Things Consumed

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

Monday, February 25, 2008


Power & Way

(Power & Way is the label on an odd railroad contraption that is often parked on the tracks near MacArthur BART. It would be a great name for a rock album, an engineering firm, a purse shop, and a variety of other enterprises and projects...)

Where does time go once it has used me up and spat me out?


Friday night was the SFMoMA opening party for the encyclopedic Friedlander photography exhibit. The opening parties involve no host bars on the ground floor of the museum, and you get the impression that many members never leave the immediate orbit of those bars... So I suppose it says something positive about my favorite cousin, plus Helen and Bryan, that I actually encountered them on the top floor of the museum, roving the galleries.

This was my first chance to see Olafur Eliasson's Take Your Time without having to stand in a line that wrapped itself down the central stairway several floors, so we started there (and encountered the most friends there). Eliasson's work is interesting, especially his sculpture, but the thing I liked best was the shelved room filled with his test models, three dimensional sketches made of ideas he had. He used copper wire and copper tape, what appeared to be Dutch cereal boxes, foam core with mirrored plastic on it... The room was filled with rough ideas explored in various levels of depth. It was great to see some of the process behind the ideas, rather than ONLY the finished products.

The Friedlander photography exhibit was a complete madhouse, and I was tempted to flee several times. The show was massive, and the large volume of work was interesting to see. I found it interesting from an American documentary perspective more than a fine art perspective. The items that most interested me were the samples of Friedlander's many books. Books are a fabulous way for people to experience your art in a thoughtful, long-term way: not everyone can get to a gallery, and as this party demonstrated, sometimes you can only catch a glimpse of an image before you are nearly shoved aside by the art loving wolverine behind you.

Samples of several books were on display, many of them gravure prints with an original gelatin silver print included inside for collectors. Some of the books were post bound, with the idea that the gravures inside were of such high quality that the books could be disassembled so the prints could be framed and hung for display. Now that I've tried a very modern photopolymer version of gravure printing (which still used a traditional etching press), I understand how labor intensive such work can be, and am all the more impressed with the quality of the images. I also got some ideas for editioning books and prints of my own.

The runner-up display at the museum was not in other galleries: it was the remarkable singles scene. You could immediately tell who was participating. Married & attached women were wearing pants, soft sweaters, and comfy shoes, and looked at the art. Heavily dolled up single women in a range of styles were displaying remarkable portions of their upper chests, looking only at the other attendees, and wearing shoes I have only seen in lingerie catalogs and drag shows.

I didn't have the heart to explain that all the men there were (a) married, (b) on a date with that woman who is firmly attached to him and ready to mace you if you get too close, (c) gay, or (d) with the band downstairs. Revealing that might spoil the fun.


Saturday night was a pleasant dinner and coffee session at Japan Center with my core pal group to catch up with a peer visiting from abroad.

During the merriment, I noticed that my right eye was busy crying for much of the evening, though it didn't feel irritated in any way. My right eye cries quite a bit, especially when I've had a glass of wine, laugh heartily, or am sleepy. As a result, some of my acquaintances believe that I cry with zeal about our discussions, when really my right eye could care less what we are discussing.

If they think I'm more emotionally enthusiastic than I actually am... Well, I'm sure I can take advantage of that somehow.


My only comment about Sunday is that the film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus has absolutely nothing to do with Diane Arbus, and I'm not sure why they even bothered to use her name (and the circumstances of a period of her life before she came to fame). It's a fairy tale, and a rather odd one. Beauty leaves her benign husband for a furry, eventually charming beast (rather than being given away as chattel by her father in the traditional story). I objected to the implication that it was only through fairy tale seduction that the implied Arbus may have liked marginalized people - even though it clearly drifted from the actual photographer, I can't see why her name had to come into this at all... It's an odd, odd film.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:21 PM

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fashionable kale. That kale I spotted at the farmer's market, the one that is shaped like a feather and very deep green, is apparently called "Tuscan kale." If you care. If you do not care, kindly disregard this entry.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM


Happy as a clam. If clams are, in fact, happy. Which I don't believe has been scientifically proven.

My employer does not believe in President's Day. It is not acknowledged. Most importantly, it is not a national holiday at my office. So I took the day off and went to SF Museum of Modern Art ( for the afternoon, because it seemed like a terribly civilized thing to do, and I wanted to be visually stimulated by non-video art.

