PopCornucopia is all about free associative pop culture tidbits as they strike my fancy, just like kernels of corn exploding into fullness at a random and unpredictable pace. And of course, the cornucopia is the horn of plenty.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Migrating to other blogging shores
Sorry but there will not be any new content on here indefinitely. If you're jonesing for more PopCornucopia-like content, head over to Mermaid and Mongoose, a blogging team effort where I have more recently been expounding pop cultural thoughts.
Right now I am totally in love with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. So freakin' much. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium and the foremost ambassador of astrophysics. Let's take a tour of his office!
There's a shot of his business card where you can see his phone number, and there's a little part of me that wants to call him up and chat. But I'll settle for the next best thing, a wonderful hour-long interview with Stephen Colbert. It is a must watch. 60 minutes you won't regret:
On ignorant people: "They will not be the participants on the frontier of cosmic discovery." Later on, "And so scientific literacy is vaccine against charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance of the forces of nature."
I'm in the middle of his autobiography, and I am enjoying it immensely. A breezy read, he blends his personal experiences with scientific logic, anecdotes laced with empirical fact.
And right now digging this song, perhaps as an ode to the those who would look to the skies for inspiration.
In honor of black history month, I thought I'd just pick few really nice films of recent years in keeping with spirit of the month that are available via Netflix Instant, as that is primary channel through which I've seen many of these. While disparate in subject matter, I've curated this compendium with an eye to the power of DIY that I think runs through all of these films in one way or another.
Black and White
A hometown gem, Medicine for Melancholy realizes a vision of a very little told story, the black middle class experience in San Francisco. Starring Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show, the nuance and beauty as well as its love for my dear San Francisco make this a standout indie flick.
And more recently, Tall Enough, a short film by the same director, Barry Jenkins available on DramaFever, is quite lovely reflection on interracial relationship stuff.
Paint a portrait of tomorrow with no colors from today
Worth it alone for an opening scene with Cornell West and Tavis Smiley--two legends of the black mainstream intelligentsia--praising him, Still Bill is a touching documentary covering one of the greatest and most modest troubadours ever to grace the face of the earth. This film made me cry and totally fall in love with Bill Withers. See for yourself why this film merited the waterworks
And just today, I caught Being Elmo. It's a heartwarming, if limited profile of Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo. While Sesame Street definitely featured Black folks in front of the camera from the get-go (including Roscoe Orman, who I met when I was a child--yes I got Gordon's autograph!), Clash was probably the first black muppeteer. It airs on PBS in April. I love that Clash made his own puppets, and you see him as an artisan, creator, and performer. I had no idea he shot into the puppetry stratosphere as a 17 year old wunderkind elected in high school as most likely to be a millionaire.
Favorite moment? Proof of Clash's (and Elmo's) star power, he puts together a video of celebs wishing is daughter happy birthday for her sweet sixteen. And it is filmic gold when the tape is rolling and we see Clash's weeping juxtaposed with LL Cool J's onscreen appearance eliciting a huge WOOOOOO! from the crowd as he blows a kiss with those famously lush lips.
I love topiary. It is the first extravagance I will indulge when I become a multi-millioniare with an enormous mansion. And if he's still at it, I will have Pearl Fryar create my topiaries. A Man Named Pearl is a great little film about the man responsible for some of the world's finest topiaries. He fuels the economy of a small South Carolina town and puts them on the map. A chance encounter with topiary led to becoming a largely self-taught master of botanical art. Highly enjoyable.
No argument here
This song, and Philly soul in general always gives me the chills. The extended jam on this, throwing in the kitchen sink of orchestration, is aggressively good.
Seasons of love, Kdrama style As much as I love the Asian Americans reppin' hard on Glee (and the many absercise reps Harry Shum Jr. must do), as far as musical based television, I've momentarily defected from diaspora and come over to the dark side of the mother continent. If you want to see Asian faces singing and dancing, but with solid writing and REAL character development, look no further than What's Up. This is one of my favorite shows of the moment and its available with English subs. The finale was last week, and now I want the director's cut on DVD. This show suffered from its inability to get picked up by a major network which would've allowed the pre-filmed drama to get its proper 60-70 minutes per ep run time. The characters, all of which I cared about and who were so charmingly played should've had the stores more fully fleshed out.
