dorchadas: (Kirby Spaceship Happy)
It's farmer's market season, and we live pretty close to a large farmer's market. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had the idea to start going there every Wednesday and make dinner using fresh ingredients from the market, since right now she's working the summer school shift and so gets done with work just after noon, and yesterday was the first dinner she made. And it was delicious.

Food pictures )

Everything tasted amazing, and it wasn't particularly expensive either! Less expensive than going out to dinner, which only makes sense since we had to cook and clean it up. This was a trial run to see if we wanted to make it a Wednesday tradition, and it came off splendidly. And tasty.  photo Emot-happycat.gif

ACEN 2017

May. 21st, 2017 11:08 am
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
​I was incredibly nervous for basically all of Thursday and most of Friday before I went to ACEN and I still don't know the reason why. I've had a great time at the last there ACENs I went to. What did I think would happen?

Well, nothing went wrong, but here's my chronicle of what did happen:

At length, but with lots of pictures! )

This is the most actual convention-related stuff I've gone to in a long time, and we would have done even more if storytime hadn't been cancelled. I described it to friends as me scanning down the list and saying, "Alright, which of these panels at an anime convention aren't about anime" but that was...well, pretty much my thought process. Most of the cosplay pictures I took weren't from anime either. I don't go to anime conventions for the anime part.  photo Emot-chocobo.gif

Looking forward to next year!
dorchadas: (Chicago)
I usually hide inside when the daystar is out, but lately I've been heading out even on Sundays to keep the streak going on Pokemon Go. Today I also had a library book to return, so I went a bit further than I usually do and I actually enjoyed the sunlight. It's nice and warm--18°C--without being hot and there's plenty of shade along the way in case the sunlight starts hurting my eyes. I think that's the cue to me enjoying sunny days--extremely small doses.  photo emot-sun.gif

I did take a picture while I was walking, though. There's a tree in bloom in the courtyard of a local church that reminded me a lot of the cherry blossoms in Japan:

Leaves tag used because I don't have a flowers tag. Emoji kawaii flower photo cute_flower_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51rbyx.gif


Apr. 22nd, 2017 04:25 pm
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I'm not really a comics fan. I have a comics tag, but the Japanese it's translated from says manga, and the only convention tag I have is explicitly anime conventions. So when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd suggested I go to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo with her this weekend, I was hesitant. Would I know anything that was going on? Would I find anything that interested me? Well, I do like cosplay, so I suggested characters that we both know:

Morgoth Bauglir and Sauron the Great.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Last night after Japanese class, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I stopped by the local watering hole for dinner, since we haven't spent much of our restaurant budget for this month and we both really wanted hamburgers. It's funny--I'll go weeks without eating any bread at all because I don't want any, and all it takes is one holiday saying I can't eat bread to make me want to dig into a nice sourdough with loads of butter.  photo emot-v.gif

I got a steak sandwich, the same food I got the first time I ever went there years ago. That time I made the mistake of ordering it rare, because it's steak, right? That's what you do. Well...sure, if you're eating it with a knife and fork. With a steak sandwich it meant I tore the bread to pieces trying to rip off chunks of steak with my teeth, and this time I learned and ordered it medium.

Though looking at it now, it makes me want a cheesesteak...

During Japanese class, I talked a bit with Aya-sensei about Pesach foods and she was pretty dismissive of matzah for not tasting like anything. And mostly she's right, though [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did manage to find a brand that was olive-oil-and-herb flavored that was pretty good on its own. But just yesterday, I learned that cracker matzah is an invention of the modern age due to transportation and storage concerns, and that previous matzah was all soft like chapatis or tortillas! The source I read is here, though there's also, which looks like an Angelfire page from the 90s but has plenty of rabbinical opinions on soft matzah.

Some googling found a bakery in New York that makes it and ships it overnight, but there's no products listed on the website so I'm not sure if it's still in business or not. Maybe we can try making it ourselves, now that Pesach is over and there's no halakhic concerns if we screw up the recipe.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I just got back from a brunch at Elizabeth themed around Game of Thrones:

Brioche bread with salted butter. Right: "foie growl" and raspberry jam. Left: poached egg and asparagus with elderflowers.

It was really good! We went there back in October for another brunch, that time with friends and a drink pairing, but this time it was just the two of us. And the food was still very tasty, but other than the decor I'm not sure what was supposed to be Game of Thrones-themed?

There were house banners hung on the walls, fur covers on the seats, leather silverwear cases, and various Funkopop Game of Thrones characters around...but a lot of the food was the same as it was when we went a few months ago. That foie gras owl next to jam with bread was one of the courses, as was the stinging nettle pasta with cheese. And the yogurt starter, though a few months ago it had an olive reduction and this time it had candied ginger and strawberries.

I suspect part of it is because of our dietary restrictions. Elizabeth posts on their website that they can't accommodate dietary restrictions, but both times we went it wasn't a problem. We told them no pork or shellfish and they graciously complied, but I noticed that the table next to us, for their own version of the above dish, got dark rye bread with breakfast sausage. I bet their bread was fried in pork fat or something similar, so it's possible that the lack of Game of Thrones connection was due to our request.

Front: Lemon curd with bee pollen topping. Back: Whiskey-glazed donuts.

It was still delicious and I recommend it if you can get tickets. But Game of Thrones? I'm not seeing it.  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (In America)
I hadn't listened to the songs at all, originally just because it's not my favorite kind of music. Then it was slight annoyance with the saturation, but after we learned it was coming to Chicago, I told [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd that I wanted to wait to see all the songs in context and not listen to them beforehand. And that's what I did, so last night was the first time I heard any of Hamilton that wasn't quoted by my friends.

