Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Public urination

I believe she has no arms because she is holding herself

At times it seems like it's only me, but women needing to frequently pee seems like a fairly consistent problem throughout our fair sex. We may forever be resigned to being viewed as the weaker sex on the strength (weakness) of our bladders alone. I'd like to say I'm better or worse than others, but honestly, there is no rhyme or reason to my bladder so I can't really place myself consistently on one side. One day I can be like a camel, as shown by the time I managed to pee just once on a 14 hour flight from Melbourne to LA, while other times I might as well be a burst fire hydrant with children happily frolicking in the rupture.

As I write, I feel like I am in bladder insensitive mode. I don't need to go so it feels like I'm trying conjure up some distant memory. Perhaps bladder stress is like child birth where we have evolved, in the case of childbirth, to forget the true horrors of the pain so we can do it more than once, and in the case of bladder control, so that we recover enough not to start wearing adult diapers prematurely.

The nuts and bolts of the situation

Bladder inconsistency makes it very hard to manage ones day, and more importantly road trips or outdoor concerts or festivals. For example, last Friday I'd drunk nothing all day, had a glass of Coke with my late lunch and then found myself on the verge of flooding the car 45 minutes later. We were on the freeway making a long drive home in traffic at 5pm. We had to pull off and take the street. While we were in a sketchy neighbourhood, mentally, being on the street assisted greatly in mind over bladder. On the street, you see options. A gas station, a restaurant, a bush, a gutter. They are possibilities and I daresay it is hope that has sustained civilised culture thus far and hope is no exception in matters of the urinary pouch. Even without actually stopping at any of these places, the option to do so eases the mind and the excruciating pain. On the freeway, it's a whole other pond. You are barely moving, but moving enough that you can't get out of the car. The only hope ahead is the sign marking 3/4 mile until the next exit, and if you choose not to demand that exit, you are now fixated on the next fraction of a mile until you can get off. This process may be as damaging to one psychologically as it may be kidneycally.

Only in matters of urination do I have penis envy. Here's a solution in the Shewee.

Once one has exited the vehicle in such an emergency, a new flood of terror hits. All those possibilities from the car are now treated as last resorts as one tries to maintain their dignity by pretending the potty dance in just the way they usually walk. If one finds themselves in a not-so-nice neighbourhood, or one heavily populated with homeless people, opportunities for restroom use plummet. In an effort to keep their restrooms adequate for their customers, they must keep out the homeless and for some reason, a clean, well dressed girl with eyeballs slowly yellowing is not enough to break the rule as one is turned away.

The ability to turn someone away with this dire need to urinate is an interesting one. When in the moment, it feels like a crime against humanity. Hasn't everyone been in this situation so that someone comes to you, crying urine and begging you to let you use their bathroom that you can simply say "no"? It appears to be the same part of the brain at work that says "Sorry" without a thought to a wino asking for change. This forgetfulness about the trauma of an urgent pee need is rampant also among city planners as you are often hard pressed to find decent and easily accessible bathrooms while out and about. Cities are the ones dropping the ball with their lack of bathrooms, forcing the uncomfortable ritual of the feigned patronage of an establishment to gain an audience with their porcelain.

I held one of these in my hand at a pharmacy, but couldn't bring myself to buy it. I have since longed for it on many occasions since. You pee into it and the liquid is immediately absorbed and turned into gel. Crisis averted.

This takes me back to my evolution theory. Even I, with all my bladder sympathies have found that when I have zero need to go and someone else is busting, it's not like watching someone appearing to get their eyes gauged out in a horror film. That's not even happening, yet as an onlooker, I manage to squirm as though it really were and shaken by the idea of it happening to me. In the case of peeing, it's as thought all liquids I need to expel simply evaporate from my body and I can't imagine what the person is going on about. Yet I DO know! I have squirmed, panted, imagined the humiliation of mopping up the car after the dam wall broke. With all that, for all the empathy I have otherwise, I cannot tell you why I don't quite engage in the panic when it's somebody else. I do my best from my theoretical understanding the problem, but the empathy is not there and for that, I feel like a monster. I'd like to be able to keep this in mind the next time a shop person says "no", but it's impossible to think rationally when you feel like your dignity is about to pour down your leg.

Making the best of it at an outdoor festival. My assistant decided to snap a photo in the midst of it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rage Against The Bullshit: Caring just isn't popular

This weekend has delivered us a bogus triumph in Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name taking the top spot for Christmas in UK over the winner of Simon Cowell's popcraptic X-Factor. Don't get me wrong, I actually love Killing In The Name and have done so since I first heard it in 1993, however my love for that song has never been able to blur the reality that the band, and most of their fans are a bunch of blowhards.