It's got heart and darkness. Meditations on crime, fame, terminal illness, touches of may-december romance, forgiveness, communing with the dead, ghosts haunting the school's penumbral corridors, and an alternately gaunt and blisteringly bright cinematographic look, make the tone hopeful but with sinister forces lurking around every corner. And it never tips off the melo deep end either. All of that is woven together by a band of misfits at a university musical theater department.
And the songs are eclectically curated quite well, everything from the melancholic Chet Baker rendition of My Funny Valentine and Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose playing on a depressed character's headphones to a Korean retooling of Grease's "Those Magic Changes" performed with panache by one of the show's standouts Jo Jang Suk (it's not radio, it's lady-o)!, a dubstep laced score, along with Kpop covers and original music. Of course the devil is the details, and What's Up delivers. Not only with the music, but with great vignettes at the end of all the episodes chock full of juicy character footnotes.
Time I could spend watching this show=Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes:
BritPopCornucopia #18: Jarvis Cocker takes over Kdrama
Holy crap, the worlds collide. So here I am watching an episode of Unstoppable High Kick to get my fix of Jung Il Woo in his younger years, when all of a sudden, I see him sporting a shirt that ostensibly has Jarvis Cocker's image on it (3:34) and in character, clearly evoking this Jarvis song.
Y'all know I love me some Jarvis. And if you slather him on top of Jung Il Woo, who's managed to be in some of the best shows evar (and hello, Return of Iljimae), then I guess I can have my cake and eat it too.
Now, all I need for Christmas is a Kimchi Kiss under the mistletoe.HAWT.
Got the rainy day blues? Nothing cures it like ramen, I think. And I'm not just talking desperate college student. Ramen is for everyone! Anytime!
Last night I ate at Izikaya Sozai, a mere 20 minute walk from my house. While they only serve one kind of ramen, tonkotsu, and its very basic, whoa is that broth delicious. For those of you not in San Francisco, I'm a fan of Maru Ichi in Mountain View, and Ippudo and Momofuku in NYC, if you're in those parts. Short of going to Japan, these are my fave North American options.
All those places aren't really a secret, and their popularity often necessitates an hour long wait. I am no expert in underground ramen. But a steamy bowl with savory broth and springy noodles will make anyone happy when its cold outside and the droplets patter at your window pane. And frigidly delayed gratification sometimes makes it even better.
For those of you who can't get enough, Momofuku's David Chang and esteemed company like Anthony Bourdain and the folks at McSweeney's served up their first issue of food magazine Lucky Peach, and it was ALL about ramen.
To further drive the craze, Korean drama Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is hitting the airwaves weekly. If the ramen alone isn't hot and spicy enough, try adding a side dish of sparkling dapper dandy and you'll be slurping it up and begging for more.
Sure, the show looks like a bit of fluff, but it's surprisingly sexy and fun with heaps of heart, and a feisty heroine you root for from the get-go. And the soundtrack is pretty aces as far as KDramas go. Brownie points to the music supervisor. Jung Il-Woo is hilarious as a shrieky playboy, and Lee Ki-Woo is smoldering as the earthy narcoleptic ramen chef. Yes, I just typed earthy narcoleptic ramen chef. What girl wouldn't want to be Lee Chung-Ah?
Even with the elevation of ramen to an occasionally rarefied experience, its instant incarnation and the versatility it offers still makes it a food of the people. That is likely a huge part of its charm and why its undergoing a renaissance. While you may splurge for the extra special regional broth and handmade noodles, though still managing to spend under $20, sometimes all you want--and can afford--is that cheap-ass packet. But you can still eat like a queen. How? Here are my top tips for making your Top Ramen truly the tops!
1) Add an egg. You can hard boil it first, poach it in the boiling soup water, fry it and eat it on the side, whatever. Adds delish without much extra cost.
2) Ditch the seasoning packet and add your own broth. While some brands have seasoning that's perfectly fine, nothing makes your ramen sing like a different soup. For mere added pennies, you can add some grocery store veggie or chicken broth. While it may be a larger initial investment for a cheapskate, buying a package of miso paste pays off in the long run. Not only does it heat up--never boil miso--and dissolve in water quickly, but you can control your sodium content, make your broth to taste, and add loads of other things if you're not feeling the noodles. Try diced tofu, seaweed, scallions, and shitake mushrooms. Either way, for the lazy and the poor, these are nice alternatives to the standard issue seasoning. Especially for those of you harboring a MSG phobia.
