Monday, February 23, 2009


Twenty houses shaded in twenty hues. Hjärup, Sweden. (2009).

A kindergartener's Crayola creation rendered in real life, twenty houses shaded in twenty hues splice the landscape to the horizon ... and back to the foot of here. Stop, and revel in the view. Because on a road that never forks and only bends, seldom sights like these tend not to come around again.

Beyond, the sun sets.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

six ways from sunday: my mathematical mind

A Madagascar Day Gecko looks on at the stranger behind the camera, sticky feet and all. Lund, Sweden. (2009). This photo isn't particularly logical considering the context of the post, but sometimes things are better when they don't make perfect sense.

By definition, the inverse function y = 1/x is asymptotic. In other words, this means that for any given input x, the function plots a curve y that continually approaches the zero lines, but never actually meets them at any finite distance.

Confused? Click here for an illustration. Or, alternatively, think of it this way: imagine you're looking down on a four-way intersection from the roof of a skyscraper. There are two people walking toward each other on opposite sides of the same street, but they're not allowed to step off the sidewalk and onto the pavement. Given this single constraint, their paths can never meet. Looking at one another diagonally across the middle of the intersection is the closest the two will ever be and bridging the space in between is a rational impossibility, in mathematical terms. On paper, this is no solution to this paradox.

However, where theory ends, real life begins. Sometimes all it takes to get around frustrating limits is a little imagination, a little leap of faith. So go ahead: look both ways and cross the street. Someone might be waiting for you on the other side.

Six Ways from Sunday is starfish and waffles' homegrown, cornerstone music column. Your mix tape with a theme, clicking on the active links below lead you to full-length tracks of the day's musical selections. As always, happy listening.

1. You Got Me :: The Roots featuring Erykah Badu :: Things Fall Apart (1999). Like cheesesteaks and Temple University basketball, this is a Philadelphia institution. Lead MC Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter stars in the spellbinding video, delivering his lines in trademark compact form - until he finds her. The musical work of Ahmir Khalib "?uestlove" Thompson, the greatest drummer of our generation, and Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, the respected classical upright bassist, feature in the unforgettable drum 'n' bass outro. "She studyin' film and photo - flash, focus, record / Said she workin' on a flick and could my click do the score? / She said she loved my show in Paris at Elysée Montmartre / And that I stepped off the stage and took a piece of her heart."

2. Spring to Kingdom Come :: Flunk :: Morning Star (2004). Lush soundscapes abound in the clean-up track from the Norwegian folktronica foursome. Ulf Nygaard and Anja Øyen Vister blend doleful, male-female vocals. "Sleeping beauty, where have you been? / You should know ­I'm counting on you here / Feels like clouds beneath your wings / It is night, you see it as it is / It is dark, have mercy on us all / You should know ­I'm counting on you here."

3. Sunny Road :: Emiliana Torrini :: Fisherman's Woman (2005). Because songs don't come much more beautiful than this. Listen to the gentle strumming of the six-string ... and the hanging moments of subtle silence, elegant like a Japanese ukiyo-e painting. Also a lovely animated video. "I wanna come back home / You know that night, I said I had to go / You said you'd meet me on the sunny road / It's time, meet me, on the sunny road / It's time, meet me, on the sunny road."

4. Unemployed in Summertime :: Emiliana Torrini :: Love in the Time of Science (2000). In a rarity, the adorable Icelandic singer-songwriter scores a twinbill on Six Ways from Sunday. Young, carefree, jazzy loops radiate with downbeat flair. "Unemployed in summertime / I've only just turned 21, I'll be ok / Unemployed in summertime / Don't need money 'cause we're young / I'll just stay awake 'til the morning / With make-up all over my face."

5. Eye Know :: De La Soul :: 3 Feet High and Rising (1989). It's hard to believe it's been twenty years, but this is still the gold standard for hip-hop love songs. Groovy, happy, and, playful, this track is a throwback from a time when rap somehow seemed less angry. A sample of Otis Redding's whistling ditties in the background. "It's I again and the song that I send / Is taking steps to reach your heart / Any moment you feel alone / I can fill up your empty part / We can ascend 'til we reach De La Heaven / And in a spin we'll hit the Top Ten."

6. New Slang :: The Shins :: Oh, Inverted World (2001). Toe-tapping wistfulness from the New Mexico indie guitar poppers. Vaguely familiar, yet not quite the same as anything you've heard before. "And if you'd 'a took to me like / A gull takes to the wind / Well, I'd 'a jumped from my tree / And I'd a danced like the king of the eyesores / And the rest of our lives would 'a fared well."

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

these gooseberried chicaneries

Lieutenant Kaffee (Tom Cruise): "I want the truth!"

Colonel Jessep (Jack Nicholson): "You can't handle the truth!"

Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer): "No truth handler, you ... bah! I deride your truth-handling capabilities!"

Question: when is a kiwifruit not a kiwifruit? Answer: when it's a Chinese gooseberry, that's when! Three mammals agree: the kiwifruit is Son of Fraud. I'll never trust you again, New Zealand!

But sometimes, whether you can handle it or not, the truth goes and smacks you upside the head, anyway. Kinda like two weeks ago, when Dorothee shattered a small part of my world by divulging that a kiwifruit wasn't actually a kiwifruit, but rather a name made up by New Zealanders to better market their tart, green fruit.

My heart didn't want to believe her. But after Wikipedia (a.k.a., The Gospel) corroborated her story - and, quite frankly, such corroboration was necessary given Dorothee's questionable credibility, as evidenced by her liberal definition of the Baltic Sea (yes, we are nerds) - the unthinkable suddenly became the painful truth.

Because felix's daily starfish and waffles is now primarily an online news magazine best known for its hard-hitting, human interest journalism, we have decided to go public and break this exclusive story for all the world to see - and judge! As such, here's tonight's top headline:

Appalled, Captain Cook rolls in grave

So happens, back in the 1950's, some scheming New Zealand fruit marketers renamed the humble Chinese gooseberry to kiwifruit for "export marketing reasons." The specifics of these reasons are not well-documented, but I think we can all safely assume it was a Wellington conspiracy to perpetrate, on the rest of the world, a tangled web of regrettable South Seas deception under the guise of a delicious, nutrient-rich fruit.

Oh, the chicanery! Oh, the abject fraud!

But wait, there's more.

Linda, starfish and waffles' on-location Southern Hemispherian correspondent, has just reported from the South Island that all Chinese gooseberries for sale in the local vicinity haven't even been grown in New Zealand - rather, they have been imported from Italy and the USA.

Dear God ... where do the lies end, New Zealand?!

I feel ill. I think I need to lie down.

Next week: the amazing story behind Felix-brand cat food's rise to become one of Germany's most popular pet foods (Dorothee's cat liked Felix best!), how it became to be re-branded as "Pussi" in Sweden, and why my Scandinavian friends Knut and Nina Louise haven't been able to stop laughing at me for five days.

Editor's Note: in spite of the kiwifruit controversy, starfish and waffles would like to extend a friendly hello to our regular readers in New Zealand (Hi, Christchurch!), who are always good sports about the ribbings we give them from time-to-time.