Things Consumed

visit the latest entry in things consumed | visit the things consumed archives | return to | subscribe to the feed

Thursday, June 30, 2005

And then, the blender exploded. I'm not having a good day. I've finally disposed of the chipotle enchilada sauce that splattered all over the kitchen (and all over me) when the blender decided that being half full of boiling, chili-filled liquid was TOO MUCH to deal with, popped off its lid (pushing my left. lid-holding hand aside violently), and vomited hot sauce in a fifteen degree arc, at my shoulder height, in all directions.

The counters, cabinets, walls, and floor look especially clean now, aside from the festively-spicy-looking bits that would not come off the wallpaper.

I can't get it off the square yard of carpet it reached in the adjacent dining room, however.

Not that I like that carpet.

But still.

The fact that the enchiladas came out well with the surviving sauce is a consolation, but only a little one.

I'm going to go to bed. I hope tomorrow goes more smoothly.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:35 PM

So chocolate, it hurts: I did it. I made Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker recipe: Chocolate sorbet ( And it is SO chocolate, without the cushion of dairy to which I am accustomed, that I almost can't eat it.

S had a bowl of it. I had about four tablespoons.

S insists that there is no such thing as too much chocolate. But... It's too much for me. Too intense.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:30 PM

Styrofoam, paint, wire.... Last night S and I went to the member's preview of SFMOMA | The Art of Richard Tuttle ( Tuttle is one of those do-everything artists who defied a lot of conventions. Because he and others of his generation defied them, those conventions ceased to exist, certain members of later generations have a hard time figuring out what the big deal is, because we've seen work derived from these ideas.

S observed that many of the pieces, if left on a coffee table at home, would lead to inquiries about what one's child has been doing at camp.

Aside: A couple years ago, when Prague flooded, a modern art museum lost numerous pieces to the rushing water. The problem wasn't just that the work was lost, but that if found, no one would realize it was art and try to return it. Without the museum context, some of the stuff looked like... flood debris.

Tuttle made some lovely books. But I'm too post-minimalist to really appreciate his drawing and sculptures. The people who followed him were much MORE minimalist, truer to the idea minimalism, and I can't tell whether he deserves credit for influencing those works. This is one of those shows about ideas which once amazed people (and parted art patrons from large sums of cash), but which now inspire "of course"s in hindsight.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:05 PM

Oh my gawd, I am such a geek. This is what happens when I think too much about the properties of various photographic safelights: I read about How to make a CD and cereal box spectrometer. ( I think of photography as a pursuit for chemists, but there are other physical sciences that apply as well!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Molly Ivins quote of the morning (well, of many mornings ago, but I just read it now): Star-Telegram | 05/08/2005 | American policy, courtesy of Beavis & Co.:
The First Rule of Holes applies: If you're stuck in one, stop digging.
The great thing about this quote is that it applies to SO MANY of our current situations, it's hard to guess which topic she's discussing. In this instance, it's our nation's nuclear waste problem, but there are many other valid applications on the front page of any newspaper...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:26 AM

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not about food, but very sick/funny: Asmussen's Bad Reporter - about Viagra (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

A cartoon, marginally about food: Don Asmussen's Bad Reporter on terrorist ice cream flavors (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, June 27, 2005

Four words: fresh blackberry frozen yogurt.

I now believe that this little, toy-like dessert maker that S was given is a trick distributed by the makers of fancy, expensive ice cream machines. Now that I am growing accustomed to making frozen desserts, it is obvious that this little machine isn't really up to the task. I need something bigger, that doesn't have such a hard time stirring.

I sense a long, slippery slope ahead.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 AM


Alternative photographic print-making visitors from abroad!

As a huge fan of the website, I was thrilled to receive e-mail from its founder and editor, Malin Fabbri. Malin would be coming to SF from Sweden, and wanted to know about the photography shows currently taking place. In my paralegal-trained fashion, I compiled a list, and then went out and pre-screened a show to be certain it was worthwhile. I also offered to use my membership at SFMOMA to get Malin into the huge photography exhibit there as my guest.

Malin took me up on the offer.

SFMOMA | Taking Place: Photographs from the Prentice and Paul Sack Collection ( is a massive collection which flows physically from the museum's usual gallery of photographs, making an exhibit which fills an entire floor of the museum. The catalog describes it as including "285 vintage prints that span the history of the medium from 1840 to the mid-1970s," and it certainly does. This is the first time I've been able to enjoy photographs at SFMoMA with someone who not only KNOWS what albumen, daguerreotype, cyanotype, and other sorts of prints are, but has made alt prints and has been a huge advocate of the revival of these processes.

The exhibit begins in the permanent collection, with good examples of the earliest processes, and moves through samples of original prints from many famous photographers before getting to the most thematic portion of the Sack collection. The theme is 'buildings which could be bought or leased,' which is such an American capitalist theme for an art collection, it makes me laugh. But it works well: the images are interesting and varied, since the images are not ONLY of buildings, but of people moving through public spaces, designed landscapes, and other scenes in which the building is not the only feature.

