre, things will surely be more interesting.  It shakes things up a little.

Yeah, it will set me behind slightly in my saving money for the big move next year, but it’s only slightly.  And it’s worth it.

thoughts

April 12, 2010

If you think people don’t understand you, they probably don’t.

True art depicts feeling above all else.  It is feeling that draws people in, and feeling that people remember.  A description is only made in the mind for ready access to the feeling that came from the piece.

There’s no musician who is so great that (s)he can put out only perfect records.

Perfection is subjective.

Food explorations

April 6, 2010

It was a crazy weekend.  I got together with my friend Phillip, and we cooked salmon.  This is our normal ritual.  We each take turns cooking.  This leads to some pretty weird experiments sometimes.  It was Phillip’s turn.

salmon

This is a crappy cellphone photo of my meal.  The salmon was basted in olive oil, and Phillip used a Greek seasoning rub.  It was delicious!  There’s a massive quantity of something that was partly my idea, spinach and rice, with some of Phillip’s partly-homemade salsa on top.  Not pictured is the glass of cheap white wine.  We each had three such glasses that night and went canoeing around midnight.

Sunday was something else too.  I went over to two friends’ house, David and Laci.  I said I’d bring some food, and decided on a black bean and couscous salad.  The couscous was the garlic-and-rosemary seasoned variety, commonly available in such places as Wal Mart.  The black bean salad involved green onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, white corn, and (of course) black beans.  The dressing was a simple lemon, olive oil, and garlic dressing.  The salad and couscous were separate so each person could get however much of each they wanted.

black bean salad and couscous

Also, Laci made some tabouleh, which people sometimes also mixed into the salad.

Both were quite popular that night, and were gone very quickly.  Several people were there, other than us, which I didn’t completely plan for.  All was well though.