As an alt-process printer, I am always seeking out antiquarian process prints, but usually find only historical work. Which is okay, but since I know there are so many of us who work in these processes NOW, it seems... inadequate. Though some of the examples are relentlessly gorgeous, and it is interesting to note how different actual antique images are from modern ones (in those instances where there is a real difference).

There were three cyanotypes of bridge construction progress in Pennsylvania, which seemed like very modern images in composition. They were surely taken as practical, work-progress-report type images, but they were still... modern. Very direct. Bold. Printing out paper prints are abundant in the current selection, and carry an interesting range of tones. And that gorgeous Woodburytype by Nadar (Gaspar-Felix Tournachon) of George Sand was up, and it's just so... rich looking. Like the pigment has real depth. It is a remarkably lovely print.

The top floor was crowded with tourists seeing Take Your Time (which will close over the weekend), and so I perused the photography galleries and then went down to the gift shop. SFMoMA has a really fabulous gift shop which a gorgeous collection of art books. (It is also always fascinating to see how art is commodified in ways I would not have predicted.) This is where the revelation of the day occurred: Sophie Calle's book Prenez soin de vois ("Take Care of Yourself") is out in English!! I agonized over buying the book (at $95) for quite a while before purchasing it and retiring to Caffe Museo ( to sip a soy latte and wallow in Calle's brilliance.

I've written elsewhere about why I love her work so much. She is someone who stages a wedding to act out the ritual of it, who finds an address book and interviews everyone in it about its owner, who stalks people as documentary art projects... She turns little quirks into novel creative works. And so it is with this enormous new book. She was dumped by email, and made a collaborative artwork with over 100 female contributors of various professions and specialties who analyze, rewrite, dramatize, dance, talk, or otherwise perform the letter in a manner appropriate to their area of expertise. The book contains photos of the women performing their analyses, and their results - diagrams, scripts, DVDs of films and audio recordings, short stories... As soon as I opened the book and found the email translated into morse code and Braille, even before I spotted the miniature books bound within it, or the four DVDs, I knew this was the sort of conceptual work I would love. (There's a Guardian article about her book, and the associated show at the Venice Biennale here, and a great review of the show in the Washington Post here.)

And oh, how I do love it.

I actually thought while sipping my latte, 'I'm so happy I could pee myself. If that were the sort of thing I did when extremely happy. Which it is not. But it is still a compelling expression, despite its obvious inaccuracy.'


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, February 18, 2008

Raw feast! Saturday evening, my friend Marcelle had several of us over for a fresh, made-in-front-of-us, all-raw, gourmet meal. It was absolutely superb - everything tasted great, was filling, and was remarkably gorgeous to look at. One of the continually amazing things to me about raw foods is the remarkable color of the dishes: uncooked and freshly pureed, so many fresh fruits and veggies are stunningly vivid.

This is one of those times when I'm not sure words can do the food justice, it was so remarkably fresh tasting. No, fresher than you are thinking right now. No, fresher even than that. We had a delicious soup (lava!) of pureed avocado, hot pepper, mint and basil (and carrot?) that was a gorgeous color; delicately shredded zucchini with a delicious salsa fresca-style tomato and garlic sauce; tender cauliflower masala with cilantro; and herb stuffed mushrooms; and a decadent chocolate mousse dessert on a macadamia and coconut crust.

I need to interview Marcelle about raw food, and how she came to be such a fabulous preparer of these gorgeous, delicious, filling dishes.

(You have my deepest apologies if I've mispelled anything in this entry, or any other recent entries: the spell checker has been down for some time, and so I'm winging it.)


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 PM

A nice, easy way to prepare that lovely Russian kale you can't resist at the market. The recipe for "Chinese Sesame Kale" at Seven kale recipes from around the world ( is pleasant, fast, and easy. Kale is assertive enough not to be overwhelmed by the sesame oil (which I diluted just a bit with canola).


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:14 PM

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Late "Winter" Farmer's Market.

After some debate over whether or not it was worth riding in a car, we visited the Alemany Farmer's Market Saturday after a long hiatus. I expected it to be sparse, with many empty booths, but it was packed - some of the vendors that usually set up in the center parking area managed to secure space under the roof.