Malin is delightful. And female!! I've never known anyone named Malin, and so was uncertain of her gender until she advised me by e-mail that she needed advice on where to buy maternity clothes, and would have her husband along with her. She was great fun to speak with, and since she'd lived in London for more than a decade I was able to respond at full speed. The only thing I was completely unable to respond to was her question about how her website could be improved. I enjoy the site enormously, but love it just the way it is, really. I've been trying to think about it more critically, but always wind up eager to try something new I see or read about, rather than thinking about website content. Which, to me, means it's perfect!!


We also went to Cafe Museo, where I had reliably good coffee, plus a great bowl of potato soup with pesto and a giant, toasted-garlic crouton; walked through Golden Gate Park; visited San Francisco's 111 year old Japanese Tea Garden; toured the Conservatory of Flowers; and finally stopped at Arizmendi Bakery, for a delicious pizza to refresh us after our sightseeing.

I think they were a bit bored by the Tea Garden (which is now well maintained enough to hide its history, but which is a shadow of what it was becoming prior to WWII) and Conservatory (which is very small relative to the big glass conservatories of England), but liked to walk around in the overcast weather and fresh air. For me, the foliage colors and patterns at both destinations were lovely, and I kept thinking they would make good gum prints. :-)


I wrote out a list of recommended sights to see during the balance of their short visit, including the less touristy parts of Chinatown (follow the locals) and all of North Beach for dining; the Palace of Fine Arts (1915); Fort Point, our own 1850s fortress located in the Presidio (founded in 1776 by the Spanish); the Golden Gate Bridge (1920s); and, if they wanted to take their rental car into Marin, the Headlands for views of the City and bridge, plus the lovely Point Bonita Lighthouse (1877, more here).

Those are all things I like, and which seemed to interest them more than the tourist areas or shopping districts, but it's always difficult to know what people want their experiences to be like. Malin did remark that big retail companies are trying to make every town the same, putting the same shops selling the same merchandise in the same large structures regardless of local context, making every town feel just like the others. That has been happening in the U.S. for a long time, and it's unfortunate to the extent that it bleeds local culture, character, and history from a visitor's experience of an area. San Francisco has been attempting to resist the trend, to varying degrees of success. I think the City still has many "authentic" features, which can be found off the usual tourist track.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:06 AM

And I got my hopes up it was about cyanotypes: The Intersection for the Arts currently has a show up in its gallery called Blueprints: Intersection's 40th Anniversary Exhibition. I went during the 40th anniversary street party, hoping to preview the exhibit to tell a visiting photographer about.

The "blue" prints used in the ad, which are a bit purple, are just photos tinted in a computer program. The exhibit is about the history of the institution and the events that shaped it, and so may be most intriguing for locals. The exhibit is small, but chock full of date/even information, in small print with tiny images arranged on large boards. It's rounded out by several larger visual pieces.

So, it's a nice little exhibit, recommended for locals who may have some association with the dates and events described.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:05 AM

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Recycling. I take lengthy breaks from updating my pro-peace blog, I do this partly because I also like to take breaks from the three daily hours or so I often devote to news absorption, and partly because the blog is about what a bad idea it was to invade Iraq, which has become extremely obvious to everyone but Ahmed Chalabi, and perhaps Judith Miller at the New York Times.

I advised my friends that I had taken a break from the news, and so only recently read Galloway v the US Senate: transcript of statement, by Times Online (, which I found quite entertaining.

I was asked what the effects of taking such a news break are. This is what I wrote.
It felt good. It ever-so-slightly affected my guesses for "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me" when I listened to archived shows recently, but only for a few questions - the others I could guess, even though I hadn't heard the story. And, since even the BBC reports on fluff like the Michael Jackson trial, it spared me a lot of trivia that I was eager to avoid.

This is perhaps the fourth time I've taken a break from the news since 2000, and the only discouraging thing is the consistency of the stories. I could easily make a game of it. "The politician currently embroiled in a criminal scandal, but whose party is keeping him in power for his moral courage, is _____. The occupation of Iraq is going _______ badly. The people of ________ are being slaughtered by folks we armed during the Cold War (or last week), but they don't have oil, so no one cares; Americans forgot we started this, and so believe the problem is 'traditional tribal conflict.' Women in the US can't get ___________, even if going without treatment could kill them, while Viagra sales break records. Bush denies the relevance of all compelling evidence of wrongdoing about ____________, including the signed, notarized pact with Satan. The Democrats allowed the Republicans to _________ all over them about _________. _______ was cooking its books. _______ was braindead after all." (Okay, playing with that last one could be fun.)

But so many things don't merit blanks, because they never change, so those aren't any fun. The media still thinks the Palestinians should be more peaceful, so they could be as successful as the Tibetans in winning their freedoms; "free trade" is still supposed to solve all our problems, as if we're all immoral corporations will THOSE sorts of problems; Castro is still long-winded and evil, while the Chinese can do anything to their people and still be our friends; the folks who were wrong about the stock market last time are now gurus on our entire economy; _acceptable_ expressions of patriotism still require blinders and a high degree of willful ignorance; Kissinger is still walking the earth...

