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The Tour in Middle America

Sunday, 13 July, 2014

Since the last check-in the tour is going well. After a prolonged break in Montreal and Buffalo NY, and it becoming evident they they are not all piled together like so much cord wood and hauled around, things are beginning to happen.

In Buffalo of all places and Toronto fans “in uniform” have appeared. A fanmeeting was hastily organized in Toronto with about 10 fans appearing and 1 other not quite getting the hint from fan-site postings and being heartbroken afterward. After Toronto, they had a continental breakfast, didn’t know what was forthcoming and spent a solid 11 hours in the bus to Chicago. This actually raised a public complaint from a member of the group.

What happened in Chicago was unexpected. This was their warmest audience yet during the tour. Whether the audience were fans, fans of the headliner who became familiar with their work, or were simply charmed by their appearance is not clear. Most importantly the stop in Chicago prompted their first ever performance (and third media mention ever) on American television as they appeared on the WGN Morning Show. WGN did not do an interview segment, and they were explicitly identified as Japanese. This was corrected on the web site. There is also a charming photo of the group “in uniform” posing next to The Bozo Pillar presumably having no knowledge of its significance.

This will be characterized as the group appearing on a TV station which is seen all over the continent, which is strictly correct, but the show on which they appeared was only available in “Chicagoland”. I am somewhat disappointed this first appearance was not on national TV. I am blaming the promo people again.

After a five-hour delay at O’Hare (imagine that) the girls are casual driving distance from my home and surely taking in the sites in the bizarre wonderland some people call Texas. No, I have no plans to do anything about this and shall make no unplanned excursions. If fate intervenes and I find myself in the same room with them I will crumble like a little fangirl.

In the Middle of the North American Tour

Saturday, 5 July, 2014
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The show was not altered in any way for the much larger venues. The lighting people don’t know what to do with this show, and clearly have not been informed in any way. It is surprising just how much the lighting and effects are critical to the show. It is more curious how minutes of the official show pass with the girls standing around drinking water. The performances are mostly synchronised, “lip sync” to most of you, which may be a culture-based error. The girls are far less curious about the continent they are visiting than one might suspect. They are spending their days sitting around far better hotels than I would have imagined and are getting stir crazy. Once back home, they may never complain of the usual manic schedule ever again.

The show includes their Christmas song, without which the show would be four-minutes short. My solution would have been to produce and introduce a cover of a well known hit following the usual rules for such things, but this may be more trouble than it is worth. Doing a Christmas song out of season is perceived as a “wacky Asian” thing and enhances the weird-and-cute appeal.

Although my assumption may be in error, it appears this golden opportunity to generate original video content for the internet is largely being missed. Presumably the group is using their pads to, at least, entertain themselves and this has produced viable product in the past. Their usual cinematographer is meeting up with them when they arrive in Las Vegas and will journey with them to Los Angeles, these being the final two cities on the tour.

The stir crazy is leading to some charming and original content. They have pads and are said to be keeping non-public diaries. One of the group is exploiting an Instagram account started in April. Another is posting to their formal fan forum unfiltered but very gracious. The other three are posting through the filtered, official Twitter or Facebook accounts. Presumably the issue here is security rather than the potential for obscenity.

This tour has received exactly zero coverage in American media. No curiosity. No mention, outside of merely listing the billing of the concert tour itself. I shall repeat, whoever is handling the publicity for this unique opportunity may never work again.

The reception in Milwaukee was especially bad, as I have noted. They flew into Philadelphia to meet up with their silver eagle. This was a welcome surprise to this observer who honestly assumed their people would have them “jamming Econo” just like back home in spite of the distance issues. Atlantic City seemed to have a high proportion of people in the audience who knew who they were, or who were otherwise welcoming. They visited what may be the only Korean restaurant in that city and were very polite.

The next stop was Boston. I anticipated a blood bath. If you don’t know, Boston crowds are notoriously brutal under the best of circumstances. Boston crowds are prone to reflexive, racist sentiment of a kind that would make the stereotypical Alabamian blush. Contrary to expectations the Boston crowd was enthusiastic, and post show Twits were largely positive. The most harsh critique coming from those who dislike that they are obviously lip synching.

