Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: tidbit (page 3 of 17)

My imity trace for dorkbot

Dorkbot 6 was a smashing success. My imity trace says it all. Kudos to David.

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Fame 2.0

I’ve been thinking about the changing nature of fame for a few days (and of course, because these ideas are strong currents in the collective concisousness we call the web, I’m just getting around to writing about this right after Sean did). I pointed a friend at a video on youtube that I thought she’d get a laugh out of. She found another video by the same guy that prompted the reaction from her I want to have his babies!

So she found this guy by randomly linking around on a site where everyone and his dog has a video posted, and instantly became a fan.

This was right around the time that Anna Nicole Smith—someone who was famous for being famous—died. The Daily Show ripped* into the mainstream news outlets, which put all news of substance on hold to obsess over her death.

Then on Metafilter, I ran across this article, with the line When I was in high school, you’d have to be a megalomaniac or the most popular kid around to think of yourself as having a fan base. But people 25 and under are just being realistic when they think of themselves that way. I would hardly imagine myself having a fan base, but even so, I have had the experience of people I don’t know meeting me in person and commenting on stuff I’d posted to my blog. On an intellectual level, I’m ready for that. I know the ramifications of posting online. Still, on a visceral level, it’s very weird.

Also on Metafilter, someone posted a song about notable Metafilter members. MeFi is a pretty big community—it recently passed the 50,000 registered users mark (and since you have to pay money to register, that is more meaningful). Admittedly, the song is all inside-baseball, but within this community, these people are well enough known not only for one guy to write a song about their quirks, but for a lot of other people to appreciate it.

And of course, there’s Ze Frank. You can’t think about Fame 2.0 without thinking about Ze Frank, someone who has achieved a devoted following in spite of zero conventional publicity, entirely on the basis of his being extremely smart and funny, thus inverting the usual formula.

Is it possible that this is the way things are headed? That people will become famous based on merit, not marketability? It’s clear that the Internet is a closer approximation to what economists would consider a perfect market. If celebrity is its own kind of market, the Internet is reducing the advantage that major players (movie studios, record labels) have in generating buzz, and makes it easier for “consumers” of celebrity to find the kinds of people they’re actually interested in following, as opposed to the celebrities that have been pushed at them by the buzz machines. The Internet also is the death of one-size-fits-all media, so it is only fitting that celebrities would appeal to specific groups, rather than be foisted on everyone.

Celebrities are created by mainstream media to give that media something to feed on. This focus on conventional celebrity may be just another way that media outlets reinforce their own irrelevance, and as they fail, they do what any conservative entity in trouble does: do the same thing, only harder. Thus TV news is put on hold to analyze in minute detail the contents of the fridge of a dead D-list starlet who had become a self-parody in her last years. Meanwhile, we’re watching Youtube.

Afterthought Jonathan Coulton. I don’t know how I managed to overlook him, but he’s right up there with Ze Frank as a talented Internet micro-celebrity of his own creation.

Coffee film

Every workday, I send Gwen off to her job with a small stainless thermos full of coffee. It’s basically impossible to clean this thing effectively, so instead, I just fill it with very hot water and shake it up.

Today, when I dumped out that water, these bits of film came out. They’re jet black, very smooth, very thin, very uniform, and very brittle—I was reminded of a cheap plastic bag that had been left in the sun for a long time.

Though I was initially incredulous, it turns out this was the husk of coffee residue in the thermos. Most of it got shucked off (some is still in there). I’ve never seen anything like it.

We have nothing to fear but the absence of something to fear

I don’t respond to other people’s blogs often, but a post by Matt Haughey got me thinking. He begins When I was a kid, the future was filled with optimism. The year 2000 was 10-20 years away and it was this magical goal we were working towards.

I have a very different recollection of the 80s. After a decade of an unwanted war, domestic malaise, and the hostage crisis, we had an apocalyptic president, with his finger on the button of a nuclear arsenal that could wipe out human civilization. I didn’t see any way out of Mutually Assured Destruction except through it. The Reagan era gave us punk rock and a depth of nihilism I don’t think American culture had seen before.

The implosion of the Soviet Union, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the hanging of Nicolae Ceauşescu marked the end of that era. It was the 90s that was the era of optimism, at least for me. The economy was going like gangbusters, we had an intelligent and competent Democrat in the White House, and most importantly, we were not on the verge of blowing ourselves up. The millennium was near, and I approached it optimistically (many, of course, did not).

That spirit ended on 9/11, of course. And as I’ve lived long enough to have a chance to watch some history happen, I wonder if this country doesn’t have a hunger for bogeymen. After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, which had served in that role so reliably for so long, it was clear that the country was hunting for a new one. Oh, we had (and still have) the War on Drugs, and Clinton himself became the target for much of the country’s paranoia and loathing (remember Whitewater? Vince Foster? Travelgate?). But these were poor substitutes for the menace of International Communism, and I think everyone knew it and at some level was waiting around for something better to get worked up about. We have found a truly worthy successor in International Terrorism: the threat has been played up and used to justify government malfeasance to an extent not seen since the 50s, if ever. Not because of the gravity of the threat (which cannot seriously be held comparable to MAD, though whether MAD itself was a legitimate doctrine is another question), simply because of our own need for something to fear. Part of this may be genuinely wrapped up in the national mood. Part of this may be cynical business manipulation, after all, Rule of Acquisition #34 states War is good for business. I don’t know how much to attribute to which.