Winter (or what passes for it locally) is still upon us, and the market was dominated by fresh greens and ripe citrus fruit. I noticed:

-oranges: mandarin (general), satsumas, blood, paige mandarin, and murcott mandarin, and what looked like navel
-lemons: Meyer and other types
-grapefruit: cocktail, white, pink, and melogold
-pears: shinli (the yellow kind that always look a bit bruised) and Asian/brown
-apples: too many types to mention, dominated by Fuji
-persimmons (very dark)
-kumquats (first guess)
-kiwi fruit

-cauliflower: white, green, orange, and romanesque (Nearly all of the white cauliflower looked like it was from plants ready to blossom and go to seed: rather than compact heads, the heads were open with many narrow branches)
-herbs (especially dark-stemmed basil, reddish cilantro, and others)
-an assortment of Asian greens (bok choy, baby bok choy, gai choy, etc.)
-kale (Russian, dino variations, and a long, thin, very deep green variety)
-spring onions (white and red)
-fennel bulbs

Root Veggies:
-carrots, bright orange with fresh greens
-daikon radish
-either turnips or beets (there were no greens on them, which decreased my limited odds of guessing correctly)
-a variety of small, bright potatoes

Our primary mission was to acquire satsuma mandarin oranges, which we have been hopelessly addicted to since I picked up a small case of them at TJ's. These are the mandarin oranges of the sort they can: completely sweet and seedless, with the loosest of rinds that can be peeled off with the least effort. It is difficult to choose them - the skin is so loose, you can't judge much about the fruit inside - but they are addictive. Also, there are many types labeled satsumas that are similar, but have tighter skin and seeds, so we were very careful in choosing. Satsuma mandarin oranges may be the only fruit that Steven can eat faster than I can. We acquired a large bag of them, but I know it won't last.

We also acquired... Just about everything else on this list, actually. It all looked so good, and smelled so fresh. The other special acquisition was pomegranate juice - real, fresh, undiluted pomegranate juice that actually tastes EXACTLY like pomegranates. I bought a small bottle, and loved it zealously: it will be all I can do not to buy the $20 gallon next week. This stuff is addictive, and so much better than the grape-sweetened bottles you find in stores.

I'm looking forward to next Saturday already!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, February 16, 2008



My long commute is cramping my cooking style. I leave the office between 5:30 and 6 p.m., and sometimes don't drag into the house until 7; if I am lucky enough to run errands before the local stores close, I'm likely to get home at 7:40 or 8. This doesn't leave much time to make dinner. I've been trying to buy things that don't require much cooking, but my preference for food made 'from scratch' makes this difficult.

To cheat, I recently purchased packaged gnocchi. I've tried several brands of these with varying degrees of satisfaction, but the best of the lot so far is De Cecco (, which has some promising, strangely translated recipes). The ingredients are generally recognizeable, though there are some chemistry items there to keep the pasta shelf-stable. (These gnocchi contain both wheat and rice flour.) The gnocchi cook in just two minutes, and are well suited to simple, smooth, rich sauces. The high potato content make the gnocchi quite filling and satisfying. With a salad and a glass of wine, they are a simple, pleasant meal.


I've made gnocchi by hand in the past, and the labor intensive results were great... Although the 'too many cooks spoil the broth' cliche was demonstrated rather painfully. I was living with three roommates in an apartment in the Castro, and came home with a very simple and straightforward recipe for gnocchi. It was basically just:

-boil potatoes
-mash them with water and olive oil
-mix in some wheat flour to give the dough more body (with proportions provided)
-shape them by rolling out snakes, cutting them into segments, and patterning them with a fork
-bake them briefly on a cookie sheet to firm them up
-boil briefly in salted water.

Two of my roommates had science degrees, so I figured they could handle the recipe. But they jointly decided that the dough did not have enough body, and claimed the gnocchi would fall apart if we followed the recipe. I disagreed hotly. So we divided the dough: they doubled the flour in their half of the dough, and I did not. We continued with the process separately, until they sabotaged me by mixing their gnocchi in with mine during cooking.