Humans aren't escaping the unlearned lessons of history, and the only places I read about the GOOD things that happen are in the alternative and DIY press, where a few dedicated people make phenomenal progress in solving a problem on a small scale, and the concepts are unlikely to be emulated by anyone "normal" on a larger scale, because normal people can no longer envision a better world, and so don't see the point.

Not that I'm cynical or anything.

Anyway, I'm catching up, and I think I'm qualified to prescribe unplugging DeLay from his sources of life support, based on a few videos...
Observe how I get more mileage out of my e-mail be re-using it here.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, June 25, 2005


For first time visitors to the Yosemite Valley

I go to Yosemite National Park quite often, and so recently won quite a bit of praise from a friend for having lots of information on the Valley. My friend plans on taking a child on her first camping trip. She was worried that it would be too rigorous for her, not realizing that the Valley has small towns in it, and that you can choose your activity level to suit your needs.

I won high praise for sending her this advice, so I'll post it here for now while trying to decide whether or not I should set up a page for tourist advice.
Can you give me a little guidance on where to go in Yosemite (if of course I can even get into any campsite). [My friend is planning this trip on short notice.]

This will actually be your biggest challenge. Go to and check to see what, if anything, is available.

Try for Upper or Lower Pines. The odds are bad, so do this first! Housekeeping (tent-roofed cabins with BBQ areas) is okay if you want to have a BBQ every night, but that's a lot of work, and there are kid-friendly places to eat if you don't want to do all the cooking. You can also check with the Curry Village concessionaires to see if they have any tent cabins available, but... I had to book in October to get one for this April, so you're really just looking for cancellations for those.

I would love to take my Little Sis who has never been camping before and is not a big hiker. I think she could handle some little (and I mean very little) hikes, but nothing major.

The Yosemite Valley is _the_ place to go for people who have little or no physical ability, and/or are afraid of nature.

There is a shuttle bus that will take you around to all of the sites. There are easy walking trails from the shuttle bus stops to places like Happy Isles (flat!), Mirror Lake (gradual, easy slope), the vista points for Yosemite Falls (flat!), and several scenic spots along the meadows and Merced River (oh so very flat). [Those are my walking destination recommendations.] There is a FLAT bike & walking trail around the developed areas of the valley -- if she ever gets tired, you just need to get to the next bus stop. There are shops and a theater where you can watch movies about the park (some of which are cheesy, but still pretty.) The ranger programs are GREAT, and the rangers on average are unusually good with kids. You'll find plenty to do that won't challenge her physically.

Of course the falls are always beautiful, but I'm sure camping around the falls would be very difficult in July (specifically the weekend of July 9th and 10th).

The Upper and Lower Pines campgrounds are the closest thing to Nevada Falls, and a short bus ride to Yosemite Falls - you can't really camp anywhere near the actual falls, even with a wilderness permit and someone who is a fine hiker/climber. The areas are too heavily used, and so are off limits to camping.

I don't recommend Camp 4, which is the parking-lot like camping area for last-minute people without reservations. Hodgdon Meadow is also a long way from the Valley, so while you may be able to get space there, it means you'd have to 'commute' into the valley every morning -- there's nothing to do at the actual campground, which is just inside the park entrance.

The Valley manages to be spectacular AND a cakewalk for people unused to the outdoors. Your biggest challenge will be scoring a campsite or lodging. Your NEXT biggest challenge may be not losing her in the crowds!! (Be sure to agree on how to find each other, where to meet if separated, etc.) Everything between camping and being in a town is there, so you can moderate the experience.

Be sure to bring a camera, at least a little disposable one, to get photos of her (and both of you! There are plenty of camera-capable tourists around who will take your photo for you) and make sure she gets photos from the trip!

I hope that helps. I can recommend places to eat, having last spent time there this very April. I'll be happy to answer any more questions you may have!
I'm not sure if she received reservations, so I haven't yet created a food guide to the Valley. I'll save that for another day.

I should note that I do NOT recommend visiting the Valley in the high summer season. It is too crowded for my tastes. However, I'm a backpacker and try to get AWAY from people during most of my trips, which explains why I visit the Valley almost exclusively in winter.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cake!! I'm not usually a big cake fan, but last night I had an irrational desire for chocolate cake.

Coincidentally, I happened to visit the BBC Food website, and spotted this recipe for Eggless Chocolate Cake ( And I happened to have some of the locally made, fabulous Scharffenberger cocoa. So it all came together.

The cake recipe is good: it's a light, dry cake, very fluffy. Just right. (I don't like heavy, nearly fudge texture of many cakes, unless they are brownies and cut very small.) The frosting recipe is also good and fast, but isn't really thick until chilled a while (or overnight). The recipe DOES recommend whipped cream, which I lacked, but which would moisten the cake + frosting combination enough to make it just right.