With the likes of Muse, John Lydon, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney on board in support of this "grassroots" campaign for real music to triumph over pop garbage, on the surface it seems like a sincere campaign, one that I theoretically support, nay, is something I'm always screaming about. But I am quite stunned to find nobody addressing the fact that Rage Against The Machine are on the same label, Sony/BMG, as X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry. Regardless of the outcome of this supposed battle, Sony/BMG come out the biggest winners, the very people who perpetuate the pop crap that we are supposed to be "raging" against. Why couldn't all these same people jump behind something on an independent label? This was a pathetic fight also when you consider they had to pull out an already much loved song to meet the challenge.

Many well known artists in recent years have moved to smaller, independent labels so why not draw from that pool in this effort to buck the system? No instead we have mostly acts on major labels boo-hooing about the pop crap their co-conspirators foisted upon us. Can it be any more absurd than a band called Rage Against The Machine trying to buck a machine which they are a part of and have become millionaires from? The mind boggles.

@Neil_Hamburger summed it up on Twitter with this image and comment, "Rage Against The Machine's grassroots campaign to have a #1 hit worked thanks to these heroic idealists."

What this whole thing does prove is that any kind of promotion can get anything to be popular. Major labels put out this pop crap because they simply don't care about music and with enough promotion, it sells. There was a time when people in the record industry did care about music and consequently, there was a mixture of stuff in the charts. I'm sure there was a huge portion of people who bought into this "Make Rage #1" scheme who also bought that X-Factor single last year. You can't really misplace your values when you have none.

This brings us to the problem of popularity. Various causes tend to start out small with a small number of people truly committed to solving whatever problem they are invested in. Once these causes gain enough buzz, be it from a celebrity endorsement or the media enforcing guilt, people start to care. Or at least thinking they do.

I truly believe that there is actually a very low number of people who really care that much about anything. When causes like the environment, fur, supporting our troops or raging against the establishment gains more than a certain number of followers, you can be sure that the majority of apparent followers don't really give a crap. Lip service might be the most popular cause of them all. Fur was a huge no-no in the 90s, but now you see all the same models like Cindy Crawford unashamedly wearing it today, despite speaking out against it and despite the fact that the animals are still tortured for their skin just the same. It was hip then and now it's not. The reality of what goes on in fur production could never have penetrated Cindy's pea brain or else she would not be able to casually go back to supporting that horrific industry.

Cindy Crawford: Conveniently caring about animal torture

The same is true for Rage Against The Machine fans. The band's overtly politically charged messages certainly resonate with their fans...or at least the fans think they do. They're usually too dumb to realise that they are simply justifying the glee they get from their aggressive music with the lyrics contained, despite the fact that they never gave a crap about anything they sang about before and few will look any further than the confines of those lyrics for more ways to buck the system.

I found myself seeing Rage Against The Machine live two years ago at The Big Day Out in Melbourne. I had left their shows twice before in my life after being there to see other bands. This time I was at this festival to see Björk and would have left again but as I was with my friend who was there to see Rage who were headlining, so I had to stay. My friend for a long time, got a great gleam in her eye when talking about RATM. I get it. Their music can trigger latent aggression and people like to get that shit out. Fine. But then she went on to explain why Rage were so much more important than all these other bands because "Their songs are actually about something. Not just about bullshit." If you'd heard her, you might have been moved. If you'd known her it would have been quite a different story.

This person has mocked me for my interest in politics. When Bush was elected in 2004, she laughed in my face, even after knowing I'd volunteered for John Kerry. She wasn't pro Bush, but just thought the whole thing was a joke like my football team not winning. She flat out told me a number of times that my caring about various issues was "a waste of time" accompanied by much eye rolling. Now suddenly she was moved by Rage's message, all the while still not actually caring about anything. When Zach De La Rocha made some anti-Bush sentiments from the stage, I saw my friend put her fist in the air and say "Yeah!" Lip service triumphs again. This same person is obsessed with Britney Spears, a shining beacon of what's wrong with the "machine" that Rage is supposedly raging against. My friend stands as a perfect example of lacking of beliefs and ideals which make any trendy cause, positive or negative, most likely that, a trend, not a cause.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe it's possible for a mob this large to solidly care about anything more than their ability to hit the McDonald's drive-thru after the show

After Rage left the stage before the encore, some guys had climbed up a tree to get a better view. A suit came out and said into the microphone "If you don't get down, the band will not come back out," and apparently the band was compliant in this request. The angry mob turned to them and shouted at them to get the fuck down, my friend included. "Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me", anyone? I sighed. I said to her "Are you serious? The mob are just doing what 'the man' said. The guys in the tree are the ones 'raging against the machine'" "Oh yeah!" she exclaimed. She was delighted and switched over to support Team Tree. We are no longer friends.

