Let the Music Play

      Last weekend, some friends and I made a pilgrimage to Mass MoCA in the Berkshires to see Sam Amidon, a folk musician-cum-performance artist (go check out his music and buy his records- do it!). Since Mass MoCA is three days journey from Boston by canoe, and if I’m going to portage over rocky New England terrain I want to spend at least a full day at my destination, we spent the day
This wheel is gonna make me rich.
bouncing around the Sol LeWitt exhibit, ooh-ing and ahh-ing. It was an emotional experience. Really. I’m not putting a link here because the exhibit’s up for another twenty years, so no one has an excuse to miss it. Digressions aside, my own artwork is tangentially related to what LeWitt did, and so as we waited for Amidon to take the stage, we discussed my proclivities toward translating digital to analog (or making analog analogues), and reinventing the wheel in the process. So, I thought of a way to reinvent the musical wheel:
Not really.
   Vinyl, like most analog media (8-track excluded), is awesome because it’s warm, organic almost. OK, this is an oversimplification, but sound is vibrations, and records work by immediately creating vibrations. Digital works by encoding what the sound should be, like a sophisticated game of digital telephone. Despite what certain vintage clothes-wearing irony-lovers would tell you, vinyl’s not the end-all be-all. It’s not better than live music.  And so, I give you: the animatronic band! Right, I know there’s a communist-hating mouse with a frozen head who already thought of that, but my wheel is better. First of all, my wheels robots convert digital music into real music, by playing real instruments. Maybe tiny instruments, so you can keep them in your living room. Second, my robots don’t look like people, or bears with developmental problems– they’re just enough machinery to make the music play.

Shake it, bear.
   Next week, for the vinyl buffs: robotic DJs.


This is not an Exclamation Point

     So, last week, I had promised this post would be an idea to solve the problem of the overuse of car horns. I also said that this week there’d be less exclamation marks!!!! I guess I lied.
   Since I decided not to buy a car, and have been distracted by other pressing non-issues, my week’s been a mess. In the meantime, please enjoy this rendering of this square egg the sun, to warm your chilly November bones:

‘til next week, um, I can’t remember.


In Cars: Happy Horn

     Gary Newman feels safe in his car; Freddie Mercury is in love with his car; John Lennon even wants you to drive his car. And John McCrea, well, I think he has an unhealthy obsession with cars. I mean, an. unhealthy obsession. with.   .   cars. To be fair, most of America has an obsession with cars, love or hate. And by that, I mean most people love their cars and hate everyone else’s.
     Personally, I’m a cyclist. I live in a [geographically] tiny city, and skydiving has ceased to be a
This guy hit me. '95 Civic, MA license plate: 9390
thrill. But I used to own a car, and may– in the next few days– once again experience the joys of frantically trying to find pants and keys in the dark of 6am to move my car 12’ to the left (if I’m lucky– more likely, I’ll move it 12 blocks) before The City decides to move it for me.
    Now, before you give up on this post as a rant about how people who drive in the city are dicks (which they are), I would like to point out that 99% of people on the road are not actively trying to run me over. In fact, many are quite nice, letting me in, stopping to look before opening their doors, not driving up on the sidewalk when I’m walking, etc. Like everything else in life, a few bad apples are spoiling it for everyone else. And by “apples”, I mean “angry white men, aged 23 or 45”; by “spoiling it”, I mean “wantonly aiming their cars in any direction which appeals to them at a given moment”. So, that sentence should read: “Like
everything else in life, a few bad angry white men, aged 23 or 45 are wantonly aiming their cars in
I'm the one on the left.
any direction which appeals to them at a given moment for everyone else.”
     But I digress (I predict this will happen a few times; bear with me).
Let’s do a thought experiment: you’re driving along Commonwealth Ave in downtown Boston, and– surprise!– your lane ends in one and a half tons of yellow steel, which, despite having wheels, is clearly not a car. But wait! The car on your left (which for some reason is driverless,
"I'm tired of digging, Michael."
like a less cool KITT) is letting you in. You merge, and to show your thanks, you give a wave. Which, through your tinted back window, looks vaguely like you’re giving KITT 2 the finger. So maybe you tap the horn instead. And the guy in front of you waves in a friendly manner. Um, maybe that’s not what he’s doing.
Waving merrily
      Whatever can be done about this? Clearly, cars need to come equipped with a secondary horn. A Happy Horn. Because, although it can be argued that the “tap” is a friendly horn, in cities it means, “hey, asshole, you’re not anticipating the light change fast enough for me. I have a red light up ahead I’m late for.” And that’s no fun. Also, for cyclists, it means, “this 18-inch lane marked with a stylized image of a bicycle is clearly meant for my right tires, so move over.” Also no fun. For pedestrians, it can mean, “I find you attractive, but lack the cognitive ability to express my feelings in a way that dignifies either of our existences.” This may be fun, depending on your level of intoxication at the moment. Again, I digress.
     So, the Happy Horn. First, we need a musician to create a tone that is short, but pleasing. But not so pleasing that people abuse it. I nominate Brian Eno. I hear he created the Windows 95 chime. Or something. Anyway, the horn should be away from the main, angry horn (to avoid confusion), but closer than the hazards (which, by law, are to be situated in the last place you look; if it can move every time you get in the car, all the better). We want to encourage people to use the new horn. Of course, if someone got the two confused, that would be pretty entertaining for the person he was mad at. But unless you count flying to D.C. on private jets to meet with senators to ask for a bailout, automakers don’t seem to have that kind of sense of humor.
     Anyone who wants to team up with Brian Eno to make this a reality has my blessing. For the good of first world humanity, go forth and create! Also, if Eno is busy, I suppose you can use someone else. But having a celebrity involved with your project wouldn’t hurt its chances. I know firsthand (but that’s another story).