Something something the room where it happens:

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me she spent the first part of the musical glancing over to me and thinking that I was going to hate it. And it's true that the early part wasn't to my taste. The choreography was great, but the music I tend to listen to is heavily if not exclusively melody-driven, to the point where probably more than 80% of it is instrumental, or whatever you'd call chiptunes (is "a gameboy" an instrument?). It wasn't really until "Wait For It" that I really started to warm up to it. I mean, that song is a perfect encapsulation of my life philosophy--things are often terrible, much of your circumstances are completely outside of your control, but it is what it is and you have to make the best of it:
Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
It remains my favorite song and really the only one that stuck with me. A lot of the songs I either didn't care for or they just weren't memorable to me.  photo emot-sg.gif

The other moment that I clearly remember is "Best of Wives, Best of Women" because it's the sort of thing I'd have a very hard time not doing if I were in a similar situation. A problem I had caused that I could fix, which would cause incredible worry in [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd if I told her? It would be extremely tempting to try to fix it and avoid the worry entirely. Not ethical, you understand, but tempting.

It didn't much stay with me, though. I'm not going to be listening to the soundtrack on repeat or thinking about the character interactions. It was pretty good and I can see why other people love it so much. But that's that.

It does make me want to read more founding father biographies, though. Especially after seeing this quote yesterday which seems like an angel of G-d came to Hamilton and granted him prophecy:
The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.

Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy—not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may "ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."
-Alexander Hamilton, Enclosure: [Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration], [18 August 1792]
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I don't celebrate Christmas, but every year we go to Christkindlmarket in Chicago for the German food and crafts. A lot of it we can't eat because the Germans are fond of their pork, but the Döner Men have a booth there where they serve chicken kabobs that are wonderful with some spiced apple cider and a cold wind blowing around you. Though honestly, I could do without the last part.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
I never used to care about the leaves changing or the flowers blooming. When we'd take trips to Oregon, my parents would go to a garden and I'd sit by the pond and watch the water striders because whatever, who cares about flowers. But I got into the mood of leaf-watching when we lived in Japan, both the cherry blossoms in the spring and the colors in the fall, and while there are no masses of cherry trees here, there are still colors.

I didn't get much of a chance to go leaf-viewing this year because the cold came so late--when we went out for the Scarecrow Festival, it was 25°C and sunny--but I've enjoyed looking at the trees in our neighborhood. And a couple weeks ago, we found a momiji tree only a few blocks away! Momiji are famous in Hiroshima, to the point where the local manjū are momiji-shaped, and we'd go every year to Miyajima to see the momiji change to that deep, uniform crimson color. It was a lovely touch of nostalgia to see.

Then last weekend, it snowed, and I took this picture:

Last month snow fell in Tokyo, and there were a ton of articles about it because everyone knows that Japan is Tokyo and Tokyo is Japan (and also it had been 54 years since the last time but whatever). The photos of snow on fall colors were amazing, though, and I'm glad I got to see a taste of it in Chicago.
dorchadas: (That is not dead...)
​I actually went to go see a movie together with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd! The last movie we watched together in a theater was...well, actually, it was あん, but before that it was The Golden Compass, way back before we moved to Japan. I'm not usually much of one for movies, and even less for movies in a theater.

So of course, we went to the theatre and saw it with orchestral accompaniment.

I've never seen E.T. before now. I know all about it because of cultural osmosis and because I read the novel adaptation, the same as I did with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But actually seeing it on the screen is different, of course, and I was a little...underwhelmed.

I have the wrong attitude toward E.T., is the problem. I get that he's supposed to be childlike, full of wonder at the world around him in addition to being kind of cute, but all I could think was "a species capable of interstellar travel on a scientific mission to a primitive world and they send this guy?" I can accept that he's confused by human tech, since the Asogians clearly use the Force as the basis of their civilization ( photo emot-v.gif) and have some kind of collective intelligence, but that he's confused by everything? I had a hard time with that.

Though I did like E.T. trying random foods out of the fridge. It reminded me of all the complaints about scientists being idiots in Promethius.

I have some issues with the ending, as well. Elliot yells that MAJESTIC are killing E.T., but it's clearly not their fault. E.T. was dying before they even showed up, and G-Man was being sincere when he said they were doing everything they could to save him. It didn't work because the problem was separation from the Overmind, which would have killed E.T. even if MAJESTIC never learned about him. He revived when he was back in range, timed so as to create maximum  photo Emot-loveheart.gif The Power of Love  photo Emot-loveheart.gif feelings in the audience, but honestly I just rolled my eyes. Elliot is a kid, and medicine is scary to kids. It's all chemicals and sterile smells and tubes and pain, and often the feeling better part comes later enough that it's not easy to associate with the treatment. Of course Elliot thought MAJESTIC was killing E.T. And he did die during the treatment, so it's a reasonable conclusion for him to draw. It's just wrong.
I also liked the end, when E.T. wanted to take the primitive from a backwater world along as a pet.  photo 6-0faa7aa343f6c067899c8c2579e6ea91d335662e.gif

I liked it, but I have questions, is what I'm saying. I had a hard time with some of the premises and that interfered with my overall enjoyment. But I can see why it's so well-loved, and seeing it with live orchestral accompaniment was absolutely worth it. We had nosebleed seats, but I could still see the screen the conductor used, which had the movie playing along with some green or red lines that went across to keep time during important moments. The performance was superb, of course, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd mentioned that having live music meant that she had an easier time paying attention to the soundtrack and not letting it fade into the background. I agree--I know I complain a lot about video game soundtracks becoming more like movies and so becoming orchestral mush, but it turns out that if there's a real orchestra playing that music it doesn't fade into anything.

