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Fish feeds: the ocean in the news

21 Jun

Because last week was world fisheries day–which may be news to you–there was a splash of fish and ocean-related stories in the news. These stories ride in the wake of the books we looked at in class (The Sushi Economy, Four Fish) as well as the issues The Cove touches on. Many of them adopt a similar shock strategy as The Cove, positing or predicting a tipping point in an eco-related issue. Often the stories, even in the international press, feature LA and its aqua-spheres. Here is one example, from the Independent, the British paper. (Also, notice how the vague use of phrases such as “a major report,” and “a global panel of scientists” leaves mysterious the exact nature and credibility of the sources. As we saw in The Cove, and as you find if you follow the paper/money trail of many organizations that advocate on policy issues, science can easily be spun to be partisan, through selective presentation or cryptic methodology…)

The world’s oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The beach, featured in the image below, is Redondo.

Credit: APP/Getty Millions of dead anchovies floating at a marina in Redondo Beach, California, in March

As you write up your plan for the USC area, you might consider: what is the balance of evidence, of shock, of emotional tone, of narrative, that you want as the skeleton of your paper? Ruth Ozeki’s novel, My Year of Meats, tackles similar issues–via industrial agriculture–but uses humor to do so. Does each strategy have different motivations, effects, results in the kind of community it builds?

Song list for Momotarō jazz opera

15 Jun

opening credit

:00      ojīsan goes out walking: Charlie Parker, “Now’s the Time”

:24      obasan washes clothes in river: Kenny Dorham, “Lotus Blossom”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2OL7_4Mmt8)

:48      look, a peach approaches: Miles Davis, “Milestones”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeZomqLM7BQ

1:40    ojī and obā break open peach: Thelonius Monk, “Misterioso”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb5G3cHObXo

1:48    Momotarō bursts out: Monk, “Blue Monk”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmhP1RgbrrY)

2:02    ojī marvels: Horace Silver, “Sister Sadie”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXGzt1BsH3U)

…some years later

2:20    Momotarō makes his plea to voyage: Bill Evans, “Waltz for Debby”       (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH3GSrCmzC8)

3:38    Art Blakey, from the soundtack to Dangerous Liaisons (1958)

4:27    Momotarō sets out: Art Blakey, “Blues March”

4:57    sendoff for Momotarō: Sonny Rollins, “Doxy”

5:11    on the road, 3 animals: “Five Spots After Dark,” feat. Benny Golson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BlHRPXPx-4)

5:50    animal alliance: Bud Powell Trio, “Cleopatra’s Dream” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzzD09DnvZ0)

6:27    Momotarō subdues the animals: Herbie Mann, “Comin’ Home Baby” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJEjFh2FOzA)

7:00    ahoy, M hits the high seas: Herbie Hancock, “Maiden Voyage” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSj4oLRbQhg)

7:32    devils on Onigashima: Charlie Parker, “Donna Lee”–Saitō Haruhiko sings here

8:15 more devils assemble: Clifford Brown, “Cherokee” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y6U0TD3z34)

8:43    pacification: Charles Mingus, “Fables of Faubus”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1q9TISo1aw)

9:02    victory!: Miles Davis,  “Round Midnight”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwFrxKhp8a8)

9:13    celebration!: John Coltrane, “Moment’s Notice”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gocGlRuW1bw)

9:47    ensemble: Sonny Rollins, “St Thomas” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4DTR0I7xhA)

Public link for Wednesday’s reading + reading questions for Tanizaki

23 May

Link will take you to a .pdf file here.

I’ll also give you a hard copy in class.