The result: half the gnocchi were too tough to eat, because they had too much flour in them. The rest were soft, smooth, and tender. There are a variety of obvious lessons there about modifying an unfamiliar recipe for a food you've never made before, but I think the main lesson for me was that I should NOT jointly cook anything with them.

[This was a warning to me about what Thanksgiving would be like, actually: the same pair were responsible for the turkey (which I had no interest in), and they wound up delaying the meal by four hours due to lack of advance preparation, while the rest of us, whose contributions to the meal were ready on time, had to remain hungry and wait.]


I would like to thank all of the remarkably talented cooks that I party with now, who bring dishes that impress and fill me every time, and who have mellowed my fear of cooking with others. Thank you, talented people! If any of you talented people have a favorite vegetarian or vegan sauce that you serve with gnocchi, send me an e-mail.


Incidentally, the best gnocchi I enjoy in San Francisco is served at Caffe Museo ( at SFMoMA ( They sometimes serve a remarkably tender gnocchi with ricotta and a sweet pepper sauce as a special. It is delightful. Caffe Museo is a great place to eat, drink coffee, and chat before, during, and after visiting the museum.


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:06 PM

Friday, February 15, 2008


Gunpowder Green Tea.

Long ago, my dear friend Helen gave me a tin of Dean & Deluca's Gunpowder Imperial Green Tea. She was having a tea surplus at her house, and my fanaticism about tea was known to her, so she plied me with this and several other delicious varieties. The tin was sealed, and I only opened it recently.

This is a really excellent tea.

It is lovely to look at before it is brewed: each leaf has been rolled into a perfect, shiny little oblong pellet. The color is very good - pleasantly deep - and the scent is very strong, green, and fresh. It brews quickly (2 - 3 minutes, as with most green teas) into a bright yellow-green tea with a bright, pleasant flavor. It goes well with anything and everything that green tea complements. It's flavor is bold enough to stand up well to just about any dish.

Steven recently gave me a Japanese-style iron teapot in a pale green color, with two tiny matching cups, and it is perfect for steeping this tea. (The pot looks old fashioned, but it enameled inside, and comes with a little stainless steel steeping basket.)

This is a wonderful gift, and I'll have to thank Helen again for giving this tin to me.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Aside: notes from February 14th.

The Bart station agent at MacArthur used the public address system to wish us all a happy Valentine's Day, and to say she loves us all. I laughed out loud. It is the same voice that scolds cyclists with zeal for riding the escalator with bikes, so the happy tone was a pleasant (and someone exotic) surprise. (I almost picked up the white courtesy phone to let her know that we love her too, but then I remember being told all of those phones go to central, rather than the local booth, so I would merely be redirecting love to where it was not expected. I restrained myself.)


I'm missing the big pillow fight at Justin Herman Plaza today. This is another peril of working in Emeryville, where there aren't enough people to have a worthwhile flash mob event. (Except, perhaps, at the Public Market, but hungry people don't take frivolous direction well.)


Last night I passed the new student health center on Ocean Avenue at City College, a posh new looking, modern building. There was a class visible in every window last night. It resembled a modern doll house, especially with the students in martial arts outfits in one room... Like several miniature costume dramas playing out. If I were a video artist, one continuous film of the building with its rooms lit would make a pleasant art piece. I'm not sure what I'd use as a musical score, however.


Plum blossoms barely have a head start over the plum leaves this week in the Ingleside. With the leaves win, or will blossoms continue to dominate? Stay tuned!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Technology is someone else's friend? One of my girlfriends observed that I have this Apple phone, which she announced was much more advanced than her phone. She remarked that the phone is "high tech" for me.

This girlfriend has never seen me sitting on the floor with one of my computer cases open, installing daughter boards, sound cards, or memory, or setting the jumpers on sound cards. Or editing digital photos and writing HTML. Or using power tools. Or playing video games (actually, she's seen this, and I was good at them while she was watching.)

What I think she really means, in a round about way, is that I don't buy in to the standard gadgetry set that defines modern life. More specifically, I suspect what she actually wanted to point out was that I don't drive a car.