Monday, December 14, 2009

God's asterisk* and "offensive" Christmas music

Last year I post a blog entitled The Atheist Who Loved Christmas explaining that despite my strong disbelief in a creator, I am a big fan of the festive season. And no, it's not just an annual opportunity to score a Richard Dawkins book as a gift, I really love the whole she-bang, including, and maybe even especially, the carols about the birth of someone else's Lord and saviour.

Sure, I'll take accept it as a Christmas gift if you are offering.

Last week I merrily trum my tree and tweeted that I was doing so while wearing a Santa hat, drinking egg nog (actually, it was Silk Nog, which is incredibly delicious and doesn't make you feel like you are consuming an entire cow udder) and listening to Phil Spector's Christmas album from 1964. The next day, my Biblical scholar friend David sarcastically tweeted back something about God also delighting in eggnog, Santa hats and murder. His mention of murder a riotous reference to Spector's crime of the same name. While of course the nog and the Santa hat obviously have nothing to do with the origins of God or Christmas, the murder reference was most hilarious as of course I was quickly realised the vast numbers commissioned by, no not the creator of the Wall of Sound, but God himself! I do believe his book, I forget the name, states numerous occasions where he orders murders, even murders of every man woman and child in a city and this is the same chap who also made the law about thou shalt not kill! I must admit, I have not read this bit in around 20 years, but I really don't recall that line concluded with an asterisk and corresponding annotation at the base of the stone tablet. If it did, I must say it serves as a good justification for the US military to torture. Usually it's not okay to torture your neighbour for playing Black Eyed Peas 24/7, but if the writer of the law is pissed, it's okay. Perhaps that's really why Moses smashed the tablets with the commandments when he came down from Mt Sinai. He came down with these awesome laws, then came down and saw that the people sucked and were ungrateful assholes, and so maybe the whole "Thou shalt not kill" rule was a bit too black and white. Subsequently, he destroyed them and went back up the mountain to ask God for a holy asterisk for extenuating circumstances. Slippery slope, Lord! Slippery slope!

 *Unless I tell you to. And don't abuse this by claiming you killed someone because I told you to when I didn't. - God

Moving on, I take issue with people who take issue with Christmas music. Fine if you just don't like it, but I'm annoyed by the people who find it an affront. In these irritatingly PC times, people aren't supposed to be flashing their love of various gods in the faces of those who may not share their enthusiasm for chosen god. As much as I love Silent Night and Away In A Manger, those are pretty full on with their whole "The most awesome baby ever, our saviour, was BORN! Yay!" themes. Though I like them, I can see why those might be annoying to someone of another faith. But are all the non-Jesus Christmas songs considered offensive too? Songs about Santa, a character mostly created by Coca-Cola, reindeer (not commonly found in the middle east) and jingling bells (not mentioned in any of the gospels as being jangled in the stable) should not cause any offense since as far as I know, there is no dispute that the above mentioned items have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. If these songs are found to be offensive to some, I move that all advertisements for the new John Mayer album be removed. They have appeared on every website I've visited for the last two weeks and sickening me all the way to the toilet. Also all mentions of the film 2012 be removed from public and government spaces because the omnipresent appearance and discussion of that nonsense offends ME!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Birdsworth smacks his lips after I plied him with feline treats for this picture

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cheerful jobs that lack cheer

I hate to be a demanding customer, demanding more from some services than others, but I think there are some establishments where, even if they are just retail, a certain amount of joy should come with the service. When I am mumbled at through the Taco Bell drive-thru speaker, they don't repeat my special order request back to me and hand me my food, peering back at me through their seemingly newborn eyes, I don't blame them at all. They work at Taco Bell. They are getting minimum wage and dishing out pig food to pig people. There is nothing to be happy about. I don't even blame them (though of course I am frustrated) when they screw up my order and forget to leave out the beef. If I'm eating their Mexican Pizza for $2.85, what do I expect? A bowl of smiles? Hardly.

 Dante from 'Clerks', the second worst clerk of all time, (after Randal)

But some businesses are in the business of being there for important, fun filled events in your life and subsequently, should step it up on the cheer front. I for one, on the few times a year when I have to face the public, am able to share in our customers' delight over our fabric prints and feed their excitement. Even when they gasped with glee over a cow print that went against all my aesthetic principles, I'd just smiled politely and remark that it was popular, my gritted teeth stored discreetly in my stomach.

I first noticed this lack of joy where there should be some when shopping for my wedding dress. I for one was not interested in sharing my life story with the ladies in the dress shops, but my mother, of course was ecstatic about the wedding of her first born and couldn't help but pour her heart out to the shop lady about how excited she was, and how happy she was with who I was marrying. The dress designer did nothing to disguise her boredom with my mother's chit chat and stopped just short of rolling her eyes at her. Thankfully for my mum, she remained oblivious to the poor reception and her prattle could not be stopped. I stood in the middle feeling uncomfortable, all too aware of both parties' positions, wishing my mother would knock it off, but was also taken aback by the wedding dress makers inability to enjoy the trappings of weddings and listen to a proud mother. After all, this is her business. Do you think that should that be part of the service? Maybe we weren't worth it since I found a perfectly fitting dress on sale, 1/6th the cost of having her make it for me from scratch.