Much like the way to get me to eat pizza is to call it "flatbread" and charge $20 for it, the way to get me to see a movie is to have live professional orchestral accompaniment.  photo 3327b7f6b45a33781e80dce4e4461510-d4ipx9c.gif
dorchadas: (Chicago)
Not at the same time, obviously.

Yesterday, my parents came into town and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went down to meet them at the Shedd Aquarium. They're members and go a few times a year. They're much better about it than we are--while we were members of the Field Museum for the last year, I'm not sure we went once--and often we only end up going when they come in to visit. This time, it was pretty fortunate that we were meeting them. The line was out the door, down the stairs, and stretching out into the park in front of the aquarium when we arrived, but we were able to skip all that and just walk in the member's entrance.

Maybe everyone was trying to forget the election. There was a large protest downtown yesterday which my parents walked by. My father mentioned that he wasn't sure what good it would do, since Trump was a terrible person but he had won the election, so I pointed out that it's more to demonstrate that Trump doesn't have a mandate despite any claims to the contrary. Though I admit, in some ways I share his cynicism. I remember the Iraq War protests and how much effect those had.

We had tickets for the cetacean show at 5 p.m. so we didn't have a lot of time to look around, but we did hit some highlights. The otters for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, the special frog exhibit for me--that's a special exhibit of frogs, not an exhibit of special frogs Emoji Kawaii frog photo croaking_frog_emoji_by_kaidahthedragon-dabw3kq.gif--and the penguins for my mother:

"I solemnly swear..."

The cetacean show was a lot more focused than I remember it being. I think the last time I saw it was twenty years ago, and then it was much more about simple entertainment. This time there was a conservation message heavily woven through the show, including a rescue dog that the aquarium keeps. There were no dolphins somersaulting through hoops, but I think I appreciated the show more.

After a dinner at Chicago Curry House, where even my spice-averse parents found something they could eat--though since they have the appetites of birds, they were pretty much full after the samosas we ordered as appetizers--we said goodbye since we had to make our performance:

Link smilie photo lhappy.gif

We first went to Symphony of the Goddesses in 2013 and this is the third time we've been. It's slightly different each time--the first time we went was the "Second Quest" arrangement that featured a medley of the music from Ocarina of Time, and the second time we went was the "Master Quest" and had a feature of music from Link's Awakening. This time was more similar to the first concert, though with the addition of some music from Triforce Heroes and A Link Between Worlds, both of which came out since the last time we went to Symphony of the Goddesses. There was also a piece I remembered from Phantom Hourglass, though I say "remembered" in the loosest terms since I can barely remember anything about that game. That didn't stop it from being a great performance!

I think the loudest crowd cheer was when the conductor reached into her coat, pulled out a perfect replica of the Wind Waker baton, and then started conducting the theme from Outset Island.

There was a little girl, maybe four or five, cosplaying Princess Zelda sitting in the seat in front of us. She fell asleep during the intermission and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd exploded from cute overload.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif
dorchadas: (In America)
I say finally because we missed them by twenty minutes at the last Flower Festival we attended in Hiroshima.

I have a bad habit of springing for concert tickets when I haven't actually listened to any of that band's recent albums. My record is probably the last time I went to see VNV Nation, 15 years after they released the most recent album I had actually listened to ("Empires"), and similarly the most recent Perfume album I've listened to is "Game," from eight years ago. As such, I knew basically none of the songs that they played.

Fortunately, they haven't changed their style. Perfume is technopop, or, as I think of it in my head, "What if Daft Punk was an all-female J-Pop band?" They just put out a new album, "Cosmic Explorer," and that's why they're on tour. And I didn't listen to any of it before coming, but I got to hear it live, so.

We arrived slightly late and came in to find that A-chan, Kashiyuka, and...the other one....were already on stage.

"The other one" is Nocchi, but I never remember that without looking it up.

Sadly, the drones flying in formation were only out for a single song, though they did later have an instrumental laser and patterns-on-metal-screens section that I liked a lot. There was a fairly long period after the first song where they talked about how this was their first time in Chicago and how much they liked Chicago pizza and how excited they were to bring their music to Chicago. Mostly in Japanese, with a volunteer member of the audience translating for them, and with the kind of super-genki enthusiasm that comes off as being mocking or disingenuous in America when adults do it but which is perfectly acceptable in Japan.

They also mentioned they hadn't been able to catch a Taurus in America yet, accompanied by a just-changed-enough-to-avoid-Japanese-copyright-law image on the screen of throwing a pokeball at a mangafied statue of the three of them.

Perfume is worth seeing live because, like a lot of similar groups, they have dance routines as part of their performance. And the dances are complicated enough that they take skill to perform, but not so obviously complicated that they're clearly lip-synching the whole time.  photo emot-qfg.gif Unfortunately, I don't know the names of most of the songs they did, so I can't really point out anything specific other than Next Stage with You. That link is actually to a car commercial we saw while we were in Japan in July and doesn't have the full song, but it has the chorus and everyone knows that's the important part of the song, right?

