Archive for the 'Links' Category

A cool idea: the book tuner

I’ve just come across The Book Tuner (Twtter feed), which tries to match books with the perfect musical accompaniment when reading them.

It’s still pretty new and there aren’t many pairings lined-up yet, but here’s their latest suggestion:

The bio on the first page of Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming gives you a taste of the paucity of detail that lies ahead: ‘Steven Amsterdam is a writer living in Melbourne’. Further in, Amsterdam carries you on an episodic journey, starting with a father and son camping out on the eve of the then-impending Y2K global disaster. Each story revisits the son at various points throughout his life, in a parallel future to our own, a world seemingly ravaged by floods, disease and anarchy. This unnamed main character must negotiate chaotic and emotionally charged scenes of barricades, checkpoints, communes and rescue teams.

Noticeably absent from the novel is any description of the events that have left the world in this state. Without a Hollywood-style visual of towering tsunamis or flaming meteors, readers are free to project their own fears and anxieties about worst-case scenarios into the blank spaces. This has the unsettling effect of personalising the story, forming an instant bond between us and the anonymous son, so that we see and assess his actions as our own. Thankfully, despite the dystopian surroundings and grimness of the survivalists, Amsterdam shows us that there’s still room for hope and compassion in whatever future awaits us.

DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut release Endtroducing holds the Guinness World Record for the first ‘completely sampled album’. As later mash-up masters like Girl Talk have shown, when you rely completely on other people’s material, the skill comes from the way you mix the samples together. With Endtroducing, Shadow’s skill manifests in a spookily atmospheric composition.

The album creates the same vague sense of discomfort as Things We Didn’t See Coming. You know that something bad is happening, but you can’t quite see what’s around the corner: it’s dark, and you’re frightened. Hints are occasionally given: in ‘Stem/Long Stem’, a suitably haunting piano refrain is interspersed with the ramblings of a man terrified the police might hold him indefinitely for traffic offences (and what’s to stop them?). ‘Midnight in a Perfect World’ is another moody masterpiece – like the spaces between Amsterdam’s words, DJ Shadow allows breathing room in his songs for your own thoughts (dark or otherwise) to flourish. They make perfect companions as you settle in with your wind-up torch, tinned pineapple and sleeping bag for the long nuclear winter.

Some random links

Several of these are via Tyler Cowen.

Culinary delights of Washington, D.C.

Half the reason for our recent trip to America was to visit friends in D.C.  Photos for our gallery or facebook will have to wait until Dani gets back, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts on eating in Washington:

  • Tyler Cowen knows what he’s talking about.  The complete version of his dining guide in a single page is here.
  • I ate buffalo (okay, okay. “american bison”) for the first and second time.  The first was in the wonderfully thought out food hall of the National Museum of the American Indian.  The second was in the form of a burger on the rooftop terrace of one of our friends.  Good times.
  • The cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake are delicious (and well worth the wait in line), but they’re not quite as good as those from the Primrose Bakery here in London.
  • The sandwiches at Dean & DeLuca are pretty damn fine.
  • The burgers at Ray’s Hell Burger (how do they not have their own website?) are utterly incredible.  I can have my burger au poivre?  With Foie Gras?  My mouth is watering just remembering it.
  • Be careful that the Ethopian restaurant you choose doesn’t slap you with $6 + tax + tip cokes (it was in the fine print of the menu).  Nevertheless, you’d be crazy to miss some Ethopian while you were there.
  • The crab cakes in Annapolis, MD are the perfect excuse for a day trip.
  • But hands down, the best food I had in D.C. — our friend Maria’s pasta aside, of course — was at Thai X-ing.  It is one guy in the basement of a house.  It’s freaking tiny and easily the best Thai food I have ever, ever eaten.  Here are two photos that I took on my phone (Click on each for a bigger version.  I apologise for the poor quality – the iPhone 3G only has a 1 megapixel camera and the receptor is hardly impressive):
    The kitchen at Thai X-ing

    Dani and Maria at Thai X-ing

    We somehow managed to fit eight people in the space behind Dani and Maria (the bird cage was moved). The cooking is really slow, so the thing to do is to place your order the day before you go if you’re going to eat there. Unbelievably cheap. I refuse to recommend a single dish.

Do The Test

This is pretty cool.  I got the count right, but failed the second part altogether.

Garfield minus Garfield = ?

This is simply wonderful.

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor [sic] disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness [sic] in a quiet American suburb.

Thanks to Adam B for pointing me towards it.