Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Look: Watch a Clip From New Doors Doc “When You’re Strange”

A new documentary on the Doors called When You're Strange is hitting theaters April 9th after opening to acclaimed reviews at Sundance 2009. Since its debut last year, director Tom DiCillo has added a megastar to narrate the film — Johnny Depp — plus tightened up the film's editing to better tell the story of the psych-rock legends. In Rolling Stone's exclusive clip from When You're Strange, check out footage of Jim Morrison and Co. taking the stage in 1968, flanked by police officers prepared for a crowd riot.

"Watching the hypnotic, hitherto unreleased footage of Jim, John, Ray and Robby, I felt like I experienced it all through their eyes," Depp said in a statement. "As a rock & roll documentary, or any kind of documentary for that matter, it simply doesn't get any better than this. What an honor to have been involved. I am as proud of this as anything I have ever done."

Break on Through: a gallery of Doors artifacts.

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gives When You're Strange a three-star review, writing, "Clips from a film Morrison made himself in the desert are alone worth the price of admission… New fans and old will find the experience hypnotic." The documentary was produced by Law & Order honcho Dick Wolf, a huge fan of the Doors who was eager to share their story again on the big screen.

"They say if you remember the '60s you weren't there. I can state definitively that one of the things I do remember is buying the Doors first album the day it came out and then listening to it about 10 or 12 times in a row. Both sides. Every song. I've been a fan ever since," said Wolf in a statement. "This movie is the story of the band but it is also an insight into a moment in time that will never be repeated."

The doc's soundtrack, which includes live tracks and studio cuts, arrived in stores yesterday.

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1916 electric utility propaganda


In 1916, a time when electricity was still something of a luxury toy, the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company put out a pamphlet of House That Jack Built-themed doggerel illustrating all the wonderful ways you can use electricity around your home (and for such a low cost!).

There's a couple of things I find fascinating about this sales pitch.

First, you're looking at a world that still had a fairly limited number of uses for home electricity. Things were certainly on the upswing from a couple decades previous, when an electric hook-up was as much of a single-use tech toy as anything you can buy in Sky Mall. But this is an 18-page booklet, put out by a very biased source, which repeats several "benefits of electricity" as though it's running out of ideas. Hey, did we mention that you can use it to... um ...turn on a light?!

Second, the booklet really gives you a sense of the honest, fuck-all amazement and wonder people felt at being able to control their environment. In the new world of electricity, the toast never burns (at least, not like it used to when we were trying to grill it over an open fire), you need no longer schedule your week around laundry and everyone is healthier and happier. It's advertising hyperbole, sure. But only kinda. When you read old letters, you find that this was advertising capturing the way people really thought, rather than just pushing happiness that wasn't there. Think Dawn of the iPod, not Late-Night Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Commercial.

Finally, I love the last couple pages that allude to the real conflict between man and nature. Forget about simplifying housework. Centralized electricity changed energy production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy by-products of progress literally in your face, into something magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor involved, but it wasn't done by you or your children. For the first time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit bonkers.

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Pictish art may have actually been written language

How do you tell the difference between art and written language?

Oh, yeah. It's math.

[Rob Lee] and colleagues Philip Jonathan and Pauline Ziman analyzed the engravings, found on the few hundred known Pictish Stones. The researchers used a mathematical process known as Shannon entropy to study the order, direction, randomness and other characteristics of each engraving.

The resulting data was compared with that for numerous written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese texts and written Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Ancient Irish, Old Irish and Old Welsh. While the Pictish Stone engravings did not match any of these, they displayed characteristics of writing based on a spoken language.

There is, sadly, not a lot of detail about what specific characteristics make language stand out from decoration. I'm guessing it has something to do finding patterns in the choice of symbols, or the way symbols are oriented, or how the patterns repeat. Wish there was more though. For the record, even if this is language, nobody is even close to deciphering what it means.

On a side note: Shannon entropy is a measure of the amount of information that we get from knowing one English letter. It's kind of the Entropy of Wheel of Fortune—how many guesses does it take to figure out all the letters of a sentence using only the information provided by the letters previously guessed. Besides identifying ancient scripts, it makes for a fun, time-wasting applet game.