One of the members posted that she was surprised to learn of a part of North America where French is the predominant language. This serves primarily to remind your correspondent how little he knows about Korea. Their warmest welcome so far was in Montreal. From what footage has been made available, the lighting guys are working out what to do even in the absence of anything but improvisation. Montreal was also the site of something, so far, unique on the tour. Three fans succeeded in finding the path from the venue out into the world of the tour-support vehicles and flagged them down. It was helpful that one of them was wearing a common fan costume and they were carrying a banner of support.

This story has been related by two of these fans, and also relayed by the member on the official fan forum who claims to have spotted them then had trouble remembering how to communicate “Stop the bus!” in English to their driver.

Although the tour continues, for reasons which are unclear, this group is not part of several dates and is taking an apparently unwelcome five-day break. I know which city they are were in as of yesterday, and suspect I know which hotel but it seems like a security breach to say anything. They are roaming at least part of the city largely unmolested, and have not at all so much as mentioned the potential of being approached by fans or having much contact with an adoring public. Then again, even at home they are curiously unrecognizable in civilian drag. Media stories have been written noting the absence of attention they receive when not at an event. Two of the members are presently enrolled in University and no one ever so much as says anything.

Upcoming: Buffalo, Toronto, Chicago then off to Texas. The cameras should be rolling on the stretch between Chicago and San Antonio. They have 43 hours between shows and at least 20 of those they will need to be moving, unless sense prevails again and they fly.

If they don’t fly, they will actually pass within 150 m of my home. I feel like I should do something about it.

North American Tour

Wednesday, 25 June, 2014
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I am paying rapt attention to a pop-culture phenomenon, which I am not prone to doing. When they are safely home, I will add proper nouns to this. Some of you who know me in life, or whatever, know who I am talking about anyway.

Our story so far. In January the organization behind a major American artist approached a relatively obscure Korean girl group to become that performer’s opening act for North American dates this Summer. They could only commit to a month of touring, but even so these 13 dates are the largest tour ever for a Korean performer of any kind in North America.

The company behind this group has been formed around their relative success. It is tiny, consisting of four acts two of which have launched within the last two months. Since the announcement in March of this tour I’ve been waiting for some kind of media push in the US. Anything. I’m still waiting. They didn’t hire a US-based publicist, or if they did I hope this person never works again, or assumed their mere association with the American performer would do something that doesn’t actually happen here. This is malpractice. With just a meager push the idea that this group you never heard of who dress up kind of like superheros from a country adult Americans don’t know have a whole pop-culture universe to themselves is going on an unprecedented tour should get some kind of traction.

The selection was made on the basis of a single video clip. They will be doing a 30-minute show. This “girl group” has a NA fanbase, of which I am obviously a part. I’ve spent part of the last couple of months trying to estimate the number of fans they have over here. So many factors go into this, I shall not bore you with the details. On the assumption that 1% of any fandom is passionate enough to play a notable role in their internet support community, and the communities for this group are so intimate their existence alone serves as a invitation to the less passionate, a generous estimation would be 2500-5000 fans in the US. No more than 100K have so much as heard of them beyond the group’s name. You can’t tour on that. They played at a kpop event in Los Angeles in May. In front of that friendly audience response was tepid. Clearly even that audience didn’t know who they were and was not compelled by their unconventional antics.

Their “company” is letting their tiny, personally funded US fanbase attempt to do the heavy lifting. That’s not how it works, at least over here.

As this goes to post they arrive in Milwaukee, their first foray into the US beyond Los Angeles, to begin the tour. They will be on stage within six hours following a 22-hour transit including clearing customs and otherwise sitting around for five hours in Chicago. During shows and avails in Korea over the last two weeks the group looks like they’ve been through hell. God knows what The Company has been putting them through due to their perverse notions of whatever might happen in the US. A major American talk show has featured one of their songs on a segment which might provide some leeway to at least getting on TV. Bupkis.