Have I mentioned that there is a chocolate sorbet recipe up at There is. Oh my. I'm SO THERE.


Incidentally, the little ice cream maker is proving its worth, despite it's weak stirring abilities. The little booklet that came with it suggests a base recipe of 250 g of fruit, 3/4 of a cup of sugar (don't ask why it's mixing measuring systems), and 2 cups of milk/cream/yogurt as the base recipe. I had already tried it twice with strawberries + half & half, and recently tried it with bananas, a teaspoon of vanilla, and yogurt.

Mmmmm. Bananas make a GREAT frozen yogurt, and with these proportions, it's much more banana than yogurt, which is SO tasty.

We just bought some blackberries, and any that last another day will find themselves in frozen yogurt tomorrow. Mmmm. Blackberries.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:50 PM

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Looking at it all wrong: BBC NEWS | Health | Avoiding soya 'may aid fertility' (06/21/05) reports that some research has demonstrated that it's harder for humans to get pregnant if they have certain soy compounds in their uteruses (uteri?), after it was demonstrated that sperm get roughed up by soy in a petri dish.


So I was hoping for an article about how there will be some great, soy-based spermicide coming out. Excessive fertility is a major world problem, and if it could be made inexpensive, that might help.

No. Instead, it's about how you shouldn't EAT soy around ovulation if you hope to get pregnant. Okay! That's fine. Lots of people are interested in becoming pregnant.

However, Asians eat lots of soy, and seem to have fine reproductive rates overall. And we don't ordinarily eat soy using our uteri. And no one has actually figured out if eating soy actually causes this compound to manifest in a uterus, let alone in the concentrations which sabotage sperm. Or in sperm, as a result of men eating soy, for that matter.

So when I read about how people don't understand popular science reporting, I know why. It's because popular science reporting MAKES NO SENSE.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:19 PM

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

HOT chocolate. I had often read about how the Aztecs invented hot chocolate, but as a spicy drink, complete with hot peppers. As a chili lover, more so than a chocolate lover, I'd always wondered what that drink must have been like.

I guess I'm not the only one who wondered. S brought home some "Xocolatl" from the Dagoba Organic Chocolate Company ( It's dark chocolate, cacao, unrefined sugar, chili, and cinnamon in powder form to mix with (soy) milk.

It's good. But if you mix it strong, it also burns the back of your throat!! It's quite a warming drink, and I've been experimenting with different strengths of it to see what is the most, well, comfortable. So far, it seems like weaker mixtures are more chocolate-dominant than stronger ones.

So my question has been answered, and now a friend who always worries that my cooking is too hot for him can now worry that my dessert beverages are too hot for him, too!
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:38 PM

There are "alt prints" on display in Washington at the Smithsonian right now. The Beautiful Peoples: 'Irving Penn: Platinum Prints,' (, 06/19/05) describes the exhibit. The reviewer describes the complex process of preparing platinum prints on handcoated papers, and the exquisiteness of the resulting prints, so different from conventional silver prints.

Aaaah. There is also a slide show depicting samples of the work, which aren't quite the same electronically, of course. But they still give a good idea of what the work is like.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:13 AM

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Check out Drexel University's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge webcam and highlight videos (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Yes, there had to be one. A parody. About... food. Grocery Store Wars | Join the Organic Rebellion (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


It's fun being a tropical storm in the headlines !

Arlene changes beaches (, AL). They were untidy.

Western counties get nearly 9 inches of rain from Arlene (Dateline Alabama, AL). I'm generous.

Arlene leaves mark with precipitation (Bradenton Herald, FL). This sounds ruder than it is.

Arlene prompts tornado and flash flood warnings in Indiana (-)

Arlene not as wild as she's made out to be (EITB, Spain) This may be my favorite.

Arlene blamed for five sewage spills (

Will Arlene be mean? (Gainesville Sun, FL)

Arlene Could Spread Rust (DTN, NE). Apparently, soybean rust spores like tropical storms.

Arlene doesn't dampen spirits (Atmore Advance, AL). I've been told I'm very cheerful.

Arlene Came Early (MSNBC)- ahem!

Arlene leaves a mess (, FL)

Arlene Gets Meaner As She Moves Into The Gulf (KWTX, TX)
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:10 AM

Monday, June 13, 2005

Is pizza really as great as I think it is? Or does it just taste WONDERFUL because I don't have to make it??

I've had two pizzas this week. One was a delicious artichoke and spinach pizza without sauce on SOURDOUGH from Arizmendi Bakery. It was so amazingly good, I couldn't figure out why more places don't do sourdough crusts. PERFECT sourdough crusts. Mmmm.

Tonight we ordered a Pizza from our favorite local place, Geneva Pizza. Just artichokes and spinach (with cheese and red sauce). It was also lovely, in a plainer way. I was tempted to add raw garlic, as we usually order pizzas with garlic, but S wants to be able to communicate in person with people in the short term. Oh, well.