Okay, maybe not THIS enthusiastic, but a good balance. 

In the day to day realm of whimsy, I went out to buy my kitten a new brand of food last week and was met with more disappointment. I didn't go to Petco, the massive chain of pet stores, but instead went to an independently owned boutique pet store where I am quite certain they are being paid above minimum wage to give a crap. I asked if they would take this bag of food back once opened if my cat didn't like it. The guy said with this particular brand, they would. I then added "He's just so fussy." and the guy just said nothing, glared at me and continued bagging my order. Even before I owned a pet, I could easily enjoy getting caught up in pet talk and I would hope that someone working in a fancy pet store could and would willingly want to engage in joyful chit chat about pets. A simple "Oh, I know what you mean!" with a hint of "those rascally kittens!" in his voice would have sufficed, rather than dead silence, indicating he probably hates me and my kitten. How could he? He's adorable!

My adorable, 5-month old Birdsworth whom the clerk should have been interested in.

Lastly, I have had mixed service for the the employees at See's Candies. Judging by the delight with which I show the fabric my company designs, I can assure you my capacity for company enthusiasm would reach its greatest heights if it were my job to not only fill boxes with chocolate, but also have the pleasure of handing out free samples. It's like getting to be Santa Claus every three minutes over an 8 hour period. What a delight! There is one woman at my local See's Candies who has lost her way and hands over the sample as though they were lumps of coal. She is very efficient and knows their wares, but her lack of love for the product or happiness for your upcoming enjoyment is grossly apparent. If I may say, her physique indicates she may have overdone the chocolate and she may resent the willy nilly purchase and consumption that she can no longer partake it. Whatever her back story, it is not my problem. I should be able to able to bound out of See's with a bag full of Bordeauxs with a spring in my step as I was joyfully nudged out by a merry chocolate purveyor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Progress from the handkerchief: Hand sneezing?

Do sub zero temperatures kill bacteria? I sure hope so. As I waited in line at the supermarket last week, while the cashier was waiting for the customer in front of me to finish screwing around with his coupons and money, the girl needed to sneeze. And she did so...right into her hands. I shuddered. My turn was coming up soon, but not imminently, so she had time to correct the situation. I glanced over above the cash drawer and was delighted to see a pump of hand sanitizer. It would be any moment that she would reach over for a pump to cleanse her hands of the mucus and swine flu setting up camp on her hands.

I know she has a tissue, but she's sneezing and has cool hair.

After eventually finalising her transaction with the other customer, and passing on her sickness to him by way of his change, she then turned to my three frozen items, picked them up, and scanned them. After sneezing directly into her hands, no effort was made to clean them. I wanted to die. I may curse myself for the rest of my days for not asking her to use the hand sanitizer, a thought I had seriously toyed with but was unable to carry through with because I am gutless.

Never a fan of the handkerchief, the idea of carrying a day's worth of snot around in my pocket an unappealing one, I have never had a propensity for one, though for those who carried them, they were usually at the ready to catch a sneeze. With the advent of the tissue, the handkerchief gradually became obsolete, though rarely stuffed up a nearby sleeve. In the interest of expedited snot discarding, this has been a good thing. But what of the sneeze itself? What is containing that? It seems tissue only comes along to mop up the yellowish-grey devastation, but the viral mist that is otherwise destined to roam free, commonly ends up in the offender's (and I say offender because I find it offensive) HANDS.

Hands are not like the plastic sheath used to cover an otoscope. A doctor pokes it into your ear with the sheath, it is used once, then discarded. No, hands are, if you're lucky, for life and serve as the vehicles for food to mouth, and exchanges with other people. As such, it seems perfectly logical that these living tools should be kept free of bacteria as much as possible. This all seems so obvious, so why it has become a common practice for people to sneeze into their hands is nothing short of baffling to me.

I appreciate the sentiment. I know people are trying to contain their sneeze and prevent it from floating freely and infecting many, but is it really a good idea to contain the germs, all concentrated on two hands, only to use those hands to touch shared spaces? I think not.

So what are we to do? Well, there are options other than hands for sneeze containment and I, and others who are aware of this ever increasing problem would appreciate if you would adopt them, should you catch yourself sneezing into your hands.

My first preference, depending on the cut and stretch of my collar, is to sneeze down my own shirt. This method is sometimes initially met with confusion, but I don't see the problem. The sneeze is well contained within the confines of my clothing and if I'm already sick, I'm not about to give it back myself via my belly button. I don't think my torso skin is any more precious than my hand skin that it should be spared the horrors.