Meanwhile the publicity has been handled so poorly. The sponsoring performer’s organization is all but publicly regretting the whole thing. Somehow The Company acquired an e-mail list and sent out an especially vague message written by someone whose first language isn’t English (they have US-educated people on the payroll, so there was no excuse for this) to night clubs in the US soon after the announcement of the group joining the tour. Presumably with the interest of getting additional dates. The name of the group was not mentioned. There was no response. The group which follows them on the next leg of the same tour has already announced additional dates.

I have more angrystan-like posts pending. When I attempt to write seriously these days it just all come out as so much redundant goop. Among these posts is the last-ever Hamburger Diary, with the principle behind ending the series. I have views on geopolitics and so forth I just want to get out into the world.

For the next four weeks how these five women are getting hurt, personally and professionally, by their naive management will be a fixation, and you will be seeing it here.

The defunct house brands of Winn-Dixie

Monday, 19 May, 2014

I am a passionate fan of the Pleasant Family Shopping blog. On the author’s Facebook presence, he posted a photograph of a Kwik Chek supermarket, a division of Winn-Dixie which somehow inspired your correspondent to look into the retired brands of Winn-Dixie. Between 2000 and 2010 Winn-Dixie commenced a period of reorganization, and emerged a much smaller and presumably leaner company. Among their reassessments during this time was the abandoning of several trade names which have much equity with natives of their service areas in the twentieth century which includes your correspondent’s native Louisville, Kentucky.

My most recent visit to a Winn-Dixie store was in 1998. The store was on Highway 6 near Waco, Texas. I stopped by in lieu of fast food for lunch primarily because I had not visited a WD store in four years at that time. The brands mentioned below are all considered abandoned by Trademarkia. I have sought no further confirmation.

Superbrand and Thrifty Maid could be adopted as the bottom two tiers of any retailers house brand offerings. Superbrand could be a cheeky all-purpose generic brand, like Target’s Up & Up or Kroger’s FMV. Thrifty Maid seems a natural for any household products, cleaners, cleaning gear or any kind of packaged food, canned or frozen.

I also like Velva, originally butter. No idea what it could be used for. Toilet tissue? Tires? The name suggests softness, smoothness or relaxation.  It could be used for a brand of mattresses or blankets.

I have mixed feelings about Deep South, Crackin’ Good and Dixie Darling. (at the end peanut butter, prepack cookies & crackers, and prepack baked goods respectively) Superficially, the brands retain equity among people from Winn-Dixie’s core markets but would almost certainly raise suspicions of some kind of white-hegemonic intentions. Cookies & crackers are a concentrating market for reasons which are not clear to me. In this market bad times meant volume sales for established brands, good times meant an expansion of varieties and both are retreating. Prepack baked goods seem to be similarly consolidating around a limited number of brands, with fewer and fewer varieties appearing at my local groceries.

I somehow picture Dixie Darling being reintroduced as a semi-premium brand of baked goods, not unlike Entenmann’s. The image would be based on art and logotypes of the era before 1920, but with a reminder that the New South is inclusionary. In ads and other promotion focusing on a modern multi-lingual, multi-cultural accurately modern South with a reminder of English, Spanish, French Creole, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean speakers enjoying the bounty of the South following a noble day’s effort. Dixie Darling could be “the very best of Southern traditions” implying hospitality. That is, instead of avoiding manufactured controversy, tackle it with an accurate contemporary image.

Someone should probably find a context to do that anyway. One of those outfits that recycles old brands could jump on these, and if there has been no interest whatsoever that is tantamount to malpractice.

Stan’s Vegan Pasta Casserole v 3.0

Friday, 16 May, 2014

This is the third variant of this I am posting.

This is based on Soul Vegetarian’s Vegan Mac and Cheese. It is a filling, hearty dish which may be served alone or as a side.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C.

1 qt. or 1 l unadulterated, no sugar or additional flavorings, soy milk Your regional soy-milk company’s product is preferred over the ubiquitous Silk, but get what you can. Fewer ingredients is always better.

1½ cups “vegetable oil”, typically soy, corn, canola or a blend. Any oil with a high smoke point depending upon what’s in the kitchen or how much you are willing to pay.

2-3 Tbsp crushed, grated or granulated garlic or 1½ Tbsp garlic powder (I almost always use powder and add it to the dry ingredients below. It’s just trivial to handle.)

