Friday, May 30, 2008

Japanese Woman Comes Out of Closet

I loved this article. It's a story about a homeless Japanese woman who lived in a man's closet for a year without the guy knowing. He eventually figured it out when food began to disappear. This article emphasizes how much space exists in a person's home that they don't see very often. Before my mom sold our house she and I were the only people living there, alongside the three vacant bedrooms. Months went by before I went into some of the bedrooms in the basement. Someone could have easily lived there. 

How much space is too much space? I am usually struck by the immensity of some houses (the Biltmore estate, for example), but at the end of the day I think all that unused space is a waste. You couldn't possibly need so many bedrooms, gardens and ballrooms.  

And how creepy is it to think that someone could be living in your closet without your knowledge? I wonder how easy it is to get into a house undetected. A person could be stalking you in your own home right now! Check your closets! Look under your rugs! I almost want to try it myself. Not for the creep factor, for scientific reasons. 

Soda pop review: Fitz's Root Beer

Where I got it: Soda gallery, again. I'm going to try to get some Mexican soda for next week. 

History: Fitz's Root Beer is bottled by Fitz (wow) in St. Louis. It's actually microbrewed in the restaurant.

Appearance: The label is paper, which looks cheaper than labels printed directly on the bottle. The design itself reminds me of burger places from the 50's, and that was the environment in which the root beer was produced. I like the name Fitz; it sounds like fizz or spritz.

Taste: I am seriously considering writing a letter to my congressman to advocate the return to cane sugar to sodas. Fitz was much sweeter than the A&W root beer I'd had earlier. The soda had a creamy head as well. The soda tasted crisp. It was even better once I began my dinner of macaroni and cheese. I know beer goes well with food, but I never thought about root beer being the same way. 

The verdict: There wasn't anything that seriously detracted from this soda. It was sweet and thirst-quenching. I enjoyed it, and I hope to be able to find a tasty root beer bottled near me. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amazing homes

I first heard about Cal earth from Studio 360. T
hese houses are made from adobe and look strikingly similar to the houses on Star Wars. They are comprised of several domes of various sizes made from sand bags and barbed wire. 
What I find really amazing are the qualities of these houses: They can be made entirely from local materials, no trees have to be used, the houses utilize passive heating and cooling, and they can be fitted with traditional doors and windows. The only thing I cannot seem to understand is how the houses could be rigged with electricity. I suppose you could retrofit the houses, but that would detract from their aesthetic appeal. 

The creator of this design was Nader Khalili. He came up with a similar design for housing on Mars (awesome). Plans for these buildings are available on their website, and they are pretty cheap. The ease of constructing one of these houses- three to five people can build the 400 square foot model- and the fact that they can be made from dirt mean that these designs could be really useful for people recovering from a natural disaster. And, on the website the organization offers a how-to movie that uses no words, meaning that language wouldn't be a barrier to learning. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Have you been feeling like you absolutely need to draw on the computer, but you also want to share your talent with others? Well, thank the flying spaghetti monster for  This site is basically a gigantic interwebby sheet of paper to draw on. You select your color and size of pencil, and let your superior mouse drawing skills commence. 

I tried to get some pictures that had been created, but I couldn't figure out how to download them. There are plenty to look at on the site and it's pretty exciting to watch some illustrations being born right before your eyes. The skill level of those drawing seems to range from beginner (that's me) and super artiste. 

And, if you are worried that won't be appropriate for your six year-old sister and your 80 year-old grandma (whom you are both babysitting), don't worry. They don't allow any curse words or naughty drawings. 

This website is great to sit and watch. The most random pictures come up. And, although they don't advertise this, maybe if you find an artist you adore you can shower them with compliments and start some sort of obsession. We all need an obsession to foster, don't we? 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Soda pop review: Cheerwine

 I have decided to write a review of a new soda every week. My requirements to try a certain soda will include the following:

  • It must be a soda I haven't tried before, or in a different form than I've tried
  • It must be exotic or a limited edition
  • It must be soda, not alcohol
Cheerwine will be my first review.