To follow it up, I'm making home made strawberry ice cream again, which is solidifying now in the freezer. As if we need more calories, or more dairy! I plan to make frozen soy desserts also, once I've had more practice.

As ice cream should, this batch has just five ingredients: strawberries, sugar, half & half, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. That's it. Among commercial, grocery store ice creams, the only one that matches this list is Breyers, which tastes much better than other box ice creams.

Here in SF, we're lucky to have many local ice creameries. Though I'm not a regular dairy consumer, I'm thrilled that they nearly all make great sorbets and soy treats!

Anyway, the only downside to making ice cream with this little, battery-powered ice cream mixing device that S received is that you really need to eat all the ice cream the same day you make it, or ice crystals form. Yes, yes, it's tragic. :-)


I have done a few more days of gum bichromate printing experiments, mostly to test colors, and to figure out why some of the second layers appeared to result in severe staining. I think the pigment I was using (sepia) was a bit old, and so more concentrated when I mixed the emulsion. It stuck everywhere, which was a big disappointment. If I were using gouache also, I might be able to print over the dark areas, but that just be throwing good paint over bad. (If the cliché about throwing good money after bad makes any sense twisted this way.)

One now obvious thing I should have learned immediately is that all of the papers I've tested have different exposure times. Not just different contrasts - wildly different exposure times with the same batch of emulsion! I don't know how this eluded me - I just haven't been sufficiently attentive. I've used three different papers so far, often using them beside one another when printing, and have gotten different results from the same exposure times. Today, for example, I printed for 1 minute and 15 seconds, wanting a lighter result than I got from good 2-minute printing -- but everything was overexposed and too dark, because this paper has a different scale than the one I used for 2-minute prints. I'll have to do test strips for each kind of paper. If I get to print tomorrow afternoon, after the soils engineers come and drill their samples from beneath my house, it will just be test strips. :-)


My brain is full of thoughts about printing. I've just read William Crawford's the Keepers of Light, which discusses antique photographic processes in the context of problem solving for mass communications. If you had visual information you needed to convey, and you had printing presses, how could you convey that information? Photography was intended to solve a problem: namely, that a lot of people who weren't great etchers wanted to communicate visual information. Drawing, even with drawing aids like camera lucidas weren't enough help. The first man to invent photographic images was lousy at drawing, which is part of what motivated his experiments. Crawford discusses printing techniques and limitations, photographic limitations, and then attempts to combine the two processes so images could be reproduced in presses. For a book with relatively few color plates (and a very long technical section with discussions of logarithmic relationships!), it's really quite remarkable. I think I'll really need to SEE some of the photo reproduction processes in use to understand them, because they are still difficult for my brain to grasp.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:38 PM

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Pad Prik King J - vegetarian recipe

For days I've been craving the Thai green bean and tofu dish called "pad prik king J." ("J" usually denotes the vegetarian version of Thai dishes here in California, and possibly elsewhere.) Yesterday, I became determined to make it here at home. I compared recipes on the web, and determined that I don't need to buy "pad prik king curry," but instead use ordinary Thai chili paste mixed with vegetable oil as the sauce, which several recipe posters suggested. Thank you, web recipe posters!

This is my interpretation of about a dozen non-vegetarian recipes for pad prik king. Your house will smell like a Thai restaurant when you make this. Wallow in this sensation as long as you can!

-4 tablespoons canola oil
-2 to 4 teaspoons Thai chili paste (usually red, green is pleasantly different)
-1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly
-5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
-2 cups or so of fresh green beans, stringy ends removed, broken into bite-sized pieces
-1 red bell pepper, halved and sliced thinly
-1 pound of tofu, diced
-the juice of half a lime, or a splash of bottled lime juice
-rice, to eat with this.

Mix the oil and chili paste in a small bowl, until it is smooth. Heat it in a pan over medium heat. Saute with all of the remaining ingredients for about 10 minutes, adding the lime juice near the end. You can cover this for a while to let the veggies steam. Cook until the green beans are no longer crunchy and the other veggies are slightly tender. Serve over rice.

[Contrary to what you'd think, the chili paste is NOT going to burn your mouth off, even though it is hot when simmered in a coconut milk for curry. Frying it in the oil modifies its heat level.]


What is in Thai chili paste? It is a thick puree of fresh chili peppers and spices, sold in cans and small jars in grocery stores. I use Thai Kitchen brand paste, and the jar of green paste I currently have contains chili, lemon grass, galangal, salt, onion, pepper, lime, and a mystery rhizome which I suspect is ginger. There are two different versions of red paste by this company, one of which is NOT vegetarian, so check the ingredients when you buy.

Many variations of Thai sauces and of pad prik king recipes use "fish sauce," usually made with anchovies, salt, sugar, and often MSG; it is usually fermented. I inadventently tried variations of this sauce while in Thailand, and the fermentation made it tough to identify specifically at first. In restaurants, it is often mixed with fresh chilies, and lime and served as a condiment with meals. It is salty and has a strange aftertaste. As a vegetarian, I do not use this, and enjoy many Thai (and Burmese and Chinese) dishes WITHOUT this paste.