13.25-16 oz whole-wheat macaroni or any other short pasta (a box). If buying bulk get the full pound.

(optional but recommended) 8-10 oz. package of sliced white-button or portabella mushrooms

(more so optional, consider marinating the mushrooms in soy sauce or leftover red wine, but drain well)

Dry ingredients: place these ingredients together in a bowl.

1 Tbsp each dry mustard (“hot Chinese” strongly preferred) , paprika, sea salt, (optional chili powder, chipotle powder, black or white pepper)

1½ Tbsp Cumin

½ Tbsp Ginger

2 cups nutritional yeast

While blending the sauce, prepare your pasta. Eight minute boil, then cooled under a tap or sprayer.

Slop the soy milk into a blender, food processor or into a large bowl and whisk. On medium speed add the oil through the blender or processor lid. If using proper garlic, add now which will mince further and flavor the sauce well.

While still spinning, place a funnel into the top of the appliance and spoon your dry ingredients into the soy and oil. You want a very thorough blend. Let it spin after the dry ingredients are in for an extra minute or two. This mixture will look more orange than you think it should. It will also be bubbly or well aerated. This is ideal.

Place the prepared pasta in an oiled 9×12 pan. Pour in your slurry and distribute well by hand. The first thing you will note is that it just doesn’t seem like enough macaroni. That’s okay.

If using mushrooms, simply pour and distribute over the top.

Optional: Sprinkle with parsley flake, garlic powder, garlic salt or black pepper. Parsley flake is strongly recommended.

This stores well for up to 24 hours refrigerated and uncovered, but is ready to bake immediately. If kept cold, move directly from the ‘fridge to a pre-heated oven.

Turn down the oven to 350 F or 180 C and bake for 1 hour.  After baking it should settle for at least 15 minutes. It will keep warm after baking for up to two hours.

Hamburger Diaries xtra: The In-N-Out Burger Secret Menu

Sunday, 9 March, 2014

So much cyberspace is dedicated to the In-N-Out Burger “secret menu” it could probably be weighed. It may be the case that this entry is not required. This is one mortal’s attempt to delineate every off-menu item available at In-N-Out Burger with explicit names. A very few of these are not known system wide. Your correspondent has emphasized the principle of keeping a menu welcoming and simple within the Hamburger Diaries. You will be forgiven if you presume opposition to a formal off-menu system.

While not imposing to first-time customers, the secret menu is an important part of In-N-Out’s mythology. Whenever In-N-Out does a “pop up” location in a distant land, such as New York, Tokyo or Shanghai one need not ask the most popular item among new customers. Every person in every land has seen enough television or movies originating in Los Angeles to become curious about Double Double animal-style. Read more…

Selecting vape gear for maximum visual impact

Sunday, 2 March, 2014

In the event you are advocating vaping, especially as an alternative to cigarettes, as a public presence or simply wish to be conspicuously vaping in a public place, noticeable gear is essential. The following are recommendations for people in, say, public performance who wish to vape and be seen doing so.

As always, my focus is on cost. This list pulls exclusively from the inventory of the curiously named Fasttech.com. The down side of ordering from any vendor in China if you are in North America is the extremely long shipping times. Anticipate a shipping time of not less than a month. Six weeks between placing the order and its arrival is quite common. However you will part with roughly 20% of the USD for equivalent, sometimes identical, gear from any domestic vendor. Prices listed on Fasttech are retail prices which include shipping anywhere in the world. Fasttech denominates exclusively in US dollars.

The inquiry which prompted this post asked about providing a noticeable pink electronic cigarette or personal vaporizer solution. The links provided will be to pink or fuchsia variations, although other colors including silver and black are typically available. Some discussion will occur about accessories which make all of this stuff work with the rest of your vaping gear.

This purchase will include a “mod” or battery container, tips on selecting batteries, a battery charger, tanks which affix to the mod and the somewhat misnamed “drip tips” or the bit you suck on. Each are selected for a compromise of cost and visual impact. I repeat: The focus of this article is to provide items in the color pink, but other colors are available.