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Man fleeing police runs into prison yard

Ricky Flowers, 20, was fleeing on foot from Cleveland police when he climbed a 30-foot barbed-wire fence. Problem was, it was a fence surrounding a state prison. Apparently, police attempted to pull over Flowers's car. He and his passengers eventually stopped the car and ran. From AOL News:
Police say that they found seven bags of marijuana in the vehicle, and that Flowers told them he fled because he was driving with a suspended license.

Flowers, who cut his right arm on the barbed wire as he scaled the fence at the Northeast Pre-Release Center for Women, was taken to a local hospital, where he received 36 staples and stitches, police said.

Fleeing Police, Man Hops Fence Into Women's Prison

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Disco helmet provides party microclimate


Paul Overton at Dude Craft has got his maker priorities straight. Set simple, achievable goals, and make them a reality. Behold the disco bike helmet, a party on your head.

Read more | Permalink | Comments | Read more articles in DIY Projects | Digg this!

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Video: Why Joss Whedon is an atheist but doesn't hate you

Video: Why Joss Whedon is an atheist but doesn't hate you

The creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly gave a talk ... somewhere, sometime ... where he talks in earnest about his belief system, his atheism and the themes of religion in his work; watch it below.

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Chocolate Easter Surprise Eggs

blue eggs in tissue paper grass

These dyed Easter are real eggshells that have been coated on the inside with chocolate and stuffed with candy and a small surprise.

close up of a blue egg that says crack me

Everything I used to decorate the eggs is edible. I used jumbo sized eggs, though this wasn't necessary. I stuffed them with the smallest things I could find.

small plastic chick with candies

crepe paper flower and various chocolates

I was hoping to try to make my own version of the chocolate filled real eggshells that Martha Stewart created a few years back, but I wanted mine to be more like a Kinder Surprise egg with a toy or small item inside. I also took inspiration from hollow chocolate eggs that contain smaller chocolates and candies, as these make a pleasing rattling noise when you shake them, and I can never wait to find out what is inside.

eggshell cracked, showing chocolate beneath

an opened egg, with detail of the chocolate coating

I learned a lot through mistakes along the way (which I'll go into obnoxious detail about in a later post), but here is what did work for me.

dying the eggs

blue eggs trying on the ends of skewers

The Martha Stewart instructions for preparing eggshells for filling with melted chocolate involve using a Dremel tool to neatly widen the hole. I do not have a Dremel and didn't want to buy one just for this project. (Not that that has stopped me from thinking about all the things I could have used it for, leading to me now, of course, drooling over a Dremel.) Short of buying an expensive but fancy egg topper, I decided to go buy the $6 one. It has adorable teeth:

metal egg topper

It's meant to be used on soft boiled eggs with cooked whites, so it's a bit treacherous using it on raw eggs. The method I did was to grasp the egg and hold down the topper securely with one hand:

holding the egg to be topped

showing an ideal crack

Gently squeeze the handles of the egg topper so the teeth are touching the eggshell. Then to squeeze the handles quickly and with purpose, like a quick punch. If you squeeze the topper too slowly the egg cracks. If you hold the egg too tightly it cracks. This is, obviously, not the best method to get eggs open. Even at the height of my egg topping flow I would still completely crush one out of ever 12 eggs, and lots were left with hairline cracks. My advice? If you have a Dremel, go ahead an use it here. If you have an egg topper already, try it. But if you really, really want to make beautiful chocolate filled eggs to give away, you might consider asking all of your friends if they have a Dremel they could loan you.

bowl full of eggs

Rinse out the insides of the eggs carefully, I took to poking inside with a finger to get out the stubborn bits of white that were attached to the top end. Might seem icky but it's much easier than trying to dislodge cooked white bits later on. Submerge the eggs in a large pot, bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize the eggs. Skim the foam from the top of the water frequently, if you forget to check the pot they cook into a bubbly foam. I found I could fit 12 eggs in a 4 quart saucepan.