Note that a Burmese acquaintance advised me that many Burmese restaurants don't consider fish sauce or shrimp powder inappropriate for vegetarians, because it's ONLY a condiment they add, not the main point of the dish. (!!!) When in doubt as to whether your restaurant vegetable dish will contain fish sauce or shrimp powder (especially for Burmese dishes), emphasize that you want the dish "vegetarian style, no fish sauce or shrimp powder." Restaurants are usually happy to accommodate you, or to recommend another dish if they think the absence of those ingredients changes it too much.
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:18 PM

Friday, June 10, 2005

My eyes are turning rectilinear, just like my monitor: In addition to ALMOST catching up on my web-related scanning...

I have posted two new galleries up at The new galleries are called 'structures,' which contains a few images taken with the 1958, antique, 120 mm film camera; and 'gum bichromates,' which contains the results of 7 days of printing experiments. I've posted a lengthy explanation of what gum prints are (drink coffee while reading, or just skip the explanation and look at the images). I haven't been able to finish the full color, 3-layer prints because of the recent rainstorm and subsequent cloudiness. But I'll get to it when the sun returns.

I have also changed the appearance of the galleries of sabbatical travel snapshots up at I probably should not have changed the background and font color immediately after sending people links, since they might try to load the page mid-edit, but I feared I wouldn't do it at all otherwise.

I need a break from staring at the screen, but am sure I will post the rest of the 2004 travel snapshots this month.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:41 AM

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Starbucks inspires... performance art: Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping: Annals of Free Trade: Reverend Billy descends on Starbucks, by Camille Dodero. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:42 PM

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Our router for the home network has been acting up, and refusing to speak to the DSL modem for a few days. So I'm behind in my posting, my e-mail, etc.

But to celebrate the return of broadband, I have posted five new galleries of vacation images up at my sabbatical photo galleries page. More galleries are in the works, as I catch up on my film scanning and watch my eyes turn square.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:41 PM

Monday, June 06, 2005

A great blog of strange objects: A1Scrapmetal (
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:25 PM

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Great restaurant: Roti Indian Bistro. Roti, and Indian restaurant that recently opened in West Portal, had been recommended to me by a neighborhood friend as being fabulous. I am extremely fond of Indian food, both northern and southern, and had long complained that our neighborhood needs an Indian restaurant. Now, at least an adjacent neighborhood has one!

And it is fabulous. We ordered bhindi masala (okra with soft-fried red onions and spices), palak paneer (S' favorite of stewed spinach with soft cheese), aloo gobi (potatoes, cauliflower, and a red sauce), garlic naan, and pulao rice. Everything was subtly flavored so that you could taste every ingredient. Even though I'm addicted to hot, ultra-spicy food, I appreciated the nuances. The bhindi masala was one of the more tasty versions I've had: the okra maintained its structural integrity, while still absorbing all the flavors of its lovely and attractive sauce. The naan was more light and delicate than others we have had, and was very tasty on its own. Everything looked very good - the foods weren't obscured by their sauces, and everything appeared to be composed with an awareness of color as well as flavor. The service and kitchen were both fast, even though we were there on a packed Saturday night.

The restaurant space is also very attractive, in a modern (Pottery Barn?) kind of way. It all looks clean and new, because it is.

S and I both left enormously satisfifed, and plan to eat there again.

Roti is located at 53 West Portal Avenue, on the first block out of the streetcar tunnel. It is a member of the Greening Ethnic Restaurants program (
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:30 PM

Food! Glorious food! Oh, the farmers' market is a wonderful place. This weekend's purchases:

-1/2 a flat of strawberries (still perfect, and now just $5 for six baskets!)
-green beans
-red onions with fresh greens still on top (the greens are heavenly in salads)
-kiwi fruit (the farmer advised me that this is the last week of the large ones, but that the small ones will still be available)
-giant yellow zucchini
-tender greens (I really don't know the name of this kind)
-Armenian cucumbers (about 1.5 feet long, pale green, and with very deep ridges)
-artichokes with pretty grown patterns that makes me feel a need to photograph them.

There was an amazing abundance of summer squashes; I got there too late for basil, but there were many other herbs and greens; the only vendor with bell peppers only had bruised, damaged fruit; the few tomatoes visible were still pale. Asparagus still looked good; the broccoli was giant; and there were still sacks of citrus everywhere (though the pomelos all look paler now). Heaven!

After a week of being ambivalent about cooking, while remaining very happy to consume large volumes of fresh fruit, I am in produce heaven once again.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:23 PM

Gum bichromate printing, day 5: This little experiment is coming along nicely. The second coats are really adding a lot of subtle detail that wasn't even implied in the first coats. My color experiments are also revealing some interesting things. I'm learning that a bright background color and darker subsequent colors for details really make the details stand out in neat, odd, ways, for example. I will refrain from posting additional results for now, and instead make a few more prints and then post a gallery.