I wasn't sure this was a reasonable thing to suspect, but then I got an e-mail from another girlfriend which (1) welcomed me to the current century and (2) suggested that I would next buy a car. This message was from someone who does not own a computer, and who has never assembled or modified one. Someone who reformatted a memory card full of vacation photos in her camera while traveling because she didn't know what 'reformat' meant. Meanwhile, cars, if this isn't obvious, are stunningly inefficient machines whose internal combustion engine design has changed relatively little since invented and applied to vehicles in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cars are also conceptually back-asswards for urban dwellers: it makes no sense to haul a sub 200-pound person around in a 1.5 ton plus box, which needs to be stored during most of its useful life.

There are useful applications to the car, obviously: freight hauling, for example, and traveling in areas or times of day that are not served by sensible transit (such as electric train, light rail, or hybrid bus). But considering the amount of cost and energy it takes to manufacture, maintain, and operate a car, let alone the pollution it generates in operation and when disposed of, the car is a really poorly designed tool for most applications. The motor vehicle industry spends several billion dollars annually NOT pointing this out, so I don't think it's possible to convey any of this to the car-hugging members of my social set.

I'm not sure if any of the aforementioned conversations should change the answers I give when my computer assistance is requested. It's tempting to make a fuss over it, though.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, February 04, 2008

Randomness. It was gorgeous this evening. I might not have noticed - I usually traverse the City underground, and see only my own little neighborhood once I emerge, mole-like, from beneath the streets - but I was the third warm body that enabled a colleague to use the carpool lane on the way home, and so the dazzling clarity of the air, and the sparkling lights of the City pulled me on a long walk downtown from the business district where I was dropped off.

What a gorgeous place to live.


I have been away from my screen in the evenings because my eyes need a rest. However, to rest them, I elected... to read. I read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, which is a cyberpunk-like, dark future novel about a thoroughly franchised future... It is the novel that my friend Peter always wants to borrow names from. Well, one name, actually.
Peter: And my main character will be called... Hiro Protagonist.
Me: No.
Peter: It's a great name!
Me: NO!
Peter: B--
Or something along those lines. (Yes, the main character is Hiro Protagonist. Hiro is prounounced like /hero/.)


Best line from a colleague about a coffee cup's perception of being in a dishwashing machine:
I think your cup should think of it less as housekeeper-sanctioned waterboarding and more like a spa massage.
It's fun to speak with other people who write frequently, like this particular colleague. While I write in legalese and wound up sounding very dry and formal, she can make reference to 'clouds weeping' to describe rain and it sounds completely natural.


Silliest conversation of all of last week:
Me: ...and then I had to tell her what Muzak was.
L: Who here doesn't know what Muzak is?
Me: [name of uninformed freak].
L: Can you imagine being a Muzak musician? Wouldn't that be wild? You go into work and you say, "Let's do some Air Supply! Or let's do [sings] 'Sailing, takes me away to where I've wanted to be....'
Both of us: [do fake air solos on horns and piano while humming to replace Christopher Cross' lyrics in Muzak version]
Me: [laugh so hard I cry]

Siouxsie has a recent album out called Mantaray, which includes a song called "Heaven and Alchemy." The song has lyrics like:
I'm in love
With the idea of you
and at first I thought that was the most obvious thing in the world, before realizing that most people aren't very good at separating fantasy from reality. It's actually a reasonably observant thing to say.

When you feel affection for someone you don't know well, it's because you have a mental fantasy about how you think they should be, and you adore THAT more than the actual person. There are people whom I have adored from afar who could never, ever, ever live up to my internal fantasy of them: being near them in person was periodically repellent in that it was a reminder that they were real, and had all of the failings of ordinary mortals. (Ick.) But the affection for idea(l)s applies to places, activities, and other sorts of dreams.

There is a bookstore I love, though I am often disappointed when I go there, because it can't live up to the concept I have of the shop as a container for pure genius representing the culture of ideas in which I want to live. There are nightclubs that always get me excited to go to, but when I'm there, I realize the idea of what it would be like was better. Japan was my first international trip, which I visited alone for about three weeks, and there were countless times when the country failed to live up to my historical and aesthetic fantasies. Just about anyone I know had a first sexual experience that falls into this category. Certain sorts of religious rituals. Weddings of friends that involve long, long, painfully long, oh come rescue us now please from this lengthy sermon rife with dogma. Certain kinds of cake...

It is a punishment for creative optimism that the world can be less than we dream of it.

The dreaming is still awfully fun, however.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:11 PM

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

comments Return Home