They ended with Chocolate Disco, the first Perfume song I ever heard and the only one in this performance where I knew all the words and could sing along. And then after the encore, which I don't even remember, we left and went home. It was great.  photo WOOT__Emoticon_by_CaptianAwesome.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
One of the benefits I get from my job is an extra day off during the summer, taken in two half-day increments, and since last Friday was the last Friday that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd would be free before she returns to work next week, I cashed in the second and last of my half-days and we went out to lunch. And after lunch, we followed a suggestion from [ profile] drydem and went to the Art Museum to check out an exhibit of Japanese period maps on display.

I've actually known about this for a couple weeks since [ profile] drydem first sent us the email, but we didn't get around to going until now. And it was great, especially so since we just got back from Japan! My favorite parts were the maps of Kyōto, which is where we spent the majority of our time, poring over them and looking for all the temples that we had visited. We didn't find all of them, or maybe it's just that I can't read some of the pre-Meiji kanji and didn't know what I was looking for, but I did find some. Including [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's favorite temple:

North is to the left.

Look at that detail. That's the layout of Sanjūsangendō--our recent visit to which you can read about here--with the long hall in front and other buildings in back where the garden is. The river at the bottom of the picture is still there too, and I remember crossing it when we walked from Kyōto Station to the temple. The whole map was like that, obviously made by someone who had been to the temples or had excellent descriptions from people who had been there, with relief maps of the mountains all around Kyōto. Mountains filled with temples because of course they are.

That turned out to be the only thing we saw at the art museum and it was worth the price of admission. There was an exhibit of 1930s American art called "After the Fall," but it was a special exhibit that required a ticket, so we didn't go.

We also went to get more tea to replace the enormous amount we drink, and while we were there I finally bought a 茶碗 (chawan, "tea bowl") so I can stop making tea in our rice bowls. And today, I got the chance to use it to make tea:

Tea and sweet!

It was much easier. The depth allowed me to whisk without having to worry as much about spilling tea everywhere, and the bowl is just the right shape to make gripping it to drink without spilling easy. Basically I don't have to worry about spilling it anymore. I think that's why it took me so long to get the proper amount of foam, because the vigorous whisking necessary for it is pretty hard to do when you're concentrating mostly on not launching tea all around your kitchen.

And it was delicious. Yum.  photo emot-qfg.gif

ACEN 2016

May. 22nd, 2016 03:31 pm
dorchadas: (Perfection)
This is the 11th year since I started going to ACEN and the 10th year since I started going with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. She couldn't make the first year because of a small convention she was running at Knox College, but she came the year after and every year we've gone since, which is all of them except 2009-2011 (when we were in Japan) and 2013 (when we had no money). A couple years ago I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep going but thought it was nice to see friends, and last year I had a great time. This year was somewhere in between, but weighted more toward a great time than toward not bothering.

A full accounting follows.

Read more... )

I was surprised how much I liked cosplaying. I haven't done it since before we moved to Japan--I haven't even worn a Hallowe'en costume for years--but I was looking forward to it this year and it was a lot of fun, especially doing a joint one with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. We've already started planning for next year, when we're going to do another non-anime cosplay with me as Mairon and her as Melkor. Often it's couples with a man playing Melkor and a woman playing Mairon, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wanted to switch things around, and also if you do a google image search for Mairon, you'll understand why that's my role--examples here, here, or here. That'll probably take a while, so we're planning it early.

We didn't do as much participating in the actual convention this time, so I can see why some of our friends don't bother buying badges and just show up to meet with other friends. But buying earlier means badges aren't that expensive, and while the massive explosion of the internet and the way that nerds have taken over popular culture means that the dealer's room is no longer the only place to find a lot of the things we want, it's still worthwhile for telling us that those things exist, as well as letting us try on any clothing before we buy it, though there's more shops catering to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's taste in clothing than to mine. And I did go to a couple panels, and had a couple more on the schedule that I didn't make it to.

Looking forward to next year!
dorchadas: (Office Space)
In furtherance of Darker than Black, because I really like chocolate, and also because they sent me a promotion for a free month, I signed up for a subscription delivery from Raaka Chocolate where they deliver three bars a month. I figure I can do at least one of those each month for Darker than Black, or save them up, or whatever. Or just eat them. Chocolate is good.

Except some asshole stole it. I'm pretty sure that it was one of our neighbors, because the package was sitting open on the inside stairs when I got home from work. It wasn't inside a bag and didn't have a slip like it had been damaged in transit, and the non-chocolate parts--the cacao bean samples and the informational leaflets--were still inside. So someone probably saw it said "chocolate" on the address label, ripped it open, stole the chocolate, and put it back.

I've already followed up with the post office, our property manager, and Raaka. Raaka agreed to resend another box of samples, which is pretty generous since we're still in the free month and haven't actually paid them yet. The post office is looking into it, and I haven't heard back from the property manager.

Hopefully it's a one-time thing and doesn't happen again. We'll know when the second package arrives.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
A few things.

Dreihaus Museum
A month ago, my parents suggested going to see the Downton Abbey clothing exhibit at the Dreihaus Museum, a 19th century house downtown now converted into, well, a museum. I haven't seen a single episode of Downtown Abbey and know almost nothing about the show--they I have read To Marry an English Lord, one of the books that inspired the show--so I didn’t really care about the clothes, but I loved the rest of the house. Big portions of it were done up in dark wood with wainscotting as high as my waist, tiles or dark wallpaper, extremely high ceilings, and lavish carvings. It’s exactly the kind of decorating I would do if I had infinite money.