My mom’s turkey recipe

To set down for time immemorial and Google, I present herewith my mom’s method for making a turkey, with stuffing, with my own minor tweaks. In this recipe, the bird is cooked on a charcoal grill. This has the benefit of freeing up the oven for things like pie, and it tastes great. There’s also the element of risk, since the grill is a less-controlled environment, so you get a little thrill when everything turns out well.

For a 14-lb bird, this recipe will take about four and a half hours, so budget your time accordingly.

Stuffing ingredients:

  • Bread cubes: two bags unseasoned stuffing cubes, or dried cubes from one loaf of bread
  • Onions, three
  • Mushrooms, 1 lb
  • Rice pilaf mix, one box
  • Walnuts or pecans, two handfuls, chopped

All these quantities are negotiable, and you can make any additions you see fit (raisins, rosemary, celery, etc)

Begin by removing the neck and giblets from the turkey and simmer them for at least one hour. Coarsely cube the onions and mushrooms, and lightly sautée them. Start the rice pilaf mix.

Now would probably be a good time to get your charcoal going. Use one of those starter chimneys, not starter fluid. You don’t want your turkey tasting like fuel.

Once the giblets have simmered for one hour, put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and moisten them slightly with the giblet-water. Add the rest of the stuffing ingredients and mix them together well.

Rinse the turkey in cold water thoroughly and drain off. Thoroughly fill both the body and neck cavities with stuffing. Pin the skin down over the neck opening. There should be enough stuffing left to fill a small casserole dish. Put a light coating of olive oil on the bird.

The charcoal should be ready by now, so prep the grill. I have one of those grills made out of a 55-gallon drum turned on its side, which is ideal for this, as it gives you plenty of room and a side-opening. You are going to be using indirect heat, so you want to place your charcoal in a single heap off to one side, in a location where it will be easy to replenish.

Lay a sheet of tinfoil down on the grill away from the heat source, and place the bird on this. You’ll probably want an assistant for this part.

Allow 15 minutes of cooking time per pound, and allow an extra 15-30 minutes to take into account the added weight of the stuffing.

Every 30 minutes, add another 10 or so briquets—don’t let any more heat escape than necessary. Every hour, rotate the bird 180° to even out the cooking.

You might want to wrap some potatoes or sweet potatoes in tinfoil and throw them on when you’ve got 90 minutes to go.

At 60 minutes to go, and at 30-minute intervals thereafter, check the turkey’s internal temperature: it’s possible that it’s already done. Use a probe-type thermometer. Internal temperature measured from the top should be at least 165°F, juices should be running clear, and the skin should be the color of dark honey. If the turkey is done but you aren’t ready for it, set it as far from the heat as possible, cover it with a sheet of tinfoil, and stop adding charcoal.

Quote of the day

“Do you want to drive to farmer’s market or ride our bikes?”

“It’s hot enough out that I don’t mind contributing to global warming.”

(Yes, I actually did say that.)

Unexpected beauty

I was walking down a quiet street at night in my neighborhood, listening to Cat Power’s melancholy “Evolution.” I spotted an aluminum Christmas tree looking ghostly in a picture window, rotating with shifting colors, and in that moment, each was the perfect complement to the other, each elevating the other to a higher plane.

Aluminum Christmas tree

The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report started off with a bang last night–Gwen and I were laughing so hard our sides hurt. You don’t get that very often with TV. Most of the talking-head news shows are bad enough that they should defy parody. Colbert manages anyhow.

Colbert’s guest for the opening episode was Stone Phillips. This was especially apt: Some years ago, the Daily Show aired a special episode–that is, old clip retreads–all introduced by Colbert. He did the whole thing in an unmistakeable and dead-on Stone Phillips impersonation. Phillips, who I’ve always considered an empty shirt who only gets work because of his reassuring voice, was a good sport, and comported himself admirably throughout the gravitas face-off.

Kabbalah is the new Scientology

Davey was having a party to break the fast last night, so Gwen and I went. Not that either of us fasted, but if someone wants to have a party, we won’t get fussy about the reasons. I had some of Davey’s fancy homemade gefilte fish (three layers!), the first I’ve had in a long time and very tasty.

Some of us were chatting and we somehow got onto the subject of pop-Kabbalah (which should be distinguished from old-shul Kabbalah), and I asserted that pop-Kabbalah is the new Scientology: a pseudo-religion scam designed to suck money out of people, especially famous ones. Gwen argued that pop-Kabbalah wasn’t as bad because it was at least rooted in a legitimate religious tradition. “Oh yeah?” I countered, “then what about Jews for Jesus? That’s rooted in two legitimate religious traditions!”

I made that assertion mostly based on my gut feelings, knowing almost nothing about pop-Kabbalah. Having read the wikipedia entry on it, though, I feel all the more convinced of my point.

Still the same boy I used to be

This blurb appeared on my bank statement:

Are your finances keeping up with the changes in your life? Look to Women & Co, a financial program from Citigroup…

What kind of changes do they think are going on in my life?

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