137. A Brisket

Nothing is more comforting than a good plate of Jew food. I make an amazing chicken soup, and keep mason jars of it in my freezer at all time. Four dollars worth of chicken backs and some carrots, onions, and celery make for several quarts of what my mother has always called “the Elixir of Life.”

A brisket is a cheap, big cut of meat. It’s not great unless it’s been cooked for a long time – kind of chewy and tough. But, slow-cooked in liquid for a few hours, it becomes really tender and yum.

A nice rectangular slab of meat.

Recently, I got my aunt’s very traditional brisket recipe. I’ve always loved her brisket, and, upon receiving a Le Creuset from my parents for my birthday this year, I finally asked for the recipe. It is super easy and super delicious. The meat, slow-cooked in the oven for four or five hours, comes out incredibly flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I’m a sucker for slow-cooked meats – I love a good Coq au Vin or stew. Yum yums.

This is the Le Creuset braising pan I have. Amazing.

Here is Aunt Devorah’s recipe as she gave it to me:

Brisket Recipe

I lb of Brisket for about every two people. It really shrinks after cooking.

Lots of onions, chopped


Spicy deli mustard

2 cans of tomato juice

Place brisket in baking pan and smother with mustard. Cover with onions and
mushrooms and then pour the tomato juice over everything to fill the baking dish and
cover the brisket as much as possible.

Bake at 350 for at least two hours and then slice thinly and return to baking dish. Bake at
least two more hours. I let it bake all day (even five hours) and replenish the tomato juice
if it doesn’t cover the meat.

The onions and mushrooms are to taste. I use a pound of mushrooms and enough onions
to cover the meat and fall into the tomato juice. It’s whatever you like.

This is best reheated for an hour or two the next day and served.

Not my picture - http://nancyvienneau.com/blog/recipes/doufeu-part-deux-brisket-of-beef/

Pretty much what this looks like when it’s done. NUMZ.

I doctor the recipe a little bit, using Dijon mustard and adding three chopped carrots to the pot. Otherwise, I stay completely faithful to the recipe. It is unbelievably easy and a classic old-world Jewish recipe. And really any cook can do it, provided you can find a nice cut of brisket (Washington folks – I go to Snider’s supermarket in Silver Spring. Their meats and produce are super cheap and super fresh).

Good luck, friends. Happy slow-cooked meating.

November 14, 2012. Food, Guest Writers, Rectangles. 1 comment.

84. Rubik’s Cubes


My friend Andrea, always thinking, sent me a message saying she just got a Rubik’s Cube. And what’s a Rubik’s Cube? Rectangles upon rectangles upon rectangles! I asked Andrea if she wanted to guest-write an article for TTAR on the elusive Cube. Here’s her response:

“I don’t know how to write articles. But I did find some fun facts about cubes. They were discovered in 1974 by a Hungarian named Erno Rubik. He was a sculptor and architect. Originally, they were 3x3x3, but they come in sizes 2x2x2 all the way up to 7x7x7.
There are competitions involving Rubik’s cubes called speed cubing and include things like solving them blindfolded, solving them with one’s feet, one handed, team blindfolded solving, and underwater Rubik’s cube solving. There are also promo cubes, and spherical Rubik’s cubes.
That is all. Oh, but other things in my room that are rectangles include a box of lucky charms, my windows, my notebooks and school stuffs, a one dollar bill, a metal box with little bees on it, my bulletin board, and some bumper stickers that I stuck on my wall.
Yep. So that was probably not that interesting, but by far a better spent 20 minutes than the homework (also rectangular) that I should be doing.”

Thank you, Andrea. That was interesting, and now let’s explore the Rubik’s Cube some more.

So, who is Erno Rubik?

:rubik with one of his cubes:

Erno Rubik (born July 13, 1944) is a Hungarian inventorsculptor and professor of architecture. He is best known for the invention of mechanical puzzles including Rubik’s CubeRubik’s MagicRubik’s Snake and Rubik’s 360.

Wait, what are those things?

Rubik’s Cube, Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake and Rubik’s 360, you mean? Well. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say.