3) Garnish says luxury at a fraction of the price. Chop up some scallions, crack a little pepper, add a handful of canned corn, or a slice or two of fishcake or tofu and your bowl will thank you for it. Pickled side dishes are nice touch too. Have some kimchi, picked radish, or cole slaw to accompany your noodles with a contrasting flavor. Sesame seeds or furikake are also lovely.
4) Throw in some veg. You're already eating something that's often been fried, with loads of chemicals, and tons of sodium. So why not have some healthful benefits? My favorite is to chop some broccoli rabe and blanch it in the water with the noodles and egg as they're cooking. Some other nice options are spinach, kale, and plain jane broccoli. Sliced carrots, julienned peppers, mushrooms of all sorts (shitake, enoki, and porcini are some of my faves)and frozen peas are also great.
And when you're done we can all singalong and devour happily, shielded from the rain.
Afrikaaps, the South African theater production which explores the mostly unknown creole history of the Afrikaans language, is currently on tour in Holland...Afrikaaps is essentially an effort to liberate the language from its status as the “language of the opressor”, taking it back for all who speak it (who happen to be mostly Black, or Coloured.)
Billed as a HipHopera, it should be a truly exciting show. I've seen one of the performers, Jitsvinger, in Cape Town a few years back, and he was explosive.
If Dylan's past work, aesthetic sensibility, and sociopolitical stance are any indication, I have a strong feeling this show will be highly engaging, entertaining, and well worth going to. His documentary connected with the show is screening at the Africa in the Picture Film Festival on the 8th October at Het Ketelehuis, Amsterdam. I am pouring out tears of sadness that I am not in NL for the show.
Back in the US, which means time to get properly poppin' on the blogosphere again (is that one or 2 G's or 3G--or a G6, I don't know).
Anyway, I just had to share this track with everyone. For those of you who like a touch of the UK grime, and/or have a fondness for the Minaj or MIA, this is something that will blow your mind:
This woman, Lady Leshurr, spits it fresh to impress on her upcoming single Lego, independently released in October. I heard this track on BBC1Xtra radio and immediately had to listen to it many times over. It's arresting for its minimal yet percussively addictive backing track, allowing the purity of the rhymes, the wordplay, and the flow to really shine. Letting her MC skills speak for themselves practically unadorned is a rather daring choice for a single, I think. She's definitely one to watch, people.
I've made it known before, I do love me some Fettes Brot. Perhaps the only German hip hop I listen to, since linguistically crippled, I can't get the all-important lyrics without translation. But FB manages to cut through the incomprehension with their catchiness. And when I do look up translations they always manage to enhance my enjoyment.
Truly a sucker for the hip hop romantics, and Fettes Brot being a fine example, I can't believe I slept on one of their best tracks until now.
Having spent considerable time in the Netherlands, this song, Amsterdam, hits my soft spot especially. Heavy beat, the sizzle of guitar, uptempo endpiece, and that old school scratching pull it all together. Add those signature FB horn flourishes and you've got magic. Plus, the video is quite nicely done.
For those not Germanically inclined, Fettes Brot means fat bread, and indeed both the Netherlands and Germany have their fair share of delicious bread. Cash money meanings aside for a sec, let's just consider the fact that the most delicious bread I've ever had in my life has been enjoyed in this corner of the world.
Here's how they roll in my all-time fave Het Bammetje in Rotterdam.
This place was right outside my room in Rotterdam, where I partook of many breadly varieties on the regular. Warm, fresh, and absolute perfection every freaking time. Just click on the "impressie" tab. I dare you not to dream of how good it is after viewing it.
Vette brood, Fettes Brot, Skrilla, any way you slice it, you can't deny the dough always rises to the top.
I thought I could contain my L-O-V-E. But the dam has broken. I had to share so you can all catch the wave as its cresting.
Bursting forth, City Hunter is quickly skyrocketing towards being one of my all-time favorite shows. I'm on tenterhooks hoping the ride to the finale will take us into the stratosphere. I will seriously be crestfallen should this be Rocket Love like Daedalus and Icarus instead.