Batteries and the charger are generic, flexible items which are not distinctive to Chinese vendors. Rules exist for the shipping of batteries to external non-commercial destinations from China, and a domestic vendor might have a more favorable price. The style of batteries under consideration are available in versions that shut down under extreme conditions, or are “protected”, and those that do not and depend upon the circuitry of the device to shut down During extreme conditions.

In lieu of a common eGo battery, use a mod. Often these are 150% the size of an eGo battery or more. Correspondingly, these store more energy and need not be charged as often. Items which have integrated batteries are available. The following options all require separate batteries which must be charged outside the device in a device designed for this purpose. Well regarded, popular items in this category include:

  • A clone of The Bolt for $13 which requires a single, protected 18650 battery. It features a 510 connection only. The original article costs $40.
  • A look-alike of the JM22 mod for $13 which requires a single, protected 18650 battery. It features a 510 connection only. The original article is a super-premium hand-built device which costs around $200.
  • An authentic Vamo V2 “advanced personal vaporizer” which requires either a single unprotected 18650, a single unprotected 18500, or single or dual unprotected 18350 batteries. It features an eGo connection with a collar for attractive 510 connections. It costs just over $25, but is a variable voltage and variable wattage device. The V2 includes a resistance meter. It is the lowest priced VV-VW device on the market, but retains reasonable quality. The Vamo line now extends to the V5, three generations newer. Overall utility has not been effected. Later generations are not available in multiple colors. The Vamo V2 typically retails for around $50.
  • An authentic SmokTech SID another VV-VW device which requires a single, unprotected 18650 battery. It features an eGo connection with a collar for attractive 510 connections. $37. The list price of the SID is $49.99.

In the event you purchase an above device which uses only a 510 connection, I very strongly recommend a 510-to-eGo adapter so it is compatible with the rest of your vape gear, especially clearomizers. This adapter is invisible in use.

Purchase batteries of a name brand you recognize, Sanyo, Samsung, Panasonic, &c. Purchase the appropriate protection or lack for the device you intend to power. These batteries are useless without a charger. Your correspondent is no expert in this area. The Nitecore Smart chargers are consistently recommended and sadly not available in novel colors. The link is to the same store, but you may wish to shop around. The use of two 18350 batteries in the Vamo V2 is a recommended configuration by the manufacturer, and is best for extremely long usage, low-ohm or sub-ohm operation.

Yes, Virginia there are pink atomizers. Even collars or “beauty rings” are available in pink to make the most of your vaporizer’s appearance when using a 510 device with an eGo connection. Any of these costs around $10. Units which merely have colored reservoirs are not included as juice typically distorts the color.

  • RG280 uses Protank or Evod heads. Features an eGo connection. Uses a 510-style drip tip. Available in pink and fuchsia. This is a glassomizer. The reservoir is glass and not plastic.
  • RG500 is a variation on the RG280 with a larger juice reservoir. Features a 510-connection instead.
  • K2 bottom-coil uses Evod heads. Features a 510 connection. Uses a 510-style drip tip.
  • Vivi Nova in pink and fuchsia. Uses Vivi Nova heads. Features a 510 connection. Uses a 510-style drip tip.
  • Evod. Uses Evod heads. Features an eGo connection.
  • Innokin iClear 16B is a variation on the now classic starter clearomizer which is available with a pink-and-white metal sleeve called Petals, and a solid pink sleeve. Features an eGo connection. Uses a CE4 drip tip. An adapter is available to allow the iClear 16 series use 510 drip tips.

Be certain to pick up a supply of heads or wicks for your new atomizer. Remember, you may need beauty rings to use these with your mundane eGo batteries. A conventionally chromed atomizer would work well in this application, but those are common.

You have the right battery. You have the right tank. You may even have a beauty ring connecting the two in just the right color. Now the drip tips. Because this is so subjective I shall merely link these by shade. A very few of these are for the Kanger T2 and are not the 510 type.

The bent aluminum, two-inch high models would stand out especially.

If I were shopping for you, you would get The Bolt, because you don’t have to mess with it, and an RG500 simply for the size. This configuration would be topped with a 70 mm or 2 and 3/4 inch long drip tip. That’s $25 for the e-cig and budget another $25 for batteries and charger. Step up to the Vamo V2 for a total of $62.

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