I would gladly put everything in this picture in our apartment.

Though there’s a bit too much light in that picture for me. Draw all the curtains, put a fire in the fireplace so there are shadows dancing around the room, and I’d be happier. Sure, I’m a stereotype, but it’s comfortable here.

I was a bit disappointed in the audio tour. There was the occasional cue on the various plaques throughout the house, but 80% of them related to the Downton Abbey exhibit. I was hoping there would be a bit more context for the original inhabitants of the house, but I suppose that’s not the draw. You can tell that because my parents originally wanted to get tickets for over a month ago but they were sold out until this weekend. They added another month to the exhibition and now that’s sold out too. The only tickets available are a few daily walk-in tickets.

This took place before the museum but wasn’t as important. My parents thought that we could get in to see the non-exhibit part of the house first and then go see the exhibit when our ticket time came up, but it turned out that the exhibit was spread out throughout the whole museum and so we couldn’t get in at all. So we went shopping for new boots, since my current boots are literally falling apart on my feet and if there were a particularly rainy day my feet would get absolutely soaked. We looked around a bit, and then we walked into Macy’s, I went over the sale rack, and I found these:

Black. Pre-distressed. Narrow. Suitable for scavenging through the fallen ruins of our once-glorious civilization. And they were up for 80% off so I got them for $27. When the salesman rang them up, he said apologetically that he couldn’t provide any further discount on top of that. You know, I’m okay with that.

Now I’ll just have to make sure to break them in before my old boots lose what little structural integrity they have left.

After that, we met [ profile] drydem and his wife [ profile] ameliaaldred for dinner at Sable Kitchen and then headed down to the Gene Siskel Film Center to watch a movie they had suggested. It was called Sweet Bean on the advertisements, but the original title is あん.

It was Japanese in a way I’d have a bit of a hard time describing to someone who didn’t already know what I meant. If the movie had been American, there would have been a whole section dedicated to the evils of stereotyping and fighting to make sure that Tokue was able to keep working at the dorayaki stand, or maybe the schoolgirls would unite with the dorayaki baker to stage a protest against the owner’s plans to remodel the place where they stop in for a treat every morning before school. But, well, しょうがないな. Some things you just have to accept. It’s how you react to them that matters. I tend to take that approach to life too, which is why I think I liked the ending so much even though a lot of reviews I saw said it was overly sentimental.

I don’t know that much about cinematography, but I found the shot composition interesting. Almost all the shots were close-ups on one character at a time, occasionally with other characters blurry on the edge of the framing. A lot of the other shots were shots of nature: cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, that sort of thing. And other than maybe a few minutes here and there, there was no music whatsoever. I don’t watch enough movies to really give a good opinion of how ordinary this is, but I thought it was a neat stylistic choice.

I’m glad I could understand the Japanese, too. There were a few bits here and there with subtleties that I would have translated differently than the subtitled did, and an untranslated bit at the end just as the credits begin to roll where some children run up and order dorayaki, and when he asks how many they want, one shouts out, “Ten!” It was a lovely ending.

Also, I would kill a man for some taiyaki right about now.
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
Journey is one of those games I've always wanted to play that I knew I would never have a chance to. The main lifespan of the PS3 occurred while [profile] schoolpsycherd were in Japan, with it only being out for a short time before we learned that we were moving there, at which point buying one was kind of pointless, and when we moved back I had gone away from consoles almost entirely and [profile] schoolpsycherd was in grad school. And Journey never came out for any other platform (except PS4 recently), so I knew I'd never get the chance to play it.

Then I saw a Kickstarter for a musical performance to accompany it, the way old orchestras used to perform at silent movies. Unlike Symphony of the Goddesses, though, this would be a musical performance accompanying a longplay also performed live. It was pretty much as close as I'd ever get to playing the game, so I chipped in for two tickets and last night, we went to the performance.

The performance was fantastic! The musicians were a chamber group that usually work together, and you could tell. In addition, the musical score was adaptive--since the game was being played live, the musicians had to change what they were playing, possibly with only a measure's notice, and frequently did. Because of that, they all had iPads hooked up to bluetooth controls so they could switch pages back and forth at the drop of a hat. There was one section where they had to loop for a bit because the player got stuck under a ledge and took a while to get his head out from under it and find his way on top of the tower.

I've owned the Journey OST for years now. Maybe I should listen to it...

The actual game wasn't quite as profound, though. I've listened to several podcasts about it--this Incomparable is the most comprehensive, but it's come up a lot in other episodes here and there--and they all describe it as very moving experience. There was a question period after the concert where some audience members and performances spoke about it in similar terms, but I didn't get much from it other than beautiful visuals and sound. I loved the kind of soft post-apocalypse aesthetic the game had.

Maybe it's that I didn't play through it myself? I was talking with [profile] schoolpsycherd afterward about the impact of video games being that you perform the actions yourself, which is something that very few other forms of art can boast. If I were playing the game, then I would be making the journey myself. As it was, I were merely watching it, and while it was lovely I didn't dissolve into a crying fit the way some of the speakers at the Q&A said they did. Or the way I got misty-eyed when Symphony of the Goddesses played the Windwaker opening theme. That's not even my favorite Zelda game!

Still great, though!
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
I'm always up for a good bout of eating the rich!