But we're flying high right now and I intend to keep it that way. This fan-freaking-tastic Korean Drama is on the air now, and I am constantly refreshing YouTube after it broadcasts, hoping some kind soul has posted it with English subs. Safe to say, I am full on addicted. No signs of relenting.
It has everything: compelling love interest, taut action, the tension between vengeance and moral rectitude, patriotism and honor, political intrigue, and complicated family relationships, especially twisted roots of paternalism. Not to mention, there's the right dash of comedy (of both the romantic and buddy varieties) thrown in for good measure.
Sure, as with any show, there are a few suspensions of disbelief required, and the interweaving coincidences can feel far-fetched at times, but trust me, this show does its thang so well, you'll pardon those instances. Its gripping storyline, pathos, visual palette, and solid directing make for the perfect all-in-one entertainment package. The venerable Dramabeans recaps tells it better than I ever could. Hit that up to get the premise, and some fab color commentary along the journey as you hop on this show's bandwagon, and never look back.
But I just have to put my two cents in on this one. First, the characters, oh the characters, and the actors playing them make me giggle with glee, clench my fists, and vibrate with emotional resonance. Not a bad apple in the bunch, but these are my fave performances thusfar. Really, more an excuse to rattle off some fun nicknames. Roll call please!
Mr. City Hunter himself, Lee Yoon Sung played by Lee Min Ho a.k.a. Moonlighting Korean Adam Lambert, a.k.a. day job: bein' smexy and employing superb histrionic abilities. Good bye Goo Jun Pyo, hello tortured hero with complexity, compelling backstory, and total badassery. He's taking mega-smoldering thespian to the highest level possible in the KDrama realm. Okay, I'll admit it, I initially only tuned in for his unbelievable hotness, undeniable charisma, and clear acting chops. (Oh really, that's all?) But this is definitely LMH's finest project to date. And he's so good in this. Dark knight, stealth secret agent, cold womaizer/flirtatious playboy, hurt lovelorn puppy, passionate paramour, brow-furrowing caregiver, friendly joshing jokester, verbal sparing partner, childish brat; he pulls off every single facet without missing a beat. Chameleon skill in spades. Can we all just agree this is a tour de force?
I mean, before City Hunter, I would say this might've been one of his finer works:
Kim Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Means I love you, Kim Nana played by Park Min Young: Obvs our heroine. Judo champ, presidential bodyguard, Yoon Sung's destined ladylove. Sweetness and strength in one pretty and petite package. Irresistibly warm, but with tenacity. Self aware and owning her mistakes but still being able to muster moxie. Min Young, dearie, you're def taking this a notch up from the beloved Sungkunkwan Scandal. Though there's probably some carryover love from that time you turned yourself into a little kimbap sushi roll (3:43):
Prosecutie, Kim Young-Ju played by Lee Jun-hyuk: Shrewd and determined by-the-booker, he's got a good cop facade with a hidden guilt complex. He's the City Hunter's sometime nemesis, sometime ally.
Big Daddy Cane, Lee Jin-Pyo, played by Kim Sang Jung: Basically there ain't no half steppin' with Yoon Sung's adoptive father, hellbent on revenge. And he wants to get the job done. Kill or be killed is this dude's philosophy.
Ajuhssi Mommy a.k.a. Bae Man Duk a.ka. Shik Joong, played by Kim Sang Ho. Yoon Sung's surrogate mother figure in the shape of a hobbity home shopping man, displaying surprising gumption, tenderness, and just an occasional touch of mystique.
Now with a cast like that, plus some other steady showings from their colleagues, you cannot be led astray.
It was about as good a show could get. A riveting start, then further drawing me in, and amping it up at every step. And then in this week's episode 10, semi-SPOILER ALERT, they went and incorporated a major plot point that is so relevant to my own research it hurts. Ha, I guess that's only a spoiler if you know about my academic alias ;)
As if I couldn't love it anymore. Now, I might even get a chance re-watch(though I'd do that anyway) and analyze it in a scholarly capacity. It's like the writers wanted to give me a nice late Happy Birthday present. Too. Good. To. Be. True.
Thus, the dam broke. The enthusiasm overflows without shame.
For those of you who balk at my newfound obsession with KDrama, balk no more. And just watch this show. NOW, NOW NOW.
