Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Jell-O Mold Competition

In brooklyn, dessert, event, exhibit, food, funny, geek, science, smile-inducing, treasure trove on July 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

To properly celebrate America’s birthday, certain foods are required. The most inscrutable of these culinary staples is Jell-O, an old-timer from the 1950s. Omnipresent yet ignored on many a picnic table, Jell-O manifests itself in various questionable yet patriotic shades, and is packed with similarly questionable fruits. Has the once-proud dessert been sequestered to this sad fate forever?

Never fear! The brave folks in Brooklyn will not let the gelatinous dessert go wobbly into that good night. Recently, down a small, forgettable Park Slope side street, several score amateur Jell-O enthusiasts gathered in the Gowanus Studio Space for the Jell-O Mold Competition, to showcase their imaginative gelatin creations and vie for prizes.

First, there were the obvious edible creations. Along with the predictable shiny apple pie  and red velvet cake, artists assembled Jell-O sushi with chopsticks, slid oysters melting on the half-shell, and carved up a delicious trio of multi-flavored fruit wedges molded into the hulls of peeled grapefruits. For the more culinarily adventurous folk, beef- and pork-flavored Jell-O were carved into taxidermy on wooden plaques. (The flavor was dead on, but the consistency was uncannily, unpleasantly reminiscent of jellied gristle.)

Food wasn’t the only source of inspiration. Piles of translucent, horse-pill-sized pharmaceuticals abounded, as did giant LEGOs, floral plates, and lithographs of the Brooklyn Bridge. A vibrantly blue and silver model of the Brooklyn sewage plant drew laughs, while Jell-O-cum-explosives, complete with a video presentation of said explosions, failed to inspire. The entries showed a huge variance in quality, from the impressive cloth-draped and olive-bedecked display shrine for Bloody Mary Jell-O (molded in the shape of the Virgin herself), to wimpy Styrofoam lunch trays supporting globs of what may have been octopi Vikings, but may also have been last year’s meatloaf, grown sentient and resentful with time. My favorite eats included fruity Jell-O Superballs dispensed from a quarter machine, and an impressive full-sized Tiffany lamp, supported by a sugar paste structure and lit with real bulbs. The most inventive creation, edible drinking cups made with vegan-friendly agar agar, could be filled with your drink of choice and then munched on as well, for a multi-faceted imbibing experience.

While the crowd waited for the judges to review the entries, five or six kinds of free Jell-O shots were on hand. The mixologists were enthusiastically inventive, if a bit heavy-handed with their herbs; tough sprigs of rosemary and acerbic strips of orange rind overpowered two of the jiggling shooters. Still, most of the drinks were popular and disappeared quickly: the delightfully zingy Hair of the Naval; Hot Sh*t (its real name), a dark pudding laced with cinnamon and topped with cream; Summer Salad, a gelatinous vodka watermelon; and the non-alcoholic yet pungent Kir Royale.

If this event was any indication, Jell-O will certainly live to fight another day.


LED Lightsaber Battle

In event, geek, movie, nyc, recommended, science on May 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

At 9 pm on a recent, innocuous Saturday night, Chrystie Park was overtaken by several hundred warriors. Some donned Halloween-style costumes and makeup; some sported long black cloaks and heavy goth gear; but most wore street clothes. One important difference set these young people apart from the masses: their gleeful faces were lit with the ethereal glow of their lightsabers, illuminating the park with electric blues, reds and purples. This, my friends, was the one and only LED Lightsaber Battle of New York City.

The battle was organized by the interactive art group Newmindspace, but on-the-ground organization was nigh on impossible, turning the park into a joyously raucous free-for-all. Individual fighters (usually strangers) engaged one another in combat, fighting, dying and bonding afterward in the space of minutes. New York Jedi, the city’s preeminent Jedi group, conducted skill demonstrations for onlookers (like this guy, but with self-control). The park’s heightened energy level surged and ebbed as onlookers drew to the sounds and sights of the epic, amicable fray.

Just as dance-offs beget break dancing circles, this mêlée begat a dueling circle. Several fighters distinguished themselves as they strutted and struggled in expert hand-to-hand combat: one young man who spun two lightsabers above his head and around his body with practiced skill; another in a Utilikilt who won the approval of the crowd immediately with his Braveheart-esque genre-crossing appeal. One confrontation devolved in hilarity as each opponent lost a leg, then an arm, and so on (and kept fighting!) till one was laid out dead on the ground. The clashes continued apace until a hoard of Jedi charged the dueling circle, roaring with lightsabers held aloft, moshing a hundred strong at the evening’s height.

Whether you are a dedicated Star Wars die-hard with your hand-made PVC lightsaber mounted on your bedroom wall, or a newbie who likes the idea of releasing your inner Jedi for an evening, I highly recommend rallying your friends to join next year’s Lightsaber Battle. Whether you plan to be a participant or a spectator, may the Force be with all of you.