On Friday night, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went to the US premier of Posh at the Steep Theatre. I didn't really know anything about it beforehand other than that it was a British play about a thinly-veiled version of an Oxford club for young, overprivileged rich boys--apparently based on the Bullington Club--and that the original dates I wanted to pick were sold out. In fact, it was sold out until the last weekend of its run, at least until the theatre extended it for a month due to overwhelming response. And when we arrived, every single seat was full or reserved and the management had to take a moment to sort out who hadn't sit in their reserved seat and make sure that we had seats.

The play was great! I can see why it's sold out. The actors did an excellent job of portraying people who were used to getting their way in just about everything and never really having been told no in their lives, and thus having no way to deal with disappointment. Minor inconveniences like having a nine-bird roast instead of a ten-bird roast, which fails to provide proper symbolism due to the club having ten members, to the president arriving late, to more serious offenses--at least, from a certain point of view--like the prostitute they hire daring to have a code of conduct she follows and the failure of the pub's proprietor to immediately bow to their every whim slowly escalates the mood until they're ranting about the evils of poor people daring to think that they're the equal of their natural betters. Who are they to put on airs? We built all this for them, and now they're tracking shit all over the floors and furniture, etc. You know, the kind of thing that rich assholes actually say.

On the one hand, you quickly get the idea that you would not like most of these people if you met them. Their "club" is full of empty ritual and ceremony, most of which boil down to an excuse to get blind drunk, condescend to everyone around them if not actively mistreat them, and act like the medieval lords of the manor that they imagine themselves to be. On the other hand, they're not all painted as inveterate villains, though some of them come closer to that than others. One or two even have a streak of noblesse oblige, which, as much as I think rarely actually works in real life, is at least a positive character trait to counterbalance the people who are ranting about sick they are of the poors.

The theatre space was pretty small, with seats set all around a space that's maybe six meters by six meters. I kept expecting to be hit by a thrown object or have a wine glass spilled during the pounding of the table or the trashing of the everything, but the actors knew the limits of their performance space pretty well. It also gave the performance an intensity that I'm not sure it would otherwise have had.

And I liked how most of the stage crewing was done by the actors who were playing the characters of lower social rank. A good way to reinforce the themes.

It looks like there are still performances available, and now it runs through the end of March. I'd definitely recommend it!
dorchadas: (Chicago)
It's currently 0° and all of the following week is going to be below zero (C), but for most of winter so far it's been quite pleasant. I haven't even had to button my coat for the last three weeks, which is amazing for Chicago early in the year. Typically, the weather after the New Year drops about twenty degrees and stays cold at least through March, but thanks to El Niño we've had one week with temperatures around -18°C and then it warmed up. The warmed it's gotten has been 10°C, which is madness for Chicago in January.

The next week is all below zero, with the coldest being -13°. Time to get my infinity scarf back out of the closet and return to the post-apocalyptic frozen hellscape. At least it's not last year, which got down to -30° at times. There's a reason I keep talking about what a fine spring day it is.

...I'm going to spend all of summer cowering indoors and hiding from the Burning Hate, aren't I?
dorchadas: (Chicago)
A friend was coming into town, and since we had never met in person (welcome to the future), might as well make our first meeting as impressive as it could possibly be, right?

GRAFFITI - matsutake, maitake, parsley

We had a seating at 8:45, and we were originally planning to meet up at a nearby restaurant at 7:45 for drinks, having been warned by [ profile] stephen_poon that the wine pairings were excellent but simply too much food, but said friend's boyfriend had apparently decided to wear jeans. Since Alinea had sent out an email with a dress code advisory that included jackets for men, he went off to buy some emergency pants and they didn't arrive at the pre-Alinea restaurant until ~8:30, much too late to get drinks. We did at least get in a round of hand-shaking and some chatting before we headed over, though.

We arrived right on time, walked into an unmarked grey building down an incredibly dim hallway lit by faint purple lights, then turned left into Alinea, which wasn't nearly as menacing as the preliminaries led me to expect. The hostess let us look into the kitchen, which was bigger than the rest of the restaurant (unless there were tables upstairs, which is possible), and then let us to our seats and the meal began.

TORORO KOMBU - hamachi, ice fish cracker; UNAGI - pickled plum, white sesame; CORN - miso, nori, togarashi

The first thing they asked us is whether we wanted to add an additional course--apparently the white truffles had come in, so they were offering a white truffle risotto shaved table-side for interested parties. For $125 a person, everyone at the table had to agree on it. The boyfriend and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd both delegated the decision to their respective SOs, and after a moment's consultation we decided that we would be fine with the regular menu. The waiter assured us that we would not be disappointed, and, well, he was right.

I say "the waiter," but there were actually four. Five if you count the guy who came in at the very end to dish out the final course, but he barely said anything and only showed up for a couple minutes. Otherwise, it was the best service I've ever had anywhere. New utensils with every course. People who went to the bathroom had their napkins taken and replaced. Water never ran below the halfway line. Every single course had an explanation of what was in it, a suggested way to eat it--especially imporant with the first course, which was a thin shell of satsuma filled with star anise liqueur, and the waiter was very adamant that we shouldn't try to eat half of it at a time--and explaining what they had changed for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, since we requested no pork and no shellfish for probably obvious reasons.

I mean, unagi isn't kosher either, but there was a lot of pork they used (pork dashi, at one point), so we managed to avoid that, at least.