According to Omri, my Israeli friend who is currently living in Sweden, the Swedes have sneezing etiquette down as he has observed them all sneezing into their elbows. I noted his observation sounded just that, observational, rather than something he was use to partaking in. I let the issue drop to prevent him from having to confess to hand sneezing and me needing to be disgusted by it. In any case, I too use the elbow method when my top styling does not permit. It can be tricky as in the rush to marry nose to elbow, perfect placement of the nose is hard. As the head lunges back and then violently forward, it can be hard to maintain the alignment. Still, it is relatively contained and poses no real threat of germ sharing unless you were about to participate in a jig at a local barn dance.

I would advise against this type of dancing even without the risk of elbow germs.

Sneeze down your shirt, sneeze into your elbow, sneeze over you shoulder if that's all you can muster and there's nobody standing behind you. But for the love of crumb cake, don't sneeze into your goddamned hands unless you are willing to IMMEDIATELY go and wash them. If you plan to open a door, pat me on the back or share a bowl grapes, wash your hands or keep your diseased digits as far away from me and others as is humanly possible.

Oh, and you can apply all of this to coughing as well. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The truth about vegan desserts

"What does a vegan donut taste like?" someone asked. "Like the hole: Nothing." was the snide response. Another popular retort is "cardboard".

I'd like to open by pointing out that the diatribe you are about to read is not by a vegan. I am vegetarian which permits me egg and dairy without compromising my title. Gelatin, rendered down bits of horse hooves, euthanized pets and dead circus animals, is not vegan nor vegetarian, so boo-hoo, I have to count myself out on marshmallows and jello/jelly. I never liked them anyway. I admit, it stings if gelatin is contained in a tiramisu and I have to pass. Now that you know all that about me, I hope to enlighten those who are ignorant of the potential magic in vegan desserts.

More important than the fact that I can eat eggs or dairy is the fact that I can eat sugar. Sweet, sweet sugar. And cocoa. Oh, I would give your right arm for a fine piece of 60% dark chocolate, preferably from Belgium. I'll eat any chocolate, vegan or not so I am not married to vegan desserts as I write this. It might shock you to know that sugar and cocoa are not only vegetarian but they are also vegan. So is flour! *Gasp* Seriously? Key ingredients of many desserts are not made from animals? Yes, that is correct. No, vegan desserts are not comprised of cucumber and lentils. If you aren't such a snob that you'll eat a Safeway cake or store bought candy, you are no sweet-treat snob, so don't cry about the use of soy milk like you know the difference.

Fried can be vegan, and for that, I am grateful.
When I hear people making cheap cracks at the expense of vegan desserts, it really irritates me because it is just so completely misguided and flat out ignorant. I don't begrudge someone who enjoys a buttery cake, but I was of the understanding that sweetness is what drives the world of dessert, not butter.

Eggs are used as a binding property and so for vegan baked goods, some sort of egg replacer is used. I don't know how all this works because personally, I don't believe in baking. I never have.* I am however willing to reap the benefits of the baking efforts of others and can tell you I have not said myself, nor heard others say of a cupcake "Hmmm, it's okay but it could use more egg." The cakey part of a cupcake can be as moist and delicious as can be, even while vegan. We all know the heart of a cupcake is worn on its sleeve, and by that, I mean it's in the frosting. A frosting consisting mostly of sugar. Nothing is lost here because margarine was substituted for butter, soy milk for milk. Again, I can eat any cupcake, and all I care about is the sugar content.

Choc-orange, one of my all time favourite combos, is contained in this delicious cupcake made by my dear vegan friend, Emily. She was a friend. She became 'dear' after the cupcakes.

Having said all this, there is a group out there who are possibly responsible for the poor showing of the vegan dessert (though honestly, I believe the ignorant naysayers have never tried any of them) and those people are called hippies. While travelling in the middle of nowhere with limited vegetarian options, I admit I will gladly welcome the restaurant offerings of hippies. But as they seem more preoccupied with health and tending to their dreadlocks, it isn't likely to be a foodie's paradise. There are exceptions as the odd hippie will somehow take us to culinary heaven, but generally I have low expectations for what they dish up. Once the main course is completed, one runs the risk of encountering the most tragic words in any dessert cook book and they are "fruit sweetened". No, no, no nononononono! We don't want that. Yes, I agree, a vegan, fruit sweetened chocolate cake tastes like crap. The problem isn't that it is vegan, but that it lacks SUGAR. I urge you not to eat anything fruit sweetened unless you just can't eat sugar, in which case, I'm truly sorry. GOD, I am SO sorry...

A vegan peanut butter bomb cake. I think this is the kind you get in New York which can be found at Moby's tea house, Teany Cafe. This thing blows my mind.

