Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Magic Stove: Harbinger of Doom

Have you heard about the Electrolux magic stove that cooks for you? You simply drop foodstuffs onto the flat surface of the stove and the range will analyze the ingredients, suggest recipes and then prepare the selected menu item for you.  There is a video demonstration here.

Obviously, it won't work. Imagine cooking bacon...or chili...or applesauce...or pasta...rice, potatoes or cabbage...there are a great many  simple dishes that would  suddenly become problematic using this device. And do you really want to be fed by a computer?  

Literally fed?

It scares me that this Electrolux 'concept' video has been making the rounds without any mention of it's imaginary nature. What scares me even more is Electrolux's bleakly cynical rationale behind the proposed design- the product is designed for what sounds like a dismal future indeed.
Electrolux says its concept kitchen was designed for a not-too-distant world in which most people will live in cities.
 In dense conditions, living space will be at a premium. No more spacious kitchens with separate breakfast nooks and formal dining rooms. Floor space for people will have to take precedence over single purpose appliances, regardless of how well engineered they may be.
 Electrolux Senior Vice President of Design, Henrik Otto says : "The appliances of the future will need to be integrated and adjustable,we won’t have room for a whole host of products each with their own specific function."

I'm afraid that we'll run out of bread and water long before we run out of room for toasters and skillets.

This dystopian future makes me ask other questions: Will audio be compressed further, possibly to a sub-atomic level, in a quest for elbow room?

Will there be room for my guitar or will it have to double as a kitchen tool?

That's not so far-fetched, really.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Mash for Brains

This afternoon, I attended the local potato and heirloom seed swap in town. I grow my own vegetables organically, and it was a great opportunity to get a nice big bag of mixed varieties of seed potatoes, which I did, but nothing could have prepared me for the strange demonstrations of ineptitude and futility I was about to encounter.

Some people would rather devise pointless gimmicks to get funding in the name of resource-wasting nonsense games in the guise of being “green” than really do something to conserve energy. It’s much easier to con people into giving you money than it is to dig the earth, grow your own food, cook from scratch, stop wasting stuff, and be reasonably useful...I guess.

It was a swindle of this nature which caught my sceptic’s eye—a large sign above a booth which read:

No Energy Cooking!

OK, right off the bat, we know that’s rubbish. Basic laws of physics, right? Plus, there should really be a hyphen in that phrase, but I’ll let that part slide for the moment.

Don’t worry, it gets worse.

Below the sign was a featureless plywood box, next to a plate of cut up baked potatoes and toppings which were being methodically grazed by a small herd of middle-aged women who clearly think they’ve stumbled upon a technological marvel, judging by their exuberant full-mouthed mumblings.

A new person approached the table, looked at the box, perplexed, and spoke...

Punter: So, how does it work?

Charlatan: (removes lid and pillow like sack) Well, see, these sacks are full of hay.

Punter: Hay?

Charlatan: Yeah, hay. There are some potatoes in there. Feel in there how warm it is.

Punter: (inserts hand) It’s a little bit warm.

Charlatan: Yeah, well, you see, we’ve been taking the lid off all afternoon. If we hadn’t, it would be warmer.

Punter: Where does the heat come from?

Charlatan: Um, well, um, see, if you were to cook a casserole in the oven for half an hour, and then put it in here, in about eight hours it would be cooked, whereas normally you’d have to cook it in the oven for an hour.

[At this point my food safety alarm goes off. I’m thinking about the likely possibility of under-cooked food, and storage for hours at an optimal temperature for bacterial growth, but the dialogue continues without touching on that subject of food poisoning.]

Punter:’s just...insulation then? Made of hay? In a box?

Charlatan: Um...yes. You can have a leaflet if you want. It explains all about it. Please take one.

Punter: So, those are already baked potatoes, baked in a normal oven, and they’re just being kept warm in that thing?

Charlatan: That’s right.

Punter: Would they continue to cook at all?

Charlatan: Well, maybe a little bit. If we weren’t taking the lid off. I’m not really sure actually. Take a leaflet. It explains all about how it works.

Just then I was distracted by a woman who had somehow managed to commandeer a microphone on the other side of the floor. She was talking about her latest invention, which she said was some kind of “new type of potato sack”.

Um. Yeah. OK.

I grabbed my spuds and made a run for it.

On the walk home, this piece of litter caught my eye.

...and closer:

Potato Dog?


I tried to picture for a moment the mutant foodstuff which the package proclaims to have once contained, then decided that, truly, I didn’t want to know.

I wondered momentarily if the leaflets I had handled an hour before had been pre-soaked in LSD (when I went to the cheese fair last year, I ate some cheese which caused fantastic hallucinations followed by an 18-hour migraine, so it’s a perfectly valid first step when faced with unexplained phenomena to rule out psychotropic contaminants), but I eventually deduced that, no, there is absolutely no drug powerful enough to cause my brain to interpret a piece of roadside litter in quite this way.

Must be real.

Reality is weird.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Just Deserts, or Just Dessert?

Random Human: So...what kind of music do you sing?

Me: It’s a lot like Japanese pizza.

Random Human: Japanese...what? How’s that?

Me: You wouldn’t understand.

Random Human: (...listens...) Well, I think you sound exactly like Olivia Newton-John.

Me: Exactly!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Influence Peddling

 Influences? Is that really necessary?

In 1980, I had a  3am Sunday paper route and a portable Walkman cassette player the size of a college favorite cassette had  Deep Purple's Machine Head on one side and The Clash's first album on the other...the tape was finished with a few songs by an old UK punk band called 999 and the first six minutes of Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine.

 During my final year of high school, I tried to teach myself to play guitar by listening to The Cramps' Smell of Female (Live at the Peppermint Lounge) LP over and over again...but the songs were too difficult for me to play, so I traded it in for a used (but seldom-played) copy of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.  That worked for me.

My first concert was Joe Walsh. My second was King Crimson. Third was the Talking Heads.

My friend Ron Curry gave me my only lesson in 1984...he sketched out a couple of major barre chords on the back of my notebook during a high school pep rally. I liked them so much that I never learned any others.

In 1986 I attended a Grateful Dead concert stone-cold sober. They played a extended cover of 'Gloria', which was bad enough, but Bob Weir added insult to odium by spelling it 'G-O-L-R-I-A'...over and over in-between endless guitar meanderings...I spent the next decade playing loud, fast and angry punk-metal. One band was hailed in the local press as being "destined to join [Richmond's ] rock pantheon"...we broke up the night before the review was published.

That influenced my decision to get a 'real job'.

Doing sound in nightclubs.

(To be continued.)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Ear In The Snow

Pictured here: The HQ of Monday Machine's US division. Stalk me if you wish, my food supplies are running low.