29th May 2007

After These Messages …

… we’ll be right back!

posted in Animation | 2 Comments

27th May 2007

How To Tell If Your Ventriloquist Puppet Is Evil

The Booberry Alarmclock posted some photos of a ventriloquist doll (it’s no dummy!), and this reminded me of this public safety tip: How to tell if your ventriloquist puppet is evil:

Willie talk? No. Willie kill you? Yes!

1. Make a large, roaring fire.

2. Within earshot of the doll say “Well, I think it’s about time I get rid of this ventriloquist doll … it’s not doing me any good no more”.

3. Pick up the doll and say “I think this will burn up real good in the fire”

4. Walk towards the fire.

5. Make like you’re going to throw the doll into the fire on the count of 3.

At this point, if your doll is evil, you’ll feel a bite on your arm, or a punch, or some other violent reaction. The doll will try to get out of your grasp, and, if successful, will run away, most likely with an evil cackle out of it’s smiling mouth. Be careful … he’s not fleeing from you; he’s only looking for a place to hide in order to attack you later.

If nothing happens, your doll is probably not evil. You now have 2 choices: Throw it into the fire anyway, or put it away.

Warning: If you do not throw the doll in the fire, it is suggested that you take a knife with you to bed. It’s possible the doll is evil but knew you were testing it, and is waiting for you to go to sleep before attempting to strangle you.

posted in Miscellaneous | 38 Comments

24th May 2007

Best Places to Eat

I was tagged by Swanky for this meme… here goes!

I’m supposed to come up with five great places to eat in my area, which is Silicon Valley. There’s one problem, though… I’m having trouble finding good food in my area. It’s a common complaint of mine — how can a region that hosts a world-class university (Stanford) and the headquarters of some of the brightest, youngest, hippest companies around (Google, Yahoo!, Apple, and about a hundred more) feel like such a cultural wasteland? Don’t get me wrong — I’ve no doubt that there’s great food hiding somewhere around here, but I’m having to slog through a lot of mediocre meals in my quest to find it.

I’m not a picky eater, or even a finicky eater — when it’s chow time, I’m game for most anything — but I am a big ol’ food snob. I’ve only been here for a bit more than a year, and so far I just haven’t found five places in Silicon Valley I feel confident actually recommending. I can come up with one. Vive Sol in Mountain View is fantastic. I would love to find more places like Vive Sol — please, if you know of great places to eat in Silicon Valley (esp. towards the Palo Alto end), I’m all ears.

So, I’m going to recommend five places in Seattle, instead:

  1. Palace Kitchen
    Palace Kitchen
    Palace Kitchen

    I lived in Seattle for nearly 30 years. I go back four generations in the Seattle area — on all sides of my family. I got some deep, deep roots there. The last time I went back to Seattle, this time to show Hanford my hometown, the very first thing I did was head straight to Palace Kitchen. I mean, straight there. We picked our hotel because it was the closest to Palace Kitchen.

    An example of how great the service is: on one visit, the place was packed, and we had other places to be that night, so we had to make it a quick stop for appetizers at the bar. It was crowded enough at the bar that we were about three people deep, but the bartender actually left the bar, and walked all the way around to take our order. Holy moley! That’s some serious service. She ably handled our order of some appetizers, too, and assured us that they’d find a way to fit our appetizer plates on the small ledge at the edge of the bar that would serve as our table. Sure enough, it all worked out just fine — and the drinks the bartender made were divine, prepared with a confident and experienced hand, and served quickly.

    Palace Kichen is owned by Tom Douglas, and it’s my favorite of his restaurants — it’s casual, but I think the food is more interesting than what you find at his other restaurants. The menu there is variable, based on what’s currently freshly available, and what flavors the chef feels like playing with. Tom Douglas beat Morimoto on Iron Chef. He’s just insanely good. I own his cookbooks, and his recipes make me look good. I love him. He’s my food hero.