Tanizaki discussion questions

  1. What kinds of language does the narrator use to describe appetites?  Find one or two passages and discuss.
  2. What kinds of experience does the Chinese restaurant promise to offer the narrator? Find one or two passages and discuss
  3. Does the language of a Jonathan Gold restaurant review from the LA Weekly–see below–seem to echo Tanizaki’s in any way? See “The Gourmet Club,” p. 116. Find one or two further passages and discuss.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~REVIEW–>

Cold as a Kudzu Vine in Winter

Yu Chun’s naengmyon for a hot summer’s day

A A A Comments (1) By Jonathan Gold Thursday, Jul 29 2010

Is there anything more refreshing than naengmyon on a blistering summer day? Because if anything can reduce ambient body heat more efficiently than a bowl of the cold noodle soup at Koreatown’s Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun, medical science has yet to discover what it might be — drifts of strong broth, so cold that they rise from the bowl in airy snowdrifts of beefiness, as tart and sweet and chilled as a properly made cocktail. (Is ice the bartender’s flame, as Eric Alperin suggests? Very well: Ice is also the flame of the naengmyon chef.)

PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN

Chillin at Yu Chun

The noodles, made from the ground roots of the same kudzu vine that is the bane of gardeners in the American South, are wire-thin, impossibly stretchy and of a tarry blackness, at least when wetted, that is intense enough to suck light out of the air. (When the waitress comes over to snip the noodles into manageable lengths, she uses what I swear are heavy-duty garden shears.) There is a halved boiled egg, a few slivers of pickled daikon, and a slice or two of cold boiled beef. You are given the opportunity to doctor the broth with stinging spoonfuls of Korean mustard, like the Philippe’s condiment multiplied by three, but you probably won’t bother.

You’ve had naengmyon, at least I’m pretty sure you have, that odd cold-noodle dish that shows up toward the end of a Korean barbecue meal: a big, chilled stainless-steel bowl from which you sample two bites before you push it away in favor of the last burnt tentacle that had been hiding under the charred clove of garlic. The ignored naengmyon tends to come in one of two varieties — either as mool naengmyon, floating in a gamy, underseasoned meat broth that tastes like way-overboiled beef; or as bibim naengmyon, sealed in a thick, sweet chile sauce, often with chunks of boiled stingray. You can alter the beef broth with vinegar and Korean mustard. You’re kind of stuck with the red goo, although you can always requisition some of the sharper chile paste, called gochujang, which is undoubtedly hanging out in a small dish somewhere on the table. Naengmyon, even in its more exalted forms, has never seemed like one of Koreatown’s more exalted attractions.

Yet sightings of great restaurant naengmyon have been floating around Koreatown for decades, and when you try the famous places, the noodles can be pretty good. Ham Hung, a restaurant I first paid attention to when it ran an exotic-meats buffet in the 1980s, is far better known in the community for the stretchy potato-starch naengmyon, a specialty of the North Korean city from which the restaurant takes its name. The restaurant Chung Ki Wa has always been known for its especially beefy, buckwheat naengmyon, although most of the customers seem to come for the inexpensive barbecue.

And of course the weird but compelling naengmyon served at the Corner Place is a Koreatown cult item, sugary and mysteriously refreshing — and rumored to include 7-Up as one of its ingredients. As generations of K-town denizens have discovered, it may be easier to steal gold from Fort Knox than it is to smuggle naengmyon out of the Corner Place: Nobody is going to reverse-engineer the broth on Corner’s watch.

Chil Bo Myun Ok, the other famous Koreatown naengmyon specialist, also forbids takeout orders of the noodles — the last time a friend tried, I was sure that we would all be permanently barred from the restaurant, although we got away with a warning instead.

Yet it is at Yu Chun, which has all the aesthetics of an army mess hall, where the flavors are most compelling; at Yu Chun where you see men raise the massive bowls and drain them as if they were flagons of ale; Yu Chun, where the only other permissible thing to order is mandoo, dumplings the size of a fat man’s fist filled with minced beef and a surprisingly modest slug of chopped cabbage kimchi. (You would not be entirely out of line if you tried the restaurant’s take on pork-kimchi bibimbap, served on a superheated stone platter.)

Yu Chun’s mool naengmyon is cold enough to give you an ice cream headache. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is so cold that the waiters customarily bring mugs of peppery hot soup as you eat it, which may be the restaurant equivalent of St. Bernards bringing hot toddies to travelers stranded in the frozen Alps. Yu Chun’s naengmyon is cold enough to eat for lunch today.

