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Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote | Moonwalk

"Absolutely not."

- Slate.com's answer to a reader's question: Would it be easier to moonwalk on the moon?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Generation Gap

It is hard to believe that Michael Jackson has died. While I haven't paid much attention to him for quite some time, he was one of my favorites in the 80's. Since Jackson's death dominated the news, Vera was curious about him. I found some old videos on Youtube to show my almost five-year old daughter how Michael Jackson did the moonwalk to the music of Billie Jean. After watching for a few minutes, she lost interest. I suppose this is some sort of generation gap. I was five years old when Elvis Presley died in 1977 and I probably reacted the same way. While every generation has its own "king", it is hard to imagine that there will be another one like Michael Jackson.

Friday, June 26, 2009

蕾絲邊

When Kelly McGillis came out of the closet recently, the newspapers in Taiwan used the term 蕾絲邊 in lieu of 女同性戀. I must admit that was the first time I ever heard the term; my Chinese is no longer up to date. A quick search on the internet revealed the term 蕾絲邊 originated with the deceased Taiwanese author 邱妙津 and first appeared in her novel 鱷魚手記 in 1994. I can't help but wonder why there is a need to invent a Chinese term based on the sound of an English word, in this case "lesbian", when there is an existing Chinese term already. It also seems strange that 蕾絲 is the phonetic translation of the English word "lace" but is now being used to refer to the sound of another English word: "les" in "lesbian". Furthermore, what does lace border or periphery of lace really mean anyway?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quote | Piazza

"...we have no piazza there. And as an Italian, every time I don’t find a piazza, I try to make a piazza! You need a bloody piazza—I’m not joking! Where will you go if you don’t have a piazza?"

- Renzo Piano, in an interview with The Architect's Newspaper, explained his design of the new extension of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

These days one the hottest words in Taiwan is 夯. I can't quite decide whether I like the word or not, but I do find myself using it from time to time. The character 夯 is being used to represent "hot" because the pronunciation of the character in mandarin is the same as the Taiwanese pronunciation of the character 烘. My problem is the character 夯 does not mean hot but has multiple meanings that all deal with construction; this is quite obvious from the elements in the character: 大 (big) and 力 (force). According to a dictionary by 丁德先, Maria's grandfather, 夯 can also be a replacement for the character 笨, meaning stupid. So hot and stupid are now the same and I suppose that might actually be true some of the times.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comme at 21

I didn't realize Comme des Garçons has turned 40 until I read an article in the New York Times recently. For me Comme is at 21 because in 1988 I bought my first article of clothing by Rei Kawakubo - a Comme des Garçons Shirt with buttons in different sizes and materials. The shirt was part of the first Comme des Garçons Shirt collection, a new line Kawakubo launched in 1988. The shirt was the most expensive piece of clothing I had at that time. I purchased the shirt at Alan Bilzerian on Newbury Street in Boston during a weekend break at summer school. At the time I didn't know much about Comme and the impact Kawakubo had on the world of fashion. I just thought the shirt was kind of cool; it was also one of the cheaper things for purchase at the store. I like the shirt very much and even though I don't fit in it anymore, I still have it.


Besides the purchase of the shirt, 1988 was also the year that Comme opened a boutique in Taipei. The store was located near my old elementary school Fu Hsing. The design of the store was different from everything else that existed in Taipei. It was mostly white and looked less like a store and more like an art gallery. I used to go to the store quite a bit, not to buy, since the clothes were too expensive, but to look. The staff at the store was very nice to me and would give me issues of Six to take home, which coincidentally was started in 1988 as well.

Looking back 1988 was a seminal year for Comme because it was at that time when Kawakubo made her famous declaration, "Red is black"; she sounded like a conceptual artist. She began to move beyond the complex construction of black fabric that she was famous for. The designs started to have more colors, were more about moods, and became softer and simpler.

Since 1988 I have followed the growth of Comme. Although Comme may not have the influence on fashion now as it had before, it is still a remarkable brand led by an incredible woman who is constantly looking forward with new ideas and projects.

Happy Anniversary, Comme!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carbonara

Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta to make in the weekdays because it is simple and quick. The recipe does not involve too many ingredients, just some pork (I prefer guanciale but can't find it in Taipei, so I use pancetta), eggs, cheese (I prefer Pecorino but I use Parmigiano as well), and some pasta (I use spaghetti or penne).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quote | Nutty

"People who describe a food as nutty, whether they're lazy laymen or slothful food writers, don't really have much of anything in mind. They can't think of a better word, and rather than ponder and ruminate and rack their brains, they type out the word nutty."

