Adobo a go-go: Or, making adobo is terrifying

I’m making adobo! I suppose this is an odd way to come back after the several-month lag in my blog posting, but I exist, honest: I’ve been furiously writing for the arts and culture website Autostraddle, with several articles under my belt (you can view them here). I’ve also been designing for Literary Death Match — I’m getting more and more pleased with what I end up designing, which is always a good thing.

But back on topic: ADOBO. Adobo, for those of you who don’t know, is a traditional Filipino dish that often contains a type of meat (chicken or pork is the norm, from what I hear) and the protein is simmered in and marinated with a sauce that typically has a vinegar, bay leaf, peppercorn, and garlic base. Yum.

I’ve actually been gearing up to make adobo for several months now, mostly since I saw Sam Sifton’s New York Times magazine article about adobo that was published in January. The recipe looked simple enough: the main ingredients were chicken, rice vinegar, soy sauce and coconut milk, and judging from the copious amounts of rice vinegar and soy products I go through every month, the flavor profiles seemed to connect perfectly with my favorites.

It wasn’t until recently that I decided to do a lot more research in order to delve into the esotericism of adobo — Sifton warned readers off the bat that the ingredients in adobo are furiously defended by and lovingly particular to adobo enthusiasts:

“Husbands argue with wives about adobo. Friends shoot each other dirty looks about the necessity of including coconut milk or soy sauce in the recipe. There are disputations over the kind of vinegar to use, over the use of sugar, over the inclusion of garlic and how much of it. Some use chicken exclusively in the dish, others pork, some a combination of the two.”

I wasn’t actually aware of how varied adobo recipes are until I started looking around on the internet, starting off first with the 200+ comments on Sifton’s NYT blog post “How Do You Make Adobo?” The post was created after Sifton’s email inbox overflowed in response to the adobo recipe that was published along with his article, which was adapted from the Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn. Sifton had so many people commenting on and altering the recipe that he decided to take the dispute to the community.

The resulting comments are extraordinarily different and opinions on adobo ingredients are more often divergent than convergent. For one “Don’t use soy sauce!” comment there are five differing responses, including “Do use soy sauce!”, “Use reduced sodium soy sauce!”, “Don’t use Chinese or Japanese soy sauce as that’s not traditional!” or “Use Filipino Silver Swan soy sauce!” Other variations include whether to use coconut milk (general consensus seemed to be no), and the state of the peppercorns (most people rooted for whole or crushed peppercorns simmered in the sauce and then strained out later).

Close to everyone who commented on the blog post was vary adamant about their version of adobo; it seemed like everyone had a grandmother who cooked the dish first and then passed the recipe down to them, which I thought was charming. It also made sense of the sometimes agitated adobo disagreements. Sometimes these disputes would border on uncomfortable — adobo newbies would post their own takes on recipes that adobo purists would take as sacrilege. Some people used lemon juice instead of vinegar (it can’t be! said some), beef instead of chicken or pork (too Americanized! said others), balsamic vinegar instead of white, rice or cider vinegar (you can’t do that! some said), added turmeric to the ingredients (that’s a curry, not an adobo! some moaned) and in an odd switch-up, Pinot Grigio instead of vinegar (no one responded to this one, maybe out of politeness).

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The sixteen-year death of the typewriter

Recently the internet has been flooded with the news that Godrej and Boyce, one of the last typewriter manufacturers located in Mumbai, India, has decided to stop production of these typing machines in favor of something more useful, like refrigerators. This news caused quite a stir on Mashable and other news websites and has resulted in fond sentimental columns like “Last Words on the Typewriter” by avid typist and novelist Paul Bailey on the Guardian books blog.

In his essay, Bailey chronicles buying his first typewriter in the 1960s (it was “a secondhand Olivetti portable … It cost something close to £20, which was a fortune for a young man earning £7 a week as a shop assistant in Harrods”) and his latest electronic typewriter, a Dora 204 SP, called simply and affectionately, “Dora.” The column wistfully announces the “demise of the typewriter” and reads like a eulogy to an old friend: “Dora is [now] resting in splendour on a desk in my study … She is there to remind me of the pleasure I have taken in typing for most of my working life.”

The impending demise of the typewriter is nothing new. 16 years ago, in 1995, a New York Times article titled “An Ode to the Typewriter” was published in response to one of the biggest typewriter manufacturers, Smith Corona, filing for bankruptcy. For the NYT, the bankruptcy of this monolithic typewriter company signaled “the triumph of personal computers and software over the typewriter” — the championing of the digital over analog; the forward movement of innovation. Word processing was becoming something monopolized by PCs and forward-thinking companies like IBM.

And still the typewriter lasted sixteen years to 2011, only to be greeted with another goodbye ode. While the last 16 years haven’t been a particularly robust period for typewriters, the fact that they have held on so long since this 1995 “turning point” reveals something — our attachment to the analog, our desire to hold onto old technologies and keep them around for sentimentality’s sake; the not-necessarily synchronous movement of innovation and use, or obsolescence and disuse.

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Polaroids, film, and The Impossible Project

My highlight of the day: Buying a Polaroid camera for 50 cents at the local farmer’s market. The farmer’s market might seem like an odd place to pick up old cameras, but because the produce season hasn’t really picked up, many of the sellers are either selling things grown out-of-season in Mexico (as noted on tiny stickers on the produce, and in the shriveled quality of the cucumbers) or thrift-store items — anything from huge wrenches and rusted hammers to a whole set of pocket knives with the images of the presidents engraved on them. Finding a Polaroid camera was serendipitous, sold on a plastic table in the middle of one of the sheds by a plaid-wearing, disaffected-looking, middle-aged man.