I'm not trying to tell you that all desserts should be vegan or that everything can be perfectly substituted. It just can't, but that's not to say that magic can't and doesn't happen. You are reading the writings of someone who put two spoons of sugar on their cereal, has 5 pumps of flavoured syrup in their mocha, and is known to, on occasion, eat a quality piece of chocolate first thing in the morning (no, I am not a diabetic). I simply do not fuck around when it comes to my sweet treats.

My beloved dark chocolate Bordeaux from See's Candies. Not vegan, but high up in my personal food chain.

My favourite ice-cream is a vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Zig Zag by Purely Decadent. If you look to ice-cream for milky creaminess, then maybe vegan ice-cream isn't for you, though it is still creamy. I actually wont eat chocolate ice creams that are cut with too much milk like those at Stone Cold Ice Creamery (plus it stinks in there). But if you enjoy rich chocolate flavour and with the added bonus of peanut butter, then you are a bloody idiot to turn this thing down. I can and do eat any ice cream I want, but this is my favourite.

Really? Do I need to explain this?

Another favourite dessert of mine is from a vegan restaurant in the San Fernando Valley called Madeleine Bistro. This is a place for fine dining, small portions, and explosive flavours, but the thing I wait for and long for is the Bananas Foster Split. I first encountered Bananas Foster while doing extra work on the Tenacious D movie. I guess it's some sort of magical concoction of slices up bananas sauteed with brown sugar and likely butter. It was magical and I longed for it, but never ended up having it again until Madeleine's. There's a twist on the traditional Foster as they lay out the warmed, sugared banana, but add a drizzled raspberry sauce (raspberry sauce!) and top it off with vegan ice cream, hot chocolate sauce and on top of that a vegan cream made of cashews (with lots of sugar). How can anything made of cashews and sugar not be fantastic? As I said, the restaurant is fancy and I just about have to have my hands cuffed to the back of the chair to stop me from bringing my plate up to my face to lick it clean. I do quietly continue scraping every bit of sauce from the plate with my spoon until the waitress comes to take it away from me.

Oh sweet Bananas Foster Split, it has been too long! We will be together again soon...

A blog about vegan desserts can't be complete without honouring the beloved cake maker of Melbourne. Vegetarian Orgasm was a much loved vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne. While the food was of a pretty high standard (until they expanded, and cut portions and raised prices and went out of business) the desserts were completely out of this world. They were the work of a man we all considered an artist in the realm of cake making. While not vegan himself (just vegetarian), Mark the cake maker appeared to spend most of his spare time dreaming up new cakes. His father, like mine (both were Sri Lankan) was a sugar junkie and this had rubbed off on him. He would not cut any corners when it came to appeasing a sweet tooth. Among his classics were the peanut butter bomb cake, Turkish delight cake and honeycomb cake. He even made a Coca-cola cake, complete with little pieces of chocolate he'd made from a chocolate mold of Coke bottles. The main body of the mega cakes were a good 3 inches in height, but atop that would be some kind of flourish, enhancing the already intense flavours (pieces of Turkish delight if it were a Turkish delight cake, etc) then topped off with lots of cream and drizzles of hardened chocolate. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

There were regulars on the dessert menu, but he was consistently coming up with new stuff. We would often stop by just to get cake. So loved by all were his cakes whether one was vegan, vegetarian or carnivore, that we didn't have to think twice about employing his mastery to make our wedding cake. He did one of his fabulously dense mousse cakes, one layer was just chocolate, another chocolate hazelnut. I forget what the third one was, but it was so rich and divine that just a sliver could send you into a diabetic coma. I for one was never able to eat a whole slice in once sitting, despite all my boasting of sugar consumption. I wont lie, the vegan cake did not have the strength of whatever feats are used for regular wedding cake architecture for a three tiered cake. It sunk a little, but he warned us this might happen. No help that the cake required an hour and a half car ride, but aside from a little sinking, it looked just fine and more importantly tasted fabulous, the two chocolate echidnas he made stood proudly atop. It was so great that the staff at the reception place we caught trying to hide the remainder from us to keep for themselves.

Not one of Mark the cake maker's mousse cakes, but kinda similar on the inside. His were darker though and I'm guessing even more delicious.

Good vegan dessert makers should not be scoffed at. They are not making something that visually resembles a dessert, but trying to tantalise taste buds while adapting to certain dietary needs. They are to be championed for their innovation and dedication to the glorious world of desserts!

So be a lover, not a fighter of vegan desserts. If you love sugar, fruit flavours and/or chocolate, these decadent needs can be fulfilled without animals products. No need to bag it out, because it just ain't true. Besides, you sound like an asshole.