To cool them I suggest lifting them with a slotted spoon and lowering them into a bowl of cold water. If you instead move the pan into the sink and put cold water into it know that boiling hot water will sneakily hide inside the eggshells, so proceed carefully.

eggs in blue dye

If you're going to dye the eggs you can do this right away. If you're not going to dye them hang them to dry as I show below, overnight at least. I was trying to match the color of some Robin's egg blue caramels I found and did a number of different trials combining various McCormick's food coloring combinations. In the end I found that this was just about perfect:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 24 drops neon blue
  • 6 drops blue

Martha Stewart's directions call for you to dip each eggshell into vinegar before lowering into the dye, but I actually found this left the egg streaky. I simply submerged the eggshells carefully into the dye and let them soak for 10 minutes (15 minutes for a second batch of eggs in the same bowl).

good example of dyed egg

bad example of dyed egg

I learned this the hard way, don't agitate the eggshells. They'll be covered by little bubbles and that made me obsessively try to knock the bubbles off, but it left me with blotchy color. Instead, leave them as still as possible and turn them over about half way through. Don't crowd the bowl, I did four or five eggs at a time.

lifing egg with a skewer

I lowered and lifted the eggs using skewers, and dried them on this tree I made using skewers and a styrofoam cone I had in the house. Catch drips at the bottom of the eggshells with a paper towel. Let the eggs dry overnight.

eggs on skewers

It was so cheerful to have these hanging out the dining room for a while.

eggs on skewers

coating with chocolate

block of Callebaut chocolate

I tried, I really tried, to use excellent tasting chocolate for this project. But in the end I had to switch to Merckens real chocolate coating wafers with some chocolate thinner mixed in. (I had them left over from an earlier project.) It tastes fine for an Easter project, and it was easier to work with than the Callebaut bulk chocolate I had originally purchased. The trouble was that the Callebaut chocolate post-tempering was too thick to work with, even after adding a generous amount of chocolate thinning flakes.

My hang up is that I wanted to use both dark and white chocolate to imitate a Kinder Surprise egg and I couldn't find white couverture chocolate in stores around here (I'd waited too long to order anything online, I'll never learn that lesson). Couverture chocolates, as learned from consulting my Field Guide to Candy book, are "professional quality chocolates with a high percentage of cocoa butter, which helps them melt smoothly and temper easily." I did find couverture chocolate on the baking aisle shelves of my local, tiny yet impossibly well stocked natural market. I believe the Valrhona feves (which you might remember best as the ones asked for in the NY Times chocolate chip cookie recipe), are what the Martha Stewart directions call for: "We used Valrhona dark chocolate in this recipe because it is relatively easy to temper".

(p.s. If you live in Seattle I can tell you that Valhrona feves or other couverture quality chocolate can be found in dark, milk and white varieties at both DeLaurenti market and ChefShop. I only found the dark chocolate feves at Whole Foods, it was near the good cheeses.)

I don't have a microwave or a chocolate tempering machine so I used the seeding technique for tempering chocolate. If you're up for tempering chocolate two of my favorite explain and teach entries are at Serious Eats: How to temper chocolate and at Cooking for Engineers: Tempering chocolate. If you don't have couverture quality chocolate you might consider tracking down some chocolate thinning flakes at your nearest cake decorating shop. (Here in Seattle I highly recommend Home Cake Decorating Supply Co., they have everything and are generous with instructions and information.) The flakes are best added just after you've raised the chocolate to the high temperature and before you're starting to cool it. If I forgot and added the flakes when the chocolate was down around 95 degrees the flakes wouldn't melt and I'd have to start over.

melted chocolate in a Pyrex measuring bowl

If you're not up for tempering chocolate (it always takes longer than I expect) I suggest going ahead and using candy melts. Bakerella recommends Merckens brand melts. For these, you just melt and use, they come in pretty colors. They taste like sweet vanilla, not something I'd normally eat but let's face it, the inside shell of my surprise eggs are unlikely to be eaten in favor of the chocolates inside the egg. Note that if you'd like to color your own candy melts you will need to use a coloring that is not water based, so no regular or gel food coloring. You can find oil based chocolate colorings meant just for this purpose.

Martha Stewart used a piping bag to fill the eggs with chocolate, but since I was filling each eggshell and immediately inverting it, my pouring chocolate would harden too quickly. If I tempered my chocolate in a mixing bowl over a saucepan then transferred the chocolate to a Pyrex measuring cup with a spout, it also hardened too quickly. So I took to melting my chocolate in the Pyrex measuring cup. In order to keep steam from the water getting into the chocolate and causing it to seize I kept the temperature to barely a simmer. Whew, you got all that?

eggshell in a cut

I inverted the egg onto a small salt bowl, poured melted chocolate inside catching drips with a small silicone spatula, then immediately turned the eggshell to coat the inside and let the excess drip out, back into my measuring cup. I put the egg on a drying rack to let excess chocolate drip out and did the next egg. I set the eggs in the fridge for an hour or so to let the chocolate set, then I did it all again using white chocolate.

turning the eggshell to coat the inside with chocolate

eggs on racks to allow chocolate to run out

showing the chocolate around the bottom of the egg

The chocolate will form a lip at the opening in the egg, this is good and I'll be using it later on, so don't level this off or wipe it away.