Where I got it: I got this soda, and four others, from a website called
This is the web component of an actual store in Texas that sells all sorts of regional soda. All of 
the sodas are in glass bottles. 

History: Produced by the Carolina Beverage Company since 1917, Cheerwine is named for it's
cherry flavor and burgundy color. It has an unusually high amount of carbonation. The
product is primarily sold in the South, but as I said, you can get it from the soda gallery. Cheerwine
sold in glass bottles contains sugar cane, unlike the soda in plastic bottles.

Appearance: As you can see from the picture, the bottle is larger than average and has a shape
similar to Coke bottles, except the sides are straight. I like the logo; to me it looks very 1930's. 
The label itself is painted or printed on the bottle, which looks better than paper labels. 

The taste: This soda has a cherry flavor, much like Dr. Pepper. It is a little more fruity and less 
sour than said cola. The aftertaste also has more cherry to it. This soda is made with sugar cane
instead of processed corn syrup, so it tastes sweeter to me. It wasn't so fizzy that it felt like
mouthwash or anything, which was a plus. The high amount of carbonation did mean that it was
difficult to drink quickly however.

The verdict: Cheerwine tastes better than its major company competitors for several reasons. 
I could taste cherry much better than I can with Dr. Pepper. It is also less fizzy, which makes it 
easier to drink. The only major drawback was that the soda was pretty sweet and I couldn't drink 
it all at once. A good soda to try out, but maybe not one to quench your thirst. I would definitely
drink it again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Living Traditions Festival

I went to the Living Traditions Festival in downtown Salt Lake this previous Sunday. There were plenty of things going on to stimulate you visually, like the lacework. When I watched the woman working it seemed like she chose random strings of lace to twist around pins and other pieces of lace, but she knew what she was doing. This sort of thing became less profitable after the industrial revolutions, but maybe that's for the best. Although things weren't being created by artisans, at least more people could afford them. 

I thought these flowers were so vibrant. They are made from paper and come from Mexico. I've never thought about how ruffling paper in just the right way could make it look so realistic. I like to fold origami, but with that medium the emphasis is more on minimalism than realism. They had some folded cranes for sale in the little market, but seeing as I could have folded some for free I declined to buy any. 

The next booth we checked out was filled with crafts from Peru. Most of the objects here looked to be made of clay but they were much lighter than they should have been. There were tiny boxes that opened to show various biblical scenes. I think the forms were created out of flour and water, but I'm not sure how the miniscule figures were made. No doubt this guy had a steady hand in order to paint the little people inside this box.  

I liked these eggs-quisite creations (I couldn't resist). I don't know exactly where this art comes from because I think the sign only mentioned that it was from Europe. So, white people did it. I think it would have really showed that white people made these if they used the egg white and yolk to make an egg salad sandwich. I love those things. We tried to talk to the woman at this booth but some guy was hogging her time. He kept mentioning a "missionary" special, whatever that means. 

And, here are some carved fruits from the Thai booth. These almost looked like wax and the scent they gave off was delicious. I am in full support of art you can eat, so I enjoyed this booth. They must have done something to the watermelon because I think it would have gotten all goopy if they had just carved without any sort of hardening agent. 

Along with the booths, there were plenty of booths with food from around the world, as well as dancing. Those capoeira dancers were pretty hot. I was kind of confused though because I thought it was a fighting style but they just seemed to be dancing with each other. They could probably kick someone's ass if they wanted to. It was nice to see people learning about other cultures, especially non-white cultures. Exploration is wonderful. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Movie Review: King of Masks

As of late I've been interested in international movies, so I got King of Masks from Netflix. The premise is that an aging street performer, Wang, tries to find a boy he can teach his secrets to. After he buys an eight-year-old boy on the black market, he discovers that he has in fact "adopted" (using the term loosely) a girl. Wang shuns the girl, named Doggie. But, when Wang is wrongly accused of kidnapping another child the only person who can help is Doggie and a famous actor. 