“In a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers, among six solid colours (traditionally white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow). A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the colours. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid colour. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2010.”

:not in cube form:

Here are pictures of the other three “mechanical puzzles.”

:Rubik's Magic, unsolved:

:and solved!:

:Rubik's Snake:

:Rubik's Snake, curled up in a ball:

and finally

:Rubik's 360, solved (decidedly not rectangular):

What, you want more? Okay. Here:

Super sweet blog about Rubik’s Cube gadgets (seriously).

Example: Rubik’s Cube Coffee Table

:for the cube nerd in your life:


:wake up every morning to a rubik's cube clock!:

One man’s alleged solution to the Cube.


A whole site devoted to Rubik and his Cubes here.

March 14, 2010. Culture, Guest Writers, History, Rectangles, Science, Websites. 2 comments.

72. The Room

:the worst movie ever, in the best possible way:

The Room is a masterpiece of terrible proportions. Just over 90 minutes, none of the movie makes sense. I’ll try to describe the plot, but there isn’t much of one.

There are several main characters:

Johnny, played by writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau

Lisa, played by Juliette Danielle


Mark, played by Greg Sestero

:lisa, johnny, denny and mark:

Johnny and Lisa are going to be married. However, Lisa doesn’t love Johnny, and cheats on him with his best friend (in a number of gratuitous sex scenes). Lisa’s mother thinks she should stay with Johnny for financial reasons (in her words, Lisa cannot support herself). Lisa mentions something about how the computer business is so competitive. Johnny seems to work at some sort of bank. He also supports Denny, who is “like a son” to him.

That’s about it. But somehow it lasts over an hour. The first 20 minutes or so are colored by really unnecessary nudity, and they kind of make sense. The rest of the movie is spent repeating plot points, introducing random new characters and…well, you kinda need to see it for yourself.

Wiseau filmed the movie in both HD and 35mm. Why? Because he wanted to have all of the “information” possible. Now that he is an expert on the two formats, he is planning to “release a DVD documentary about HD and 35mm comparisons. And also write a book about it.”

On the DVD that I watched, there was a lovely interview with writer/actor/producer/director Wiseau. He mentions many of the “challenges [he] had to conquer.” I transcribed some of it here. It’s pretty telling about the mood of the film.

Q: Is The Room for everyone?

W: No…You cannot get it the first time. [The film] relates too many issues, like relationship, love, betrayal, sex, drugs, etc…And you may not like it, but you will learn something. Entertainment is…it’s a process of learning.

[This might be valid if it was spoken about any other film.]

Q: Why are the characters playing football in tuxedoes, and why just three feet apart?

W: I think that people should realize that playing football, without any gear, and a special big huge field – it’s fun! So you can play football in tuxedoes, you can play it three feet apart, and the idea is to have fun. So I would recommend, to anyone, to try it.

:mark and johnny playing football on the roof:

At the end of his interview, Wiseau drops this gem on all of us:

“The Room teaches us what not to do. To be a better person. If a lot of people love each other, the world will be a better place to live. Thank you very much.”

HERE I am featuring an exclusive interview with “The Room” aficionado Marcus Jelks.

Eliza: So, Marcus. How many times have you seen “The Room?”

Marcus: Six times in the past two weeks. I exposed it to 26 different people in that time frame. Each and every person loved it.

E: What does The Room say to you, when it speaks?

M: Phew. That’s an excellent question.

( silence)

I feel like Henry David Thoreau, and it speaks to me like transcendence, and I feel like the universe, when it speaks. It is so incompetently made, yet – it reaches an almost astrophysical level of sincerity that overcomes its glaring, glaring – I hesitate to say flaws – issues.

E: What is your favorite scene?

M: When Johnny and Mark are in a coffeeshop and Mark asks about [Johnny’s] new bank customer. It seems like it was an impromptu question and the writer/director didn’t have a backstory for it…but Tommy Wiseau salvages it with an awkward segue about Mark’s sex life.

E: And how do you feel about Lisa (the cheating “future wife”)?