- Jeffrey Steingarten in an article about brown butter in the June 2009 issue of Vogue.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Easy Edges

We have a set of Easy Edges nesting tables designed by Frank Gehry and manufactured by Vitra. These tables are part of the series of furniture Gehry designed in the early 70's. The pieces are made of layered corrugated cardboard with a hardboard facing for durability.

When we bought the tables, we thought they would take the place of a large coffee table in the middle of the living room. Most of the time the tables are placed next to the sofa as a side table to free up the living room floor as a play area for the kids. The tables are moved out only when we have guests over to our apartment.

The tables are actually quite child-friendly and Ava likes to crawl under them to play hide and seek.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Po

An article in today's 聯合報 has this headline: "有夠扯!全美核設施誤PO上網". I didn't know what "po" means. At first I thought "po" stands for pissed off, but that didn't make much sense with regards to the rest of the headline. Then I thought maybe "po" stands for petty officer. Quickly, I figured "po" must be one of those new "Chinese" words that I haven't learned yet.

It turns out "po" is not an acronym but a shorthand version of the English word "post". This is a strange way of modifying the English word. Instead of writing or saying "post online", the general public in Taiwan is now accustomed to using "po上網". I can't understand why people don't just use "po" as an acronym for "post online" and simply eliminate the words "上網".

In my research for the meaning of "po" I came across an alternative explanation. The Chinese term for "post online" can be "鋪上網". The pronunciation for "鋪" In Taiwanese is "po", therefore, "鋪上網" has become "po上網". This version is probably not the generally accepted meaning of "po" but is more fun to me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recently, I am learning many new Chinese terms and one of them is 粉絲. I don't know who started using this term since I cannot seem to find its origin. 粉絲 is the phonetic translation of the English word "fans". Frankly I don't really understand this term at all.

First of all it isn't necessary to have this term at all since the Chinese language already has a term for fan, 迷. For instance, a basketball fan is a 籃球迷 and a fan of a movie star is a 影迷. This is unlike western words such as chocolate (巧克力) or coffee (咖啡) where there are no Chinese terms.

Second, 粉絲 is the phonetic translation of "fans" only in the plural condition. Therefore it simply doesn't make sense for an individual to be a 粉絲, because it really should be just 粉.

Maybe I should start a 粉 club (俱樂部) to promote the elimination of the term 粉絲.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tartlet

After using the puff paste bought from Carrefour in Tienmu a couple of times, I concluded the product simply isn't good enough. The puff paste is not made with butter and doesn't even rise much. Pepperidge Farm in the U.S. makes a puff paste with shortening as well, but at least it rises quite high.

Since I cannot find ready-made butter puff paste to buy in Taipei, I decided to make my own. I have never made puff paste before because when I was in New York I could just buy Dufour's product in the gourmet supermarkets. I researched the recipes for puff paste in Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques and Gordon Ramsay's Just Desserts. Given this is my first time, instead of feuilletage classique, I choose to make feuilletage rapide, or quick puff paste.

The ingredients of puff paste is pretty simple: a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a cup of cold water, and a teaspoon of salt. The quick puff paste does not require the making of a détrempe to wrap a block of butter. Instead, the butter is simply diced into little cubes and mixed into the flour and salt. Water is then added to bind everything into a rough dough that is firm but not sticky.



The dough is turned onto a floured surface and rolled into a rectangle of roughly 3/8-inch thick. The two short ends of the rectangle are folded to meet in the center and then the dough is folded in half. This completes one double turn and produces four layers of dough. The dough is turned 90 degrees, rolled out, and folded again. This process is repeated one more time for a total of three times.

The three double turns of the quick version is easier than the six simple folds of the classic version. The dough of the quick version is not as uniform or as flaky as the classic version, but it is usually sufficient for fruit tarts.

To test my puff paste, I used Dorie Greenspan's Parisian Apple Tartlet recipe. This little treat is quite easy to make: cut half an apple into 4 pieces, place on a 4-inch round puff paste, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, dart with a little butter, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

The result is quite good and the puff paste is far superior than the non-butter version being sold at Carrefour; mine tastes better and even puffs higher. While I still have plenty of room for improvement, I am already quite happy.