*Remark about not believing in baking was stolen from Andrew Dice Clay.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pedantic preferences

It has become clear, as you might know too from reading this blog, that I am easily worked up, both positively and negatively about a whole host of different things. Usually, I'll provide a lot of back story and a connection to the bigger picture as reasoning for my strong beliefs about mundane matters while other times what I say may seem pointless. Despite that initial impression, I still feel there is a purpose behind my preferences. Something like my hatred of a chewed up straw when I am sharing a beverage, I believe is a preference easily understood and shared. Taking in a straw chewed on by someone else, even if this person is your life partner, is nothing short of disgusting, something which I liken to putting pre-masticated food into ones mouth. Ugh. My esophagus shuddered just thinking about it. The preferences I discuss here are even more insignificant than that, yet I still believe there is good reasoning.

On the lower end of the scale, I get very angry when someone opens a package of potato chips from the bottom of the bag. What is with this? To me, it's like wearing a dress backwards or driving a car only in reverse. Everything was laid out to be done a certain way and then *boom*, the universe gets turned on its head as someone disregards the balance because they can't take a moment to turn a bag of chips around. What if I want to read the ingredients? What if there is a competition I want to enter? How am I supposed to read all the entry requirements carried on this topsy-turvy chip bag? Simply put, I am screwed. I risk either injury to my neck as I try to contort my aging body to meet with this flipped around bag, or I risk chip remnants in my lap. Either way, this could all be avoided if the bag were simply opened from the top. Stomach filled, taste buds tantalised and reading material easy to read from this simple and obvious process being carried out.

I actually couldn't find a picture of a bag of chips opened at the bottom because apparently there aren't enough sick people in this world doing that, I'm happy to report.

Recently a mishap occurred during the opening of a bag of tortillas, not because of this carelessness of a lay person, but courtesy of the tortilla manufacturers themselves! As I snipped the top off the bag to gain access to the tortillas contained within, I soon expressed disdain for the bag as I attempted to seal the remainder with Glad Wrap which failed to provide air-tight freshness I had hoped for. Upon poor completion of this task, and after wishing the bag came with a built in ziplock function, low and behold I discovered the bag DID contain such a function, however, given that it was placed at the bottom of the bag, it slipped under my radar of bag opening sensibilities, so the intended convenience fell flat. Granted, this was a huge oversight on my part, but I think the package designers at Mission were out to lunch (and that lunch was not making their own tacos) the day they came up with this.

Illogically placed ziplock device.

Another beef I have is with wrongful toothpaste squeezing. While I feel strongly about this matter, if someone has stressed an opposing preference, then I will respect their method when using their tube. However if no such conversation has transpired and I find your tube to be haphazardly squeezed from the middle, then yes, I will take matters into my own hands and squeeze it all up from the base. The squeezing of the toothpaste tube in this manner speaks volumes about the state of our society. People are too blasé about doing what feels good in the here and now and not taking stock and thinking about the future. The fact remains that you can successfully squeeze from the middle for weeks, but the day will come when this slovenly method fails to come through and so a last minute scramble to inch up all the poor paste that was left behind at various points throughout the tube takes place. Depending on the make up of the tube, this can prove quite difficult with some of the paste that hard earned money was spent on, is sentenced never to emerge from the nozzle as nature intended, but instead to be left behind, off to spend eternity in a landfill. A far cry from the promised land: the ocean. I think about all this intensely, twice daily as I paste up my brush, and it is for this reason I always squeeze from the bottom.


Dear God, make it stop!

Lastly, and possibly the most controversial, is the preference of the toilet roll. I can't say I have felt strongly about this issue my whole life, but certainly for the last 10 years or so, perhaps after being confronted with a deep set roll dispenser, this preference of mine came into fruition. It is now so clear to me that if I find someone has their roll hanging the wrong way, I go ahead an change it, assuming that only indifference to its placement can be the cause. I can only imagine that the indifferent toilet roll installer has been fortunate enough to encounter only accommodating roll holders. I am a strong believer in the paper hanging over the top. I find this makes the end easiest for accessibility, the other way having a tendency to get lost.

It is a requirement in California (or so I am told) that restrooms have seat liners. This is not a requirement in all states, and there's pretty much no such thing in Australia, where I was toilet trained. Still, germs are germs in all corners of the globe and measures must be taken to prevent contact with them. I was taught to line the seat with paper, something I still do in public restrooms as I just cant get the hang of the provided seat liners. As such, I haven't time to dilly dally and let the end of the paper make it arrival in due course. I need that end NOW, lest the ladies in neighbouring stalls pine to see the tap dancing performance going on through the wall. Perhaps this is how my preference for "over" came to surface.

Here are some examples of why "over" is correct and "under" is wrong.

This is the classic example of a troublesome toilet roll holder, the kind I find at work and battle regularly. If the roll hangs forwards, it is easy to roll it forward and find it. If it hangs backward, it is easy for it to get lost in the cavern and in the case of the device at work, the edge gets caught to the ridge at the bottom putting unnecessary strain on the bladder as one works tirelessly to fish it out. It is particularly hard to find the end when the roll is full, making a reach in for it near impossible.

