The Uncanny Valley of Milk

The low-FODMAP diet is working out very well for me. After using lactose-free milk for a couple of months, I got the notion to try an entirely dairy-free alternative: coconut milk. (I tried soy milk a few years ago, and vowed never to let is pass my lips again.)

Technically, I don’t think this is really coconut milk, but more “coconut milk drink”. Sure, it’s made with coconut, but it’s also fortified with rice and a variety of other substances. The first time I tried it, it threw me completely off-balance with a question I’d never considered before: “what are the essential qualities of milk that make me want to drink it?” Is it the mouthfeel? The flavour? What is the flavour of (cold) milk?

That led to other disconcerting questions like, why do we put milk on our breakfast cereals? What is about milk that transforms a bowl of muesli? It was a very confusing time in my life.

So anyway, the substance itself: it has about the same viscocity as milk. It has a very similar, silky mouthfeel, with a fresh coconutty flavour over a milky (milkish?) base. It tasked like milk flavoured with coconut. As a standalone beverage, it was actually quite pleasant.

(White Russians with coconut milk?)

But pour it into a glass, and it looks…wrong. It’s too white. When you swirl it around the glass, it doesn’t cling to the glass in the same way that milk would – it doesn’t have the right “legs”. Your hand hesitates ever so slightly as you move to pick up the glass. It’s the Uncanny Valley of Milk.

(It also doesn’t go off after two weeks in the fridge.)

(Memories of watching non-Dutchies react after pouring themselves a glass of karnemelk by accident, thinking it was ordinary milk.)

So I ate it with my cereal for a couple of weeks. At first, coconut-flavoured rice krispies and corn flakes were an amusing novelty. But the fun wore off pretty quickly. Although the coconut flavour wasn’t overpowering, it provided more excitement than I was typically ready to deal with early in the morning.

(Can you cook with it? Abi doesn’t want to consider it for her coffee, but how would it do as the basis for Tuna Pasta? Would it add an exotic note, like in a Thai curry? Could you use it to make a white sauce?)

I’ve gone back to plain old semi-skimmed lactose-free milk with my breakfast now. Sweet, familiar, milk.

(So what is that flavour of milk?)

Glen Phillips and Paul Freeman at Sugarfactory, Sunday 22 March 2015

At very short notice I got tickets for Glen Phillips and Paul Freeman. It was an afternoon gig, and I thought Fiona might find it fun, so I invited her along as well. (Alex: “NOPE”) Abi came along, too.

We drove to NDSM, but couldn’t get parked quickly enough, so we missed the ferry we’d planned to take to Centraal Station. There was another one ready to leave for the Tasmanstraat, and we took it instead. The Botel has some big new letters up on its roof.

Botel on the IJ

We walked from the Tasmanstraat along the Haarlemmerdijk to the Spuistraat (amazingly, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been along the Haarlemmerdijk), and then took a tram to the Leidseplein. I had never been to the Sugarfactory before. It’s a cute little club venue just across the street from Melkweg. For a laid-back, folk-y afternoon show, there were small tables and chairs on the floor in front of the stage. I guess there were around a hundred people there. We got something to drink, and tucked ourselves away near the stairs in the back right corner.

First Paul Freeman came on for half an hour, then Glen Phillips did half an hour. Then after a break they both came on stage, and traded songs for another hour or so before finishing with a once-rehearsed duet of the Traveling Wilburys “Handle With Care”. It was a sweet, relaxed, neat little gig.

Paul Freeman at Sugarfactory
Paul Freeman at Sugarfactory
Glen Phillips at Sugarfactory
Glen Phillips at Sugarfactory

Matthew Butterick on Medium

Matthew Butterick – The Billionaire’s Typewriter:

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing plat­form. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valu­able to ad­ver­tis­ers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for ad­ver­tis­ers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

“But what about all the writ­ing on Medium?” The mea­sure of su­per­fluity is not the writ­ing on Medium. Rather, it’s what Medium adds to the writ­ing. Re­call the ques­tion from above: how does Medium im­prove the In­ter­net? I haven’t seen a sin­gle story on Medium that couldn’t ex­ist equally well else­where. Nor ev­i­dence that Medium’s edit­ing and pub­lish­ing tools are a man­i­fest im­prove­ment over what you can do with other tools.

In sum—still superfluous.