M: I feel that her motivation is weak at best, regardless of her mother’s unfortunate breast cancer. But is there not a kernel of truth about the negative consequences of selfish behavior?

E: Thank you.

M: No, thank you. Watch it again. Sleep on it. You really need to sleep on it.

January 9, 2010. Art, Culture, Guest Writers, Rectangles, Truth. 2 comments.

59. Blackout Poems, Again

A reader (who would like to remain anonymous) recently sent me these four blackout poems (in the style of Austin Kleon). The poems follow the artist’s statement, below.

The two in which the original text is longer are from a book written by a conservative republican in the 90s (that I had to read for class) about the moral degradation of society as evidenced prominently by homosexuality and abortion. As you can see, I’ve flipped the message, perverting the intended meaning– turning his own words against him, if you will.

Fascinating. Check the poemies. Then send in your own!



:this one is complex:

:addressing politics:

:uh oh, what is this condoning?:

Nicely done, anonymous friend. I’m glad you’ve taken something from this particular Rectangular World.


November 17, 2009. Art, Culture, Guest Writers, Rectangles, Truth. 1 comment.

41. Saskatchewan

Hello Fans of the Rectangle, Great and Small,

My name is Daniel. I know, woah.

As the father of Eliza’s child, a committed follower of this blog, and a fellow rectangleologist, I’m writing a guest post. I would like to thank Eliza for providing this opportunity to dip my toes into rectangular waters.

Which brings me to my topic: a beautiful land, far, far away, called Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan, very rectangular

:saskatchewan: VERY rectangular:

I lived in this magical, rectangular land for the last year. Before living there, I didn’t even realize that Saskatchewan constituted its own province – in the same likeness as British Columbia or Ontario, the provinces people actually care about. But it does, bitchz, and it’s proud.

I lived in a city by the name of Regina. Pronounced like Vagina. This is a subject of great shame for the residents, though they mostly choose to play it cool, as if saying the name of their city isn’t awkward. It’s a concept I was never fully able to grasp. Not to mention that their football team is called the Roughriders and one of the closest cities is called Prince Albert. You might be surprised what you find when you google Prince Albert. But back to the rectangles. Vagina is, not surprisingly, essentially rectangular, at least in the way it’s thought of by the citizens, who use the geographical demarcations of North, South, East, and West to describe where they are in the city. Oh, you’re in the East End? I’ll come meet you at one of the many enormous (rectangular) big-box stores!

Notice how the top and bottom are rectangles on their own.

:flag of saskatchewan. observant readers will notice that the top and bottom form rectangles of their own:

While the official slogan of this region is “Land of the Living Skies,” I prefer the unofficial but brilliant slogan: “Easy to draw, hard to spell.” And that it certainly is! Just try to spell it, I bet you’ll get it wrong. I also could not spell, or even apparently say it properly before living there. But the greater importance of the slogan is its undeniable nod to the rectangular form of Saskatchewan– it’s the only place I can think of where one’s sense of belonging is deeply and inextricably enmeshed in their notion of physical shape, that the rectangle brings a necessary stability and distinguished importance to a part of the world that nobody knows exists.

But the overall shape of the land is just the beginning. Saskatchewan is largely flat and dry, which makes it the ideal landscape for farming. And how are farms divided, people? That’s right, into rectangles. Therefore, the greater rectangle begets smaller rectangles. Need I say more?

Rectangular farms on a rectangular land.

:the rectangular farms of a rectangular land:

Saskatchewan can be most centrally characterized by its painfully desolate, frighteningly cold winters, the kind that make it dangerous to be outside for more than ten seconds at a time. They bring with them blankets of snow that wait months to melt. Once it’s cold, there is no great thaw until spring. But the snow brings with it a beautiful, poetic equalization. The snow covers the boundaries between the rectangular farms and the rectangular cities to create, once again, one giant rectangle. If that ain’t some kind of lesson about humanity, I don’t know what the fuck is.

October 14, 2009. Culture, Geography, Guest Writers, Rectangles. Leave a comment.