  2. Toyoda Sushi
    Toyoda-san, photo by Markus Kolb
    Toyoda-san, photo by Markus Kolb

    Simple, unassuming, and just-plain-excellent sushi. Toyoda Sushi is a small place, tucked in the middle of a row of nothing little shops on Lake City Way, between a hobby shop and a dance studio. Lake City Way is not where you go to get good food in Seattle, it’s where you go to buy cars. I went past this place a hundred times without even noticing it — and even if I had, I would have written off sushi in Lake City as a bad idea.

    But Toyoda Sushi is wonderful. If it’s not the best sushi in town, it’s very, very close — and the unfakeable neighborhood feel of it makes it my hands-down favorite. The tiny entry is always crowded with people who know the drill: write your name on the list, and wait patiently. The waiting area is plastered with about a hundred photos of Toyoda regulars — there’s a few photos of Paul Newman tucked in there, apparently he’s a fan, too. The walls of the restaurant are decorated with a mix of Japanese prints and crayon drawings by the younger regulars. They serve pie. Happy regulars on their way out the door call out “Thank you, Toyoda-san!” to Mr. Toyoda, who grins back broadly while happily slicing away behind the sushi bar. If you are able to get a seat at the sushi bar, Toyoda-san will keep slipping you delicious little cuts of extra fish, without a word. It’s the most loved and loveable sushi place I’ve ever seen, and it deserves it.

  3. Paseo
    Paseo, photo by Mark Griffith
    Paseo, photo by Mark Griffith

    Paseo ruined me. I found it only a few months before I left Seattle, and I cursed myself for not finding it sooner. It’s not really a restaurant, it’s a cash-only sandwich stand with a few tables. My love for their Midnight Cuban has sent me on a fruitless quest to find such a delicious sandwich again — but nothing comes close. The typical cuban sandwich out there might as well be a McDonald’s hamburger compared to the deliciousness that is Paseo’s Midnight Cuban.

  4. Pagliacci Pizza
    Pagliacci, photo by lindes
    Pagliacci, photo by lindes

    My first job when I moved out of the house at 16 was at Pagiacci Pizza in the University District. Being poor as dirt, pizza was my only lunch or dinner for months. But even when my pizza-slinging stint was over, I still kept going back. Over the years, I generally ordered a Pagliacci pie for dinner at least once a week. When I was working back in the U-District again (this time in computational biology — a much cushier gig), I found myself again eating pizza every single day for lunch, this time by choice — and still kept up with my regular pizza dinners. Like Coca-Cola, I will never grow tired of Pagliacci Pizza. I may be addicted.

    They have special seasonal pizzas that I always looked forward to each year: the Roasted Tomato was perhaps my favorite, but I also loved it when the Gorgonzola Pear pizza rolled around (I always added prosciutto). Year-round, my favorite pizza was the Agog Primo — whole roasted garlic cloves, kalamata olives, goat cheese, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, parsley, on an olive-oil base (instead of their tomato sauce — which was allso excellent). They also do all the traditional pizzas, and they do them really well.

  5. Lighthouse Roasters
    Lighthouse Roasters
    Lighthouse Roasters

    Okay, you don’t actually eat coffee, but it’s an absolute essential to many a Seattleite, and I was no exception. It’s Seattle’s ultimate comfort food. It was one of the things I had to wean myself off of when I left — there was no good coffee near me when I lived in Los Angeles. When I lived in Seattle, my ritual nearly every weekend morning was to go get coffee at whatever was the best, closest coffee shop/stand. My favorite, and the one that was walking distance from my final residence in Seattle, was Lighthouse Roasters in Fremont. I loved starting my weekend mornings with a groggy stroll through the neighborhood, past the smiling topiaries, to be greeted by the quietly-friendly baristas, and given a cup of the best damned eye-opener. The stroll back was always a little brighter, and my day was off to a running start.