But for those of us in other non-Nederlands more Bay Area-like realms, an unusual cornucopia of a different sort is uniquely available to us. While many of indulge in the common variety of stone fruit, melons, and berries on offer, there are some off-the-beaten-path treats that I've discovered over the years. Pack these goodies in your picnic basket, and head to the FREE Stern Grove Festival in SF, where everyone from The English Beat to Chali 2na are doin' their thang.
Cara Cara Oranges These are my favorite oranges, hands down. While blood oranges are more notorious for their color, I find their taste to not be the best balance between tart and sweet. Cara Caras achieve this balance and do so without fail. I've never had one that didn't tickle the sweet while still maintaining that lovely citrus tang. Not to mention, they're usually super easy to peel and boast a gorgeous blush pink inner flesh. Technically they are fading out by the time summer rolls around, but if you can catch some, grab 'em! And for you lucky South Africans they start emerging in August!
Hybrid Vigor Mango Nectarines and Pluots are just two fine examples of hybrids or cross breeding that you'll find in California. The legacy of Luther Burbank lives on. For those of you not in the know, he was a famous horticulturalist whose plant breeds revolutionized agriculture. You can even visit the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Sonoma, CA, right over the Golden Gate Bridge, north of San Francisco. Anyone fancy a mini road trip? Screw the yuppies and their wine tasting weekend getaways, there's a wider world of fruity goodness and botany out there.
The mix-a-lot produces some seasonal magic that will surely delight you if you try it.
Rainier Cherries Holy crap. Best cherries I've ever tasted. I was in Seattle last month, and boy was I sad these gems were not yet in season. But if you are in the Pacific Northwest anytime soon, get yourself a bag, or two, or ten. Not only do they have a rich golden-red exterior, they are firm yet sweet and juicy without being runny. And while I have much love for the classic Bing Cherry, not only because it's a California original, stamping the history of Asian Americans' agricultural labor in the Central Valley, it doesn't manage to achieve quite as clean and crisp a flavor profile as its above-heralded offspring. And the Rainier's ombré skin is too visually gorgeous to ignore.
So, this was the only decent photo (top right) I could find of these. Is that because I spelled it incorrectly?
These are my latest find at my go-to for years, Sunset neighborhood, locals only pride, 22nd Avenue Market. It's a great mix of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean and Asian selections (yeah there's halvah right alongside lemongrass, dolmas sharing space with rambutan), accompanying a great variety or California Produce(OMG purple kale and broccoli rabe) that is a gourmand's wet dream at take-home prices.
Featured in bags out front, I couldn't resist trying these little babies. They start with a initial burst of sweetness, but that almost immediately transitions into the intense tartness territory. Apparently, they are quite popular amongst Lebanese consumers, enjoyed with a dash of salt. Maybe I didn't get the sodium ratio right, but I like them fine pure and on their own.
Texture-wise and taste-wise, they're a bit like a cross between a very slightly sour barely ripe plum and a green grape. But if you ever liked Warheads, Super Lemon, or Sour Punch, then think of these as their healthier, fruitier, rounder cousin.
So friends, enjoy the bounty of summer. Your taste buds and tummy will thank you!!!!!
Nor-Cal to North Sea #4: Snoop Dogg vs. Silver Fox
Radio Netherlands Worldwide has the best coverage. Here are a couple of the latest:
For all his usual entertaining braggadocio, it seems Snoop Dogg has succeeded in boring me to death. I just watched the leaked clip of him filming his latest video in in front of the I Amsterdamsign. Unlike the listenable grooves and keytarlicious visuals of some other latter day Snoop tracks, ZZZZZZZZ. The hook "I drink I smoke" was more cliche than I could handle. It seemed to drone on and on, while the gyrating video hos merely seemed like a droopy cabaret made worse by grainy footage. I think this behind the scenes peek definitely took the swag out the pimp. I was more compelled by the question, which Dutch official even permitted this in Museumplein????
I have to say it, this story was far more entertaining. I'm telling you being gray-haired and speaking Dutch is just as awesomely enthralling as sporting cornrows and spittin' rhymes.
Exhibit A: Merlijn de Tovenaar
P.S. I know some will get nitpicky with me and point out that 213 is miles away from Nor-Cal, but that's the series name and I'm sticking with it.