The main reason I watch foreign films is to gain a vignette into another way of life. From what little I know of Chinese culture I was able to pick out a few strong themes. Filial piety is very important in the movie. Doggie does everything she can to save Wang, despite the fact that he will have nothing to do with her. She does this because he is the only family she knows. 

Also important is the appeal to authority. In several scenes in the movie Wang prays to Buddha asking for a son. Doggie respects Wang and his ability to use his masks. Wang, in turn, respects the famous actor for his ability to entertain spectators so well. And, when Wang is thrown in jail the two characters plead for the police to listen to them. 

That all may have been boring, but here is what I was really thinking about. The main underlying issue in the movie was, um..."foreign" to me. Wang's utter disgust with discovering Doggie is in fact a girl was odd to me. Can't a girl learn just as well as a boy? But, I now think much of the power of the film comes from this discrepancy: although Doggie is not allowed in her society to inherit anything, she still strives to do so. She also fights tooth and nail to save the person she cares about. She acts unlike a girl because she knows that is the only way she can save Wang. In the end, she earns the love and respect of Wang, and they gain from each other's company. 

What I got from the movie was that some things what we consider normal and polite can be maladaptive to life. Both Doggie and the actor consciously broke with tradition in order to protect Wang. They went outside to social norm to do what they thought was necessary. I think when people question everything they think is right they come to the conclusion that some of it isn't right at all. I know that this idea isn't new, but I don't think it is taken far enough. A person will question what they want to do for a living, but not if they really need to make so much money to be happy. Or, a person will recognize that judging someone based on their race is idiotic and yet they will continue to be homophobic. I think we should be willing to question everything, even the things we hold sacred, in order to discover what is really important.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

East Side/West Side Rift

My driver's license is about to expire. Actually, it will expire in a month, but I thought I would be responsible and get it renewed now. I remembered from when I was 16 the horrors of going to get my license: the long wait (four hours!) and the insane lines. I look so angry in my old photo. I didn't want my new license to be that way. So, I prepared. 

I looked up the location of the office I had to go to. I looked up the hours it was open, and I decided to go there as early as I could, eight AM, in order to beat the crowds of people. I even looked up directions. I was set; nothing could stop me. As I drove to the office I thought about how good it was that I was getting things done on time. I had foreseen every little problem. Except for the office not existing. 

I turned onto the street the office was supposed to be on and I only saw houses. Frustrated, I drove on adjacent streets to try to flush out the office. No luck. Finally, I called Joey and had him look up the address. According to the state's website, this location doesn't exist. He gave me the address of the closest office and I set off to go there. 

For some reason, there seems to be a rift between the East and West sides of the Salt Lake Valley. If you aren't familiar with the state, the West side is more working class and the East side contains more cultural spots, with a few exceptions. Although I grew up on the West side and currently live on the East side, I couldn't figure out how to cross from one side to the other. Literally. I only needed to drive four or five blocks east to get to the office, but all of the roads I went on were dead ends. Then, when I got angry and tried to drive home I got stuck on a bunch of dead end streets. I had to backtrack all the way to where I started to figure out how to get home. 

Some people say that there is a divide between the two sides of the valley. I can remember growing up and hearing the the kids who lived on the East side were all white snobs. There is far less development in parts of the West side, and so the land value is low there. I think things would improve if there was an easy way to traverse between the two sides. Not only do some of the roads end abruptly but the train often sits between the two sides, barring any way to get across. As I drove around I saw many interesting places: Asian and Latino markets, an Islamic temple and some good restaurants. I would love to go to them and I think other people would visit them if they could easily drive from the East side to the West. 

I think this is the issue I should run for governor on. 

Friday, May 9, 2008

I'm Getting a Vasectomy.

Joey and I just had our baby spawned via the website for the movie Baby Mama. We took our features from pictures to create a wonderful little ball of joy. The thing is named Dhani. 

Don't ask why it has facial hair. Or teeth. Or the fact that it's right eye is deformed...okay, I can tell you that I smudged that one when I wasn't supposed to. All I have to say is that the little weird thing came from Joey and I, and I can't deny it.