Fun times getting the end of this should the roll hang the other way!

The print on this roll shows it was intended to hang the other, correct way.

A recipe for success!

When taking a sewing class last year, I asked the instructor which way the spool of thread should be placed on my machine. "How do you hang your toilet paper?" she asked. "Over?" I said, confident in my own toilet paper hanging practices, but wary of hers. "Exactly!" was her response, filling my heart with joy to see that some people live in a world where they are not confronted with this matter as though there isn't any other way.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who is a douchebag's douchebag?

I'm sure there's little dispute that the individual pictured is what is widely considered to be a douchebag. Dissent on this opinion may only come from the individual himself and his like minded peers. Given the fact that this person is a douchebag, desperately latching onto whatever trendy new looks and terminology are flying around, there is little doubt that at some stage he would take it upon himself to refer to someone else as a douchebag. But what kind of person could a douchebag be calling a douchebag? We can only delight in the irony of him using a term that exemplifies himself on somebody else less deserving.

While the phrase may be tossed around carelessly by all of us, used to describe any guy who is irksome in a general sort of way, if six different guys were put in a line up, the one most closely resembling the gentleman pictured below would no doubt be selected as the individual most befitting the term "douchebag".

When searching for images of douchebags, this image came up many times. I wonder if this douchebag, after becoming the Google Image Search definition of "douchebag" amended his ways or embraced his title. A douchebag of this magnitude would find himself in a terrible conundrum, though I imagine ignorance being a key trait, he may remain unaware.

There is no question that the douchebag, ignorant of the fact that he is one, will be calling others douchebags. As I manage to steer clear of douchebag hangouts, my dream to one day hear a douchebag call someone not typically considered a douchebag, a douchebag, may never be realised. Below is an image of wrongful use of the word "douchebag". Someone may be dumb enough to dislike the President, but the term "douchebag" does not at all suit him. In an effort to express some superiority, a douchebag might call President Obama a douchebag, feel quite triumphant, not aware that he is only raising his own douchebag points by proudly displaying his ignorance to true douchebags, a trait which led him to douchebaggery in the first place.

This man is not a douchebag.

Merriam-Webster describes a douche as 1 a :  a jet or current of liquid (as a cleansing solution) directed against or into a bodily part or cavity (as the vagina) b : an act of cleansing with a douche. It is interesting that while men are usually eager to gain passage to the vagina, and most unscrupulously of all the aforementioned douchebag, that an item whose sole purpose is to gain said passage is regarded so poorly. Is it that the bag resembles a limp penis? The antithesis of what is supposed to occur upon conquest? If so, so too is the douchebag the epitome of what a man is supposed to be.  

I honestly found and saved this picture and then discovered it was Luke Goss from Bros. I fancied this douchebag's twin brother Matt when I was 10 years old. The Ed Hardy shirt and like prints are important for douchebag style.

The designer shirt with a screen printed logo is a must for any douchebag's closet. Most likely the douchebag feels that this expresses the "class" he requires to enter the nightclub of his choosing, while the printed graphic is a hint to his casual side and his depth. The graphic appears meaningful at a glance to anyone shallow, however on closer inspection, it means absolutely nothing. The image should be enough to placate the kind of girl who goes for douchebags.

The neck of a t-shirt is an important douchebag indicator.

Below are douchebags at play, living in the illusion that they have conquered something. Physique is very important to the douchebag, though he doesn't realise the more he shows off his hard work of iron pumping, his douchebag score soars.

The douchebag singer from Third Eye Blind. Photo by Heather Leah Kennedy

While douchebags are clearly described by all these examples, the Third Eye Blind kind has a sporting chance to be fingered in our douchebag line-up. While fashion and chest exposure play an important role, the misguided belief of self importance is what I believe truly defines a douchebag. 

With that final piece to the puzzle, we may be able to figure out who a douchebag considers a douchebag. Given that the classic douchebag is clearly over compensating for his lack of intelligence and personality, it would stand to reason that he would then feel threatened by most anyone. As just about anyone may appear, in his pea brain, to exude undeserved confidence, the true douchebag would feel completely justified in calling anyone a douchebag, blissfully unaware of the irony. 

May this investigation not impede your use of the word. Feel free to describe the jerkoff you spoke to in customer service as a douchebag, or the guy that cut you off in traffic. Should you catch up to him and find his head crowned in spiky hair and wearing studded sunglasses, that can only serve as a minor victory.

Douchebag at work (video supplied by Big Tasty)

Some interesting facts about this blog!
  • All images were found by including the search term "douchebag"! (except the Third Eye Blind image which Heather gave to me. It was already marked as shown)
  • The word "douchebag" appears 57 times including this sentence.
  • The only spelling error that came up in spell check was "douchebag".
  • Now "douchebag" has appeared 59 times, including THIS sentence.