The Polaroid camera is “The Button” edition that came out in 1981. It’s made of two-tone gray plastic, and totes a very large italicized and Helvetica’d “The Button” logo on it. The 50-cent cost of the camera also covered a flash attachment that snaps on the top and looks a bit like a squarish spelunker’s helmet, with a large flash lightbulb on the helm.

The main problem with owning a Polaroid camera is the film, which stopped being officially produced a while ago, in 2008 — I remember this because in early college my Polaroid-enthusiast friends would go on Polaroid film sprees and pick up as much of the instant-film blocks they could find before everything went out of production and stock. Other friends went to eBay to duke it out with other hipster Polaroid desperados. I found out today, though, after doing some research (i.e., hearty Googling), that Polaroid film is still being produced by an independent group called The Impossible Project, which started in 2008. Reading the About statement as posted on The Impossible Project website is like reading the statement of a Save the Whales group: “The Impossible prevents more than 300,000,000 perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras from becoming obsolete.”

The number is mind-bogglingly high. In it is an odd realization of mass-obsolescence due to something as vital, and as simple, as the lack of film. The camera itself is just a dark box with a hole in it, as my professor, Mike Hannum, used to say when I was in his holography class, where we made holograms using a process similar to photography, except instead of light, there are lasers, and instead of celluloid, there is glass. I took one of the last holography classes offered by Mike at the Residential College because Kodak stopped producing holography plates, or glass plates with a certain mixture of silver and chemicals painted on one side — the holography film. In holography, our dark boxes were rooms filled with machinery and mirrors. With Polaroids, we have plasticine, handheld, mass-produced boxes. 300,000,000 of them.

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Jessica Hynes, film fests, and LDM Shanghai

Lots of work this past week and a half — but, with luck, I’m going to get an autograph from UK comedian / actress Jessica Hynes, whose film and TV credits include “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Doctor Who,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Spaced.” She’s judging for Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match: London.

Work-wise, I was asked to design publicity materials, including a tabloid-size poster, postcard, and kiosk poster for the Reel Queer Film Festival in Syracuse, NY. I’ve also put together online graphics and fliers for the upcoming Literary Death Match: Shanghai, and Literary Death Match: London, both on March 18, hosted by Opium Magazine.

The LDM: Shanghai image turned out well — headlining the show is National Book Award finalist Vikram Chandra and Edgar and Anthony Award-winning writer SJ Rozan.

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Designing Like a Fiend, and Ron Gilbert games

It’s been a while (again) — decided I’d do a quick update on what I’ve been doing lately.

I’ve created two new graphics for Opium Magazine‘s Literary Death Match, this time for LDM: NYC, slated for March 10, starring Hannibal Buress, a writer for “Saturday Night Live” and the show “30 Rock.” The second graphic is for LDM: Montreal, slated for March 13, starring writer Arjun Basu. You can peruse the images below:

 

 

 

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PJ Harvey & objectification of women’s bodies

I found out yesterday that PJ Harvey has a new album, titled Let England Shake, that will be released on February 15, 2011 in the US. Immediately I found a first listen of the album on NPR and fell in love with it, specifically the song “The Last Living Rose.”

The music video of “The Last Living Rose,” a short film directed by Seamus Murphy, contains an eerie establishing shot of a human skeleton in a museum, and then cuts to short, fleeting images of England. The song’s lyrics are odd and unsettling paired with the scenic imagery: “Goddamned Europeans / Take me back to / beautiful England / And the gray, damp, filthiness of ages / … Let me walk through the stinking alleys / to the music of drunken beatings.” The dissonance between Harvey’s tense, yearning voice and the pointedness of the lyrics create a multilayered, complex emotional texture to the song.

What I love about PJ Harvey is how quickly the sweetness of her voice can dissolve into growling, disturbing statements about identity, bodies, and femininity, and how emotionally grueling it is to listen to some of Harvey’s earlier works like the ones on Dry (1992). The cover of Dry depicts a messy, grainy slathering of freshly-bruised lips smashed against glass, and the songs themselves consist of smart, violent lyrics paired with grungy guitars and a (sometimes) sweet, (oftentimes) strained voice.

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Blood spatter, Wacom tablets, and the X-Men

So it’s been a week full of work-related bits — I’ve been working on Opium Magazine‘s Literary Death Match and have made some graphics and flyers for LDM London‘s post-Valentine’s Day Love Hurts special. Some motifs used include broken, smashed hearts, some copious blood spatter, and the Dexter-like smiling face of British comedian-writer Rowland Rivron. Suze, or @TheAzzo, posted a TwitPic of the graphic, too. (Below!)

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I also bought a Wacom Bamboo tablet and have been fiddling around with it since last night. I’ve never owned a tablet before, so a lot of my more free-form design work has been confined to the Pen Tool, subtly adjusting vectors with the Direct Selection Tool, and using the computer mouse like a boss. So far, with my few hours of Wacom time, I have drawn a sheep wearing a party hat being blown out of a cannon with a jetpack strapped to its back. It took a bit of time to get used to writing and drawing on the tablet, but I’m getting the hang of it, and while I’ve read reviews saying the tablet face’s texture is too odd and grippy, I’m enjoying the paper-like feel to it.

 

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