Extreme brownie-vision.

I fell in love yesterday, that is, in a totally platonic way.  After taking my cousin for a nice hike to Rancho San Antonio (photos are on my phone, but I can't figure out how to e-mail them to myself), went up to Oakland to join Tony and his friends for a fourth of July BBQ.  He had expounded on his roommate's incredible baking prowess.  I had to taste it for myself.  The bread, a rustic, crusty french loaf, was among the best I've ever had (probably as good as La Brea Bakery's thicker loaf). 

But, the brownies!  I had long decided that brownies from scratch were overrated, and Duncan Hines brownie mix was as good, if not better, than anything else.  Oh, was I wrong.  This guy must have used magical chocolate or something--it was not too sugary, but the flavor was so intense, it washed over you in layers, rising up through your sinuses and filtering all through your brain.  Extraordinary.  Anyway, I got a few to-go, but what I really want is the recipe =)

Love-Hate this music.

Jason Mraz seems like the douchiest douchebag mofo.  Maybe it's the ever-present smirk, that self-important I'm-so-cool-I'm-ice-cold attitude.  But I can't deny how much I like his new song.  He sings like a bird.

P.S. I take back what I said about the Pierces.  The more I listen to their music, the more I think that it's actually really different, like fresh-different, rather than 'typically different.'  Seems like they are experimenting with a bunch of different styles, and I really like what I'm hearing.


It's Plug-a-Posterous!

I don't know this guy personally, but I just chanced across his posterous yesterday and I think I've found an undiscovered gem.  Prolific he is, updating several times a day, mostly the kind of stuff that used to get forwarded (and still is sometimes, by our parents), but oddly hilarious.  I laughed out loud several times.  I especially enjoyed the lesson on dealing with naughty children, the meditation on math, and the lesson on how not to take pictures.

Doesn't look like he's getting much traffic yet.  Check out Rajendra's Posterous here.

All different in the same way, part 2.

Hipsters, let's talk.

A trip to the campus bookmobile this afternoon (which is totally awesome by the way) led me to believe that indie music is even more infuriating than indie film.  The context: music is one area of consumption/acquisition I severely neglected in recent years (makeup being another one).  I have bought maybe 3 albums and a handful of iTunes mp3s since Napster went down in 2001.  Maybe because exchange of illegally uploaded mp3s had been so gloriously unbridled, not having to pay for music started to feel more like a right than a clandestine act.  And so, I didn't pay, and my only source of music in the past few years has been terrible radio play, pandora/launchcast, and the 2000 or so mp3s I had amassed in that short but wonderful year when Napster and my newfound university-provided broadband intersected.

Today I decided to remedy this sad situation and begin my musical re-education by borrowing, at random, some 10 CDs from the bookmobile.  Some I had heard of somewhere, at some point.  Some I just like the album design/illustration.  All pretty much looked like the kind of 'edgy' stuff that hipsters are so keen on. 

I put the first CD in: The Pierces, Thirteen Tales of Love & Revenge.  Sounded intriguing.  But as I listened to it, I realized it sounded exactly the way I expected it to.  Uber unconventional, so chock-full of its own langorous oddities I half expected it to be featured on an iPod commercial, or maybe on the soundtrack of Zach Braff's next film (don't get me wrong--I loved the Garden State soundtrack).  I mean it's GOOD, most of it is just so typically different.

One of the albums I really hated, Days of Wine & Roses by The Dream Syndicate.  It just made me want to throw my hands up and shake someone.  There is something wrong when music makes you wonder if you hate it because it's bad, or because you are just not cool enough.

But others I liked: Paramore's All We Know is Falling, and The Owls' Daughters and Suns, and parts of The Deadly Syndrome's The Ortolan.  And a lot of the Kings of Leon (which I had read about somewhere).

After so much unbelievable coolness, my ears were bleeding a little and it was such a relief to put in something familiar and so beautifully conventional: Alicia Keys, As I Am.

Developing an acceptably cool taste in music seems like more work than it's worth. Anyway, here are a couple I liked from the stack.

Strange World of Ashley G

First discovered this illustrator/artist on etsy.com.  You can find her etsy store here.  And her Flickr photostream here.  Again with the strange little girls.

I hope Ashley doesn't consider this post copyright infringement.  I don't own the rights to these.  I figure I'm sharing and thus promoting her work in a positive way.

On Cities: Why is SF so hard to get to know?

I love cities. I might even call myself a 'city girl.' I love that they are living, breathing entities, dear friends you cherish and lovers you dream about, pine over, and explore. I love their accessibility, their magnitude, their pulsing heartbeat, their inconveniences, their character. Their danger. Well, maybe not so much the danger. But I do love that I can within a half-mile radius find a delicious saltado, a hot steaming plate of curry goat, luscious beard papa, knife-cut noodles, pluots, and pecorino cheese.

I did not grow up a city girl. I was born in the well-manicured heart of suburbia, right next to Disneyland (the happiest place on Earth). I spent 18 years in the same house before going to college in an urban center. I never want to go back.

I'm trying to remember, but I'm pretty sure the first time I really got the taste of a city was right after I graduated high school, on a graduation trip to Europe (10 days, cheesy tour, wouldn't recommend it). The first city I fell in love with was London. I mean, how could I not? It didn't matter that at the end of each day we'd blow our noses and find black snot, and the hotel was so old fashioned the hot and cold water came from separate spigots. It was dandy, it was chummy, it offered itself and its curiosities up to us like a child at show-and-tell. We felt privy to a whole set of confidences and we were sure no one else had ever experienced London like we did. (Of course they had.)

And when we moved on to Paris, I felt in my heart a peculiar longing, an urge to look back with a sigh. I really missed London, like I might have missed a crush I hadn't seen in the lunchroom for a while. And that's how I knew I had fallen in love.

Anyway. In the past 10 years, I had the privilege of learning to love a good number of cities: Boston, with its history and great dear river; New York, where love can be mistaken for loathing; Los Angeles, my wondrous 'urban galaxy' and breathless food paradise; pristine Lucerne; serene Lijiang (ok, those last two are towns really); bourgie boho Berkeley, uncompromising and inconvenient Beijing; gritty, neatly squared Xi'an, mulatto half-breed and delicious Macau, Kuala Lumpur with its juxtapositions and otherworldly Towers, and Hong Kong, the Ultimate City, where you can find absolutely anything your heart desires, at any time of day or night.

I think loving a city doesn't have as much to do with the amount of time you spend there (though that helps). Seems more important the quantity and quality of new things you can discover in it.

What I've wondered for the past two years is why I can't seem to find a rhythm for the city now closest to me, San Francisco. Again, I know it's probably my problem, not the city's. I just don't know why I can't get my brain around it when soooooooooooooooooo many people I know can't get enough of it. Enough of what? Getting there (from the south bay) is a huge bother; parking is a bitch, people are blockheaded and irrational when they drive. I don't feel safe in it--people I know have been mugged, and my brother saw a 22-year-old kid die right in front of him, from a random shot to the head. I walked around Union Square and in one afternoon ran into two people from my hometown--everything seems smaller and more strangely provincial than you'd expect from a great city. And the only food I have seriously craved in SF are the amazing greasy papusas from this Salvadorean place on Mission, just a few doors up from Good Frikin Chicken. Well ok, the seafood saltado at Mi Lindo Peru is pretty fabulous too.

Anyway, I should stop complaining about it and go to sleep. I just can't help scratching my head over it every once in a while, and wonder what it is that I'm missing.