Adult themes in Sex Criminals

Jackie Feller – “Together We’re Unstoppable”:

The most profound of these adult themes for me was that of mental illness. I struggled to think of any comics that have dealt with the subject at all, much less in such an unflinching and mature manner. In an industry that so often uses metaphor to tackle heavy subjects- a literal transformation into a monster to represent anger issues being a prime example- I was both shocked and relieved to see mental illness presented so directly. There’s no metaphor here, something that’s true of the rest of the book as well. Masturbation represents masturbation, sexuality is just sexuality, and mental illness is right there on the page, unfiltered. This isn’t a subtle commentary hidden behind more bombastic fare, nor is it an over-the-top caricature of “madness.” It’s a simple, messy, human thing that affects these characters in a very real way. At times slightly uncomfortable to read, the struggle of dealing with mental illness is presented to us as the complex thing that it is, and it is a very necessary story to tell.

Mixed Mediaruptcy, Sunday 15 March 2015

It has been a month and a half since my last mixed media post, and I’ve watched a lot of films and TV shows since then, and I haven’t been keeping track of them. So I’m declaring mixed media bankruptcy, or mixedmediaruptcy or something like that. Basically this is just a short summary of the stuff that left enough of an impression to warrant a mention. (To clear out the old to-do-list guilt in my head, so I can let some new in.)

Sex Criminals vol 2

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky continues to be the best thing. Filled with thoughts about relationships, depression, growing up, and positively packed with sex jokes. And sex-activated superhero powers. They’ve really stepped up their game when it comes to the visual gags. For mature readers, duh.

Saga volume 4 remains likewisely brilliant.

Rat Queens, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as good as I’d been hoping. It’s basically a D&D role-playing scenario, with lots of sass and swearing.

Fiona and I went to the cinema to see Seventh Son last weekend. It was not good. But we both enjoy going to the cinema for its own sake, and we’ve decided to do it more often. This afternoon we saw Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which was entertaining. Because this month’s Loot Crate included a voucher for the Firefly online game, we’ve also been chain-watching Firefly this weekend. Alex and Fiona both adore it, and I’m loving seeing the old episodes again as well. So much good writing.

Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and PJ Haarsma are running an IndieGogo campaign that is probably of interest to Firefly fans:

Gaz Coombes‘ new album Matador is very good. Favourite tracks: “The English Ruse”, “Detroit”, and “Needle’s Eye”. Unfortunately I missed his gig in Amsterdam because I was away in New York.

A couple of weeks ago I chain-watched the first four seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix. Whoa. Beyond compelling. Will be grabbing season 5 as soon as I can get the whole thing for download. (I don’t like waiting a week for each episode. We’re watching season 3 of Elementary once a week, but most of its stories are self-contained, and don’t end on massive cliffhangers.)

Various films:

  • John Wick was thrilling, I suppose, but also joyless and gratuitous. Just as I don’t enjoy video games where the sole (or main) purpose is to do lots of killing without thought of the consequences, I don’t enjoy “mindless action flicks” as much as I used to. It’s not the violence I mind, it’s the carelessness. The Walking Dead, for example is extraordinarily violent and gory, but you can see how it affects the characters. It grinds them down. It changes, and sometimes destroys them.
  • Taken: see above. Joyless, thoughtless.
  • Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield are episodes 2 and 3 in the Worricker trilogy that started with Page 8. Both are good spy stories that round out the character and trilogy, but they’re not as tense and neatly wrapped as the first one.
  • A Most Wanted Man is another solid, smart, modern spy story that doesn’t rely on car chases and punching faces.
  • The Drop is a gritty story of small-time crime gone bad, but again without histrionics and no need for high-octane action. I liked this quite a bit.
  • Rush is an intense biographical dramatisation with lots of amazing racing scenes, but it tries a bit too hard to be “worthy”.
  • Big Hero 6 is great fun from start to finish.
  • Nightcrawler is a beautifully dark portrait of a sociopath finding his calling. Fascinating and distasteful at the same time. Great performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • Godzilla had too many people just standing around looking awestruck. That might actually happen in a real giant-creature emergency, but given the choice on a re-watch I’ll take Pacific Rim.
  • Silver Linings Playbook is very sweet and delightful, with lovely performances all round. Given my comments about action movies above, I really think I should spend more time watching romantic comedies.

I’ve also started in on season 6 of Criminal Minds, have been trudging through a few more episodes of Person of Interest (he still isn’t), and caught the first few episodes of The Blacklist while I was in NY, because Netflix US happened to have it. Oh and a couple of eps of Parks and Recreation as well. (Nick Offerman/Ron Swanson reminds me of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, but don’t tell him I said that.)

I suppose I’ve been watching rather a lot of TV & films lately. It’s what I’m doing to force my mind to relax. Sometimes it works.