The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

October 2007 Archive

October 03, 2007

japanese wrappers They always seem to have this slightly manic quality, as if it were necessary to adapt their wrappers to the hectic lifestyle. And there's an inherent childishness, as if it were necessary to compensate for the hectic lifestyle.

That said, I must admit that I know next to nothing about the Japanese lifestyle other than the clichés from books, magazines, TV and movies. Which, if they are as truthful about Japan as they are non-truthful about Finland, are hardly to be trusted.

Finland, for example, is not stuck in the permanent 1950s as it is in Aki Kaurismäki movies. The people in Finland are friendly and very talkative. In five days in Helsinki I have not seen one man wearing a moustache in the style of Matti Pellonpää, and, something that never appears in a Finnish film and nobody, not even a tourist brochure, ever tells you or warns you about, Finnish bicyclists speed like hell on pedestrian sidewalks.

Incidentally, the things in these wrappers were artificially flavoured, heavily sugared, mildly salted, MSG-laden crispy snack rolls made of something that was most likely corn starch, but could also have been foamy cardboard or, for all I know, polyfilla. Quite tasty really, probably thanks to the MSG. I suppose the little guy with the turban on the orange wrapper is saying something like "MSG rules!", and the chicken pictured above him certainly looks as if it has overdosed on MSG. Tastewise, the snack roll in the yellow wrapper was supposed to taste like teriyaki sauce, the one in the orange wrapper was chicken curry flavour, and the one in the blue wrapper was schnitzel sauce flavour.

"Schnitzel sauce flavour?" you might ask. "But schnitzels aren't eaten with sauce," you might say. Indeed they aren't. Still, the label on the blue wrapper seems to imply that the Japanese do eat their schnitzels with sauce:

schnitzelsauce label

Anyway, I should probably try to get my hand on some Japanese schnitzel sauce and try it with schnitzel because the blue one was the tastiest of the three. The teriyaki one was vile, despite all the MSG.

Posted by Horst at 06:53 PM | Comments (6)

October 04, 2007

On October 2, 2007, the fire brigade was called to a house in Vienna's 5th district after what seemed to be a tear gas attack. The residents of the house had to be evacuated. It was eventually discovered that the "tear gas" originated from the kitchen of one of the residents. He had tried to dry about two pounds of chilies in his microwave oven. The fire brigade told him to "refrain from similar actions in the future."

On October 3, 2007, the fire brigade was called to the Soho district in London after what people feared to be a chemical attack. Three streets were closed and people evacuated from the area as the search was carried out. At around 7pm, the fire brigade discovered that the source of the "gas" was the kitchen of a local Thai restaurant. The chef had been preparing a spicy dip with extra hot chillies that are deliberately burned. The restaurant is considering putting up warning signs during the next chili cooking session.

Posted by Horst at 07:07 PM | Comments (2)

October 09, 2007

Okay, so I spent 3 hours on Sunday, 6 hours yesterday, and 2 hours today on piecing together a PowerPoint presentation for a 2-hour lecture tomorrow. And that's without encountering any technical problems at all, apart from spending 20 minutes looking for clip art of a stick figure. In what ways was PowerPoint supposed to make us more productive again?

Posted by Horst at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)

October 11, 2007

Karl SchranzI have now reached an age at which the not just the language and musical taste, but also the behaviour and pretty much everything about young people has become a total mystery to me. A recent newspaper article has now explained a few, but unfortunately not a lot of things. It kind of explains some of the more recent youth fashion fads, including the return of the abominable mullet, but some of the more mysterious aspects of youth language appear more confusing than ever before. For example, the article states that "Bussi" ends up as "Buccä" because youths replace "z" with "c" and "a" with "ä". This does, however, not seem to be a conclusive explanation for a word with no "z"s and no "a"s in it.

At least I know now that "schranz" is not derived from former skiing legend Karl Schranz, but is really a contraction of "schreien" and "tanzen" (scream + dance). It still doesn't explain why anybody would actually listen to that kind of music, but then I suppose some things will remain mysteries forever.

Posted by Horst at 04:26 PM | Comments (6)

October 13, 2007

tabasco plantSummer started with me attempting to grow chilies, and not just any chilies, no, I had no fewer than twelve plants of ten different chili species. Summer was spent first pollinating them with cotton swabs and then showering them every other day because suddenly one day, the aphids had arrived. They had come over night from out of nowhere, and they were all over my jalapeños. Hundreds of them. From the jalapeños they spread to all the other plants, even those I had attempted to quarantine. In the process they essentially killed my gypos, and the korals only barely survived.

At one point they were suddenly gone, all of them, and there was no trace of them for two weeks. Then they returned with a vengeance.