Okay, that’s my five! A few more orders of business for this meme to be completed:

The list:
It’s a little chain-lettery, sure, but it lets you see some other cities that have been profiled. If I’ve tagged you, just look at the page source to copy & paste the code with all the links.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Tits McGee (New England, USA)
Joe (NE Tennessee, USA)
10K Monkeys (Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)
Big Stupid Tommy (Athens, Tennessee, USA)
Newscoma (Weakley County, Tennessee, USA)
Russ McBee (Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Atomictumor (Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA)
Oh Really? (Oak Ridge, TN, USA)
Mark Steel (Knoxville, TN, USA)
Swanky (Knoxville, TN, USA)
Humuhumu (Seattle, WA, USA, and Silicon Valley, CA, USA)

And now to tag five other folks who are bound to have five restaurants in their area to recommend:

Tiki Mama
Bowling Trophy
Spectre Collie
Jurgen Nation
Moose in the Kitchen

posted in Food | 11 Comments

22nd May 2007

Gallery of Pocky

Men's Pocky

How many kinds of Pocky do you think there is? 5 or 6? Try more like fifteen. No, wait, scratch that. Try more like ninety-four. With flavors like Choco-Banana Pocky, Sweet Potato Pocky, and even the mysterious Fortune-telling Grape Pocky, Jelly Bellies don’t have shit on Pocky. Check them all out at the Gallery of Pocky. [Via Deus Ex Machina]

posted in Food | 2 Comments

21st May 2007

The $1500 Computer Keyboard

Each key on the Optimus Maximus keyboard is actually a tiny little color screen that can display any image on it. Now when typing with Comic Sans your keyboard will actually reflect it.

Optimus Maximus Keyboard

I want two.

posted in Tech | Comments Off

19th May 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

This is simply outstanding:

A Fair(y) Use Tale, by Eric Faden

This is a short film, by Eric Faden, illustrating how copyright and fair use work (and more importantly, how they don’t work). What makes it exceptionally clever is that it is completely composed of short snippets of Disney animated films. Not only is Disney notoriously thorough in their defense of their intellectual property (as is their right), they have thrown immense lobbying dollars and efforts into getting the term of copyright extended (which kinda stinks).

It’s interesting to note that the music used in this piece is not from Disney, and has been used with permission. After you’ve viewed this clip, you’ll understand why — the music does not play a role in parody, or in teaching, and would not have fallen under fair use. If the subject of the clip was the fair use specifically of music, then the use of music as illustration could possibly have been supported.

I have this come up all the time, when my website clients ask about using music on their websites. This clip does a better job of explaining it all than I have done in the past (and I learned a bit about fair use while watching it, too). I’m so glad I can now point my clients to this to answer some of their questions about copyright and fair use.

[Via Boing Boing]

posted in Animation, Disney | 2 Comments

11th May 2007

The Majestic Kitchen Rooster

Ceramic Rooster

There are many things in life that are not for me to understand, and chief among them is the ubiquitous ceramic kitchen rooster. It’s one of those things that for many years I didn’t even think to question, but once I did set to wondering, I became amazed and mystified by this seemingly-simple kitchen tchotchke.

You’ve seen these a hundred times before, and I’d wager you haven’t given them a lot of thought, either. But, they’re kind of weird. For starters, the rooster is always depicted with all the noble bearing of a Roman general. These roosters don’t look like they’re just the big man around the henhouse, they look like they’ve just come back from conquering half of Europe. And they’re not cheap — the one pictured here has a $375 price tag. Who is spending nearly four hundred dollars on a ceramic chicken? Granted, it’s a very, very nice ceramic chicken, but it seems a bit odd that this would be happening all the time without a few questions being asked.

Questions like … who makes these? Somewhere out there, someone is making a living off of making ceramic roosters. Someone is a ceramic rooster artisan. Someone learned how to make ceramic roosters from their grandfather, and comes from a long line of rooster-makers. Perhaps there is a village in Italy that is renowned for its collection of fine chicken portaitists.