YU CHUN CHIC NAENG MYUN: 3185 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (323) 382-3815. Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. MC, V. No Alcohol. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $20-$26. Recommended dishes: chic naeng myun, kimchi mandu.

Bentō and the new school year

21 May

An interesting story in the Japan Times about starting the new year at school in Tōhoku, disrupted by the earthquake/tsunami/radiation, but plugging on with the everyday creative acts of life.

As kids enjoy their first few days of school in Japan, moms — and sometimes dads, too — beef up their culinary skills to give their kids a little bit of bento-boxed love

Children at Shin Yoshida Kindergarten give thanks before saying the Japanese phrase "itadakimasu!" and tucking into their bento, which are packed with foods (as pictured below) lovingly prepared by their parents. MAKIKO ITOH. Source: Japan Times

“Despite the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in the northeastern part of Honshu, in most of Japan, life has to go on as usual.

News photo
A bento is a packed lunch, usually arranged in a special box and including various small dishes and rice.

April marks the start of the new school year, which means that parents all over the country are cranking up their morning lunch-making routines. In Japan a packed lunch is always called a “bento” (literally meaning “box”) or “obento” to be more polite, whether it’s stored in the quintessential lunchbox or not.”

Food truck map of LA

20 May

As per Nicole’s question, here’s a site that maps of LA food trucks. It has a couple of pretty good features.

–you can plug in an address, and see who is out and about;

–you can plug in a time, based on when you want to eat, and it will tell you who WILL be out and about.

You can also select particular cuisines, like "sushi" or "Japanese"...

Sayonara, Hashima

16 Nov

A bit more info on Gunkanjima (the slang name for Hashima island). The mine closed in 1974, when demand for coal petered out (and prices stabilized after the big “oil shock” OPEC oil embargo of 1973). A nice article in the nifty magazine Cabinet has some testimony from a Korean guy who was mobilized to work there, and explains how it was a “company town” for Mitsubishi.

The mine was deep under the sea, the workers reaching it by elevator down a long narrow shaft. The coal was carried out from a spacious underground chamber, but the digging places were so small that we had to crouch down to work. It was excruciating, exhausting labor. Gas collected in the tunnels, and the rock ceilings and walls threatened to collapse at any minute. I was convinced that I would never leave the island alive.

Schoolchildren spelling out "Sayonara Hashima" in the schoolyard in 1974.

The writer of the article gives some specs, too:

Indeed, Mitsubishi owned the island and everything on it, running a kind of benevolent dictatorship that guaranteed job security and doled out free housing, electricity and water but demanded that residents take turns in the cleaning and maintenance of public facilities. Thus the people of Hashima huddled together, all under the wing of “The Company” and all bent on a common purpose.

But coal is not edible. The community depended completely on the outside world for food, clothing and other staples. Even fresh water had to be carried to the island until pipes along the sea floor connected it to mainland reservoirs in 1957. Any storm that prevented the passage of ships for more than a day spelled fear and austerity for Hashima.

The most notable feature of the island was the complete absence of soil and indigenous vegetation. Hashima, after all, was nothing more than a rim of coal slag packed around the circumference of a bare rock. A movie shot there by Shochiku Co. Ltd. in 1949 was aptly entitled Midori Naki Shima (The Greenless Island).

Trailer for Hiroki film of “Vibrator”

16 Nov

It’s in Japanese, but still very watchable…

And here is a link to a Midnight Eye review.

Boldly confronting one of the most fundamental social problems in post-industrial society (and not only that of Japan), he has delivered one of the bravest and most important films this year has seen. Adapted from Mari Akasaka’s novel, Vibrator‘s wobbly lynchpin is Rei (stage actress Terashima, magnificent), a young woman so lost that the only sensation she feels is the vibration of the mobile phone in her pocket. A single freelance writer (a shaky job if ever there was one), she is consumed by her own thoughts and the voices she imagines hearing inside her head. The real voices of those around her, however, rarely penetrate her shell.

…to be continued.