     Now that the Happy Horn is installed and ready to recognize acts of kindness, and beauty in general, there’s twice as much noise on the streets. Every cloud has a bitter aftertaste (it’s the silver in the lining). Do not fret! I have a solution! Which I will come up with by next week! With more drawings! And plenty of exclamation marks! What? You don’t like exclamation marks‽ (Yeah, that’s an interrobang!) OK! Less exclamation marks next week!



     Brain food; without food, there would be no ideas. Have you ever seen artwork made by an actual starving artist? No, you haven’t, because starving people are too busy trying not to starve to make art. Well fed people, on the other hand, have plenty of ideas: just look at how quickly the income gap is widening*. So, if you want to be rich, you need to be well fed. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Leonard Weisgard: Alice in Wonderland
     But what to eat? The National Beef Cattlemen’s Association will have you believe that beef is what’s for dinner; while hamburger-glazed steak with gravy may be a well-balanced meal, we are all too aware of the lethargy that comes with eating five pounds of beef in one sitting, not to mention those unsexy meat-sweats. So, the morning after a night of partying that included two grown men doing battle over a rattle while wearing cooking pots as helmets, and a well-tailored zombie riding a chair as a horse (with impressive skill!), I found myself at the local bar, letting someone else make the decision for me.
     While my friends tried to convince me that I had been bitten by a dog, and that its hair was made of bloody marys, my eyes wandered to the TV above the bar, where Paula Deen was extolling the virtues of a lard-based diet. Today, she was making a cake... with what appeared to be... waffles? No, that wasn’t right. It was a regular, boring old bland cake with sugar frosting– although it did have three layers of bland. Maybe it was the tremendous amount of time my sausage, bacon, eggs, home fries, and cheese scramble was taking to make its way to my table, but I couldn’t understand why Paula would forsake the glorious waffle in favor of boring old cake? So, it became my solemn duty to invent wafflecake. I scarfed my breakfast of champions, marched home, and drew up a schematic:

For those not familiar with food construction shorthand: (bottom to top) that’s a waffle, mascarpone cheese, blueberries, and another waffle, topped with buttercream frosting (for Paula). In the final execution, a foundation of another waffle, mascarpone and blueberry sauce is added.

Of course, an idea without details is simply a hunch. So, allow me to posit some theories on waffle cake creation: Like any food, there’s the high-class version served to dignitaries visiting remote outposts where residents are starved for real human contact, the average version served by socially well-adjusted people on all manner of occasions, and the barely-considered-actual-food version compiled by individuals who have been shunned by society and gone so far as to denounce contact with other civilized folks as “so pre-internet”. I’m aiming for somewhere in between your average, casual dessert encounter and, “Oh, it’s so good to see someone! Do stay. Forever. I insist.”

Waffles: While Eggo passes as waffles in some quarters, I’ve never actually heard someone say “leggo my Eggo”. Belgian waffles are the gold standard here. Ideally, you should own a waffle maker. Not just for this recipe, but in life. Also, don’t bother with Bisquick. Waffles have about 6 ingredients, and if you don’t have butter and flour in your house, you probably are not my target audience anyway. Pro tip: replace 1/2 the milk in the recipe with yogurt. You’re welcome. 

Mascarpone: OK, this may sound a bit weird, but anyone who has baked with cream cheese knows that it works with pretty much anything. Rather, everything works with mascarpone.

Blueberry Sauce: I like to keep things simple. Your version of simple may be sprinkling blueberries on top of each waffle layer. Mine is to heat some berries in a saucepan with some lemon juice, until they ooze and make a delicious sauce you can pour on the waffles.

Buttercream: This is really what makes it a cake. I suppose you can buy frosting, but again, we’re talking two ingredients here: butter, sugar. Make your own. It’ll impress whomever you’re serving it to. And let’s face it, you’re only baking to impress someone.

I actually made one of these, and served it after a rather large dinner. The verdict: “I can’t stop eating this– it’s so frickin’ good!” Note that I am friends with one of the six people under 50 on this earth who say “frickin’”. I prefer to put sailors to shame with my language.

I am personally not a fan of adding unnecessary sugar to foods (the buttercream on your average piece of wafflecake accounts for 530% of your average weekly recommended intake of sugar), but if you insist you don’t have a sugar problem, and don’t believe in diabetes, you could always add maple syrup in there somewhere. That said, it helps to have at least 7 friends to share this with. Alternatively, you can make one waffle, cut it into quarters, and make one (big) slice at a time.

Now go forth and impress your friends, loved ones, and stalkees. Feel free to post pictures in the comments section (can you do that on Blogger?), especially if you’re giving one to a stalkee.

*A good, concise source: Infographic by Bill Marsh of NY Times.