Painting the eggs

small paintbursh

Super Gold Luster Dust

I used some Super Gold Luster Dust mixed with a few drops of tequila to paint "crack me" on the eggs. (This is an idea I initially got from these Golden Chocolate Easter Eggs which were on The Kitchn a few years ago.) I used a tiny brush.

Be aware that the painted on gold will wipe off, so at this point forward handle the eggs carefully so you don't wipe away the writing. Or be smarter than I am and leave the painting until last (I was afraid the chocolate seal would melt in my hand).

egg with crack me painted on the front

A tip for you, Gold Pearl Dust made by Wilton isn't nearly gold enough, it looks more golden colored, but the Luster Dust was a really nice effect.

showing cracks painted on the backs of eggs

I painted cracks running up the back of the eggs.

Filling the eggs

By far my favorite part was shopping for what to put inside the eggs. I knew I was going to be dealing with an opening less than one inch wide, so most candies won't fit. And I really wanted a toy of some sort.

three types of crepe paper flowers

I deicded to make mini Spring flower corsages using crepe paper. They could be scrunched thin to fit inside the egg then unfurled to be worn. I did this for six eggs, my favorites were the daffodils, but the gathered and fringed versions were easier to make.

crepe petals

detail of how the pin is attached

note that says Unfurl Me

For the other eggs I found cute pipe cleaner chicks which collapsed easily.

crepe flower in a small zip top bag

For both of these I put them inside small 2"x3" zip top bags, just in case they absorbed oil from the chocolate inside.

gold and dark chocolate candies

For the corsage eggs I decided to stick with a gold-blue-and-dark chocolate theme and filled them with one Robin's egg caramel, one gold Jordan almond, small Valrhona Perles Craquant (which are like mini crunchy malt balls) from Whole Foods, and Dark Chocolate covered Pomegranate Seeds from Trader Joe's. And a gold foil wrapped chocolate egg if I still had room. The smaller candies made noise when you gently shook the eggs.

colorful candies

For the eggs with chicks inside I went with more color. I used one Robin's egg caramel, a few of the Trader Joe's mini peanut butter cups (so addictive), the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds and TJ's candy coated sunflower seeds. (I had to abandon the jelly beans shown above, there wasn't room left.)

Sealing the eggs

eggs standing up

This part was the most difficult, and had me wishing I'd invested in the Dremel tool to begin with. Initially I thought I might use chocolate to glue a trimmed down mini muffin tin liner to the bottom of the eggs but it was too easy to simply pull the paper off to get at the contents. I wanted people to have to break the egg to get inside. (I have a fondness for things you have to destroy to enjoy.) I decided to mold some dark chocolate inside nonpareil molds, which were about the size of the opening and melt them to the bottom of the eggs.

egg upside down

I warmed a knife in a saucepan of water, wiped it dry and ran it over the opening of the egg, melting the edges of the chocolate while making the surface flat. Then I pressed a molded chocolate into the bottom.

melting the edges of chocolate at the opening of the egg

putting a nonpareil on the opening

This sort of worked, but not as well as I'd hoped. It works as a base for the egg to stand on but it's still easier to pry this off than to crack the eggshell. If I had time to do it again I think I would fill the nonpareil molds, let them set just a bit then upend the filled egg into the mold. This would create a stronger bond, and sink the rough edges of the eggshell into the small puddle of chocolate. However, you'd also glue some of the contents of the egg into the chocolate on the bottom, so ideally I'd have a foil wrapped candy nearest to the bottom. Still, I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out.

one egg standing up on the nonpareil

eggs nestled in tissue paper grass in a bakery box

To present them I put them in a bakery box with some tissue paper grass.

I had a huge amount of fun making these, and see different versions in my future. Maybe Halloween eggs? July 4th eggs? Mother's Day eggs?

Here is a list of the Seattle sources I used, put here if only to remind myself where to look the next time I need crazy supplies. I didn't end up using all of these items, and some are just places I wished I'd stopped in as I found they carried what I needed too late:

many, many blue eggs

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