Basically, for most of the summer I was not growing chilies, I had an aphid farm. My tabasco plant, while growing to a bush of enormous proportions, yielded only three chilies (pictured left), but must have been thousands and thousands of aphids. The other plants weren't quite as lethargic in terms of chili production (the "Domestic Siberian Pepper" was in fact fairly productive), but still the ratio of chilies to aphids felt like 1 to 100,000. If I was an ant, I would have been delighted. As I am am not an ant, I was desperately showering my plants, trying to pull them through summer until the last of the chilies would finally turn red.

I was told that cigarette tobacco soaked in water is an aphid deterrent. I can tell you that it does not work on aphids who live on chilies. I was told that you can buy ladybug larvae in shops that are catering for gardeners, but unfortunately, all these shops offered me was poison. I was told that to get 100 aphids, you don't need 10 papa aphids and 10 mummy aphids, you need just one single aphid. I totally believe that.

I finally gave up today and threw the last chili plant away. I herewith concede that the aphids have won. Big victory for them though, ending up in a garbage can. I hope they're enjoying themselves there. For the few days before they end up in the incinerator, ha ha.

Posted by Horst at 07:32 PM | Comments (7)

October 15, 2007

Wolfgang Lackerschmid playing vibraphone with Chet Baker in the backgroundWhy somebody would learn to play the vibraphone is completely beyond me. For one, in the category of non-portable instruments, it probably comes right after the grand piano and the glass harp. A vibraphone is big, and it's heavy. Second, for some reason I'm pretty convinced that it's one of the more difficult instruments to play, especially if played with two mallets per hand. As for the reputation, I don't know. I don't think that a vibraphone is universally useable in any kind of ensemble.

That said, I must say I love the sound of the vibraphone. Bobby Hutcherson is one of my heroes, one whose music I almost never get tired of. As far as I'm concerned, he put the "6" in "1960s". If I visualize a really cool room with Verner Panton chairs in them whenever I listen to Grachan Moncur's Evolution, it is mostly due to Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone.

Granted, Hutcherson was not even remotely the first, nor the best vibraphone player. There was Lionel Hampton of course, and then there was Milt Jackson. Both were good, virtuoso even, but for some reason, even though Hampton was firmly 1940s and Jackson firmly 1950s, neither of them was able to turn his instrument as consistently into a signature sound of the decade as Hutcherson did in the early 1960s.

This is partly a reason why the vibraphone went pretty much out of fashion around 1967. The times changed, and the 1960s were no longer the 1960s. Hutcherson himself began to struggle, and while his sound remains pleasant throughout his late 1960s and 1970s recordings, the substance just doesn't seem to be there, and they sound like recordings made at the wrong time.

It took the next generation of vibraphone players, like David Friedman or Wolfgang Lackerschmid, until the early 1980s to find a new, convincing context for their instrument. On Horace Silver in Pursuit of the 27th Man (1972), Friedman sounds unbelievably cool, but also torn between a late-Milt Jackson and a late-Bobby Hutcherson style. It is mostly due to Horace Silver's refusal to acknowledge that this record was totally out of style at the time that it works so well.

What can I say? I think Verner Panton chairs are cool. I think vibraphones are cool. I have no idea why somebody willingly learns to play an instrument like that, but I'm glad they're doing it.

Posted by Horst at 11:18 PM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2007

trumpet mouthpieceAt the end of one episode of Grey's Anatomy, Burke and George can be seen (but not heard) jamming along one evening, seemingly enjoying themselves. Burke is playing the trumpet, and George is playing the clarinet. It is the only reference that I've so far come across in the series that the two of them are playing musical instruments.

I do not personally know any hospital doctor playing the trumpet or clarinet, but to me it seems about as realistic as Monica of Friends being a chef, yet also being able to spend most evenings at home. That degree of realism would be "extremely unlikely".

For the trumpet is a harsh mistress. She demands your constant attention. One hour per day is the minimum you have to spend with her, and I doubt whether a doctor like Burke with 48-hour shifts and all that can really spare the necessary amount of time to practice regularly. But ignore your trumpet one day, and much of the time that you have invested in your relationship will have been in vain. Things that were well worked out and went smoothly the day before yesterday will suddenly feel about as awkward as they felt at your first encounter; instead of ecstatic high-pitched sounds you will hear nothing but painful moaning when you touch her with your lips. Also, the fingering will feel strangely clumsy, like you'd never touched her before.

And of course, the exercise will be anticlimactic; the hour spent with her will be a protracted experience of utter frustration. You'll be all sore, but painfully so, because as you played up that scale, the note at the climax just didn't sound convincing, and you know that it's the punishment for not spending enough time with her.

Burke should have been living through a frustrating experience with his trumpet equally bad or worse than his relationship with Cristina. Like what every person who isn't lucky enough to be a TV character has to go through when learning to play the trumpet.

Posted by Horst at 08:39 PM | Comments (7)

October 31, 2007

Japanese chili crackers

Apparently they are using giant chillies instead of pumpkins.
And their website is pretty amazing too.

Posted by Horst at 11:56 PM | Comments (1)

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