I have been printing for a specific sort of result: for high contrast, multi-tone images of the same density and quality that I can get from cyanotype. Of course, I don't really need a more labor intensive printing technique to get those same results! If I'm going to use gum, it should be for its own strengths. As you can see from the gum bichromate sample gallery at, most folks are using gum to get moody, subtle effects and mid-tone detail in medium-contrast images. I think I am ready to expand my range of experiments to include these possibilities.

I have never printed in full-color before, and I think this is where I should be heading with gum. Conventional color chemistry has always been painfully toxic and temperature sensitive, and so I have always had my color work printed by others. Most people I know haven't printed their own color work, and so have low expectations of control or experimentation. (This is one reason why so many are thrilled with Photoshop.) So I'm excited about the possibilities available through gum.

Arlene, why don't you just print color images on your inkjet printer?

What on earth would I learn by doing that? I already know how to hit the 'print' button. I'm not experimenting with printing techniques to find the fastest way, I want to know what my choices REALLY are. After years of farming out my color work to others without having much say in the matter, I want to work on printmaking under my control, rather than just image making, which is what I do when others do my printing or when I use digital. Printmaking is a different discipline nowadays, and it's one I want to know something about. I want to be able to make prints; I want control over how I make prints; I want to learn things; and I want interesting results. The print button won't get me to where I want to go.

It will take me three days or so to generate full color prints, so don't be alarmed by the lack of updates.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:03 PM

Saturday, June 04, 2005

San Francisco Carnaval: Right before I hosted the Star Wars Marathon here for my pals last weekend, S and I dropped by the Carnaval Parade in the Mission. It was hot and sunny for once, which was surely confusing for all the dancers who had experienced or been warned about the traditional freezing winds.

I took some photos on slide film, which I intentionally overexposed 2 stops and had developed in the wrong chemistry, to see what special effects would occur. The results are here.

My instructions from Webmonkey: The Wonders of Cross Processing ( were to shoot in overcast lighting, and I failed to do that completely, which is why the results are so very bright. (They're supposed to be washed out in the highlights, but perhaps not this much?) I do like the bizarre interpretations of the colors - it often looks like the film just can't figure out how to deal.

It was a fun enough experiment, so I'll try the technique again with other subjects in cloudy weather.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:55 PM

Friday, June 03, 2005


Gum bichromate printing, day 4: Aha!

red gum bichromate print of neon sign reading CLAEverything they say about the merits of printing on multiple coats of gum is true!! Even the images that I was relatively satisfied with in one coat are much improved by a second printing. There is more detail; there is more contrast; there is more saturation... It's just thrilling.

My little digital photo of this twice-printed image doesn't really do it justice. At full size, it is a delight.

So today I am dedicated part of the morning to second printing experiments in either matching or mismatched colors on those images I didn't already ruin through overexposure. I'm having a few troubles with registration, the process of making sure the first printing lines up with the negative for additional layers. I've been holding the first coat images up to a window and marking the outside edges of the negative and print with pencil, but since I'm doing it one-handed, there is a bit of drift or stretch between the top and bottom edges, OR the paper is changing size a bit when I lay on the next emulsion.

I have also learned that the hot press watercolor paper holds the gum MUCH better than the more heavily textured cold press: it lays down smoothly and with fewer brush strokes on the experiments hanging downstairs. Second coats also go on more easily, though the lamp black is still inherently streaky with the amount of pigment I am using (likely too much). And the lightweight paper may hold up to soaking, but the water soaks through the back of the paper and can detach the entire emulsion, so I'm not going to use that any more.

That's my report for now. 'Back to the garage I go...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:55 AM

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wonderful Mail Art: Philippe Moroux's Nine Kallitypes ( These are very lovely examples of kallitype prints, which he made during a trip as special souvenirs for friends.

I learned from reading Philippe's text that he used Polaroid NEGATIVE film, which he developed during his trip, and then used to print the kallitypes. I hadn't even realized that Polaroid MADE negative film, but apparently Type 55 and Type 665 films both produce a negative which needs to be developed. (The Polaroid website reveals all sorts of products I hadn't heard of.)

These prints are such a lovely color. They make me think of coffee. Mmmm. Coffee.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Yes, I am on the June splash page of!!

It's fun to be a "new" artist.

Yes, I will send more images for the gallery there eventually. Yes, I agonize entirely too much over what to send. I have a lot more cyanotypes, but really think the gallery should just provide a taste from each process, and so I haven't sent more. I will eventually send gum prints, when I have gotten a few I really like. I intend to have some infrared and kallitype prints later this year. (I already have a series of images from Chinatown which I think would look best as platinum-toned kallitypes.)


I've shot more than 150 rolls of black and white images in the last few months, and haven't put ANY of those up at (I don't count the C-41 process monochrome images scattered around there). It will be a while before I get to all of these other experiments. Which reminds me: I need to pick up some cross-processing experiments I dropped off at the lab yesterday...