When I first started to ponder the kitchen rooster a few years ago, I started photographing them whenever I saw one. I finally gave up after I hit a few dozen — the suckers are all over the place. But here’s the kicker — I never saw two that were alike. They have got to be made from molds, but why have I not seen any duplicate chickens? The variety in the ceramic rooster market is simply astounding.

I don’t have the answers, and frankly, I don’t want them — I like a little mystery now & then. So, the next time to cross the path of a very fancy ceramic kitchen rooster, ponder for a moment where he came from, and where he’s headed. And be thankful you aren’t a peasant in some tiny European village he’s just ransacked.

p.s. — I do appreciate the irony in this questioning of ceramic roosters coming from a woman who runs a huge site dedicated to ceramic drinking cups made to look like Polynesian gods.

posted in Art | 8 Comments

5th May 2007

¡Vive El Rio del Tiempo!

My favorite part of Walt Disney World is Epcot’s World Showcase, which houses mini-lands representing eleven different countries, each one themed to the hilt. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite pavilion, but if someone really pressed me, Mexico would definitely be in the running.

Epcot's Mexico Pavilion
Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion
Mariachi Cobre
Mariachi Cobre

First off, the music is fantastic. I love mariachi music, absolutely nuts for the stuff. Nothing is better on a sunny day, and no other music can so reliably put a smile on my face. The band that plays at Epcot is Mariachi Cobre. It was a surreal moment when I first visited the Mexico pavilion and saw that they play there daily — I have all their albums, and had no idea they were a Disney band. Definitely one of those moments that affirmed my love for Disney.

It’s lit perfectly and romantically — it’s always twilight in the Mexico pavilion. It’s the only pavilion that is completely indoors, which can be awfully nice when it gets too hot in the Florida sun. It’s only a little bit brighter than a Peppermill’s. I am an absolute sucker for a dimly lit public establishment. It’s the best way to make a place feel totally immersive. I don’t exactly feel like I’m in Mexico when I’m inside the Mexico pavilion, but I know I’m somewhere unreal and magical.

The restaurant in the pavilion is the San Angel Inn. In short, it’s a Mexican-themed Blue Bayou. It sits at the back of the pavilion, overlooking an Aztec pyramid, with a volcano rumbling threateningly in the distance. The food isn’t spectacular, but it’s good, and the margaritas are actually great. It’s not my favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World (there’s so much great food to be had there), but it’s worth making time for.

Pyramid and volcano in the distance at San Angel Inn
Pyramid and volcano in the distance at San Angel Inn

Running between the San Angel Inn and that pyramid, just like at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland, is a water-based dark ride. But no blockbuster films will ever be made in tribute to El Rio del Tiempo.

However, a non-blockbuster film has been made… RU42 has created an 11 minute tribute to this pavilion, including a run-through of El Rio del Tiempo:

The Mexico Pavilion, featuring El Rio del Tiempo, by RU41

El Rio del Tiempo shall forever live in infamy. It was the only ride in all of World Showcase when the pavilion opened in 1982 (Norway’s Maelstrom ride was added in 1988). The true experience of it defies description, but I’m going to try anyhow.

As the ride begins, your boat heads past that pyramid and volcano, and into an ancient temple. For some reason, there are video screens projecting images from a 1982 disco party, with star fields & rainbows, and possibly the Village People. You turn the corner, and now you’re on the It’s a Small Mexico ride, only all the children have killed Mary Blair. Then you’re in modern-day Mexico… I’m sorry, you’re in 1982 Mexico… and you’re visiting a tourism office. There are video scenes of beaches and cliff divers, and a hot tub party. “1982 Hot Tub Party.” Just let that sink in for a little bit, and see if you don’t feel like you could use a shower. From there, it’s El Rio del Tiempo’s most notorious section: the open-air market. You boat is chased — chased — by desperate merchants, begging you to buy their merchandise. Then you head into a room that has Mexico City’s 1982 skyline all lit up on one side, and marionnettes forced to dance eternally in a carousel-like circle. Marionnettes are always a little creepy, but these are full-size human marionnettes, which just exaggerates their soullessness. Fireworks are exploding overhead, just in case you weren’t uncomfortable enough with the scene as it is. And then you see the painting of Mexico that signals you will soon be free.