FOIE - duck, quince, borage; LEG - duck, persimmon, burning oak; BREAST - duck, grapefruit, cinnamon

Thirteen courses is a lot, even spread over three hours, and by the end of the night we were incredibly stuffed. It's a good thing we didn't get that white truffle risotto because I don't think that I would have been able to eat the desserts. Plural. There were three of them.

There was some concern that there wouldn't be enough food, since high-end restaurants have an occasionally-undeserved reputation for offering tiny plates for inflated prices. I know it's a bit hard to tell scale from those pictures, but each course was probably the size of a hipster restaurant's appetizers. Imagine ordering thirteen of those. I'm pretty sure that's enough food for anyone.

And it was amazing. It's really hard for me to pick which course was my favorite, and if you asked I'd probably have to specify a different answer based on what category of favorite it is. For example, my favorite conceptually was the second dessert, which was green apple taffy that had been inflated with helium into a balloon. You ate it by removing your glasses and sticking your face onto the balloon, puncturing it, and eating it as it deflated.

My favorite in terms of taste was probably the duck trio pictured above. I really like duck.

TROPICAL FRUIT - rum, vanilla, kaffir lime

There was a menu at Alinea a year and a half or so ago that was explicitly Japan inspired, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I didn't have (or felt that we didn't have) enough money at the time to go. Fortunately, it turned out that the tickets we got were pretty heavy on the Japanese influences anyway even if that wasn't the basis of the meal.

tl;dr: It was amazing and I'd gladly go again. I'm not sure if it's the best meal I've ever eaten--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my wedding anniversary dinner at Hotel Miyarikyu was up there--but it's definitely in the top three.

If you want a good idea of what goes on, including the mood, here's what's effectively a trailer for Alinea. It includes the green apple balloons and the last dessert that's pictured above.
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
That sounds more momentous than it actually is. It's not that I'm unable to cook, it's that [ profile] softlykarou likes cooking much more than I do, so she cooks and I clean and everything is okay. Even now, while she's away at a psychology conference, our fridge is so stuffed full of leftovers that they can basically last me until she gets back.

But not quite. While I was able to use the huge amounts of Iranian stew as a side dish and had leftover chicken rizzala with rice last night, I wanted something a bit different tonight, so I took out some skirt steak, set it to marinate in mirin and szechuan sauce overnight, and about half an hour ago I cooked it:

The plates are old fashioned because I inherited them from my grandmother

I browned onions on the stovetop while the oven did its work, since that made sure I stuck around the kitchen and didn’t leave anything in the oven too long. I was a bit worried when I took it out of the fridge, because the mirin had given it a kind of cloylingly sweet smell, but it turned out I didn't need to worry. The smell was gone once it came out of the oven, and instead of ruining the flavor the mirin had tempered the Szechuan sauce so that it was a pleasant glow instead of a searing bite. I love spicy food as much as the next person who loves spicy food, but not all the time. And I neither undercooked nor overcooked it, which I'm pretty proud of considering I usually stir-fry everything and almost never use an oven.

Now, of course, it'll still be leftovers all the way until [ profile] softlykarou gets back, but at least some of them will be mine. I contributed!  photo emot-smug.gif

In other news, I dropped my phone on the L tracks today (or rather, between the train and the platform) when exiting to go to work, but I was able to get it back with a minimum of fuss and it doesn't seem to be damaged at all. My luck holds out!
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
I admit, the main reason I'm taking this in stride is because I have an incredibly low opinion of the average person--I mean, the American electorate apparently decided that it wanted minimum wage increases, continued abortion protections, legalized marijuana, and that the Republicans were the best people to provide these things--and I'm already convinced that civilization is doomed from a variety of angles: climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, ocean acidification, the end of the antibiotic window, etc. And this isn't likely to accelerate any of that any more than the Reagan presidency, the 1994 elections, or the Bush years already did, though if the Democrats run screaming from any sort of liberalism again in 2016 I'll be wrong.

I expect two years of BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI, internationally embarrassing impeachment proceedings, and a whole lot of nothing. Though the worst-case scenario on the national level is probably the Democrats deciding they need to "move foward" and "work with the opposition" and getting a bunch of totally-shit bills turned into not-quite-totally-shit bills in the Senate and then passed in the spirit of reconciliation, and our uninterrupted 40-year-long slide into cyberpunk dystopian neo-feudalism will continue apace.

But on the local front, at least we got marriage equality passed already before a bigot got into power. And on the personal front, I only had to wait thirty minutes to vote. It helped that I went literally right as the polls opened and I didn't run into any of the problems that afflicted the judges in some precincts of the city. Not everyone I know was so lucky.
dorchadas: (In America)
Confession: I don't actually like pumpkin at all, much less the spiced variety. I don't like kabocha, or most squashes. Zucchini scrapes by as acceptable due to exposure.

I do love fall, though.

Temperatures in °C. Get with the program, Americans!

That was Thursday's weather. The day before, it was closer to 25°C, and then we woke up to cold winds and rainy skies. It was like those old cartoons where things are great and the sun is shining and then all the leaves suddenly fall at the same time.

I'm not exactly sure why fall is my favorite season. I suspect a lot of is the weather--I've always said when people ask that Ireland is the place I've lived with the best weather, because in Cork temperatures ranged from 5° to 30° with none of the awful extremes we get in Chicago--but the leaves play a part in it as well. Last year when I went to the Scarecrow Festival in Geneva I wrote a blog post about going down by the river to view the leaves and how disappointing it was. With the weather changing so early this year, maybe in a month when we go to the Scarecrow Festival again the leaves will actually be worth looking at.