Gum bichromate printing, day 3

red gum bichromate print of neon sign reading CLASpeaking of experiments, it's time to report on what I learned at the library. I've been reading lots of photography and alt-process books lately, and picked up something interesting in David Scopick's the Gum Bichromate Book from 1978. He quoted Henney & Dudley's Handbook of Photography which said this about a one-layer gum bichromate print: should look like a very sick imitation of a print -- pale, washed out, very likely no more than a flat tone in the shadows...
red gum bichromate print of neon sign reading sushi openThe idea is that a printer (democratically called a worker in each book I've read) should make several faint prints on top of each other, allowing the image to build up in layers, rather than expecting to get all the relevant tones in one try. The book notes that great prints have been made in 16 layers/printings!!!! (And that more than that is excessive. :-)) Scopick then recommends printing lightly, and either reducing the duration of each subsequent exposure, or reducing the amount of pigment in the emulsion.

red gum bichromate print of corinthian column and archWhat this means is that I need to adjust my expectations of what one-layer prints should look like, and try multi layer prints. Katharine Thayer ( (whose gorgeous tri-color apricot image is so amazing) does most of her prints in two layers, and notes that print density is dependent on many things - that pale and subtle printings are possible with multi-layer prints, too.

Once I stop overexposing my prints, I will be able to gain much more detail. My current formulation requires sub-2-minute exposures, though I haven't yet learned to better 'read' the negatives to determine when to go less than 1 minute. Now that I know that my first printing need not be my last, I should have an easier time dealing with the short (relative to cyanotype) exposure times.

I will get the hang of this!
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:41 PM

I survived the Star Wars Marathon! (no spoilers): This weekend I hosted a movie marathon to watch all of the Star Wars films in the order they were released. This was good for refreshing my memory (I had forgotten all of Episode I, for several reasons) in preparation for seeing the much-anticipated Episode III. Several of my pals came over, and we lounged, ate every couple of hours, and watched the movies from about 2 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed Episode III the following day. Non-spoiler: we enjoyed it. It was pretty. And loud. I'm still somewhat overwhelmed by all that was going on, visually. Also, the pacing is non-stop.


The Star Wars universe as represented by the films generally fails to meet my very basic movie going standards. My usual requirements for popular films are:

1. There must be >1 number of named female characters.
2. A minimum of 1 named female characters must not be required to sleep with any of the other characters to justify their presence in the film.

I don't do this merely because I happen to be female: I do it because I watched waaaaay too many films with my father, an action-film-loving boyfriend, and my other male pals that really sucked, and I noticed that this was a major component to the suckiness pattern. I have other rules, like not seeing films with Julia Roberts in them, that save me from other kinds of suckiness, but those are lower in priority and not relevant to the SW films.

As any given society in the SW universe tends toward having 1 female ruler and an infinite number of male warriors and neuter-to-male droids, it is at a serious disadvantage under my points system. (It's also not a world most people I know would want to live in: who here would sign up to live on a planet with one woman and a zillion men? And where every dispute is resolved with a laser gun or light saber?) I think the scores for the series were:

  • Episode 1: passes. Despite Jar Jar, which should flunk the film outright due to the agony he induces, showing a weakness with relying on the first 2 standards exclusively. There is a 'clumsy dependent non-player character' rule that comes in later down the list, near the 'boy-child genius' exclusion, but I'm trying to keep this discussion simple.
  • Episode 2: passes. (It even gets 1/2 point for the unnamed female fighter pilot, who at least has a team ID.)
  • Episode 3: flunks completely.
  • Episode 4: passes, though Leia will become less relevant in 5.
  • Episode 5: flunks. Leia appears animatronic.
  • Episode 6: S is quick to point out the battle bikini should flunk the film as a matter of principle, we both forgive that as a desperate excess to sell posters. However, this one still flunks.

The passing scores for the series are still low relative to other films. Action-oriented films scoring higher include Alien, Aliens, the Matrix I/II/III, the Terminator (even beyond the Sarah Connors), every Star Trek film, Event Horizon, nearly every horror film, most political thrillers, and even the Lord of the Rings, which likely wouldn't have passed overall if the emphasis was like in the books...

SW Episodes 5 and 6 are burdened with the legacy of the 1970s, and so I am vaguely indulgent of the social handicap caused by that era. Recent films do better for many reasons.


I once read that in children's book publishing, companies learned that girls are open-minded enough to read books about boys or girls, but boys only want to read books about boys. Thus, the way to the greatest profit is to only release books about boys, which everyone will read.

I have read a similar, less-documented rationale for movie production, with the same conclusion, though that article came out during a time of movie-industry-crisis, in which all-boy films were common, and women were not buying tickets for some mysterious reason. (Surprise!) I don't think that it's so difficult to grasp that viewers want to empathize with someone they can relate to, and that becomes more difficult if every someone on screen is a white boy who resolves problems through physical battle. Or even when a lone female character is a beautiful mannequin, which isn't quite heroic enough for anyone to aspire to. It would be like reading Greek mythology and wanting to BE the Golden Fleece. It is too much to demand from even the most empathetic audience.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:07 PM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

comments Return Home