Hot tub scene at El Rio del Tiempo, by sigsegv
Hot tub scene at El Rio del Tiempo, by sigsegv

El Rio del Tiempo closed recently, and has been updated; it’s now called Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. This is a wonderful development — Three Caballeros is my favorite Disney film, and a perfect fit. I can’t wait to see the new ride. (PLEASE do not tell me anything you might know about the new ride. I’m trying to remain unspoiled.) While I don’t doubt for a second that they did the right thing in updating this ride, I am a little wistful that I won’t get to ride it again. I kind of loved it.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

posted in Disney | 5 Comments

4th May 2007

Here Come the Double Deckers!

The Double Deckers opening & ending credits

I saw this posted on Eye of the Goof last week, and it’s too cool not to share… but I hesitate, because the theme song you’ll hear is so catchy that I can’t help but wonder if I could have legitimate legal claims filed against me for subjecting you to it. So, DISCLAIMER: WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to get to sleep because of an urgent need to dance violently and find a ticket for a double decker London bus… well, you asked for it.

Here Come the Double Deckers was a kids’ show from 1970-71, co-produced by the BBC and 20th Century Fox and filmed in England. Seventeen episodes were created, and it aired both in the UK and here in the States. The show stars seven young kids who know their way around a Watusi, and have nicknames that scream “packaged product”: Scooper, Spring, Billie (it’s a boy’s name, but it’s really a girl!), Brains (he wears glasses! he’s so smart!), Doughnut (he’s overweight! he can’t stop eating!), Sticks (he plays the drums! so hip!) and Tiger (that’s the name of the littlest girl, and her stuffed animal! so wacky!).

It didn’t sink in for me until the second viewing that their hangout is a junkyard clubhouse (!). I was distracted the first time ’round by the flailing dance moves of the kids. You can tell that the director had been yelling all morning, “Bigger! Bigger! More movement! More action! I want to see wild arm swings!” These kids make the Barney’s kids look like lumps. Lumps with lame dance moves.

posted in Midcentury, Television | 5 Comments

4th May 2007

Asian Fab

I hope the music was at least half as good as the cover art — way groovy:

The Quests' Go Go Requests
The Quests’ Go Go ReQuests

A post on Robot Action Boy pointed me to this treasure trove of Asian pop album covers from the ’60s and ’70s. Good god, they just keep going and going… and every last one has got some kind of crazy-cool thing about it.

The Quests’ Go Go ReQuests album (pictured above) — well, you can see for yourself how fabulous it is. One of the songs on the album is “Ding Dong Twist,” which sounds like either a new Hostess snack product, or an obscene gesture. Sing Along With the Christones features a band of young, hip, Asian priests — each wearing one of those little white & black priest collar things. Four Hits, also from the Quests, has a very soulful-looking pointing finger on the cover — appropriately, to illustrate their song “Soul Finger.” Now, that’s a song I want to hear.

Off Beat Cha Cha
Off Beat Cha Cha

Some of the albums look funky, like they may be soundtracks to obscure Thaispoitation films… others look like the Ravi Shankar’s schtick re-arrived back home after being filtered through the Beatles… and lots are clearly light, fluffy Go-Go dancing frothiness, complete with smiling, happy girls. Well, except for Off Beat Cha Cha, which has three girls who are clearly dancing under court order and are miserable about it.

Don’t take my word for it, go check out the entire gallery of albums for yourself at David Greenfield’s photo site.

posted in Design, Midcentury, Music | 2 Comments