I never would have thought I'd be the kind of person who'd like leaf-viewing. When I was younger and my parents would take us to gardens, my sister and I would usually find some place to hang out so we wouldn't have to look at the stupid flowers. When we'd go to Shore Acres State Park for a picnic and so they could look at the flowers, we'd always go to the "a Japanese-style garden with a lily pond" and watch the water striders and fish in the pond. And now, I willingly go on walks to to look at leaves.

See, this is why children think adults are boring and adults think children are dumb.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
I've always loved the way that the Field Museum smells.

[ profile] softlykarou and I went to the World's Fair Exhibit at the Field Museum today, since it was the last day, we've been meaning to go, and we're members so we get in for free. Especially after I read The Devil in the White City with my book group earlier this year, I really wanted to go, and it's only our natural procrastination and the fact that since moving back to Chicago we've apparently become super social that prevented us from going for so long.

Well, and me losing that disagreement with a doorframe.

It was smaller than I expected, but pretty neat. The Field Museum began as a museum of the World's Fair exhibit specifically, so they had a lot of old material from their archives that usually spent time just sitting down in the basement in crates. Some of it was actually still in the crates, like a stuffed sea lion that had a really oddly and inflated elongated neck. I was half convinced that we could have stuck a couple arms on the sides and made some kind of sealiontaur thing. Now that would have been a worthy World's Fair exhibit.

A lot of the exhibit was focused on the scientific treatment of the fair exhibits. Or oftentimes, the lack thereof. Most of the exhibits were both examples of scientific learning and also pieces for sale, and some of the ones in the Field Museum's collection even had the price stickers still on them. Also, there were a lot of people from all over the world who were invited to come live in their traditional manner (as defined by the fair owners) in recreated communities on the fairgrounds. One group of Inuit did so, figuring that travel and promised room and board was a pretty good deal, but when they were given substandard food and dirty water, they eventually left and set up their own exhibition outside the fair's gates.

There was a bunch of other neat stuff, like the gourd made from a double coconut or the Javanese gamelan. I'd say you should go, but 1) today was the last day and 2) the Field Museum was able to put it on because they already owned all of the items in it. But if it does end up traveling some how, it's worth a trip. And if it doesn't, The Devil in the White City is a great book.
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
Last night, I went to...well, hmm. I called it a pop-up restaurant when I mentioned it briefly on Facebook, but that's not entirely accurate because it's always in the same place--namely, the host's apartment--and runs on a regular schedule. But it's not exactly a supper club either, because there's a definite chef and servers who don't eat with the diners. I guess "underground dining" works as well as anything.

I learned about it because there was a note about Relish winning best underground dining, which True Nature Foods reposted on their Facebook page, the connection being that True Nature is where we go to get most of our groceries and Julia works there. So I looked around a bit, read another article in the Chicago Reader, thought it sounded pretty neat, and signed up.

On the appointed day, we walked down to the address we had been given and, after a moment of confusion about why the door wouldn't open until I found the special technology known as "the knob," we climbed up the top floor, looked for the door that had "Relish Dining" written on it, and went in.

Inside, we were greeted by another couple who were also attending and pointed out the drinks and mason jars laid out on the table. To the left of the door was the menu, including the source for all the food served:

Excuse the cut-off bits. Not visible to the right was the third panel with the mission statement.

...and the rest of the room was a combo apartment dining room/living room. We chatted with the other couple, whose names I sadly don't remember, as a few more people slowly filtered in and then one of the servers came out and took a head count of how many vegetarians and how many meat-eaters were present. Then they brought out the meals as they were completed, announcing whether they were vegetarian or meat eater, and on the second round of meat eating plates I grabbed one.

I'm not sure this conveys just how delicious it was,

It was amazing. The chicken wings were the worst part, and they managed that ignominy merely by not being as good as the rest of the food. The Vietnamese tacos especially were fantastic--I don't usually like sour cream at all, but whatever was done to the sour cream here made me love it. The dressing on the salad was much more substantial than I was led to expect from the name vinaigrette; it might have been the cilantro mixed it, but it was almost more like a guacamole in the center of the salad that I ended up mixing in with the rest of it.

I didn't manage to get a picture of dessert, but it was avocado ice cream with chocolate-covered toasted coconut on top. I wasn't the biggest fan, but that's only because I don't like avocado. [ profile] softlykarou was over the moon from the moment she took the first bite.

Julia also came out to see how the guests were doing and how they liked the food and gave us hugs when she saw us. (^_^*) I spent a bit of time gushing over how great the tacos were and how they overcame even my hatred for sour cream, and then we chatted a bit, and soon after [ profile] softlykarou was feeling a bit tired and we wanted to make it home to light the Shabbat candles, so we left a tip in the tip jar and excused ourselves. Which turned out to be slightly sad, because some of the other people from True Nature that we see every week also turned up after we left, and it would have been nice to chat with them in a social context now that we actually have places that we're regulars at.

Next month is Vietnamese pizza. Now, I usually don't like pizza unless it's margherita pizza, which is apparently the archetypal pizza so now I'm going to claim that my love of pizza is pure and unsullied by the last century's degeneration of the pizza concept, but on the other hand I don't usually like sour cream either and Relish made me like that, so I'm willing to give it a try. The only thing that gives me pause is that it's always on the second Friday of the month, which is also when our synagogue's Shabbat dinners are, so I'll have to pick.

But yeah, it's awesome and you should go.


dorchadas: (Default)

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